Game of Thrones – S4E9 – The Watchers on the Wall

Hi there, and welcome to another Game of Thrones recap. This recap has many spoilers for season 4, episode 9, The Watchers on the Wall. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, come back after you have. I’d hate to be the one to spoil things for you. A small caveat to new readers: forgive my use of nicknames. I use them to keep track of characters whose names I don’t remember. I have not read the books. If you have read the books, I ask that you not spoil future events on the show for those of us who haven’t. Okay, on with the recap!

iron throne jon snow

It’s all Wall this episode. Wall to wall Wall, perhaps?

Last week, I wondered when we’d get to see the Wildlings attacking the Wall. I figured it would have to happen during the two last episodes or the onset of it would happen at the very last scene of the season. I didn’t think they they’d devote a whole episode to the Wildling attack. I’m not complaining. Yes, this episode was basically one giant fight scene, but it was one giant, AWESOME fight scene.

The fight doesn’t start immediately. At the start of the episode, Jon and Sam are atop the Wall on watch. Sam is pestering Jon to find out what sex is like. He figures since they’re all going to die in this Wildling attack, he’ll never find out for himself. Jon tries to play it off, but man, Sam will really not let this go. Jon tells Sam to get some sleep.

At the Wildling camp, Jon’s ex girl, Red,  is ready to kill. Big Bald Scarface calls her out, saying that she’s still soft for Jon Snow. But Red says that not only will she kill Jon, but she’ll kill anyone who tries to kill him first. Unbeknownst to them, Gilly…or someone else up there holding a baby…sneaks past them.

Maester Heyman (sp?) walks in on Sam in the library. This maester is blind, right? Just checking. He looks blind. Sam’s looking something up. Oh, he’s looking up what Wildlings do when they kill people. Hasn’t Sam seen Wildlings in the flesh before? Does he really need to look this up? Maester Heyman says his real name is Eamon Targaryan. Whattttt? Did we know this already? So, he’s Dany’s great uncle, right? Was he the one who Grandma told Princess Low Cut about wooing back in the day?

Hey, that girl sneaking past the Wildlings before, it is Gilly! She’s trying to get in the gate, but the guy guarding the gate isn’t having it. Lucky for her, Sam is wandering by at this same moment. Basically, Sam gets the guy to open the gate by cursing. The guy’s never heard Sam curse before. Gilly’s inside. Sam takes her and the baby off somewhere to hide.

Up on the Wall, horns are blowing. Get ready for Fight Night, everyone. There’s an owl on the Wall. A bald Wildling is seeing through the owl, using the same trick Brann does. Baldy wakes up and says it’s time.

There are a few inspiring speeches this episode. Jon’s Jerk Boss gets to make one here. The guy’s a dick during peacetime, but he knows how to handle things once the firing starts. His troops are beyond nervous, but he barks them into line.

Sam stows Gilly in the meat locker. Gilly doesn’t want Sam to leave, but Sam gets all John Wayne on her and tells her that a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do (Alternatively, you could say he got all Dr. Horrible on her based on that line). Gilly and Sam kiss before Sam goes off to save the day.

Sam patrols with another crow that makes Sam look like the bravest man in Westeros. But sure enough, Sam talks up some courage into this coward.

Red spies the entrance to Castle Black and reports back. The Wildlings douse their campfire and rush the south gate. The huge Wildling army emerges from the treeline near the Wall. Whoa, they’ve got giants riding mammoths! Correction: they have one giant riding one mammoth, and another giant standing nearby. Still, that’s two giants and a mammoth. They’re all 3/3 and the mammoth has trample. Sorry, I was just flashing back to playing Magic: The Gathering in high school.

mammoth mtg

As the Wildlings attack the southern gate, Jon’s Jerk Boss leaves the Wall to confront them. Once he hits the courtyard, he gives another inspiring speech. This guy really is great in wartime. I kind of feel bad for not knowing his name and only referring to him as Jon’s Jerk Boss.

Red Beard takes out a bunch of crows as he makes it over the gate. Sam and his new cowardly friend retreat as everyone else there dies.

Up on the Wall, Jerk Face’s Second is freaking out. Jon’s BBFF (Bearded Best Friend Forever) tricks him into going down to the courtyard, leaving Jon in charge. Jon gets to shine here. He’s a natural leader and calm under immense pressure. The men shoot arrows and drop barrels Donkey Kong style on the Wildlings below.

Whoa! Giants shoot giant arrows, big enough to smash through a platform and send a man impaled on an arrow into the courtyard below. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that a giant would have a giant bow that shot giant arrows, but yes, I was surprised during that scene. That was one of the coolest scenes of the whole episode.

Sam’s new friend takes out one of the Wildlings with a crossbow. He’s psyched. It’s his first kill. Sam’s reaction is great. He deadpans, “Is it over? Well then.” His friend gets the message and lines up another shot…but is taken out with an arrow through the neck by Red. Damn, Red looks so bad ass when they show her here. She’s like a small, red headed, female John Rambo.

Red Beard and Jon’s Jerk Boss fight. It’s a good fight. Red Beard gets the better of him, but not before Jerk Boss gets some good shots in. Some crows manage to help the injured Jerk Boss escape with his life as he yells for his men to hold the gate.

Sam stays with his new bud until he dies. He then makes his way to the elevator to the top of the wall. A Wildling charges him, but Sam drops him with a crossbow bolt. The kid elevator operator is freaking out. Sam manages to calm him down and tells the kid to find a weapon and fight. The kid spies a bow.

Jon is surprised to see Sam atop the Wall. Sam gives him news of below. Jon puts another guy in charge and heads down. It’s kind of funny how quickly being in charge of the Wall’s top is being passed from man to man. This new guy in charge gets possibly the best line of the episode when he says, “Might as well enjoy our last night, right boys? Light the fuckers up!”

The two giants are getting ready to hitch their mammoth to the gate. The crows drop flaming barrels on the giants. Someone has really been studying his Donkey Kong. If the giants had read up on Donkey Kong tactics, they would have known to have a hammer on hand to take out these barrels. Side note, mammoths REALLY do not like being set on fire. Who knew?

One giant goes after the mammoth. That giant dies from the business end of a crow spear. The other giant is so pissed about his mammoth being on fire and his buddy being dead that he gets that crazy mom strength, you know, like when a mom can lift a car off her child, and lifts the gate up on his lonesome. Jon sends his BBFF and some men to hold the inner gate from that giant. They reach the inner gate just as the giant has made it past the outer gate. The giant charges them and the inner gate. They’re scared, but BBFF gets them fired up by having them chant their oaths.

Jon sends Sam to free Ghost. Jon tears through four Wildlings before the other crows even leave the elevator. As Sam runs from one side of the castle to another to free Ghost, we get a very cool, extended long shot that shows all the fighting going on in the castle, highlighting all the major players. Once free, Ghost tears through the Wildlings. I want a dire wolf so bad.

Big Bald Scarface spots Jon and it’s on. Man, they both want each other dead. This is another very cool one on one fight. During this fight, Red runs out of arrows. She scampers around, grabbing some. Scarface gains the advantage when he knocks Jon’s sword from his hand. Red spots Jon and Big Bald Scarface fighting. BBS slams Jon into an anvil face first and then throws him through a fire. Just when it looks like Jon might be done, Jon picks up a hammer and slams it into Scarface’s head. Pure Donkey Kong Playbook, my friends.

donkey kong hammer

Red confronts Jon. She kneels 10 feet from him, with an arrow trained on him. Jon smiles at her. The briefest hint of a smile crosses her face before an arrow goes through her heart. Jon’s shocked. It’s that kid elevator operator, the one whom Sam told to get a weapon and fight who shot her. Red’s dying. Jon holds her. She says they should have stayed in that cave. Jon tries to comfort her by saying they’ll go back there.  She says, “You know nothing Jon Snow,” and dies.  “You know nothing, Jon Snow” is the “As you wish” of Game of Thrones. Despite the battle raging around him, Jon holds her one last time. Man, I was really hoping these two kids would get out of this together, like two young lovers in a Bruce Springsteen song.

Atop the Wall, the guy in charge yells for the men to “Drop the scythe!” Holy crap, that scythe is cool. It’s basically a giant metal ax on a chain that swings down, cleaving the ice on the Wall and everything else in its wake. After this, the Wildlings retreat. But as the guy in charge points out, the Wildlings still outnumber them 1,000 to 1.

Down below, Red Beard is full of arrows, but still raging. Jon tries to reason with him, but Red Beard still wants to fight. Like a scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Red Beard swings his sword in defiance and Jon shoots him with a crossbow. Jon orders that Red Beard be locked up.

Sam and Gilly reunite. They’re totally going to do it.

The next day, the crows are cleaning up. Jon and Sam are walking together. Sam’s more upbeat than Jon is. I think Sam got some. Jon tells Sam his plan, which is find the Wildling commander, the one who organized all these war parties together, and kill him. Sam tells him it’s a bad idea, so Jon asks him if he has a better one. One their way to the gate, they find the body of BBFF, the other crows and the giant. Damn, I liked BBFF. But they held the line. Jon tells Sam to get some men and burn their dead brothers’ bodies. Once they reach the gate, Jon asks Sam to watch his sword, since he promised he wouldn’t lose it again. Why isn’t Jon taking Ghost with him? Ghost survived the battle, right? Ghost is not allowed to die off camera! Jon exits the gate, resigned to his fate. Sam tells him to come back alive.

One episode to go this season! I wonder if we’ll see Jon again next episode or if his story won’t pick up again until Season 5. Man, this has really been a great season!