Despite being stuffed with spectacular action, “The Watchers on the Wall,” finds Game of Thrones just doesn’t deliver what we expect from the series at this point in time.
Let’s be honest about Game of Thrones’ fourth season…all the stuff at the Wall this year has been boring. If it’s not Alliser giving Jon Snow hell, then they’re all sitting around not bathing. There was that foray into Rape Village that was supposed to develop Jon’s character a little more, but overall, when the show tuned to the Wall, I found myself tuning out, which doesn’t really bode well for an episode set entirely at Castle Black.
Visually, “The Watchers on the Wall” is quite the sight to watch unfold. In that regard, this episode may just surpass the Battle of Blackwater in the depiction of the action. The battle scenes are wonderfully choreographed, spread out over the geography of the area in ways we don’t typically get. The episode sports some very cool displays: giants, mammoths, and that cool ice blade. Gilly comes back to an increasing sex starved Sam, who asks Jon about making love in the hours before the battle begins. I kept expecting an American Pie moment where Jon replied, “It’s like warm pigeon pie…”
Ygritte features prominently this hour, right up to her inevitable death at the hands of Ollie, the boy whose parents she killed. It was inevitable, but that doesn’t make the moment any less shocking as the arrow pierces her as Jon approaches. It was uncertian just how their reunion was going to go, and I enjoyed the callback to their cave. She really did love Jon, but his honor won out.
Even with the explosive sequences, there was just something flat about the hour. Regardless of the battle raging, it was really hard to feel the stakes that should have been present. Maybe if we had spent even a small amount of time with Mance this season, there’d be more of an urgency in the fights. I would’ve traded all the scenes at Rape Village to build up Mance’s POV.
“The Watchers on the Wall” also had the misfourtune of clocking in at the ninth episode slot, one typically reserved for the season’s big moment. But on the heels of the events of “The Mountain and the Viper,” this episode felt like more of an obstacle to the stuff we can’t wait to get back to. Maybe if those two episodes were flipped, I’d feel differently about this hour?
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