In season 2 episode 6 "The Old Gods and the New"

the Night's Watch expedition led by Qhorin Halfhand finds a bunch of Wildlings. One of them is Ygritte and Qhorin wants to kill her, but Jon says: "I'll do it". The expedition then all goes away for some reason so Jon can kill her by himself.

Q: Why do they walk away?

Qhorin was going to kill her with them all there, so why couldn't Jon kill her with them all there?

I am up to date on the TV series (up to season 4), but not on the books. Please try not to spoil content from beyond where the TV series is currently at.

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    Is there a way to edit this title to avoid spoilers? It came up in the hot network questions, despite me trying to avoid any spoilers. – TankorSmash Apr 14 '14 at 14:27
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    @TankorSmash Is it really a spoiler if you don't know who Ygritte is? If you know who she is, haven't you already been spoiled? If you don't, its just a random name to you which means nothing. – TLP Apr 14 '14 at 15:12
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    @TLP In a series like Game of Thrones, where characters drop dead left and right, even the fact that Jon is alive in season 2 could be a spoiler. It removes any tension from watching season 1 because you know nothing will happen to him. – Chris Hayes Apr 15 '14 at 7:05
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    @KendallHelmstetterGelner “Please downvote question in hopes in vanishes from Stack ads on other sites.” — nope. Editing the title to remove the spoiler is the right approach. – Paul D. Waite Apr 15 '14 at 8:46
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    @TLP I do not agree that this is exaggerated. My girlfriend did this exact same thing by mentioning a character who was still alive in book 5 (I was on the first book at the time). It completely deflated any dramatic tension when that character was in danger for the next 4 books. Avoiding spoilers is not difficult anyway and I feel it's only considerate to take minor steps to do so. – Chris Hayes Apr 15 '14 at 16:51

This was something that was changed from the book. My answer will be based on the book A Clash of Kings.

Initially Qhorin states that it will be easier for Jon if the rest do not watch.

“Then you must do what needs be done,” Qhorin Halfhand said. “You are the blood of Winterfell and a man of the Night’s Watch.” He looked at the others. “Come, brothers. Leave him to it. It will go easier for him if we do not watch.”

However it is later revealed that Qhorin didn't need her dead, he just wanted to test whether Jon would kill her.

Qhorin’s shrewd grey eyes seemed to see right through him. “So you let her go?” He did not sound the least surprised.

“You know?”

“Now. Tell me why you spared her.”

It was hard to put into words. “My father never used a headsman. He said he owed it to men he killed to look into their eyes and hear their last words. And when I looked into Ygritte’s eyes, I...” Jon stared down at his hands helplessly. “I know she was an enemy, but there was no evil in her.”

“No more than in the other two.”

“It was their lives or ours,” Jon said. “If they had seen us, if they had sounded that horn...”

“The wildlings would hunt us down and slay us, true enough.”

“Stonesnake has the horn now, though, and we took Ygritte’s knife and axe. She’s behind us, afoot, unarmed...”

“And not like to be a threat,” Qhorin agreed. “If I had needed her dead, I would have left her with Ebben, or done the thing myself.”

“Then why did you command it of me?”

“I did not command it. I told you to do what needed to be done, and left you to decide what that would be.” Qhorin stood and slid his longsword back into its scabbard. “When I want a mountain scaled, I call on Stonesnake. Should I need to put an arrow through the eye of some foe across a windy battlefield, I summon Squire Dalbridge. Ebben can make any man give up his secrets. To lead men you must know them, Jon Snow. I know more of you now than I did this morning.

“And if I had slain her?” asked Jon.

“She would be dead, and I would know you better than I had before. But enough talk. You ought be sleeping. We have leagues to go, and dangers to face. You will need your strength.”

I've bolded the important parts of the quote.

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    Perfect answer. – Möoz Apr 14 '14 at 22:10
  • @BorhanMooz Thank you :D – Moogle Apr 15 '14 at 7:40

When Jon said that he'd kill her, the other Brothers thought he would actually do it (for a moment, Jon did too). That's why they left him alone to do it. They couldn't imagine that he would spare the life of a wildling that would stab them the moment that they turn their back.

In the second book (A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon), Ygritte yields. That is why Jon spared her life. He didn't have the courage to kill a woman (who was not attacking him) and he had too much honour to kill someone who yielded.

If I remember correctly, that is why the rest of the Brothers walk away and Jon couldn't kill her.

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