'Game of Thrones' Recap: Jon Takes the Wall

Sam shows what he's made of as giants march on Castle Black.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, "The Watchers on the Wall."]

Ygritte (Rose Leslie) got to tell Jon Snow (Kit Harington) he knows nothing one last time.

It felt inevitable that one way or the other, their story would end with Sunday's episode, but it still hurt seeing Jon smile and Ygritte speaking about their cave.

"We'll go back there," Jon promised her.

Q&A: 'Game of Thrones' Director on Battle of the Wall

"The Watchers on the Wall" had by far the best battle moments of the series so far (how cool were the mammoths and giants?) but also managed to have standout character moments for people who are often sidelined.

Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) talked about loving a girl when he was young; Ghost gave a performance so good that it should obliterate the Internet's memories of Ser Pounce; and Pip (Josef Altin) had a death scene that made us sadder than any minor character's before him. Then there were the poor souls tasked with holding the gate against an attacking giant.

But in many ways, the episode belonged to Sam (John Bradley), who had his best showing of the series. It began with him shouting, "Open the f--king gate," progressed to his first onscreen kiss and moved on to battlefield heroics, such as nailing a hungry Wildling in the head with a crossbow.

We were also glad to see Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) show up in a big way, after several episodes of doing little but berate Jon.

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"This is not the end," he told Jon. "Not if you lot do your duty for however long it takes to beat them back. And you get to go on hating me, and I get to go on wishing your Wildling whore finished the job."

Jon ended the episode going off on a suicide mission to take out Mance Rayder, whose death he believes will put an end to the Wildling assault.

For more from the episode, check out our Q&A with director Neil Marshall, who details his ambitious goals for the episode and why he was able to make them a reality.

Email: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch