[WARNING! The following contains spoilers from Game of Thrones' "The Watchers on the Wall" episode. Read at your own risk!]
Jaded Game of Thrones fans may have been braced for more loss after last week's brutal death, but that didn't make Sunday's episode any less tragic.
In the devastating clash between the Night's Watch and the wildlings, apparent hero Jon Snow (Kit Harington) managed to stay alive. Unfortunately, he lost several of his "brothers" — including Grenn (Mark Stanley) and Pyp (Josef Atlin) — and the love of his life, wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie). "The whole thing was very emotional actually, and I don't say that lightly," Harington tells TVGuide.com about bidding adieu to so many fellow actors. "Mark and Joe I've worked with since the very start of Game of Thrones. We've been through a lot together. Rose I've worked with more intensively over the last three years. There were tears on set on the last day from a lot of people: the crew, the directors and including myself. It was weird definitely to know we wouldn't be working together next year."
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Perhaps the most difficult farewell was Ygritte's. The wildling who was "kissed by fire" was a fan favorite — not only for her wicked archery skills but also her ability to put Jon Snow in his place. It was a cruel twist to have junior Night's Watch protege Olly (Brenock O'Connor) fell her with an arrow just as she and Jon lock eyes across enemy lines. "It was emotional in that scene," Leslie tells TVGuide.com. "There's an arrow killing me through the back of my heart; there was so little time to say our dialogue as well. My emotions were already quite heightened just because I had such a phenomenal time on the show. I definitely felt it."
Check out what else Harington and Leslie have to say about "The Watchers on the Wall":
Ygritte's death was particularly heartbreaking, especially how it happened. Was that an emotional scene to film? What was going through Jon's and Ygritte's minds?
Kit Harington: I think it was a weird one to film because we had to get a lot of stuff done very quickly in the episode — we had to shoot quite a bit and then move on. Ygritte's death scene came right at the end of a long night of filming. We didn't have much time, so we only had a couple of takes. Me and Rose talked about it a lot and figured out what we wanted it to be and how we wanted to do it. As it is so often when it came to filming, there was very little time to be emotional about it or get too attached to a scene, so we just got it done. And at the end of the night, we sort of discussed it.
Rose Leslie: They were very helpful at production because the scene when I die in Jon Snow's arms was my final scene [on the show] forever. I was wrapped for good after that. All of my emotions were toying with me, and I was easily sent over the edge. I cried hugely and started hugging everyone afterwards. It was a very, very sad day for me.
Ygritte the redhead is "kissed by fire," which is supposed to be lucky among wildlings. She doesn't seem so lucky though. Do you think she and Jon are star-crossed lovers? Could it have ever worked out?
Leslie: I do they believe that they were star-crossed. I don't want to admit it, but I do believe that they come from two very different worlds. That means that they're never going to live happily ever after in a little cottage by the stream and forget the rest of Westeros. They were always going to be tied to who they are. Neither of them were going to bend. And I think that's hugely realistic. I think that happens in real life. It's incredibly sad, but from my point of view it was a wonderful way to go.
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Although Olly doesn't know better, is Jon Snow angry or upset over his killing of Ygritte? Was it frustrating that this little boy is the one that dispatches her?
Harington: I think that was one of the most interesting choices that the writers made. In the original script, it was an unknown Night's Watchman who shot her. But it was one of the writers ideas ... that actually this boy whom I'd mentored all the way through should be the one [who killed her]. It's so significant when he says, "I can shoot a rabbit from 30 yards," in one of the episodes, and everyone just sort of passes it off. And when Jon looks up and sees that it's Olly — I think one of the really interesting aspects of that story line is going to be that Jon loves this boy and mentors him but he's got this overhanging hatred towards him.
Leslie: That was such a genius move [on the show] with it being him recognizing Ygritte for killing his father in the third episode of the season. (Watch it here.) What goes around comes around! [Laughs] It's rather brutal and very ruthless... but that is the beauty of the show. Nobody knows what is coming.
Olly shoots her because Ygritte has trained an arrow on Jon. Do you really think she had it in her to kill him?
Leslie: The arrow is nocked, and she has so much pent up rage and she's been saying throughout other episodes that she wants to make sure that he pays and that he hurts the way that she's been hurting for so long. In that hesitation of shooting him, it is in that moment whereby you know she is completely fixated on Jon when she gets shot. I don't think that she was ever able to kill him. But in that moment, it's brilliant how much she loved Jon Snow and wasn't unable to go through with it.
Of course, in her death scene Ygritte had to get the last word when she told him, "You know nothing," one last time.
Harington: [Laughs] Of course she did. How f---ing typical, right? I think it's heartbreaking, that whole scene. She was always the person who told him how it was.
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Jon has to be a leader. Does he take it hard when he knows he has to send of his friends to their death, such as Grenn when he secures the gate?
Harington: I think he's a soldier, he's a warrior. The way I've always wanted to play Jon is that he hasn't gotten the sentimentality that modern man has. Yeah, of course it hurts going to Grenn and telling him that he's the one who needs to secure the gate because he's the only one who can do it. He knows Grenn is going to die, but after he finds Grenn dead, after Ygritte's death, he's not one to dwell on these things. It hurts, and he knows he has to do it. He knows what sacrifices he has to make and he deals with them appropriately afterwards.
Do you think Jon's Night's Watch nemesis Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) redeemed himself in this battle?
Harington: It's very easy to see Alliser Thorne as a classic villain, and he's not. He's a practical man. He hates Jon Snow, but it doesn't make him any less of a good leader, and actually he wins the battle at the castle as much as Jon does, as anyone does. It goes to show that you that you can hate your leaders but if you're all fighting for the common good, it'll work itself out. I think he's a great character, Alliser Thorne, in that he has redeemed himself in our eyes I think.
But Janos Slynt, not so much with the redemption. He went and hid with Gilly and the baby!
Harington: In this battle, you see that Samwell steps up, Grenn steps up, Alliser Thorne steps up, Jon steps up, and the real coward is exposed. It's wonderful, this episode, because it's got so many different references to different war movies. It feels like a First World War movie sometimes or feels like a Vietnam film at points and one of those bits is kind of the weak leader. Dom Carter who plays Janos sort of buckles under the pressure.
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At the end of the episode, Jon intends to go to Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) to kill him. But when he was with the wildlings, the two of them learned to respect one another. Can Jon really follow through?
Harington: Jon is very clear that he's going to kill Mance. He explains at the end of the episode that that's what he has to do, that's what he should do and that's what he should've done... He has a duty. He's lost his one love because of his duty, so he'll do anything now. He'll kill Mance.
How cold! Is this how Jon is after losing Ygritte? What affect has she had on his life?
Harington: He's very different after Ygritte's death. You'll see in Episode 10 that her death changes him. He hardens all the way through. He's a very different person from how he was in Season 1. He's learning very tough lessons. He's always been practical, but he was a warm-hearted person. What I wanted to change in him was that warmness inside of him is gone. He's kind of stone-cold after that.
Leslie: She's totally changed the character of Jon Snow. The character he is now — he's not so narrow-minded anymore, he can see the side of the wildlings, he can see why they are doing what they are do, why they had to go to Castle Black and fight and survive. Now Jon Snow can move forward without Ygritte in his life and just become the man that he was always meant to be.
Rose, did you take anything as a memento or do anything to mark your farewell to playing Ygritte?
Leslie: I was given the bow, that was my way of saying goodbye. They presented me with Ygritte's bow with a silver plaque. [The plaque] said "kissed by fire" and then a little Rose on the other side, which was very beautiful. I had that with me and I shall treasure it
What will you miss the most about Ygritte?
Leslie: I loved how open-minded she was. I feel she had some very lovely character traits. And she didn't take any bullsh-- and she was her own woman. That is something I'd love to move forward with. She's been a pleasure too play, she really has.
Kit, what is Jon's mindset going into the finale?
Harington: I think he's a broken man at the beginning of 10. That's the way that me and the director Alex Graves discussed it. He's walking to his death, probably a slow death. He's lost all of his friends really and the only person he's ever loved. So, he's kind of a man on death row, and that's how I sort of wanted to end. We'll have to wait and see what happens to him. He's very broken, he's in the lowest place he can be in the beginning of 10 really. Poor Jon!
What did you think of the episode? Will you miss Ygritte, Grenn or Pyp? Do you think Jon will kill Mance? Are you relieved a Stark family member didn't die this time?