Posted June 9, 2014 by Yuri Mangahas in Movies/TV

GAME OF THRONES REVIEW: “The Watchers On The Wall” – The Biggest Battle On TV

I remember two years back when I dawned my eyes at Game Of Thrones’ penultimate episode for its second season, Blackwater. Instead of the usual geography jumps we were used to, the entire hour was dedicated to the ins and outs of Stannis’ attack on King’s Landing – and by ins and outs, I meant perspectives coming from both the combatants, and those trapped between their blades. It was the finest hour on TV, they say, and I have to agree.

Now, one of the big problems this show faces is the difficulty of translating big battles off the books, which is why we did not see some of the key fights in the previous seasons. That goes the same for other TV shows. The measly budget, more often than not, prevents showrunners from executing their full vision of a certain plot point. Blackwater succeeded in that feat, thanks to the vivid writing of George R.R. Martin, and the amazing screenplay of Neil Marshall.

Fast forward to this very moment, we’re now at the climax of this year’s GoT season. With Neil Marshall returning at the helm, we knew what’s coming next:

WAR. At least an hour of it.

Veering away from the seemingly complicated plot between royals, The Watchers On The Wall depicts the imminent attack of the Wildlings on the outnumbered Brothers of The Watch. It’s a battle not about kings, or riches, or power. It’s a clash of ideals, a struggle for survival, a veritable storm of swords.

Like I pointed out above, it’s not just an episode about people banging each other with clubs. We see different perspectives and views from both sides about the war. We see real emotions come out from each of them. It’s a mirror of what people experience first hand at the face of a destructive conflict.

“I was nothing at all. And when you’re nothing at all, there’s no reason to be afraid.”

Only a liar would claim that he’s not afraid of a hundred thousand men threatening death. Pyp strongly represented most of us in this episode. He postulated the very fear all of us hold on to. Of course, all of us hate to die unplanned. We have goals to fight for, people to care about, a life to live by. But death is inevitable, and as Sam puts it, there is no reason to be afraid.

“Love is the death of duty.”

It’s a theme that resonates throughout the episode, as Sam and Jon both struggle with their emotions regarding the ones they care about. As the last three seasons tell us, Westeros is no place for love, and their segments define that lesson perfectly. It’s also interesting to see how both men deal with it, each with varying consequences.

“A hundred thousand men, you say? I hate to say this, but we should’ve blocked the tunnel when we had the chance.”

There is a sense of scale, bigger than what Blackwater belted out. It’s not often that we see thousands of extras(and post processed clones of them) swarm at the vast expanse of The Wall’s locale. It’s not everyday that we see a battle of this magnitude depicted on TV. This is where The Watchers On The Wall’s strength lies. This was bolder and better than prior war sequences, one that definitely brought an air of dread and suspense to everyone. Neil Marshall’s masterful command of the screenplay further heightened the ante, by expanding the focus on not just the main characters, but to almost EVERYONE.

“And when the sun rises, I promise you: Castle Black will stand!” 

It is a poetry of violence, one that’s crafted with finesse and ardent care. The fights are well staged and executed. Both practical and CG effects blended well together. Acting’s pretty well rounded, and the supporting cast provided some impressive moments of their own. The script also matched perfectly with the action, inducing further dread and thrill at every minute. Technicality seems to be Neil Marshall’s expertise, and he succeeds thoroughly at bringing his A-game.

 “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

The conclusion is also triumphant, in a sense that it remained its hold to its intended themes strongfully. It is a phyrric victory for both sides, meant to remind us of the horrors of war, and why no one comes out as the victor despite surviving the ordeal. It is bittersweet, and appalling.

The Watchers On The Wall proves itself as a true spiritual successor to Blackwater, showing that despite the limitations and resources of a TV production, one can deliver a masterpiece worthy of praise. Definitely one of TV’s finest hours to date.

8 Giants Out Of 10!


Everything ends. Check the preview for season 4’s finale, “The Children”, HERE.

Yuri Mangahas

Yuri is magnanimously juggling between two managerial jobs: A technical manager position for an advertising/copy-writing company, and an associate editorial position for a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Nevertheless, he still finds time taking photos and seeking for geek nirvana.