Game of Thrones
has formed a pattern with its ninth episodes. In odd-numbered seasons,
Starks die (Ned, Robb and Catelyn) and in even-numbered seasons, we get
an entire episode dedicated to a single battle at a single location
(Blackwater and now Castle Black). Sansa had better watch out next year.
What makes this episode so unique, however, is how small the cast is. Only five names appear in the opening credits: the actors who play Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, Gilly, Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane. And, like season 2's "Blackwater" most of the episode is one very long, very impressive action sequence.
Love and Sex
Before the fighting begins, the characters talk a bit about love and sex. Sam asks Jon what it was like having sex with Ygritte, and Jon is incapable of properly explaining it. Meanwhile, in the wildling camp, Tormund Giantsbane tells a story about the time he had sex with a bear, but Ygritte calls B.S. She also tells everyone that Jon Snow is hers, and anyone who kills him will get an arrow in the head.
Love is also on the brain, mostly because Sam misses Gilly, assuming she died in the Mole's Town massacre. He chats with Maester Aemon, who is awesome as always and full of sage advice.
Preparing for War
Gilly and the baby arrive at Castle Black, and Sam is so excited he curses at Pyp. Sam takes them in and hides them out in a cellar to keep them safe during the impending attack.
As Mance Rayder promised, the attack is signaled by "the biggest fire the North has ever seen," which basically means that everything north of the Wall is set on fire. At this point the attack begins on two fronts, one at the Wall and one at Castle Black.
The Battle at the Wall
The Wall is attacked by hundreds of thousands of Mance's men, including giants and mammoths! However, the Night's Watch decides to play a game of Donkey Kong, dropping barrels onto them. The coolest moment comes when a barrel falls on a mammoth and explodes. A flaming mammoth runs away, being chased by a giant.
Equally cool is a scene in which one of the giants takes out his giant bow and arrow and shoots it to the top of the Wall, impaling a member of the Night's Watch and sending him flaming back down the other side into Castle Black.
The chain of command on top of the Wall is sketchy as, one by one, everyone is called down to fight at Castle Black. First it's Lord Commander Alliser Thorne, then Janos Slynt (who, like a coward, runs off to hide with Gilly), then Jon Snow takes over, and finally, Eddison Tollett is put in charge.
They are basically successful in keeping the wildlings from scaling the Wall and killing the giant before it makes its way to the other end of the tunnel, though the latter involved the death of Grenn.
The Battle at Castle Black
All of the real action in the episode takes place at Castle Black with chaos, fights and death. Highlights include Ygritte killing Pyp (who died in Sam's arms), Sam killing a cannibal and Alliser's sword fight with Tormund.
Things really kick into high gear when Jon Snow arrives and he kicks some major ass. He has Sam unleash Ghost, who kills a few of his own. Jon then does battle with the big, bad cannibal leader, and Jon gets his butt kicked a bit, but comes out on top by jamming a hammer into his head.
Reeling, Jon then finds himself face-to-face with Ygritte's arrow. Will she actually kill Jon? We don't find out because a little boy shoots her first. Ygritte goes down and Jon cradles her. She says she wishes they never left the cave, and in a perfect moment, her final words are "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Then Ygritte dies in Jon's arms.
The Next Day
So basically, the Night's Watch wins the battle. Tormund Giantsbane is captured, but instead of killing him, they chain him up for information. However, all is not good. This was just a preliminary attack, and Jon knows that Mance's army will continue to attack the Wall every night until they win. It's sort of a hollow victory.
Instead, Jon has a new plan. He's going to march north, find Mance and kill him. Sure, Jon will probably die too, but he figures if the leader is dead, all of the wildling factions will turn on each other and leave the Wall alone. Sam tries and fails to talk him out of it, so he just makes Jon promise to come back.
The episode ends with Jon heading north. There was definitely some great action and the deaths of Ygritte and Pyp were handled nicely, but at the end of the day, this episode was kind of like a not-quite-as-great "Blackwater."
Next week on Game of Thrones: It's the season finale, and time to get back to non-Jon Snow characters.
(Image courtesy of HBO)