Game of Thrones: Inside The Episode “Blackwater” (S02E09)

Game of Thrones Review/Recap: “Blackwater” Season 2 Episode 9 (Episode 19)

Written by George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire series, Blackwater is a masterful combination of suspense, action and storytelling.  If there’s a flaw in how the Battle of Blackwater Bay plays out in the book, is that some readers find it confusing and hard to follow.  On the television series, George R.R. Martin gets a second chance to refine the story, giving breath to line after line of razor-sharp dialogue and unrelenting tension.  This episode greatly benefitted from focusing entirely on the characters in Kings Landing; building upon the urgency and intensity of each scene while never allowing the viewer to escape to and get distracted by unrelated events in other parts of Westeros or Qarth.

The bulk of the second season budget was reserved for this episode and it showed from the incredible green wildfire explosion that destroyed Stannis’ fleet to the massive battle outside the Mudgate. The TV series typically has only shown the initial assault or aftermath of battles. This is primarily because action packed battles are very expensive, time-consuming and complex to film and often not crucial to the overall story or a character’s development. The battle of Blackwater needed to be on-screen to viscerally depict the brutality of war, show the cost to attain/maintain the Iron Throne and to bring resolution to the events building up in the previous eight episodes.

As much as the shock and awe visuals will be lauded, the sound effects and music also added to the atmosphere, suspense and realism. The sound of the creaking ships sailing against the tide, the flaming arrows zipping across the night sky, the ominous drums pounding, and church bells ringing all helped create an immersive tension filled experience. The orchestral score by composer Ramin Djawadi is another highlight of the episode, especially the variations of the Game of Thrones title theme music.  For the fans of the book, it was a welcome surprise hearing Bronn and other soldiers singing the Rains of Castamere, a song about the Lannisters victory over House Reyne of Castamere.

Game of Thrones episodes are typically filled with dialogue heavy exposition. What was particularly enjoyable was how writer George R.R. Martin playfully subverted our expectations in the scene where Varys was about to explain to Tyrion how he become an eunuch, but then abruptly stopped. There’s also the conversation where Cersei asks Shae to tell a story about herself and thankfully for Shae (and the viewers) she is interrupted.

Blackwater was a strong episode for Sansa and Tyrion’s shining moment. The brief exchange between Sansa and Tyrion (“I will pray for your safe return my lord …  just as I pray for the King’s.”) shows how witty and defiant she can be, even when the line is delivered in earnest. Sansa then tries to appeal to Joffrey’s ego and trick him into leading the vanguard where he will likely die.  In the Red Keep, Sansa leads the other high-born ladies and girls in a hymn to calm their nerves; something that Cersei should have been doing if she cared for anyone besides herself. When Sansa returns to her quarters the Hound, who retreated from the battle because he is afraid of fire ever since half his face got burned off as a child, gives her an opportunity to escape home to Winterfell. At this point, Sansa believes Stannis is certain to overtake the city and would be safe so she wisely does not go with the Hound, a known killer and deviant.

A person’s true nature is revealed when their life is at stake. Tyrion showed he is a courageous hero and leader. He had an opportunity to escape through the secret tunnels as offered by Varys. Instead when the Hound and Joffrey refused to lead their army, he took it upon himself to rally the troops and prevent Stannis soldiers from breaking down the gate. Tyrion’s wound appears superficial so he probably just lost conciousness and is not dead. Fortunately, he was saved by Podrick and Tywin’s coalition army lead by Loras Tyrell.

In Game of Thrones Inside The Episode, series producers and director discuss the fundamental similarities between Bronn and the Hound, why Tyrion is surprised at his own actions and Cersei’s perverse pleasure in teaching Sansa about the world.

Watch again the epic Blackwater Wildfire Scene:

Dialogue To Die For

 Tyrion to Shae: “You can’t f*ck your way out of everything.”

 Cersei: “The gods have no mercy, that’s why they’re gods.”

 Cersei to Sansa: “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs. Learn how to use it.”

 Hound: “F*ck the king’s guard, f*ck the city,  f*ck the King!” 

 Hound: “Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape your f*cking corpse!”

 Tyrion: “Those are brave men knocking at our door … Let’s go kill them!” 

 Tyrion: “Oh f*ck me.” 

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