Those fans who have watched “Game of Thrones” Season 4, episode 9 “The Watchers on the Wall” found themselves cheering for an unexpected hero: Alliser Thorne.
For four seasons, Alliser was a character who seemed to exist solely to get in Jon Snow’s way. He hated Jon when he was first recruited, he had a grudge against Jon up until the Stark bastard traveled north with Jeor Mormont, and he hasn’t stopped giving Jon a hard time since he returned in Season 4.
But while Jon and Alliser have long butted heads, in this episode they finally stood together as allies in the Night’s Watch. The first step towards getting both the audience and Jon on board with Alliser as a hero is having the acting commander of the Night’s Watch admit he was wrong. And he did.
“You can say it if you like. We should have sealed the tunnel when we had the chance — like you suggested. … Do you know what leadership means, Lord Snow? It means that the person in charge gets second-guessed by every clever little t*** with a mouth. What if he starts second-guessing himself? That’s the end; for him, for the clever little t***s, for everyone. This is not the end, not for us. Not if you lot do your duty for however long it takes to beat them back. And then you get to go on hating me, and I get to go on wishing your Wildling whore had finished the job.” — Alliser Thorne
Alliser Thorne isn’t a hero like the shining knights in Sansa Stark’s fairy tales. But he is a hero of the Night’s Watch, and one of the bravest men who fought in the Battle of Castle Black. By admitting even he is fallible, and by putting aside his personal grievances for the sake of his duty, he finally became a character audiences could like and cheer for. It’s something Janos Slynt, a coward, was unable to do, and why he will not be forgiven in the future.
The Night’s Watch might be Westeros’s last hope for protection against the Wildlings and the White Walkers, but it is not an army made up of trained soldiers or brave heroes. Instead, like with poor Pyp, it is manned by untrained and untested men, many of whom are thieves, murderers and rapers. They aren’t the types of people who get fairy tales and poems written about them.
In a line of defense filled by these sorts of people, Alliser Thorne is a rare hero, and one that the Night’s Watch deserves. Though he might go back to “wishing [Jon’s] Wildling whore had finished the job” in the Season 4 finale “The Children,” for one episode he proved why he is a character deserving both Jon and the audience’s respect.
“Game of Thrones” Season 4, episode 10 airs Sunday, June 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.