‘The Watchers on the Wall’ is always going to be compared with Game of Thrones’ second season dreaded nine, ‘Blackwater’ – they both feature a limited cast in one setting, whilst an epic battle rages across the screen. ‘Blackwater’ may, for some, be impossible to beat, but ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ is equally as compelling. It’s a stunning hour of television, and an incredible feat to accomplish. Hats off to everyone involved – the battle transcended from page to screen effortlessly (well, a lot of effort went into the episode, clearly, but you get my meaning).
The Nights Watch vs. The Wildlings
The entire battle sequence (roughly 30 minutes in length) was absolutely stunning and in my opinion it was even more breath-taking than ‘Blackwater’. The producers/writers knew that they had a lot to live up to and they managed to create a battle of epic proportions to rival some of the best cinematic counterparts. Where this episode failed somewhat was in the character moments (in that, ‘Blackwater’ won) but I’ll get to that in a moment. Particular highlights of the battle (not listed below) were the gorgeous 360° shot of the battle showing where each character was positioned and who they were battling, the gunning down of one of the giants, the explosive barrel atop of the Wall, and the gigantic scythe sheering across the glacier, showering those below in ice. Overall, the battle was mind-blowing, and it certainly lived up to its book counterpart.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow”
Ygritte’s death has been a long time coming. Ygritte was a compelling character with a lot left to give, and her death was heart-breaking. But she has had fuck all to do this season, and she’s been separated from Jon for an entire season. It’s hard to empathise with their romance when most of the viewers have forgotten why they were so invested in the first place. This, as noted above, is where this episode fails somewhat. It’s hard to side with the characters (and not just Ygritte – pretty much everyone at the Wall has been missing a bit of late in comparison to other characters and stories) when we’ve barely seen them recently. Where this episode did triumph over ‘Blackwater’ was its inclusion of relevant deaths. It made the battle more epic, and ultimately more personal. It packed a punch
Motherfucking giants riding motherfucking mammoths
Mammoths were just one element of the novels I expected the show to cut. But no. There really was a MOTHERFUCKING giant riding a MOTHERFUCKING mammoth. Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in. It’s not a regular occurrence on television, and it’s spine-tingling to behold. Yes, the CGI was a bit ropey considering the episode occurred at night, but they were still epic nevertheless
Sam was arguably the standout character of this episode, and he had a lot of character developing moments. We’ve already seen Sam slay a dead man – now it’s time for the real thing. The sequence is fast and claustrophobic but Sam just manages to slay the Thenn Warg, before scampering off to hide. Pure comedy gold marred with horror. Only on Game of Thrones.
The Wall is breached
Another gorgeous moment that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing erect. This was another element from the novels I expected to be changed, but the entire sequence was stunning. The giants and the mammoth work in unison to break the outer gate and it ultimately shatters due to the Watchers up above. The irony. I can’t be the only on feeling sorry for the Mammoth which shits itself and stomps off as fire rages. I always empathise with the unlikely!
The Watchers under the Wall
Grenn (and four others who nobody particularly gives a fuck about) are nominated to secure the breached tunnel and head beneath the Wall. It hammers home when the Watchers begin to recant their vows, reminding the viewer’s just how far some of these characters have come. It adds to the emotion when we later see them all slain.
Samwell-fucking-Tarly-fucking-curses-fucking-for-fucking-the-fucking-first-fucking-time. And boy is it fucking epic. It’ completely unexpected, and it shows how much Sam had developed as a character. Yes, he’s still scared and he still hides, but not as much as he used to. He stands up to his brothers and for that he must be fucking commemorated.
Jon vs. Styr
What would a gigantic battle be without smaller one-on-one’s? Jon battles the grotesque Styr who appears to have the upper hand before Jon spits in his face and slams an axe into his skull. Ouch. It’s over the top, yes, but it’s satisfying nonetheless to see someone so despised meet a gruesome end.
Sam & Gilly
Sam’s third character building moment comes when he finally realises how much he loves Gilly and kisses her. Will he break his vows? Considering how close they’re to become next season, don’t be surprised to see Sam get some.
The glowing shot of the forest burning harkens back to Mance’s threat last season. He certainly does light the biggest fire the Wall has seen and it shows that Mance certainly lives up to his threats. It’ll be nice to see him again in the season finale. The final shot of the episode promises a showdown between him and Jon…
And there we have the dreaded nine. The season finale, titled ‘The Children’, comes next week and I thought I’d give a little teaser to whet your appetites. Expect death (well, this is Game of Thrones after all), lots and lots of death. Some fan favourites are going to die, in the most grotesque way possible. Someone heads to Braavos, Tyrion meets his maker, Dany learns she’s fucked, and Lady Stoneheart will (hopefully) finally appear. Expect your jaws to smash to the floor upon her unveiling. But the most shocking aspect? Stannis actually fucking does something. Something EPIC.