I did like the episode, though I can see why others wouldn't, especially if you're not at all interested in the Wall storyline and having to endure an entire episode dedicated to the battle. I also agree that there were certain points where they could have condensed the material, but otherwise, at least for me, while it wasn't Blackwater it wasn't all that bad either. It was setting up the beginnings of this battle, which doesn't end with this episode. Also, the production value did show itself here with the cinematography, the effects, the fighting, with it being the most expensive episode to make.
Honestly, the only part I genuinely cared about was Jon/Ygritte, knowing her fate I was dreading seeing it happen on the screen. :( They really should have stayed in that cave. I will miss her, the actress did a lovely job in the role.
Also, I'm sad but not surprised the show killed off characters who never died in the books. Yet again. I mean, granted some say that Grenn and Pyp don't do anything significant in the books beyond this point, but that shouldn't mean D&D have to kill them off. I don't understand this logic.
Overall: There really is nothing much else to say? Again, I liked it well enough, though I'm more looking forward to the season finale. I'm concerned with how much they're going to cram into the last episode.