The first parts of our episode guide for “The Watchers on the Wall” are now live, including our analysis of the episode (TL;DR: it’s really, really good) and our book-to-screen breakdown. We’ll see if we can get the recap done in the next hours. Also included in the guide are the videos HBO has posted up, including a 2 minute piece focusing on the fight scene. Look at the opening of that one, folks, and you’ll see a lot of why we were so baffled by the duel in “The Mountain and the Viper”.
Neil Marshall delivers, and so do the writers, the production, and more. However, after the cut, a very brief commentary on a controversy that seems to be rearing its head on the forums and online—one that I hope is just a tempest in a tea cup…
Yes, Stannis didn’t arrive. We knew he wasn’t arriving, because the log line, and everything else we’ve seen in early previews, suggested he was being held to the final episode. But why, exactly, is this an anti-climax? It’s literally like the book—the defense of Castle Black, and the first night of the defense of the Wall, are all done by the Watch. Stannis Baratheon doesn’t show up until several days into the defense, and then only after a parley. There’s nothing anti-climactic about this, since the important point is that he appears only at the time that the Watch is at its last strength, and Jon Snow gives us a perspective on Mance and his host.
The next episode is the perfect time for the Baratheon host to arrive. Shoving it into this episode would undermine the efforts and sacrifices of the Watch. It’s one thing in Blackwater that the arrival of the Lannister and Tyrell host undermines Tyrion’s own part in the defense of the city—that is, quite literally, a plot point in the novels!—but it would be wrong for that to happen at the start of this episode.