By Luke Broadwater
The Baltimore Sun
11:19 PM EDT, May 27, 2012
First, the bad news: The boy-king Joffrey is still alive.
Now, the good news: That was one amazing episode of television.
Written by George R.R. Martin himself (hallowed be his name) and directed by Neill Marshall, "Blackwater" used the lion's share of "Game of Thrones'" Season 2 budget on a large-scale, epic, fiery battle that showed off special effects and action sequences rarely seen on TV. This was television not as mere television, but as a big, blockbuster action movie. If the show's produces wanted to add 30 minutes of more content, they could have shown "Blackwater" in theatres.
Moreover, "Blackwater" succeeded in aspects in which the show sometimes struggles: Namely, trying to cover too much ground with too many characters and therefore doing too little quality dramatic development. The "A Song of Ice and Fire" books are so long and cover such a vast world that the television episodes sometimes spend only a few minutes on specific scenes before switching to another character.
That wasn't the case Sunday night. The entire episode took place at King's Landing and Blackwater Bay, which sits just outside the capitol city of Westeros. It didn't even bother me that Dany Targaryen had no scenes this episode (something I normally complain about during slower episodes). The show built momentum so well there was no need to change settings.
It began with Davos Seaworth and the mighty fleet of Stannis Baratheon sailing through Blackwater Bay to attack the Lannisters. They outnumbered the Lannisters 10 to one in ships and five to one in troops.
As he sailed in, the stern and judgmental Stannis looked, well, stern and judgmental. (I think his own hypocrisy is giving him constipation.)
The former smuggler Davos noted the irony of his current situation: "I spent most of my life dodging the royal fleet. Now I'm sailing right at them," he said.
Tyrion Lannister spent the pre-battle hours with Shea, while Maester Pycell gave his sister Cersei a poison she could take to commit suicide should the Lannisters lose.
The hired swordsman Bronn (now commander of the City Watch), meanwhile, was not so circumspect. He led a group of his men in a drunken song at a whorehouse, before he had a rather tense exchange with The Hound.
"Killing's the thing you love. You're just like me, only smaller," The Hound said.
"And quicker," Bronn countered.
The two badasses were about to exchange blows ("Your lord imp is going to miss you," Sandor Clegan said) when the bells sounded, signaling the battle was about to begin. They decided to share a final drink instead.
As the bells rang, Varys gave Tyrion a map of the 50 miles of secret tunnels the Targaryens had installed in King's Landing during their reign. The eunuch told the dwarf how he feared Stannis and his dark magic.
"You are the only man who can stop him," Varys said as Tyrion picked up an axe. (That's a lot of pressure on a man whose experience has mainly been confined to brothels.)
The cameras cut back to Davos at the front of Stannis' fleet of ships. He ordered a drummer to begin playing as the battle was about to begin, and the episode's action really began to pick up from this moment.
Inside the castle's gates, the pathetic boy-king Joffrey shouted at his betrothed Sansa Stark, "Sansa! Come here!"
"He's always been a great romantic, my nephew," Tyrion joked. (As much as I hate the Lannisters, it's literally impossible to dislike Tyrion. Where others employ strength, beauty or cruelty to their advantage, he uses wit and strategy. He's also just so damn reasonable.)
"Your king rides forth to battle," Joffrey boasted, before making Sansa bend down to kiss his new sword, Hearteater.
"You'll kiss it again when I return and taste my uncle's blood," he said. "Your brother's turn will come. Then you can lick his blood off Hearteater, too."
Moments later, on the city wall, Tyrion and Joffrey began to argue as Stannis' ships sailed closer.
"What are you doing?! We need to attack them!" Joffrey cried.
But Tyrion had other plans.
He sent out a lone ship, dumping the wildfire potion in the bay, to meet the large fleet. By the time the ship reached Davos, the bay was practically a tinderbox.
Bronn let loose a fiery arrow, which caused huge explosions and destroying Stannis' fleet. (I was rooting for Stannis, but, damn, that was awesome.)
Undeterred, Stannis urged his army to press on.
"The dwarf has played his little trick," he said, sternly and judgmentally.
"Hundreds will die," one of his advisors objected.
"Thousands," Stannis replied (!). (That's one cold, hard dude.)
"Come with me and take this city!" he shouted and his surviving troops began to rush on the shore.
Meanwhile, Sansa was ordered to join Cersei to wait out the battle in a small holding room inside The Red Keep. There, Cersei was getting drunk and commanded Sansa to drink with her. She told her future daughter-in-law that she would have tried to seduce Stannis were he not so morally rigid.
"I'd have a better chance of seducing his horse," she said, before telling the young girl: "Tears aren't a woman's only weapon. The best one is between your legs. Learn how to use it."
She also told Sansa that she's placed her executioner Ilyn Payne (who chopped of Sansa's dad's head) in that room to have them killed should the city fall to Stannis.
As they were talking, Stannis and his troops rushed ashore as fire arrows rained down among them. Someone threw a large rock that crushed a Baratheon soldier's head, as The Hound led the Lannister troops out to the fight on the beach. He ever so politely threatened to defile the corpses of any man who didn't make a killing before dying, and then began to eviscerate Stannis' soldiers.
But then all the fire began to get to the psychologically-damaged Sandor Clegan, whose brother, The Mountain, had burned off half his face as a child. A man who had been set on fire charged The Hound, who froze, but was rescued by Bronn, who shot the attacker in the eye with an arrow.
Stannis' men began to ram the gates of King's Landing, and put up ladders to scale the walls. Stannis, himself, proved adept with a sword, cutting down those who stood in his way, including handing out some of the most brutal beheadings we've seen this season. (Take note, Theon Greyjoy.)
As the fire blazed, The Hound turned coward and quit the battle, cursing at Joffrey ("F--- the king!") as the boy commanded him to return to fighting.
Inside the gates, a pivotal moment occurred. Joffrey was brought news that his mother wanted him to retreat to the holding area, while Tyrion implored the king to lead the men in battle. The scared little king retreated, of course, leaving Tryion to lead the attack.
"They say I am half of man but what does that make the lot of you?" the dwarf shouted to those soldiers who wanted to retreat. "Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!"
Tyrion then led the men through one of the Targaryen tunnels and took Stannis' troops from the rear. He even somewhat-awesomely chopped off a man's leg with his axe.
But amid the fighting, one of Joffrey's guards, Ser Mandon Moore, betrayed Tyrion, cutting The Hand's face badly and leaving him unconscious. Tyrion's squire, Podrick Payne, intervened and saved his master's life, killing Moore.
Another wave of Stannis' large number of troops then joined the battle and hope looked lost for the Lannisters, until ...
Lord Tywin, Tyrion's father, came riding in with his troops. He was joined by the Tyrells (who were previously pledged to Renly Baratheon) and their troops.
Cersei had moved to The Iron Throne and was preparing to die. She was about to give poison to her youngest son, Tommen, when Tywin burst through the doors.
"The battle is over," he said. "We have won."
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