In every Game of Thrones season, you can guarantee that episode 9 will have a big moment that will probably eclipse the season’s finale. Baelor from Season 1 had the death of Sean Bean’s Eddard Stark (how long ago that seems now), Season 2 had the awesome battle sequences that came with Blackwater (hint: the same director who did Blackwater is also directing The Watchers On The Wall) and of course Season 3 had the infamous Rains of Castemere – and well, pretty much everybody knows what happened in that episode. And then came season 4, The Watchers On The Wall.
Jon Snow’s storyline has often been among the weakest sections of Season 4 but thankfully The Watchers on the Wall turned that all around,
with an entire Night’s Watch-centric episode that handled the siege very well indeed. It was pulled off amazingly well with some spectacular action sequences and it felt very similar to the siege of Helm’s Deep in the second Lord of the Rings movie – except only without Gandalf arriving at the end to save the day.
In true episode 9 fashion, there were deaths – but the kill count may not be as high as non-book readers expected in terms of major characters. Jon Snow still lives to fight another day. So does Sam. It’s Ygritte who bites the dust here, and the sequence was handled very well. The killings of Pyp (at Ygritte’s hand) and Grenn (at the hand of the giant, off screen) were also hard to stomach especially with the build-up to the fight, with his chanting of the Night’s Watch Oath being one of the stronger moments of the episode.
The Watchers on the Wall’s pace was handled very well. The build-up to the fight was good, with the tension rising over the course of the episode, as we got to witness the preparations of the Night’s Watch before the battle, and the scene between Sam and Maester Aemon was also important as it reminded us for the first time since Season 1 that he’s actually a Targaryen. The small scene was handled well, and it was one of my favourite non-action moments of the episode.
However, when the action came, it was amazing. We’ve been building up to this episode for multiple seasons and it did not disappoint, with some explosive and compelling action sequences that were really pulled off incredibly well. The siege was executed better than I ever thought it could be and in the end, I think, Watchers on the Wall may well go down as one of my favourite episodes of the year in terms of television, not just from this show but from any show. It’s just that good.
Something that was also cool about this episode was that Alliser was actually an awesome commander; as it turned out. We got some several goosebump-causing moments this week and not just that reveal. The scythe being deployed by Edd was handled amazingly well, and the fight between Jon and Styr was awesome to watch as well. The scenes that I’ve already mentioned fell into this category as well, with a consistent reminder of just why this is quite possibly one of the greatest episodes of the show so far.
In short then, The Watchers on the Wall was well worth all the build-up leading up to it. They managed to top last week’s Mountain and the Viper fight with some incredible talent on display, and amazing action sequences supported this episode very well. So on the whole, it was a great success, and unfortunately, despite the fact that yes, this is the 9th episode, there is unfortunately only one left before the long wait for Season 5.