Dear Satan: you’ve been having a lot of fun lately with the wars, malcontents, brutally murdering my boo last week. You have a pattern. 1.9: Ned. 2.9: Blackwater. 3.9: The Red Wedding. 4.9 ___. Wait, 4.9… ___. Oh, I see what you did, you doubled down! 4.8 was our “person we didn’t think would die and holyshit, they DIED?” episode and 4.9 is your mirror to Blackwater. Which means Season 5 is probably going to be ten episodes of the Boltons flaying alive everyone else I still care for while blowing up Braavos for no good reason.
Now, let me preface this with how freaking awesome this battle was. It was. There was a scene in the courtyard that I cannot imagine how much coordination and effort went into getting just right on that camera crane. Plus, don’t ever tell me Bethesda/Elder Scrolls aren’t massive GRRM fans, because wow. I do have one “…really? That’s— That how they— Huh.” moment (and I’m sure you know what that was). But now that a giant is dead, let’s harvest its toe and fortify our health and get into the battle.
We open with a shot of Tattooine, I mean, the top of the wall (Seriously, I couldn’t tell where we were at first, because the light on the snow/ice looked like adobe. I never claimed to be a genius, okay?) and all is quiet. Of course, we’re seeing the South. Jon Snow and Samwell Gamgee Red Leader Porkins are on shift, and Sam wants to know what boobies feel like.
Jon: They’re… you know.
Sam: No, actually, I don’t. Hence me asking.
Jon: …er, soft?
Sam: You don’t say? [eye roll] At least tell me boobies feel better when you love the girl to whom they are attached?
Jon: So much better, bro. [hair flip]
Sam: Funny thing, I read the fine print on the vows we made, and as long as we don’t knock ’em up or marry them, anything goes.
Jon: You saying you want to be a backdoor man?
Sam: I have no idea what that means.
Jon: [smiles to himself as he thinks of Ygritte saying “You know nothing, Jon Snow” before she taught him Things.]
So, we were told that the Wall is 700ft high, right? Then what the hell is a barn owl doing perched up there watching? Oh! Wargers gonna Warg! Gjördkr the Chîcken Eåter’s Warg is keeping an eye out for Mance’s fire, and that’s really awesome. The Wildling band is hiding down in a crevasse near the entrance to Castle Black, waiting. And while they wait, they swap stories.
Gjördkr has his old yarn about why he should be called Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër as Ygritte sharpens a ton of arrows. And you know what story she’s full up on? The one about Sheila the bear, because there is no way that happened. None. (Side story: I was in a horror movie playing a foul mouthed chick with a heart of gold, and I had the following line: “That’s like trying to blow a polar bear; it’s just begging for death!” It’s funny because it’s true.) She climbed that wall to do two things: fuck Jon Snow and kill some Crows, and she’s already fucked Jon Snow.
Scarface Thenn is sick of all of Ygritte’s big talk about her Crow, because he bets that she’ll catch sight of him and wuss out. She’s all talk. She gets up in his grill, er, his belly button because he’s approximately a jillion feet tall, and holds an arrow to his balls. She’s not soft, Ygritte. I love that she didn’t even flinch. (Someone carrying a bundle walks past. I call that it’s Gilly and Baby Morsel.)
Sam hangs out in the Castle’s library so he can read up on all the possible ways Gilly was brutally murdered, when Maester Aemon (who I always forget was a Targaryen) comes in and is all, “Sam, let’s talk about sex and love.”
Sam: I’d…much rather not.
Maester Aemon: I once had swagger. Girls were all over my shizz.
Sam: That whole “I’d much rather not” was my way of saying–
MA: Had to beat ’em off with a stick! And not my walking stick, eh? Ha ha. I mean my dragon bone, wot wot?
Sam: –so how about I pop back up on the Wall and end this uncomfortable talk?
MA: Gotta watch for them Thotties, son. Peace out, shortie.
As Sam runs far, far away from discussions of sex and love with that old geezer, he hears Gilly trying to get inside. Pyp is following orders and not opening the gate, and that’s smart! That’s good! But open the fucking gate, Pyp, that is Sam’s True Love, okay?
Raise your hand if you expected a horde of Wildlings to flood in behind her? Also, we are introduced to a new Samwell Tarly Gamgee: one who cusses and stands tall. I like it. Sam sings “I’ll stand by you!” to her, because he’s got this, he’s got her, the baby, their protection, and he ain’t gonna let no one get in between them again.
Until he needs to get back to work because the Riccola horns start blowing.
AHHH, THAT SOUNDED SO AWESOME. I was getting some serious Isengard warning horn feels from that.
The Warg for Ygritte’s team gets the signal, the guys on the Wall are starting to panic, and Jon Snow stands on the edge of the Wall, looking north and looking majestic as hale, and sees the forest below all lit up. Damn. The archers on the Wall light up their torches and start rolling barrels of pitch or oil into some ingenious little traps.
Meanwhile, Lord Butthurt Alliser stands frowning and says to Jon, “I know you want to be all ‘I told you so—’”
Jon: Actually, no, because I’m an adult.
LBH: But I don’t care. I had to make a decision, I did, and now I have to live with it.
Jon: …that’s actually very mature of you.
LBH: [farts into hand and shoves it into Jon’s face] Still hate you, though. Now let’s kill us some Wildlings and live another day!
Sam locks Gilly up in a storage shed because he needs to get to work. Gilly thinks that’s hilarious that he thinks he can fight. Wow, girl, he just gave you shelter. I mean, you’re totally right to think like you do, but every man counts in a battle.
Gilly: You’re not a man, though! [said with actual love]
Sam: Would not a man do this? [kisses the heck out of her all sweetly and romantical]
Sam: Your lips said everything. [puffs up chest as Manly Music of Fighting And Awesome swells in the background and he leaves]
Gilly: Well, he’s going to die. [plans his funeral]
Pyp is freaking the hell out, but it’s SAMWELL GAMGEE RED LEADER PORKINS who gets him to stay on target. Sam’s story arc has been so awesome to watch, the self realization, the way his red shirt seems to be immune to Red Shirtness… He tells Pyp that he was nothing once. And when you’re nothing, you can do anything, which is how he managed to kill a White Walker. Unfortunately, now he’s Someone. (More importantly, he’s someone’s Someone. So… he’s going to die, I guess.)
Ygritte’s team hunkers down waiting for the perfect moment. They race out of their hole, ready to fight. The camera pans up and gives us a fantastic freaking aerial shot of them running to the Castle’s south entrance, pans up and over the wall, and down to the burning forest where hundreds of screaming Wildlings come pouring out of the woods, ready to kill.
I love everything here, the dreadful wail of the Riccola horns, the tense music, the screaming of the Wildlings, the emergence of freaking WOOLY MAMMOTHS oh my god, that is so awesome, and then Giants? Riding them? (But Giants are gentle unless they—or their herds of Mammoths—are provoked! They just want to make Mammoth cheese and collect gold, and seriously, if you’ve never played Skyrim/Elder Scrolls, your life is incomplete.)
The guys on the wall see the GIANTS and the MAMMOTHS and start getting a little panicky. Yeah, bet y’all wished you’d listened to Jon Snow now, mother truckers. The Wall Watchers nock and hold, one guy accidentally drops a barrel, and we are reminded these are greenhorns. And then… the Wildlings attack from the South, too. Shit.
Please note that my girl Ygritte is dodging flaming arrows, picking them up out of the ground as they miss her, and using those to fire back on the Black Watch. If you don’t know that she’s a bad ass, you haven’t been paying attention. Lord Butthurt leaves the wall to Cap’n Yeah, Boss so LBH can defend below. The problem: Cap’n Yeah Boss sucks balls, and not in the fun Mole’s Town way. LBH gives the order to loose their arrows before he leaves, and one guy who tries to be Daario with the standing way too close to danger for comfort gets an arrow to the gut for his efforts.
And now the Wildlings know your affective range, archers, sheesh.
Lord Butthurt gets down the Wall, the kid who watched Ygritte kill his dad is on Elevator Door Duty (seriously, how is that thing powered? Did we ever learn? If it’s a spoiler, don’t tell me!), and LBH gives a “They’ll never take our freedom!!” speech to the Black Watch in the courtyard.
“Are you losers?” No!! they shout. “Then stop acting like losers and win! I will not be the man on duty who lets this place fall after a hundred generations.” It’s surprisingly effective and awesome. The man, while a flappy flaccid penis, is tough as nails and can rouse men to arms.
The Wildlings breach the Southern entrance just then, and all hell breaks loose. Lord Butthurt is a badass on sword, though, and make no mistake. Hey, but guess who else is? Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër.
On the other front, the Mammoths and Giants make their way across the open expanse to the Main Gate. Scarcely have Cap’n Yeah Boss’ knickers been made damp before he’s ready to desert our heroes on the wall. Jon’s buddy Redbeard convinces him to run away, and he does, leaving Jon in charge. Finally, someone who knows what to do! (Boy, if ever there’d been a perfect time to frag a leader, that was it. CODE RED, FELLAS.)
A group of Wildlings make it to the Wall and start climbing. A few archers are belayed off the edge facing down and start shooting at the climbers. Seriously, this whole battle sequence was spectacular.
One Wildling kneels and tries to shoot up the wall, but he doesn’t have a compound bow, come on, brother! A Giant smirks, stands next to him, and loads up a freaking harpoon that not only gets to the top of the wall, but obliterates a shed and some poor sucker, sending him off the other side and down to the courtyard.
Now that’s an arrow.
Also, from a directorial standpoint, great way to bring us back to the other fight happening in the courtyard. It’s hard to tell who’s who, just that there’s a lot of bloodshed, and Scarface Thenn is really skilled with his Thennish Battleaxe (enchanted with soul trap and fear drain for 20% increase in DPS, plus he has the Devastating Blow perk). Also, no one can match Ygritte on bow. No one. She’s clearly scared, but she’s straight up badass.
Cap’n Yeah Boss gets down, sees the mayhem, and promptly runs away to the same storage shed as Gilly for a cry and a thumb suck. Pyp and Sam work together loading up cross bows and taking people out; Pyp gets one Thenn right in the noggin!
Sam: Well done! So we should pack up and call it a day? [Hahahaha!]
And then Pyp gets an arrow in the throat box, courtesy of Ygritte. War…war never changes. People who shouldn’t die usually do. Eh, he was a red shirt from day one, we knew this. We have to love them deeply to cry for them. [cries about Oberyn again]
Jon gets some barrels dropped down below (why weren’t they lit? Were they just filled with bolts and things?), but the Mammoths and Giants get hooked up to the gate and start pulling. AHHH, I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS! The heft, the sense of scale—it’s so, so amazing. Jon tells Buddy Redbeard to take a small contingency down to the gate and hold it. It’s a death wish, and they both know it. But Redbeard swears they won’t get through. [sniff] You’re a good man, Redbeard! [pounds chest to dislodge lump in my throat] A good man. [Sings “Dust in the Wind.”]
Lord Butthurt sees Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër and they go at it. Wow, they are well matched, and it’s good to remember LBH is a great swordsman and an awesome fighter in his own right. But Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër is slightly better, getting in a good gut slice. LBH drops to safety, is pulled inside, and Sam is left holding Pyp’s dead body. He grabs the crossbow and joins the fray, taking out one of the Thenns as well. Aww, yeah! He takes a moment to calm down Olly, the little kid who mans the Elevator, and gets up to the top of the Wall, yelling for the kid to get a weapon and fight. Olly grabs a discarded bow.
The Mammoths are starting to do real damage to the gate, so Jon looses some barrels of oil, lit, and all props to the Sound Guys, because that was awesome, the whoosh of those falling with fuses lit. One of the mammoths’ butt catches fire, spooking it, and it crushes one of its handlers and everyone goes scattering, including a giant. Someone on the wall with a harpoon gun manages to make an incredible hit on the running Giant, pissing off Giant #2, who goes at the gate with pure rage and massive fists.
Sam gets to Jon, gives an update, and Jon gives Edd orders for what to do, grabs a handful of men, and heads down to clear the courtyard. Edd proves he’s a good choice as a backup. Redbeard and his band of men stand shaking in their boots as they see the angry Giant pulling up that massive gate, getting inside and heading towards them. (me, too!!) They start reciting their vows as men of the Night’s Watch and it’s powerful, that moment. I had chills, not going to lie, and you know they’re scared, know they won’t live, but they are men of honor, they made a promise, and they know they must stand fast. “I am the watcher on the Wall! I am the shield that guards the realms of men!”
Jon gives Sam the key to Ghost’s cage. HELL. YEAH. Gimmie that puppy! Jon backflips out of the elevator before it comes to a stop, because he ain’t got time for y’all, he needs to show off those Winterfell-trained skills. And let’s not forget that his blade is Valyrian steel, so he is essentially fighting with the Hope Diamond. And so begins the coolest single tracking shot in the whole episode, moving around the entire courtyard, highlighting the characters we know: Jon, Scarface the Thenn, Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër, Sam running to Ghost’s cage, and then Ghost comes out and goes straight for throats. Yay, puppy! Who’s a good boy?
Gjördkr has arrows in his body, but it doesn’t matter, he’s not going down. Scarface sees Jon and heads over, swinging his ax, but Jon’s a good fighter and can hold his own. Ygritte spies this, gets close, and keeps on taking out Crows while she tries to get closer to Jon. Scarface manages to unhand Jon, conks his noggin on an anvil (OH MY GOD), and it’s not looking good for our hero. (And let’s all acknowledge that Ygritte, watching how well Jon handles himself in battle, is totally turned on. Me, too, Ygritte. Me, too.)
Scarface makes the classic Evil Villain mistake of wanting to draw it out, giving Jon a chance to grab a hammer from the forge and embed it in Scarface’s think boxer. (And not only did you level up your Melee, Jon, but you also added to your Smithing!) Jon’s in bad shape, but he’s still standing. And that’s when he comes face to face with Ygritte, bow drawn. And what does he do? He smiles, happy to see the girl he loves. AHHHH. She can’t let her arrow fly, either, because she loves him. God dammit, now that she’s faced with him, she’s unsure. She wants to stay true to herself, but who is that? Is it the girl who fell in love and had a whole new world opened up to her? Or is the Wildling Warrior?
Aaaand the answer is taken from us because Olly, following orders, gets off a one in a million shot, right through Ygritte’s heart. (It was broken already. YEAH, I SAID IT.) Jon grabs her, devastated, and after saying how she wished they never left their love cave, she gets off the only last line she could ever say: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” And she fucking DIES.
Here’s why I’m unhappy: it’s not just that one of the badass lady warriors died, it’s that we had way too much time in between seeing her and Jon together for this to have the weight it needed. I should be devastated. I should be Oberyn levels of crying, because I loved her. I have gone on record as having loved this girl, loved them together. But there wasn’t enough, and it feels like a waste, and I’m just sad for the wrong reasons. :(
Hey, I know what will cheer me up! “USE THE SCYTHE,” Edd calls up on the wall, because the climbers are getting too close. The freaking scale of this, the heft and weight of that weapon as the snow and ice shard off the cliff face, and that giant knife pendulums those climbers to their death was so great. (And this should have happened before Ygritte, too, because I needed that scene to have emotional weight and LINGER, dammit!) I love that it’s not a one-time weapon, as well. They hoist it back up, see the Wildlings retreating for the night, and know that they can catch their breath for now, at least.
Gjördkr the Bær Fuçkër is all who is left, because he’s the best of all of them. He’s very Black Knight about it, “’Tis only a flesh wound,” as he’s riddled with arrows and almost broken completely. “I’ve had worse!”
Jon orders him put in chains, Gjördkr says he should have thrown Jon off the Wall, and Jon agrees. “Yeah. You should have.”
The sun rises, Gilly sees that Sam made it, we see Cap’n Yeah, Boss with mess in his pants (he totally put on his brown pants in preparation, didn’t he?) and the boys outside pile up the Wildlings to be burned.
But let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks yet, The Wolf (Jon) says to Sam. He’s going to Mance to face certain death, or rather, to prove that Ned Stark’s old fashioned honor isn’t completely gone from the earth. No one else has any ideas, they see Redbeard dead on the ground alongside a dead giant (You’re my boy, Red! You’re my boy!), so he gets Sam to raise the gate (did it really need to go all the way up? I mean, is it like a garage door where there’s a trip sensor at the bottom?), hands off the Hope Diamond of swords to Sam, and Jon heads through the gate to his certain doom. I mean, what else can happen, right?
(Oh my god, don’t tell me.)
I have no idea what to expect for this last episode, you guys, no idea.
Okay, I need them to use that open gate to grab supplies off the dead giants and Wildlings, unhook those chains from the gate – those can totally be reused – cut off some Mammoth meat, and refortify that gate. Look, I’ve played these games—I know what’s important.
I’m guessing people are evenly divided on this episode: people who thought it was awesome because it was a 45 minutes action sequence that was really well shot and executed, and those who hated it because not enough happened. (That’s where my husband is on this.) As a non-book reader, it worked for me.
We’ve been saying since the beginning that Winter Is Coming. Well, now it’s here. We’re in a total state of flux—war coming from every angle, everyone is dispersed and nothing is going as it should. Perfect way to get us all amped up and stressed for the last episode of the season, even if that’s going to make us chew through leather. And after last week — OF WHICH WE WILL NOT SPEAK — we needed something good to happen to the good guys. We needed a win in their column. It wasn’t a pretty win, but it still counts. My two cents.
Remember: no spoilers here, no in depth book talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t speculate! Just make sure we all know that’s what you’re doing. We’ve gone almost four complete seasons without spoiling anyone (read: me), so let’s keep that going!
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