This week’s episode felt more like a movie than an episode of a television series. It harkens back to those epic fantasy siege scenes in the Lord of the Rings
and Narnia where our heroes face the onslaught of an invading army. The visuals alone where impressive enough to go toe-to-toe with this massive big budgeted fantasy movies. And, like those epic battle scenes, this week’s episode begins with a silent lull, as Sam and Jon Snow watch over the land of "perpetual winter" from their perch on The Wall. They talk about mundane things, women in particular, as Sam quizzes Jon on his relationship with the wildling girl Ygritte. Jon of course is a man of few words, and he finds it hard to speak about his emotions. Sam though has no problem talking about Gilly, who he worries has died in the raid on Moletown.
Unbeknownst to the two men, though, an owl that sits near them is being possessed distantly by a Warg, who at that time is in a wildling camp near Castle Black on the other side of The Wall. Ygritte is there and so is Tormnund Giantsbane, and the topic of the night among the wildlings is Ygritte and her love for Jon Snow. She takes offense to this and proclaims that Jon Snow is hers and whoever chooses to kill him will meet her arrow. Whether this is because she wants him back or wants to kill him herself is left unanswered. In the distance, a lone figure carrying a baby passes by them.
Back in Castle Black, Sam takes solace in the library where Master Aemon finds him. The old Maester gives him advice on love and life, telling the younger man stories about his time as a king-to-be before he joined the Night’s Watch and chose exile instead of taking his place on the Iron Throne. Sam then leaves and goes out to the courtyard where he hears a familiar voice in the night. As it turns out Gilly is outside the gates, clutching her baby, begging to be let in. But Pypar, who serves as sentry, refuses to disobey orders. Sam scolds him and tells him to open the gate. Grenn obliges and Gilly is overjoyed to be let in and see Sam once again.
Courtesy of Doctorcapaldies
But then, the horn sounds, calling the Night’s Watch into battle. The possessed owl sees what the brothers on top of The Wall are doing. And the Warg who possesses him gives the signal to the other wildlings on the camp. Jon moves to the edge of the wall and sees fire in the forest of the Land of Always winter. The Night’s watch prepare their defenses and Sam hides Gilly and her baby in the pantry. She begs him to stay but he is adamant to go, he proceeds to kiss her with the intensity of a man thinking he is about to meet his death. She tearfully makes him promise that he will come back.
A two pronged attack happens, Mance Rayder’s vast army attacks The Wall, while down below on the other side Ygritte and her wildling band assault Castle Black. Ser Alliser goes down to supervise the battle in Castle Black leaving Janos Slynt in charge on top of The Wall. He is ineffective, thankfully Grenn tells him that Ser Alliser has summoned him below. He goes and Jon Snow assumes command without being asked.
The fight is fierce on both fronts, the men on top had to deal with Giants and Mammoths. While down below the Wildlings are able to scale the low and undermanned walls of Castle Black. Cowardly Janos Slynt does not help and instead he hides in the same pantry as Gilly. Pypar is shot dead and dies in Sam’s arms.
Things become even more desperate when the Giants are able to hook a Mammoth to the outer gate of the wall. Noting that it won’t hold, Jon sends Grenn and a few men to hold the inner gate from the other side. They proceed down the elevator-like Cage where they find Sam calling out to them to help their brothers defend Castle Black. Grenn tells him that they are there to defend the inner gate, and that if he wants more help he needs to go see Jon. Sam goes up the Cage to do so. Nearby Ser Alliser is wounded and taken out of the battle.
Up on the wall, the brothers drops barrels of oil on the Mammoth, the creature is burned by the ensuing fire and flees back. A giant is killed by a well-aimed Scorpio from the top. Another Giant sees this and, in anger, proceeds to lift the outer gate himself.
As Jon watches this from his perch, Sam arrives and tells him of the desperate situation on Castle Black. Jon leaves with a few men. Down below at the Inner gate, Grenn and his compatriots arrive just in time to see the Giant lift the outer gate, and he barges in. The men are frightened, but Grenn rallies them and urges them to hold steady and they face the onslaught of the advancing hulking creature before them.
Jon and his men arrive below, he then bids Sam to release his dire wolf Ghost from his cell. As the Cage opens, we are treated to a visually beautiful single camera pan of the fight in Castle Black. Sam then releases Ghost and the dire wolf proceeds to crush the wildlings. Jon faces and kills a few wildlings himself, and after being bloodied by a fight with a large man, he ends up being face-to-face with his old lover, Ygritte. She is aiming an arrow at him, but she doesn’t fire as her eyes glistens with tears and she hesitates. This costs her her life as another arrow pierces her heart. Jon looks to see who made the fatal shot. It is the young boy ‘Olly’ who nods to him. Jon then grabs Ygritte and tries to comfort her, she dies whispering her iconic line "You know nothing Jon Snow."
On top of the wall, the men make progress, as they release a scythe that kills every wildling climbing up on the Wall. Disheartened, the army of Mance Rayder pulls back to regroup. In Castle Black the fight is over as Tormund Giantsbane, the lone survivor, is captured. Sam goes to Gilly in the pantry where he also finds a frightened Janos Slynt.
Later, Jon tells Sam that he plans to go beyond the Wall and find Mance Rayder and kill him. Sam tries to dissuade him, but Jon asks him if he has a better idea, and the other man has none. They walk into the tunnel and find Grenn and the other men dead with the Giant that they have slain. Jon bids Sam to give them a proper send-off by burning them. He then goes to the outer gate and orders it opened…
I guess everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief since Jon survived… for now.
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