Sooooo, about that last Game of Thrones: The Watchers on the Wall


Photo via HBO.com

Photo via HBO.com

My gods has Games of Thrones made me a pessimist. I’ve mentioned a few times that the Night’s Watch is a very dumb organization, so I expected the worst throughout The Watchers on the Wall.

Last week’s crushing defeat was another nail in the coffin of optimism. After seeing how lightly defended the front gate of Castle Black was, I could only imagine the episode ending with the Night’s Watch destroyed and the horde of Wildlings marching south to take on the despicable Boltons.

The worst did not happen, depending on your perspective (it’s kind of tough to root for the side that actively employs cannibals). The Wildlings and everything they bring with them are an interesting lot. The area north of the Wall has so many foreign ideas compared to the rest of the Westeros. You have the free folk, who live without title or rank, or at least they did before Mance Rayder joined them together. There are giants and mammoths, fantastical elements that hang on the fringes of George R.R. Martin’s universe. There’s also the White Walkers, who drive this conflict as they (ever so slowly) claim the snowy lands of the north.

This foreign feel is similar to how Daenerys Targaryen’s storylines always feel separate from the rest of the show. The concepts of freedom and fantastical elements are key in Dany’s quest. The comings and goings in Mereen tend to be a bit more of a slog than the struggle at the Wall, but there’s still a disconnect. Even mopey old Stannis Baratheon forgot about it after it looked like he was going to march right up there and help the blue balled men of the north in their fight against those artistic ice zombies. An entire episode concentrating on the conflict between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings felt a little off.

This episode was basically a Game of Thrones side movie. It focused solely on one storyline, like season 2′s Blackwater. The CGI was among the best I’ve seen on television. The aforementioned fantastical elements looked terrific. You felt the menace that the giants and mammoths brought with them; the only true threat to bringing down that gate. The Watchers on the Wall had some of the best action set pieces in the entirety of GoT, although I’m still disappointed that we didn’t get to see that fight between 6 men and a giant.

The one thing that particularly stuck out was Ygritte’s Omar-like demise. It was far more cinematic than a number of the deaths on GoT, as she died in the arms of her former lover turned enemy. She even got one final chance to get her god damn catch phrase in. This was the opposite of Oberyn Martell getting his head squeezed like a tomato.

Maybe the off feeling comes from the character of Jon Snow. There’s too much of his father in him for his own good. He’s too dutiful to be fun. I like Jon Snow well enough, but he’s insanely dedicated to the Night’s Watch. The show teased him running off with the free folk of the north, but you knew he was never going to. We’ve gotten used to rooting for so many murky characters, and Jon Snow is as much of a clear cut hero as there is in Westeros.

Now, Snow goes off on his own to try and cut off the head of the Wildling horde. I can’t imagine how close he can get to Mance Rayder (who might be a Jedi master with a name like that). But really-

Oh screw it. If I can’t enjoy an hour of medieval siege warfare with giants and Hannibal style war mammoths, then I can’t enjoy anything. We got Ghost on the hunt cam! How about that big hook dealie that swept the Wall clean? Badass. The Jon Snow vs. Styr fight was great. Sam killed a guy!

Sometimes I just need to grab the damn popcorn, sit back, and relax.

Steve Jacot

I'm from Philadelphia but only throw a handful of batteries at hapless strangers a year. I blog and podcast about hockey for Flyers Faithful/Flyerdelphia. You probably know my sarcasm and dopiness from following me on Twitter.

I specialize in TV, movies, and the nerdy side of things on Untied, regularly posting about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Star Wars, and the comic book movie of the moment.
  • Nina G.

    I agree the Wall story feels disconnected just like Dany’s story. It is my least favorite after hers. A big problem is with both stories is the villains are mostly throwaway characters so there isn’t an emotional investment in both sides unlike Blackwater. The Wildlings were a little more developed than the slavers, but at the end of the day they turned them into cartoon villains that slaughter and eat innocents so they weren’t much better. Also John and Dany are really the only characters of consequence in their respective stories. Sam is really the only other character besides John that could have evoked an emotional reaction if they kicked the bucket last night.

    The Wall story could have been better. They never told us why Mance with the greasy hair abandoned the Night’s Watch? And why were the wildlings so hell bent on slaughtering everyone instead of trying to work with the NW since the were ultimately trying to flee the white walkers?

    I thought they did a great job with the episode, but the story did not deserve a full hour. I did like the giants, the mammoth, and that jerk turning into a bad ass.

    As for John getting close to Mance, does he know John was really a mole? The group John was with hadn’t had contact with Mance since season 2 so it’s possible the rest of the group doesn’t know. If he can snatch one of their furs they might think he is still with them.

    • http://www.untiedmag.com/ Estebomb

      I hadn’t considered that Mance might not know about Jon’s mole status. Very interesting!

      And yeah, I don’t like how the Wildlings are such straightforward villains. They’re like the men that took Craster’s Keep, they’d be way more interesting if they were more sympathetic. They should have a cause you can get behind. But no, they’re just slaughtering everyone and sometimes eating them.