The Watchers on the Wall

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"The Watchers on the Wall"
Game of Thrones episode
Ygritte dies in Jon Snow's arms during the Battle of Castle Black.
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 9
Directed by Neil Marshall
Written by David Benioff
D. B. Weiss
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by David Franco
Editing by Katie Weiland
Original air date June 8, 2014 (2014-06-08)
Running time 50 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Mountain and the Viper"
Next →
"The Children"
Game of Thrones (season 4)
List of Game of Thrones episodes

"The Watchers on the Wall" is the ninth and penultimate episode of the fourth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 39th overall. The episode was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss,[1] and directed by Neil Marshall.[2] It aired on June 8, 2014.[3]

Like season two's "Blackwater" (also directed by Marshall), the episode focuses exclusively on one storyline: the Wildling assault on Castle Black and the Wall, and the Night's Watch defense, led by Ser Alliser Thorne and Jon Snow.


As they keep watch for the coming invasion, Jon and Samwell walk on the top of the Wall, and talk about Jon's relationship with Ygritte during his time with the wildlings. At a nearby camp, the Thenn Warg scouts the wall using an owl, while Ygritte tells the group that Jon is hers alone to kill. In the library of Castle Black, Sam and Maester Aemon discuss Gilly, who soon after arrives at Castle Black, having been spared by Ygritte during the raid of Mole's Town. Their reunion is cut short by horn blasts signaling that Mance Rayder's army has arrived. Jon, looking out over the north side of the Wall, sees a massive fire burning, and he and his brothers complete the preparations for battle. Sam finds Gilly and her baby shelter in the kitchen, and then leaves to aid in the defense after kissing her good-bye.

Ygritte, having scouted the entrance of Castle Black, reports that it is undermanned, and Styr orders the group to attack. As Ser Alliser orders the archers to nock, another horn blast informs him that the castle is being attacked from both sides. Alliser leaves charge of the Wall to Janos Slynt, and heads for the castle to battle with the Thenns. On top of the Wall, Janos Slynt proves to be inept as a commander, so Grenn tricks him to go down to the castle, leaving Jon in charge. Several giants and a woolly mammoth attempt to pull up the large gate at the base of the Wall, and Jon sends Grenn with five men to defend the passage. At the castle, Ser Alliser is wounded by Tormund Giantsbane and is taken to be treated. Sam and Pyp use crossbows to shoot at the wildlings, but Pyp is shot through the neck by Ygritte. Sam then ascends the Wall, killing the Thenn Warg while he runs through the courtyard. Upon arriving at the top, Sam informs Jon that the courtyard is overrun, and Jon leaves charge of the Wall to Edd.

Returning to the south side of Castle Black, Jon leads the remaining Night's Watch brothers, along with his direwolf, Ghost. Jon battles with Styr, and after taking a severe beating, is able to kill the Thenn. Ygritte confronts him but hesitates with her arrow, as they both smile at each other. Her pause allows Olly to shoot her in the back, and as they reminisce on how they should have stayed in the cave together, she dies in Jon's arms. Atop the Wall, Edd leads a successful defense, with the wildling army appearing to withdraw for the time. Tormund, having been hit by several arrows, is captured on Jon's orders.

In the morning, Jon tells Sam that he will go north of the Wall, and attempt to kill Mance. As they walk through the passage, they find that Grenn and his men died killing a giant, and Jon tells Sam to have their bodies burned. Jon gives his sword, Longclaw, to Sam before departing the passage.


The episode was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

This episode adapts content from the A Storm of Swords chapters Jon VII, Jon VIII and Jon IX.[4]

"The Watchers on the Wall" marks the return of director Neil Marshall, whose previous episode for the show as director was "Blackwater". Marshall also makes a cameo appearance in the episode as an archer on the Wall.[5]



"The Watchers on the Wall" was watched by an estimated 6.95 million people during its first airing.[6] In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 1.748 million viewers, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week. It also received 0.072 million timeshift viewers.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received a score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews, the lowest score of the season. The site's consensus reads: "While "The Watchers of the Wall" lacks the emotional punch of previous episodes this season, it succeeds as an action-packed hour with cinema-worthy visuals."[8]

James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "[the episode] was an intense rousing hour of heroism and heartbreak that set a new bar for what this show – and TV – can do."[9] Another positive review came from Terri Schwartz of, who wrote, "As the most expensive episode of the series, the Battle at Castle Black felt like an equivalent of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Battle of Helm's Deep."[10] David Malitz of The Washington Post was more negative about the episode, writing, "Aside from the major moment with Jon Snow and Ygritte it was hard to feel too emotionally invested in anything that happened. And as visually exciting as it was to watch everything unfold, the ending was surprisingly unfulfilling."[11]


Neil Marshall was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.[12]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2014 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Neil Marshall Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series Tim Kimmel, Jed M. Dodge, Tim Hands, Paula Fairfield, David Klotz, Bradley C. Katona, Brett Voss, Jeffrey Wilhoit, and Dylan T. Wilhoit Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour) Ronan Hill, Richard Dyer, Onnalee Blank, and Mathew Waters Nominated
Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Episode[13] Nominated
2015 Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing in Television – Short Form: Music Nominated
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program Dan Breckwoldt, Martin Furman, Sophie Marfleet, and Eric Andrusyszyn Won


  1. ^ "Here is your season 4 writers breakdown". February 26, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  2. ^ Hibberd, James (July 16, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' season 4 directors chosen". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  3. ^ "Shows A–Z – Game of Thrones". The Futon Critic. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  4. ^ Garcia, Elio; Antonsson, Linda (June 9, 2013). "EP409: The Watchers on the Wall". Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  5. ^ Kit Harington, John Bradley, Rose Leslie (February 17, 2015). Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season – "The Watchers on the Wall" audio commentary (Blu-ray). HBO.
  6. ^ Bibel, Sara (June 10, 2014). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Wins Night, 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians', 'Devious Maids', 'Veep', 'Turn' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  7. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (9-15 June 2014)". BARB. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  8. ^ "Game of Thrones: Season 4: Episode 9". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  9. ^ Hibberd, James (June 8, 2014). "Game of Thrones recap: Where the Wildlings Are". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  10. ^ Schwartz, Terri (June 8, 2014). "'Game of Thrones' Season 4, episode 9 'The Watchers on the Wall' recap: But what comes next?". Zap2it. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  11. ^ Malitz, David (June 9, 2014). "'Game of Thrones' recap: 'The Watchers on The Wall' — giants and mammoths and Thenns, oh my". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  12. ^ Lowry, Brian (July 10, 2014). "2014 Emmy Awards: 'Game of Thrones,' 'Fargo' Lead Nominations". Variety. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  13. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (August 20, 2014). "'Orange is the New Black,' 'Breaking Bad' sweep Gold Derby TV Awards". Gold Derby. Retrieved August 20, 2016.

External links[edit]