Last week on Game of Thrones, Sansa took charge, Tyrion discussed beetles, and the Red Viper battled The Mountain. This week, we spent a whole lot of time out at The Wall. GOT is all about how people jockey for power, so click through for our season four Game of Thrones Power Rankings.
Game Of Thrones Power Rankings, Week 9:
1. The Biggest Fire The North Has Ever Seen: Despite being absent for the last 14 episodes, the once and future King Beyond The Wall, Mance Rayder, made good on his promise to light a really big bonfire. This episode was the spiritual follow-up to season two's landmark "Blackwater" episode—same director (Neil Marshall), big battle, one location. While the storylines at The Wall haven't been as compelling this season as those of King's Landing back in season two, it was still a monumentally entertaining and enjoyable hour, an action movie filled with inventive camerawork (scythe shot!) and a classic underdog drama (102 Night's Watch vs. 100K Wildings). We very much appreciated the CGI flourishes (the wooly mammoths, the details to the Wall), the special uninterrupted sweeping camera shot 3/4 through the episode following all the fighting around Castle Black, and the extreme amount of first person POV shots (Ygritte, Wildings storming the gate, Ghost, various archers). It was the show's most expensive episode ever, and they made it count.
2. Jon Snow's Blossoming Sense Of Leadership: He may not be a bleeding poet, but Lord Snow is decidedly a leader of men now. He's also our only conventional hero (not named Rickon) left in the entire story (other options: teenage girl with dragons and ruler's angst, witty dwarf with homicidal family issues, disturbed young girl who dreams of murdering half of Westeros, Hodor, Lord Oaf Of Highgarden), so it's about time he stepped up and proved he was truly a great fighter (and actor Kit Harrington can swing a sword as well as anyone on the show).
Now that he knows that the hammer is mightier than the anvil, maybe he can put aside his Death Cab records long enough to hammer out a peace treaty with Mance. Oh who are we kidding, his ex-girlfriend just died in his arms; let's hope he brought his walkman along with him for that long walk to Mance:
3. Fucking Giants Riding Fucking Humongous Wooly Mammoths! Not only that: a giant frantically chasing a wooly mammoth that is ON FIRE. And they were real giants to boot!!
4. Please Give Maester Aemon More Scenes In Which He Gets To Joyfully Monologue About His Past Life As A Targaryen: Now that we've lost so many vaguely familiar faces at The Wall, we need to hold onto the few recognizable people left even tighter. Paramount among those is Maester Aemon, aka Aemon Targaryen, the last Targaryen in Westeros (and Dany's great uncle). "Love is the death of duty," he tells Sam. "But Maester Aemon, lovin' is what I got," Sam responded. "Samwell, you give love a bad name," Aemon added.
5. Tormund Giantsbane: The last Wilding standing at the end of the battle of Castle Black. A warrior. A poet. A man who proudly tells people about that one time he had sex with a bear.
6. Samwell Tarly's Bar Mitzvah: We're so happy you could join us here today for our boychick's big day! We can't stop kvelling: he practiced his Haftorah all night in the library...or at least he did in between listening to that old man's dirty stories. Call me an alter cocker, but that Maester is ferblunjit, fercockt AND fershlugina.
But no matter, this was such an exciting week for our little schlemiel (we're just kibitizing, we love you Sam)—no more tsetummelting through the woods for him! He learned a little about shtupping from that momzer Jon Snow, he had his first kiss with that nafka Gilly, he talked a lot about "what men do," and he didn't get all ferdrayt when his buddy died in his arms. Our little shayget's no longer a pisher.
7. The Previously On GOT Hey! Who's That Guy With The Terrible Wig Who Keeps Talking About Lighting Fires?: Ohhhhh, Mance Rayder, right right. That's what he looks like. Hail Caesar.
8. The Added Benefit Of Those Previously On GOT Flashbacks That Start The Episode: If you're like us, then you turn into GOT every week at 8:55 p.m. and sit through seven thousand previews for Lost 2: The Leftovers and True Blood Season 19: This Show Was Never As Enjoyable Or Popular As HBO Wanted To Believe It Was. And then comes the Previously Ons, which always do a good job reminding us of minor plot points that will be important in the forthcoming episode (they also sometimes show us a glimpse of Ned Stark's Manbun, whose effortless bob is sorely missed by Power Rankings HQ).
We've complained all season about how thin the storyline at The Wall has been—essentially, we've had one or two scenes every week teasing the big conflict between the Night's Watch and Mance Rayder's army, which has left everyone's favorite Emo Kid with nothing much to do but clean up old business (the mess at Craster's Keep) and look sullen. Taken in fragments, it's been underwhelming. But it all seemed a whole lot richer in tonight's Previously On, with just about all those scenes getting a flash onscreen. Sure, there may only have been enough material at The Wall for two or three episodes, but it sure made for a good montage.
9. Ser Alliser Thorne: "Do you know what leadership means Lord Snow? It means that the person in charge gets second guessed by every clever little twat with a mouth. When he starts second guessing himself, that's the end. For him, for the clever little twats, for everyone." Even bullies sometimes get some redemption on GOT...before getting sliced in the gut.
10. Ed, The Last Person In Charge On Top Of The Wall: We have no idea if we ever met this guy before this week [Ed. Note: we've met him a lot], but honestly, he did just as good a job as Jon Snow, so maybe we should keep the status quo for now. He was a perfect mixture of Ser Bronn-esque joie de vivre and Jon's emo grittiness. And that scythe move was pretty clutch.
11. Don't Get Us Wrong, We Enjoyed This Episode A Whole Lot, They Outdid Themselves With The Giants & The Mammoths & The Scope Of It All...But We're Also Still Thinking About Some Of The Storylines Hanging In The Balance From Last Week, Which Reminds Us, The Mountain Is A Good Guy In Real Life: If you won't take Prince Oberyn's word for it, trust a three-year-old.
12. The Mellifluous Sound Of Arya's Laughter Still Echoing In The Distance: "My half-brother's Wilding girlfriend was killed in front of his eyes by a child who was encouraged to kill Wilding's by my brother's best friend, a child whose family was killed in front of HIS eyes by her people? L-O-L."
13. The Double-Edged Sword Of Being Nothing At All And Not Nothing Anymore: Asked how he was able to summon the courage to kill a White Walker, Sam explains: "I wasn't Samwell Tarly anymore, I wasn't a steward in the Night's Watch or son of Randall Tarly, or any of that. I was nothing at all. And when you're nothing at all, there's no more reason to be afraid...but I'm not nothing anymore."
This was but one of several Samwell Tarly philosophical musings this episode, along with "what does sex feel like" and "no, seriously, describe to me in detail what the fuck sex feels like before I die, bro." Maybe Samwell has been spending too much time in the library with Kiekegaard and not enough with Anais Nin.
14. Possibly The First Completely Unsatisfying Ending To An Episode Of Game Of Thrones: Despite Sam's heartfelt "come back" and the swelling music, Jon Snow's fade to white was a big old fade to nothing—so much so that it had to abruptly cut to black. A huge battle had just occurred, but suddenly it felt like this major battle was not THE major battle. No one may have been winning the war this week, but there was no perspective, no button for the episode. Considering how many ongoing narratives stretch over multi-seasons, GOT has done an incredible job of making almost every episode feel self-contained, with some internal structure and visual/thematic connections between disparate characters in disparate locations. Even when we get 'filler' episodes designed to move-people-about-the-board, there still is some exclamation point or period that tops off the hour.
Obviously it's hard to judge the outcome of the battle until we see what happens next week—maybe there is a good reason for leaving things so up in the air?—but each episode should be able to stand on its own. And this one, despite all the really great battle things, sadly didn't quite come together with the ending.
15. "You Know Nothing Jon Snow:" Although she's only been glimpsed here and there murdering her way across the North this season, Ygritte's path was always very, very clear: she needed to make Jon Snow pay for leaving her behind at the end of season three...and we really didn't think that was going to happen. She couldn't bring herself to kill him when they had some alone time and she shot him full of arrows last year, so there was little chance of her being able to do so tonight. But her fury was palpable, and the romantic in us wanted to believe that maybe those two crazy kids could get a second chance to go spelunking.
But it was not to be. Ygritte probably needed to die to get Jon Snow to focus on being a Leader Of Men, because he has a larger role to play in the coming war with the White Walkers (we haven't read the books, but this seems like as sure a bet as any). But the worst part of all of this: Ygritte made Jon Snow a better character. Her interest in him, her playfulness and enlightened freeperson perspective on the world, opened up Snow to life beyond the rigid morality of The Wall. She got him to smile and joke around. We'll miss her more than we thought we would, but at least she got a truly fitting last line.
The Viserys Targaryen Memorial Least Powerful Person Of The Week Award: With Samwell Tarly becoming a nothing man this episode, the terrible eye of the Powers That Be here at Power Rankings HQ falls upon the slithering military yes man Janos Slynt, who blubbered his way out of command and into the bread closet. If this were really a full-length movie, we have no doubt he would have been eaten by a dinosaur, like Newman.
The Ser Pounce Memorial Most Powerful Pet Of The Week Award: "I need him more than I need you." And like that, Ghost made his triumphant return, accompanied by a sweeping and much-appreciated camera shot of the battlefield. And then he chomped on some Wilding brains. Maybe, next time, he should consider moving about killing Wildings a wee bit faster, perhaps instead of lingering on the cerebellum of one Thenn? Would probably rather see Ghost mauling three Thenns than three separate shots of him munching on one.
The Hodoriffic Honorary Minor Character Of The Week Award: Maester Aemon is the sort of inverse of another beloved minor character of ours, Mace Tyrell; while the Lord Oaf Of Highgarden's royal standing is completely undermined by his intrinsically doofy personality, Aemon transcends his doddering facade with passion, sincerity, and wisdom. They are yin and yang of scene stealers, and in a perfect world, they'd be old friends taking long walks together in the Garden Of Betrayal at King's Landing.
But we already gave Aemon a spot on the big board. So, let's just give this to the man himself, Hodor, who got himself a theme song on the internet this week:
Rickon Watch 2014: Is Rickon Still On This Show? You might not realize it, but this is an exciting week for Rickon Watchers out there. There may have been no sign of him at The Wall, but with only one more episode left in season four, we're bound to get our first glimpse of him all year next week, right? There's no way Benioff and Weiss would leave us in the lurch for another year without a glimpse of Our Hero—that would take a Bolton-level of cruelty.
The Remember Roz Sexposition Quotient: Zip, unless you count the episode beginning-and-ending scenes between Jon and Samwell, which apparently a lot of people do count.
Way Beyond The Wall: Seeing as how we spent the whole episode at The Wall, essentially following only two or three main characters, everybody sat this week out. Everybody includes (deep breath): Daenerys Targaryen, Ser Friendzone, Ser Barristan Selmy, Grey Worm + Missandei, Daario Naharis 2.0, dragons, slaves and Unsullied. No Lannister clan (Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, King Tommen, Tywin), no Varys or Grand Maester Pycelle. No Brienne + Pod, Ser Bronn, Queen of Thorns/Olenna Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell's Conscience, Ser Loras, Bran Stark (along with Hodor/Jojen Reed/Meera Reed), Arya + The Hound, and the White Walkers. No King Stannis, Ser Davos, Melisandre's Persuasive Libido, Wife Of Stannis, Child Of Stannis, or Pirate Of Stannis. No littlewhispers from Littlefinger, no Darth Sansa, no Breastfeeding Recipient Robin Arryn. No Bolton/Frey sickos (Roose, Ramsay, Reek), no Red Viper (R.I.P.), and obviously no Brotherhood Without Banners.
Until next week's season finale, sit back and enjoy this video of other people watching last week's gruesome conclusion: