They’ve been telling us all along, those fine marketeers at HBO. Winter is Coming. War is Coming. More Winter is Coming. War is Here. There’s No Where to Hide. And throughout season two we’ve peered back at them and said, “ok, but when?” There is no time better than the present, I always say. Especially when episode nine, “Blackwater” is upon us and the battle has raged with massive green flames. Even though there’s one frame left, anyone who has watched last night’s episode has now seen the season’s penultimate chapter. Stannis Baratheon sails toward King’s Landing with a massive army and he will not rest until he has taken the Iron Throne away from the boy King Joffrey. That’s where we pick up the tale as we travel on with our Blog of Thrones…
As always, Blog of Thrones is written from the perspective of a relative novice to George R.R. Martin’s books. It focuses solely on Game of Thrones the show and assumes that you’ve seen everything up to the latest episode. If you travel down this Kingsroad and find yourself spoiled, the king will know the reason why.
“Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.”
Even though the episode opens on Ser Davos Seaworth and his son, nothing is truly in motion until we are met with the face of The Imp, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and the backside of his lady Shae (Sibel Kekilli). In fact, there’s no denying that this will go down as Tyrion’s big episode. Sure, his sister is a lot of fun when she’s had some wine and a side of fear. And yes, his father gets the big hero moment at the end. But Tyrion Lannister is proves throughout “Blackwater” that he is the beating heart and soul of this show. Not just in his jest, but in his ability to rise to the occasion (no pun intended… okay, maybe a little). Up to this point, there has been no doubt that Peter Dinklage was the right man to embody the Imp. Tonight merely seals it as he not only brings the written character to life, he gives him an edge that is unlike anything you can read in George R.R. Martin’s books. Peter Dinklage is pure gold, burning hotter than wildfire, and this is his grandest stage, upon which he is absolutely brilliant.
How about those Lannisters?
Before we talk about the battle itself — because whoa, there was a battle — lets take a moment to recognize another of the game’s players, Lena Headey. She’s always been tough as the cunning Cersei Lannister, but this week she showed off impressive range. From playing the drunken fool as the battle raged on, spewing bile at the victim Sansa Stark, to perhaps the series’ most disturbing moment in the throne room with her youngest son, Headey gives new dimensions to Cersei. We’ve always known her to be a little crazy and hyper-defensive of her incest brood, but she goes to a new level this week as she very nearly offs one of her own. It’s a scene high on creep, using the vast quiet of the Iron Throne’s chamber for added effect.
Neil Marshall was a good choice
Such effects could only truly be executed by a special kind of director. With no offense meant to Alan Taylor or the other directors who have worked on this series, few men could have done so much with “Blackwater” as Neil Marshall. In this hour-long effort, he finds the delicate balance between the scale of the battle and the intimacy of the game still being played while men fight their war. Outside, the battle rages. There is strategy, much of which ends with a massive green fireball that is easily one of the most impressive sights you’re like to see on your television screen this year. There is also good, hard combat on the ground. The Hound (the underrated Rory McCann) has the most interesting bit of it, as he slashes his way through invading men, only to break under the heat of the hellfires around him. In a few moments, Marshall and the writers accomplish leagues of character development on The Hound, showing what battle can do even to the most hardened men. Conversely, sometimes the most unexpected heroes will rise. Even that little guy.
In balance with the scale of the explosion offshore, Marshall keeps things tight around the walls of King’s Landing. Even though we’re only seeing a small part of the battle, it’s shot with intense concentration by longtime Marshall collaborator Sam McCurdy that makes everything feel vast and intimate at the same time. Even the scenes inside the castle benefit from McCurdy’s intimate lens. As the battle rages, it’s not hard to feel close to any one of these characters — most notably the Imp, Queen Crazypants and Sansa Stark. Even good Bronn (Jerome Flynn) gets his hero shot.
The battle may be over, but…
Who should come through the door to the Red Keep first? Was it the hero moment for Tywin Lannister? Sure. But if you were paying attention, there was Ser Loras Tyrell. You may remember him as the Knight of Flowers, Renly’s lover and the brother to that gorgeous unbeded Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Brother and sister ran off after Stannis had his smoke monster kill Renly, only to return on the side of the Lannisters. Paging Stannis Baratheon… Karma is truly a bitch. It will surely be interesting to see how all the mess shakes out in the season finale next week, as there are questions all over the place. What will Tywin do about his grandson, the wicked boy king of Westeros? How do the Tyrell’s figure into the court at King’s Landing? Is the Imp dead or alive? Did Davos survive the big kaboom or are we done with the wonderful gruffness of Liam Cunningham?
All this will surely be answered, or it won’t be. What we know for sure is that the beauty of the situation is that there’s still one episode left to go before the agony of waiting for season three begins.
This Week’s Final Thought: The song that played over the credits, for those curious, was a recording of “The Rains of Castamere,” a song about Tywin Lannister’s badassery taken from the books, as recorded by The National. You can find out more about that here.
Next Week: The season two finale promises more ‘wow’ moments as we learn the meaning of the phrase “Valar Morghulis.” (Hint: it has something to do with a lot of people dying.) See the preview for next week’s episode below.
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