Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 9 The Watchers on the Wall and book spoilers.
I am torn between admiring the visual elements of The Watchers on the Wall and wondering what the hell the producers are doing with Castle Black. And how they are even planning on squeezing in the four or five things they need to wrap up in the finale, which looks like it is going to have to be a traditional cliffhanger. Let’s hope they make the most of the extra minutes for next week’s episode.
This week saw several early deaths which, again, is making me wonder just how much of the story arc at the Wall is going to be omitted. Firstly it is obvious that Styr’s storyline is now done. I am not sure that Sam and Gilly will be heading to Oldtown – I could be mistaken on that. Pyp and Green haven’t figured into the last couple of books very much but now that they have been killed off it looks like George’s warning that the producers were killing off characters who haven’t died in the books wasn’t a bluff. Dan and Dave seem to be getting rid of the excess baggage. But the largely pointless filler that has been prominent in this season and the neglect of the storyline at the Wall seems to be having an effect.
There have been some rather lukewarm responses to The Watchers on the Wall. It filled this season’s pivotal Episode 9 slot and obviously they threw every visual trick in they were capable of. The giants and mammoths looked awesome and some of the visuals on the Wall were really impressive. There was a lot of heroic speech-making which can come off as slightly cheesy but I thought it worked well, I am sure we were all feeling slightly warmer towards Ser Alliser. There were rather emotional deaths, Pyp’s death was horrible and Grenn’s heroic. Ygritte’s was sad as to be expected but in another example of not following it through all the way, she did not see her killer. I thought young Ollie would be the one when we saw him practising with the bow a few episodes back. Of course realistically Ygritte couldn’t have been expected to remember him, but all the same it would have had more impact if we had even gotten a closer look at Ollie after he killed her. It was supposed to be significant.
But then Ollie’s build has been as slight as the rest of the characters at Castle Black. If anyone is wondering why the episode left them a bit cold, we have hardly been spending any time at the Wall. Some of the inevitable comparisons with the Battle of Blackwater have centred around the characters at the Wall not being as good as the characters in King’s Landing. I disagree of course, but viewers are easily not as emotionally invested in these characters this season. You have to hark back a season or two remember that wonderful camaraderie between Pyp and Grenn and Sam and Jon. And Pyp and Grenn have probably been sacrificed because there was not enough time spent building other secondary characters at the Wall. Someone had to go for the sake of some emotional farewells. But it almost rings hollow.
The next episode will feature more of the Wall but it is going to be tight considering there is major Arya and Tyrion episodes to wrap up, Daeny will at least need a look-in and Bran will finally return. But what about Yara, Theon and Ramsay, Pod and Brienne? And will we see that shock return in the finale? And how the hell did they stretch book three into two seasons and still run out of time?