In Game of Thrones S5 E7 Jon Snow, along with some Wildlings and rangers, leaves Castle Black in order to

take Stannis' ships to travel to Hardhome, north of the Wall, and then try to come back again the same way, to try to bring Wildlings south of the Wall.

Then at the end of E08, Jon is shown

on a boat, heading toward said ships. Ships that - as had been established earlier - can sail around the Wall, just as one might have expected. As I understand it, Stannis had used them for that exact purpose.

Indeed, as far as I recall, that was the whole point in traveling that way in the first place.

Yet in E09, Jon and a large group of Wildlings are on foot, and instead of doing what it seemed they were trying to do at the end of E08, it now looks like they're at

the tunnel gate, on the wrong side of the Wall, with Ser Alliser looking down from the warming shed atop the Wall. Ser Alliser hesitates over raising the gate to let them in.

It's a nice dramatic moment, but why is he there at all?

Why not at the Southern gate to Castle Black - where not only are they far safer - but he can try to convince people to let them in? Why on earth would they not simply sail back south of the Wall? North of the Wall, they've got a long trek from the coast to get to the gate of the tunnel under the Wall to the safety of Castle Black. Every step of that north-side trek would be in danger from White Walkers, and then there's the risk that Ser Alliser (or someone else) might just say "I see no Night's Watch, just Wildlings. Jon Snow must be dead." while all Jon can do is look up, since there's little chance of being heard (or at least little chance of being understood). South of the Wall, it's also a long trek but there's a 700 foot high wall in between them and the White Walkers, so they're not in danger of attack every step of the journey. Which I thought was why they had taken ships.

I seem to recall there was even a conversation to that effect in an earlier episode.

What did I miss?

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    Those spoiler stripes are a bit excessive... you've already said "Series 5 episode 9" in the title, so it's safe to assume anyone who clicks on it knows what they're getting! – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 8 '15 at 22:00
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    @user568458 I sought and acted on explicit advice in chat before posting, which included hiding spoilers. – Glen_b Jun 8 '15 at 22:04
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    Fair enough, I stand corrected! This site must have a very different policy to the film and tv site. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 8 '15 at 22:05
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    @Glen_b I think that breaking up the spoiler tags and leaving words like to try to and Yet in E9 Jon is somewhat redundant, though. Just put one block for it all. – TLP Jun 9 '15 at 0:35
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    @Glen_b I suppose it does not really matter. It just looks a bit exaggerated. There is a growing culture of hyper-sensitivity towards spoilers, which is almost like political correctness -- you should not go crazy with it. For example, some people would claim that your title contains a spoiler. See if you can figure out what it is. :) – TLP Jun 9 '15 at 15:19

I'm not aware of any legitimate 'story' reason for this. However it does accomplish two things from a cinematic perspective:

  1. As you mentioned, this provides the drama of the stare down between Jon and Ser Alliser.

  2. This replaces the book passage where Stannis allows the Wildlings through the gate. Since there was no stockade north of the wall and Stannis had already left for Winterfell, that scene wasn't possible. The benefit of including this is that you get to see the reactions of the various brothers of the Night's Watch as the wildlings come through the gate.

These cinematic elements set the story up nicely for episode 10. Which I'm not going to describe here as it is a major spoiler.

  • It's very hard to choose an answer here; I'm not sure there is a satisfactory answer. I've chosen this one as a placeholder (it satisfies me as far as "out of universe" explanations go; I don't think there is an "in universe" one that will really serve). – Glen_b Jun 24 '15 at 7:02

Well Castle Black isn't near the sea so they would have to travel by land for the last leg of the journey.

But why didn't they land on the most sheltered side? Seeing a Man of the Nights Watch leading a lot of Wildlings through the countryside would probably not have sat well will the locals people, also to prevent the Wildlings wandering off and causing trouble.

The Wildings are more suited to the harse climate and it was safest to stay on the north side. Also I think Jon Snow needed to show he has a couple of thousand Wildlings and a giant who at the very least owe him one, to the members of the watch who would prefer he wasn't the Lord Commander.

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    "it was safest to stay on the north side" ... the side with the White Walkers and a now stronger host of wights - who had just come close to wiping them out? The side they were trying to get away from so badly they joined with the leader of their ancient enemy? Note that the region in the south they're planning to live in and farm is the very area they would walk through. I really don't see how you can think it was safer on the north side. If the south side is worse than chancing more attacks by an army of wights commanded by White Walkers, why are they willing to live in that same area? – Glen_b Jun 9 '15 at 9:18
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    @glen_b Hardhome is very remote which is why they needed ships to get there, The Walkers are still a long way away from the wall. Yes some of the land is just south of the Wall, but a lot of it is land owned by regular Westeros farmers who aren't aware of the situation and would react badly to Wildlings as they have for generations. Part of Jon Snow's deal was go settle the farm land and he will call them when he needs them for the fight. That makes the attack seem not as imminent as days, probably weeks or months away. – Rigas Jun 9 '15 at 9:20
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    @Rigas the land south of the wall is mostly abandoned due to wildling raids. Make more sense to scare the few people living there rather than exposing yourself to attack. Honestly I don't think there's a legitimate in - universe answer for this. Though it works great for tv. – kuhl Jun 9 '15 at 11:14
  • Also, the land immediately south of the Wall is under the authority of the Night's Watch. As Lord Commander, Jon can simply order the inhabitants to let the wildlings through. They might choose to ignore him and attack the wildlings anyway, but if I were Jon I'd rather take a risk on that than face the certainty of further attacks from the White Walkers. – Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 10 '15 at 11:01

The whole scenario is quite different from the books. As there's no indication in the show you'd have to place yourself in Jon Snows position to imagine why he'd unload the ships north of the Wall.

He knows either Ser Allister will accept his authority to bring the Wildlings south, or start a mutiny. If Ser Allister follows his orders and lets Jon continue his plan, whether Jon lands north or south of the wall doesn't effect things too much, it's the other scenario that's more interesting.

If they don't raise the gate or even fire arrows at them, the wildlings are forced to retreat and Jon will have the choice to either take the wildlings south via boat or leave them to fend for themselves (if they don't kill him)

If the nights watch rebels and Jon has the army of wildlings on the south side and the arrows fly, either the wildlings storm castle black from the unprotected south or just scatter into the north. Then Jon Snow realizes he has just unleashed a horde of leaderless wild folk who will no doubt immediately head for the nearest villages and hamlets to help themselves to some food and "spear wives"

In summary, for Jon it all pivots on whether Ser Allister will accept his authority. If yes, it doesn't matter which side he unloads the wildlings on. If Allister doesn't, having them on the north side gives him more control of the situation.

  • Castle Black isn't near the sea. So unloading on the north side means marching for miles in the wilderness, with the possibility of a WW attack the whole way. I dont think you can say it makes no difference. – kuhl Jun 9 '15 at 11:17
  • Yeah, either way it's a long walk. The show gave the impression that the WW's weren't following them through. In the scene where they make it to the row boats, they're not even rowing, just drifting away from shore. Maybe Jon weighed possible WW attacks vs unloading wildings on the south side unsupervised – Mikey Mouse Jun 9 '15 at 11:26

Well, it might not be clear with the series, but in the book, they could have possibly gone towards Eastwatch-by-the-Sea at the far side of the wall towards the Narrow Sea.

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    But why did they go to Castle Black? This doesn't answer the question whatsoever. – Alfredo Hernández Jun 9 '15 at 1:23
  • Castle Black is maybe the only Night's Watch fortress that is operational at the moment. Jon sent some rangers last week to start rebuilding another castle, but their numbers are so small Castle Black is the only place they can go. – Rigas Jun 9 '15 at 9:24
  • @Rigas in the books and the show there are two other functional castles. Eastwatch-by-the-sea and the Shadow Tower. Eastwatch is the port for the Night's Watch so it'd make much more sense for them to land there. – kuhl Jun 9 '15 at 11:48
  • @kuhl in the show they reference those two forts as functional as well. – TylerH Jun 10 '15 at 3:15
  • @TylerH haha thanks. 'In the books and the show' – kuhl Jun 10 '15 at 3:21

Well, entering by the permission of the Nights Watch is what gave the crowd of Wildlings legitimacy. If they tried to flank the entrance, they would have a hard time proving they were not invaders. They would alert all local defenses and the result would be a slaughter, probably on both sides. If they wanted to avoid looking like invaders, they had to be let in.

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    They're with the very commander of the Nights Watch, they couldn't have more legitimacy than that (except at the North gate, it's hard to tell he's there). My question isn't "why not try to avoid Castle Black?", it's why didn't they enter Castle Black through the gate to the South, as the original plan appeared to be? They'd still have to be let in through that gate. The difference - aside from the greater safety - is that Jon could actually talk to the people watching the entrance, since they wouldn't be 700 feet straight up, so he could demonstrate the legitimacy. – Glen_b Jun 10 '15 at 9:42
  • Hmm.. But it would be the first time the people there would hear of it. Bummer though it was, the entrance they were taking had people who knew what this crowd was all about. My guess is that somewhere else they would assume Jon betrayed the Nights Watch and joined the Wildlings. Wouldn't be the first time a crow went native. Or they might just shoot first and ask questions later. – Misha R Jun 10 '15 at 9:49
  • Why would they not expect them at the south entrance? As far as I can tell, it's where they should have been expected to come from. – Glen_b Jun 10 '15 at 9:52
  • Well you said it yourself, they'd have to convince people to let them in. A bad bet, considering the reputation Wildlings have. Or maybe a good bet, but Jon didn't think so. They went where the garrison was positioned that took part in the original plan. Unless they planned to run into Stannis, they might have been really out of luck at another entrance. – Misha R Jun 10 '15 at 9:58
  • They face all the exact same problems at the north gate, without the ability to say "hey, it's the Lord Commander here, let us in!" – Glen_b Jun 10 '15 at 10:04

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