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"Game of Thrones" Season 4 Episode 9: The Wildlings and the Wall

Posted by Billy Gil, June 9, 2014 10:40am | Post a Comment

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Warning: There Will Be Spoilers.

Even with last week’s thrilling fight that ended in the deaths of two characters and the fate of Tyrion Lannister looking grim, last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones” might have been the most exciting yet. Dramatically though, it’s a different story.

The episode began with Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly talking about love like it’s a damn Lifetime movie, not a TV show where people are regularly bludgeoned to death onscreen. Cheesy as it might have been, we knew it was just the calm before the storm. And what a storm it was—basically a Gallagher concert’s worth of blood sprayed onto viewers for about 45 minutes, with the occasional flick of storytelling thrown in the mix. Look! There’s Gilly, miraculously finding her way to Castle Black. Hey! Janos Slynt is kind of a wuss, hiding from the battle in the food cellar with her. And we were all waiting to see what happened with Ygritte and Jon Snow. But mostly it was just one big bloody battle.

game of thrones season 4 episode 9

On one hand, the battle was a spectacle to behold. And for a fantasy show set in a place beset by constant battle, the show is surprisingly light on actual fighting (aside from, you know, major characters dying in terrible ways all the time). Barring the battle of the Blackwater in season two, this was the mother of all fights in the show on an episode that smartly eschewed the regular multitiered storytelling to keep us held in the grips of the battle. Truly stunning were the wildling giants riding on mastodons, terrifying and even seemingly realistic.

On the other, the episode didn’t compare with the battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding or even last week’s episode for dramatic oomph. It was mostly a lot of arrows flying around, bald dudes getting smashed with hammers, red haired Viking looking guys screaming and swinging axes, that sorta thing. Which is all good and fun, admittedly. Alliser Thorne did tell Jon Snow he was right about sealing off the tunnel beneath the wall, before upgrading his resentment of the young upstart to downright hatred. (Also is he dead now? Unclear.) We did finally get to see Ygritte and Jon Snow’s tragic reunion, before she was finished off by young Olly. She wished they could’ve just stayed in the cave where they skinny dipped together forever. Ugh. That one hurt.

jon snow ygritte

tormund giantsbane
Tormund Giantsbane's story about the bear goes down as one of the weirdest moments in the GoT universe

I wished I got more insight into why the Wildlings are going up against the Wall. There’s a lot of fodder there. The wildlings can be seen as analogous to how native peoples have been treated in the Americas, otherized bogeymen living north of a wall originally constructed only to keep out the White Walkers, themselves seemingly mythical bogeyman (only they’re actually quite real, in this world). Instead, our sympathies seemed to be guided toward the Night’s Watch, a kind of “Bad News Bears” of guardsmen made up mostly of convicts and such, while on the Wildlings side we just heard Tormund Giantsbane talk about that one time he fucked a bear.

Overall, though, I think the episode was strong. It alleviated some of the tension built up by the show’s talkiness with a full-blown action sequence like little we’ve seen on TV, referencing Braveheart and great war films with its in-the-trenches feel. I’m glad Jon Snow and Ygritte’s storyline was tied up, and that Jon Snow was given more to do than pout—seriously, Kit Harrington makes for a pretty great millennial action star. Now, let’s hope we're heading back to King’s Landing to find out what happens to Tyrion.

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