Monday, June 9, 2014

The [Underwhelming] Watchers on the [Underwhelming] Wall

BEWARE: The Game of Thrones reviews on this blog are likely to contain spoilers through A Dance with Dragons. Read at your own risk!

Look at my luscious, luscious hair...perhaps it will distract you from what was by far the worst 9th episode of a season of Game of Thrones so far...

What in the world is with Game of Thrones and awkward conversations/scenes lately, hmm? Because this episode was certainly full of them. While I've always been torn about the Jon/Sam dynamic, I actually appreciate the way their friendship has evolved in the show more than I ever appreciated its depiction in the books; however, Sam questioning Jon about having sex with Ygritte and then pointing out that technically the Night's Watch vows don't actually forbid sex was a bit much. No, Game of Thrones can't really show the internal struggles that Jon and Sam have over betraying their vows as well as their POV chapters in the novels do, but to have Sam insist that the vows don't forbid physical relations at all seems like a pretty big step in a very different direction.

I did enjoy that we finally got to hear about Tormund fucking a bear, but then to have Gilly (yes, it was obviously Gilly) skirting the ridge right above the wildling camp without any of them noticing her was silly to say the least. The cut to Sam and Maester Aemon makes me wonder if they are knowingly setting up the future travels for them, Gilly, and "her" baby ::cough cough:: ...but other than that I found their conversation a bit strange. Aemon calling out Sam about Gilly was amusing, sure, but the bit about him having been in love - and the significance the scene seemed to put on that - was a bit off-putting.

Gilly arriving at Castle Black and Sam having to swear at Pyp to get the gate open was an amusing little aside, though I was a bit confused at first when the horn blew because I thought it meant that the wildlings were right on her heels...and then how did they not catch her? However it was the other wildlings, those still north of the Wall, although the Thenns, Tormund, Ygritte, et. al. weren't far behind them in attacking Castle Black. I do want to know what's up with Styr suddenly being a warg, though, because I'm fairly certain he wasn't one in the books. I would ask if they were just making all the wildlings wargs, but then Mance, Tormund, and Ygritte don't seem to why make Styr that different?

(Yes, I realize I'm probably focusing on that way too much. Moving on...)

EDIT: Apparently that warg wasn't Styr, but rather some other Thenn who looks just like the guy who plays Styr? I don't know, I still think it's pointless, but thanks to the commenter who pointed this out :)

And then we finally got to see that fire that Mance bragged about last year! But can we talk about how awful an idea it was to burn down the trees that they could have used for cover, firewood, and for building shelter, during their siege on the Wall? Because yup, bad, bad idea. However, it got the message across to the Night's Watch - so much so that Alliser Thorne even admitted to Jon that he'd been wrong and should have listened to Jon's warnings. Of course, being Ser Alliser, he had to make a rude jibe or two after admitting that he was wrong, but the conversation itself still came as a bit of a shock.

Speaking of shocks...whoaaa Sam and Gilly! I'm torn between how sweet they are and being annoyed that the show is taking their relationship this far, this fast. It's likely that they're doing so because there's a serious dearth of even somewhat healthy relationships in this show right now, but does this mean that the fat pink mast will raise its jib a lot sooner than it does in the books? (Or is it the other way around, the jib raising the mast? Or does that not make sense at all? I'm trying to make a clever comparison but I don't know sailing terms very well so at this point I think it's just funny for how wrong it may be. And if it's not, then I'm way smarter than I give myself credit for, I suppose? haha)

But I digress, and anyway, more important things were on the horizon...those being...

Giants! And mammoths! And giants riding mammoths! Seriously though, the CGI was amazing. I'd heard that the show blew most of season four's CGI budget on this episode, and let me tell you, they didn't disappoint. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that they were the best thing about this episode, though admittedly the idea of the wildlings attacking the Wall from both sides at the same time was practically perfect in every way. No, that's not the way it happened in A Storm of Swords, but it's been pretty clear for a while now that the show would go this route, and in and of itself this was a good decision.

In terms of numbers, though, things seemed more than a little bit off. Brothers of the Watch were being slain left and right at Castle Black, yet the fight still kept going. I didn't have the patience to try to count, but I highly doubt the Night's Watch could have won that side of the fight with the twenty or thirty men they supposedly had - not at the rate they were getting cut down, anyway. For a show that so often pays great attention to detail, this was just poorly done - though at least they continued to do a great job showcasing the wildlings (and giants and mammoths!) north of the Wall.

The problem with The Watchers on the Wall is that it seemed almost nonsensical at times. For instance, the show brought Alliser Thorne back in a big - and not good - way, after ignoring him for a couple of seasons. That's all fine and dandy, except that they've spent all of season four showing him be a total jerk to Jon Snow, and then last night he gets to give an awesome, badass speech about fighting for the Night's Watch? I wanted to like this sort of redeeming scene, yet I couldn't help but think that the speech would have been even better if it was given by, say, Dolorous Edd (or even Pyp or Grenn, considering their fates - more on that later).

Of course, just as they apparently tried to redeem Ser Alliser, they did their best to make Janos Slynt look even worse than before. At first it was amusing, but then I wonder if they maybe took it a bit too far. That said, it certainly put new focus on true cowardice versus, say, Sam's supposed cowardice ;)

Poor Sam, too - after worrying about Gilly and then happily being reunited with her, he had to hold Pyp while he died. I actually exclaimed out loud when Ygritte's arrow caught Pyp in the neck, because of course I wasn't expecting it...though in hindsight it's not all that surprising. They needed to kill off characters who we knew but who weren't necessarily important in the long haul, and this came back to haunt viewers several times throughout The Watchers on the Wall...poor Pyp was just the first casualty :( Once he was dealt that fatal blow, the moment Grenn was sent to defend the inner gate against the giants I knew that he was Donal Nye's replacement. Which really sucked, because while I liked Pyp just fine, I preferred Grenn, and sure enough the giants broke through the main gate. Though they didn't show anything after Grenn got the other brothers to recite the Night's Watch vows, I wasn't surprised, just sad, when Jon and Sam later discovered him dead in the tunnel. Yeah, he took the giant down with him, and yes, I understand why they killed him off, but it still sucks, dammit!

Meanwhile there were constant mammoths and giants (again, there goes that CGI budget), including the giant who was also an archer, which I suppose was an interesting way to show us that the Wall's height can't stop everything.

Now, if you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago how I'd feel seeing Tormund injure Alliser Thorne, I would have been all about it, but after Ser Alliser's speech I was actually kind of sad to see him go down. Apparently he's still alive, but I wonder if he will take the place of Bowan Marsh and that storyline (injured Night's Watch man who later comes back to cause problems for Lord Commander Jon Snow, I mean). Honestly, sometimes I think trying to discern these things is the only thing that keeps me watching this show ;)

Probably my favorite part of The Watchers on the Wall was when Jon gave Dolorous Edd control of the Wall. With Pyp dying/dead and Grenn on his way there, I was definitely more than a little frightened that Edd would be taken out as well, but thankfully that wasn't the case and of course I can't wait to see more of him. We also finally got some Ghost action (more CGI money, haha), and when Jon had to fight the Magnar of Thenn I really expected that Ghost would have to save him again...interestingly enough, though, Jon prevailed of his own accord - and I actually really enjoyed the fight as a whole, despite the fact that ::gasp:: I don't really care that much about the characters up at the Wall, and therefore wasn't all that into this episode as a whole, unlike the big Battle of the Blackwater episode two years ago (Sandor! Sansa! Cersei!).

And just as Jon took care of Styr, a wild Ygritte appears, bow and arrow nocked and drawn. Whereas Jon catches sight of her during the book version of the battle, it wasn't surprising that they actually shared a moment in the show, as she hesitated shooting him just long enough for her to be shot. The fact that Jon saw who it was - and that it was the little boy he'd been talking to a few episodes ago - was certainly an interesting twist. Thinking about it now, I wonder if it would have been more or less heart-wrenching for Jon to see one of his friends kill Ygritte, though of course the use of the little boy was probably an intelligent decision on the part of the writers.

I've always been a bit torn about Ygritte and Jon's relationship. I like Ygritte as a character, but I'm not exactly partial to Jon, and perhaps that's the biggest issue in terms of how anticlimactic her death felt. I was more interested in Tormund's fate - stuck full of arrows like a pincushion, as he was, and still trying to fight as he was being taken captive. At this point the Night's Watch had 'won' their battle (but not the war, blah blah blah). Janos was discovered hiding in the storerooms with a woman and a baby (what a loser), and Stannis never showed up, which surprised me. I'm assuming/hoping that they're just saving his arrival for next week, but I think that this episode encompassing the entirety of the battle of the Wall - including his arrival - would have made it much more exciting. Yes, they combined two book battles into one, but as the title of this recap/review says, despite its few high points, I found it underwhelming as a whole. Generally it just feels as if the writers are continuing to draw things out rather than streamline them, which is what the show does best when it does it right.

I will say this much - there's a lot of ground still to be covered from Storm of Swords alone, and that makes me wonder if we'll still be seeing some of these book three story lines in season five... Pin It


  1. The Thenn warg was a different guy than Styr...I believe the warg was the one Sam killed with a crossbow bolt as the guy charged at him.

  2. ah okay good to know! I'll have to edit that when I have a moment :) it was driving me crazy that they were just throwing wargs around...I know they are more prevalent in wildling 'society' than they are south of the Wall but it really wasn't even necessary for there to BE a random warg, and if they'd made Styr one, well, just annoying. (the guy seriously looked just like Styr too, hence my confusion)