‘Game of Thrones’ 4.09 Recap: “Do You Plan to Die Here Tonight?”

Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ should realize by now that the show does not climax in its season finale episodes. In each year to date, the proverbial shit has hit the fan in the penultimate episode. True to form, the series delivered a major action showcase this week. Does this one live up to Blackwater or the Red Wedding?

Personally, I don’t think so. Not that the episode lacks for epic action and violence, but I’m just not as interested or invested in the Jon Snow storyline to care all that much about what happens to him or the men of the Night’s Watch.

Episode ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ abandons all other storylines for a week to focus exclusively on the siege of Castle Black by the Wildling army, which attacks on two fronts. The bulk of the army, 100,000 strong, approaches from the north and sends giants riding mammoths to breach the mighty gate. They’re fended off by a handful of archers from above. Meanwhile, the smaller raiding party led by Tormund, Ygritte and their cannibal friends hits from behind, engaging in hand-to-hand combat on the ground with the majority of the Crows.

I took a lot of notes during this episode, but I don’t feel the need to recap every story beat here. What it boils down to is a lot of clanging swords and flaming arrows. Neil Marshall (‘The Descent’), who directed the Blackwater episode, returns to helm this one. Although I felt that a lot of the action was kind of repetitive and monotonous, he stages a couple of impressive set-pieces. One is a lengthy, elaborately choreographed tracking shot that glides through the battle, jumping from one character to another. The highlight of the episode comes when the men on top of the Wall unleash a massive scythe, which cracks free of the ice and swings down to smear the climbing Wildlings across the rock face. Also kind of cool is a mammoth fleeing from the battle on fire.

Commander Alliser is injured, and his second-in-command turns out to be an ineffectual coward. Unsurprisingly, Jon Snow steps up to lead the defense. By the time morning breaks, the dwindled number of Night’s Watch brothers have successfully held the line against the first wave of the attack – but just barely. Snow realizes that they will not survive another night. Unable to think of a better plan, he decides to exit through the gate on his own to seek out and kill Mance Rayder, hoping that without a central authority to unite them, the Wildlings will return to their infighting ways and disperse. I expect that we’ll pick up on this storyline in Season Five.

Misc. Story Points

  • Before the battle, Gilly and her baby arrive at Castle Black and are reunited with Sam. He hides them in a meat locker. She begs him to stay with her, insisting that he’d be useless in the battle anyway, but Sam mans-up and leaves her to join his brothers. He plants a big kiss on her smacker for courage first, though. Ultimately, he survives the fight, and even kills a cannibal.
  • Still pissed at her former lover, Ygritte vows to kill Jon Snow herself. She takes out many Crows with her bow, but hesitates for a moment when she encounters Snow. Before he can do or say anything, Ygritte takes an arrow to the back from a Night’s Watch weakling who only barely mustered up the courage to stay in the battle at all after a pep talk from Sam. Ygritte dies in Snow’s arms. Her last words are, “We should have stayed in that cave.”
  • Sam unleashes Jon Snow’s direwolf Ghost to aid in the fight. He doesn’t get enough screen time, and I can’t understand why Snow doesn’t take the wolf with him at the end.
  • The Wildling Tormund is injured and captured. Still defiant even with a number of arrows sticking out of him, Snow refuses to kill him and has him locked up instead.

While this is a good episode overall, it didn’t hit the heights of greatness for me – mainly because I’d rather spend more time following Tyrion first. I have a lot more inherent interest in that storyline. Judging by the preview for next week, it appears that we’ll rejoin that plot thread in the finale, but I doubt anything significant will get resolved.


  1. This will be the first time the final episode will be the big episode. My wife and I were going through what has yet to be told and there is a ton of great stuff headed for this finale. What a great father’s day gift the finale will be!
    As for this episode I found it very well done in terms of television. Probably the best staged battle sequence ever on tv. Some very notable deaths were Jon’s best friends Pyp and Grenn. This shocked and saddened me since I love their characters and they are still alive in the books. Everything on the wall is so grim, but Pyp, Grenn, and Dolorous Edd are the only things breaking up that crappy atmosphere. At least Edd didn’t die!
    Looking forward to see what everyone thinks after next week. Definitely going to liven up discussion with friends who watch!

  2. Dan007

    I agree, I read that they are trying to change the form of this season in comparison to the previous ones. I have a feeling the next episode will keep us on our toes!

  3. Ryan

    I think her last words were actually “You know nothing Jon Snow”….i think.

    Anyway, great episode! Especially considering how boring the Wall stuff has been this season (the only stories more boring were Reek’s and Stannis’s)

    • Timcharger

      Josh: “Her last words are, “We should have stayed in that cave.”

      Yup that’s wrong. You know nothing Josh Z. 🙂

      I agree though that the line of staying in the cave, would have been
      better than her usual complaint line to Jon Snow. Staying in the cave,
      leaves lasting memories of a wild affair with a Wildling woman for Jon.
      You know nothing, leave memories of a complaining wife.

    • Yeah that was kind of annoying about her death. I wish they had stuck to the book and made her death very unceremonious and not a typical dramatic approach. Also one of my movie cliche pet peeves is that once the hero fights the villain one on one, the once chaotic battle turns to organized skirmishes so the hero can have his moment. I wanted a little more chaos with Jon on the field!

    • Timcharger

      Speaking of pet peeves, this episode gave us a big wink, wink and fake out.

      When Samwell kissses Gilly for the 1st time, and agrees to her promise that
      he will get back to her safely…
      …I shouted out: NOOOO!

      That was the classic signal to the audience that character who just promises
      his girl/family before the battle is going to die.

      And when Samwell doesn’t die… I was smiling and gnashing my teeth at the
      show’s writers. You, sneaky sneaky bastards!

  4. Blaine

    “an arrow to the back from a Night’s Watch weakling who only barely mustered up the courage to stay in the battle at all after a pep talk from Sam.”

    I think you are being a little hard on him. I haven’t read the books, but every impression I got from the show is that the character isn’t a Night’s Watch, but just a kid they keep around to push the elevator control, and he looks about 12 years old. In the scene when Sam told him to find a weapon and fight them, he looked down at a kid’s sized bow that looked like a toy made out of a stick. As for shooting her in the back, I recall she shot at least one of the Night’s Watch in the back while he was running up the stairs, while she actually had an arrow aimed at Snow when the kid took her out. She may not have actually released it, but it isn’t like the kid knows the dynamic between her and Snow.

    But I do agree that Tyrion is sorely missed when not in an episode. I’m looking for forward to the Father’s Day episode and hoping that this year’s finale will be more eventful than the previous ones.

    • Josh Zyber

      I didn’t mean to criticize the kid. He did a pretty heroic thing from his perspective. I was just pointing out the irony that an important character like Ygritte would die due to a nobody.

      • Mr Apollo

        Well, in the big picture it’s actually significant that the little boy killed Ygritte. Sam has inadvertently killed his best friend’s girl. Sam still has Gilly and her baby, so now has a family while Jon Snow doesn’t. He’s been disbanded from his family and at this point feels he has nothing much to live for except for doing what is right. He was brought up that way and is one of the most loyal characters on the show. His only family that he is aware of right now are the Brothers on the Wall and will do whatever he can to ensure their survival.

      • Timcharger

        I missed it too.

        In the bonus commentary, the actors for Jon, Ygritte, and Samwell
        discussed how the show changed from the book by making Ygritte
        death from a nobody to the little kid. That little kid’s family & village
        were all killed by the Ygritte’s Wildings. The kid was released to go
        tell Castle Black, so that the Wildlings can weaken and test Castle
        Black’s defenses before the Wildlings main army attacked from the
        beyond the Wall. I think there was scene that Jon taught the kid
        how to use a bow (a few espisodes ago), and it was Samwell (who’s
        girlfriend and her baby was not killed by Ygritte) who told the kid to
        get up and fight.

        Josh: “I was just pointing out the irony that an important character like Ygritte would die due to a nobody.”
        Certainly that kid isn’t a major character, but it wasn’t irony to have
        that kid kill Ygritte. It was rather appropriate and karmic.

  5. Matt

    The little boy who shot Ygritte was the little boy who’s parents and village were slaughtered by the Fenns earlier in the season. I think I remember one of the Thenns telling him they were going to eat his parents. I think Ygritte was also part of that raiding party, so it was poetic.

  6. Charles M

    He doesn’t take the direwolf with him because it wouldn’t help. In fact, it would probably make the wildlings more doubtful about why Jon wants to treat with Mance. Jon is on a suicide mission and knows it. Actually, the direwolf would probably die too.

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “One is a lengthy, elaborately choreographed tracking shot that glides through the battle, jumping from one character to another.”

    Yeah, that 360 degree shot was great.

    Another great shot was was this aerial view of the Wildlings south of Castle Black
    charging towards it, flaming arrows going back and forth, camera pans up into
    Castle Black to the elevator. Camera moves up the elevator path to the top of
    the wall. We see Watchers there looking out to the North. And the camera ends
    with the gigantic wall of trees on fire.

  8. Timcharger

    Josh: “I’m just not as interested or invested in the Jon Snow storyline to care all that much about what happens to him or the men of the Night’s Watch.”

    I highly enjoyed this episode. But I too admit disappointment that I have to
    wait another episode to find out about Tyrion. With the ending of the last
    episode, I wanted to pick up there. But that isn’t the fault of this episode.
    It was still a very good episode 9 in the tradition of this series’ episode 9s.

  9. Timcharger

    Some commentary I couldn’t avoid was that Samwell isn’t a major character
    in the books. But I like that the show has him as a major character.

    Because he is stocky and Jon’s best friend (and the name resemblance), I
    liken Samwell to Frodo the Hobbit’s best friend Samwise. I like both Sams.

  10. Timcharger

    I was hoping to see some footage of Grenn’s & 5 other Watchers fight with the giant.

    Grenn was a great character. Good friend to Jon and smarts, too. What he did to
    relieve the coward Slynt from command and putting Jon Snow as the leader, that
    took quick thinking.

    • Timcharger

      Speaking of Slynt, I thought there was going to be another subplot here that
      was left out (on the cutting room floor maybe?).

      Slynt being a despicable character since Ned Stark back in King’s Landing in
      season 1, I thought there was something sinister going on. When Slynt gets
      back down from the top of the Wall, and he gets out that key to hide where
      Gilly & her baby was hiding… I thought the evil side of Slynt was going to
      show itself. Slynt thinks the end is near and I’m sure he doesn’t hold women
      in high regard. I expected a scene later where Samwell has to seek vengence
      for a crime that Slynt commits on Gilly (truly transforming Samwell from the
      gentle soul that he is) or we find Slynt bled out with a bony leg of lamb sticking
      through his gut (Gilly had to use whatever was nearby to defend herself).

      • Timcharger

        So I’m disappointed that Slynt is still alive.

        Speaking of being alive, I thought Commander Alliser was still alive.
        I saw that Tormund Giantsbane cut Alliser badly. But I thought I
        saw Alliser being pulled back into shelter by other Night Watch

        But I guess with the last conversation of the episode between Jon
        and Sam, it sounds like the leadership of the Watch falls only on
        Jon. I guess Alliser died in the night off camera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *