Game of Thrones S02E09: Blackwater

Wow. I just.


Okay recap over, that’s all I got.

J/k I have so many thoughts. For the first time on Game of Thrones the action took place in one location over one night, under the direction of The Descent’s Neil Marshall and written by G.R.R. Martin himself, which might explain a thing or two about a thing or two. For once recapping this show chronologically might be the better option so here goes.

We kick off with Bronn leading a good old fashioned prostitutes round a campfire singalong, and this was the first time I really disliked him. Everything he did had a weird alpha dog-slash-vaudeville-stand-up  to it, and the way all his men were listening in while he told shit stories to the badly overdubbed sex worker felt clumsy and false, pretty much everything Bronn didn’t used to be. Maybe this is how his character has developed over the year but it’s just a bit mneh. His bffsie showdown with the Hound is the first of about half a dozen scenes that end with deus ex interruptus, as the war bells ring just before they murder each other.

It happens over and over in this episode: Shae’s is interrupted just before her cover is blown, Tyrion is saved at the last minute, Stannis is foiled by the old Gandalf on a horse out of nowhere trick, the Hound is saved by Bronn’s smirk, and most dramatically Cersei almost goes all Medea on our asses after telling a little story so murderously overwrought with symbolism even Tommen doesn’t buy it. “Dude, you are clearly talking about you and me, also stags are awesome, what is your malfunction.” Additionally, why is Cersei saying he’ll be king someday just before she pops his tiny clogs? A lot of the episode feels dramatically ham-fisted in a way the show generally isn’t. It’s hard to notice with all the histrionics going on, but there were a few loud clunks; top tip: if you’re trying to build dramatic tension with the presence of Ilyn Payne’s Sensible Suicide Service, don’t make the guy look like a cross between Sam Eagle and Beeker, then keep cutting to his face. I lolled when lolling was not appropriate.

“lol no”

The important thing is we learned a shitload about a lot of characters in one fell swoop. Tyrion pretty much steals the show, of which more anon, but there’s a heckuva lot of game-changing stuff going down this week. Varys has finally let the mask slip a little (or has he?!1 etc), and his fears about the ramifications of a darke majjykk king on the Iron Throne seemed legit, and movingly so. This felt like the peak of his arc: he’s toiled for years under John Arryn and Ned Stark’s bright-eyed dimness waiting for someone as capable as Tyrion, and now he is a few fluke happenings away from losing him again. There’s a genuine desperation when he says ‘you’re the only man who can stop Stannis.’

Davos Seaworth. I like this guy a lot. He’s been an excellent foil for Stannis, and both characters’ arcs have benefited from their relationship. His reactions to each development during the landing are just about perfect; he’s caught between trying to fight his smuggling instincts and the obvious suspicions he has about the missing Lannister fleet. Because he didn’t die horribly on screen we have to assume he survives, although his son wasn’t so lucky. Where will he wash up, and what will he do next?

Sansa pretty much becomes the boss in this episode. With the armies at the gates she is no longer afraid to openly mess with both Tyrion and Joffrey, and though she is far from a match for Cersei she certainly gives it a fair go. Again, the reeking symbolism of her holding the doll version of herself when she finds the Hound hiding in her room feels a little sub-GoT, but it’s effective enough: she doesn’t hate the doll anymore, because she no longer feels like one.

me party

Cersei herself has a bit of a rollercoaster. Getting liquored up like it’s a bank holiday tomorrow, she’s both funnier (‘and you’ll be Joffrey’s. Enjoy!’) and more openly wounded (the whole passage about being unfairly separated from Jaime along gender lines, very neatly symbolised by her massively useless breastplate) than we’ve ever seen her. You’ve got to imagine she’ll rally from it now that Tywin (and presumably Jamie soon) is back in King’s Landing, but this night has got to leave a mark. Here’s hoping for a second wind.

Stannis himself shows exactly what kind of dude he is, mostly through the action sequences. He jumps off the boats first, isn’t at all dismayed by the wildfire, scales the walls first (unhelmeted) and chops the top off a dude’s head. C/f Joffrey. A short word on the fighting: I imagine the GoT bods knew what they were getting when they got Marshall on board to direct, but some of the gore was borderline slapstick, some straight-up comedy. It’s difficult to maintain an air of danger when the Hound literally chops a guy in two, leaving his legs standing waiting for further orders and his intestines falling out like the worst Kinder Surprise. The show has never shied away from blood/guts, but never has it revelled in it so much. When Tyrion chops the poor fucker’s leg off at the knee I was half expecting him to turn round and say “tis but a scratch”.

Speaking of Tyrion, I don’t think there’s much to add. He’s the star. It’s him. Every scene was perfect, and some nice touches to remind us that Tyrion abhors the violence he is forced to commit. Provided they haven’t pulled a double-reacharound-Ned-Stark on us (again, unless a character is explicitly dead let’s assume they’re gravy), the fallout from his actions this week are going to be bloody fascinating. Roll on the season finale chaps!

In brief:

  • Well done for getting the boob quota out of the way early. Any later and it would have just been superfluous #satire
  • Spin off idea: Bronn and the Hound buddy cop movie. Or: Bronn: Prince of Thieves.
  • Shae: still the best, even if the ‘hey here’s my stabbing knife’ bit was a little oddly handled.
  • Joffrey: surely close to getting shuffled off?
  • Bit weird when Stannis’ fleet just went ahead and laid down some beats.
  • Podrick: GoT’s Neville Longbottom.

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