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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.

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