Jon Snow's skills and heart are tested in the biggest battle sequence in Thrones history

June 09, 2014 at 12:50 AM EDT

— and couldn’t he have stabbed him one more time? You know? Just once one more time for good measure? Or kept his foot a little further away from his hand? Or maybe not take a moment while finishing off The Mountain to smile at Ellaria? I mean, Prince Oberyn had a spear — a really long freakin’ spear! If he wanted that confession so badly, he could have poked Ser Gregor from, like, five feet away. I mean…just … why? Why. Why, Thrones, why?!

Clearly I’m still messed up from last week’s episode — but I’m trying to move on, to get into Castle Black mode for tonight’s recap. Yay Jon Snow! Boo the Wildlings! For some reason — and I heard from some of you who felt the same way — last week’s gross, screaming killing of Oberyn Martell was somehow worse than all the other deaths we’ve seen on this show. Yup, more disturbing than The Red Wedding. Because Prince Oberyn represented hope. And as we know from President Snow — who is not on this show, though I could easily imagine him owning a summer villa in King’s Landing — hope is the only thing stronger than fear. And the death of Oberyn crushed our hope like The Mountain crushed his head. Not just our hope for Tyrion escaping execution, but also our rapidly diminishing hope for Good Guys Winning in General. It wasn’t that Oberyn died — it was that Ned Stark died, then Robb Stark died, then Oberyn died.

How much more heartache can we take? This world is cruel, we get that. The world of Thrones is actually a comment on our world, and we get that too. Thrones doesn’t play by the usual rules of storytelling. Here, character mistakes have deadly consequences — and that’s really cool, and a big reason we love the show. But I wonder if there is a limit to what an audience can stand before they turn away, unwilling to be hurt again. Fans have been crying “I’m done with this show!” on the boards since Ned Stark’s execution, yet the ratings keep breaking records (Thrones just surpassed The Sopranos to become HBO’s most-watched show of all time). Could Thrones continue axing characters until only one arguably “good” one remained, like a scripted version of Survivor? (My bet is on Hot Pie!). Or is there a Malcolm Gladwell-esque tipping point where the fan tide abruptly shifts and sentiment turns against the show? I once asked the producers if there is a character that the show cannot afford to lose. They replied there are several, “but that doesn’t mean they won’t die.”

Tyrion is definitely one of those characters, and perhaps the most valuable one. But his fate will not be decided until next week. Is Jon Snow one of those characters? Quite possibly, and tonight he is in more danger than ever. So after that long intro, let’s get into this week’s episode, “The Watchers on the Wall.” Since this hour is jammed with action scenes, we’re going to do the recap a bit differently this week. Here are 10 things that happened during the big battle:

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