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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Watchers on the Wall” (S4, E9)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Watchers on the Wall” (S4, E9)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 4, Episode 9: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Original Air Date: June 8th, 2014
Director: Neil Marshall
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Like all of Game of Thrones other big spectacle episodes–“Blackwater,” “Hardhome,” “Battle of the Bastards”–the most memorable aspect of “The Watchers on the Wall” is the amazing, two-front fight that takes place at Castle Black. I remember being floored by this episode originally, but somehow it’s even better than I remembered. The action sequences and direction by Neil Marshall (who also helmed “Blackwater” in season two) would look incredible in a big budget Hollywood blockbuster, let alone in a single hour of television.


Yet, without the human element at the core of these episodes, the battles would be fun to watch, but emotionally empty. Fortunately “The Watchers on the Wall,” like the other three in the same vein, is full of great, powerful, character-driven moments, including a final one that might point to a very sad but heroic end one day for Jon Snow.

There are so many poignant and heartbreaking scenes throughout it’s not possible to give them each their due, but they deserve to be recognized:

  • Jon and Sam talk about the women in their lives and the chance the two of them might not live through the night.
  • Gilly returns to the Wall and Sam swears to never leave her again.
  • Maester Aemon tells Sam about the woman he once loved and why love is the death of duty.
  • Sam gives Pyp a pep talk about bravery, but later has to hold Pyp as he dies.


  • Allister Thorne tells Jon about the burden of leadership.
  • Jon sends Grenn to defend the gate against a giant, even though he knows Grenn probably won’t survive.
  • Grenn and five Brothers recite their Night’s Watch vows as Mag the giant charges at them. (Maybe my biggest omission from this list of the show’s saddest moments.)
  • Jon gives Edd command of the Wall.
  • Jon holds a dying Ygritte in her arms after Ollie shoots her with an arrow through the heart.
  • Jon and Sam find the fallen bodies of Grenn and the others, alongside the body of Mag.


It’s an astonishing hour from start to finish, but for those of us trying to look ahead, it’s the final moment that seems most significant now. The episode ends with Jon recognizing that Mance Rayder’s forces are too great to hold off for more than another night or two, making the death of every man of the Night’s Watch, and then the death of everyone in Westeros for a thousand miles, inevitable.

So he tells Sam he is going out beyond the Wall to meet with Mance, where he plans on killing him. Mance is the binding force of the entire wildling army, and Jon believes that without him the hundred clans will begin infighting, which will make them scatter. Jon’s logic is sound, but as Sam points out to him, even if he kills Mance they’ll certainly kill Jon–after they torture him for a few days.

“It’s a bad plan,” Jon says, before asking Sam, “What’s your plan?”

Sam has no other, and while far from perfect, Jon’s offers hope that everyone else at the Wall will be spared, even though it means his certain death.


You might think it is a stupid and poorly thought out plan by Jon, or that it’s the only way to stop Mance, but there is no arguing that it is brave. Jon doesn’t have to be the one to do something like this, he isn’t Lord Commander yet, he’s just a steward despised by half of his fellow brothers. But with Alliser Thorne hurt, Janos Slynt literally hiding during the battle, and no one else to take charge, there is a leadership void, and Jon is the only one who steps up to answer it. Jon recognizes the need for a leader, but more importantly he recognizes the need for someone to put an end to this threat, even if the cost is his own life.

So off he goes beyond the Wall, leaving his closest friend Sam behind once more to wonder if Jon will ever return. We know he won’t die, but it’s remarkable to watch Jon march off to sacrifice himself to save others. More importantly it could indicate Jon’s ultimate fate one day.


Jon sent his friend Grenn off to certain death during one battle, and was willing to stop an army of 100,000 wildlings with his own life, so what might he be willing to do when an army of the dead marches on the Wall? Who or what else will he sacrifice when facing the greatest threat ever?

No one else knows the danger of the White Walkers more than Jon Snow, and no one else, not even the most fearless and brave like Daenerys, has been willing to risk his or her life in the name of duty and others quite like he has. Why would we expect anything less of Jon when the great war comes?

This is George R.R. Martin, so we’re not guaranteed anyone will be standing at series’ end other than some blue-eyed demons, but if the living do defeat the dead we know it will come at the expense of some our favorite characters. At the top of that list is a man who has shown he is willing to pay the ultimate price.

Jon marched off to meet with Mance with no intention of returning; he was willing to die to save countless others. We shouldn’t expect anything less from him when he has to save the entire world.

What do you think of this episode? What about the future for Jon Snow? We’ll be watching our comments section below for your thoughts.

Images: HBO

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