Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I'm A Wall Watcher

I was looking forward less to "The Watchers On The Wall" than any other episode of Games Of Thrones this season.  The next-to-last episode of each season always has something big.  (Do I really need to put in a spoiler alert at this point?)

Season one was Ned Stark's execution. Season two was the battle of Blackwater Bay. Season three was the Red Wedding.  And this time around, it's the Wildlings attack on Castle Black.  Castle Black has its moments, but by and large the activities of the Night's Watch doesn't interest me as much as most of the rest of the show.  Right now, we've got the fate of Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, the Hound, Ser Jorah and so many more up in the air, so I wasn't looking forward to spending the whole hour at the Wall.

But it turned into quite a battle. More interesting than Blackwater Bay, I'd say. (That was a fan favorite, but I didn't particularly like the episode for the same reason I feared this one--I wanted to see other stories.)

So let's settle in and spend some time with the Wildlings and the Watch.  We start at the top of the Wall with our two main characters, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly.  It's the calm before the storm.  Outside, south of Castle Black, we see the roving band that includes Tormund, Styr and Ygritte, preparing for battle.  The Wall can hold off thousands, but they're not used to being attacked from the other side.  The question is what will Ygritte do. She demands the right to take out Jon Snow, but she (apparently) spared him when she could have killed him. Just as he did to her earlier.  She still cares for him, but Wildlings, like women, don't take kindly to being spurned.

Back at the Castle, Samwell goes to the library to read about the awful things Wildlings do to their prey.  He's still got Gilly on his mind.  Maester Aemon drops by for a quiet talk. (We get to meet all the gang at Castle Black--a big episode for them).  He sends Sammy off the bed, but as he's walking out he hears Gilly at the gate and makes sure she and her baby get in.  Now he's a new man. He promises he'll never leave her, but then the war horns blow and he's got to get her to safety. He takes her to a room below and explains he has to leave--the promise didn't mean they'd always be in the same room.

The Warg tells the southern Wildlings Mance has made his move.  So they approach the Castle, while Jon, atop to Wall, sees the thousands and thousands of troops with torches approaching. Ser Alliser admits maybe he was hasty in telling Snow it was a stupid idea to seal the tunnel.  He gets a nice speech, in fact. Makes you think he may not be long for the world.

The fighting starts.  Samwell tries to pep up Pyp, telling him you'll rise to the occasion.  But the Brothers are pretty hapless, when you think about it.  Not only are they a small group, but they have little training and are inexperienced at fighting.  Their only advantage is they've got a Castle protecting them.  But the southern exposure was mostly to keep out people from Mole's Town, so it falls pretty quickly.  Ygritte and her band are trained killers who break through without too much trouble, and lots of fighting commences. (It all takes place at night so it was often hard to tell who was fighting whom, but it was still exciting.)

Alliser commands his men up on the Wall. He may have had his differences with Jon, but he knows what to do.  When he gets word the Southern Gate's been breached he goes down to help the men there, leaving the slimy Janos Slynt in charge, who just wants the men to loose their arrows ASAP and doesn't inspire much confidence.

Down below Alliser makes a speech and does plenty of slicing, but ultimately is brought down by Tormund (I think--as I said, it wasn't always clear).  Meanwhile, outside the wall the giants (never liked them, but now I see why Mance wanted them) and mammoths are ready to pull out the tunnel gate.  Slynt doesn't believe in giants, but he's "called away" by one of the brothers so Jon Snow can take charge (while Slynt, a man without honor, as Tyrion noted a while ago, hides with Gilly).

The Wildlings try to climb the wall but Snow knows how long that takes.  It's the tunnel he's got to worry about.  And those giant arrows from below are killers, too.  The Brothers drop burning oil and stop some of the damage.  Down in the courtyard, they're getting hurt up pretty bad--especially by the unerring Ygritte.  Samwell sees Pyp die in front of him, and is able to take out a Thenn (I think) with a bolt from a crossbow.  He goes back up the Wall (telling winch boy Olly along the way to take up a weapon) to let Snow know they need more help.  Jon leaves Edd in charge and also has sent Grenn and a few others to hold the inner gate of the tunnel.  (When they go in the tunnel and the giant charges, they waste a lot of time saying their vows when they should be shooting about fifty arrows directly into the giant's face.  They stop him, but die doing it.)

Jon gets below and starts where Alliser left off.  He has Samwell open up the pen to let out Ghost, who kills more than his share.  Though how does he tell the good guys from the bad?  The smell?  Jon isn't directing him, is he?

Jon has a major fight with Styr, defeating him by burying a sharp instrument--axe?, hammer?--into his skull.  But no sooner does he do it than he sees Ygritte standing there, aiming an arrow at his heart.  She pauses a bit.  Big mistake, since this allows Olly to shoot her with an arrow.  She dies in Snow's arms, and they both wish they never left the cave.  A sad moment.  They've had their ups and down, but what lovers don't?  The emotional high point of the episode.  I'll miss Rose Leslie.

The climbers outside the wall face the Scythe, which rips them away.  To be honest, this seemed to be a dumb strategy to begin with. Climbing the Wall takes hours and hours, even if you make it, and to do it directly below the few Crows who can easily kill you is a bad strategy.

The fight is over. Tormund is captured and put in chains, to be questioned later.  With Alliser gone and Slynt having no moral authority, is Jon Snow in charge now?

Morning light, and while it may be a victory, it's temporary.  Snow knows they're still outnumbered a thousand to one, and can only hold them off few a few more days. I was expecting--as I have been for a few weeks--Stannis to show up with his men.  He got a message from Castle Black quite a while ago and seemed pretty fired up. But I was wrong (at least so far). Just as well.  You don't want him to ride in like the cavalry when Tywin already pulled that gag (against Stannis, in fact) at the battle of Blackwater Bay.

So Jon has a plan just so crazy it might work.  He has them open up the gate so he can seek Mance (who was not around this episode). He's the guy holding the Wildlings togethers.  Take him out and it's game over.  But how can Snow (whom the Wildlings know) get to him? So maybe it's a different plan. We've been waiting since episode one for the White Walkers to make their move.  Will he convince Mance to lay off since they've got a common enemy?

Tune in next week.  I suppose we'll have some movement forward on the Jon/Mance story, but more important, we'll discover the fate of Tyrion, which they better deal with this season or risk pissing off millions of fans.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of don't understand what happened to the south of the Wall wildlings. They had like 20 crows to take out and they looked like they easily laying waste to the defenses yet somehow they lost. Alliser (till he dropped) & Jon were forces of nature and Sam got a good shot in but the men in black seemed otherwise to be nothing more than arrow catchers. If they can't win this battle with the main force attacking the wall, how bad of a threat are they?

Another piece of questionable wildling strategy- not making better use of the giant bow corps. Having three of four big guys launch missiles up to the top could have turned the tide.

Best line of the night was eager horny Sam agreeing with Jon that Lord Snow really wasn't much of a poet.

2:50 AM, June 11, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I agree that the measly Crow lineup down on the ground should have been finished in about two minutes. This was the band of Wildlings who could destroy whole towns after all. Ygritte alone seemed to be killing someone every ten seconds.

Meanwhile, the force attacking the wall seemed pointless. Either you break through to the tunnel or nothing doing. So either wait for the roving band in the South to do it for you, or send a bunch of mammoths and giants to do the job and stay back until then.

10:15 AM, June 11, 2014  

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