SPOILERS AHEAD… SO LOOK AWAY IF YOU’VE BEEN ON THE MOON THESE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS!
So, the penultimate episode of this season’s Game of Thrones, The Watchers on the Wall, was fully dedicated to the crows of Castle Black. You remember those guys, right? Moody lot, all dressed in black, feeling all downcast and put upon… no, not Goths… although, that said, I feel pretty sure that they’d all be into The Cure if they had the chance.
Hmm, how best to sum up episode 9? Actually, it’s not so difficult. A BLOODY BIG FIGHT! Yep, that just about says it all. Seriously, The Watchers on the Wall was pretty much grunts and growls and stabs and punches and screaming and bone crunching and blood-splatting and wailing. So a lot of fun, all told.
Okay, okay, some other stuff happened too, so let’s deal with that. Before battle commences, there’s some pre-fisticuffs shuffling about that involves, amongst other things, Sam talking to Jon Snow about the whole women vows thing and asking what sex is like (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, SAY NO MORE!). Sam buggers off to the library and has another talk about love with Maester Aemon (Christ, man, PRIORITIES!) before finding the object of his desire hammering on the gates. He hides her inside the castle before the wildlings come looking for blood.
The wildlings are camped outside Castle Black, talking about fucking bears – actually fucking bears – and waiting for the signal to attack. Snow’s wildling lover Ygritte is sharpening arrows and being angry. Elsewhere outside the castle there’s a massive great fire. There are definitely some seriously pissed off folk amassing to give the Night’s Watch a thumping. Anyway, the signal is given – courtesy of an owl-connected warg – and battle is joined.
Surprise number one: There are great big flippin’ giants… on great big flippin’ woolly mammoths! Where the bloody hell did they come from? Ah, who cares? Giants! On mammoths!
There’s lots of the usual medieval battle stuff going on all the while – barrels of oil dropped from great heights, flaming arrows, close combat with huge swords, that sort of thing – it’s a pretty elaborate TV battle, there’s no denying it, but it’s still more or less business as usual as far as bloody, muddy olde-worlde clashes go.
Mind you, there is the ‘scythe’ though – that was definitely different. Snow, who’s taken command up top because Janos Slynt – who Alliser Thorne left in charge before pissing off downstairs to rouse the men and scrap it out like a real trooper (making us kind of like him for once) – has taken advantage of an opportunity to run away and hide. Slynt’s not cool with giants, apparently. Anyway, Snow’s in charge but decides the fight downstairs could do with his help too. So he leaves Eddison Tollett to command the defenses and to use ‘the scythe’. The scythe basically does what it says on the box. It’s a huge great blade, like massive, which is dropped and then scythes across the face of the Wall, utterly mincing and pulverizing any wildlings that thought they might get into Castle Black that way. Horrible… yet hilarious.
Downstairs Snow finds himself fighting the massive bald cannibal Styr. He basically looks like he’s going to seriously cop it when providence hands him a hammer, which he buries very gorily but very satisfactorily in Styr’s head. Huzzah! No more people snacks for you, Styr.
Surprise number two: Snow turns to find Ygritte standing there, pointing an arrow right at him. Before either of them can speak however, Ygritte is shot through the chest with an arrow by the young lad Olly, who thinks he’s doing Snow a favor, bless him. Snow cradles Ygritte in his arms until she dies, which frees up the narrative a bit because that would have been a pretty complicated relationship to keep going – and that’s putting it mildly.
Ultimately Mance Rayder’s forces are defeated but Snow is under no illusions that the Night’s Watch have anything to be happy about. They are still outnumbered and the hordes will be back the next night. He think’s there’s only one thing for it and so, with Sam watching disappear into the cold white plains outside the castle, Snow goes out to find and assassinate Mance Rayder himself. With Rayder’s unifying presence gone, the wilding clans will disperse. He hopes!
Tune in next week for the most anticipated finale of all time… until the next one!