Tonight on a stellar episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Stannis and his fleet got the worst sort of welcome at King’s Landing. In an episode written by George R.R. Martin and directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) you can bet there was a ton of epic violence. Really epic. Still, the only thing worse than being cooked alive by wildfire is being locked in a room with a drunk Cersei.
Warning: Episode reviews contain episode and book spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, follow Leigh Butler’s read of ASOIaF. Tor.com is not liable for your further enjoyment of the series if later books get spoiled in the comments.
Was the battle of Blackwater Bay everything you hoped for? Was it more than you had hoped for?
It certainly was for me. This was the spectacle we’ve been waiting for all season. What an interesting choice of director for such a pivotal episode of Game of Thrones. Neil Marshall is no stranger to filming amazing action sequences — check out the ludicrous, climactic car chase at the end of Doomsday — but this was beyond anything we’ve seen from him before. There were ships, archers, hand-to-hand combat, and the mother of all explosions. But there were also amazing, quiet moments between characters.
Who do you root for in a battle like this? I can’t root for Stannis, even though his claim to the Iron Throne is valid. But I love Davos and didn’t want to see him see his son get killed. Davos is an honorable man, a man of reason, much like Ned Stark. Of course no one in their right mind could root for Joffrey. Or Cersei. But Tyrion is fighting on their side and he’s pretty much one of the best fictional characters ever. So what is the battle of Blackwater really about as a viewer?
I think this was Sansa’s episode. And The Hound’s. And Bronn’s. And the thousands of nameless soldiers who lost their lives to the game.
But first... I don’t know what made my jaw drop more, seeing Tyrion’s plan come to fruition or hearing Bronn singing “The Rains of Castamere.” Anyone following the show in the media had to have heard about the huge special effects budget for this particular episode, but I really wasn’t expecting anything as astounding as that green wildfire explosion taking out Stannis’ ships. Not for a TV show. We’ve glossed over so many battles on Game of Thrones, but there was just no way to skirt around the siege of King’s Landing. And, man, that was worth every last penny. Definite highlight of the season, from Bronn taking that fateful shot to Stannis sending his troops ashore, I was pretty much watching with my mouth hanging open.
Bronn was so great tonight. Especially his scene before the bells sounded when he was facing down The Hound. Or vice versa, rather, as Sandor was eager to point out; Bronn is small compared to The Hound. You gotta love the way a Clegane can just suck all the fun out of a party with a single look. That fight could’ve topped any of the other swordfights we saw later on. My money would be on The Hound. Did you catch him literally cutting a man in half? (Total textbook Neil Marshall gore abounded in this episode, especially good for major head wounds. Egads.) I really loved seeing Sandor’s fear of fire through his own eyes. But I really loved him telling Joffrey to fuck himself. That was even better than a Tyrion bitch-slap because Joffrey had counted on Sandor to do all of his dirty work.
Oh, Joffrey. What a little wuss. This episode made me appreciate Stannis so much more. He didn’t hesitate for even a second when he took his place at his soldiers’ side. Joffrey giving Stannis a “red smile”? Yeah, right. As was totally expected, Joffrey continues to be the worst king ever.
I really enjoyed Sansa telling Joffrey as much when he forced her to see him off to battle. She got in a good dig, bringing up her brother Robb’s bravery. Sansa shined. What a terrible situation to be in, all around. She has a certain “woman’s grace” like her mother. Cersei’s been losing her mind the closer Stannis got to her city, so it shouldn’t be surprising that she totally fell apart. She probably would have been better with a sword in her hand, unlike her son. But to so completely fail in her duties as a queen? You hate her more and more each week. Lena Headey was perfectly cruel last night. I’m not the biggest Sansa fan (who is?) so I had to snicker a bit when Cersei called her “so perfect” with that sneer. The people I was watching this episode with that hadn’t read the books were worrying that Cersei was slowly poisoning her future daughter-in-law. She is just that nuts.
Why, oh, why wouldn’t Sansa go with The Hound at this point? There shared scenes have always been a pleasure to watch, but none more so than their final one last night. (Though he never asked his little bird for a song, did he?) How different things could have been if she had traveled with him, especially considering who he crosses paths with later on. Is Sansa just not brave like her little sister or is she paralyzed by fear and duty to stay as a captive in such a dangerous prison?
Of course, the real star of the evening was Tyrion. He’s been hanging back a bit in previous episodes and I think that was calculated a bit, so he could really step up for “Blackwater.” He saved the city. With his sharp mind. Though he got in a good amputation with his axe there. I loved his speech to the dejected soldiers. Not exactly the St. Crispin’s day speech, but very Tyrion. You can’t not cheer for him. I thought Shae’s concern for him was touching. I want to believe she loves him very much. On the show, it seems like she genuinely does.
I’d say the Lannisters were lucky to have their daddy come and bail their asses out, but I get the feeling that Tywin being in town will kill the free-for-all they’ve been having these past few months quicker than a Clegane in a brothel. Good for Joffrey-haters but bad for Tyrion fans.
I’ve been gushing about this episode far too long. Now it’s your turn. Sound off in the comments below. Can we all freak out that next week is the season finale and it’ll be a damn year before we get new episodes?
Game of Thrones airs 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. She has also covered tech and TV for Geektress.com and Action Flick Chick. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci