I’m pretty confident that that was the first time in the series of Game of Thrones, where the location never changed. Everything we saw took place at Castle Black or within close proximity. Despite being incredibly outnumbered, the Watchers were able to hold off the Wildling attack from both sides of the wall. During the fight Ser Allister was killed by the eventually captured Tormund Giantsbane, and Jon Snow became the leader of Night’s Watch. The casualties were high for Keepers of The Wall but they were able to keep a giant from making its way inside and were able to defeat all of the Wildlings who breached the castle walls. One of those Wildlings ended up being Ygritte. Just as it looked like she and Jon were about to reconcile, she took an arrow that would eventually end her life. She and Jon were able to have one last moment together, and her last words were of course, “You know nothing Jon Snow.” I’m not really sure what to think about Jon going beyond the wall, completely alone and without his sword.
This episode showed us a complete transformation of Samwell Tarly. He is no longer the scared weakling that we met when he first joined the Night’s Watch back in season one. As he told Gilly, he is a man, and he must protect the wall because that’s what men do. Sam fought against the Wildlings, and not one time did he ever lose his nerve. He continued to fight until the battle was won, and in the end he kept his promise and returned to Gilly. I have a pretty strong feeling that won’t be the last time we see the two of them kiss one another and I think everyone saw that one coming.
I absolutely loved this episode. It was so much different then anything we have seen from this show before. I knew when Mance Rayders massive army finally made it to the wall it was going to be epic but, wow that was intense. There was not a single dull moment in the entire episode. Once that horn blew and you saw Jon look out beyond the wall, it was as though you could feel their stress, and that stress didn’t completely go away until that massive anchor scraped away the last of the Wildlings making their climb up the wall. My favorite moment though, was the incredibly long take from the time Jon began to make his way down the stairs into the fray, and then we didn’t see another cut until Sam made it to the door to let Ghost out. I had to rewind and watch it again, but there was so much going on in that one take! The camera work and the acting done by not only the key characters, but the extra’s as well was perfect. They must have rehearsed that one scene for weeks just to get it right. Only one episode remains in season four, and with an episode like this preceding the finale, you know the finale is going to be incredible.