Review HBO’s Game of Thrones: “Blackwater” (Season 2, Episode 9)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

A few thoughts on this much hyped about penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, as I catch up on the show via DVD.


“Blackwater” has a high reputation for a reason. Centering around the season’s long anticipated battle of Stannis’ men vs. Joffrey’s, it unprecedentedly drops the show’s usual routine (of hopping across Westeros to include multiple settings) for a complete focus on a single location and conflict. This deviance from form works because (while the hopping is often effective at laying out the simultaneous threats to a world whose seven kingdoms all believe their war the more menacing, immediate danger) it sets the episode apart early on as something new. By staying in King’s Landing the entire time, the graphic swordplay and prolonged examinations of how established characters hold up in an extreme situation get to have viewers’ full (not divided) attention.

Another argument for why this episode was right in revolving around a single battle goes to the fact that its outcome will determine whether Joffrey gets to keep his illegitimate crown or not. As pleasant as it would be to witness the twerp’s downfall, his life wouldn’t be the only one damaged by a change in power that might not even be an improvement over his own incompetent reign. Not enough is known about Stannis to tell what kind of a king he’d make* but, unlike the Lannister-Stark rivalry, this confrontation’s scope encompasses the entire continent. Unlike Dany’s newborn dragons and the North’s White Walkers, this feud over the Iron Throne has public notice and investment deserving of a full episode without interruption to unfold properly.

* Despite being King’s Landing’s “big bad opposition”, Stannis remains an enigma, especially since everyone’s description of him consists around the same faint details that he is:

a) a formidable war opponent


b) the cold, unemotional rightful heir to his brother’s throne (viewers may particularly remember a certain Stark who would never drop the “rightful heir” designation until it was too late).

It’s not that viewers lack an inclination to learn more about him. If anything, his friendship (or at least deep respect) for Davos implies that there is more to discover. He cannot be entirely incapable of emotion, for if he were he would never have designated Davos as his future Hand. An honor of that caliber rarely falls on lower class citizens with onions for sigils. Davos may have proved himself an asset at the holding of Storm’s End, worthy of promotion (if his seemingly grim fate at the hands of wildfire proves false), but he is not the typical or popular choice for Stannis to have made.

A Few (Un)Surprises

This episode could have failed if not for the strength of the King’s Landing cast, because at times it is quite predictable.

The main non-shocker is that given the smallest excuse (his mother wants to see him)**, Joffrey is going to cower away from the fighting, leaving Tyrion to take charge and save the city***. Yet for being such an expected change in command it couldn’t be more entertaining because Peter Dinklage owns this phenomenal role completely.

The Multiple Talents of an Imp

When Tyrion gives an improvised, rousing speech to the army, he’s an orator. When he takes advantage of his height, attacking an enemy soldier by chopping off his leg, he’s a fighter. When he thinks up a way to use the wildfire his sister ordered mass-produced that doesn’t end with King’s Landing in flames (hands-down coolest, most horrible scene of the episode), he’s a genius. Every viewer knows of his ability to adapt and then excel, but, while for all intents and purposes there is nothing at which Tyrion cannot achieve, and we should have long grown bored of his repeat successes, the situations he finds himself in don’t warrant such confidence.  They are legitimately dangerous, and the show never shies away from illuminating on the many real disadvantages that stand between him and victory, making his ability to surpass them all the more remarkable.

It would be easy to shrug away his luck as a byproduct of his last name, but no family lineage can guarantee safety, and Tyrion doesn’t come out unscathed here (note the getting knocked out by a nasty sword slash to the face part). Yet while I know I should be more fearful for his health, there’s an overconfidence that comes with Tyrion being such a survivor. Despite knowing how scared and unprepared he is for what’s coming, and that characters can and do die on Game of Thrones, viewer idolization makes the beloved Tyrion seem invincible.


** She may have provided Joffrey an out but it is her younger, sweeter son, Tommen, who she comforts in person, sitting with him on the Iron Throne. At one time both her sons would have been at her side, but I don’t think it’s the fact that the king might lose reputation by running to his mommy that stops her from being with him now.

*** This decision on the boy king’s part was made ever more pathetic when second cousin, Lancel, never celebrated for his bravery, turned out to be the bigger person who stayed and fought when not busy delivering updates to Cersei. Lancel would never have had the cleverness of Tyrion to win the day (his misconstrued understanding of which way the fighting was heading almost leads to Cersei euthanizing her son), but at least if he had been king he wouldn’t have abandoned his men, knowingly derailing morale in the process.

The Effects of Alcohol on a Queen

Queen Cersei LannisterWhile Tyrion’s having a showcase of his typical awesomeness, Cersei’s ensuring no one has any doubt she’s unhappy with her familiar notes of depression, distinguished slightly from past displays of displeasure by including public drunkenness into the fold. More is gone into about how gender lead to her and Jaime being raised for two very different futures, and how she would have much preferred Jaime’s “great swordsmen” title to her own “queen”. My favorite moment has to be her expression of complete disdain and impatience for Maester Pycelle, the council member who has always been her ally yet seems to have lost her favor since his arrest by Tyrion, or was simply a necessary bother who, in this stressful time, cannot be tolerated or cordially conversed with. Not necessarily new ground for Cersei, but she’s definitely unraveling and Lena Heady gets to have fun with both her character’s dark humor and dark moments in general (like just how far Cersei is willing to go if the war doesn’t turn in their favor). She’s always been a complicated lady,  mother first. The different layers to her character never stop coming.

The Other King’s Landing Players

– Varys bates Tyrion (and viewers) with the story of how he was cut, only to hold back on that information for another day. Then, while still unable to ever be trusted, he gets the chance to be as decent and genuine as he’ll ever be in complimenting Tyrion as the only person who could possibly bring this city a victory. Of course this offer of support goes hand in hand with the scene’s hints that he abuses young boys, so he’s still a snake, but his dynamic with Tyrion is his most friendly with anyone (at least while Tyrion’s Hand; even if he believes him to be the best at the job,  Varys will swich Lannisters if Tywin wants to take over the position upon his return to King’s Landing).


Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell are working together: there’s a surprise that could have used a bit more warning than the two of them making a grand entrance into the throne room at the close of the episode. Then I wouldn’t have had to spend all that time attempting to explain the sudden appearance of horses into the fray as the somehow surviving cargo off of Stannis’ ships. I never realized the riders were on King’s Landing’s side. Completely missed the connection that one of the knights (Ser Loras) was wearing Renly’s antlered helm. Was, in other words, blindsided by the reveal, a fantastic unexpected alliance**** which was brought to light too last minute to be enjoyed fully.

All that would have had to be altered to make this moment truly awesome would have been a quick shot clarifying that these men on horseback joined the fight from a different direction or entrance than Mud Gate. Who they were and who they were fighting against could have been kept ambiguous, but simply an acknowledgement that these were not more of Stannis’, or even Joffrey’s, men, that these were some outside force joining in, would have sufficed in making this the great moment it should have been. Or maybe I’m wrong. Was this an obvious fact all along that I simply got confused about in all the commotion?

**** Though then again not that unexpected given Loras would do anything to avenge Renly’s death, which he blames on Stannis

– Podrick suddenly shows up as Tyrion’s squire (or more likely was always there and only gets directly acknowledged for the first time as someone Tyrion trusts to be in the same room as a map of secret underground tunnels) but what an entrance, to follow a brief introduction up with saving Tyrion’s life. Somebody’s getting a promotion…

– I am finally coming around to liking Shae, since she didn’t take the opportunity to run for safety with Sansa, but rather stayed behind to say “goodbye” to someone. Granted, she could still have a trick up her sleeve and have avoided mentioning the name of that someone, not out of concern for keeping her hidden relationship discrete, but because there is someone else. It’s easy and desirable to jump to the conclusion that she must be talking about Tyrion… and yet I’m starting to give her the benefit of the doubt that she does really care for him.

And the Best Performance of the Episode Award goes to…

…two individuals who I feel this episode featured spectacularly. Ironically enough, they are the same two individuals who would have participated in a duel to the death if the pesky Baratheon invaders hadn’t interrupted their plans.

The Hound

Sandor "The Hound" Clegane

I believe this is the most extensive dialogue Sandor Clegane’s ever had on the show. Not only does he sever ties from the crown after years of alliance and service by cursing out Joffrey and quitting his position as member of the King’s Guard, but he than shows up in Sansa’s room to offer her safe transport to Winterfell under his protection.*****

These are all great character moments, but why I really think the Hound deserves special mention this week is for Rory McCann’s facial expressions when the man on fire walks towards him. His looks of sheer terror combined with the sight of an unbeatable killer being left physically frozen by this sight, after all the terrible things he’s seen without qualms just a wow performance******. I mean, of course the Hound should be afraid of fire. There isn’t a more obvious thing for him to fear than that which left his face horrifically burned. It simply never occurred that the Hound could be afraid of anything. After all, he had no fear stepping in to fight his brother, Gregor, at the Hand’s Tourney in season’s one, “The Wolf and the Lion,” and he’s the guy who held his head to the flames. That such an unstoppable force could appear that helpless was simply shocking to behold.

***** Sansa has long past redeemed herself as a Stark, but if she does not accept the Hound’s offer of escape she is going to lose all those cool points she’s been collecting lately (like the ones she earned for comparing her hopes for Tyrion survival to her hopes for Joffrey’s safe return. Love Tyrion but that was hilarious.). This is an offer you don’t think twice about accepting, especially after having to run into her father’s killer, Ser Ilyn Payne, again.
****** The subtle scene preceding these moments was wonderful as well, of the Hound threatening murder if a flaming arrow so much as came near him during the fight. It’s an understandable request but his reasons for making it are personal. If anyone came into this episode unaware of his childhood, the significance of these scenes would be lost on them, and that’s unfortunate.


Notably allowed to appear on screen without Tyrion******* , Bronn more than proves he can be just as dry witted and entertaining on his own as with a Lannister. This episode’s almost like a “Day in the Life of Bronn,” starting off with a visit to the brothel, followed by some beheadings and a Hound rescue. Now all these scenes need to cap them off is a post-battle reappearance at Tyrion’s side.

Bronn is one of those well-liked but minor characters who technically could be considered disposable, which is why he is the one I fear the most for going into the finale. I already had to quickly rewind when editing between shots made it unclear at one point whether Bronn was killing or getting killed by one of Stannis’ men. My nerves have calmed over that scene, but he hasn’t been shown again since, alive or otherwise, and it’s not exactly like he was left at the safest position, fighting in front of Mud Gate instead of behind it.

******* Admittedly their one scene together, declaring [paid] friendship, was incredibly sweet. and reminded me of [spoiler for A Game of Thrones (book)] the moment Jon and Tyrion had on the wall, when Jon calls Tyrion friend and Tyrion responds that he hasn’t had many of them.



I have finished the first brilliant book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (don’t want to read ahead of the show but thought there’d be no harm in reading up to the events I’ve already seen) but please, NO book or television show spoilers in the comments below. Thoughts on this episode (like did the  King’s Guardsman turn on Tyrion for personal reasons or money?) , the episodes preceding it, and anything I’ve said in this review are fair game and welcome!

Game of Throne‘s screencaps from here


Review HBO’s Game of Thrones: “The Prince of Winterfell” (Season 2, Episode 8)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]
A few words about another, albeit less action-packed but always wonderful, installment of Game of Thrones, as I catch up on the show via DVD.



Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie on the move

– Arya’s manipulation of Jaqen into allowing her, Gendry, and Hot Pie to escape Harrenhal leaves them in a wonderful situation (granted, the Game of Thrones version of wonderful) where they actually have choices again, specifically where to go next. Their main options:

  • Winterfell, which has been taken over by the Greyjoys
  • Robb’s camp, which is in the midst of the North’s war against the Lannisters
  • the Night’s Watch, which may be their best bet but is also the farthest away. Jon wouldn’t even be around to greet them presently due to his being held captive by Wildlings predicament.

So basically the real question is how do they get anywhere safely, let alone smoothly (can’t picture Hot Pie being the most uncomplaining of travel companions either) and, his debt to her having been repaid, is this the last viewers will see of Jaqen?


The only thing that would have made Arya’s freedom sweeter is Needle. At this point she still hasn’t re-procured her sword from the soldier that took it, and “the odds are not in her favor” that she ever will, upon leaving the Lannister army stronghold without it (not that the odds were ever favorable while she stayed there). Still, escaping with friends, Needle or no Needle, was necessary, a more satisfying choice for her third request than had the initial “kill Tywin” order gone through. While his death would have caused a major power shake-up in this game of thrones, it wouldn’t have improved Arya’s lot. Sure, he’s Robb’s war foe but if Tywin goes down another, maybe less clever, individual will take his place. While by no means a good man, Tywin surprisingly treated her well, and it is not like she lacks for other names in power who were real creeps to her. Why, on that particular list, Tywin does not have top billing.


– Theon and his sister, Yara, only appear in a brief scene, but the twisted family relations of the Greyjoy’s don’t require much screen time to be memorable. In this heartfelt conversation between siblings, Yara voices her concern for her brother with the backhanded, “I’m worried about you because, since you smiled at me as a baby just when I was about to strangle you for not being quiet, I’ve cared.” Not an exact quote. More of a general gist of the sentiment behind her words.

– Jaime and Brienne are going to be having some exasperating conversations of their own, given that Jaime loves to provoke and does not yet recognize he has a worthy, stubborn opponent in this lady warrior, charged by Lady Catelyn to swap him for her daughters kept hostage in Kings Landing (actually daughter, since no one’s filled Cat in that Arya made it out of the city).

– I had always wondered why Renly (may he rest in peace) was in charge of Storm’s End while Stannis controlled Dragonstone. There had been mentions in previous episodes that Stannis had held Storm’s End for his brother, Robert, during the war, but clearly he was passed over for his younger brother when it came to holding that land during peace. Why? Well, there is still no exact explanation given for that oversight, but there is validation for my thinking it odd with an unexpected, insightful explication scene between Stannis and Davos. Providing interesting background information on their friendship and battle experience, one really comes to grasp the threat Stannis poses, as his ships sail towards Kings Landing. He is not new to hardships. In fact, he has faced them and come out the victor.


After back-to-back episodes of performing intense dramatic material, Sansa gets nothing in this episode, and this is after last episode’s reveal that she is (physically) ready for marriage.


Treading Water:

This was an episode where almost every character makes an appearance but not always a necessary one, which is particularly disappointing given that some of the exciting unveilings in “A Man Without Honor,” that seemed destined to set off and shakeup events, don’t get addressed. I know the next episode, “Blackwater,” is highly regarded because I saw its name pop up in “Best of 2012” lists, so clearly things are going to explode soon, but waiting until “Blackwater” to have that explosion, and building up all that anticipation in “A Man Without Honor” forced “The Prince of Winterfell” to feel more standstill, like the brakes were being pulled on the momentum. It’s all good Game of Thrones (bad does not exist), but instead of a feeling of events progressing at a natural pace there exists an outward sense that the writers are deliberately slowing things down to leave the big changes for an epic “Blackwater.” In other words, “The Prince of Winterfell” is another set up episode when viewers are already set up.
– We got murderous warlock in Quarth last episode, only to follow that up with more Dany wants dragons, Jorah loves Dany? They’re mute points, and no matter how easy the segway from Varys informing Tyrion “the Targaryen girl” lives to a camera shot of Daenerys’ distressed face, this screentime should have been passed on to someone else. Let Daenerys have her spotlight in the next two episodes, at a time when she can do something instead of repeat herself, like attempt to rescue those dragon children of hers after declaring multiple times that that’s what must be done.

– Tyrion vs. Cersei: Sure, I knew they weren’t going to get along, knew Cersei would continue to stand by Joffrey and want to prevent his fighting in the field*. Still, the complete acting like they never talked last episode, like she never shared her doubts about her son to Tyrion, was disappointing. In front of others absolutely she would remain mum, but why completely keep up the act in front of him? It is motherly instinct to not want to place her son in a situation where he could get physically hurt but don’t act like you always find him darling.

And her belief that she has found a way to control Tyrion by taking his whore hostage- it just came off false for her to make such a mistake as picking the wrong whore. Yes, it shows Varys gave her false information, but he’ll never be a completely trustworthy member of Team Tyrion no matter how much he mimes support. Nor will Shae. While Tyrion’s loyalty to her is unquestionably absolute, I fear he will be hurt in love once more by a prostitute. Worse, it’s not even one of those situations where you want to believe her and will be shocked when she betrays him, even after all the signs indicated she might. Instead I will be shocked if she doesn’t go Benedict Arnold on him, and that’s not how I personally want to feel about someone the incredibly clever Tyrion is completely smitten with.

Tyrion and BronnOn the other hand, Tyrion reading up on war histories and battle strategies was a nice acknowledgement of how the brainy Lannister would try to address the impending battles- through literature. Bronn acts as the perfect counterpart for that scene, amused by what he feels is wasted time on books. Meanwhile, Tyrion’s “I enjoy playing the game” admission to Varys wasn’t necessary but was a nice character moment (but again, in an episode filled with good but unnecessary moments, it doesn’t entertain as much as it might have had it been placed in a more active episode).

* The real shocker is the kid is cocky enough to believe he could fight well. Rather than try to avoid a conflict where his lack of swordsmanship will be plain to see, he is determined to participate.

-Was looking forward to Bran’s merry group of escapers having adventures, in the style of the adventures I look forward to watching Arya & Co have, but they’re already back in Winterfell. One can see the logic in this decision, to hide where no one is searching, but then there’s the other “draw attention on itself” line where Osha tells Maester Luwin, she won’t make Bran aware of what happened to the farmer’s kids, only to have him be awake and listening in only a few feet away. I expected more from this breakoff plotline, and for this scene to be dumped at the very end of the episode, like an afterthought of, “Oh yeah, didn’t we try to imply that the youngest Starks were cooked last episode? Probably should clear that up before we close,” didn’t impress this viewer.

** And, no surprise, they’re still alive- the tip off of them not stopping at a farm because its owner’s family might be endangered brought too much attention to itself.

Remain on the Fence:

Both Robb and Jon make some forward motion in this episode but it’s not all that exciting.

– First there’s Robb, who feels betrayed by his mother’s secret release of primary prisoner, Jaime Lannister. As King of the North he has had to put his personal wishes aside for those of the camp’s. It is a necessary priority adjustment that his mother helped him face, yet now she turns around and gives away their main bargaining chip with the Lannisters in order to retrieve her two daughters from King’s Landing***. Not only are her actions hypocritical but they are self-serving as well, and for Robb to be easy on his mother would appear to his angered soldiers as special treatment. Nonetheless, her arrest isn’t pleasant.

Catelyn Stark

From her perspective, Jaime was as good as dead if he stayed at the camp, with the number of enemies he was collecting every hour. At least now something positive could come about from his being allowed to live. Robb, though, turns his back on her in disdain, only to use her selfishness as an excuse to give into his attraction to Talisa, despite being engaged to another. All displays of maturity on the battlefield give way to youthful rebellion and passion which could have major consequences. Walder Frey was a difficult and unstable ally to begin with. It was only Cat’s promise that Robb would marry one of his daughters that convinced him to allow Winterfell passage over his bridge. If he finds out about this rendezvous he will not think twice about turning his back on the Starks, maybe even join forces with the Lannisters.

Robb Stark
This does not mean I dislike Talisa, with her monologue about how her brother’s near-death experience led her to become a nurse, but it was only a matter of time before they got together, and I don’t like the “Robb getting back at his mother” angle to it, as Catelyn was the one who attached him to another woman in the first place.

***  Again, unbeknownst to her, daughter (singular).

– Back behind the Wall, Jon finally finds out why he couldn’t find his Night’s Watch brothers. They were killed by the Wildlings, with only one ranger left living. While it was “nice” to have their absence finally explained (even if the news turned out to be fairly bleak), I remain unattached to Ygritte. Willing to have my initial reaction of blandness towards her proven wrong in the future, but currently their pairing only makes me continue to miss Sam. His brief appearance with the others stewards discovering dragon glass, whatever that means, is too mysterious to provide any satisfaction. In the future, there needs to be more Sam.



I’m almost done the first brilliant book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (don’t want to read ahead of the show but thought there’d be no harm in reading up to the events I’ve already seen) but please, NO book or television show spoilers in the comments below.
Thoughts on this episode (like predictions on where Arya will head next), the episodes preceding it, and anything I’ve said in this review are fair game and welcome!

Game of Throne‘s screencaps from here