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Game Of Thrones Veteran Recap: Blackwater

Winter Is Coming

Editor’s Note: Contributor Amy Ratcliffe is back with her veteran recap of last night’s explosive penultimate episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. And yes, when we say “explosive,” we really mean “explosive.”  (Find our newbie recap here.)

Season 2: Episode Nine – Blackwater

Executive producers/writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked for a 15% larger budget for Blackwater. They knew that fans have been longing for a battle, and this one was key. It wasn’t the time to skip over the fighting and only show the aftermath. I’m so glad HBO listened. The siege on King’s Landing was crazy impressive. Besides showing the first in-depth clash, the episode also stayed in one location the entire time. Since they are used to taking viewers around Westeros and beyond, I applaud the risk they took with that decision.

Though the cameras stayed in King’s Landing, they did jump around from character to character. Obviously since not every one of those people had point of view chapters in the book, a few of the scenes were new. Really, only one thing annoyed me and I’ll touch on that in a few. Let me say now that I don’t mind that they didn’t divide the battle in half. I’m okay with not seeing Salladhor Saan. Those are inconsequential changes in my opinion. I mostly drooled over every minute of this epic episode.

Tyrion steals scenes frequently, but this episode was entirely his. He destroys at least half of Stannis’ fleet with wildfire. The green fire sweeping over ship after ship was eerie and hearing the shrieks of the soldiers burning was horrifying. It made my skin crawl. Then, after Stannis brings dinghies to shore, Tyrion saves the day again. He uses the elaborate tunnel system under the city to lead the Kingsguard out and behind Stannis’ army.  He almost dies in battle at the hand of one of the Kingsguard, but Podrick (who is less uh… slow than I pictured him when reading the book) saves him. I somehow nearly forgot about the scar he gets in this battle; it will be interesting to see how gruesome they end up making it (though it didn’t appear as if he’ll lose any of his nose).

I especially loved that Tyrion managed to simultaneously give the best and worst pep talk to the Kingsguard. It’s so fitting. Peter Dinklage turned in a wonderful performance as the conflicted and reluctant hero. Tyrion doesn’t want to be a part of the battle, but he knows he must – especially when Joffrey bails. I felt like the conflict of those two emotions tugging at him was visible on his face the entire time. It’s perfect that it comes down to, “These are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.”

It’s too bad that they took away his chain even though the wildfire was awesome. I figured it was out of play since it hasn’t come up all season, but I thought it could just be off camera, too. I could definitely have seen it as being a secret that Tyrion reveals to Joffrey and all of us at the last minute. I think that particular battle maneuver reinforced Tyrion’s out of the box thinking as well as helping to chalk up victory to him. Bronn loses out too, but I still think he’ll get a knighthood just for fighting bravely.

Stannis was his stalwart self. The little smile he wore as his fleet of ships approached King’s Landing gave me the creeps. He doesn’t really have a friendly side, but it was still hard to see him make the battle about numbers. He knew he would lose thousands trying to take the city after the wildfire destroyed part of his fleet, but he moved forward anyways. It didn’t seem like a hard decision for him either. I couldn’t tell at the end of the battle if he was captured or pulled away by his own men to retreat like he does in the book. I’m sure it was the latter, but the way various plots are altered, who knows?

Joffrey. Ah, that kid. When he appears for the first time in an episode, apparently I have to say, “I hate him.” It just happens. That actor is so good at playing a horrible character. My Thrones watching group decided that he and Tom Felton (Harry Potter’s Draco) should start a web series where they talk about how much people hate them for the evil characters they’ve portrayed. Anyways, Joffrey was as wimpy as you’d expect, and I liked seeing the range of “kiss this sword that’s going to kill Stannis” to “what’s that? My mother needs me right now in the middle of fighting?” Ugh.

The happenings away from the battle inside Maegor’s Holdfast were almost as entertaining as the fight. The women and children are hiding there, away from battle. Cersei (in a very fancy breastplate) takes the opportunity to drink to excess and to teach Sansa life lessons. Oh, and she makes Sansa drink too. Given Cersei’s disdain for Robert’s alcohol consumption, I was surprised to see her deal with the battle this way. Given that she’s insanely worried about Joffrey though, I get it.

After she tells Sansa about the foolishness of praying, the realities of what happens when a city is taken,  and the joys of being queen, she leaves the Holdfast. She takes Tommen, and they wait out the fighting upon the Iron Throne. Cersei believes it to be the end, and she’s prepared to poison Tommen with essence of nightshade she’s obtained from Grand Maester Pycelle rather than letting him be taken by Stannis. Fortunately, Loras Tyrell and Tywin ride in and declare victory just in the nick of time. It took me a second to notice that Loras was playing Renly’s “ghost.” Nice.

After Cersei left, Shae urged Sansa to get out and lock herself in her chambers. She’s quite surprised to find a tipsy and sad Hound in her room. The fire was too traumatizing for him, and I half expected a flashback to his youth while he stared into the flames outside of King’s Landing. He intends to leave and offers Sansa the chance to leave with him. This followed the book pretty closely except that Clegane didn’t make Sansa sing for him at knife point.

It gave me chills to hear The Rains of Castamere (which you can hear on YouTube). I’ve been listening to it most of the week because I was able to download the soundtrack for season two of Game of Thrones before iTunes realized they released it early. It’s still giving me goosebumps! I liked that even Bronn knew it so it played before the battle and right at the end after Tywin proclaimed that the battle was over. I’m not looking forward to what that music brings next season, but I’m glad they set it up now.

I covered the main events, but there were so many great lines of dialogue I could babble on about. Sansa had such a grown-up moment with Joffrey when she insulted him by sounding like she had faith in him all at the same time. Varys’ comment about the bells bringing horrors, including weddings was a great moment of levity. The scene between Bronn and Clegane was wonderful. So many character moments were woven around the crazy spectacle of battle – and they all came through. It’s a testament to the writer (George R. R. Martin) and director (Neil Marshall) that this episode wasn’t just eye candy.

I think Blackwater is the best episode of the series thus far. Next week has a lot to live up to! I know they will be tidying up the loose ends to wrap up the season (it’s gone so fast this year). However, I hope to see big things happen in the North and in the House of the Undying.

Amy Ratcliffe is a freelance writer who wants Needle and needles. And maybe some dragons. She blogs a lot at geek with curves.

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