With the penultimate episode of season four upon us, Game of Thrones appears to be concentrating all of "Watchers on the Wall" to one event: the long-time-coming clash between the Night's Watch and the Wildlings.
So there's a battle in store. A battle for Castle Black. The last time we battened down these particular hatches, it was for the battle of Blackwater Bay, and it's not just the preview here that should have you thinking about comparisons to "Blackwater." That penultimate episode of season two was near-universally praised as a crackerjack hour of expertly filmed action and high drama. That episode's director, Neil Marshall, is back for "Watchers on the Wall," only his second Game of Thrones assignment. So it's hard not to see this as a spiritual sequel. Marshall's best feature films — The Descent and Doomsday — have trafficked in suspense and a kind of dreadful spectacle. That tendency fits right in on a series that has seen children, pregnant woman, and dashing bisexuals all slain in increasingly horrifying ways for Sunday-night entertainment.
So who's gunning for the the title of Head Warrior in Charge this week? We've got a few contenders.
What has ol' knows-nothing actually done this season, actually? He made it back to Castle Black, warned the Night's Watch about the Wildlings, and aside from his little off-book sojourn to Craster's Keep, it's just been a whole lot of waiting. Up until now, Game of Thrones has showed itself to be utterly uninterested in any other aspect of Jon's life but what lies north of the Wall. Not his identity as Ned Stark's son, nor much about his concern for his living siblings. Content to continue teasing the audience with Stark reunions that will never come (see Arya getting turned back at the Eyrie last week), Jon's whole life is the Wall. As a wise woman and her corporate hit-making machine once told us, some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this, and it appears Jon Snow has been building up to this clash, particularly as it pertains to his lady love and furious ex, Ygritte.