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Game of Thrones S04E09: "The Watchers on the Wall"


As I lay breathless on the floor after the drubbing I took from "The Watchers on the Wall"—the ninth episode of Game of Thrones' fourth season and the return of "Blackwater" director Neil Marshall—I glanced at Twitter and saw what a few TV critics were saying about the episode. And I was pretty shocked. Many folks bemoaned the fact that ultimately, nothing happened. That "Blackwater" was better because that battle had a conclusion with more meaning. That Jon Snow is boring and the Night's Watch is full of thin characters (metaphorically speaking, Sam), so the weight of this battle was lighter and the poignancy of death was cheated. 

Well I say that's a huge pile of mammoth shit. (And to be fair, most of those reviews did praise the episode on a technical level.)

Game of Thrones is more than just a television show with plots, character relationships, and boobs, it's the realization of an entirely fictional universe. That's why I'll always defend the series' sex and violence; they're an integral part of this fantasy world. Applying our rules to Westeros is like going to Toontown and telling Roger Rabbit he can't paint a tunnel on a wall and run right through it. (Maybe that's why I thought Stannis going to the bank was a little too real-world mundane for my taste.) 


Likewise, applying regular rules of television to Game of Thrones—which is unlike anything that television has ever seen—isn't always fair, so if Game of Thrones wants to spend an hour on one huge f'ing awesome battle, I'm okay with that. More than okay with it, even! If "The Watchers on the Wall" had been 60 minutes of Jon Snow shooting arrows at wildlings and then ducking behind cover, and then wildlings shooting arrows at Jon and then ducking behind cover, then yeah, it would have been a waste of time and "nothing would have happened." 

But Marshall really used his expertise with turning limited-budget action sequences into awesome spectacles to create an episode that was so riveting, I must've passed out four or five times because I forgot to breathe (HBO, you are paying for half my hospital bills). The end result may've been rather simple: The good guys won, temporarily, and Jon decided he was going to have a one-on-one with Mance Rayder because Sam didn't have a better idea. But getting there was so ridiculously enthralling that it didn't matter. 

The obvious rebuttal to critics who were let down by the episode's lack of significance is that was necessary to illustrate the brutality of war and the strength of the Wall and the wildling army, but I'm not going there. No, that's too academic for a bumpkin like me. Those critics aren't entirely wrong, of course, but taking away from what the episode did so well seems short-sighted to me. Call me simple, but sometimes I just like to watch a bunch of guys with swords fight a bunch of other guys with swords. And mammoths. And giants. And a huge wall of ice. Yup, I was more than okay with "The Watchers on the Wall." 

Say your oaths and let's discuss what happened.


"Love is the death of duty." —Maester Aemon


Amid all the thwacking of arrows and bellows of horns, the heart of "The Watchers on the Wall" centered on two love stories (and one tale of Tormund's bestiality). Gilly made it back to Castle Black to the safety of Sam's chubby arms, and her timing couldn't have been worse. What she did was like showing up to Hoth to visit a pal right at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. That was preceded by some funny moments of Sam asking Jon what it's like to play Hide the Pickle with a lady, and Jon responding by over-romanticizing the idea of oath-breaking, toe-curling cave sex with a hot redheaded wild woman. "For a little while you're more than just you..." Oh please, Jon. Just say, "It was squishy." 

Gilly and Sam's romance has always been Disneyfied, of tertiary importance, and bogus, but Sam really stepped up the potency of their relationship when he told her that he was going off to fight because men keep their promises and then planted a smooch right on her face. You go, Sam! I'm sure Maester Aemon would agree that the prospect of imminent death gives cowards the balls to slide into first base head first. For once, Sam's crush on Gilly didn't feel cartoonish, and he emerged as a man's man. Great episode for Sam.


The other romance and the real heartbreaker of "The Watchers on the Wall" was the forbidden love between Jon Snow and Ygritte. I'll agree what most critics have already said: her death lost a lot of potency due to the fact that she and Jon have been separated since the end of Season 3, and absence on television doesn't make the heart grow fonder at all. TV relationships need constant nurturing. It's like going off to college times a million, the long-distance thing does not work on TV and in many ways, their relationship was already dead. It was still tragic, as Ygritte got the worst of their coupling in every way possible. Jon betrayed her, and instead of firing an arrow straight through that love muscle of his that she used to adore so much, she hesitated, giving Ollie the Elevator Keeper just enough time to skewer her with a blast from his Fisher-Price My First Bow and Arrow. This is why you leave all your soft-hearted lovey stuff and googly eyes behind when you go to battle. That stuff will get you killed! 

And her dying words were, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," obviously, and I'm not even sure that made sense in the context of the conversation they were having. Remember that guy whose last words were, "I wish it were wine?" Those were cool last words. Spouting off your catch phrase as you walk into the light isn't. Sorry, but I think "We should have stayed in that cave" would have made a better send off, but you can't put that on a t-shirt and sell it. Anyway, even though her death was predictable and her send-off quick, I love Ygritte dearly. But if this show spent the proper amount of time giving character's big death scenes, each season would need to be 100 episodes long. 


"Let's kill some crows." —The bad guys



"This is not the end, not for us." —The good guys


This battle. Wow. It'll do us no good for me to recount everything that happened because it would only be a string of blabbering expletives and O-M-Gs. I actually liked this fight better than the one in "Blackwater" because it was longer, and bolstered by so many highlights. What did you think?

And speaking of those highlights, I'll recount my favorite parts and am borrowing some excellent .GIFs from TV.com user @flintslady


Ghost is unleashed


Why Ghost wasn't already running around the grounds in the first place, I don't know. If I had a killing machine at my disposal, I'd use it instead of locking it up in storage. I remember when Jon told Sam, "I need him here more than I need you"; I was hoping the "him" referred to the direwolf. And Ghost did not disappoint, immediately taking down a Thenn and ripping out his throat. That was total pandering to fans, because Ghost only got about a minute of screen time (boo!), but it was the kind of pandering I don't mind because GHOST! One bit of advice to Ghost, though: Don't eat in the middle of a battle. 


A Giant Runs After His Flaming Elephant Pet

When the Night's Watch finally dropped some explosive barrels on a team of giants and wildlings trying to break down the gate, a mammoth got spooked and ran off, taking several flaming wildlings with him. Its giant owner panicked and the big dude sprinted off after his hairy elephant in a very funny visual.


The Giant and His Bow and Arrow


This. Was. The. Coolest. Thing. Ever. Not only did the fight feature giants stomping around the battlefield, but one of them had a giant bow and arrow. I had never even thought of that. The arrow was the trunk of a Christmas tree sharpened to a point, and it was launched from a bow the size of a sailboat's mast, generating quite the wallop as one Night's Watch member learned the hard way when he was skewered and launched off the wall on the ride of a lifetime. That's probably the coolest way to die. I just hope he had the wherewithal to shout "I regret nooooooothing" as he hurtled through space and landed with a thud. 


Jon vs. Styr

Though the entire battle was mostly big moments of large-scale warfare, smaller hand-to-hand fights things moving at a captivating pace. The standout mano y mano duke-em-out happened between Thenn leader Styr and Jon; it was a well-choreographed and even more well-performed conflict that involved an head to a anvil, fists to faces and guts, and Jon's finishing blow of a hammer to Styr's skull. 


The Scythe

In terms of Wall defense, the Scythe isn't the most practical of weapons. Enemies have be lined up laterally to make using the ginormous blade worth it, and getting the timing right so the scythe actually hits climbers requires the timing and luck of a perfect golf swing. And because the scythe swings like a pendulum, its path of destruction takes the shape of a wide parabola, meaning its optimal striking range (at the bottom of its swing) isn't always going to be where the enemy is, and its sweet spot is limited. The Wall is awfully wide, remember. That said, we lucked out because those wildlings were perfectly positioned for Dolorous Edd to let 'er rip, and the 20-foot knife edge shredded the attackers into pink slushies. I squealed in delight.


We learned a lot about the men of the Night's Watch as death plucked 'em out. "The Watchers on the Wall" was a very sad farewell to Grenn and Pyp, who both fell during the battle. Pyp took an arrow through the neck that would've left Steve Martin thinking, "No, that's all wrong!" Grenn died protecting the gate under orders from Jon, and he bested a giant. I'll miss those two so much, guys! Especially Grenn, who became a dutiful member of the Night's Watch after starting off as a mere oaf. In fact, this episode showed us how much many of these guys have grown. We saw them come in as recruits back in Season 1, but here they were taking matters into their own hands and showing off their leadership skills. Even Alliser, one of my least favorite characters in the series, ended up being one of the heroes of the day with a rousing speech and impressive swordplay (it's unclear whether he survived the gash he received from Tormund). And F that guy who hid in the cellar with Gilly. Put him in a barrel and shoot him at a giant. 

In the end, the good guys won, if you consider taking heavy casualties when you're already outnumbered 1,000 to 1 a victory. Knowing that Mance's army was just poking around to test defenses and weaken Castle Black's defenses, Jon came up with the wacky idea to go meet Mance Rayder one-on-one to try and kill him and break up the wildling army. Ummm, you sure about that Jon? 



WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS

Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 4 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!

This week: Season 4 is on quite a tear, with the last three episodes taking Top 4 spots. "The Watchers on the Wall" wasn't a perfect outing, but it did what it set out to do—blow our minds with one epic battle sequence—incredibly well. Ygritte's death could've been more potent, but we got a giant shooting an arrow that sent a dude flying over the wall. Wonderfully directed, incredibly paced, and relentless in its brutality, "The Watchers on the Wall" slides right into the third spot. That might seem like a slight, but this season has been so good, it's getting more difficult for Game of Thrones to outdo itself.

1. "The Lion and the Rose" (Episode 2)

2. "Mockingbird" (Episode 7)

3. "The Watchers on the Wall" (Episode 9)

4. "The Mountain and the Viper" (Episode 8)

5. "First of His Name" (Episode 5)

6. "Breaker of Chains" (Episode 3)

7. "Oathkeeper" (Episode 4)

8. "Two Swords" (Episode 1)

9. "The Laws of Gods and Men" (Episode 6)



NOTES FROM THE RAVENS

– Alliser: "Does fucking hold mean fucking drop?" I cracked up during his little fit. 

– Neil Marshall has used great audio cues in his two Game of Thrones episodes. This time it was the Night's Watch horns; in "Blackwater" it was the thunderous drumming. They got me absolutely pumped for battle, and I loved it. 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 6/26/2016

Season 6 : Episode 10

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Awesome!!, Game of Thrones is the best show ever , and : Maester Aemon is BOSS!!
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And that ladies and gentlemen is what makes Game of Thrones the most EPIC show in the world - GIANTS RIDING BLOODY MAMMOTHS!!!!! HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!!
Though at the same time - saddddd... WHY must all the good ones, the first to die.... ARGHHHHH
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Critics didn't like this episode? I don't recall picking up on that. I can see why they would complain about the nothing happening, but come on, given the cliffhanger on the last episode, this was the perfect diversion to focus on. At least SOMETHING happened, unlike the fallout from last seasons season 8 red wedding foo-for-all. For that reason alone this was startlingly awesome.

And yeah, not only did two giants die, but one of them was like, king of the giants or something, and yeah some random recruit "from a farm" took him down (with some help from other dudes), that they didn't even show. THAT stuff made the episode awesome. We've been waiting for those giants to re-appear for a while now. And if the dragons were considered major CG payoff, I don't know why multiple giant fights wouldn't be. Heck, while that giant bow and arrowing a dude was pretty sweet, I'm surprised there isn't also a .gif of said giant getting impaled back...an "OMG" moment if ever there was one.
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The hour long battle episode was like coming down a rollercoaster, a culmination of the season in the best possible way, and I was happy to forget about all the other plots for a night while I was able to enjoy this 'orgy of violence'. I hope this one hour-long battle episode per season trend continues as it's freakin' awesome!
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The scythe beats the hell out of the moondoor in terms of intimidating deaths that is all.
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Also, does anyone else predict that eventually Jon and Dany will end up together? They have got to end up King and Queen of the Realm/Universe, haven't they?

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I can't understand why the producers aren't eeking out the books more, considering they will run out before Martin finishes writing them. Surely each book could last two series?
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No complaints here, the episode was epic, overall the action was better and more extensive than Blackwater. I had no issue with the lack of plot progression because the Castle Black story has been neglected this season, especially compared to the books and it needed the time spent to make amends. Plus there'll surely be enough resolution next week. Epic battles aren't neatly resolved in short time, they are prolonged and require endurance. This episode was able to evoke that. We probably won't get to see the Battle of the Bridge of Skulls - I wish we had - but we can't have everything.
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I loved this episode. I mean yes, there wasn't much of a plot. But, it isn't always about the plot is it? It is about spectacular sequences that show us the magnitude of Mance's army with the giants, mammoths et al.

Why did Jon not take Ghost with him? I was waiting for him to say "Ghost, to me!".

This series is insane. I wonder if the producers are making enough money to make each season at least 15-18 episodes? I am not asking for too much am I.

How do we think this season is going to end?
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I agree the break up being a season ago really softened Ygritte's death. In the books, it seems much more immediate and really plucked my heartstrings.

I was a little disappointed that 'nothing happened' at first, 30 min in and I was all "Oh, I guess we only get this fight for the whole episode." I mean it was a great episode and a lot of stuff did happen, and it would have been underwhelming if that battle were compressed at all (imho).

It's just that there's only 1 more ep and I would have liked to see more happening elsewhere in Westeros too. Yes, I'm greedy and wanted 2-3hrs worth of GoT more. Sue me.
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I loved this episode!!!!!! Ghost should have got way more screen time!!!
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Also don't mess with the cook . He's got got a cleaver and he'll go Friday the thirteenth on you.
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That was one of my favorite parts in the episode.
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Never underestimate a Night's Watch brother, just because he isn't a ranger doesn't mean a cook, a builder or a butler can't fight just as hard as any swordsman.
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All I can say about this episode is.....

THAT'S HOW TO DO IT!! Loved this episode, we need more like this one!

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Wow! People are really spoiled!
I can't believe there's so much complaining and nitpicking about this awesome episode.
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There certainly is a lot of criticism for this episode.

After every episode, most people say "that was the best ep yet!" I've often disagreed with them, but I liked this episode. It had some great moments. I just think most people wouldve preferred the episode focused on the climax of the siege. Many may think it's over. GOT can be confusing at times.

I had already finished the ep before realizing the young boy is the kid whose parents got eaten. I watched it again. Seeing a frightened kid galvanized by tragedy and war was a nice touch. If next ep rejoins the siege, it will likely be epic.
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I think with most of GoT you shouldn't see them as separate, completed episodes of a season, but as parts of a 10-hour-movie (actually of a 70-hour movie). So the conclusion will come next week.
I guess people will appreciate that more, when season 4 comes out on blu ray and you don't have to wait for a week to learn how it plays out. ^^

As book reader I guess I know how it's going to work out next week, but i don't want to spoil anything.
Just so much: it probably wouldn't fit in this episode because of the running time, and it definitely wouldn't fit in this episode because of the episode's theme of being solely about wildlings vs. crows at Castle Black.
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Here's what I don't get - why attack the wall at Castle Black? Yes, there's a tunnel, but you have 100,000 men, unlimited natural resources, and the wall is essentially abandoned 100 miles in either direction. And with your wargs, you can know exactly where the Crows are and their strength.

Why not simply find an out of the way part of the wall and build a big staircase or an elevator to move your troops up and over? Heck, you could even build a fortress on your side of the wall to protect your operation.

It just seems like a tactical error to attack your enemy at their strongest location when you don't have to.
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According to Mance last season, they were only starting at Castle Blacks because Orell found the crows that died at the Fist of the First Men in "Walk of Punishment"

In his own words, whether alive or a blue eyed corpse Mormont gamble his best men and lost, so Mance took advantage by sending a group ahead to distract them while the rest of his army attack from a different direction.

Hence why Edd and Jon were certain this was only the first of several battles during the course of this episode.
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According to Mance last season, they were only starting at Castle Blacks because Orell found the crows that died at the Fist of the First Men in "WAlk of Punishment"

In his own words, whether alive or a blue eyed corpse he gamble his best men and lost, so Mance took advantage by sending a group ahead to distract them while the rest of his army attack from a different direction.

Hence why Edd and Jon were certain this was only the first of several battles during the course of this episode.
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In the books its more clear cut. They need to decimate the Night's Watch to make their way through the gate because they can't move their giants and mammoths over the wall. Also they have basically all their family with them, young child, old grand parents that couldn't make the climb. They also have all their worldly possessions including food and live stock. Last but absolutely not least of all the White Walkers are coming south and are on their butts. They have to get through the wall as fast as possible. There is no time to build fortresses or elevators or stairways. That tunnel is the weakest spot on the wall.
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That makes sense.
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Building a 700 ft. staircase and bring 100,000 people on the other side with it, while the top of the wall is patrolled by crows frequently and you would be discovered very soon?
I don't think that would work out well.
They need a gate to the other side.
I think attacking the castle from the weaker southside, while distract them at the wall is actually a good plan.
Remember - Mance doesn't have to be successful in the first night, he has plenty of time and people. As Jon said: one or two nights like this and Mance wins.
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I completely disagree. There are only a few hundred Crows spread over 3 forts that are hundreds of miles apart from each other. You could very easily carry out such a construction project without them knowing.

You also have to remember that their Wargs can monitor the movements of the Crows.
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You need weeks to build such a construction (and the wildlings are no builders). Crows patroll daily. As soon as a crow sees the construction he will send a crow (the real one ^^) to the next castle.
And how will you get women, children, cattle, giants, mommoths etc bring to the other side?
Mance needs a gate and he knows it.
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At the end of the day this is a TV show, there have been many episodes before it and many episodes after it for character development. This isn't a movie so it is ok to show a battle scene and for that battle scene to be awesome. No doubt the following episodes will conclude and develop the plots etc. If this was a movie then yes I could understand it being hard to swallow that an hour was taken up without any additions to the depth of characters but like I say this is one thread in massive multithreaded series that's had a lot of character development anyway and has plenty of time to further develop things as it goes on. Great episode, I haven't read the books so it's sometimes hard for me to follow the timeline and make sure I have everything straight in my head about what's actually going on. It's been tempting to go and read synopsi and mine info about what's happened and going to happen but then the suprises that this season has given us would not have had the same effect for me. It infuriates me especially the fact there basically isn't anyone to root for and if you do they die but I've come to accept that as it is basically another universe in where heroes die and so do villains, sometimes the villains win, sometimes the heroes win. Anyways I'm rambling now, there's so much goin on I have to consult my mate who's read the books but is adept at not ruining any spoilers lol to give me a history lesson! Ta la's

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I believe that there was character development in this episode, particularly Jon and Sam, and i have not read the books, but feel that they are going to play bigger parts from now on BECAUSE we learned more about them. Even the head of the wall had some development before being offed, and learning more about him made his death more difficult, and showing his fighting ability gave us a hint as to why he was there in the first place. (Sorry, i don't know his name, in fact, i know very few names of the wall characters, Jon, Sam, and Ghost... that's about it! I think they have left the wall out of the show up until now for a reason. No one in the kingdoms take them seriously, so neither do we... and i think that both the people that live there AND us as the audience are going to come to appreciate them more, considering the creatures that they are fighting off..... If that was simply the first night, holy shit!!!!
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Ser Allister was acting commander of the Night's watch and the guy who has it out for John. This episode doesn't make it clear whether he was "offed" or not. We simply saw Tormund Giantsbane (The big ginger wildling) slash his leg during combat and knock him (into a hay bail lucky for Allister) and some brother crows drag him to what seemed like safety in a hatch below the staircase.

Ser Meryn Trant is the bald cowardly former commander of the Kings Guard who was banished to the wall by Tyrion when he was acting hand of the king.

Pip was the first note worthy crow to die in the battle. He took an arrow to the throat from Ygritte while he and saw were defending the courtyard.

Grenn was the only other note worthy crow to die. He is the big one out of Johns friends and died defending the inner gate against the giant.

Dolorous Edd was the only one of Johns close friends in the Night Watch in the show who survives the battle (bar Sam of course). He was the one left in command at the top of the wall after Ser Allister, Meryn Trant, Grenn and John Snow had gone below. He was the one in command of the giant ice scythe and barrels of oil being released it seems initially.

Hope this helps with the names. They stick a lot more when you read them over and over in the books. I feel this is a good reason why non book readers should probably read the book for the series after it finishes maybe and then re-watch the series for a richer experience at least in getting to know all the characters better. You will still get the shock value of the TV show this way and as I said you will come to know the characters better which will still apply for when you watch the following year. You will have a better and wider knowledge of the characters you are watching and therefore be more invested in them even some of the minor ones.

I've said this many times as I'm always having to explain certain situations or character decisions to my non book reader friends.
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It was Janos Slynt, not Ser Meryn. Ser Meryn testified against Tyrion and is still in Kings Landing.
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Right you are, my mistake.
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Thank you! And yes, i have said a few times that I am going to read the books after the series ends. I don't want to start now, because I am enjoying the surprises. I like the way you think, so many book readers are so angry about small changes that i feel are only there for two reasons, one, to give information that is only told in pov in books, so could not be known without constant voice-overs, and two, to reach a wider audience than book readers. I am sure I would not have read the books without the series, but they are already on my kindle. :) Thank You Again. I kind of hope that Ser Allister is alive, having seen giants now that they scoffed earlier.
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I had no problem with an entire episode covering the battle.

I love that even guys we hate (Alistar) can have redeeming value.

I thought it was stupid that the wolf stopped to feast on his first victim while there was still plenty of killing to do. I was greatly let down by the wolf scene. I expected a killing spree, causing a slow turn of the tide.

As much as I loved Jon's fight with the Thenn, and I I was impressed that they didn't make Jon into a superhero, while still having him win, the fights I was most impressed with were with the big bearded guy (Ygrette's leader -- I forget his name). His sheer power and ferocity really showed through.

I thought Ygrette's meeting with Jon was well done and had a sense of realism. She was terribly hurt and angry and fully expected to kill him but once she was face to face, just couldn't do it.

Stupid, however, of Jon to ignore the fighting and mourn.

I'm also sad that Jon lost most of his allies in the battle. He had formed a great little posse of loyal men. I'll miss them.

Hey, can they collapse the tunnel now?
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Ghost is pure CGI and this episode was made on a budget. I'm pretty sure that's why we didn't get more Ghost
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love your nic btw, Canuklehead.... brilliant :)
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Poor Ghost was hungry!
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I think Ghost was learning from Oberyns mistakes, FINISH THE DUDE OFF
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But not learning from the other mistake: DON'T GET COMPLACENT WHEN YOU'RE STILL IN MORTAL DANGER.
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I see a lot of reviewers here are not at all happy about the length of the "Watchers in the Wall" episode (49 mins or something close to that) which was probably down to high production costs or editing. But you will all be glad to hear that the Game of Thrones season finale "The Children" goes on for a staggering 66 minutes. Obviously none of you will get NO spoilers from me but there are some high profiles deaths and major mayhem! So bring it ON.....
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I had to pause before choosing but I preferred Blackwater over this one because Blackwater had very different atmospheres and scenes so it was easier to discern the different locations where the battle was raging. Also, having Lannisters or Lannister-like characters makes for richer less "good vs bad" drama.

EPISODE 9 is basically heroic battles happening, having a character lecturing us about how "love is the death of duty" just emphasizes that it's just yet ANOTHER heroic drama hour. Well, I'm glad it doesn't happen often in GoT as opposed to say, The Lord of the Rings. I think that contrary to GoT tradition they decided to withheld the juicy stuff for episode 10 so that they can finish with a BANG! for what has been an amazing and my favorite season of GoT (so far).

Side note : I intend to learn by heart "The Watchers on The Wall" that Grenn and his guys recited just as the giant was charging. That was, with the Scythe...I wish I had seen that on a BIG IMAX screen, don't you fans of this episode 9 agree?
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You're right about the Scythe. I hadn't even thought of that. But, suppose it's chain was 500 meters long, then the radius would be very wide, and the trajectory flatter. Anyone knows how tall the wall is ;-)
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Good assessment. The two fat jokes at Sam were uncalled for.
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This is killing me, I want to know what happens to the Imp.
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What if they withhold Tyrion's fate till next season? Boy, would that upset people..

I know what happens and I'll tell you this: It's worth the wait.
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This was a fantastically directed episode! I mean they even made me like Alliser for a couple of minutes! That is a feat in itself! :) I'm nervous about next week. So much going on how will it all be address? Do we get a 2 hour finale? PLEASE????
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Alliser Thorne is That Crow!!

As long as he breathes The Night's Watch Will Stand!!
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Loved it, so many awqeseome momnets. Giants on mammoths!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ygritte and Jon was sad but not unexpected.
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Damn Jon's smile! He distracted me until Olly shot his bow and I was weeping uncontrollably.

More so when I found Grenn next to the Giant.
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Aye Jon is popular with the girls and guys too. Sad Ygritte died but she did do bad things and Olly deserved justice.

Grenn and the others were so brave, more so than knights etyc as they just fight for each other and the 7 Kingdoms, not for personal glory or prizes.
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Excellent episode. This show goes from strenght to strenght!
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People comparing this show to the books, you need your own forum of blog, who gives a shit if it didn't happen, Even the Author TOLD YOU that it was not going to go along with the books and a bunch was going to be changed, some people just don't understand that books and TV are completely different, example, had you watched the show up to now, and in your mind this show was GOD of TV, which it really is, then read the books, you might just say the same shit about the books.
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I plan on reading the books after the show is over so i can catch the information that time and finances did not allow in the show, in the meantime i would like to enjoy the show without hearing about how someone's eyes are supposed to be purple! Not to mention spoilers, or people thinking that they are not spoiling, but saying stuff that ruins it such as "high profile deaths coming soon!" I am not saying it is you, please don't take it personally, but it is worse than watching a movie with someone that has seen it before and he tells you what is going to happen just before it does. Let us have the surprise that you had when you read the books please. Again, you have not done anything annoying, but comparing a book with a drug is a bit of a stretch unless the first drug has access to a huge chemical factory and the second drug can only use a "My First Chemistry Set". (to take a cue from Fisher Price My First Bow and Arrow, hysterical!!!)
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Honestly, the show does follow the books pretty damn closely. Its one of the best adaptations from novel to screen ever imo. People that complain about the changes are complaining about really nitpicky little things imo.
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I think you missed the point of the Scythe.

Not only does it hit those few men at the bottom of the swing,
it's cable also 'scrapes off' those above it
and it creates an avalanche of falling icepicks for those below it.
I thought it was a really KISS tool and haven't thought of a way how it could be circumvented.
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there wouldve been no avoiding the scythe. but you could possibly survive it by releasing the climbing tools and simultaneously jumping to the swinging chain.
if you're at a high enough elevation, you might not get hit with maximum inertia. of course you might still get hit with arrows.

it would be damn near impossible to survive the pendulum of doom, but I'd bet on a chance in hell rather than falling to my doom. realistically I'd never be up there in the first place. bitter cold and stupefying heights? no thank you.
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It was a nice touch though!
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definitely
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I have some observations about the about the battle. This comment is a bit long, but I believe most GoT fans enjoy a good discussion, so here it goes:

1) The Night's Watch is only supposed to have about 100 men, but it seemed like they were dropping like flies in the battle. While watching, I thought the attackers must have killed more Night's Watch then there is actually supposed to be. But how many did they really lose?

I counted about 30 or so kills confirmed on screen, including ones Ygritte shot. Now, with her, it may seem that she must have killed a lot more, but you can't assume every arrow she loosed was a kill, or even a hit, especially when the fighting got more confused. There were several Night's Watch she shot who may have survived, and you don't see where most of her arrows went.

So overall, I'm estimating about 40 killed, maybe more. Certainly the Night's Watch is seriously depleted, which makes Jon's assessment that they can only hold out for only one or two more nights realistic.

2) The wall scythe: Some people said the scythe would be mostly ineffective because it only works at a precise height and even then the climbers would have to be lined up in a convenient line. But I think it would be more effective than that.

The scythe is on a chain that one assumes can be reeled in, meaning the arc of the swing can be lowered or raised. Plus, the blade isn't the only weapon - the chain itself would be effective at sweeping climbers off the wall. So everyone at the blade's level or above would be in danger from the scythe.

Also, the swing of the blade would dislodge all sorts of ice chunks, a whole shower in fact, and you wouldn't need a very big piece to knock someone off the wall. So in all, it would be an effective and terrifying weapon to defend the wall.

3) Why not have more immediate defenses at the gate to the tunnel?

But why would they? The Night's Watch calculated everything on being attacked by men, not by giants. They thought the gate was so strong that anyone who reached it would be dead from the defenses above long before any harm could be done.

And as for dropping fire on the attackers, you got to remember that the gate, though strong, is mounted in ice. Rain too much fire too close to the gate, and you might do the job for the attackers by melting the ice all around the gate. Maybe that's why the Night Watch dropped non-fire barrels first. Almost anything solid dropped from the wall would kill, so the fire would be saved for surprise special threats. Giants certainly qualified for that.

4) But the real question is why attack the Wall in only one place, at the tunnel where the defenses were the strongest? Sure, you want to take the tunnel because it would be hard to sustain an invasion by hauling everything over the wall, but why not take advantage of having 100,000 men?

The Night's Watch had only 100 men, and can defend one spot. So that means that the wall, which extends hundreds of miles, could be climbed in safety in most places. So why not attack at the tunnel, pinning down the defenders, and then have masses of men climb the walls from many other points, safely away from scythes and flaming barrels? Once on top, the attackers could sweep away the Night Watch.

The only explanation for attacking in one spot is that the Wildings still didn't know that all of the rest of the wall was undefended, yet they must have known that. To me, this is the biggest flaw with this battle scene. It should not have taken place at all. Instead, the Wildlings should have been seen swarming the wall in many places, proving that the wall was just as useless as huge, country-wide defensive walls have mostly proved to be throughout history (ie. The Great Wall, the Maginot Line in France, Hitler's Atlantic Wall on D-Day, etc.)

Anyway, quibbles aside, that was an awesome episode in an awesome show. Too bad it is over for the season next week. Thoughts, anyone, about my points?
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Not all of those killed were crows.
The non-Thenn-wildlings look very much like the nightwatch.
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"So why not attack at the tunnel, pinning down the defenders, and then have masses of men climb the walls from many other points, safely away from scythes and flaming barrels?" -&
As Jon stated after the attack: Mance was just testing the defense of the wall/castle black, probably hoping that Thormund's party will be successfull on the other side and he don't have to sacrifice countless men: climbing the wall is extremely dangerous even without the scythe, arrows or rocks thrown at you.
(We also don't know how many of those 100,000 people are skilled climbers.)

I think the real blow is yet to come - if Jon is not successful with his suicide mission.
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Good point about the climbing. If you can take the tunnel, which is lightly defended, then no other action is required.

Also that's a good point about the skill (or lack of) of the climbers. I would think that without being harassed, the lead climbers could start anchoring pitons into the wall, and then attaching ropes, etc, for following climbers to use. Even so, it would take a painfully long time to get a significant number of men over the wall, but then again, they wouldn't need thousands, but only hundreds.

Also, maybe this is explained in the books, but it seems to me that there must be more than one tunnel or traverse under the wall. Just one gate for hundreds of miles? There also surely must be more than one elevator down too. I assume the Night's Watch patrols the top of the walls, so there's no way they're all starting from that one castle. They have mentioned in the show that the other Night's Watch posts are abandoned due to lack of soldiers - these forts must be similar to the one we saw.

Anyway, let's not let speculation ruin a perfectly good thing. I'm sure RR Martin and the GoT writers went through all of this too, because they know there's going to be people like me overthinking things later :)
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If I remember correct (it's been a while since I read the books) all the other gates were sealed with ice some time ago, and there's actually only one elevator. That was mentioned explicitly in the books, but I can't remember the reason for it.
Some others here proposed, they should build a big staircase or an elevator to move your troops up and over somewhere else along the wall. But the top of the wall is patrolled by crows frequently.
Someone trying to build a 700 ft. staircase and bring 100,000 people on the other side with it, would be discovered very soon.
GRRM described a few scenarios in the books how other wildling kings in the past tried to overcome the wall (like tunnels, secret caves labyrinths, etc) and how all of them failed.
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After reading your comments, it's clear I really need to read the books, and soon. So much fascinating stuff that I'm missing.
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Man, you eloquently wrote out a lot of my own garbled thoughts throughout the episode :) Particularly on how the Night's Watch fighters seemed to be dropping like flies. I think they should have showed them holding off the Thenns and co. a bit longer to make it credible, they basically just breezed right in.

As far as the undefended expanses of the wall go, you're spot on again. The show didn't even bother to try to show the Night's Watchmen trying to ruse the wildlings by lighting torches every few hundred yards, or put up dummies, or anything. You'd think Mance'd do his homework a little better.

Lastly, a quick word on fire arrows! I 100% understand why the director chose to have archers on both sides use them as it made for better visuals for a nocturnal battle, but I could've used at least some kind of a half-assed explanation at least, i.e. WIldings: "Let's burn them out!", Night's Watch, "Let's see what we're shooting at!", or something like that.

Top comment, cheers!
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Actually, they did have a shot of fires all the way across the wall to give the illusion of more men than they had.
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Yeah, but I never got the sense they were doing it for hundred of miles.
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I wonder if anyone else noticed that Jon learned his lesson from fighting Karl at Craster's Keep. I only noticed this detail the second time I watched the battle scene.

Karl almost killed Jon after taunting him about fighting like a gentleman, and then spitting in his face to distract him. Jon was only saved by the intervention of one of Craster's duaghters.

So when the Thenn leader was on the verge of killing Jon in the fight at the castle in this episode, Jon, who just had his face mashed into an anvil, spits blood into the eyes of the Thenn, distracting him long enough for Jon to grab the blacksmith's hammer and crush the Thenn's skull with it.

Effective, and certainly not gentlemanly.
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Neil Marshall did it again. Blackwater and the Wall battle scenes were epic. Remember, this is TV!

I've read all of the booksbooks, but I like how the writers are making this their own creation. There were things that didn't follow Martin's writings, but they actually made the storyline better for Sam, Ygritte and Jon. As to "You know nothing Jon Snow", to me, Ygritte was telling Jon that she was forgiving him for leaving her. Much better than what was in the book.....a romantic to the end.
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I could not agree more. It was a lovely touching scene. :)
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Ygritte was awesome. Her death broke my heart. To be sincere, aside from that and the giants and the mammoth scene, I found the episode to be middling and certainly not in the top 5 episodes of this season.
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Agreed. This wasn't nearly as good as last two episodes.
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Definately top 3 of the season, sorry you have missed out on all the good stuff, maybe you should watch this season again

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2nd best for me after last weeks. What could top the Viper and the Mountain!
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Maybe same show but Viper not being so damn cocky and getting himself squashed like a melon? :)
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Poor Viper was too cocky and under estimated the Mountain. He wasn't used to losing and in a fight with the Mountain you only lose once!
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I would just like to bemoan the fact that it was yet another episode this season that clocked under 50 minutes (if we exclude the opening/closing credits). In fact, it was most likely the shortest episode of GoT to date, barely lasting slightly longer (about 47 minutes tops, I believe) than your usual network episode of a show with 20+ installments per season.
This really bothers me, as I find some value in nearly every scene Game of Thrones throws at us. This season, it feels like we've lost a lot of precious minutes compared to the previous seasons (unless my memory fails me), where episodes generally lasted a little longer. Just what are they doing, cutting out all rape-esque/non-consensual sex scenes since the latest shitstorm that hit the net?

As for the actual episode, I'd expected that the stakes would be much higher; what with it being the penultimate offering of a season et al. I had been imagining Castle Black falling, Wildlings taking over The Wall, and the Night Watch's remains retreating further south to warn the rest of the realm of what is coming and rallying them towards a common cause. But no such things. This felt more like a skirmish. An important skirmish no doubt, but a skirmish nonetheless.
That's not to say I didn't like it. On the contrary - it was oddly enjoyable. Impressive directing work, great pacing, a lot of notable action scenes (the scythe, giant with a bow, giant being pierced with a huge arrow, mammoths on fire, etc.). In the end I didn't have much of a problem with the show taking all this time to focus on this particular battle - the rest of the plot could wait, for once.
I could even pretend that I didn't notice some apparent logical flaws (throwing down barrels in a rather wasteful manner, or not throwing down oil barrels until after the gate's been hit; Night Watchers dying at such a rate that they must've lost well over 50% of their army; Gilly sneaking past Wildlings' camp the way she did, with them having guards stationed everywhere).

Ygritte's death didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. Sad, but not hugely so. Perhaps it was a certain inevitability of it, perhaps it was her having earned it in a way. Pyp and Grenn going down in the same fight, though... they might not've been notable characters, but they've been around for a while. That's a lot of casualties for what was just a general test by Mance.
And now Jon is off to play the hero on a seemingly suicidal mission. That is, until he intends to convince Mance that he is still on his side. It's not like the latter knows everything that's transpired since they last met, does he...
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It was shorter than normal but the production costs must have been huge for last nights episode. I would hate to see GOT's go the same way as Rome and cancelled over money as in lack of it.

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This episode for me felt like and hour in a half long, so for me this was amazing. Umm you they could have thrown pennies off the wall, doesnt matter what they threw it was death upon contact from 700 feet, and they didnt throw the fire barrels til the giants got close enough, both of these were smart defenses, who cares if the lost 50%, pretty sure for it to be a flaw 100% would have had to die for them to lose right? or a surrendering of some sort. Wrong again about your flaws, Gilly sneaking past, how do you know she wasnt ahead of them and just finally made it before they did, she knew nothing about their plan, pyp and grenn been around since season 1 episode 3 or something, so the been around damn near the whole time, just not your main characters with lots of air time. Nevertheless, your reply i believe is very flawed since you don't look at it the way i did.
WHY HAS NOBODY SAID ANYTHING BOUT THE ARCHERS HARNESSES!! THAT WAS THE WALLS BEST DEFENSIVE CREATION!!!

and no, that retreat will probably happen next week when jon handles his business with mance, and the Whitewalkers take the wall. (its what i would like to see), next episode is about the whitewalkers and what they do the the children, hence the name "The Children". Tyrion and his sentence to death, arya and hound with sansa and petyr, jamie and cersei will have a good scene, and lets not forget them dragons finally getting a little action again. Finale will be amazing, will see some deaths, a few big ones hopefully, a reunion of sisters i hope, tyrion hanging in the balance, which i hope bronn gets to be seen again(hopefully saving tyrion) or jamie saving him would be sweet, jamie giving cersei a quick death would be a scene for the ages! either way so many things are possible for this finale and the fact that this IS the BEST show EVER made, Game of Thrones WILL NOT FAIL US!
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They showed Gilly sneaking past on the ridge, in full view as the wildlings argued by the camp fire
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The archers harness was bad ass!!!!
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Fave parts: holding the gate, the giant massive grappling hook (I'll take that any day over all the wildfire on the planet) and Ygritte's death....

Least fave parts: every scene with samwell and gilly..

Ygritte's death was still the saddest moment in the book. Didn't have quite the same effect on the show because we can't read Jon's mind, but man, still sad... you know NOTHING, Jon Snow! Man, I'm gonna miss that line!

MIKEY LIKES IT!
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Best part? Niel Marshall's amazing cinematography.

I think you do Marshall a huge disservice by only crediting his style within the battle. There is a shot when Jon Snow descends the elevator then the camera pans round all the major characters in the scene, Ygritte, Sam, Styr etc and shows us what they are all doing during the melee, whilst also showing the complete chaos of the battle. It's a solid 1m 30 shot and it is one take of absolute genius. Very few people can direct an action scene, barely anyone can direct an action scene with 6 set-pieces within one take.
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The single shot was awesome! It was my favorite!
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It was an amazing shot. Take that, True Detective!
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Right haha, though that 6 minutes on True Detective was absolute GOLD.
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I remember loving this battle in the books, much more than the Blackwater battle and the same went for the episodes. I found the Blackwater episode to be to muddled and I loved this one much more. Even though it was only an opening salvo it still felt scary enough.

The one thing i am having a lot of trouble with this show is its inane changes it makes to the book storylines and the characters. Why so much extra romance, viewers can be interested without all this romantic love bs (Sam and Gilly, but same for Robb and his wife and Missandei and Greyworm). And also Jon! I know people think he's boring which is probably why they've done this, but Jon does not have this much autonomy over his life! He never asked to go with Qorin Halfhand, Commander Mormont told him too. And he certainly never came up with the plan to go see Mance Rayder. Why would he do that!!?? At this point it would be like suicide. His little trip to Crafter's Keep made sense, but this does not. He was ordered to go because his superiors were still trying to kill him. Which makes what happens next (no spoilers) all the more poignant.

I know the show's not bad, but my intense love for the books is kinda ruining it for me, lol.
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perhaps they wanted women to watch too? Perhaps they knew that not everyone read the books and wanted to make it interesting for those that did so it was not a total regurgitation of the books? Perhaps the screen writers had some imagination too? Perhaps if you are so let down, you should not watch it? I know when i do read the books, after the show is over, the differences are what will intrigue me....not annoy me.
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Hahahaha and I'm not a woman? Women only watch shows with romance in it!? Not entirely sure what that comment means... might wanna tone down on the generalizations regarding women.
I don't mind most of the changes they've made. But this show isn't perfect, so some of the changes just flat out suck. And these are the ones that I think suck. Plus all the scenes so far, that pretty much all viewers have loved, have indeed been total regurgitation of the books. Right down to the dialogue itself. Which speaks for itself.
I'm allowed to be let down with a show. Especially after the stellar 3rd season (where again, they pretty much followed the books to the letter, except for some excellent changes made because of the character volume in the books). No show is perfect and we come on this site to discuss it. The good AND the bad. Like I did in my review. Where I mentioned what I liked and what I didn't like.
That answer your myriad of questions??

p.s. once you start reading the books, the differences won't annoy you, that much is true. But the show will lose its shine.
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I doubt it, the difference in storytelling has to be different on a tv show, unless of course you want constant voice-overs from the character's pov. A book, especially a series of books, will always give more information... and screenwriters have the right to see some things differently than you as a book reader, after all, they read the same books not only as fans, but as obvious (to the author anyway) professionals. The show will not lose shine, I will just gain information. And as a woman, very different than all of my friends, I am not dumb enough to generalize all women, however it is a fact that they are more romance minded, in spite of the equality of the sexes in other, more practical areas.
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this was most boring episode in this season. Why do we need to see whole episode dedicated to the battle of secondary characters (night watchers ain't King's Landing). This battle doesn't rise up to Blackwater. It ain't Blackwater, it was boring. Now I gotta wait another week for Tyrion's fate? May be Game of thrones doesn't have main charaters and they are all main characters but still Jon Snow and his buddies are secondary less interesting characters. Also Ygritte's death is useless. Why didn't they go with Ygritte's Pygmalion-like story?
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There were quite a few people disappointed with this ep.
You know Jon and Sam are pov characters in the books right? Jon's a central character as much as Tyrion. Whether he's as interesting is debateable. Few characters in tv land are as interesting.
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I guess main reason is that we began our story from King's Landing and its manipulative royal brats so I kinda used to it being central of whole Game of Thrones universe. Also everyone wants to get to King's Landing, everyone wants to take an iron throne. You can't deny that it's driving force for whole story. And main intrigue (like when Dany gonna attack KIng's landing). I think it's a bit lazy work from showrunners to show us whole episode of Night watchers' fight with wildlings.
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The story in King's Landing is like waiting to see whos the next president, the story on the Wall is about if there ever will be a next one. ;) So it's kinda a lot more important.
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No, we began our story with the Starks in Winterfell....the stuff at the wall and Dany's storyline are just as important, if not moreso to the overall story than the stuff at Kings Landing is....
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I don't see this below, so...

Pretty sure she said "You're not nothing" which makes a lot more sense.
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Honestly, it was my least favorite episode of the season. It was by no means bad, it's just that since it (understansbly, and wisely) focused on action, it wasn't much room for the clever dialogue, which is my fav thing of the show. I did really enjoy Sam's and Aemon's chat, and everything Janos Slynt, though! And yup - the giants were awsome :)

Still, basically: "It's not you, GoT, it's me"

I fully respect those who loved this installment, and I think the showrunners did just about everything right, given what they wanted to do. it might very well be the most actionfilled TV hour ever. But for me it will always be a filler episode.
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That was an epic battle from beginning to end!! I didn't know the giants were good at archery. Glad that Ollie got to deliver some karmic justice on Ygritte.
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I hate to be the spoil sport here, but I didn't like it at all. No offense though. Only the revelation that the blind old wise man at the Night Watch turned out to be a Targaryan, was worth the episode - that and the heartbreaking scene between Ygritte and Jon. But for the rest... nah... not my cup of tea. After the excitement of last week, this was kind of a cold shower. Scheming and plotting, that's what I look for in GoT. This was the Battle of Middle Earth.
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The fact That ''Maester Aemon'' is Aemon Targaryen was revealed two seasons ago to Jon. A somewhat minor detail that comes into play from time to time. He and Dany are the last two, far as I know. The reviews for this episode are the most mixed I've seen for any episode thus far.
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Ah thank you antmorris3511. Must have missed that one or forgotten about it since then... Yup, I can well imagine the mixed emotions concerning this episode. There are those who absolutely love this, and there are those who do not. :-) To each his own! I'm looking forward to the season finale!
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My heart was pounding most of the entire episode.
I really didn't care for Sam and Gilly's scenes, I think they get far too much screen time. Snor factor.

I loved when you could sense that Jon was about to take over on top of the wall. Then Grenn tells that bald guy he's needed down below and Jon steps up. lol That was great. Speaking of Grenn, very sad to see him go. But he had honor, so of course he was killed off. :/

The scene where Jon sees Ygrett. So great and what made it so great was when he looked at her, he smiled. He smiled while she was holding an arrow at him because it just wouldn't have been her, if she wasn't threatening his life. That made that scene beautiful.

Ps. the scythe was amazing. I clapped, to my instant embarrassment as my family just looked at me like I was crazy.
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Maybe I'm a cynic, but I get the feeling that if Sam had been a skinny, geeky sort of coward and if Gilly had a wash, people wouldn't be so bored by their love story. They'd be saying it was cute. Sam's had a pretty great character progression.
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I agree, I think that Sam is much like Tyrion, Judged from the outside of him, but he does not have the confidence that Tyrion does. I see his character growing, and I hope that his confidence does as well and we see that there is so much more to him than an overweight coward, I think that given confidence, he would be just as sexy as Tyrion, because he is just as intelligent with a lot to offer.
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The difference is that Tyrion is judged on the show, but loved by the audience; Sam has generally been accepted by most of the Night's Watch characters, but is still unpopular with audiences.
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Agreed, i am hoping that that will change given time, assuming that he is not killed once he gets more face time. :)
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I'm not denying that Sam really stepped up, "a man keeps his word." That was great. But he and Gilly have no chemistry and she just yells at him all the time. Sam is a decent character and he gets walked all over by her, that's not cool. It has nothing to do with their appearance, they're just not a great couple.

I didn't care for Jon's romance with Ygrette either, but when he smiled at seeing her, that was great acting, it made it really beautiful. But I'm also glad that's all over now. Now he can focus on become a leader and ending their war.

A great couple was Ned and Catelyn, great writing for the two and there was real romance between them. There is absolutely no romance between Sam and Gilly, just her constant nagging on him.

So yeah, no matter how much you fancied up that couple, they just suck and are really boring. Independently, Sam in great.
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Look at what that poor woman has been through! I am sure given the same life, most women, no matter how physically appealing would be bitches, not to mention unable to relate to a man that treated her well, no doubt she suspects that he is using her, just as the only other man in her life did... and he was her FATHER for heaven's sake!
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Look at what Arya has been put through, or Dany... they've been put through hell as well, but you don't see them bitching about it. They're strong women/little girl that refuse to take the circumstances that have been given to them.

To pin point it. Gilly is my issue with their relationship, because Sam could be pretty cute in a relationship with a better woman. Gilly is my issue. She wants to be taken care of and then complains about everything. She's weak.
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For those who say they couldn't see what was going on because it was dark.... me thinks it is time you got a new tv. Crystal clear
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They are the shields that guard the Realms of men, always.

And now their watch is ended.
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*knock knock. Oh would you look at that? It seems I've found myself trapped in a glass case of emotion..
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I found it very hard to tell what was going on because it was so dark.
I didnt understand why they waited so long to drop the barrels on the mammoths, I was here saying why arent they lightening them on fire.
I though that Ygrittes final words were very fitting given the conversation that they were having.
Loved the Sam and Gilly storyline.
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It was too dark. Adjust the brightness. Some of the cues were ill-timed during the siege. Thats one reason some things seem to make little sense. The giants were lumbering and lethargic, moving in slo-mo almost, then the flaming barrel drops and one giant took off like Carl Lewis.
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How do you know who is the good guy vs. bad guy. You know nothing Tim Surette. Listen to what Yigritte was talking about when she made the speech. The true bad guys are the ice zombies /others. If you're a free folk wouldn't you try to get far away from them as possible.
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I think the difference is that the Wildlings aren't walking up to the Wall, knocking and asking to be let through. They are killing people and trying to battle their way to the other side.

If the goal was simply to get away from the White Walkers, wouldn't it make more sense for Mance to send a few people to the Wall and ask for help?
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Yes, and the likes of Alliser Thorne would just be delighted to let them through.
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It's fascinating how no one stops to think about that.
Why is it okay to let all the Wildlings die to White Walkers? Because they refused to be a part of the kingdoms? It's bizarre!
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I truly loved this episode! At last, the director focused on just one event happening throughout the whole GOT lands! BUT... taking into account there are so few episodes per season... I just doubt if it was wise to "waste" a whole episode on that event as awesome as it was. Maybe we are just looking at a 10 year or more series, LOL... which I wouldn't mind at all :)

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they said 7 seasons. I guess theyre predicting our eyes will glazed over before the books are finished.
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Who cares about the plot moving forward, when you have a giant riding mammoth....An F'ING GIANT RIDING MAMMOTH!!!! Pure Awesomeness.... also the minute I saw the elevator kid look at that bow, I knew he was going to kill Ygritte
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the books are the BOOKS.this is HBO..who cares if arya doesnt do blah blah blah until whenever..its about the show and how the show moves

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Liked the episode.
Some great scenes.
A number of changes from the book but nothing very significant. Mostly done to add spectacle (pendulum scythe) and emotion (Jon being there when Ygritte was killed)
Ygritte’s death was done quite differently … but didn’t really affect anything else by doing that.
A few things in general though ...
Why didn’t the giants just lift the gate right at the start … rather than waste all that time trying to pull it off the wall with the mammoth?
If one could do it by itself … then two would have had no problem.
Lift – prop up – walk through.
They didn't even try it ... and, seeing as how Mance used to be a Black Brother he would know how the gate opened ...
Also:
... why is that tunnel big enough to allow giants to stroll through? Who was it built for?
In the book, it’s narrow and windy and small, and the giant had to drag himself through it, not run through.
... why did they not just blow up the tunnel when they saw the approaching army? They actually still had plenty of time.
They could then have almost ignored the approaching army completely – would take them ages to get up the wall.
Just blow up the tunnel … concentrate on getting rid of the wildlings breaching the castle walls … then go back up the wall and use the scythe ;-)
Now ... speaking of the Scythe ... it was a bit on the stupid side.
1. How the h*ll did they forge that? That was a massive single piece of metal
2. How did they free it so easily from the ice? Explosives? (Wouldn't take much to jam that up)
3. Wouldn't it be completely rusted? (don't think they have stainless steel)
In terms of its effectiveness though … can't really argue with it. Wouldn’t need to time it overly well or have the climbers all lined up.
If the wildlings were below the scythe blade they’d likely get knocked off the wall by the ice fragment shower.
If the wildlings were above the scythe blade they could be taken out by the chain whipping along the wall.
What really gets me about this episode though is *why* were the wildlings all concentrating on one small section of the wall to attack?
I get why the giants and most of the foot soldiers were there … for the improbably large tunnel.
But the climbers should have been going up a mile or more on each side of the tunnel … make the Watch spread their defences (surely they don’t have scythes … and barrels of oil … covering the entire length of the wall).
Seriously ... the Wildling tactics overall were cr*p.
Mance is ex. Night's Watch & supposedly a great tactician & Leader. He is meant to know everything about the Watch Defences … this didn’t show last night.
So … he didn’t know about the big pendulum scythe in exactly that spot? Or didn’t care?
Mance's tactics (in the show ... not the book) seem to involve having a tiny raider group attack the walls of castle black from the south side while he throws all the rest of his force at a single defended spot on the wall (without any protection for themselves against the arrows & fire raining down on them). Genius.:-/
If he could get that small group over (120 in the book) unopposed & undetected (until they started rampaging around the countryside) then why not spend a week or so getting a load of small groups over & build a fairly sizable force?
(The first groups up threw down long ropes for the others to climb, so Mance could probably have sent thousands over via the ropes, given say 3-4 days effort. He supposedly has the manpower ... 100,000 wildlings?)
As for the main attack ...
The 100,000 strong wildling force should have just been there for show … light fires, throw insults & distract the Watch … while climbers went up the wall several miles away (in each direction). Then, when they made it up the wall … have time for a bit of a rest (to recover from the climb) before signalling the *sizable* wildling force to the south to attack Castle Black while they sandwiched the watch on top of the wall.
Then .. open the tunnel unopposed and walk through.
Anyway ... just my 2c worth.
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Jon advised sealing the tunnel but was ignored. And asking why the tunnel is that huge is like asking why the palace in king's landing or the iron bank buildings are soo high. Its just an architectural "norm" in those ages. Blowing up the tunnel will also mean no one leaves or comes in atall anymore and seeing as that is the only way to go beyond the wall without climbing(I think), I don't see how that's a good idea.
That anchor thing(am too lazy to scroll up for the name) was built for that purpose right? So its only logical to think they built a release mechanism in place to release it at will. And you are joking about rust right? I mean, this is a fictional universe and for all we know, there metal doesn't rust (not all of them anyway).
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Re: Tunnel Size. The wall was built for defence not to conform to any architectural/grandiose "norms". I realise that the producers are doing things for spectacle ... however in this case it just makes no sense. The source material is quite detailed in the defensive nature of the tunnel (small, winding, variable floor levels) ... to allow ranging beyond the wall while minimising the risk of unwanted 'return traffic' in the event of a breach.
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