Monday, 28 May 2012

Game of Thrones | Season 2, Episode 9: The Battle of the Blackwater


The Battle of the Blackwater - the whole of Season Two has been building up to this one, so you know it's going to be good. Rather than jumping around between different characters, different storylines and different cities, the whole of episode nine is concentrated solely on King's Landing as Stannis rolls up with his fleet. They arrive in the middle of the night, meaning that the battle is deliciously dark and shadowy, and the outcome completely uncertain - the two armies are pretty evenly matched... but, don't forget, the Lannisters are the ones with the Wildfire.

We begin with Davos Seaworth on the prow of his ship as it sails into Blackwater Bay. Pretty soon, all the bells in King's Landing start ringing to warn the citizens of the coming battle. The knights and soldiers all rush to put on their armour and make for the city walls - this includes Tyrion 'Halfman' Lannister, and King Joffrey himself, who seems to relish the idea of a slaughter, forcing Sansa to kiss his new sword (named Hearteater) before he goes into battle, promising her that when he returns she will kiss it again, and taste the blood of Stannis. Sansa (who is getting pretty clever at the subdued yet cutting remarks) puts him in his place with a few choice words, slyly insinuating that Joffrey won't be anywhere near the real fighting (he's too craven for a start, and too important to the realm).

Sansa and Shae then head to Queen Cersei's hidey-hole, where she has gathered all the important women of the court and their maids. Pycelle has given Cersei a bottle of poison, which she will use to top herself should the city fall. She also keeps the headsman Ser Ilyn Payne close at hand, a swift beheading being better than rape and torture for the noblewomen. Cersei spends most of the night hitting the bottle pretty hard and winding up Sansa (who does a pretty good job of keeping her cool).

Outside, the battle plan is put into action by Tyrion, who has masterminded the whole affair along with Varys. A single ship is sent out to greet Stannis's fleet, causing much confusion. It transpires that the ship is a decoy, empty of soldiers and full of the foul green Wildfire. In what is the most spectacular scene of the episode (and probably the series), Tyrion orders the boat set alight with fire arrows. For those of you who missed the meeting, Wildfire is incredibly flammable - in fact, it's virtually nuclear. The explosion takes out pretty much the whole of the fleet and sets alight to Blackwater Bay, leaving the majority of Stannis's men screaming, writhing and dying.

Things are looking good for the Lannisters, until Stannis orders his land army (which is substantial, by the looks of things) to start attacking the walls. The Hound does his best to drive them off, but being that he's terrified of fire (having had half his face burnt off by his brother Gregor when he was a child) he throws in the towel, tells Joffrey where to stick it, and storms off. The Lannisters start to see that they're losing the battle - Lancel runs to Cersei to let her know, and she promptly orders him to bring her darling Joffrey back inside the Red Keep. Joffrey is only too glad to have an excuse to get away from the battle, leaving Tyrion to take over the defense. Of course, he rises to the occasion, giving a rousing battle speech and riding out behind Stannis's men in order to 'fuck them in the arse', as he puts it.

All seems to be going well, until a helmeted knight (who looks to be a Lannister bannerman) deliberately socks Tyrion round the face with a sword, leaving him alive, but reeling, and with a nasty scar that will ache something awful come Winter (and Winter is coming). It looks as though the Lannisters are about to be overwhelmed by Stannis. Cersei leaves the comfort of her underground chamber and makes for the throne room with her son Tommen. On the advice of Shae, Sansa too flees to her bedroom, only to find the Hound waiting for her. He offers to take her away with him, to escort her home to Winterfell, but she refuses.

In the throne room, Cersei tells Tommen a comforting story while she prepares to poison them both. Unfortunately, before they can drink the Kool-Aid, the doors burst open and a whole heap of soldiers pour in. Luckily for the Lannisters, it's Tywin who is at the head of this force - he has shown up in the nick of time to crush the remnants of Stannis's army. 'We have won!' he says, just in case anyone wasn't sure, and all is right with Westeros - for the Lannisters, anyway. Stannis runs off with his tail between his legs, and Blackwater bay is full of burning carcasses and sinking ships.

Next week's episode (titled 'The Clean-up Operation) will be the last in Season Two - and likely as not, we'll have to wait another year before Season Three comes along. For most television shows, the Third Season is oft-titled 'the difficult' Third Season, and can sometimes make or break a programme. Luckily for HBO, they have a fantastic readymade script in the form of George R. R. Martin's novels - and take it from me, the third book is totally mental, in the best way. Things can only get better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) in Westeros.

Episode 9 Best Moment: The Wildfire.

Episode 9 Best Line: Anything said by the Hound (Tyrion's rousing battle speech is pretty good too).

Game of Thrones | Episode Ten: Valar Morghulis

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