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I’ve taken to calling Dolorus Edd “Eeyore”- then in this episode I realized the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood crew was present as well:
Jon: “We have to seal the gate, the wildlings are into my rutebega!”
Sam: “Oh Bother, Gilly’s dead.”
Pyp: “Oh d.d.d.d.dear, we’re all going to die!”
Grenn: “Holding the gate is what tiggers do best!”
Gilly: “I’m the only female for miles, and I’m carrying my spawn”
I remember after watching the first 3 episode 9’s feeling like ‘OMG! That was amazing!’ Whereas with this one, I was kind of like ‘Yeah, that was pretty cool.’ Maybe an 8 out of 10 compared to a 10 out of 10 for the other episode 9’s.
I think there are two main reasons for that feeling, I suspect, amongst most people. One being that the first 3 ep 9’s all involved the main players of the storyline: the Lannisters and the Starks. I know Jon is in this one, but idk the Wall still feels a bit remote. We aren’t as invested in the Night’s Watch as we are in King’s Landing or the Starks.
In hindsight I kind of wish they’d had the Thenn attack from the south occur somewhere midseason, like in the books, and then have episode 9 involve the attack from the north, and then also be able to include Jon’s parley with Mance, and have Stannis saving the day be the end of the episode. Instead the Stannis arrival was at the start of the final episode, where it seems like it won’t have quite as much of a lasting impact, IMO. It was a great scene, but if it was at the end of episode 9 it would have been that much more impactful.
Personally I think the fact that they chose to do this year’s Episode 9 at Castle Black with the NW, signifies that the show is trying to move away from King’s Landing and Lannister shenanigans to focus more on what’s happening with the Wall and the White Walkers. I really feel the tone shifting there.
I’m not sure having the two attacks would have been better. Without the attack south of the Wall, you lose a lot of the urgency because the enemy’s only on one side.
And I think the show’s been very clear: the Wall is the important story, King’s Landing is the distraction.
Agreed. It’s why the KL stuff makes you want to scream “you petty assholes!” so much at the tv sometimes.
I would say the show has paid lip service to that idea, but (much like the books, really) it is far more interested in the distraction than the “important story”.
I disagree – from the pilot through Jon’s storyline in Season 1, to the undead horde that ended Season 2, to Aemon’s letter in Season 3, they’ve been pretty damn clear on the point.
That would be the lip service. But if you look at the show’s focus, you can see fairly clear what the writers are most interested in.
The problem is that more important for the fate of Westeros does not equal more interesting for the viewer, especially given that more time has been spent down south. That’s especially been a problem this season, with Jon’s storyline feeling very stretched and the filler feeling below par, eg the sloppy attack on Craster’s keep. Also, unlike the Red Wedding and Blackwter, the wall isn’t yet a nexus for more than one storyline, so its impact is diluted in comparison.
I liked this episode fine, but this really felt like the episode where the chickens of the writers’ general neglect of the Wall came home to roost. Jon and Sam are really the only characters consistently featured in this episode that the show has really developed a strong viewer attachment to; to a lesser extent, Gilly and Maester Aemon (who, thanks to Peter Vaughan’s wonderful performance, has a presence considerably larger than his screentime), but they both vanish after the opening scenes pre-battle (which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to me; with Wildlings running all over the place, it seems like the non-combatants’ presence could have been spotlighted a bit more).
Also, Ygritte has been such a minimal presence this season (she’s probably had, what, ten lines?) that her death loses a lot of its impact.
I would say it’s more the decision to make this the ninth episode and combine the battle of Castle Black with the battle for the Wall that really lowered the impact.
Jon left Ygritte and the wildlings in season 3. By putting all of the battles at the end of Season 4, there was a gap of almost 10 episodes where there was really nothing for both the Wildlings south of the wall (Ygritte, Tormund etc) and the Night’s Watch to do.
Jon got an invented storyline that took him to Craster’s Keep, but even that felt like wheel spinning. Besides that it was a lot of “hurry up and wait” by both the Watch and the Wildlings. Had the battle of Castle Black been in episode 5 or 6, it might have compressed some of the timelines a bit and removed the drawn out feeling that this storyline had in the show.
I also think a few shots of the main Wilding army marching (ala the Orc army in LOTR: The Two Towers) during the season and then a shot of them with the Wall visible in episode 8 have really reinforced the threat faced by the Night’s Watch. Instead we kept hearing about this huge host but we never saw it until the very end. Maybe this was budgetary…
Budget would certainly be part of it. From what Alex Graves said about episode 10, one of the reasons the battle when Stannis arrives is over so quickly is that they were basically out of money.
Maybe that’s why Ciaran Hinds only appeared in one episode this season.
I’ve heard some speculation that both the battle on the Ice and the battle of Slaver’s Bay will happen in Season 5. I wonder if the show has the budget to do 2 large scale battles in one season…
Depends how big the scale is. Remember for Dany’s takeover of Mereen they got creative just showing the slaves rioting. The battle with the CoTF was pretty special effects heavy too and the Purple Wedding must have been expensive-as was the final shot with Arya.
I think they’ll do shots from both battles in one episode but probably not show the full extent of both of them-battle of WF may concentrate more on the personal drama than the effects so they can save the money for Mereen.
It’s an interesting question – certainly as HBO’s biggest show, the budget will increase. And with the dragons chained, there’s only 1-2 episodes with the dragons next season. However, I’m going to guess we get the Battle of Ice and Dany’s flight rather than both battles in one season.
That assumes they even decide to *do* Dany’s flight. I for one think next season ends with Tyrion meeting Dany and convincing her it’s time to come to the Seven Kingdoms.
I think they’ll do the flight, because it’s such a dramatix VFX moment. I think they’ll cut short her sojourn though.
I think if we only get one battle next year, it’s more likely to get the battle of Slaver’s Bay for 2 reasons:
1.) Dany’s storyline is significantly ahead of Jon’s vis a vi the books. In her final chapter of ASOS, Dany decides to rule Mereen. Jon actually becomes LC in his second from last chapter. His final chapter is “Edd, get me a block.” In the show, Dany has been ruling Mereen for 6 episodes now, and things have already gone sideways for her. Meanwhile Jon hasn’t been elected commander of the NW yet. If we don’t get the battle of Mereen this season, Dany’s storyline is really (at least IMO) going to feel like wheel spinning.
2.) The climactic battle this season was in the snow. That might be enough for the show runners to want to change appearances and do a big battle scene somewhere else.
1. What? Edd get me a block is from ADWD.
2. That’s a fair point. However, that really puts pressure on other storylines next season – you have to get the marriage, the peace treaty, her flying, the siege, the overthrow of Hizdar, but you also have to get Tyrion to Meereen, ditto Quentyn, ditto Victarion, which means the Dornish plot and the Ironborn plot get squeezed.
That’s assuming they don’t compress things in Mereen a bit, Steve which I think they might well do. I really do think they want to end Season 5 with Dany heading for Westeros-fact is they can’t keep delaying it forever like in the books-viewers are already frustrated. They need to show forward movement there or risk mass fan revolt. ESPECIALLY if they’re going for Seven Seasons-TWOW and ADOS must be jammed full of stuff and they have to get moving.
Of course one argument for having the Battle of Winterfell next season is they won’t leave Stannis with nothing to do, but will get him started-and Ramsay and Roose are already established at Winterfell by this point. We shall see.
Ah you’re right about “Edd get me a block” being in a ADWD. But both Jon and Dany do become rulers (or commander in Jon’s case) at the end of ASOS. In the show, Dany’s storyline is half a season ahead of Jon’s.
I also agree that Dany needs to look West at the end of this season or else there might be a fan revolt. With the exception of Theon/Ramsay (which has a big payoff this coming season), Dany’s storyline is the one I’ve heard the most complaints from non-book readers about a perceived lack of movement/repetitiveness. I suspect some judicious editing by the showrunners will actually really improve it.
Dany’s flight seems like something that’s actually very likely to make it in the show. It feels like one of those “It’s HBO” moment. The biggest “It’s not TV, It’s HBO moment” in the next season? Frey pie :).
I think Dany will look West at the end of the Season – whether that requires the Battle of Fire, or the Dany’s flight and her saying, I’m done with Meereen, it’s time to go to Westeros, not sure.
I cannot WAIT for Frey pie. And Davos getting his “Ser Jared Frey, I name you liar” moment.
I NEED Frey pie on screen after everything we’ve been through-I just NEED it. I would prefer they stick with the Manderly’s for it, but I can live with them transferring it to the Umbers.
I’m seeing next season as being when we realize that while there may be no justice in King’s Landing it can be found in the North!
Oh, it’ll definitely be the Manderlys – they didn’t cast that Manderly dude for one shot in the RW without a reason.
Hope you’re right about that. In any event though, I don’t think Osha and Rickon will be on Skagos for the show which I think is an improvement. Frankly, the whole notion that the mute Wex could have seen them leaving on a boat and KNOW the boat was headed for Skagos always bugged me. And featuring the Umbers again could help remind people how badly the North got hurt by the RW-and see to it that Rickon is brought back into the main story sooner.
But yeah, I want to see Manderly on screen with Bolton and the Frey’s messing with their heads.
It’s not like Manderly can’t send Davos to the Umbers to get Rickon back.
Guys i think you’re jumping the gun here!! Potential SPOILERS!!!
S5 in dorne will be confinded to the watergardens,doran,areo,3 sand snakes,tystan,myrcella & from what i hear….jaime will be heading down too.
S5 at the wall..they held back lord commander snow & lord jon stark plus there’s dealing with stannis on a day 2 day basis plus hill clans,burning ‘mance’& getting rid of stannis would be a good place to end at the wall.
S5 for tyrion the wirters could have him do things a bit differently but i think the greyscale men is a great place to end s5 but he’d need to meet the griff’s first,well at least old griff.
Then theres the prologue from ASOS(i nearly kicked my tv screen in when it didn’t happen)They can do a whole bunch with this story line.
S5 in meereen sons of the harpy plus banging daario more & a wedding could leave it there
S5 for brienne..she’s still gotta meet randyll tarly and maybe solve the mystery of the hound or go on a wild goose chase & have a fight in the rain with a man who she was told was dead….the bwb could have his armour,,,plus get saved by a guy who was last seen rowing a boat in s3.
S5 for arya might just be about the temple of the many faced god eg. stripping dead bodies ect otherthings depend on where sam is.
S5 in the north depends if they dropped the ‘Arya’ winterfell story line could do some cool things with theon & a weirwood.
S5 for sansa will be to do with stuff adapted from book 6 or new all together & the only thing left from book 4.
S5 in the iron isles will be to with balons plans for yara as his heir to the seastone chair & yara’s boyfriend & her lovesick puppy that follows her everywere and then something to do with a bridge & a sudden stop.
S5 for cersei the whole margaery scandle & the burning of the tower of the hand……plus theres jaime,the high sparrow,bronn…..
If we get an ice boxset s1-5 in 2016 well who knows how long it will go.
I agree with your last comment; a shot of the Wildling army on the move, maybe a shot or two of Mance Rayder would be better.
But I think the simultaneous fights were a big part of the drama of the episode.
I certainly felt attached to Grenn, Pypp, and Dolorous Edd. I was surprisingly moved by Alliser Thorne.
And I think the Ygritte thing has a lot to do with how much you bought into that relationship from Season 2 through 3 in the first place.
I really loved the scene with Grenn’s last stand, and was moved by Pyp as well. Hell, I actually found myself respecting Alliser for a change even.
This was an episode that grew on me more with repeated viewings.
Agreed on both.
I really couldn’t tell them apart until the last episode or two. I agree about Thorne (who was the real star of this episode, in my opinion).
As to the relationship, I liked their scenes, for the most part (they dropped the ball with them in the first half of season 3 by focusing so little on them).
I actually thought the show captured Alliser Thorne perfectly (or at least perfectly aligned their portrayal of him with the way I imagined him).
I always thought of Thorne as the Westerosi equivalent of a WWII Marine drill sergeant who was in combat and then was sent home to train new recruits. He knows the horrors the new recruits will face, and he views it as his job to get them ready for war. He’s not there to be kind or nurture them, and he has a very battle-focused and short term view of his institution (we’re at war, we need to win this war). Of course he wouldn’t like or respect someone like Sam Tarly, who he sees as essentially canon fodder.
This doesn’t make him a *bad* person, just one who’s loyalty is to the institution he loves, specifically upholding it’s standards and traditions. But since in the books we see him through Jon’s perspective, he comes off as a bad guy.
I don’t think Thorne would have the long term thinking to be an effective LC of the Night’s Watch with some of the unique threats they’re facing (The Others, Wilding refugees) currently, but in a time where minor Wilding raids were the main threat, he’d probably be fine.
Agreed, with one alteration: I think he’s a bad drill sergeant. He’s not good at actually teaching people how to fight.
Which is one area where Jon *clearly* has the advantage over him. Jon is in fact a very, very good teacher.
That’s a reason why I think it’s a realistic portrayal of leadership as well. You will have people that are in positions of authority that aren’t spectacular- frankly mediocre at times but who can still utilize what skills they do have when pressed to it. Part of the Nights’ Watch problem seems to be (among others) a longstanding dearth or depletion of its leadership corps- so many of its most effective men are Rangers who often wind up lost or disappeared. Mormont was capable but also probably ended up Lord Commander because he was a prominent Northern Lord, a fighter’s fighter- but maybe not as imaginative as he could have been. Thorne is an experienced man, but lacks the people skills (which a drill sergeant somewhat needs, if even to pull off the gruff personality but have an effect on the people they are training- it’s not just being able to shout at someone, but to pull apart their flaws and build them back up again into something useful). Thorne seems to only get how to be tough without communicating exact survival skills- he’s not a GOOD man in charge.
He is not utterly inept either (as most fictional portrayals of leaders tend to be, they are either Sam Damon-like heroes, political schemers, or incompetents). Instead he is flawed but competent enough to, with their backs to the wall- actually be inspired to eloquence and personal example. More a Douglas Haig (the real Douglas Haig, not the Blackadder parody) than a bumbler. I really like that aspect of it- it feels more real, and the actor playing Thorne really pulls it off well/clearly had some fun with it.
Agreed. Showing Thorne’s courage and leadership in battle, plus his talk with Jon made for a nice contrast between Thorne and Janos Slynt. Thorne is someone who is miscast for his role as trainer (or acting Lord Commander), but values the institution of the Night’s Watch.
Thorne values the traditions of the institution more than the spirit of the institution, which is a problem when the institution is presented with a problem that forces it change or die.
Jon values the spirit of the institution more than the traditions, which lets him make needed changes in a time of crisis, but gets also him in trouble with some members of the institution itself.
Janos Slynt just values himself. It’s funny that Steven also reviewed the chapter where Slynt gets sent to the wall this week. In both the show and the chapter, Slynt talks a big game and then pretty much folds the second he’s challenged.
I disagree with everything you said excusing the failings of this episode.
For someone who tries to couch the chapters in terms of historical military battles, this episode made no sense.
1) The Wildlings say that they see 20 or so Night’s Watch in the fort. No problem there, except that from the moment the battle starts, we see the Wildlings kill almost a dozen Night’s Watch with no casualties in return besides the initial little bit of arrow fire. The battle would have been over early with 8 Night’s watch against 50 wildlings but it continues for as long as it needs to dramatically.
I was supposed to feel like the deaths of the beleaguered and outnumbered Night’s Watch were important, but I didn’t because they apparently had unlimited troops who, despite being largely criminals and farmers, were more than a match for experienced northern barbarian badasses.
2) The scale of the attack made no sense. Mance has 100,000 people. He attacked the North side of the wall with maybe a 1000. In episode 10, he laments about Mag the mighty, but my thought was “Why the hell was the king of giants sent to the front of the wall with only 2 mammoths and 300 wildlings. Once he opened the door, there should have been dozens of wildlings rushing in to help him attack.
I know in the books the attack is more of a probe, but no one mentions it on the show.
In the end it was just a pretty battle scene that lacked substance or emotion.
1. I think you’re exagerrating and forgetting the fact that the NW kept shifting their forces down the Wall to stop the southern advance. And the fact that the Wildlings are discussing how many they see on the southern gate, rather than how many are in the yard.
2. Mance mentions it’s a probing operation at the very beginning of Ep 10, Jon does the same thing at the end of Episode 9.
1) As a historian, you should be bit more mindful of the primary material I went back and watched. Ygritte kills 6 people, Tormund Giantsbane kills 11 people, including Alistair. The big evil Thenn guy kills 8. Altogether, we see 37 Night’s Watch guys die in castle black. (Not counting the 7 who die at the top or the 6 who die at the gate)
Keep in mind that the flimmakers want to show us only snippets and have the idea that this is an ongoing battle. 37 die on screen, but that means no one else can be possibly dying off screen since then the Night’s Watch would disappear. Hell, two thirds through the episode, we do that panorama 360 shot and you still 20+ Night’s Watch still fighting even though 25 of them have already died.
Nor does the Night’s watch seem to suffer any loss of force density or combat strength from all these. There’s always roughly the same amount of guys fighting in the courtyard.
Ah… but the Wildlings suffered casualties too… They did, 19. 8 of those after Jon comes back down.
2) If it was a probing operation, why send the KING OF ALL GIANTS! After all, he has more giants, more mammoths.
I counted in the overhead shot, he sent 54 guys to the gate along with the giants. Had he sent 1000, i.e. 1% of his force. The gate would be gone with still no risk.
I get a probe, I don’t get sending your most valuable asset (Mag the Mighty) in the probe when you know that the defenses are all going to be at full strength and concentrated at the gate.
But Mance is a tactical genius… for sending 54 guys and 2 giants to get slaughtered in a probing attack when 500 guys and 2 giants would have won the day.
It was badly thought out and poorly done.
1. And…? There’s 100 men at Castle Black. But Castle Black is only 1/3 of the Night’s Watch. So yes, they absolutely can lose 37 men and have 20+ fighting on the ground. They’ve got a similar number of men on the ground because they keep feeding men into keeping the courtyard.
2. Mag the Mighty DECIDES to go through the tunnel because he’s enraged when the other giant dies. And it’s quite possible had he sent 1000, 1000 men would have died when the NW dropped burning oil on them and the mammoths panicked.
37 ON SCREEN. That means that every time the camera cuts away, no one else can be dying. Also, the one sidedness of the fight never tells.
The Wildling attack force is 50 people. They lose 19 but 8 of those are only after Jon comes down.
So we have this situation where, for the show to make sense, the Night’s Watch has to suffer 0 offscreen casualties while the wildlings suffer 31, which is odd because we see Tormund, Ygritte, the Thenn guy each killing 3 men of the Night’s Watch in the space of 10 seconds. The Wildlings are very clearly inflicting casualties at a 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 ratio and Tormund, the Thenn guy, and Ygritte are walking across the battle and picking their fights at will.
50 wildling attackers vs. 70 some men in Castle Black… at 3 to 1, they should be dead.
Apparently, the Night’s Watch becomes super effective as long they aren’t on film.
Good to know. .
2) You’re an expert in Medieval warfare. That sentence should be an embarrassment. 2 mammoths panicked. He has more. Burning oil was in limited amounts. With more men, it’s a situation like Blackwater where the wildfire hurts but it doesn’t actually dissuade the determined attacker.
I’m not talking about Mag the Mighty charging the gate. I’m talking about Mag the mighty being involved in the probe vs the defenses at full strength. He’s irreplaceable so why is he in what’s not even the first wave just a probe?
Send in 1000 people with a ram and start attacking the gate to draw out the boiling oil. Then send other giants. .
I didn’t really have a problem with this episode and I actually enjoyed it for the most part. I think my problem was with the buildup and the show maybe not doing as good a job at getting us to care about these characters. The wildlings are basically Orcs. I’m not sure the gravitas of this situation was really done well by the show, and I’m not sure show viewers really have a reason to sympathise with the wildlings or care about what happens to them outside of maybe Ygritte. And I couldn’t believe Mance wasn’t there, let alone the other person I expected at the end.
This could be a case of me idealising Blackwater but the clear difference to me was the writing. And I think we had a much better idea of the stakes in that episode then we did in this one.
I did really like Sam talking to Pyp about killing the Other. Almost makes up for my annoyance at how that was handled last season.
Ygritte and Tormund were non-orcs. And while I agree the lack of Mance was palpable, your sympathy is supposed to be with the Watch, not the wildlings.
I think they rectified a lot of my frustrations in the final episode to be honest. I just wish we had a clearer idea of their motivations before this episode. I am biased as someone who really liked the free folk in the book though.
I did actually like this episode once I got over my disappointment at Stannis not being there at the end (which doesn’t really matter when you watch the episodes back to back). I was annoyed at Sam’s ‘that’s what men do’ comment. I would have liked if they whores from Moles Town helped with the defences rather then being killed. Although someone did point out to me that there were apparently quite a few female wildlings in the wider shots of the army.
I’m really glad they didn’t rush Jon becoming Lord Commander into next episode. I think that’s such an important moment for Sam and his character development needs it. Pretty excited for Stannis and Mel at the wall (although they better not burn Shireen)
That shot of Mel looking at Jon through the flames in the final episode made me really happy.
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