Jon Snow demonstrates his cool head and his commitment to the Night’s Watch during the battle against the wildlings, even as he’s forced to fight former wildling friends. Jon stays calm despite the oncoming threat and coolly gives orders to the inexperienced Night’s Watchman Satin throughout the battle. He also never waivers in his commitment to defending the Wall against the wildlings, even when he occasionally recognizes wildlings he knows. The only time he hesitates to kill wildlings is when he thinks he sees Ygritte, and even that hesitation is only momentary. Additionally, those thoughts of his that are revealed to the reader are predominantly objective observations of what’s happening around him. There is no lamenting of his situation, for example, or hopes that any wildlings, even Ygritte, remain unharmed. Instead, Jon remains focused strictly on defending the Wall. The exception comes when he finds Ygritte dying in the yard with an arrow in her chest. He tries to convince her that she’ll survive, despite the fact that she is clearly dying, and the sadness and regret he feels are obvious.

This section contains the last chapter written from Bran’s point of view in the novel, and it leaves his story without any clear ending for the time being. At this stage, it’s clear only that Bran is being called north to some unknown destiny, though we don’t know Bran’s destination or its significance to the broader saga. We know that Bran and the others with him are going to meet Coldhands, as Samwell and Gilly have named him, though we know almost nothing about the strange character. In fact, in many ways the ending of Bran’s story seems more like a beginning. As he passes through the Black Gate beneath the Wall, he embarks on a new part of his journey. It’s a reminder that the Ice and Fire series is an ongoing narrative, and not all of our questions will receive concrete answers at the end of the novel.