Sam: “What was she like?”
Jon Snow: “She had red hair.”
Sam: “Oh.” (pause) “How big were her feet?”
Thus begins a subtle, hilarious little conversation between two Crow friends before the big battle. Sam trying to get details from Jon about sex with Ygritte reminded me of Monty Python’s famous “Wink Wink Nudge Nudge” sketch.
I must admit when I saw the opening credits, and few names were in it, I lowered my expectations. Jon Snow’s storyline can feel like a slog ever since he returned to the Wall. But what’s great about Game of Thrones is that any time I lower my expectations for an episode, I wind up loving it. (They really need to start giving us 13-episode seasons. Enough with this 10-episode nonsense.)
This was like the “Battle of Blackwater” back in Season 2, an entire episode dedicated to one battle, focused on a few characters. Many of these characters are lucky to get two scenes every other episode, but here, allowing them to live and breathe and stretch their legs helped make “Watchers” one organic whole, and it wound up being one of the best of the season.
John Bradley has done admirably as Samwell Tarly, and in a way he’s been the Sam to to Jon Snow’s Frodo, and just like Return of the King gave Sean Astin a chance to shine, so does this episode give Bradley a chance to show what he can do.
The directing of this episode was fantastic. It captured the scope of the battle, made the most of whatever budget they had, and we never got lost in the action. We knew who was where and what they were trying to do at all times. And I loved that sweeping crane shot about two-thirds in that was a one-minute take of the battle in the courtyard.
Some of the Brothers we’ve liked and taken for granted fell. Pyp took one in the neck from Yrgritte, and Grenn died off-screen holding the gate. We got to see the metal of Ser Allister Thorne and Ser Jonas Flynt. Both have been jerks and adversaries for Jon Snow, but Thorne was able to show why he’s a leader, while Flynt’s cowardice showed why Tyrion was right to banish the man in the first place.
But the emotional high came from Jon and Ygritte. Ygritte had the arrow pointed at him, and there he stood, unarmed, and what does he do when he locks eyes with her? He smiles. Now how often do you see Jon Snow smile? Even though Ygritte plugged him with three arrows when he left, he still loves her, and she sees that, and it makes her hesitate. Now if she’d had a couple more seconds, I’m sure she would have killed Jon and mourned him, but Olly managed to make a great shot and hit her in the back, through the heart. The two had their teary goodbye, with Ygritte getting out one more “You know nothing, Jon Snow” before she became another wildling statistic. Cue Les Miz’s “A Little Fall of Rain.” Great job by Kit Harington and Rose Leslie.
The Night’s Watch wins the battle and holds the Wall, but Mance Rayder’s army won’t give up and leave. They’ll be back. And so, Jon makes the decision to find Mance and assassinate him. Seems foolhardy, but no one has a better idea. Sam gives Jon a final “Come back” plea, and Jon just gives him a smirk and a shrug, as if to say “Sure, I’ll come back. But this is Westeros. I’m a nice guy. Do you really think I’m going to live much longer?”
(Side note: It would have been nice to have Ciaran Hinds appear in this episode. Let us see Mance giving final orders or something.)
Only one episode to go!