Game of Thrones Recap: All in All, You're Just Another Crow on the Wall

Game of Thrones Season 4 Recap

Forget The Fault in Our Stars. If you want a piece of pop culture that’ll make you weep on the regular and cause you to gnash your teeth at the heavens, you can’t do any better than HBO’s fantasy-drama-with-a-body-count Game of Thrones. (Sorry, Hazel and Augustus.) Wanna cry? This week’s episode has you covered.

You can’t possibly be surprised. The end of each Thrones season turns into a virtual going-out-of-business sale: Everything (and everyone, or at least that’s how it feels) must go. Quickly. And with maximum heartbreak.

Which brings us to Sunday’s “The Watchers on the Wall,” in which Ygritte meets a bloody end in Jon’s arms — and she’s just one casualty of an intense, two-front battle that decimates the Night’s Watch and foreshadows even more carnage in next week’s finale — and the season to come.

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Here’s a brief rundown of what takes place during the hour, which is set entirely at The Wall:

• In a sweet scene atop the icy structure, a grieving Sam asks Jon to tell him what loving — and being loved in return — really feels like. (Well, that and sex.) Snow struggles to put his experience with Ygritte into words, and ultimately fails, grumbling, “I’m not a bleedin’ poet.”  (Side note: I loved Sam, ever the thinker, trying to find a loophole in the Night’s Watch chastity vow.)

• But Tarly’s broken heart is miraculously mended when Gilly and little Sam, having escaped the band of wildlings and Thenns, arrive at the wall alive. Sam and Gilly kiss, then he stashes her and the baby somewhere safe. “From now on, wherever you go, I go, too,” he promises her.

• We learn Master Aemon was a total player in his day. Is anyone really surprised?

• Jon’s prediction about Mance Rayder’s armies attacking begins to come true as the group of wildlings — including Ygritte, Tormund and the Thenns — launch an assault on the southern gate around the same time that another of Mance’s forces — this one featuring two angry giants — approaches Castle Black from the opposite side.

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• Ygritte, who’s been warning everyone in her group to let her kill Jon when the time comes, finds her former lover on the battlefield right after he kills Styr and readies her bow. She looks totally ready to skewer him… until the boy whose village was destroyed by her gang fells her before she can let her arrow fly.

• Jon makes his way to the redhead and holds her in his arms as her life starts to ebb away. They reminisce about their glorious respite in the cave, and he assures her they can return to that happiness again. “We’ll go back there,” he says. She gets in one more wry “You know nothing, Jon Snow” — I mean, girl’s not wrong; she’s clearly about to go to beyond The Wall in the metaphorical sense — before succumbing to her wounds. Sniff! Bye, Ygritte! I’ll miss yer feisty little face. (And make sure to check out my post-mortem with Rose Leslie and Kit Harington.)

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• The rest of the action, in a nutshell: grappling hooks, fiery arrows, Alliser Thorne speechifying, giants using a woolly freakin’ mammoth as if it were a Ford F150 with towing package, one truly impressive impaling, Sam taking out a Thenn!, Grenn and a crew in the tunnel reciting their vows to buck themselves up in the face of an approaching (and ticked-off) giant, Ghost getting in on the fight and Janos Slynt fleeing like a total coward.

• Ygritte’s far from the only one who makes a lunch date with Ned Stark during the episode. Grenn, Pyp and a bunch of Jon’s brothers give their lives while successfully defending The Wall. Meanwhile, Tormund the wildling is taken prisoner, and one of the giants becomes permanently unjolly.

• Despite all of the carnage, the Night’s Watch manages to win the first night of battle. Yet Jon — who’s become the de facto commander — knows that his side can’t sustain another evening of fighting. “We can hold them off for a day or two, but we’ll never beat them,” he informs Sam. So Snow leaves to find and kill Mance Rayder, thinking it his only hope of disbanding the army of thousands and ending the war. Sam strenuously objects. “You’re right, it’s a bad plan,” a weary Jon replies. “What’s your plan?” Touché.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Will you miss Ygritte and Jon’s Night’s Watch pals? Are you happy Gilly and the baby lived through that attack on Mole’s Town?  Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dave says:

    You’re going off into the cold winter to kill Mance Rayder and you’re not taking your bloody direwolf with you!?

    • Allie says:

      Right?! Unless he left him to help guard the wall, but come one! We were all yelling at the TV for that one.

    • Georgia says:

      Completely agree! When he left the sword he should have at least taken Ghost, rookie move.

    • Joe Gannon says:

      Here’s a though I had as Ghost was released to “get the bad guys,” last night. How the heck does he recognize the bad guys from the good guys in a dark courtyard full guys fighting each other?

      • Ricky Bones says:

        Because Ghost and all of the dire wolves are an extension of the Stark children and dire wolves are incredibly smart. It’s like if intruders broke into your house. Your dog wouldn’t be confused and start attacking your family, not knowing who’s who. The wildlings have a very specific scent that Ghost could smell a mile away. He has been around castle black and the nights watch for a while. I’m sure the wildlings stuck out like a sore thumb

    • Sandybaby says:

      That is such a good point. A lot of times with this show, if you look too closely, the reason the characters do something is because of plot expediency (like the reason Sansa didn’t leave with the Hound in Blackwater). So it’s better not to look too close because the show is otherwise awesome.

  2. SB says:

    I was really bored the entire 50 minutes. Can’t figure out if it’s because I’ve read the books or just before I haven’t been remotely invested in the storyline at the Wall this year. I thought the Blackwater battle in season 2 blew this one out of the water, even with its smaller production budget. There’s a lot to fit into next week’s episode and I’m now worried that some things are going to be held over again until season five.

    • Tracywilds says:

      Friends who have read the books don’t enjoy the show nearly as much as my friends that didn’t. I’m truly amazed by this show but my friends who read the books always seem to just be waiting for stuff to happen n miss out on all the surprise turns n deaths.

    • Joey says:

      For me, part of it is that the Wall features two of the most unlikable characters, Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. What bothers me is that they aren’t unlikable in the way that people like Tywin Lannister or the Boltons are unlikable. I just don’t really like seeing them onscreen, Slynt especially.

      That being said, I did like the scene between Sam and Maester Aemon a lot. And Alliser didn’t get on my nerves as much as he had in the past. I wish they’d expanded more on him as a Targaryen loyalist a bit more like the books. Might explain his utter hatred for Jon better.

      • Yanez says:

        I haven’t read the books yet because I like being surprised but I’m glad you let us know that Alliser is a Targaryen loyalist. I couldn’t figure out why he’s been such a jerk to Jon. Now I know why. Thanks:-)

        • Joey says:

          Yeah, that’s one thing I think the show could have thrown in a line or two about it. That’s the entire reason why Thorne is at the Wall in the first place. Since he fought on the Targaryens’ side during Robert’s Rebellion, he was forced by Robert to take the black after Aerys was killed, so he naturally has a dislike, or hatred, even, for Robert and his allies, namely Ned Stark and his family.

          • which seems silly when you know that jon is really a targarayen!

          • Joey says:

            Well, if you want to believe the most commonly believed theory out there….which I do. :P

          • mrsdp says:

            Pablo, *none* of us actually KNOW he’s a Targarayen since neither show or book has come out and said as much. Many of us believe it will eventually be relieved that he’s Targarayen based on what seem to be clues and indicators thus far in the story (show, but much more pronounced in the books.) I’ll be shocked/disappointed if he’s not…but I if I’ve learned one thing after 5 books and 4 seasons, it’s not to assume I know what’s going on in Martin’s head.

    • Strepsi says:

      They really should hold over some things for next season — I predict some Jon Snow and I think they’ll move some of Bran’s story we missed there too, plus the book’s Epilogue — because the fourth book is not NEARLY action packed enough like the third book.

      • Joey says:

        The third book’s epilogue has to end the season. It’ll blow the internet up. :P

        • Joel says:

          That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. People are going to freak out over that. I really hope it happens at the end of this season.

      • SB says:

        I agree, for the most part! What I don’t want to see held over are the multiple characters who depart Westeros, and the epilogue of ASOS. If they stretch The Wall and Bran’s story into next season, I wouldn’t care. I’m trying not to get too invested in seeing the epilogue on screen next week, but I’m afraid that I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t.

        • Scott Johnston says:

          The actress who plays Cersei posted a very interesting picture online a few weeks ago. To some people it looks like a pile of stones arranged in a strange shape.

    • mrsdp says:

      I suppose a hold over is possible. However, with the release date on book 6 constantly being pushed farther out, perhaps dragging out bits of Book 3 into yet another season isn’t a bad idea. ;)

  3. Dan says:

    Easily, the weakest episode of an astonishing season so far. It’s a 5 minute story: they invade, Ygritte is killed, they are beat, Jon leaves. Plus, an episode without Tyrion, Arya and Dany is not GoT.

    • Joey says:

      Any episode without Dany is improved without her presence. The only time Emilia Clarke isn’t draining the energy out of a scene is when she’s not speaking English.

      • Susan says:

        Agree with Joey above. I read the books and am currently reading Book 5. When I come to the chapters about Dany, I start speed reading just to get through it!!!

    • Kellsey says:

      I completely agree! It was a waste of an episode to focus completely on the Wall when they didn’t have to. Also, they typically have big things happen in the penultimate episode and this was just a complete letdown. Hopefully next week will make up for it.

      • abz says:

        Agreed. I was expecting so much more. This episode was quite a disappointment.

      • Wanda says:

        They’ve barely focused much on the wall or the wildlings this season….the castle black battle deserved its own episode. They have been hinting and talking about this fight for four seasons. It wouldn’t have made sense to interject other story lines in the same episode.

        • Susan says:

          Totally agree with you Wanda. So much happened in the book regarding this battle. Putting anything else in this episode of the show would have been anti-climatic, IMO.

      • Scott Johnston says:

        The ninth episode is traditionally the big event one. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this one, but it far exceeded my expectations. We had a number of significant deaths, and we finally got GIANTS and frkn MAMMOTHS!!

        I have a fairly good idea what the show is keeping up its sleeve for the season finale. There’s no way they were going to do them any earlier.

  4. Tracywilds says:

    Was waiting all episode for Jon snow n Sam to die gruesome GOT deaths. Seems the nights watch will live one more day but destruction is inevitable.

    • Dan says:

      I was sure waiting for Sam’s goodbye too, but I guess they have to keep Jon alive until the whole white walker thing is revealed. Otherwise, we would have no reason to keep following the wall.

      • Leigh says:

        They also probably need to Jon alive until his parentage is revealed. It kind of seems like a major thing.

        • LaPiquante says:

          I freakin’ LOVE Ygritte. My favorite Jon Snow scene of the season was when he came back to the Wall and spoke to his superiors with her voice. I hope she’s had a lasting influence on him, and he speaks his mind more, and calls people on stuff like she did with him. He’s clearly the one on the Cambellian Hero’s Journey, so it’ll be fun to see how much of her he’ll take with him in his character growth.
          The battle strategy at The Wall was fun to see, too. And now I love Samwell Tarley so much, I hope they go a long time before he’s killed off. Nerd love FTW.

  5. What?! says:

    Amazing episode! I laughed, cried and sighed. Ooh my!

  6. abz says:

    While parts of the battle were fun to watch, I was pretty much bored for the majority of the episode. Every minute that passed I just kept hoping for some other storyline to show up — Lannisters, Aya/Hound, Vale drama, Stannis, ANYTHING!!! I don’t dislike Jon Snow, but the Wall storylines are pretty much the most boring storylines on the show sometimes with the exception of the Craster storyline (that one was very entertaining). I can’t stand Sam. I really can’t. He’s so damn boring. The only interesting thing he’s done on the entire show is kill that White Walker.
    Seriously, how can they devote an ENTIRE episode to the Wall storyline? It’s ridiculous and feels like such a waste. There’s so many things that I want to see (I never read the books)–What will happen to Tyrion? Will Aya finally see Sansa? Will Danearys finally accomplish something new soon other than sit around all day? etc etc. There’s only one episode left and chances are we’re just gonna be waiting for next season.

    • Isobel says:

      I presume next season will be big for Tyrion and Arya, because the writers have mentioned about what happens this season, so it’ll hopefully be next episode that we see big things for both of them

  7. Ray says:

    After seeing last week’s previews I predicted that I’d be bored with an episode that focused entirely on the Wall, and said as much. I wasn’t wrong. The only surprise is that more folks didn’t chime in and agree with my when I expressed my concerns over seeing a Jon Snow-centric hour.

  8. Maru says:

    Hahahaha i was thinking the same: where’s ghost!!???

  9. Nick Graham says:

    Unlike some fellow commenters, I was glad to see a full GoT episode at the Wall. As much as I’ve loved seeing Tyrion’s story play out, I’ve been wondering what happened with Jon Snow. Tonight showed that he still had a backbone. I was also glad to see Gilly (yay!) Sam is still wicked with his bow, as well.

    Yeah, here’s hoping Ghost followed Jon just before that outer door slammed shut.

  10. David says:

    2 giants downed*
    One slayed by Grenn’s team and one shot down by a huge arrow.

  11. Joey says:

    While I agree that this episode was, for the most part, fairly boring, especially considering the action in this episode, I think it has more to do with the way this whole season has been set up more than anything else. The reason why Blackwater was such a good episode is because in every episode of season two leading up to that episode, it showed how huge of a threat Stannis was to King’s Landing, so that just heightens our experience watching it. This season, there have only been a small handful of scenes depicting what was coming for the Wall, so it just didn’t get us as excited as it should have. Had there been more scenes with the Wildlings south of the Wall, or scenes north of the Wall with Mance (why oh WHY aren’t they using Ciaran Hinds as much as they should!?), we might’ve been anticipating this episode all the more.

  12. Megan says:

    I liked this episode – the action and visuals were awesome – but thought it was a little too much Wall for one episode. I appreciate that the writers tried something different here – with just one story line taking up the entire episode, but I definitely prefer jumping a bit around between multiple story lines to visit more characters. Otherwise the episode, like this one, has a danger of being too one note.

    And as others said, I’ve never been quite as invested in the Wall stuff. I like Jon and Sam (and LOVE Ghost), but the rest of the characters there are either not as likeable or not as fleshed out as other characters on the show. Also, I was still reeling from last week’s ending, and was dying to know what would happen with that cliffhanger. It looks like next week’s finale will be busy with basically every storyline. I have a feeling they’ll leave some threads dangling and I’ll have to wait till next season for the resolution.

  13. Coal says:

    I personally loved the episode, this one was for us guys who love to see a good action sequence. Look GoT is not only about the incestious Lannisters and their complicated family issues, those complaining about the relevance of today’s episode and wanting more screen time for other characters are just being biased to their favorite characters. In all honesty how far has Mother of dragons progressed this season ? Aya and the Hound are still in the same place as last season (close, but no cigar ), Stannis ? How much time was spent on The Viper ? and the lead to nothing at the end. Anyway I think I need to start reading the books, this not knowing what happens next is too much for me.

    • THIS. I haven’t seen the episode yet, but Jon Snow’s character is vital to the GOT universe.

    • yurie says:

      Yeah, my fave episode so far which showed movement. Other than the death in episode 2, this season was more like everyone just moving about in their respective places.

    • mrsdp says:

      Oh, you’ll enjoy the books! I didn’t read watch Season 1 or 2 until cramming all the episodes in the weeks prior to Season 3’s launch. Started reading about halfway through S3. Finished them all before S4 started. For behemoth novels, those things are a ‘quick’ read. . . Martin is in love with descriptions. He can go pages painstakingly painting a mental picture but it’s so worth it.

  14. RWN says:

    I can’t wait until the last episode. This one was fantastic!!!

  15. mrsdp says:

    Finally caught up with the episode. So, am I only the only one that expect “A Little Fall of Rain” to start playing in the background as Jon held a dying Ygritte? “Don’t you fret, Monsieur JonSnow. I don’t feel any pain. A little fall of rain. Can hardly. Hurt me now. You’re here, and there’s still nothing that you know….”

  16. Garyc says:

    Wasn’t the outer gate Jon Snow went through when leaving the castle destroyed by the giant that killed Grenn et at.?