Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 9 "The Watchers on the Wall" Review

Positives this week included... Everything Night's Watch related (for obvious reasons)

Negatives this week included...  Absolutely nothing!


I was going to put Jon here, but Thorne deserves his place
on the front banner!

Episode 9; this is the one every single Game of Thrones fan has learned to loath. It spelt the end for our hero Ned Stark in Season 1, saw the next best leader in Stannis defeated in Season 2, and... well, the Red Wedding is fairly self explanatory. I really don't want to go into that again! Well, it's officially been just over a year since that dreaded episode spawned, and so that means another episode 9 has to hit our screens, this week focusing on most people's "piss break" portion of the show; The Night's Watch. I'm going to be honest when I say that they are in fact one of my favourite aspects of the show, despite their seeming lack of importance this season. The North has spawned some fairly awesome moments, including Jon and his friends taking back Craster's Keep, a couple of fairly awesome wildling rampages, and... well, that's about it. Can this week's episode rectify the unjust amount of small screen time this area of the show has had this Season? Let us find out, and jump into this episode!

I'm going to say it straight up; best... episode... ever. I'm not kidding. I was scared coming into this week's round of Thrones; so much history for this episode in each season, and I really didn't want this year's to be the one that fell flat in easily the best Season of Thrones yet. Fortunately, though, everything comes together in a harrowing, beautiful, fucking awesome spectacle of an episode! David and Dan pulled in Neil Marshall to direct this week's episode, and it shows. The man directed the episode Blackwater, which reigns somewhere in my top 10 episodes of Thrones so far, so he certainly knows what he's doing when it comes to big battles. And ultimately, that's what this episode is, which ever way you look at it; it's a huge, long battle. So much could've gone wrong with this episode, yet none has. The Night's Watch has been a place people hate going towards this Season, so for some viewers, it could've come across as boring simply because the location and characters involved haven't been exciting them. The amount of action could've been overwhelming for the viewers, with repetitiveness tiring out those watching. Thankfully, though, for most, this was not the case. David and Dan scripted the episode masterfully, allowing for both emotional and plot driving scenes within these huge fights that are occurring. Having both sides of the Wall being attacked at the same time was a smart move; it meant that we didn't get stuck at a single location, watching the same people do the same thing over and over again. Instead, we were switching between Jon on the top of the wall, Sam on the bottom, the Wildling's outside the courtyard, the Wildlings on the wrong side of the Wall. We had a heap of different angles, all which meant we got a lot of variation. So good job David and Dan for crafting an episode which didn't tire, despite all the factors working against it!

The hero of the week? Alliser Thorne. The guy is a dick, and we all know it, but damn, he knows how to give a kick ass speech. Seriously, I'm going to be repeating that "Tonight, we fight!" quote many times into the future. And he also provided arguably the funniest moment of the episode, that being his anger towards the archers of the Night's Watch. His cussing is utterly hilarious in such a dangerous and devastating battle. Golden stuff from Owen Teale as Thorne. Oh, I almost forgot; Tormund and Ser Alliser have a fight! If Oberyn and the Mountain hadn't been in this Season, this would've won best fight from me. Because damn.... Alliser and Tormund really threw everything at each other, didn't they? Alliser's precision and timing, battling the furiosity and relentlessness that Tormund sports made for one hell of a sword fight. We also got some really impressive sword fighting from Kit Harrington, who seems to totally be in his comfort zone with a sword, more so than when he actually needs to act. It's obvious he wasn't using any stunt doubles; the shots were held and placed precisely so you could see that it was all Harrington. Jon's fight with Styr was also one of the stand outs of the season; this wasn't so much a fight as it was a brawl. Throwing each other through fire, smashing heads on anvils and with hammers; it was quite brutal! The hammer kill from Jon has to be one of the most bloody and gory deaths of the Season, and that is saying something in such a Season as this! But then, the fight with the Magnar led onto the saddest moment of the season thus far. Sure, Oberyn's death brought me to tears, but that was more so shock; the death was so utterly brutal it broke me. But this death was pure emotion. Ygritte's death had me sobbing like a little baby, especially considering how much I've been invested in her character ever since she arrived on screen in Season 2. Rose Leslie's final performance was completely gut wrenching, and those small little sighs and intakes of sharp breath after getting hit by the arrow from Ollie really got to me. Damn you Ollie; I thought you were going to kill the Magnar, not the woman who actually killed your father! Now I have to hate the poor kid! Nonetheless, Ygritte's death had me breaking down, and all for the right reasons. That final shot of her and Jon together, him cradling her, all in slow motion, is one of the reasons I love Thrones; the fact that they can kill off important characters all the time, and yet still make you surprised, disappointed and sad when it all happens. It doesn't matter that a whole heap of deaths have occurred this Season and should've helped steel my emotions in anticipation of this specific event; this one got to me, and is a death I won't soon forget.    

Crying 2 weeks in a row; I'm getting soft!

To add the devastating death toll happens to be two characters whom I'm sure people really couldn't give a shit about prior to this episode; Pyp and Grenn. To be honest, Pyp's death didn't affect me all too much, but Grenn's heroic final feat of bravery rocked me to my core. I was just getting rid of the sobs from Ygritte's death, and then they almost reemerged when we found the fate of Grenn, lying at the inner gate, beside a dead giant. Grenn's a cool guy, and ultimately, if you're going to go down any way on this show, than this is the most badass, heroic, beautiful death you're going to get. A lot of people are angered by the fact that we didn't see Grenn's actual death, although I thought that was unnecessary. I'm sure the death wouldn't have been anywhere near as heroic and awesome as what we saw of him last alive; I'd rather my last image of the man be him screaming out the vows of the Night's Watch than him getting pummeled by a giant. That kind of death is awesome for Yoren, but less so here, I believe. Ultimately though, it was another brilliant scene, watching Grenn defend the inner gate of the Wall from one of the many giants, refusing to back down. We all would've screamed and ran if it was us, no doubt about it; maybe Grenn's completely resistant to fear, or maybe he's just utterly stupid. Either way; you shall be remembered down the track Grenn. Pyp, not so much. His death was sad, but more so from the shock than from emotion. May both men sleep well in the hearts of all Thrones fans; both had some memorable deaths.

Sam the Slayer, what the fuck happened between last week and this week?! He's gone from a bit of a pussy to a man who can actually handle his own issues and problems! Gilly returning was a smart move, I believe; firstly, because he never sends her away in the books and she has a fairly important role within the next Season, and secondly, so that we can get a bit more Sam time! When Sam actually takes control of a situation, he can be a very fun character to watch. He actually swears at Pyp this episode! A real cuss! 2 thumbs up for that alone! And the man finally got a kiss from Gilly; we've all been waiting for this moment, and I believe Sam's little talk with Jon at the beginning of the episode really foreshadowed this event, as it did the talk with Maester Aemon. I was quite confused as to where the Maester had been this entire Season, though it seems he was just biding his time, waiting to give us a Season stealing speech. It was sad to see the old man reminisce on times of old, where he could see and move well; damn it David and Dan! Again?! You really want to make me cry like a little baby this week, don't you? The rest of Sam's action moments played out really well, and his discussions with Pyp about the reality of fear, war and death all really spoke as progression for his character. Where so many characters really grew in length during this episode, Sam grew the most, and it was great to watch!

Sam the Slayer? More like Sam the Player!
And finally, moving away from emotional moments, lets just focus on the technical wizardry this episode provoked. The scope that Marshall provided was exactly what the episode required; it needed to feel like a truly huge battle, one between a small garrison and an army of huge propositions. The "fire" that Mance Rayder promised Jon was truly very much the biggest fire the North has ever seen, and his army that Jon counted as 100,000 strong looked very formidable. With a lot of television shows, armies of men can often look not nearly as formidable or intimating as they probably should, and this can even be found in various Thrones episodes; fortunately, though, when the camera looks over the Wall and approaches the giant wildling army, you feel as if it's 100,000 warriors and spear wives threatening some of our main characters. Marshall also makes sure you're utterly engrossed by the huge battle taking place, thanks to some beautiful camera shots, the most notable being the gorgeous 360 degree shot, lasting 45 seconds in total, that manages to link all the characters together, from Jon to Ygritte, to Styr to Tormund, to Sam. One of the most fascinating, genius shots of the series! And then there were the giants... well, we know what at least a fifth of the budget to this episode went towards! The giants allowed for some of the most awesome, exhilarating moments of the entire episode, and that is saying a lot in such an episode as this. A giant literally carves through a man on top of the Wall with a single arrow. The big creature takes one single arrow, and literally launches a man through a wooden roof, to land on a spike within the courtyard of Castle Black. That made for one of the best transitions between top of the Wall and bottom of the Wall throughout the episode. Later on, we also got mammoths pulling on the Wall's outer gate, which was pretty awesome; we haven't really had much of a look at the mammoths at all throughout Thrones, so it was awesome to see them coming out in strength this episode! And then the one weapon that trumps them all; the scythe! What happens when raiders are trying to traverse the wall, exactly? Well, if you're Dolorous Edd, you get your men to cut the chains for a scythe built inside the wall, and have it swing across, literally carving up Wildlings. Literally painting the Wall red! That single moment had me pumping my fists in the air. Marshall's ingenuity with handling this episode, alongside some really great lighting technicians, visual effects buffs, stunt coordinators, makes for one hell of a spectacle! 

So, The Watchers on the Wall. One of, if not the best episode of Game of Thrones so far, in my humble opinion. Thanks to some truly awesome moments, a few emotional and sad deaths, and one character finally putting aside the craven persona, this is one episode not to miss. And think about it; only one week to go?!?! I'll have to stop talking to you in a much less formal tone than in my reviews on a weekly basis! What other shows are on at the moment? If you have any ideas, please inform me, because I don't know what to do with myself after this Season has concluded. Nonetheless, this is the perfect episode, that leaves me satisfied and craving the upcoming finale. It will be a beautiful finale, make no mistake, and so I hope I can catch you next week. For now, a Stannis meme, a promo, and goodbyes!


Season finale next week; get your tissues ready people!


Junkie Score: 10

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