Game of Thrones – Season 2 Episode 9: Recap

Blackwater

Disclaimer: This is a recap of the ninth episode of Game of Thrones Season Two, and contains spoilers about the episode. Read only if you've already seen the episode, or care not about taking the train to spoiler town.

Screen Art
Title Game of Thrones - Season Two, Episode 9
Studio HBO
Director Alik Sakharov
Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Etc.
Genre Fantasy
Rating TV-MA
Release Year 2012

OK, full disclosure. I had been finding the last few episodes to be a little tedious – running around through such a wide cast really makes you feel like you’re dashing from point to point, waiting for more developments. And there have been some: but the latest episode of Game of Thrones was just so epic that I literally sat there unable to look away from the screen. I think this may have been due to a few points: firstly, it centers entirely on Stannis’ siege of King’s Landing, so that you only have to deal with a handful of characters. You’re not being pulled out of a scene to go all the way beyond the Wall and see what Jon is doing, or over the seas to Qarth to find out about Dany’s storyline. No, the episode is grounded in one location, and this is incredibly important because, for the second point, this scene is a major event in the Westeros timeline.

Here we have two of the main forces clashing, finally, after much talk of wildfire and ships and what people will be doing to certain queens once they get over the walls. Stannis, armed with a fleet of ships and more men than you can shake Renly’s dead body at, makes for King’s Landing with full intention of taking the Iron Throne that very night. After all, how can he be in the wrong? He’s the full blooded brother to the late Robert Baratheon, who’s children aren’t even his own children. He has the blessing of R’hllor, he has a huge army, how can this go wrong? Well, Tyrion has been planning and preparing for this very event (as we witnessed in the previous episode). And the littlest Lannister has quite the ace up his sleeve – miles and miles of wildfire, an alchemical substance that will eat through anything (including flesh) and that can’t be extinguished by water.

Though the battle provides plenty of eye-catching footage, the real treat in this episode is watching everyone’s reactions – or rather, watching certain people fall to pieces. Sandor Clegane loses his cool, going from “I’ll rape your corpse if you die with a clean sword!” to absolute catatonia as he’s attacked by a man lit on fire by an arrow. Bronn, who Clegane had been threatening only a short time ago, has to come to his rescue, proving that just because he’s smaller than the Hound doesn’t mean he’s any less deadly. Sandor eventually walks off the battlefield entirely, telling everyone in not so polite terms to stick their swords where the sun don’t shine (even Joffrey!).

Cutting a bloody swath through anyone who stands in his path - to the wine, that is

And the other who really loses her cool is Cersei. Her drinking problem has been hinted at throughout this season, but it really rears its ugly head when she and a cluster of other ladies are locked up for their own safety. Rather than reassure everyone and providing a pillar of strength, because it’s “expected of her,” Cersei merely needles Sansa with exquisite descriptions of what will happen to them all if and when the city is sacked. Sansa, in contrast, does everything she can to keep her fellow prisoners (for, really, what else can they be? For that moment in the battle, they are trapped, waiting to find out whether the executioner’s blade is going to drop down on them – and having Ilyn Payne as their “guardian” only reinforces this metaphor, since rather than protecting them, his first duty is to kill a pair of traitorous servants who tried to make off with a horse) calm, encouraging them to sing and pray.

Lush says what?

Even though Cersei has little faith in her younger brother, it’s his planning that gets them through the meat of the fight. The wildfire plan, which was to put as much as they could into a boat, sail it out close to the fleet, and detonate it from a distance with an arrow, takes down a good portion of not only Stannis’ boats, but his men as well. In fact, things are going pretty well for the Lannisters, up until Cersei decides that she’s had enough and pulls Joffrey from the front lines like any mother protecting her young. This blow to the troops’ morale seems enough to really screw them all – but Tyrion, as he’s been doing throughout the series, attempts to raise everyone’s spirits by leading a charge himself against Stannis’ men. It only serves to get him into enough hot water that Podrick has to save him before the half-man gets his head chopped off (much like another do-gooder who’s name I shouldn’t even have to mention).

In the end, when all seems lost, the day is saved through the miraculous appearance of Tywin Lannister…and the remaining men to the Tyrell family, led by Loras. They’ve thrown their lot in entirely with the Lannisters, apparently, which is to be seen if it gets Margarey her crown; Loras has had his revenge, if only partially. We don’t yet know the fate of Stannis.

This whole episode also brings to light another point that’s been made throughout the series – that the only way to find out the true character of a man is through battle. Men have talked about battles, raved about heroic acts, but here we get to see the thick of things and find out just what these characters are really made of. Cersei acts like a proud lion, but would attempted suicide of both herself and her son been a proud act? It certainly would have saved her from a worse fate. Sandor, likewise, revealed a telling weakness in his inability to deal with the fire blazing all around him on the beach. On the other side of the coin, the weaker characters proved to be invaluable in this setting – so perhaps the idea of proving one’s mettle in battle, whether on the field or off, is true.

That's some mighty fine pig shit

And let’s just give a big hand to the special effects. GRRM said that they blew the budge on this episode, and watching the wildfire explode in the night, rearing up from the depths like some great beast was absolutely spellbinding. The ensuing chaos and fight scenes were glorious, and certainly fit into the brutal, violent world that has been created for our viewing pleasure.

Now to find out what’s going to happen next week, during the fallout.

Hey There! I'm an ADVERTISEMENT. Cool, huh?