Does anyone else feel like this episode came out of nowhere? Maybe if we had checked in with Mance Rayder more frequently the stakes would have felt a bit higher going into the episode. I guess what I’m getting at is that I wasn’t very excited for this episode. It didn’t feel necessary yet and I was still emotionally distraught over last week. But I think that was the whole point. The battle at Castle Black gave us a much needed hour-long break from all the drama at King’s Landing. It was an action-packed episode with beautiful, cinema-worthy visuals. Let’s dive in.
The episode starts with Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly enjoying a little bro time. Sam asks Jon what it’s like to have someone. He recognizes that they’re all probably going to die when the Wildlings attack and hearing it from Jon Snow may be the closest he ever gets to knowing. Snow is a little surprised that Sam would consider breaking his vows. Sam points out that the vows don’t say anything about the actual deed, just marriage and babies. Oh, Sam and his clever loopholes.
Jon Snow then fumbly delivers the best description of the birds and bees there has ever been, “It’s… there’s this person, this whole other person and you’re wrapped up in them and they’re wrapped up in you and for a little while you’re more than just you .You’re…I don’t know I’m not a bleeding poet.” Could have fooled me.
Meanwhile, the Wildlings are hanging nearby waiting for the signal. Tormund Giantsbane is talking about how he almost had sex with a bear once. I don’t really understand this whole conversation but what’s with all the sex talk?! Ygritte is over it. She’s ready to hunt some crows. This Wildling bros start to tease her about how they don’t think she can kill Jon Snow. In typical Ygritte “BAMF” fashion, she calls dibs. Jon Snow is her’s to kill.
More bro talk, Sam and Maester Aemon bond over their lost loves back at Castle Black. Maester Aemon reminds us that “love is the death of duty.”
Gilly and Sam reunite. She’s retreated from Molestown to Castle Black. Sam tells her, “wherever you go, I go too.” Their reunion is cut short though when the horn at Castle Black begins to sound. Sam hides Gilly away in the kitchen. She’s upset he’s leaving her, I mean he did just promise “wherever you go, I go too.” She’s worried that he’ll die in the battle, but Sam is a man of his word and he has to do his duty as a man of the Night’s Watch. Then HE KISSES HER! This battle is pretty much the best thing to ever happen to Sam.
Jon looks over the north side of the Wall and sees a massive fire burning; Lance Rayder’s signal. The Wildlings see it too. It’s time. The Night’s Watch frantically completes their preparation for battle.
Jon Snow approaches Ser Alliser Thorne amidst the chaos. “We should have sealed the tunnels while we had the chance, like you suggested,” Ser Alliser says. Then he explains, “You know what leadership means, Lord Snow? It means that the person in charge gets second guessed by every clever little twat with a mouth. What if he starts second guessing himself? That’s the end. For him. For the clever little twats. For everyone. This is not the end. Not for us.”
Sam finds Pyp and they try to settle in a safe-ish place. Sam calmly prepares their area, he seems ready to fight. Pyp is terrified and asks Sam how he can be so calm. He says he’s not and then explains that when he had to kill the Whitewalker he became nothing at all. “When you’re nothing at all there’s no more reason to be afraid,” he continues. He’s afraid now because “well, i’m not nothing anymore.” Aw, Samwell Tarly. God, please don’t die.
Ygritte scopes out Castle Black and explains that most of the men are at the top of the Wall, there is barely anyone below defending the gate. Here we go.
Mance’s army of Wildlings, wooly mammoths, and giants begin marching towards the Wall. When people ask why we didn’t get more dragons this season, blame the mammoths and the giants.
Ser Alliser orders the archers to nock and hold. Grenn accidently knocks an oil barrel off the Wall and the men of Night’s Watch carelessly draw their arrows. It’s the equivalent of watching Matt Saracen beam his teammate in the back of the head with a football during the Friday Night Lights pilot. This is not going to be good.
As arrows begin to fly, the Wildlings stand far enough away as if to tease the Night’s Watch. Ser Alliser is notified that they’re being attacked by both sides. Alliser leaves Janos Slynt in charge of the Wall so he can go down and fight. This means that Ygritte has arrived and boy, she is kicking ass.
But she’s not the only one, Ser Alliser Thorne shows us why he’s master-at-arms. He rouses the men and is fearless in battle. Ser Alliser has Tormund Giantsbane in his sights. They fight and I mean they really fight. Giantsbane cuts open Alliser’s stomach and Alliser is carried away to be treated, still screaming “HOLD THE F**KING GATE!”
Texts from RPW “Why is it everything I want to happen on this show never happens? I just wanted the dude from Castle Black to kill the red headed guy but instead he got sliced open.”
Chaos unfolds on the grounds of Castle Black. The fighting and brutality is everywhere. The Wildlings break into the dining area and some badass with a cleaver kills them off. Ygritte positions herself up high and takes out the men one by one. I really liked the lack of soundtrack during this scene, all we could just hear was Ygritte’s steady breathing. It made the whole scenario more dramatic.
Meanwhile, back at the Wall the mammoths and the giants start to make their way towards the gate. Janos Slynt is having a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, Grenn tricks him into thinking that Alliser needs him down below, leaving Jon Snow in charge.
Jon Snow takes the reigns. Snow proves himself to be a natural leader as he tells the men on the Wall to nock and hold, draw, and lose their arrows. I swear anytime someone yelled “LOOOOSEEE!” in this episode I got goosebumps.
Down below, the Wildlings start climbing the Wall. “They won’t summit before dawn,” Jon Snow tells them men. “How do you know that?” “Because I’ve made that climb.” “I think they’re in a bigger hurry than you were,” replies Edd. This may be far fetched but could Edd be a distant cousin of Bronn? Like, really think about it.
Janos Slynt decides to hide, what a wuss. He stumbles upon Gilly who knows exactly what he’s doing.
Pyp and Sam continue to fire on the Wildlings using a crossbow. As Pyp stands to shoot, he’s shot in the neck by Ygritte. It’s a gruesome, bloody way to go. Sam stays by his side to comfort him. Then Sam picks up the crossbow and springs to action. He shoots a Warg that is charging towards him like it’s no big deal. Sam gets Olly to send him up the Wall to get Jon Snow. They need more men fighting down below. On his way up, Sam yells “Find a weapon, Olly. Fight them!”
The giants and the wooly mammoth are now attempting to pull down the large gate at the base of the Wall. Jon Snow sends Grenn with five men to hold the gate while Edd and Jon Snow continue dislodging the oil barrels. They are able to scare away the wooly mammoth. As he runs after the animal, they shoot down one of the giants. Out of frustration and anger, the other giant lifts the gate by himself.
Sam tells Jon Snow the Castle won’t stand much longer without more men down below. Snow knows what he has to do “Edd, you have the Wall. If they try the mammoths again drop fire on them. If the climbers get too high drop the scythe on them.” Ooooh, what’s the scythe?
Edd, hands down, had the best delivery of “LOOOOOOOSE”
Grenn and co. get to the tunnel just in time to see the giant come under the gate. Gah, I love Grenn. Everyone is starting to panic and he stands firm, “we hold the gate.” Grenn leads his brothers in the Night’s Watch oath as the giant charges towards them.
As they arrive to the ground, Jon hands Sam a key “I need him more than I need you.” Jon Snow bounds out of the lift and starts kicking ass.
Texts from RPW “For the record, so many dirty things I’d do to Kit Harington”
THE SHOT, THE CONTINUOUS SHOT. OMGGGGGG! You saw it, right? There is a sweeping shot of the Castle Black grounds that shows the fighting and the chaos happening in every corner. It’s amazing. According to director Neil Marshall, the Game of Thrones cast rehearsed it for about an hour and got it in seven takes.
The shot ends with Sam unlocking Ghost’s room and saying, “we need you boy.” Ghost immediately springs into action and starts taking down Wildlings one by one. It should be noted that my own little direwolf (just kidding, he’s a rat terrier), Dexter, woke up from his seventeenth nap just in time to see Ghost do his thing. He just looked at me like he he suddenly realized that he would never be that cool. It’s okay Dex, no dog will.
Jon Snow starts fighting with Styr, the lead Thenn. It’s one of those fight scenes that has your stomach in knots. After taking some serious hits, Jon is able to brutally kill him with a hammer. While this is happening, Ygritte sees Jon Snow and it is on.
As he stumbles away, there is Ygritte. She has her bow and arrow drawn, she’s ready to kill Jon Snow. But she hesitates, “love is the death of duty” afterall. Jon Snow smiles because of course she can’t kill him, she loves him. Then Olly shoots an arrow through her heart. It all comes full circle. She killed his father. He kills her. Ygritte dies in Snow’s arms saying, “Do you remember the cave? We should have stayed in the cave.” He assures her, “We’ll go back there.” Her last words are, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” As she dies, it is beautiful. He is cradling her amidst all the madness. The Game of Thrones team uses slow motion to really paint the heartbreaking picture, it’s the second time they’ve ever used it. The first was when Tywin Lannister showed up at the Battle of Blackwater.
Back on the Wall, the Wildlings are still climbing. Edd finally commands “DROP THE SCYTHE BOYS!” Then what appears to be a huge anchor comes out of the Wall and sweeps the Wildlings away. Damn, that was cool.
“They’ve had enough for one night,” declares Edd. Victory! But not quite, the Night’s Watch knows they are still outnumbered. It’s just a matter of time before the Wildlings strike again.
Speaking of Wildlings, who’s left standing? Tormund Giantsbane, of course. Jon Snow shoots him with one last arrow for good measure before he’s carried away as a prisoner. “I should have thrown you from the top of the Wall, boy,” yells Giantsbane. “Aye, you should have,” replies Jon Snow.
Sam comes back for Gilly. He also finds Slynt. Shame, shame, shame.
Sam and Jon discuss the victory and the inevitable return of the Wildling army. The Night’s Watch could probably hold them off for a day or two but will never beat them. Jon decides he’s going to go north of the Wall to kill Mance. Without Mance Rayder the Wildling army will disperse.
Sam is worried about Jon. That they are going to torture him, but they both know there’s no other option. As they walk through the tunnel, they find that Grenn and his men died killing the giant. Jon tells Sam to have their bodies burned. Jon gives his sword, Longclaw, to Sam before departing the tunnel. They have a sweet little moment in the tunnel, this really is the best bromance ever.
Next week is the season four finale and judging by the preview we will be checking in with Bran and Arya. We will also catch up with the Lannisters and Jon Snow will find Mance Rayder. What will happen? And look, dragons!