Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “The Watchers on the Wall”

The Moment: Ygritte dies in Jon Snow’s arms

Setting the Scene: As Ygritte and her fellow wildlings storm Castle Black, she sees Jon Snow for the first time since they went their separate ways. Their chance meeting in the middle of the fierce battle has fatal consequences for Ygritte.

Why It’s Awesome: Ygritte brought out the best in Jon Snow—she was the fire to his ice. In the show (as well as in my experience with the books), Jon came alive during his time with Ygritte; she showed him how little he really knew about the world, she challenged him, and—most importantly—she made him happy. In that small moment when he sees her again before her death, we’re given a brief reminder that the fullest and most open Jon Snow smiles have been reserved for Ygritte.

However, Game of Thrones is no fairytale. In this story, the man and woman see each other again, but moments later the woman is killed by an arrow to her heart. The tonal shift from tentative reunion to heartbreaking farewell captured the spirit of grief and shock I felt in the book so well. On a show with so many relationships based on lies and power plays, Jon and Ygritte truly loved each other, and I was so happy to see their relationship’s final moments treated with the tenderness and sense of importance they deserved.

Ygritte’s final “You know nothing” served as a brutally sad parallel to happier times in their relationship, but it also served as a reminder that the Jon who first met Ygritte was a boy. She helped open his eyes to see the world in new ways and to see himself in ways he never would have known without her. Ygritte was so fundamentally important to Jon, and her death serves as a turning point for his character in the novels. It was wonderful to see Kit Harington play the scenes after her death with the gravitas necessary to depict that turning point onscreen.

Without giving too much away for those of you reading this who didn’t read the books, Ygritte’s death (and this whole battle) begins a huge arc for Jon.  Her death is is the moment Jon grows from an unsure bastard boy into a man, a leader, who’s loved and lost. It’s Ygritte’s memory that Jon returns to in moments of doubt later in the series. Her death forced him to grow up—it turned him from the smiling young man we saw right before she was slain to the man with the weight of the world on his shoulders but also the weight of authority in his voice who emerges at the end of this episode.

Things are about to get really good with Jon Snow’s story, and I’m so excited to watch it happen. It was such a smart idea to devote the whole hour to Jon’s character arc and the events that forever shape it. Jon always felt like a character who just needed the right arc—the right moment—to make me care about him. This is that arc. This is that moment. And I’m more excited than ever to see Harrington play what’s coming for Jon after seeing the excellent way he developed Jon’s character in this episode.

Honorable Mentions: Sam and Jon talk about his time with Ygritte, Sam and Gilly kiss, Ghost is unleashed

8 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “The Watchers on the Wall”

  1. I really love what is to come for Jon. I also love his friendship with Sam. Their discussion of Ygritte and what it’s like to love a woman was a great scene.

    As a whole, this episode wasn’t my favorite because the actual battle felt like it was a little too long but it did give me my two favorite moments from the episode. First, I loved Grenn sending Janos Slynt away and essentially giving Jon command of the men. I liked the recognition of his leadership skills and the willingness to follow his command. Second, Grenn and the men in the tunnel chanting the Night’s Watch vows made me tear up. They are beautiful vows and his doing it to bolster the men’s spirits and courage in the face of a giant made them all the more beautiful.

    I also liked Allister’s pre-battle speech to the men but Lord of the Rings has made me a sucker for those moments so I loved it even if I don’t love him. I love the moments of hope and courage that we see on the Wall even when everything else is so bleak.

    • I agree with you about the battle being a little too long. I knew there was no other way to do it than to make it a whole episode, but the actual fighting did become monotonous (I watched late at night and will admit to almost nodding off a few times, actually). I wish there had been a few more character beats in between the actual fight sequences because the beats we were given were perfect.

      Like you, I adore the Night’s Watch vows. Every time they’re spoken on the show, I get chills, and this time I definitely teared up. It’s some of George RR Martin’s most beautiful writing in the series.

  2. This was probably one of the few episodes (if not the only) where I’ve actually liked TV Jon Snow. Finally! I might be biased because most of my favourite actors happen to be outstandingly talented at showing their emotions with everything they have, not only words, and sadly Kit Harrington has been sorely lacking in that aspect, IMO (I’ve taken to call him Keanu Jr in my head). But that scene you picked was fantastic, particularly because there were so few words, and the words said were so important. Their expressions were perfect and the way the director chose to put them in their own little bubble within a raging battle was simple and brilliant.
    I also found myself actually liking Ser Alliser, which was also a first.
    I loved the scene with Sam and Jon, but I loved even more the one with Sam and Pyp. Basically, Sam was amazing during the whole thing. =)
    The episode as a whole has me torn. On one hand I thought it was a bit monotonous since we are used to so many different story arcs and characters per episode, but on the other hand it was interesting and action-packed and well done and felt like a mini action film so I wasn’t really too disappointed. And knowing what comes next for the Wall has me really curious about how they’re going to portray it.
    I can’t wait to see them back to Tyrion, Daenerys and co., though, even if it’s the last episode of the season!

    • I completely agree with you about the direction choices for Ygritte’s death scene. It had this beautiful sense of isolation to it in the middle of chaos that made it even more emotionally resonant. And, like you, I’ve been waiting for Harrington to capture my attention, and this was the episode where he finally did it. I think it also helps that this point in the book is where I really started to love Jon’s arc, too. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this side of Harrington because it makes me hopeful for the way he’ll be able to portray Jon’s story going forward.

      I was also somewhat torn about this episode. The seemingly endless battle scenes were more than a bit fatiguing. But it was shot beautifully and had a real cinematic feel to it. If nothing else, it left me looking forward to the continuation of this storyline more than I’ve ever been anticipating anything at the Wall on the show so far.

      I can’t believe next week is already the finale, and I am so excited about what’s to come in this episode!

  3. I am going to echo feeling torn about this episode. Because for as much as the actual fighting bored me, I absolutely loved ever character moment in the episode. This was an episode where we got to see who each man at the wall really was at their core, and it was long overdue. I went from not really caring at all about any of those people, to really being interested in what happens to all of them in the aftermath of this event moving forward.

    Highlights for me include:

    -Jon’s immediate smile as soon as he sees Ygritte. There are no torn feelings there. He is genuinely happy to see her. And I love how that smile immediately stuns Ygritte. I dont think she was expecting that reaction from him. And while it was sad to see Ygritte die, I have always been grateful they had that moment of closure. To me, Ygritte and Jon are GoT’s Romeo and Juliet. Star Crossed lovers from divided families. And as you mentioned, Jon’s relationship with Ygritte is everything to the man he becomes. I cant wait for Jon’s big moment to come in the finale. Its my absolute favorite moment in all 5 books so far. I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I couldn’t have asked for a better set up.

    -Jon’s talk with Ser Allister. I loved that Allister actually admitted to being wrong and showed Jon the respect he deserved. How many times have we seen people admit they were wrong on this show?

    -Grenn and group in the tunnel ready to fight the giant. I am quite torn up that they all died (which didnt actually happen in the books).

    All in all, the wall storyline needed this. I think they could have saved time and money by editing out some of the fighting, but its forgivable.

    • Sorry it took me so long to reply to this (when will real life stop interfering with things that are so much more fun?)! A week later, I think my ultimate impression of this episode is that it couldn’t have happened any other way. Yes, I was bored by some of it (action-sequence fatigue apparently also happens to me when I watch TV), but I’ll take even the boring bits because what was good was SO GOOD.

      Just reading what you said about Jon’s smile made me all emotional again. And I completely agree about loving Ser Allister’s admission that he was wrong. It’s such a rare thing on this show, so I treasure it whenever it happens.

  4. Pingback: The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/8 – 6/15) | Nerdy Girl Notes

  5. Pingback: Grading the Season Finales 2014: Game of Thrones | Nerdy Girl Notes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s