What’s Coming for the Watchers on the Wall?

by Jodi Walker

Unless you’re some sort of warlock…er, maester, it is absolutely impossible not to watch the Next Week On that usually airs on Sundays after each new episode of Game of Thrones . And if you watched last week’s episode — perhaps you also have not been able to get a certain skull-crunching noise out of your head — and the teaser that aired afterward, you know that next this Sunday’s episode, “The Watchers on the Wall” will likely be a Blackwater-like extravaganza featuring the titular Watchers, and the wildlings who want to kill them (and the Thenns who want to eat them).

It’s hard to imagine that creators D.B. Weiss and David Bentioff, and director Neil Marshall, could up the ante any higher than last week’s episode conclusion, which saw a man the size of a house straight up pop the teeth out of the only man we let ourselves love all season like a damn Pez dispenser. It felt more like a legendary Game of Thrones penultimate episode, what with all the beloved character death. But the GoT team surely has some other tricks up their sleeve for the true appetizer course to the season finale’s entrée. After all, the wildlings are coming and they deserve all of our attention…we can only hope somebody at Castle Black finally started paying attention to John being all, “You guys, we might want to close up that literal hole in our fortress, and maybe throw a couple extra guys up on the Wall, JIC.”

From the looks of the teaser we can tell that even Allister Thorne finally let loose a little on his insistence to not protect anything; or maybe the brothers of the Night’s Watch just finally got their asses in gear once they learned every prostitute in Mole’s Town had been killed. Either way, the watchers on the wall might be outnumbered 1000 wildlings to one, but there’s just no substitute for a well-worded oath and a sleek black wardrobe. Let’s look to the books to find out just what happens to those 110 brothers attempting to protect all of Westeros with nothing but a big ass block of ice and Jon-and-Sam bromance to their name.

Spoilers Ahead for “Watchers on the Wall” based on George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords.

In the books, all of Jon’s efforts to get back to the wall, to escape the wildlings, to leave Ygritte, are motivated by warning the Night’s Watch of Mance Rayder’s impending attach on Castle Black (and then Westeros). I have to say, TV show Jon has been a little less…eager. After getting shut down by Thorne and Janos Slynt in his trial, he kind of takes his mission undergrounds, and then eventually suggests they freeze the tunnel through the Wall, after his death mission to Craster’s Keep alerts him that the Styr’s raiders are almost to Moles’ Town.

Of course, Thorne says no, and of course, the wildlings do attack Mole’s Town, and of course, they’re headed to Castle Black next. In A Storm of Swords, Jon takes control of the Castle Black’s defenses himself, thanks to the blissful absence of Thorne and Slynt. Even with only the stewards, cooks, and few surviving rangers left at the Wall, all of Styr’s raiders are killed, including (insert heart breaking sound here) Ygritte, through a combination of archery from the Castle’s structures, and an elaborate booby trap that blows up most of the raiders on “the stairs” — Castle Black’s main means of getting men and materials up and down the Wall.

And that’s all before Mance Rayder’s actual army shows up. In the book, Jon & Co. are given a bit of reprieve between defeating the Thenns and Rayders army attacking. Realizing that he can’t simply march through the Wall and take Castle Black as planned, Rayder holds back bit while planning his attack. In the series, with only an hour, and That Whole Stannis Thing to get to, these events are likely to be much more streamlined.

Rayder’s first move is to send his giants mounted on mammoths — they’ve been hiding a few things up North — through the only tunnel in the Wall that Jon suggested they close up a few weeks ago. But there it is, wide open…the giants break through the door, but Night’s Watch men defend Castle Black through the internal gate and “murder hole” system that’s part of the structure for just these very world-altering moments.

One of those men is Donal Noye, who in the books, is acting as Commander and has supports Jon Snow in mounting his defense of the wall. But as he’s not a featured player in the show, this unfortunate spot is likely to be taken by Grenn, Pyp, or Dolorous Edd. Despite being severely outnumbered, the Watchers on the Wall have location, thousands of years of structural planning, and Jon Snow on their side, and manages to hold off Mance Rayder’s attacks for days, through a combination of catapults, flaming arrows, boiling oil and frozen rock-and-ice bombs.

Thank goodness Stannis shows up after that, because there’s only so long you can hold of wildlings with rock popsicles.

Images: HBO