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‘Game of Thrones’ Heavy Metal Review – ‘The Watchers on the Wall’

HBO

BAM! With ‘Game of Thrones” highest body count to date, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ was metal as f—. Massive spoilers follow. Duh…

A couple thousand dudes thrashing to death with all of two women on the scene? This week’s ‘Game of Thrones’ was wall-to-(the) Wall heavy metal.

As the ever-growing legend goes, “It’s not TV — it’s HBO.” And when it’s HBO, a prestige drama season’s penultimate episode means bodies dropping left and right. This week, ‘Game of Thrones’ literally delivered on that pattern, presenting an episode that might not have been the series’ largest battle, technically, but definitely was its baddest.

Even if you have the biggest TV in your subdivision, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ was particularly ill-suited for the small screen, from visuals to a stunningly staged body count that averaged more than one death per minute. Season two’s ‘Battle of Blackwater’ had a bigger explosion, but the big battle at the wall — which, in a rare move, locked the entire week in at a single location — brought the fiery devastation up-close and personal. (Director Neil Marshall helmed both of these incendiary eps.) But make no mistake: This week was cinematic, through and through. Bring on the big screen!

In fact, this week’s hour was so powerful, you can’t help but wonder if the season’s many less-than-exciting, badly lit, dully shot action scenes weren’t filmed that way on purpose, to make this week’s battle pop like a barrel of flaming oil.

After years of buildup, the men of the Night’s Watch squared off against the wildling army, defending both sides of the wall, fighting an impossible battle they were sure to lose. But still, they refused to die quietly in the night.

The Night’s Watch are men who, to borrow a phrase from ‘Escape From New York,’ have been kicked out of the world. Most of them faced a choice of execution or service on the great white Wall, a 700-foot barrier erected and protected by magic, to safeguard the realms of man against giants, cannibals and unnamed things that are far, far worse. Each one of these men in black swears a solemn, binding oath.

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

In the world of Westeros, words are wind. But tonight, the black guards made good on their oath. Even when people weren’t being hacked and slashed and impaled en masse, the episode was as metal as three years of Wacken.

The Watchers on the Wall’ Stats and Count of Assorted Metal Signifiers and Situations (all numbers approximate; the action was wild and relentless):

Onscreen Body Count: 68
Boobs: 0 (a rare goose egg, which is a good tradeoff in this case)
Battlefield Beheadings: 3
Massive Flying Impalement Followed by a 700-Foot Deadly Plunge: 1
Deaths by Arrow, Flaming or Otherwise: Like 15, possibly 30, who can keep track?
All-Night Rager: 1

And One Very Metal Moment After Another:

No.1: At the Wall, in the calm before the fire-and-blood storm, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly — a.k.a. Sam the Slayer — talk about compromising your values to score a hot chick. Which is metal. And human. And nothing gets to the heart of the human condition like heavy metal.
No. 2: In the wildling camp, a white-eyed warg magically swaps his mind into an owl. That is magic, and it is metal.
No. 3: A smokin’ redhead gets tired of dudes sitting around, talking s—, and tells them to shut the f— up. Tough girls are metal.
No. 4: Cannibal skinheads who look like they escaped from ‘Hellraiser’ are metal, though technically they’re hardcore, which technically makes them crossover, which counts. Technically.
No. 5: A great horn sounds doom in the darkness. Metal!
No. 6: A giant f—in’ fire spreading as far as the eye can see is metal.
No. 7: Fighting 1,000-to-1 odds is metal.
No. 8: An undervalued, plain-assed dude discovering his inner strength, stepping up and getting some play from a cooler girl than he might necessarily deserve? Metal.
No. 9: Mammoth. Giants. Giant mammoth. Giant riding a giant mammoth. M-m-m-m-metal.
No. 10: A giant with a giant longbow spearing a dude from 700 feet below is more metal than U.S. Steel.
No. 11: An enraged giant, the last of his race, punching his way through an impregnable gate, then lifting it and heading inside, ready to fight. Metal.
No. 12: As a small band of Night’s Watchmen gird up their loins to fight the last giant, being the sword in the darkness is about as metal as it gets — especially in a world with no electric guitar solos.
No. 13: A weaponized white wolf springing into action, in the middle of a battle, no less? Metal.
No. 14: The Thenn Lord smashing Jon Snow’s face into an anvil is literally and figuratively metal …
No. 15: … as is Snow ending the exchange with a ball-peen hammer to the cannibal’s head.
No. 16: Losing the girl you love accounts for at least 25 percent of all poetry. And love gone morbid is metal.
No. 17: DEATH BY GIANT SWINGING ANCHOR is metal as f— in every possible sense of the word.
No. 18: Future Album Art Alert: A dismembered hand posthumously clinging to a chain hanging from a frozen wall? Do you even have to ask?
No. 20: A barbarian leader with like 20 kills to his name still fights to the last, with three arrows sticking in his torso. That is metal, and we salute his gumption, even if he is a d—.
No. 21: Making it through a long night, living to fight again and walking boldly into certain doom is metal. The end.
No. 22: P.S. In the credits, Band Name Alert: Wolf Unit. Metal.

Overall Rating: Solid-sharp-bloody-steel metal.

Songs of the Week: ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ warranted not just a song of the week, but a mini-mixtape:

Eric Zaonite Herthel, Ramin Djawadi, ‘Game of Thrones’ ‘Main Title,’ metal version

Voivod, ‘Order of the Blackguards’

Accept, ‘Balls to the Wall’

Quiet Riot, ‘Battle Axe’

Anvil, ‘Metal on Metal’

Cannibal Corpse, ‘Hammer Smashed Face’

Arrow, ‘Heavy Metal Hero’

Testament, ‘Over the Wall’

Owen Crawford, ‘The Night’s Watch’

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