Game of Thrones Season 4 Ep 9 (TV Show Review)
In one more week, HBO’s smash-hit Game of Thrones will ends its fourth season. As might be expected, the new season has seen the highest viewership numbers of any of the previous seasons, by a considerable margin. As much as the show’s popularity might have increased however, the success only seems to have made some elements of the show worse, while others remain plateaued. No prizes as to what has gotten worse, if you’ve read my reviews. Thankfully, the penultimate episode of the season seems to have escaped that particular disappointing element.
Now, if only things had remained like that. Much as with Season 2’s penultimate episode Blackwater, “The Watchers on The Wall” is an episode focused on a single event: the first battle of the Wall between the armies of Mance Ryder and the Night’s Watch. Start to finish, we see the full cast of the Wall, and that is that, making this episode the one with the shortest primary cast list, for none of the other high and mighty of the show make even a cursory appearance. At first I was all for it, but as the episode dragged on, I got bored and bored, and the ending proved to be unsatisfactory.
Last episode we saw that the wildling and Thenn raiders under Tormund Giantsbane and Styr had attacked the town closest to the Wall, Mole’s Town, where Samwell Tarly’s crush Gilly and her baby had been sent for safekeeping. Now, even as Tormund and Styr lead their fighters to an attack on the wall itself, Mance Ryder sends an advanced force of more wildlings, and even Giants and Mammoth to break down the Wall’s fortifications. That’s the setup for this entire episode and, I must say, it is quite myopic at that. Sure, sure, season 2’s Blackwater was the same, but the difference was that the cast of King’s Landing is infinitely better than the cast of Castle Black, and that Tyrion and Joffrey alone are far, far, far more worth than Jon Snow is. As much as I liked his character arc this season, though it wasn’t without its drawbacks, Jon Snow is just not the kind of hero that I can see myself cheering for, or a villain for that matter. Plus, there’s no one that he can bounce off as a character. You compare that to Tyrion and Joffrey and you see that those two played off each other beautifully. Their chemistry was at odds with each other but it was electric and believable. None of that exists at Castle Black for Jon Snow.
And with such a narrow focus, it is a given that there are going to very few characters of note anyway. The entire main cast of this episode can be summed up as: Ser Alliser Thorne, Ser Janos Slynt, Maester Aemon, Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow, Ygritte, Tormund Giantsbane and Styr. Poor offerings indeed, and a disappointment in the bargain. I’ll say this: the ending sure surprised me, but not by much, and so on that note the writers of the episode get some major points, but in the main, such a disappointment indeed. In all of these, the only characters who stand out are Ygritte and Jon Snow. We’ve already discounted the latter, and the former gets far too less screen-time, but thankfully we see her be a fairly decent archer at least, dropping Crows like flies once the attack begins.
One other thing that surprised the hell out of me was that Maester Aemon is none other than Aemon Targaryen, and thus once a scion of House Targaryen. But he is old and feeble now, and has none of the power of his House to call upon. His scenes with Samwell Tarly are melancholic and break the tension of the episode quite nicely, but sadly there isn’t all that much of them, and that sucks, it does.
What this episode, or this event, proves is that Jon Snow was always in the right and that Ser Alliser Thorne was a downright idiot, which we just knew was true but had to wait for all this silliness to have that played out. The one saving grace is that Owen Teale turns in a magnificent performance and that his Ser Alliser Thorne will certainly be remembered for a long time. In all of the characters at Castle Black, I think he was the most honest one, even though he was a bit of a bastard most of the time. If only he’d been smarter than he gave himself credit for and actually bothered to trust in Jon Snow. Then perhaps the Night’s Watch may not be in as much trouble as it is right now.
And see, thing is that this episode pretty much is a validation for Jon Snow. He was right all along and everyone else was wrong. I don’t see what the point was other than that. It is just one long extended action sequence in which the wildlings get over the Wall ridiculously easy. Or, to clarify, Tormund’s raiders make it a damn easy job of breaching Castle Black on their own. And, it is kind of ridiculous that they scale the Wall in the first place, last season, and then this season they basically double back to raid Castle Black. If someone is aware of a discrepancy in what I said, I welcome that, but this whole thing doesn’t really make sense to me. Unless they breached the Wall in a really, really far off place from where Castle Black is. Just… odd.
There are at least four character deaths in this episode that really leave a mark, either because of the connection that they have to the other characters, or because how they were built up to be major threats. Of all of these, there’s only one death that actually mattered to me and which made me really sad. It was a sad, sad ending for the character, but also entirely in keeping with George R. R. Martin’s penchant for killing off characters at the peak of their… power, let’s say. Eddard Stark, Joffrey Baratheon-Lannister, Robb Stark, Oberyn Martell and so on. Hell, we almost saw Tyrion get killed off at the Blackwater!
All my misgivings for what all this episode doesn’t cover, this was a decent episode, but I wish that it had been better. The singular focus hurts the story more than it helps, and that is what I took issue with the most. Neil Marshall directed Blackwater and he directs this one too, so at least the fight in and of itself is good, despite its shortcomings. I just think that he missed the mark altogether, and the same goes for the writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
Now, with the finale next week, I’m really apprehensive since it is going to be chalk-full of characters and will generally be a mess. So disappointing. I really doubt that Alan Taylor’s success with Blackwater‘s follow-up Valar Morghulis will be repeated by Alex Graves’ The Children next week.
Posted on June 9, 2014, in Game of Thrones, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged A Clash of Kings, A Feast For Crows, A Game of Thrones, A Storm of Swords, Aemon Targaryen, Alex Graves, Alliser Thorne, Ben Crompton, Brenock O'Connor, Castle Black, D. B. Weiss, David Benioff, Dominic Carter, Edd Tollett, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Fantasy Drama, Female Warriors, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones Season 4, Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 9, Genre Television, Giants, Gilly, Grenn, Grimdark, Hannah Murray, HBO, High Fantasy, House Targaryen, Ian Whyte, Janos Slynt, John Bradley, Jon, Josef Altin, Joseph Gatt, Kit Harington, Kristofer Hivju, Maester Aemon, Mammoths, Mark Stanley, Neil Marshall, Night's Watch, Olly, Owen Teale, Peter Vaughan, Political Fantasy, Pyp, Ramin Djawadi, Review, Review Central, Rose Leslie, Samwell, Styr, Television Review, The Children, The Watchers on the Wall, Thenn Warg, Tormund Giantsbane, TV Show, TV Show Review, Warrior Women, Westeros, Wildlings, Ygritte, Yuri Kolokonikov. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.