This is the second part of a series, contemplating the charges against Jon Snow’s steward Olly and if he deserves all of the Internet abuse he gets. This was somewhat explained in more relevant detail in my last post. To summarize: I say he doesn’t. Maybe?Disclaimer: this post will be giving some plot details from the battle at Castle Black from the books (from A Storm of Swords, specifically.) If you’re not a book-reader but one day want to be, what I’ll be telling you won’t be super spoilery – but I wanted to give you fair warning.
Ygritte: the girl kissed by fire, killed by a child.
Near the end of season 4, things weren’t looking too good for Jon Snow. An overwhelming force of Wildlings were assailing the northern face of the Wall, but a more immediate danger in the form of a Free Folk raiding party was dangerously close to capturing Castle Black and securing access to the tunnel through the ice.
But of an even more immediate immediate (yes, I said it twice) danger: Jon’s spurned lover Ygritte had an arrow knocked and aimed in his general direction.
Then Olly took her out.
Understandably, this upset some people. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that the character of Ygritte had been well received by the audience. She was cute, spunky, and clever. She and Jon were adorable together (when she wasn’t threatening his junk.)
People who were upset with Ygritte’s death basically fell into two camps (based on what I’ve heard, as you know I’m anything but scientific in how I characterize viewer reactions…)
Those two camps were:
- Show watchers who didn’t know Ygritte was doomed to die in the attack
- Book readers who knew Ygritte’s fate, and didn’t enjoy the execution of the scene
Anyone invested in Ygritte surviving the battle and possibly patching things up with Jon Snow was no doubt shocked by her death. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise though. Game of Thrones is pretty heartless in whom it kills off.
It’s fair to be angry at Olly for killing Ygritte, even if he was saving Jon in the process. Or was he? Ygritte hesitated rather than executing Jon, and she’d shot him non-fatally before. There was a chance that she’d spare him. Olly! You shot her too soon!
Book readers were expecting Ygritte to die (I think I’d be outraged if she didn’t die.) But her death in the books was slightly different. After the Night’s Watch had decisively defeated the Wildlings who had been tearing up Castle Black (DECISIVELY – go read the books, if you haven’t) Jon found the wounded Ygritte after the battle. She had an arrow in her and she was bleeding out. She and Jon said their final words, and she died.
It’s unknown who killed her. The only comfort for Jon was that she was hit by an arrow with different fletchings than he had been using, so he knew at least that he hadn’t killed her.
Having Olly kill Ygritte on the show somewhat takes away the moment from Ygritte and gives it to Olly, this tertiary and unimportant character. I can understand this rubbing some people the wrong way, even if they’re not book readers. Dave Chen of the A Cast of Kings podcast has famously not read the books and he completely predicted Olly’s role in Ygritte’s death, as early as Olly’s second appearance in the show. Maybe it was a bit too obvious.
But for me, I don’t see Olly’s killing of Ygritte as a reason to hate the character of Olly. Or to hate Olly’s role in the story.
The Defense of Olly
Ygritte really needed to be killed. She’d earned her death by murdering peaceful farmers (and peaceful albeit unpleasant whores in Molestown.)
Ygritte was perhaps the most dangerous person in the battle for Castle Black. With the clear eyed puissance of a woman-scorned, she was mowing down members of the Night’s Watch. She was responsible for putting an arrow through scared, likable Pyp, one of Jon’s few friends at the Wall.
If anyone was a legitimate target for being taken out on the field of battle, it would be Ygritte the Angel of Death.
Would she have spared Jon Snow? Who knows? I’m glad Olly didn’t give her the chance to make up her mind and give Jon the shaft. And even if she wouldn’t, she’d destroyed at least a dozen guys in the previous 5 minutes.
And she’d killed Olly’s dad, while the farming father and son were laughing and talking about dinner. Olly was owed some payback.
Olly haters tend to couch Ygritte’s death in very specific terms. That Olly murdered Ygritte. That’s clearly bullsh*t. Ygritte was a willing combatant and Olly engaged with her no differently than with the methods she was employing. Calling Olly a murderer is crazy talk.
But what about him being a too-convenient, too-on-the-nose character to kill Ygritte?
Ygritte couldn’t have been killed by a random arrow and her killer be anonymous, like in the books. Okay, she could have been, obviously. But in no way would that have been satisfying.
In. No. Way.
It worked for the book, since the battle at Castle Black was all from Jon’s perspective. We accept the limitations of his point-of-view. Unless Jon killed Ygritte, it was likely that he wouldn’t know. Even the nameless archer whose arrow connected with Ygritte might not know.
The battle on the show was far more personal and as viewers we saw the battle from all angles. Every other major identifiable Wildling that was killed was killed by someone we knew.
- Styr the Thenn wasn’t killed by some random guy, he was killed during a bad ass battle with Jon.
- Styr’s owl-carrying warging Thenn (okay, we don’t know his name, but he was identifiable) was killed by Sam “the Slayer” Tarly.
- Mag the Mighty, the king of the giants and Wildling ally, was killed by Grenn, Jon’s buddy. (To be fair, Mag was killed by Team Grenn, but Grenn still gets the credit from Mance and Jon.)
All of them could have been killed anonymously. But they weren’t because it would have been lame television.
Ygritte was doomed to die and because this was television she was going to be killed by someone we know. Who else could be a candidate for killing Ygritte?
- Edd? He was in charge of the northern approach.
- Grenn? He was in the tunnels.
- Sam? Dude. We can’t have Jon’s best friend kill Jon’s girl! That violates a code of ethics bigger than Guest Rites and so on. I feel bad for even mentioning it, because now I think it’ll happen on the show in some way. That GRRM and his blood thirst for irony!
- Pyp: Dead.
- Janos Slynt: Hiding.
- Gilly: Gilly killing Ygritte would have been weird, and besides she was hiding too.
- Alliser Thorne: Hmmm, maybe. But that seems even a bit too on the nose as the guy that doesn’t get along with Jon Snow.
So, I declare Olly as the best choice for the Ygritte slayer. Even if it seemed too convenient and allegedly took away the moment from Ygritte to serve his little secondary mini revenge arc.
Was Olly’s killing of Ygritte really that big a deal? I don’t know if I’ll actually get that many people using that as the basis for their dislike of Olly now that Jon was stabbed. I mostly bring it up because the Olly hate was full-on during Season 5 before Jon was killed.
Olly haters were using the reason of Ygritte’s death to justify their dislike of the boy, but my sense was that they suspected Olly would be involved in Jon’s stabbing, and were in essence condemning Olly for a crime he hadn’t committed yet. Minority Report style.
Rather than spoil show watchers about Jon’s upcoming betrayal, Ygritte was used as a convenient excuse to start hating Olly early.
But I don’t want to assume things. I’ll have plenty of things to say about Olly and Jon next post, but I’m interested in what the readership has to say about Olly and Ygritte.
Next Post: Jonspiracy
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
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