Sunday, June 23, 2024

Game of Thrones 4×09 Rewatch: The Watchers against the Dull

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Well hello there. After months of our Game of Thrones reread project, The Wars to Come, we’re finally at our penultimate episode—which happens to be the penultimate episode of Season 4. And after months watching the writing on the show of the masterminds David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) slip downhill, the end is not too soon. Last week, we had a lot to say about Sansa’s rushed arc. This week, Kylie, Julia, Bo, and Jana actually wish things moved just a little faster in “The Watchers on the Wall.”

Episode Recap

The high Lords may have been busy playing their game of thrones, but an invasion is upon the brothers at the Wall. Pre-battle, Sam and Jon chat, and Sam asks Jon what it really was like to have been with a woman, since they’re most likely going die. We soon see the woman in question, Ygritte, waiting nearby with the Thenns. The leader, Styr, jokes about how he wants to kill Jon, but Ygritte insists that it’s her kill. They’re so distracted by the bickering that they don’t notice Gilly slipping by, though they do notice one thing: the biggest fire the North has ever seen.

Sam goes to the library to read about Wildling raids and how attacks have usually looked, clearly worried about Gilly. Maester Aemon arrives and talks about love: how it’s the death of duty. Sam denies being in love, though when a single horn blows, he races to the castle gate. There, Gilly begs Pyp to be admitted. Pyp has orders not to open the gate for anyone, but Sam yells at him until he does.

Gilly is upset with Sam for leaving her in Mole’s Town, and Sam promises that she can stay, telling her, “Wherever you go, I go too.” The horns blow to signal the battle. Sam finds a room for Gilly to hide in, and kisses her before locking her inside, promising that he’ll come back alive.

As the men of the Night’s Watch get in position, Ygritte and the raiders south of The Wall scout out Castle Black, and decide it’s manned lightly enough to take. On top of the Wall, Thorne has command and admits to Jon that they should have sealed the tunnel. He gives a few volley orders, though as soon as he notices the raiders reaching Castle Black, he leaves to fight them, putting Janos Slynt in charge.

Slynt proves to be a poor commander and freezes when giants riding mammoths approach the gate. Grenn lies and tells Slynt that Thorne has need of him below. Once he leaves, Jon takes over command. Rather than join the fighting once he reaches the ground. Slynt ends up locking himself in the room alongside Gilly.

Meanwhile, Thorne gives a rousing speech to the brothers helping defend against the Thenns. Sam and Pyp are in the midst of this, Sam helping Pyp reload a crossbow. Though Pyp manages to kill one, Ygritte soon shoots him through the neck. Sam realizes they can’t win as is and makes for the top of the Wall, killing the Thenn skinchanger in the process. Olly is manning the crank to the Wall’s elevator, and Sam tells him to find a weapon and fight.

At the top of the Wall, Jon does well in charge, timing oil barrels to drop as needed. They cannot bring the giants down completely, though, so Jon orders Grenn to take five men and hold the gates—at all costs. Sam arrives at the top to tell Jon that they need him to fight. Jon leaves Edd in charge, who also does well, timing the massive scythe to knock climbers off the Wall and keeping the arrows firing.

Grenn and the five others reach the tunnel and need to face off against one remaining giant. They rouse themselves by reciting their vows, before all ultimately dying at the giant’s hand, killing him in the process.

Sam frees Ghost for Jon, both of whom immediately spring into action.

Jon faces off against Styr and wins in a violent fight, before coming face-to-face with Ygritte pointing an arrow at him. Jon smiles to see her, but the moment is cut short when she is shot from behind by Olly. Ygritte dies in Jon’s arms, telling him they should have never left that cave.

Tormund is captured, and without any raiders left within Castle Black and all the climbers knocked off the Wall, the fighting ceases. Sam finds Gilly…and Slynt, the former of whom is at least happy to see him.

In the courtyard, Jon decides that he needs to go “treat” with Mance—though actually intends to kill him. Since the wildlings nearly beat them the night before, Jon says it’s only a matter of time before they get through. Sam tells him it’s a bad plan, but it seems to be the only plan they have. Jon leaves Longclaw in Sam’s possession in case he doesn’t make it back and heads out north of The Wall.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: I was bored. No really, there’s my reaction: I spent 50 minutes wondering when this thing would be over, because it was not interesting. It’s not that I knew how it’d end—god knows I’m familiar with Blackwater, and I still really enjoyed that. It’s just, it’s basically a knock-off Helm’s Deep with no resolution. I can appreciate technical aspects of it, and this is maybe the most leader-y that Jon is ever framed (though frankly, Edd was portrayed equally as competent and suited to the task), but everything else left me really empty. Jon and Ygritte were really the only two characters with any kind of complexity to their motivations here, and well…Olly headnod.

Julia: It wasn’t as bad as I remember? I tried really hard to consider it more as an isolated episode of television, rather than, you know, the cause of all this show’s pacing problems for at least two seasons. And as that, it was alright. Characters had arcs and stuff. I have no idea who this guy John Bradley was playing was, but he had moments.

Bo: This isn’t even hindsight or rewatch hate on my part. When this episode first aired I was equal parts bored and frustrated. It’s the blandest battle episode of the entire show and one of the best examples of a well-made but totally uninteresting battle episode I could ever show someone.

This episode has zero awareness of the rule that too much action makes the audience numb to it. Why should I care when it drags on and on, and the deaths just pile one after the other? The emotional stakes are ruined 20 minutes in, if not earlier.

Jana: Huh. And here I am, actually feeling something for a bit. I don’t know, of course it’s a Lord of the Rings rip-off, to a degree (but who else are you going to rip off for battle scenes anyway?), of course it’s almost nothing but fighting between characters that we didn’t get too many opportunities to get invested in, but, I dunno. I didn’t think it was that bad?


Kylie: I don’t know why, but Edd in command of the Wall made me unabashedly happy. I was basically slumped on my couch watching this thing, but when that happened, I came alive. He’s damn good at it too! You think timing that scythe is easy to do? Too bad his next promotion comes as a joke.

It’s hard to really single out a lowlight, since I found this whole thing pretty one-note. Sex-crazed Sam is definitely a contender, especially as the episode’s opener, but I guess given the “we’re going to die” context it’s not horrifically bad. I guess I found Pyp’s death a little unnecessary. It’s not unjustified given the stakes or anything, but there was something overly-graphic about it that felt as though it crossed the line into acedia territory.

Bo: Clearly my highlight is Aloy the Seeker and her amazing bow skills. The only thing missing was a robot mammoth for Ygritte to take down.

Really, I have a hard time choosing between Ygritte in general and Grenn holding the gate. In an episode that struggled to differentiate the drama from one moment to the next, they broke through. I felt for Ygritte throughout the episode, and I felt for Grenn when he rallied his men before the giant. Those little moments stuck out for me.

My lowlight was, is, and will always be Olly. It was dumb, cheesy, cliche, and predictable when it happened, and nothing has changed. Everyone saw this coming the second he showed up at the Wall. We all hoped it wouldn’t. If you’re going to bother to write in Jon and Ygritte coming across each other during this fight, YOU CAN’T ROB US OF THAT SO CHEAPLY.

Kylie: Oh my god thank you for that Horizon: Zero Dawn reference. That’s one of the games we own on our PS4, and every time I look at it, I’m like, “…Ygritte?”. I should play it. It looks bright and pretty.

Bo: Highly recommend it. Amazing game with actual character arcs and stuff.

Julia: This is a weird highlight, but Kit Harrington got this look on his face when he saw Ygritte that made my heart grow three sizes. He was so happy to see her, even though she had an arrow pointed at him. It was very, gawsh. Rose Leslie has consistently brought out the best in him, acting-wise. I guess it’s because they’re in love, or whatever.

I think my lowlight is everything with Gilly. She was annoying with her “don’t leeeeave me, Sam!” and he was annoying with his, “I’m a man, I need to go be manly now! You don’t get it, cause you’re not a man!”

I also love how Ygritte and company were chilling just on the other side of the hill from the castle. And no one knew they were there?

Jana: I’m with Julia. Kit Harrington’s moment at the end there is probably the highlight of his acting on the show. The smile when she has the arrow pointed at him… Aw.

My actual highlight though, and that’s going to be weird, was that Maester Aemon got a scene. Yes, it came hot on the heels of ten minutes pre-battle spent talking about nothing but boning for some reason, but that was a nice monologue he had there. They should have given that actor more to do.

My lowlight… Hm. Probably the scene with Sam and Gilly in the kitchens when he asserts his manly-man-ness and then just kisses her. After we heard ten minutes of dialogue about how he’d totally be dtf. That…was not a good look.

Quality of writing

Bo: What writing? Did someone write something?

Julia: Oh come on, that’s not fair. “Then Jon Snow fights for ten minutes” is writing. No jokes, though, I thought the writing was above average for D&D. There were parts of it that were even a little subdued, like Jon sending Grenn on a suicide mission and Thorne’s heroism.

Kylie: Grenn’s Donal Noye-ing was very effective. Sam’s sex loopholes were very not effective. But at least this wasn’t a battle episode that was nominated for a best writing Emmy, like we saw in Season 6.

I will say, too, that this episode actually received the lowest reception from critics of the season, for what that’s worth. I mean, we’re still talking in the 90s as a score, but there were not a small number of reviews being like, “we were only able to be emotionally invested in 20 seconds” (that being Jon and Ygritte.) So as mostly-competent as I’d call this writing, the emptiness of it is still an issue, and a palpable one in this case.

Julia: Slynt’s coward arc was a little eye-rolling too, as much as Olly and most of Sam’s stuff.

Jana: The lawyer in me demands that I stand up for Sam and his loopholes. He is technically correct, and we all know that’s the best kind of correct. Same with how technically, you only serve the Night’s Watch until you die, and resurrections are not accounted for. But that’s, well, me, lawyering, with no accounting for the effectiveness of the nit-picking for the storytelling.

I do have to agree that some of these scenes were actually surprisingly well-written. Maybe because there was so little dialogue to write? Maybe because they binged LotR right before and that was very inspirational? I don’t know, but some of the dialogue scenes actually landed for me, and that’s not nothing.

Bo: You’re all right. The dialogue is actually pretty solid here. It’s just hard to truly appreciate it through the flood of screams and blood.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Kylie: War is hell? Your true character is revealed in the worst of circumstances? Leaving a kid alive when you sack a village may come back to haunt you?

“Love” is talked about rather explicitly a few times, and of course we see it play out with Sam kissing Gilly and Ygritte hesitating to kill Jon. It really wasn’t the death of duty in any way here, but I’d still say it was central enough to the episode to be considered a theme.

Bo: I’m definitely going for love as the theme. The episode is structured around Jon, Sam, and Ygritte, and all of them fight with love foremost on their minds. It factors into all their major scenes. For once, I think Game of Thrones had a clear theme running throughout the episode.

Must have been Finals week and all their book reports were due.

Julia: Aemon said “Love is the death of Duty,” but I think the theme was “Duty is the death of Love.” Sam left Gilly and his adopted son in a larder, and Jon watched Ygritte die, both because they had to do their duty. Even Aemon left that hot chick he was into.

Kylie: Everyone but Slynt was super dutiful here, now that I think about it. Let’s not underplay the platonic love among some of the brothers. Jon knew what it meant to send Grenn to hold the gate, for instance.

Jana: I’m gonna throw in leadership as a theme here. Thorne has an entire speech about it that Jon seems to take to heart. Jon takes over leadership once Thorne goes down and Slynt is just inadequate in every way. And then he hands over the leadership to a more capable dude to go do his super hero thing. Oh, and then he also assigns a leadership role to Grenn who just goes above and beyond in that role. We even end on Jon having a monologue at Sam about how Mance’s leadership is the only reason they’re dealing with an army in the first place. Now if only they ended this with something that was also on theme, like, say, a leadership election…

Kylie: That is slightly undercut by Edd being given command of the Wall, with what’s clearly supposed to be a pause for audience laughter. I don’t get why he’s framed like that! This is the hill I will die on!

Bo: It probably would have landed more if Edd was a bit more Dolorous.

Jana: I am with you on Edd being the best leader of the pack here, but that plays into the theme! It’s very broad!

Julia: Edd 2020!

The Butterfly Effect

Julia: Sam is the big problem here, him and the way they set up his whole relationship with Gilly. But I guess those wings started flapping in season 1. And Gilly too. Her superpower is being randomly assertive but also entirely passive. It’s quite a trick.

I’m also a little confused by their decision to make Alliser Thorne such a mensch suddenly. I’d follow him into battle, he cares.

Kylie: I guess it was like, “your true colors come out” in a situation like this? But it was a bit of an odd choice, since they purposely upped him as the central antagonist for Jon in the first place. Maybe this was supposed to demonstrate that Jon’s such a good leader that even Thorne can come around on his strategic suggestions eventually? I kind of liked how it plays out in the books better though, with Thorne and Slynt ordering Jon to treat with Mance. Since, you know, it’s a terrible and near-suicidal plan for a reason.

Don’t get me started on good ol’ sex-crazed Sam. I guess he finally got his sexy lamp, so yay? Gilly’s writing is so all over the place that I can’t track why she even wants to be around him.

Bo: Alliser’s change here makes sense for most of next season, since it’s establishing how he isn’t just a petty asshole but genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing. Thing is, you’d think this would not result in him being dumb and betraying Jon. Though of course Jon’s kind of worth betraying by the end of season 5.

Kylie: Oh god, Hardhome—I just remembered Jon’s arc drives towards more sword swinging.

Hey, Olly’s a big ol’ butterfly. I mean…where else would he go?

Jana: I love how he just ends up a pretty good shot five minutes after Sam made him first consider picking up a weapon. Kid learns fast.

Kylie: He mentioned he was the best archer in his village at one point. Since…that was needed.

Remember adaptation?

Bo: Damn Game of Thrones to all the Seven Hells for ruining the climax of Stannis riding in to save the Night’s Watch. How in the world did they not end this episode with his triumphant arrival at the Wall?

Besides that (which can be talked about more next week), it also completely missed the point of why Martin stretched the wildling siege out over so long. Like, we can complain about the emotional numbness of this episode but emotional numbness is the point in the books. The Night’s Watch defends the Wall for night after night, through death after death, to the point that they all grow numb to it, and it’s good storytelling. By the time it ends, Jon is worn down to nothing by the constant battle and the loss of the woman he loves.

Here, you’re just numb to it because it all comes at once. It’s the inverse of the draining effect the siege in the books has. I cannot and will not understand how they thought one big battle episode was better than carrying out this siege over 3-4 episodes. It would have given all the deaths and stakes here room to breathe and really hit the audience.

I’ll let someone else start off about Jon making the decision to go kill Mance rather than being given an order to do so.

Kylie: Hah. That. I started mentioning it in the section before as it relates to Thorne, but this is probably one of their most clear-cut adaptational decisions in terms of why they made this change: they want Jon to seem more active and leadery. They gave him that line, “Aye, it’s a bad plan; what’s your plan?”, which makes me seriously wonder if they read the books and thought Slynt had the best idea given the situation.

It’s also as if they missed the entire point of Mance’s entire approach to attacking the Wall. Yes, of course he could eventually win with the numbers on his side. In the books he tells Jon this. He could storm Shadow Tower, he could go to Eastwatch, he could eventually force his way in. He just can’t do it without heavy losses. The Thenn party was an attempt to have the gate opened for them so they wouldn’t have to die by the thousands. And of course, the Mance of the book has the horn that can bring down the Wall, but he doesn’t want to use it because ultimately, he’s trying to protect the Wildlings from the Others, not the Night’s Watch.

My point is, the attitude of “they nearly killed us all in one night, and eventually they’ll win” that Jon has isn’t at all representative of what this attack was seeking to accomplish in the first place. The Wildlings aren’t just some zombie army or the Uruk-hai on a mission to destroy, which is another reason why this overstuffed singular battle shouldn’t have been a thing at all. Mance asks for the parley in the books, since he can bring the Wall down, but doesn’t want to because of the survival of humanity.

Jon, meanwhile, was…what? Brought out of a cell and told to be the one to treat with him, right? There were days of the ongoing siege we weren’t even shown, because it was never a nail-biter “any moment they’ll win” type deal. Yeah, he had command of the Wall and earned respect among his brothers for doing a pretty good job given the situation, keeping everyone orderly, and being somewhat creative in his approach (the frozen gravel to repel the “turtle,” for instance).

I guess maybe, being generous, if there truly was an army of mindless attackers who won’t stop until the Night’s Watch is destroyed, then maybe Jon going out there and trying to kill Mance is better than no plan. But it ultimately does a disservice to every player involved, especially since the only reason casualties were as heavy as they were for the Night’s Watch was because of the raiders from the south, who are now all dead.


Do we want to talk about how they’ve done with portraying Jon as a leader?

Julia: I mean, he was doing leaderey things, like telling them when to shoot arrows, but, as you’ve said Kylie, Edd seemed to be just as good at it as he was. So as long as you’re not a stupid-head like Slynt, you should do fine commanding the Wall. Grenn was more heroic than he was, and Pyp and Sam were braver by the Ned Stark definition of bravery.

There was that one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where we learned that sending your friends on a suicide mission is the one thing a person must have to do to be qualified for command, so I guess he passed that test.

I agree with you completely, Bo, that having Stannis come to save the day would have been a much better climax for the episode than Jon walking through a gate. Or at least end on the trumpet blowing or something.

Bo: With its weird heavenly lighting. Give me a break, we all know Jon isn’t going to die killing Mance.

Jana: I was also expecting this to end on Stannis. That would have been the perfect ending, but noooo, why ever portray Stannis as heroic.

Regarding Jon and his leadership skills, they leave out all the more or less creative ways he helps sustain the siege in the books, which just supports the notion that Jon would never be called clever, but can swing a sword. The most leadership-y thing he does is be really, really good at delegating. And at knowing when to employ his super hero sword swinging skills.

Kylie: It just made me so happy that you quoted my Ballad of Jon Snow.

Jana: It is perpetually stuck in my head whenever he so much as picks up a sword, and you will all suffer with me.

Kylie: I do want to add my voice to the “how did this not end on Stannis?” camp. Back when I was watching Season 4, I was really trying to enjoy it and thought most of D&D’s decisions at least made a certain sense for a visual adaptation. I wasn’t jazzed about one big, smashy battle, but maybe with the right execution, it’d be worth it.

However, with us getting 3/4 of a narrative here, it felt so incredibly unsatisfying. I’m not even a big Stannis fan, so it’s not like him getting a moment in the sun. It’s what Bo said—we know Jon’s not dying, just like we knew that Jaime is drowning fake-out in Season 7 was idiotic. And I believe the whole thing is wrapped up within the first 10 minutes of the next episode, which as we’re going to see, is overstuffed and doesn’t culminate where it needs to for Jon at all.

Why split it like this, really? Was it just because it’d feel like another “Blackwater”? They certainly didn’t have a problem with a last-minute army arrival in the in-verse named “Battle of the Bastards,” did they? (Which was telegraphed far more and literally everyone saw coming.)

It’s just atrocious planning, and one that makes this smashy-fest feel all the more empty when viewing it in insolation.

Bo: I truly believe they moved it to avoid the hero’s entrance for Stannis. Don’t they have him enter to evil music next episode? They admit they are not fans, and this is yet another time where they show it. Like, we’re supposed to think Stannis is the asshole for murdering all the wildlings.

Jana: He gets in the way of Johnny Snow’s super hero mission that totally would have had fewer casualties. If that’s not evil, I don’t know what is. Maybe burning your own daughter. Maybe.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Kylie: I wouldn’t say it was the most organic thing in the world when Aemon told Sam that he was in love with Gilly, before proceeding to tell him about his own past dalliances. Though I guess Aemon does just kind of pop up with stories like this in general.

Julia: Ah, Aemon Targaryen and his quaint old man stories.

I suppose there was some exposition relating to how wildlings do horrible things to their victims. Or about the future trajectory of Jon and Thorne’s relationship.

Jana: Aemon’s story might have been extraneous, but damn if the actor didn’t make it work. Other than that, I guess we got the vows hammered back into our heads a lot? And that’s about it?

Bo: I feel awful because Sam is the only reason I don’t love Aemon’s story. You’re right, Jana, they should have given him more to do throughout the show.

I really like the context around the stories of what wildlings to their their victims. We’ve already spent a lot of time around them through Jon so we know they’re just people, not monsters, but it’s still a nice moment in the midst of the cheesy Thenns running around wanting to eat everyone. I’m not sure if the Thenns cheapen all this? Either way, the intent makes for good exposition.

I’m realizing that the writing was relatively solid here, it’s just a shame there wasn’t much of it.

Jana: Counterpoint: more writing would have given them more opportunities to mess up the good things they had going here, which is I think what happened in all their other episodes. Not a whole lot to mess up when emulating Helm’s Deep.

How was the pacing?

Julia: I remember looking at the time scroller about fifteen minutes in and being shocked. It did pick up once the attack from the south happened, I suppose.

Jana: The first fifteen minutes of everyone talking about getting laid (or not) definitely felt about as long as the entire battle. Boy did that drag on. The battle itself was okay-paced, I thought.

Bo: If nothing else those scenes actually beat a clear theme into our heads. Still, you cut 5 minutes of the sex talk and you have room for Stannis. So, yeah, terrible decision, Game of Thrones.

Like I said above, the pacing for this battle sucked because it was too much, too fast. It’s hard to feel the full weight of the deaths when you’ve been watching people die for 40 minutes. Grenn and Pyp deserved their own episode. So did Ygritte. They had every reason to make this last multiple episodes and instead they rushed it all into one episode.

Kylie: I will say though, it’s the first episode I watched at a normal playback speed. 1.10x made me feel a little motion-sick.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Jana: Or we could just not, seeing how all the other characters did it for us.

Bo: I hate Show Sam. He literally only talks about sex. I have to fight not to turn away whenever he shows up on screen.

Kylie: But now he’s killed a White Walker and a Thenn. His merits fly off the screen.

Julia: I feel like the sex-loophole conversation had a snowball’s chance in hell of being effective, but only if this had been the first time show!Sam decided to have a vicarious sex conversation with Jon. Since now he’s been in this relationship that he could have reasonably expected to develop into something romantic/sexual and he thinks he’s going to die without it ever having the chance to. But yeah, as part of the pattern of Sam always asking Jon for sex details because he’s such a sad loser or whatever, please don’t.

Jana: It also read as just a little bit very insensitive, considering they are about to be attacked by Jon’s ex and her people and she did try to shoot him. So as nice as memories of sex might be, maybe not the best thing to bring up in this situation?

Bo: It absolutely reads like Sam is just a desperate virgin, rather than someone falling in love and feeling regretful. And it dominates almost every scene Sam speaks in. Not just here, but since he first showed up at the Wall.

Jana: That also made the kiss he, uh, I’ll be charitable and say surprised Gilly with feel a lot more creepy than it had to.

Kylie: It will be his closing note in Season 5, too. He finally gets the sex (after saving her from a rape attempt), and then he and Jon bro about it.

In memoriam…Ygritte, Pyp, Grenn, Styr

Bo: Rose Leslie may never have been book!Ygritte, but she was always excellent nonetheless. That woman has charisma leaping off the screen even in the stupidest moments. She deserved better than Johnny Cardboard and an OC plot device killing her.

Julia: It may be the primary school teacher in me, but be careful what you say about Olly, he’s just a traumatized kid.

Pyp and Grenn at least had deaths that were more than beer farts, and Styr. Um, he was very Icelandic? I tend to like that quality in a person.

Bo: I can’t help it, Olly literally only exists to kill Ygritte and then Jon next season because apparently they needed a brand new character for that. It was frustrating then and it’s frustrating now.

Jana: No, don’t you remember, Olly exists because where else would he go now and that’s why someone was made a writer next season because it’s brilliant. And so subtle.

I gotta give props to the writers here, though. They actually spent a bit of time on establishing all the Watchmen that die in this episode as characters and to establish some rapport between them and Jon, so that I almost felt something about their deaths. That was comparatively well done, though it does not excuse making us suffer through Karl Fookin’ Tanner. And the fact that Jon’s killing of Styr mirrors what happened in his fight with Karl didn’t even register for me on first watch, that’s how well it paid off.

Bo: While I kind of agree that Pyp’s death was a slight bit gratuitous, both his death and Grenn’s were well made scenes. It’s just a damn shame they had to come together and amid so much other droning chaos.

Kylie: It kind of had that Clue effect where there’s so many murders in such quick succession, where by the time they find the final three bodies, they’re just like “…okay.”

Jana: So there is a more mainstream word for that! Among anime fans, we call if the Detective Conan (or Case Closed if you’re into bad localizations) effect. 900 episodes and counting, and on average 1.5 corpses per storyline.

Kylie: That’s probably mostly what I mean by Pyp’s death being gratuitous, too. Just, give us one fewer and see how that works out. Or maybe spare Grenn so someone actually dies at Hardhome we know a bit better than Smurfette, and they become a wight we see later. I don’t know.

Also yeah, Jon taking Karl’s folksy moves to kill Styr really was…something. I mean, he never could have learned to spit in his opponent’s face otherwise. And he certainly needed Karl of Gin Alley to teach him about a rougher way of life and fighting, since living among the Free Folk taught him nothing.

To be honest, this Jon seems mostly indifferent to the plight of the wildlings and what Mance is driving towards. His only conflict is that he liked that one he did the sex with. His, “I want to fight for the side that fights for the living” was just a convenient lie, I suppose.

Jana: I liked what Bo said above about Grenn, Pyp, and Ygritte deserving their own episodes to die. This whole fight scene could have been going on for a few scenes throughout the last few episodes, just to hammer home the constant assault that is not won with one heroic charge and to give all of the deaths more meaning. And to make room for Stannis to do his thing.

Also, yes, with all the talk about getting laid, Jon’s hint of conflict seems to be reduced to Ygritte being the one he did the sex with. The fact that she brings up the cunnilingus cave—which kind of had a lot more meaning in the books, even if it was just as ridiculous—doesn’t really help, does it?

Kylie: No, but I’ll tell you what does help: knowing that next week is our last of these rewatches. Watching a show get progressively worse that you know is going to get progressively worse is kind of draining, it turns out. Much like how I found this episode.

But what did everyone else think? Was it a slog, or are we unable to enjoy decent visual spectacle when it comes our way? Was the Olly head-nod as hilarious in retrospect? Let us know in the comments, and for one last time…we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.

Images courtesy of HBO

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