This episode had a very singular focus as we learned what was going to happen when the Night Watch’s first encounter with the wildling forces. The episode, which was the series most expensive to produce, was epic in many aspects. Not only were we focusing on a singular battle, we also faced elements greater than just man. In many ways it was similar to Season 2’s “Blackwater”. However this episode lacked tensions in many ways.The matter of tension was tied most directly to the feeling that the major characters we’ve grown to know would not be in serious mortal peril. Yes, they were in a bad place and had the potential to be goners, yet that feeling never exuded from the episode. I never once felt like Sam or Jon would end up casualties to the episode. That is a problem considering how willing Game of Thrones is to throw curveball and take out major characters. While I never felt like Jon or Sam were in major danger, that didn’t hold true for the other characters. We certainly got the opportunity to see a number of people die in the episode as they fought for their individual causes. That made the episode feel both bigger and smaller at the same time. While we saw the fighting of the characters it didn’t focus on anyone we didn’t really know at least somewhat. That made it almost feel like the battle was much smaller than it did. As a result it felt like a much smaller version of The Battle of Helm’s Deep. Unfortunately for “The Watchers on the Wall” that meant that it didn’t quite live up to the epic dire battle that was seen at Helm’s Deep or even at the Battle of Blackwater. There were some great character moments, especially with Ygritte. Seeing her little arc and determination to kill Jon herself was entertaining to watch. It paid off as well when we saw her hesitate to kill Jon when she finally had the chance. Jon also had a nice little arc as he was finally given the opportunity to lead. And Jon stepped up admirably even if it was with the help of some of his most trusted men. The result of his leadership lead to the undermanned Night’s Watch managing to hold on to Castle Black for a bit longer. Jon also had the opportunity to fight against on of the wildling elite. Similar to how he proved himself a few episodes back in a fight he did again disposing of the wildling effectively, even if he did take a head to an anvil and tumble through a fire before he did.
We previously saw glimpses of giants when Jon was on the other side of the wall, but in this episode we really got to see what damage the giants could do. There were two of them and they had some really nasty ugly mugs. They were strong, massive, and intelligent which made the even more terrifying. The men of the Night’s watch shot arrow after arrow at these monsters to no avail. One of them shot their own arrows that was so strong it went through the top of a wooden shelter at the top of the wall and speared a man through the chest as though it was nothing. To make it worse one of them rode a freaking giant mammoth like it was a horse.
What did you think of the episode?