Last night the battle for Castle Black officially began with a disjointed attack from the wildling army. This was Jon Snow and Sam’s episode, setting both men’s love affair directly amidst a battle to the death. (We also find out, at last, that the blind old man could have been a Targaryen king. Is he immune to fire too?) We open with a discussion on love and death between Jon and Sam, gazing out from the height of the wall. Shortly thereafter the camera flips to Ygritte, swearing that she’ll kill Jon Snow if given the opportunity.
Ah, true love “Game of Thrones,” style.
Let’s dive in.
1. I watched this episode of Game of Thrones on my iPhone while flying from Nashville to LA.
Here’s a tip, while HBO Go isn’t streamable on Southwest flights — neither is ESPN’s app, by the way — you can stream Comcast XFinity’s version of HBO shows. So that was a pleasant surprise.
But it’s also odd to be watching a show with the scope of “Game of Thrones,” from a hand held phone screen. I was nervous there would be a ton of nudity and I’d be the creepy guy on the plane watching a rape scene on my tiny screen. “No, I swear, this isn’t porn, just Game of Thrones.” Anyway, if some of my details are off, let’s blame the small screen. Once the fighting started it was hard to keep track of everyone and where they were.
2. Gilly returns!
The shot of Gilly walking by on a hill while the wildling army waits to attack Castle Black was fantastic. At least, I think this was Gilly walking with her baby. It could have also been a white walker with the frozen baby.
Anyway, Gilly arrives back at Castle Black and says “Promise me you won’t die,” and Sam finally kisses her and I’ll be damned if this isn’t a real-life couple in love without any weird sort of perversions or rape attached to it. (Okay, leaving aside the fact that the father of Gilly’s baby is her dad.) Dare I say, this is even heartwarming? This being “Game of Thrones,” I fully expect for the Castle Black battle to end with Gilly being forced to eat Sam’s cooking body as it slowly twists on a skewer.
3. Up on the wall, the leader of Castle Black acknowledges that he should have sealed the tunnels like Jon Snow asked.
Then he heads downstairs to defend the gate there.
Which sets off an incredibly confusing battle sequence. For some reason the wildling army attacks both gates simultaneously, but without substantial reinforcement at either location.
What the hell is the strategy here? Why not just attack one gate with everyone? It’s like Confederate general John Bell Hood is the commanding general of the wildlings.
4. Immediately the wildlings breach the rear walls of Castle Black and flood into the courtyard.
But only a few hundred wildlings are attacking here. Given that there are a hundred thousand wildlings, just over a hundred men from the night’s watch, and that they just watched the defenses through the eyes of the owl to know exactly what they’re up against, why in the world don’t the wildlings attack one gate with everyone? After all, once you seize one part of the castle then the other parts of the fortress are indefensible, right?
That is, you can then attack from the rear as well.
You don’t need the giants or the woolly mammoths — how bad ass was this, by the way? — to tear down the gates beneath the wall. And you certainly don’t need men to climb the wall.
So the whole battle plan confuses me.
(Several of you have emailed to say that Ygritte and crew were attacking from the rear side of the castle. Clearly, I’m too dumb to even follow this show, but many of you also agreed with my stupid criticism which proves that this is just too complicated. I need a geography lesson on Castle Black. Here’s a helpful Castle Black map forwarded to me by a reader.)
5. After the coward from King’s Landing flees to hide, Jon Snow finds himself in charge of the top of the wall.
Where the night’s watch sends flaming arrows, barrels, and swinging pendulums of doom tumbling down the wall.
That’s all well and good, but we keep flashing back to the downstairs fight which isn’t going well. And I’m sitting here thinking, why didn’t the giants just go through the easier gates? Am I the only person that was analyzing the attack strategy so much that he couldn’t even enjoy the episode?
You have 100,000 men and you just did some owl reconnaissance, just attack with everyone at the weakest gate. Or maybe we’re just supposed to be distracted by how bad ass the giants and the woolly mammoths are. Not to mention, the giant’s bow and arrow. Why doesn’t he just stay back and keep firing away? These giants need their own episode. Can Jon Snow befriend one and make him a good guy? (Edit, clearly I’m an idiot).
Anyway, inside the breached wall Ygritte is shooting everyone, the red haired wildling is slaying people like crazy and the bald cannibals are also piling up bodies around them.
But, amazingly, most of the 100,00 wildlings don’t decide to follow their compatriots over the wall and end the battle.
6. Snow sends five men to defend the gate against the giant.
As the giant charges all the men recite the oath of the night’s watch.
How awesome is this scene?
So awesome that you forget that the giant could have just walked right into the courtyard if he’d gone to the other gate. (Note: which was impossible given the geography. Again, I’m clearly an idiot. So are lots of you as well.)
But how about that scythe? Game of Thrones and the pendulum of doom. Holy…
7. Sam shoots a cannibal.
Confession, I thought it was the lead cannibal when I was watching on my phone.
Right now Sam is the 14 seed that has somehow advanced to the Sweet 16.
Sam heads back upstairs to tell Jon Snow that things are going badly in the courtyard. They need reinforcements down below. So Jon Snow sends himself back down. Whereupon, Jon Snow returns to the courtyard like a WWE wrestler in a tag team match who has finally gotten tagged after his partner took a beating forever. The Charge of the Jon Snow Brigade is a great success — the wolf’s release is totally badass too — and he’s killing people everywhere he walks, a one man reinforcement battalion until he comes face to face with the lead cannibal.
8. After much fighting Snow kills the cannibal with a hammer to the head — clutch — only to see Ygritte with an arrow trained on him.
As the two stare at each other amidst the battle — will she or won’t she shoot him? — suddenly an arrow pierces Ygritte’s chest from behind. (FYI, I didn’t really believe that Ygritte would shoot Snow, but this is Game of Thrones. If she’d killed him and then cut his penis off to wear on a necklace would you really be shocked? Incidentally, how many of you paused right now and thought, “how would my penis look on a necklace? Impressive or not?”)
The young boy in charge of the castle elevator has killed Ygritte. He nods at Snow as Ygritte crumples into Snow’s arms. Here we have a heartfelt moment, the battle is raging in the courtyard but no one thinks to kill Jon Snow while he’s unarmed and hearing his lover’s final words. (No one ever thinks to kill anyone in movies or television when this happens. It’s like the battle stops to allow the narrative to proceed. Go back and watch “Last of the Mohicans,” sometime, that’s the best. People are getting scalped everywhere and Daniel Day Lewis’s character is just jogging through the battle like he’s on half-marathon training).
I’ll confess, the death scene was touching, but somewhat predictable. Also, minor pet peeve, when someone dies and whispers dying words in a battle and we hear it perfectly. Wouldn’t you be totally unable to hear anything?It’s like all other rules of battle authenticity are abandoned at this point.
9. The wildlings retreat.
Evidently having decided that it makes no sense to take the castle now when you can wait for another day. What? Who the hell is making decisions here? Again, I couldn’t even enjoy this battle because the military leadership was so bad. I’m no Napoleon or George S. Patton, but this plot point is so unbelievable I can barely enjoy the episode.
(Many of you are emailing in agreement with me. Many of you are also emailing to say that Ygritte’s crew is attacking from the South. Regardless, it’s clear that I’m too dumb to follow this attack. Better point, why only probe the defenses from the north when you have a sneak attack from the South planned?)
Anyway, the red-haired wildling leader is wounded and captured and Sam and Gilly have a joyous reunion.
10. The five men defeated the giant, but all five died alongside him in the tunnel.
This is a great scene.
We only saw two giants in this episode, how many of them are there? And if you have more than two giants, why didn’t all the giants simultaneously attack?
11. The final image is Jon Snow, unarmed and alone, walking out to face the wildling hordes.
Sure, we still have a ton to be determined in the final episode of the season — what happens to Tyrion looms at the top of the list — but, notwithstanding the terrible attack strategy of the wildlings — Jon Snow has become the unquestioned biggest bad ass on the show.
This probably means he’ll be murdered next week.