I know, I know, the season four finale just happened and some of you have not had the opportunity to watch it. First off, do watch it because it concludes a couple of narratives and sets up conflicts for the upcoming fifth season beautifully. Second, I will not be discussing the recent episode as I will actually be using the ninth episode of the fourth season for this post. So, if you have not seen that one yet, you have been warned.
Season 4 Episode 9, titled “The Watchers of the Wall”, takes us away from the events of King’s Landing and Daenerys’s mission doing whatever the hell she is doing and focuses on the battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. The last few seasons of conflict and turmoil between these two forces come to a head in one glorious episode. Of course, the Night’s Watch are horribly outmatched but remain steadfast in their duty while the Wildlings have accumulated one of the largest forces in the entirety of Westeros in the hope of leaving the impending terror of the true North.
The focus of the episode, and in many ways the battle itself, revolves around the eventual confrontation between Jon Snow and Ygritte. It makes sense.
After all, Jon is Ned Stark’s son (as far as we know) and as a Stark, even a bastard one, duty and honor are important to him. However, he becomes conflicted concerning his duty where Ygritte is concerned. He broke the sacred vow of celibacy of the Night’s Watch (though Sam might disagree with that interpretation) and developed actual emotions and connection for Ygritte.
Jon knows what he must do and that, most likely, either he or Ygritte will die at the other’s hand. He is unsure if he will be able to strike the final blow or if she will be his death. In the episode, both Jon and Ygritte are unable fight one another upon their final meeting. Jon stares at Ygritte as she has her bow drawn with an arrow pointed at his heart. He is resolute in allowing whatever will happen and Ygritte seems unwilling to release. Ultimately, Ygritte does die but by another’s hand and thus neither Jon nor Ygritte have to make the final choice of what to do. Instead, she dies in his arms knowing what the other felt.
This brings us to today’s first lesson: whatever choice you make, you must follow through. Jon chose the Night’s Watch as his home and sacred duty once he took the oath. He knew the consequences of that decision and was prepared to follow them through to the end. He found love, freedom, and possibility in the Wildlings, but he was still bound to the Night’s Watch for life. There was nothing that would make Jon betray that oath and path. It is, literally, how he was brought up.
While Jon was the focus of the episode, he was no where near the best part. Amidst the emo personality of Jon, there was also the rising of Samwell Tarly.
From his introduction, Sam has been a bit of a frumpy sidekick for the ever brooding Jon. He was the unwanted and disappointing son of a lord who sent him off to the Night’s Watch to die. Throughout the series, Sam has slowly learned to not be such a sad sack and fight back against the hands dealt to him by life. He managed to save a damsel in distress, Gilly, from a horrible fate. Though to be fair, she saved him just as much as he her. Sam also killed one of the dreaded White Walkers all by his lonesome. As well, he earned the respect of his fellow brothers of the Night’s Watch through his actions.
Even with all this, Sam still didn’t really step up to the plate and fulfill his duty until Gilly’s life was on the line. Unlike Jon, Sam needed a tangible reason to fight. He was willing to die, not for the idea of duty and honor, but to save that which he loved. Lesson two: find a reason to uphold your word and fight for. For some, this will simply be the sense of duty itself. For others, it will be a person or thing or even maybe a plain ideal. Whatever your reason is keep it close and do your best to respect, protect, and honor it.
As you may have guessed, this post is focusing on the concepts of duty and honor. Obviously, Jon and Sam have grown to be rather honorable men who know their duty. However, even they were not the most honorable members of the Night’s Watch. That title belongs to these guys:
These are among the many brothers of the Night’s Watch who barely got a mention, much less an episode, in the series. They were farmers, criminals, peasants, beggars, and second or third sons of a family with no better options. They entered the Night’s Watch with no honor, pride, or sense of purpose. What had once been the proud brotherhood had been reduced to the slimmest of pickings from the seven kingdoms.
These men were meant to go to the Wall and die away from polite society having done nothing and been nothing. Yet here they were fighting a giant and laying down their lives along with their brothers to protect the lands of Westeros from an invading army. They are scared and want nothing more than to run away, but instead they repeat their vows and fulfill them to the bitter end. These men died a hero’s death knowing that no bards would sing their adventures nor poets write their exploits. The greatest honor had already been achieved once they were worthy of saying the oath and wearing the black. The final lesson for today: no matter your station, duty and honor are conscious choices one makes to take on and must be acted on with every action made.
Thus endeth today’s lesson.