Game of Thrones: Inside The Episode “Blackwater” (S02E09)

Game of Thrones Review/Recap: “Blackwater” Season 2 Episode 9 (Episode 19)

Written by George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire series, Blackwater is a masterful combination of suspense, action and storytelling.  If there’s a flaw in how the Battle of Blackwater Bay plays out in the book, is that some readers find it confusing and hard to follow.  On the television series, George R.R. Martin gets a second chance to refine the story, giving breath to line after line of razor-sharp dialogue and unrelenting tension.  This episode greatly benefitted from focusing entirely on the characters in Kings Landing; building upon the urgency and intensity of each scene while never allowing the viewer to escape to and get distracted by unrelated events in other parts of Westeros or Qarth.

The bulk of the second season budget was reserved for this episode and it showed from the incredible green wildfire explosion that destroyed Stannis’ fleet to the massive battle outside the Mudgate. The TV series typically has only shown the initial assault or aftermath of battles. This is primarily because action packed battles are very expensive, time-consuming and complex to film and often not crucial to the overall story or a character’s development. The battle of Blackwater needed to be on-screen to viscerally depict the brutality of war, show the cost to attain/maintain the Iron Throne and to bring resolution to the events building up in the previous eight episodes.

As much as the shock and awe visuals will be lauded, the sound effects and music also added to the atmosphere, suspense and realism. The sound of the creaking ships sailing against the tide, the flaming arrows zipping across the night sky, the ominous drums pounding, and church bells ringing all helped create an immersive tension filled experience. The orchestral score by composer Ramin Djawadi is another highlight of the episode, especially the variations of the Game of Thrones title theme music.  For the fans of the book, it was a welcome surprise hearing Bronn and other soldiers singing the Rains of Castamere, a song about the Lannisters victory over House Reyne of Castamere.

Game of Thrones episodes are typically filled with dialogue heavy exposition. What was particularly enjoyable was how writer George R.R. Martin playfully subverted our expectations in the scene where Varys was about to explain to Tyrion how he become an eunuch, but then abruptly stopped. There’s also the conversation where Cersei asks Shae to tell a story about herself and thankfully for Shae (and the viewers) she is interrupted.

Blackwater was a strong episode for Sansa and Tyrion’s shining moment. The brief exchange between Sansa and Tyrion (“I will pray for your safe return my lord …  just as I pray for the King’s.”) shows how witty and defiant she can be, even when the line is delivered in earnest. Sansa then tries to appeal to Joffrey’s ego and trick him into leading the vanguard where he will likely die.  In the Red Keep, Sansa leads the other high-born ladies and girls in a hymn to calm their nerves; something that Cersei should have been doing if she cared for anyone besides herself. When Sansa returns to her quarters the Hound, who retreated from the battle because he is afraid of fire ever since half his face got burned off as a child, gives her an opportunity to escape home to Winterfell. At this point, Sansa believes Stannis is certain to overtake the city and would be safe so she wisely does not go with the Hound, a known killer and deviant.

A person’s true nature is revealed when their life is at stake. Tyrion showed he is a courageous hero and leader. He had an opportunity to escape through the secret tunnels as offered by Varys. Instead when the Hound and Joffrey refused to lead their army, he took it upon himself to rally the troops and prevent Stannis soldiers from breaking down the gate. Tyrion’s wound appears superficial so he probably just lost conciousness and is not dead. Fortunately, he was saved by Podrick and Tywin’s coalition army lead by Loras Tyrell.

In Game of Thrones Inside The Episode, series producers and director discuss the fundamental similarities between Bronn and the Hound, why Tyrion is surprised at his own actions and Cersei’s perverse pleasure in teaching Sansa about the world.

Watch again the epic Blackwater Wildfire Scene:

Dialogue To Die For

 Tyrion to Shae: “You can’t f*ck your way out of everything.”

 Cersei: “The gods have no mercy, that’s why they’re gods.”

 Cersei to Sansa: “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs. Learn how to use it.”

 Hound: “F*ck the king’s guard, f*ck the city,  f*ck the King!” 

 Hound: “Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape your f*cking corpse!”

 Tyrion: “Those are brave men knocking at our door … Let’s go kill them!” 

 Tyrion: “Oh f*ck me.” 

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Posted on May 28, 2012, in Game of Thrones, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Disappointing: I am very sorry, after all the hype about the battle I expected more, if you are going to shoot the storming of a castle or a keep you got to go with Helm´s Deep approach.

  2. You were disappointed? I thought it was fantastic from beginning to end. Visuals, dialogue…it had everything you could want. Don’t even get me started on the bastardization of Lord of the Rings. If that is your benchmark for quality you are a sad sad man. At least George R. R. Martin is authorizing any story changes here.

  3. Considering budgetary and time constraints, this was a great reimagining of the battle. Easily a 10/10 episode. Nice review too!

  4. “Fuck the kings guard, fuck the city, and fuck the king!”

    I thought this was the best line in the episode. But I suppose you don’t agree since you didn’t put it in your dialogue section.

  5. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read the review and post their thoughts on this episode.

  6. “there are brave men out there, Lets go kill them”

    I have one complaint about the episode, a Lack of bodies. thats it, I felt it was one of the best episodes yet, and it was the best of the second season.

  7. I’ve added your suggestions to the dialogue section. I must admit my favorite Hound quotes are “Keep those flaming arrows away from me or I’ll strangle you with your guts” and “Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape your f*cking corpse!”

  8. Hey, some people are still reading the books. You didn’t give anything away to me in particular about the chains or Tyrion’s nose, but some people may be watching the show and have not gotten that far in the books. There is no reason to talk about Spoilers in the book when this is a review for the show. That wasn’t well articulated as I am in a rush to go to work, but I think you get my point.

  9. I forgot to mention (rather rudely) that minus the small spoilers in your comments section concerning the books, you did a rather fine job on this review and I dare say a much better one than IGN. Keep up the excellent work!! I will be sending your link along to others =)

  10. I may have missed something but I thought Sansa DID go with The Hound. Right after his “all men are killers, one day your sons will be killers…” speech she says “you won’t hurt me” and then goes with him?

    • I would love to see a storyline with Sansa & the Hound on a road trip to Winterfell. They have an odd chemistry that works. I guess will find out their true fate in the next episode?

  11. I thought this was a very well done episode. The explosion of Stannis’ fleet was awesome.
    Seems like everyone is showing their “true colors”

    Cersei is evil, hateful and willing to poison her own children. Her reasoning is that she would rather them be poisoned, then killed by Stannis. She also planned to have all those women and Sansa killed as well.

    Tyrion, my fav character, stood up and took control when it counted.That’s not saying much for the so called whimpy KIng Joffrey. He’s one person I will not miss when he’s gone.

    I hope that Tyrion is not dead. He took quite a nasty cut from that sword. I hope he ends up King!!. Joffrey is totally useless as is his mother!!

    • Cersei is damaged and twisted. She wants to ridicule and hurt Sansa but at the same time she wants to teach Sansa how to become a Queen. She’s messed up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope someone gives Joffrey a “red smile” … the worst ones always live…

    • To be fair she wasn’t going to have all those women killed out of spite, she was “saving” them from being raped and possibly then killed in a slow/horrible fashiong. At least Cersei’s way would have been quicker and possibly less painful.

      Same with her child, she thought she was facing having to see her son get butchered in front of her and then his head stuck on a spike – next to that watching him go to sleep and never wake up is surely preferable?

      Don’t get me wrong of course she is damaged and evil but those 2 actions were her own attempt at protecting those in her charge.

      Tyrion was simply epic in this episode and I even wonder if Tywin (who will surely hear about Tyrion’s courage and efforts in devising the entire defence plan) will now have some respect for his son and let him continue to be the hand of the King?

      I now have to confess to watching the teaser trailer for the series finale so I at least know whether Sansa went with Hound but I won’t spoil it here.

      • Actually, after reading your reply to my post, I think you’re right. I guess I was just looking at it from my judgement of her, which isn’t very commendable. I think she’s dealt with a lot crap growing up in the shadow of Jaime and being sold out as a whore by Robert Baratheon.

        I just don’t think she’s justified in treating Tyrion like that and saying those awful things to him. Blaming him for their mother’s death. It’s not his fault he’s a little person. I think he’s the best of the Lannisters hands down!!

  12. Tyrion’s wound is not and does not seem “superficial”. It is not as grotesque as in the book but it looks life-threatening because it is.

    The hype about how they secured a lot of budget for this battle is embarrassing. The naval battle is good (even without the chain boom, you could still just say “they surprised them and burnt them up, and looked spectacular doing it) but the land battle is utterly botched.

    It was all I could do not to BUST OUT LAUGHING when Loras shows up in the throne room (looking for all the world like Robin Hood leading his Merry Men) in Renly’s armor, and this is supposed to convey that the defenders have won the land battle. I’m sorry, if you win the battle for the budget then you have TO SHOW the defenders winning the land battle; you have to SHOW Loras donning Renly’s armor (just like Patroclus donned Achilles’) and you have to SHOW how troops on both sides react when Renly SHOWS up to lead the battle!

    • Yeah, you’re right Tyrion’s injury looks nasty, I didn’t notice the blood seeping out on my first viewing … Fuzzy tv.. Also I was expecting something more gruesome .. Like the books. The ghost of Renly aka Loras wasn’t really explored, I wonder if they will bring it up next ep. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, hope to hear from you again.

  1. Pingback: Game of Thrones: Empire Podcast with “Blackwater” Director Neil Marshall « Sidekick Reviews

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