‘The Watchers on the Wall’ is the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season four and what a wallop of an episode it was. This was without a doubt, the strongest episode of the season. It was as close to a movie as we’ll get with this series and it will forever be held up as a standard for how battles are done on the small screen.
This was a very heavy Knight’s Watch episode. The entire arc with Ygritte the wildlings basically comes to an end. In such an action heavy episode, the opening with Jon Snow and Sam was welcomed humor. It’s just one part of the work the writers do to get us invested again in what happens to these character. Quite frankly, the Night’s Watch has been the weakest storyline this season. It’s been a very slow burn and there has been little to no movement on it until recently.
The character moments really help build up the emotional investment for the viewers. The friendship between Sam and Jon Snow gets the aforementioned comedic moment. Gilly and Sam too have a moment as she finally makes her way back to him. What stuck out though about the first part of this episode is that the Night’s Watch became real. They truly are a line of defense for the entire kingdom and tonight showed how important their work is. We’ve watched Jon Snow grow up and become who he is but have not really seen the Night’s Watch carry out their duty.
This was like watching a full on action movie. The budget for this season was no doubt used heavily for this episode. This made the zap-game-of-thrones-season-4-episode-9-the-wat-003attack on King’s Landing look tame. There are wooly mammoths and giants. This was Lord of the Rings big. It was reminiscent of the battle in ‘The Two Towers’. ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ had far more real action than the battle of King’s Landing. It was non stop, bloody and at the end, completely heartbreaking.
This was an achievement in television production. No show has ever done anything this large scale before and successfully pulled it off. What really made it all work so well was the obvious attempt at using practical effects. The fights were properly shot and lit, the camera angles swift yet clear and the emotion behind all the performances. There was CGI but it wasn’t used heavily enough to be all the creators relied upon. It was used just enough.
Only one storyline was covered this episode and it was a smart choice to do so. The finale is listed as an hour and a half so there’s no doubt that will be enough time. To prevent the battle at the Wall feeling choppy this was a necessary decision. It helped make this the most action fueled episodes in the show’s history and it will forever be the holy grail of how action is done on a television series.
Kit Harington and John Bradley West as Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley respectively, do such a fantastic job in this episode. More so Harington. He’s really come into his own after his interaction with the Wildlings. Jon is a leader now and of all the Stark children, the most like his father. Sam too grows up entirely tonight and while he still retains some of his kindness, he too is a leader in his own way.
‘The Watchers on the Wall’ is a perfect episode. It is also a perfect transition to next week as the finale will not have a need to split up many arcs. Everything in King’s Landing will get tied up as neatly as it can. It’s almost as if we’re getting two finales. That’s how large scale this episode was.