This was season four’s first episode without any nudity. But it easily made up for it with the sheer variety of violence and sexual frustration.
Episode nine, “The Watchers on the Wall,” opens on a discussion between Jon Snow and Sam Tarly about sex. Jon describes sex as giving your whole attention to someone such that you become more than yourself. This does nothing to quell Sam Tarly’s sexual frustration regarding the wildling Gilly.
This scene transitions into a wilding camp where one man is pontificating about his fabricated carnal exploits with a bear. A sexually frustrated Ygritte forcibly tells him to can it.
Game of Thrones is not a love story (there are no functional relationships) and it is not a story of good vanquishing evil. Rather it is the story of human nature. George R.R. Martin created a niche in the fantasy world by breaking the mold of good and evil. The opposing forces of ice and fire represent our conflicted allegiances and morals.
In an ultimate twist, we may learn that even the White Walkers are cursed with the remnants of their long-lost humanity. A fitting end to the series would be an entire seventh book written from the perspective of individual White Walkers. This imaginary book would serve to justify the Walkers’ existence and humanize them by revealing that they too struggle with right and wrong, are besotted by sectarian violence, and are capable of loving one another. Wouldn’t that be something?
This episode was the least exciting in season four, and it wasn’t because of the lack of nudity. Episode nine was devoid of good characters. Sam is a whiner, Gilly is a damsel in distress, Jon is walking on thin ice (get it? haha) after betraying both the night’s watch and the wildlings in that order, and Ygritte is just angry and sad.
The Ice Age called: they want their woolly mammoths back.
While a good battle is always entertaining, the Night’s Watch vs. Mance’s wildlings was characterized by good music and bizarre or trite dialogue. Ygritte died in Jon’s arms, muttering one last “you know nothing, Jon Snow” before succumbing to the grave. Victims fell from obscene heights, suffocated on their own blood, were impaled, stabbed, meat cleaved, and gutted.
This brings me back to Oberyn and his forceful death last weekend. Ask almost anyone who watched the show without having read the books, and they could not have conceived Oberyn dying—he was a well-developed, likeable character who deserved justice for his dead sister, plus his fate is tied to Tyrion’s. Viewers held the same dangerous assumptions about Ned and Robb Stark in previous seasons.
Internationally, Game of Thrones book readers and loyalists have successfully kept plot twists a secret. I theorize that this is because readers went through the same shocks in slow motion as the books unfolded in their imagination. Furthermore, fans spent weeks, months, and sometimes years reading and rereading the books. Making their TV-watching friends spend a fraction of that time in suspense is hardly a worthy equivalence, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, readers get to don a knowing grin and jest: “You know nothing, HBO viewers!”