Fighting! So much fighting. Fighting and ice and also giant mammoths. Game of Thrones has something of a tradition of putting all kinds of drama and blood into the penultimate episode of each season. Season two's ninth episode "Blackwater" was all about, well, The Battle of Blackwater. Last night's episode was in the same mold, focusing on the Night's Watch and their battle with the Wildlings at the Wall.

Arrows flew. Characters died. There were mammoths! Spoilers after the jump.

Im maybe 80 or 90% sure that you dont actually hold a sword like that. Probably.
  • I'm maybe 80 or 90% sure that you don't actually hold a sword like that. Probably.

Okay, before anything else, how are the Night's Watch and the Wildlings even fighting? The Wall is a thousand feet high, so it's roughly as tall as the Chrysler Building. How are the Wildling archers supposed to hit that? There's wind and darkness and all that and I'm reasonably sure that bows can't fire that far. Even if they could, I'm reasonably sure that they couldn't fire that far with accuracy. Whatever. It's a fantasy show. Just go with it.

The Education of Samwell Tarly. This was Sam’s episode. All of the best dialogue, all of the most interesting character development, and most of the best scenes revolved around a guy who’s ostensibly a sidekick but makes a much better main character. Early in the episode Sam and Jon were keeping watch on top of the Wall and Sam, quite rightly, pointed out there were some loopholes in the Night’s Watch’s oath. The oath states that those who take the black cannot marry or father children but that doesn’t preclude, as Sam notes “other activities.” That kind of wit is exactly what made the character so appealing, and set the tone for the rest of the episode. What follows is a list of awesome things done by Sam, the best character on the Wall:

-He talked with Maester Aemon about girls and found out that they guy was a Targaryen!

-He got the gate open for Gilly by shouting his first F-bomb ever!

-He smooched a girl!

-He said of killing a White Walker that “I was nothing at all. When you’re nothing at all, there’s no more reason to be afraid.” Sam, that is some serious warrior-poet shit right there!

-He smart-talked an archer who kept missing!

-He held his dying friend and was all like “Don’t die on me!” (But the guy died anyway.)

-He waded into the fray and CROSSBOWED A THENN IN THE FUCKING FACE! (My viewing party made “Yay!” and “Woo!” noises when this happened.

Samwell Tarly, you are more than a man of the Night’s Watch. Sam, in this episode you became a MAN. I salute you.

Jon Snow also did some stuff. Other than the bit with Ygritte (we’ll get to that in a minute) Jon Snow didn’t really have that much to do this episode. He gave commands, oversaw logistics, and sword-ed some dudes, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. He seemed competent, which was important, but still interesting. He’s got a lot in common with Robb, in that respect. At the end of the episode he did decide to go on what’s essentially a suicide mission, though, so that’s cool.

Manic Pixie Wildling Girl, R.I.P. A few episodes ago a young boy in the Night’s Watch said that he was the best archer in his hamlet. I predicted that he’d kill someone in particular, and last night he did. The kid’s arrow found his way to Ygritte. There’s a decent probability that you think the death of Ygritte is sad or tragic or interesting. The show certainly wants you to think there is, what with Jon Snow taking time out of the battle to have her die in his arms. I don’t think that her death is all that sad, though. Fuck Ygritte, and fuck her band of killer ice hippies, too.

The Wildlings are not good guys. They’ve allied themselves with the cannibalistic Thenns and they killed numerous civilians in Molestown. They are, assuredly, not noble savages who live in harmony with nature or whatever. They’re killer raiders whose society is based on violence, and they are waging a war of aggression against the Night’s Watch. Ygritte was part of that, and she was never all that interesting. She existed only so that Jon Snow would have internal conflict between his vows and his boner, and wasn’t really developed beyond that. Everything about Ygritte only exists in the context of Jon Snow, so much so that her dying words are all about him. I’m not too sad to see her go.

The redemption of Alliser Thorne. The commander of the Night’s Watch has played something of a villain role throughout this season, but last night Mormont’s uptight successor got something of a redemption on his way out. He admitted to Jon Snow that he was wrong about the logistics of the upcoming fight, and talked frankly about how leadership was difficult. He was able to lead his men into melee fairly competently, and went out bravely in a last stand against Tormund Giantsbane. It was cathartic to see an antagonist character get, instead of comeuppance, a chance change their standing with the viewer. That doesn’t happen terribly often in this show.

Besides, the Night’s Watch will soon have another, different, uptight authority figure to deal with. I was kind of surprised he didn’t show up in this episode, honestly.

Giants and mammoths! I don’t really have much to say other than this episode’s giants and mammoths being pretty badass, but there it is. We got to see a huge GWAR-looking dude ride an angry snuffaluffagus, and it was fantastic.

The episode ended with Jon Snow conceding that, even though the Night's Watch had won the battle, there were still thousands of Wildlings to deal with. An another attack would be inevitable. He left to go find Mance Rayder (Again, the guy's name sounds like "manse raider." A little on the nose, don't you think?) and hopefully kill the leader of the Free Folk and put an end to it all. Not a great plan, but it's not like he has any alternatives.

Also, Tormund Giantsbane claimed to have fucked a bear. That was weird.

See you guys next week! The last episode, fittingly, airs on Father's Day.