Alas, dear fans of tousled locks and stony gazes, Jon Snow is headed into the Game Of Thrones Season 4 finale with something of a death wish after his redheaded lady love Ygritte was sadly gunned (arrowed?) down in last episode's epic battle at The Wall. He ended the penultimate episode by striding out from behind The Wall to meet (and hopefully assassinate) wildling leader Mance Rayder... leaving his only weapon behind with Sam. What is the beautiful bastard thinking?
In the books, Jon's decision to parlay defenselessly with Mance makes a bit more sense — because it isn't a decision at all. In George R.R. Martin's A Storm Of Swords, Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt are not present at Castle Black during the battle, but return just after it ends. They promptly throw Jon in an ice cell for his desertion and the murder of Qhorin Halfhand. However, they realize they can't execute him due to his popularity, so they think up another way to get rid of him instead. Thorne and Slynt demand that the imprisoned Jon assassinate Mance in exchange for his freedom... assuming that he'll die in the attempt.
Obviously circumstances are different on the show, and Jon is going to treat with Mance of his own free will. It seems like a suicide mission (and probably is), but it does make his pain over Ygritte's death all the more real. It's clear that his grief over his lover's passing has made him reckless, and he's determined to stop the wildlings... Or die trying.
So does he die? Thankfully, the answer is no — for now. Jon is escorted to Mance's tent, where the King Beyond The Wall reveals his master plan: he's in possession of a legendary artifact called The Horn Of Winter. Supposedly one note from the Horn will cause The Wall to crumble. However, Mance would prefer not to use the Horn, since if The Wall falls, there will be nothing holding the White Walkers back from invading the rest of Westeros. So he offers to give Jon the Horn if he allows the wildling army to pass through The Wall unopposed.
However, before Jon can either kill Mance or accept his offer, they're both surprised by a sudden turn of events: the wildling camp is overrun by an army, the invaders are slaughtered, and Mance is captured. And who led the charge? None other than Stannis Baratheon himself. Convinced that the true king of Westeros would defend its Northern border against the White Walkers, Stannis abandoned his plans for assault on King's Landing in favor of aiding the Night's Watch.
The plot at The Wall actually extends a fair deal from there before the end of A Storm Of Swords, involving Stannis extending an unexpected offer to Jon and the election of the next Lord Commander leading to surprising results. But with so much to pack into one finale, it seems as though events at The Wall will end this year with Stannis' arrival. We'll have to wait a whole year to find out what happens to Jon, Stannis, and Mance. But, hey — at least we know Jon makes it out of Season 4 alive, right?
Images: HBO (3)