Game of Thrones

HBO's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' TV Show


EP409: The Watchers on the Wall

Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Neil Marshall

Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch face a big challenge.



It’s night at the Wall. Atop it, fires are lit and men are ready, waiting and watching anxiously for the first signs of Mance Rayder’s host. Samwell and Jon stand watch together. Samwell as Jon what “she” was like, and Jon hesitates before admitting Ygritte had red hair. Samwell is unimpressed by so little detail, and Jon asks what he wants to know. To that, Samwell explains that he wants to know what it’s like to have and be with someone who you love and who loves you back. Fatalistic,  Samwell thinks that they’re all going to die soon, and what Jon tells him is the closest he’ll ever get to knowing what a relationship with a woman is like.

Jon wonders if this means he and Gilly never slept together, and Samwell says no—then adds that she had just had a baby. Then, after a moment, he admits she never offered. At that, Jon asks if he would have, if the opportunity presented itself, and so broken his vows. Samwell makes the argument that the vows of the Night’s Watch technically do not forbid relations with women—the literal words are that you will not wed and will not father any children, and in theory other “activities [are] open to interpretation.” Jon is not impressed by the reasoning, and suggests Alliser Thorne would not be, either.

Moving from their post, they walk down the Wall towards the winch cage. Samwell says that that in the end, nothing happened, and then asks Jon what it was like. Jon hesitantly suggests that it’s as if there’s this other person and for a time you’re so wrapped up in one another that you’re more than just yourself. Looking away, Jon starts to offer more and then stops, exclaiming that he’s not a poet. Samwell agrees. They continue to the cage, as Jon says that he got nothing for it but an arrow six inches from his heart. Samwell considers that, and then morbidly offers that there’ll be arrows for all of them, soon enough. Samwell says that the wildlings have already done the worst thing they could do to him, however.

Jon consoles his friend, placing a hand on his shoulder and telling him to go and sleep, while he continues their watch. The cage’s door is shut, and Samwell is taken down to the Wall’s base. Atop the Wall, we see an owl nearby… and then see near the Wall, hidden from sight, the Thenn skinchanger looking through the owl’s eyes while the others sit about a fire. Tormund attempts to tell the tale of his Sheila, to an exasperated Ygritte. He explains it was a night to remember, but he was rather drunk. “Her fangs were sharp,” he starts to say, “but she knew how to use them.” He goes on, praising this Sheila as Ygritte—annoyed, and trying to prepare arrows for the coming fight—shakes her head. “No, she was no ordinary beast,” Tormund says,  when Ygritte interrupts him and says she knows he never bedded a bear.

She adds that he knows it too, that she doesn’t want to think of the imaginary bear, but rather that she’d prefer thinking of sending each of her arrows into a Night’s Watchman’s heart. Ygritte places another arrow on the pile, as Tormund bluntly suggests they may be waiting awhile. Ygritte says that’s good, as it’ll give her more arrows to use. Returning to her work, she angrily bemoans the way the “southerners” came to the lands of the wildlings, put up a wall and said the lands were theirs, and then hunted the free folk down. She’s glad they’re the ones hunting, now.

Styr, the Magnar of Thenn, speaks up then, sarcastically suggesting she talks big about killing, spending more words than arrows. Ygritte stops her work to glare, and notes she killed as many men as he did—perhaps more. Styr replies that that may be true, but none of them were her “crow lover”. Ygritte says she probably killed Jon already. Styr casts doubts on it, and Ygritte insists that even if he’s alive, then soon all that will be left of him are his “fun bits” hanging around her neck. Styr mocks her talk and says he thinks that if she runs into Jon again, she’ll serve him up a “nice juicy slice of ginger minge.”

The free folk laugh, but Ygritte storms over to the Thenn and asks if he’s been thinking of how she tastes. Styr stands up, towering over her, and replies he may have done so. Then Ygritte informs him, and everyone else: Jon Snow is his, and anyone who tries to kill him will get an arrow for their trouble. Then, turning back to Styr, she tells him that none of his fellow Thenns will be quick enough to stop her from killing Jon before them. Just then, on the hill above the camp, we see a cloaked figure carrying a wrapped bundle crossing the hill; the figure pauses to look at the camp before hurrying off. We realize it’s Gilly, with her child.

In the library of Castle Black, Samwell flips through a large tome. Maester Aemon enters then and surprises Samwell. The aged, blind maester asks what has brought him to the library at such an hour. Samwell, shocked, begins to ask how Aemon knows it’s him, but Aemon asks who else in the castle would be in the library, consulting books by candlelight in the middle of the night. Aemon then moves—with obvious familiarity—to a table. Samwell follows, lantern in hand, and offers to help by Aemon replies that there’s no need as he knows the library intimately. Aemon remarks on the irony of having thousands of books, but no eyes to read them with. He seats himself.

Samwell sits as well, and when prompted answers Aemon’s question: he is reading the writings of Maester Faull on the wildlings. Aemon notes Castle Black is as close Faull ever got to a wildling. Samwell protests and says that his accounts of what wildlings do when reaving match what survivors of the raids report. Aemon smiles and replies that Samwell should imagine the stories the wildlings tell about the Watch.

Then he informs Samwell that love is the death of duty, which he says he told Jon Snow once before. Aemon adds that Jon did not listen, and he knows Samwell isn’t listening either since he abandoned his watch on the Wall to read about the cruelty the wildlings may have committed upon Gilly, “the girl you love”. Samwell denies it, but it’s useless to do so, as Aemon says he heard it in Samwell’s voice when he first brought Gilly to Castle Black. He reveals he, too, was in love once. When Samwell shows surprise, Aemon asks if it’s so difficult to suppose that he was once more or less like Sam. Aemon goes on to ask if Samwell knew who Aemon once was, and what he could have been.

It’s clear Samwell has heard the tale from Jon, so Aemon explains that as Aemon Targaryen, heir to the throne, he met many girls. Many attempted to win his affection, and one succeeded. When Samwell asks who she was, Aemon replies he could tell him everything about her—her name, how they met, the color of her eyes, the shape of her nose. “She’s more real than you are,” Aemon states. Then he concludes by saying that though he could spend all night speaking of lost loves, that nothing makes the past sweeter than the prospect of imminent death, but Samwell should go to bed. Aemon stands, and blows out the lantern.

When Sam leaves, he exits into the Castle Black yard only to hear Pypar at the gate, telling someone he has orders to keep it closed. Samwell comes closer to hear better… and hears Gilly begging Pypar to let her in, that the wildlings killed everyone at Mole’s Town but for her and her baby. Samwell runs down to the gate as Gilly begs, and Pyp insists he can’t when Samwell yells at him to open the gate. Pypar stubbornly refuses, as Gilly asks if it’s Sam. Pypar presses on about the orders he has, when Samwell replies, “Open the fucking gate!” Shocked, Pypar opens it and sheepishly says that he’s never heard Samwell curse before. Sam tells him to get used to it.

Gilly comes into the castle with her baby, and Pyp closes the gate as Sam and she embrace. Samwell tells the baby he’s all right, as Gilly tells him that what happened was horrible. Samwell apologizes, and promises he won’t let anyone send Gilly away. Sam swears, saying that anyone who tries to send her away will have words with him. He adds that wherever she goes, he goes, from now on.

Then, horns sound from the Wall. Castle Black erupts with activity as Sam and Gilly rush toward one of the buildings. Atop the wall, the Thenn skinchanger’s owl watches… and then in the wildling camp, he tells them that it’s time. The wildlings stand, looking toward the Wall. As the owl flies away, the horn sounds more times, and Jon Snow rushes to look out: the haunted forest is half in flames, an enormous fire heralding the approach of Mance’s forces. Men of the Watch light torches atop the Wall, as the horn sounds again and again. Barrels are rolled out as Slynt shouts at men to hurry. Others prepare ramps, where the barrels are loaded.

Jon Snow moves on and approaches Ser Alliser Thorne, informing him that they’re done with the last of the oil barrels. Thorne asks if Rayder has 100,000 men, as Jon claimed; Jon acknowledges it. A moment of silence, and the Thorne tells Jon he can say that they should have sealed the tunnel while they had the chance, just as he had suggested. Jon equivocates and says it was a difficult decision. Thorne replies that leadership entails being second-guessed by everyone, but if he second-guesses himself, it’s the end for everyone. He swears they’re not done, however: if the men of the Watch do their duty, for however long it takes, they’ll beat the wildlings back. “And then you get to go on hating me,” he finishes, “and I get to go on wishing your wildling whore had finished the job.”

Down below, Samwell unlocks a door and leads Gilly into a storage room. He looks at it, lantern in hand, and then sets the lantern on a hook. He tells her and the baby will be safe, and that he’ll check on them when he can. Gilly asks if he means to leave again, and Samwell denies that his going out to defend the castle is leaving, but she contradicts him and says he swore they’d stay together. “I didn’t mean in the same room,” Samwell replies, lamely. Gilly then asks why he’s even leaving—what is he going to do out there? He insists he’ll help his brothers, and Gilly casts doubts on his ability to fight the wildlings. Sam then insists he can’t hide, and Gilly asks why.

Taking her shoulders in his hands, Samwell tells her that he’s a man of the Night’s Watch, a man who has sworn to defend the Wall and he has to do it. Then, pulling her towards him, he kisses her. She stares at him after the kiss ends, then tells him to promise he won’t die. He promises, then leaves, locking the door behind him.

In Castle Black, men rush to reinforce the gate, while above the gate Pypar sets bundles of arrows into barrels and buckets. Samwell, seeing him shivering and clearly frightened, goes up to him and reminds him that there are more wildlings on the other side of the Wall than on their own, that they’ve many weapons and defenses, and they’re in the best place to be when the wildlings attack. Pypar’s only response that he’s never thrown a spear or used an edged sword—it’s no place for him. Pyp asks why Sam isn’t afraid, and Tarly replies that of course he is. Pyp asks how he could be afraid of the wildlings, after having killed a white walker. Samwell comes nearer to Pyp and says he did the only thing he had to do, to protect Gilly and the baby. He lost all sense of himself or his station, he was nothing at all at that moment, and that left him fearless.

Pyp asks if this means Samwell is afraid now, and Sam admits he’s not “nothing” any longer, alluding to Gilly. Then Sam looks out from above the gate, into the darkness… and we see that Ygritte is observing him from a distance, crouched behind rocks. She runs back to the other wildlings and informs them that there aren’t more than twenty there, and notes a “big fat one and a little bony one” are manning the front. Styr asks how high the walls are, and Ygritte responds that they’ll be up and over before they know what happens. The Magnar of Thenn shouts for the others to kill some crows. There are cheers. Ygritte looks grave for a moment, but when Tormund calls on them to come on and leads them away from their camp, Ygritte determinedly grabs a pile of arrows and joins them.

As we see the wildlings south of the Wall begin to run, our view climbs up the Wall and to its other side: we see the huge forest fire again, and then from the wood we see wildlings in their thousands marching out. Among them are a pair of giants, one of them riding an enormous mammoth. Horns sound, wildlings shout battle cries, and they march on towards the Wall. As the mammoth trumpets, the men on the Wall listen as Ser Alliser commands them to nock their arrows while those manning the ramps hold their barrels. Unfortunately, Grenn stumbles as he’s moving one of the oil barrels. It falls, and Grenn nearly falls with it but Dolorous Edd helps steady him. The barrel plummets to the ground far below, and Alliser curses at the men to follow their orders. He asks if they mean to die tonight, and they shout, “No!” Then he commands the archers to draw.

A moment after, another horn sounds. Thorne and Snow turn to one of the horn-blowers atop the Wall, but the man shouts that it came from down below, from Castle Black. We see the Thenns and other wildlings swarming up the road to the gate, as flaming arrows fly through the air from above the gate. Some men fall. At one point Ygritte takes up some of the arrows that misses, and shoots them back at the castle, killing at least one man. Atop the Wall, Janos Slynt runs up shouting that the gate is being attacked. Thorne decides to go down there, to lead the defense… and leaves the Wall to Slynt. Slynt’s surprised, and stares at Jon and the others. Thorne, cursing, asks what they’re waiting for and gives a last order to loose their arrows before going down.

The firey arrows fly through the air. Wildlings stand shouting defiance, but a few are hit by the arrows—those that survive shout more defiance. Down at the castle, Ygritte launches more arrows as the Thenns and other wildlings rush up towards the gate. Styr and Tormund command men to start climbing the walls, even as the men above the gate drop large stones on them, and Pypar sends crossbow bolts at them. When Pyp uses a bow, he passes it to Sam, who reloads it while handing Pyp a ready one. Sam asks if he got one, and Pypar says no. He tries again, and curses his aim. Kneeling by Samwell, he tells him he thinks they’re going to die. Samwell groans, and tells him if he keeps missing, they will.

The wildlings throw hooks over the gate, and Tormund leads the way climbing up. In the castle yard, Alliser Thorne exits the winch cage. Olly jumps up and moves the lever that sends the cage trundling back up. Thorne shouts for the attention of the men of the Watch. He speaks of a hundred generations having defended Castle Black, that it has never fallen and it won’t on this night. Descending into the yard proper, he tells them that there are Thenns attacking them, cannibals, and asks if any of them mean to fill a Thenn’s belly. “No!” the men shout as one. He promises that they’ll fight, and when the sun rises Castle Black will still stand, and that the Watch will stand. The men cheer as the wildlings begin to come over the wall.

Then shouting the others to charge with him, Thorne leads the way to meet the enemy. The fighting is fierce in the yard, with men dying on both sides. Atop the gate, Pypar looks through the window and something he sees makes him run without a word. Samwell, surprised, hurriedly goes after him. Moments afterward, Tormund climbs through the window and begins to cut down men to left and right, clearing the gatehouse. Samwell and Pypar escape to reposition themselves elsewhere.

Beyond the Wall, the mammoth, giants, and troops of men with long cables and anothe group with long spears rush toward the gate. Atop the Wall, Slynt appears to be having a nervous breakdown, stating that the Watch lacks discipline and training, that it’s nothing but a gang of thieves, and that the City Watch that he commanded knew how to follow orders. Jon Snow steps up to Slynt and tells him he can’t just let the wildlings attack the gate, and Slynt stubbornly insists that the gates are made of four-inch thick steel. “Those are giants riding mammoths down there!” Jon shouts in an exasperation, wondering if Slynt thinks the steel will stop them. “No such thing as giants,” Slynt insists, despite the evidence of his own eyes.

Grenn, witnessing it, departs for a moment… then comes back, informing Slynt that they’ve just received word from Ser Alliser that he needs Slynt below, as the most experienced man he has left.  Slynt, in a daze and uncertain, leaves for the cage. Once he’s out of earshot, Grenn gives Jon a nod and returns to his post. Jon Snow has the Wall, and commands the archers to loose their arrows. The wildlings below run through them—some fall—and a number reach the Wall and begin to climb up it. Jon insists they won’t reach the summit until dawn. When Grenn asks how Jon knows it, Jon notes he made the climb, but Dolorous Edd thinks these wildlings are in a bigger hurry.

Archers stationed to aim at the climbers loose arrows at them, killing at least one. At the Wall’s base, a wildling archer looses a flaming arrow that falls far short. Then a giant armed with a huge bow comes up and kneels next to him. The first arrow he launches shatters the wooden roof of a shelter, and the second lifts a man a dozen feet into the air and sends him plummeting to Castle Black far below. There, Styr cuts his way through men of the Watch as the fighting continues hard. The Magnar runs down, killing another man with his double-bladed ax, sending blood splattering onto Olly’s face where he hides. Above the yard, Ygritte sends more arrows flying, killing several Night’s Watchmen.

Slynt, coming out of the cage, rushes out and hides himself as men run by. Olly pulls the lever to send the cage back up as several wildlings break into the barracks. Several watchmen fight them, and the cook Hobb joins them using a giant cleaver to kill one man. As the fighting continues in the yard, Slynt runs past it and then unlocks a door to a storage room to hide himself. He locks it once inside… and then sees Gilly staring at him.

Positioning themselves up above the yard, Sam and Pypar prepare to continue. Pyp takes aim and kills one wildling, proudly telling Sam he got him through the heart. Samwell asks if the fighting’s over then, and Pypar admits it isn’t and resumes, taking aim… when an arrow flies into his neck. He falls, coughing, choking on his own blood. We see Ygritte beyond, bow in hand. Samwell holds Pypar, trying to reassure him as the young Night’s Watchman dies in his arms.

At the Wall, some wildlings rush ahead of the mammoth rumbling towards the gate. Jon orders some heavy barrels—ones without oil—to be sent rolling off the ramp. They fall and shatter far below, killing a number of the wildlings. The mammoth is pulled up short by his giant rider, who dismounts. One giant tears at the gate, creating small openings, while the cables are attached to the mammoth while the hooks at the opposite ends are set into the gate. The giant takes up a huge metal rod to use as a crowbar, while the other giant and some of them begin to haul at the cables as the mammoth pulls. The gate slowly groans under the stress.

Jon Snow, seeing that, takes Grenn aside and tells him to take five men down to hold the inner gate, as he’s sure the outer gate won’t hold. Jon stops him and tells him that if the inner gate doesn’t hold, they’re lost. “I know,” Grenn says, and then he names several men to join him as he takes a double-bladed ax in hand. Jon returns to the defenses, as Edd Tollett shouts at the men to now place the oil-filled barrels on the ramp.

As Thorne fights in the yard, cutting down another wildlings, he sees Tormund fighting his way down steps. Ser Alliser shouts at the men to protect the gate as he runs up to meet Tormund. A fierce fight breaks out, driving one another back and forth until Tormund manages a great cut across Thorne’s hip. Thorne falls back, and rolls over a railing to fall to the ground below. Tormund turns to give chase, as several men of the Watch drag Thorne away into shelter while Thorne shouts, “Hold the fucking gate! Hold it!”

With Pypar dead, Samwell takes up the crossbow and looks over the fighting in the yard. Seeing the winch cage in the distance, he runs for it, a bolt in hand. The Thenn skinchanger spots him after killing a man, and runs at him, and Samwell just manages to load the crossbow and sends the bolt into the Thenn’s head. He hides as the cage opens, and Grenn and the other men pour out. Samwell shouts that they need more men, and Grenn tells him that he should tell Jon, that Jon’s commanding the Wall. Grenn leads the others, charging through toward the inner gate, while Samwell goes to the cage. He calls on a cowering Olly, commanding him to get him to the top and then bringing the cage back down when the signal is given.

Olly does as he’s told. As Samwell starts to go up, he shouts at Olly to find a weapon for himself. Olly looks down to where a bow lies on the ground.

As the mammoth, giants, and wildlings continue to pull at the gate, lit barrels filled with oil are set. When they shatter on the ground below, they explode in flames, and many of the wildlings die. The mammoth is set alight and in its pain and terror snaps the cables and runs off. The giant with him chases after it, only for a scorpion bolt sent from the Wall to impaling him, killing him instantly. The other giant at the gate cries out, and then single-handedly begins to lift the huge, heavy gate up by main strength, slowly lifting it up inch by inch.

Atop the Wall, another set of oil barrels are filled, but they are stuck on the ramp. A watchman strikes the lead barrel again and again, trying to push it when he cracks it, spilling oil that soon catches light. The barrels explode, destroying the ramp and killing some men, including one who’s sent plummeting to his death.

Samwell reaches the top of the Wall and runs to Jon, who asks him what he’s doing there. Samwell explains the wildlings are over the wall, that Thorne’s fallen, and that the castle won’t stand much longer. Jon considers that dire news, and gives command of the Wall to Edd. He advises him to use the fire barrels if they try more mammoths, and if the climbers get to high up to “drop the scythe” on them before he marches off. Samwell follows him.

Jon takes Longclaw, and calls on a the watchmen to fight with him. Edd, looking to the archers, tells them they might as well enjoy their last day before they die, and has them loose more arrows at the wildlings north of the Wall. Down in the tunnel, Grenn and the five other men rush up to the inner gate to witness the giant slowly hauling the gate up. One man doesn’t believe they can fight such a creature, but Grenn insists they will hold the gate as Jon commanded. The man responds that Jon’s not Lord Commander, but Grenn forcefully repeats that they’ll hold the gate.

The watchman draws his sword and begins to pray, but Grenn tells him that there are no gods there, it’s just the six of them. The giant manages to pass through the gate, and lets it fall shut with a heavy thud behind him; when it stands straight, its head almost touches the beams supporting the ceiling. He stares at the little men behind the gate, and begins to charge it at a great, heavy run. When a watchman looks like he’s going to flee, Grenn grabs hold of him, and begins to repeat the vows of the Watch. As he says the words, the others take it up. The giant rushes at the gate, roaring as the men scream.

Jon watches the battle below, the cage filled with other men. He tells Sam he doesn’t want Sam there when they go out to fight in the yard. Samwell insists he can’t be protected forever, that there’ll be no place to hide if the castle falls. But Jon hands Samwell a key: “I need him more than I need you.” Opening the cage door before it’s fully down, he leaps out and rolls to his feet. With Longclaw in hand, he cuts his way through several wildlings, opening the way for the other men of the Watch to follow.

We watch from the yard as the camera’s gaze sweeps fully around the castle, catching the fighting in all directions, witnessing Ygritte’s archery, Styr’s slaughter, Tormund’s roar of joy and brutal fighting, until we come back to the cage platform and see Samwell running to a door. A firey arrow ends up in the wood above him. AS Jon fights a wildling, Samwell opens the door and says, “We need you, boy.” Ghost runs out, and through his eyes we see him run past several men to leap onto a Thenn, killing him ferociously.

As Tormund and Styr kill watchmen, Jon kills a Thenn when he spots the Magnar, and the Magnar spots him. They rush at one another. A ferocious single combat breaks out, as the tall, powerful Styr swings his great, double-bladed axe with tremendous speed, and Jon matches him with blow for blow and drives him back across the yard. Ygritte, above the yard, jumps down and then rolls to her feet. Taking up some more arrows, she sends more arrows across the yard.

As Jon and Styr fight, Styr manages to disarm Jon. He chases after him, as Jon takes up a chain to try and defend himself. Ygritte, arrow drawn, spots Jon… and then stops, watching. TJon manages to wrap his chain around the ax, and the Magnar rips the chain from his hands has he loses his grip on his ax. Grabbing Jon, he punches him, then slams his head into an anvil. Dazed, Jon’s thrown over a fire and rolls to the ground. Styr hauls him up against a pillar and wraps his hands around his throat. Jon spits blood into Styr’s eyes, and in the instant it buys him picks up a hammer from a bench behind him. He hits Styr in the ribs, forcing him to his knees, and then with all his strength slams it into the Thenn’s skull. It crunches through, and Styr dies instantly.

Bleeding, grimacing from pain, Jon turns… and finds Ygritte a short distance away, one one knee, bow drawn back. She hesitates, trembling, fighting back tears. Jon, weary, smiles. And then… an arrow flies.

It comes out Ygritte’s chest. Jon looks from where it came, and sees Olly with his bow, giving him a nod. Jon rushes up to Ygritte and cradles her. She calls his name. Jon tells her to not to talk, but she asks if he remembers the cave where they made love for the first time. She tells him they should have stayed there, voice a whisper. Jon weeps and says they’ll go back there. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” Ygritte whispers with her dying breath. Overwhelmed with grief, Jon cradles her body as the fighting continues around him.

Atop the Wall, Edd sees the climbers are getting closer. He commands the scythe to be dropped, and other men take mauls to wooden blocks. They release an enormous metal blade, attached to a massive chain, which swings down like a pendulum across the face of the Wall. The climbers see it coming to them and scream an instant before they’re killed by it; one climber’s forearm and hand still clings to a pick. Edd calls on the men to hoist the scythe up, and sees that the wildlings are fleeing back to the wood. He tells the others, and they cheer, but he tells them that they’re still outnumbered a thousand to one.

In the yard, Tormund Giantsbane—two arrows in his back—roars and swings his blade at the watchmen surrounding him as Jon walks up. Jon calls on him to surrender, saying it’s done, but Tormund shouts defiance and tries to fight on. Jon takes a crossbow and shoots him in the leg, then kicks him down. He orders him placed in chains for questioning later. As Tormund is dragged away, he shouts after Jon that he should have thrown him from the top of the Wall. “Aye,” Jon replies, “you should have.”

In the storage room, Gilly hears the lock turning and grabs a frozen piece of meat to defend herself, only to see it’s Sam. “I promised you, didn’t I?” Samwell says. Gilly, relieved, lowers the bone. A sound behind Samwell startles him, and he turns to see Slynt cowering in a corner.

Outside, it’s daylight as bodies are gathered by men of the Watch. Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly climb down steps to the yard as Samwell says they successfully held the wildlings off. Jon notes they did so for a single night, and denies that it’s a great victory when Samwell claims it is. Jon points out that this was meerely a test of their defenses, and even with that he almost broke through. He has more giants and mammoths, he notes, and a thousand times the men. Jon is sure they’ll be attacked again come nightfall.

Jon leads the way further down the stair to the yard as he says they might hold for a day or two more, but they’ll never beat them. Samwell asks where they’re going, and Jon says that he plans to find Mance Rayder. Shocked, Samwell protests, saying no one gave such orders. Turning on him, Jon asks who’s left to give orders. Then he notes that the wildling army exists because of Mance and Mance alone—without him, it would fall apart into squabbling bands who’ll scatter home. Jon turns back and resumes his purposeful walk to the gate through the Wall. Sam chases him and realizes that Jon means to try and kill Mance. He starts to stay that Jon won’t get within a hundred yards of him, and even if he did—

Jon interrutpts him, and finishes the sentence: even if he succeeds, they’d kill him. He points out that he’s dead either way, and they’ll kill everyone else too if they don’t stop the wildlings by killing Mance. Samwell says Jon won’t just die—they’ll torture him over days. Jon turns back again: “You’re right. It’s a bad plan.” A beat, and then he asks, “What’s your plan?”

Samwell has no alternative plan. They go into the gate. We see them approach the half-destroyed inner gate, with the body of the giant and all six of the Night’s Watchmen—Grenn included—at its foot. Jon kneels besides Grenn’s body, and remarks on how they held the gate. Jon tenderly reaches down and closes Grenn’s eyes, and tells Samwell to get some other men down there to burn the bodies. Then, rising, they continue on to the outer gate. He has Samwell signal with his torch that it should be raised, and tells him to have it closed once he’s out.

As Samwell signals, Jon removes his swordbelt. Samwell asks what he’s doing, and Jon replies that he had promised Jeor Mormont that he’d never lose it again. He passes the sword to Samwell, and tells him that giving it to his care is in case he doesn’t come back. Once the gate’s open, a nervous Samwell tells Jon to come back. Jon smiles, trying to be reassuring, and walks through the gate into the snow beyond.