Four seasons in and HBO’s (the kings of cinematic television) Game of Thrones is as good, if not better, then it was in the first. Blood, guts, humor and compassion were all on display in this weeks haunting episode which explored just how dark the inhabitants are north of the wall. Kit Harington was on top form as always as the loveable Jon Snow; fighting hard (literally) to defend Castle Black. But this week I found a new, perhaps respect, for a character I’ve never had time for. Said character is Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), who before Sundays episode has only come across as a self-righteous know- it-all. In this weeks episode he showed his loyalty to the wall, and his obvious admiration for the men he leads and serves with. His pre-battle speech was short but very poignant, and is some of the best dialogue of the season. Teale gave Thorne a superb send off, and he certainly wont be forgotten (that is if Thorne passed on, this was left open for anyone’s guess!), it is moments like this, with characters that don’t necessarily register up until that brutal moment that exemplifies just how good Game of Thrones is.
This was a strong episode, considering it only focused on the Nights Watch, whose story lines can often tread the line of dull. The CGI was pretty awe-inspiring, as always, and the arrival of Mammoths and Giants was a great visual element to a show which is never short on shocks. The battle between the ‘free’ Wildlings and the men of the Watch has been a long time coming, and one of the biggest build-ups of this season. ‘Watchers on the wall’ serves spectacularly well as a penultimate episode (the second to last episodes have become notoriously known as the ones that hold shocks for those watching). The endearing Sam Tarly (John Bradley) provides light humor, which in an episode focused entirely on a bloody battle is certainly welcomed (but in moderation, something that the makers of Game of Thrones have perfectly on point).
I don’t wish to spoil the episode entirely for those who are yet to watch, so some things ill leave unsaid. What I will say is that season four, episode nine: ‘Watchers on the Wall’ stands out as a phenomenal episode in a series of epic proportions. Game of Thrones perfectly balances character development with war and relationships, and certainly ranks high among some of the best television ever created. Only one more episode left, and I’m already waiting for season five.