Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 19 'Blackwater' ReviewMay 31, 2012
"Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!"
There has been so much hype and hope leading up to this week's episode of Game of Thrones, 'Blackwater,' that I was worried it wouldn't live up to expectations. On one hand, the show has had to skirt around many of the books battles due to budgetary constraints and this would be the first episode to really give the viewers a true battle. On the other, you've got an episode directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) and written by George R. R. Martin himself. All of this left me with a lot of optimism and expectations going in, and, by episode's end, I was left with what might just be the best episode of Game of Thrones yet.
Unlike every other episode of Game of Thrones so far, this episode focused primarily on the battle itself; its lead up to and its immediate aftermath. This was a genius decision and hopefully one that the writers take note of. Every episode always has so many storylines going on at once that it can at times feel rushed or simply being in service of making sure a character gets seen each week. I would personally love to see this primary focus turn up a bit more and really allow some storylines to be dwelled in going forward.
One of the aspects I find most intriguing about this battle is, as a viewer, not really knowing what side to take. There's Stannis who is the rightful heir to the throne and would indeed put an end to Joffrey and Cersei. But on the other end, there's Tyrion who everyone roots for and wishes success, although that success means Joffrey remains king and the Lannister's remain in power. This is a huge credit due Martin's writing as there is no clear cut good or bad guys. There is just war and its consequences.
But enough of that, on to the battle and what a battle it was! Even before the action began, the slow build raised the tension to epic proportions. Technically, this entire season has been building to this moment. Here we see all the players awaiting the next move. Some confident in their purpose, some debating and worrying about the outcome and some drinking and singing in hopes of enjoying what moments they have before war shows up.
I know that it was partly due to budgetary constraints, but having the battle take place at the darkest of night worked so incredibly well. It provided Stannis and Davos' ships a way to almost sneak up on King's Landing, as well as concealing their true numbers. More importantly, it made for a fantastic backdrop as the green wildfire filled the sky and filled the water with Stannis' men, included amongst them Davos' son and possibly Davos himself.
Tyrion, who early in the episode doubted himself when it came to how he would fair in battle, proves to be quite the war strategist and tactician. Even as Joffrey cowers and runs to his chambers, Tyrion stands proud and rallies the men of Kings Landing to not fight for the king or for riches, but to fight for themselves and their city. He even proves himself on the battlefield and is praised by his troops, all chanting "Halfman." The celebrating came too soon, as more of Stannis' men come from around the bend and meet the King's Guard head on. Tyrion still manages to hold his own, until one of his own strikes at him; cutting his face and sending him in to shock. Just before he passes out (hopefully he's just passing out!), he sees a cavalry sporting his family colors and knows that all hope is not lost.
Whilst all of the fighting and slicing and halving of battle was going on, the perspective also shifted to that of Cersei and Sansa, both holed up in the Red Keep with the other noblewomen and children of King's Landing, under the allusion of safety. Here Cersei, who continued to get drunker as the night wore on, worked some hybrid of educating/belittling Sansa with every sentence she spoke, and it was glorious. Cersei is, for all intents and purposes, a reviled character, but that last few episodes she's been able to show a bit more humanity here and there, revealing that her seemingly charmed life has been far from it.
As the battle begins to look bleaker and bleaker, Cersei demands for Joffrey to be taken from battle and kept in his chambers. She herself makes off for the Iron Throne, bottle full of poisonous nightshade in hand to take care of Tommen and herself should the worst come to be.
Meanwhile, Sansa is rushed off to her room by Shae. Upon arrival, she's met by the Hound who informs her he's leaving King's Landing and is willing to take her with him to Winterfell. Granted the Hound doesn't make for the best of company, but this could be the best possible scenario for Sansa and her continued survival.
Some other notable moments and quotes:
- From his witty lines to amazing bow and blade skills, Bronn is one magnificent bastard.
- Varys teasing how he was cut. Why must you make us wait?!
- Knowing what kind of man Stannis is, he must hate those drums.
- Sansa's smarmy/smart ass talk to Joffrey was great
- "The worst ones always live." Too true, Sansa.
- HOLY WILDFIRE EXPLOSION!
- The slow build of the Hound's fear of fire was done remarkably well.
- Cersei got some well-deserved screen time this week and some wonderfully bleak lines to go with it:
"The Gods have no mercy. That's why they're Gods."
- "Any man dies with a clean sword, I'll rape his fucking corpse!" The Hound means business.
- Say what you will of Stannis, but seeing him be the first off the boats, the first to shore and the first to scale the wall showed his true colors.
- "Fuck the King's guard. Fuck the city. Fuck the King!" The Hound gives one hell of a resignation speech.
- If only Tyrion could have Cersei curtsey to Shae, he may have died from pure enjoyment.
With 'Blackwater' done, Game of Thrones leaves us with only the season finale to go before Season 3 next year. This episode itself left a lot to ponder and resolve in the remaining 60 minutes of Season 2. Did Davos perish or find a way to survive? What's the extent of Tyrion's wounds? What will be of the Lannister's now that they've successfully held King's Landing? Will Sansa go with the Hound? All of this, not to mention what's become of Robb, Jon Snow and Danaerys, leaves a lot to address within one episode. I have a feeling there's going to be a cliffhanger or four, leaving viewers a whole year to ponder what comes next.
What did you all think of the big Game of Thrones battle episode? Anything I missed? Favorite moments? Feel free to comment below and let us know. As always, please refrain from anything in the books that hasn't happened yet, especially regarding the fates of characters that, as of right now, TV viewers are unaware of their outcomes.
- Matt Hardeman