Tuesday, May 29, 2012

F**k Yeah Game of Thrones! Episode 9: Blackwater!

In the immortal words of the Kool-Aid man: “OH YEAAAH!”

After a couple of smaller, quieter, bridging episodes Game of Thrones finally turns its attention from navel gazing to naval battles! The show has triumphantly switched gears from deep and meaningful to Helm’s Deep and meaningful. This is the large-scale attack on King’s Landing that we have all been anticipating and it does not disappoint!

For much hacking, slashing and screaming... join me after the jump!

(As always, remember that I have not read the books so for me all of this is a surprise punch to the brain).

This season we’ve grown accustomed to flitting back and forth between a huge number of characters like a schizophrenic butterfly. But not this time! This is the only episode to date which is one huge battle scene, taking place exclusively at King’s Landing and focusing on the progression of the intense siege.

And before we get too far into it, I should note that this is absolutely epic and stunning work for a television show. They have not held back on the scale of the fights, the quality of the effects, or the size of the looming backdrops that house the action. It really is an impressive accomplishment and quite unlike any other series I've ever seen. This is more Lord of the Rings than Xena: Warrior Princess. The dollars drip off the screen, forming warm, glowing puddles of smug satisfaction. It's ingenious how they make it all work.

Now onto our tale...

Before daybreak, the overly serious, self-entitled Stannis is gunning his huge fleet of ominous ships towards King’s Landing, determined to stick his grim fists in some Lannister cake-holes. Ex-smuggler, turned captain of the fleet, Davos, is understandably feeling a little nervous in the pants but his son assures him that the one true God is on their side and that Stannis will be on the Iron Throne by dawn. No doubt drinking a victory coffee and thumbing through a medieval magazine.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing the tension is mounting and Shae is mounting  Tyrion - our favourite demon monkey imp. This relieves some of the tension at least.

In another part of the castle, Queen Cersei is pensive, and starts on her first of many bottles of wine. It should be noted that she is going to continue boozing this entire episode, hitting all the classic drunk milestones from amusing, to rambling, to belligerent, to downright scary. Actress Lena Heady has a blast with this.

Doddering coffin-dodger Pycelle can see the doom and gloom that's coming so he palms her some essence of nightshade, tactfully implying that if the chips are down it’s a good way to kill yourself. Having no prior knowledge of who lives or dies in this episode, I find this proposition to be incredibly tantalising. You know she's too cunning to use it on herself, so who is she going to force it upon?

Down below in some sort of pub, Captain of the guard, Bronn, is doing so much wisecracking, drinking, and whoring, that I’m surprised he doesn’t have a helm shaped like a lampshade. He has a naked woman on his lap and seems intent on trying to wear her like a hat. A surly Hound crashes the party and spoils everyone’s buzz by having a weird mouth and talking about killing people. The testerone level rises dangerously high and it looks like Bronn and the Hound are about to butt misshapen heads but they are cut short when the bells sound! Is it a hunchback attack?

All the dudes prepare for battle on the aptly name battlements. Tyrion armours up and readies his cunning plan. He chats to Varys about Stannis’ alleged dark powers (not appearing in this episode) and has a brief bromance with Bronn who he is proud to call friend, despite the fact that he's such a dirty bastard. 

King Joffrey the Joffster Joffrey struts around like a cock (not a cockerel) and makes the wretched, long-suffering Sansa kiss his new sword dubbed “Hearteater”. He romantically promises that she can do it again when it’s dripping with Stannis’ blood. He then makes a nuisance of himself on the battlements making all sorts of daft proclamations until Tyrion gives him a firm “STFU, noob”.

With King’s Landing in sight, Davos is shocked to discover that only a single ship has been sent out to challenge them. His shock quickly turns to horror once he realises that the ship is unmanned and rapidly leaking wildfire. In probably one of the most iconic images in the show, Bronn fires a flaming arrow at the ghost vessel and it explodes into a gigantic green atomic fireball that incinerates a hundred of the enemy’s fleet and most of the series' budget. Cue much screaming and burning while the Lannisters are laughing and high-fiving.

Sure, it’s impressive to look at but really just a minor setback for the miraculously surviving Stannis who orders his shit-scared men into rowboats and prepares them to land on the Landing.

Safely stowed away in the keep with the women and children, Cersei is half-sloshed and decides that it would be amusing to get Sansa drunk while verbally torturing her. The queen frightens the absolute crap out of everyone by evoking the ever-present shadow of rape and informing Sansa that her only power lies between her legs, a power that she'd try to lord over Stannis if he wasn't such a humourless prick. This is but one of her many horrifying allusions.

Outside, Stannis reaches the shore as many of his men are barbecued by flaming arrows. The beserking Hound leads a team to charge out of the mud-gate (not a euphemism) to dice up the intruders but he begins to pussy out when he sees all the fire. Fire is his weakness! Like Martian Manhunter or a Frankenstein! Overtaken by bad memories and a hardcore case of the willies he retreats inside with his men while Stannis and co. scale the walls of the castle. The frazzled Hound drinks some wine (an emerging theme for this episode) and tells Tryion and The Joff in no uncertain terms to fuck off, leaving them in an increasingly sticky situation.

Cersei gets curious about the origins of Shae but is interrupted by that idiot Lancel who indicates that things are looking bleak out there. Cersei insists that her precious Joff is locked away safely and after a lot of needs-to-pee shuffling Joff retreats as well. This leaves the tiny Tyrion in charge of the remaining troops and he leads them into the secret underground tunnels so they can mount a surprise attack from behind.

In the keep, it’s becoming increasingly clear to Sansa and Shae that the knight who is guarding them has been instructed to kill them should the city fall. Sansa flees to her room but plucky Shae stays behind, ready to defend herself with her hidden shiv. Cersei also escapes with her youngest son. Everybody right now is either carving each other in twain, drinking wine, or running away. Some of the bolder characters are doing more than one of these things at the same time!

Sansa bolts herself into her room only to belatedly discover that the Hound is in there with her! Holy crap! That’s the end of her, right? No, no, no. The Hound is bailing on the city and volunteers to take her with him, promising to keep her safe and return her to Winterfell. Sansa doesn’t seem too jazzed to take him up his offer. Let’s be honest, the only way the Hound could be creepier is if he offered her candy and drove around in a panelvan (with three hounds howling at the moon painted on the side).

Tyrion’s surprise attack starts off strong when he cuts off some poor bastard’s leg but, just when they think they might have turned the tide, a whole new group of Stannis’ men come charging in to attack. Stannis himself is up on the wall now, spinning around his sword in a shower of severed limbs. On the beach, Tyrion takes a nasty cut to the face and begins to lose consciousness but not before seeing a mighty white horse lead a new troop of men into the battle! Gandalf?? The new guys cleave through Stannis’ men.

Finally, Cersei sits in the dark on the Iron Throne, telling her young son a rambling drunken story about a kickass lion (I think it was The Lion King) and prepping to poison him to death with the nightshade. But, just before the poison can be administered, Loras Freaking Tyrell bursts in and we all go, “WTF!! You’re screwed now, lady!” But NOOOOO... the Tyrell’s have teamed up with the Lannisters (thanks to Little Finger?) and granddaddy super villain Tywin Lannister strides in to announce that the “battle is over!” Lannisters for the win!? Wow! Did not see that coming. Now I’m just disappointed that Tywin didn’t do a touchdown victory dance.

Okay. So this was a tense and satisfying episode that delivered all the thrilling, enormous action that I’ve been eagerly waiting for. It engaged me the whole time and I absolutely loved it. However...

Has it really changed the status quo?

I mean, no major characters died and the Lannisters are back in control of King’s Landing - the position that they’ve been enjoying since before the beginning of this series. I kind of wanted to see things shaken up a whole lot more! And what of Stannis’ Shadow Man-Baby? I thought that the SMB was the game-changer and that Stannis was going to wreak supernatural havoc, and yet this was just a conventional siege! I hoped that Shadow Man-Baby would impale the Joff from behind and then Tyrion would need to invent a special steampunk shadow vacuum cleaner to get rid of the bugger.

The most promising thing I suppose is that the all-mighty Tywin is finally kicking arse at King’s Landing where he will presumably take up role as Hand of the King and spank the crap out of Joffrey. (Hopefully) times are changing, although I can’t help feeling that episode ten will be all about setting up the cliffhangers for season three. Cockblocked! I will never get enough Game of Thrones!


  1. The balance of power is shifted because of the Tyrells...everybody loves them and they grow all the food! Since they've come to the Lannister side instead of the Stannis side, it really legitimizes them as rulers. Also stannis now has almost no ships or men

    Oh btw the onion knight talked stannis OUT of using SMB since it would imply that the victory was the red lady's and not his. People would say Stannis couldn't have done it alone. Which would be true, since he didn't :D

    Oh important to note! Tyrion was felled in battle by one of the WHITE CLOAKS aka he was double-crossed!! The bastards!

    1. I'd be lost without you, buddy!

      I think that was the tough part at the end for me - I didn't instantly recognise Loras or realise the implication. That's the problem when you don't check in with characters for multiple episodes!

    2. It's tough when there's so many characters. I'd be lost without the books. What's shocking is how much you get right and GUESS right without having read them! :)