Game of Thrones season 2 episode 9 review: Blackwater

Review Ron Hogan 28 May 2012 - 07:21

Game of Thrones delivers a belter of an episode, and one that leaves Ron begging for more...

This review contains spoilers.

2.9 Blackwater

Now THAT was an episode! All season, HBO and Game of Thrones has been building up to the first of two big battle blow-offs. The one most promising, the raid on King's Landing by pretender to the throne Stannis Baratheon, was the subject of this week's episode, and I have to confess that it lived up to all the budget-straining promises we've been getting all along.

HBO has a history of, in other programmes, promising big battles but delivering sub-par results. For example, Rome's big battle set piece was a bit too CGI to look good, though it was attempted on a grander scale than this. Neil Marshall, who directs this episode from a great George R.R. Martin script, keeps things tight and intense. There are wider shots of what have to be CGI ships in a CGI harbour, but when it comes to showing combat scenes, they're shot almost claustrophobically. There are bodies and hacking axes and slashing swords and I can't tell who is who outside of Tyrion, Bronn, Stannis, and a few other recognizable faces. Still, it doesn't really matter from a viewer standpoint; we're getting carnage and blood and people being cleaved in twain, and that's exactly what you'd expect from a war in the Seven Kingdoms.

On a show that likes its violence over-the-top (yet also strangely realistic), Blackwater brings the sort of violence that the show has been building up to all season. As the series has gone on, they've ramped up the gore and increased the satisfying sickness of the killing. As the battle of Blackwater progresses, the kills themselves get crazier and crazier, and it seems as though everyone gets involved, from Tyrion and his squire to Lancel Lannister.

The amazing thing about this episode is that, for the first 20-30 minutes, there is no battle. There's just tension, and that makes the battle even more effective. You know what's coming, they know what's coming, and it's just stomach-churning to watch these characters we've grown closer to all season prepare themselves for potential death. There is a very high body count, which is befitting a legitimate war.

Tyrion's goodbye to Shae is good, but Cersei Lannister's hen house chat with Sansa Stark is actually some of the best stuff in the episode. Lena Headey has been brilliant in small doses most of this season, but this week she gets a big chunk of the B-story, and she really nails it as the amusingly-drunk queen. She's like the best worst big sister in the world this week, and if Sansa had any remaining innocence about her role as a noble woman in Westeros, Queen Cersei takes that from her in grand fashion. This is Lena Headey's episode to hold court, and she kills it in every scene. The plight of the women (and Ser Ilyn Payne), puts a whole new spin on war in the world of George R.R. Martin.

That's the most fascinating turn the show has taken; every character has their reasons for the viewers to empathize with them, but Game of Thrones goes out of its way to focus on each one and give us a specific reason to feel bad for them. In this case, it's obvious a lot of folks are in over their heads in their current situations, not least of whom is The Hound. He's big and mean and he's Joffrey's dog, but he's also got that softer side. Cersei is a victim of her circumstances, but she's also kind of a tragic figure as well. Tyrion, Robert Baratheon, and even Stannis all have their flaws and their grievances.

All that action, and there's still more fighting to do next week. After all, this week was ONLY Stannis versus Tyrion for King's Landing. There's still the thorny issue of Theon Greyjoy in Winterfell, Robb Stark and the Northmen's rebellion, and there's always Danerys Targaryen, the mother of dragons, to contend with. The break from them to focus on battle was welcome (and a wise choice), but there's a lot of ground to cover between now and next season.

I just hope one more episode is enough to wrap it all up. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Game of Thrones could use a 12, rather than a 10-episode season. If the budget can support it without harming the quality of the episodes, that is. I want more.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan wanted blood, and he got it by the bucket this week. You could say that this week's episode was on fire! Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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The budget could support a 12 episode season if they co screen the series on the big screen. TV viewers would still watch but people who appreciate epic cinema would gladly prepay for the whole series to see it weekly in a cinema. AS IT SHOULD BE SEEN. This effort is way too good for the small screen. Imagine if Lord of the Rings was a weekly series how aggrieved would people be. So start the viewing revolution and co screen for the global nerds who Love Mr Martins work.

Here's a thought, once the season is over, issue it on DVD relatively quickly and licence it on a few streaming services. That rakes the money in. Its seems a bit naive to let Sky have the rights in the UK and they don't offer a streaming service to non-subscribers. HBO seem to be missing a trick here.

As much as I would love to see 12 episode seasons, the reasoning the producers give comes down to more than just budget, but time. They're essentially producing big screen quality television with less than a year to shoot. Considering it takes years to film some movies, in order to get two hours of footage, I'm happy and amazed with what they've been able to do.

Season 3 is only going to cover the first half of A Storm of Swords. I think this is awesome, as we'll be getting 20 episodes to cover that book, plenty of time to dive deeper into the story. Plus it has some pretty hefty mid-book situations that can easily serve as the climax of Season 3.

Did anybody else realise that man, who attacked tyrion at the end was, the leader of the kings guard jeoffrey left there to fight in his name?? so he betrayed tyrion

I love this stuff so much and I REALLY want to give HBO money (shutupandtakemymoney.jpg) to invest in the series for more epicness and episodes per season. Alas I live in Germany and the only way to watch..well you know what it is. I would love to have a streaming service and pay 2 bugs each episode. For some reason they dont want that.

So far the only streaming service I know of for shows here, that are official, are by viacom/ comedy central (Southpark, TDS, Colbert) and those are even free.

Why cant HBO use the internet to make money off their products!?  ><

Wildfire! It was magnificent -- better than I could have imagined (and they didn't spoil much in the trailers). The battle scenes were a little short but still epic for a TV show. Game of Thrones should be showered with SFX/costume/makeup awards for this episode alone.

"F**k the King!"

is there any more episodes coming up ?? pls answer quick

Yeah, I'm pretty sure Tyrion believed it to be an assassination attempt from Cersei - from what the books say.

There's a lot of people going to lose their jobs at the end of Series 3, too! I've just got about 100 pages into the second half of ASOS (it's split in two on paperback) and I'm heartbroken already, but I can see how that gamechanger will serve as an excellent finale to the next series.

One more episode left of this season.

Yeah, I LOVED the execution of the wildfire. They did a great job with it.

I wasn't sure if it was one of the Kingsguard at first, until I watched the repeat. 

 thanks i was wondering, because nobody mentioned it in their reviews

Precisely! Give me quality - true, awesome, gripping quality - over a tediously drawn-out season comprised of filler episodes. That's why I pay for HBO and dammit, that's what I get. Keep it coming, HBO!

Thank the old gods and the new!

You clearly see Tyrion smile to him as sort of a "thank you", and the close-up clearly shows he has the Kingsguard armor. And you see the suprise of Tyrions face when he realises the man is attacking him. It was pretty obvious.

The battle wasn't *that* great, 15 men running around on a bit of grass for the most part, but I've seen plenty worse attempts.

Best episode for a while, the focus on KL helped a lot and I hope they learn from this for next season. 

What the hell was Bron Vs the Hound in the bar all about? Confused me (reader of the books) and Wife (non reader) both. Which says it all.

Completely agree with your whole review. This was a truly wonderful episode that was both a reflection on the books and also on the slightly new continuity of the show. Wonderful on all counts! My only quibble is that you mention "Robert Baratheon". Is this supposed to be Mark Addi's character who died over a year ago now, or have you confused him for someone else. Pretty minor quibble, I admit!

I'm sure that would be part of the deal, that streaming isn't allowed. I don't think Sky is the type of company that would go in for that sort of sharing and why should they. I'm no Murdoch lover but I don't think everything should just be given to us free. It's companies like Sky (and advertisers) that put the make this sorts of series possible

That episode was breathtaking. Just hope the next one does not disappoint as expectations that events will be neatly wrapped up will I suspect be confounded. Felt the time dwelling in one place worked really well, and while not as epic we've still got Harrenhall, the Wall and Daenerys to cover in next one. Given the slight overlap in chronology in the books I hope we get a taster from Storm of Swords and they allow things to run on to the Battle of the Fist of the First Men ...

I was gobsmacked by the production levels last night. Lord of The Rings production values in a weekly show. What ?!?!

Not to mention that they need to give G.R.R. Martin time to write book 6. I can easily see HBO going through three-four more seasons before he's finished. 

Definitely Queen Cersei ruled this episode, with spot-on acting by Lena Headey and superb lines. Liked the (nonexistent in the books) Bronn-Hound scene, and also the wildfire. The battle itself was underfunded and underwhelming however. Still, a good episode, though I missed Dany.

I have never said this before but OMG what a great episode, you just never wanted it to finish. It really is the best show on TV right now and I am sitting here right now with withdrawl. They did such a great job building it up and I just love the honesty in this show, I hate the fluffly crap that so many shows pump out these days, so  for the legions of us that live in the Fantasy, this show gives us soul.

Not as much a review as more of a gush. A well deserved gush for a great episode. But tell us something we don't know! :)

In the book it was Sir Manor? maynard? he was one of the Kingsguard, but they were on a ship and Poderick stabbed him in the throat from behind to save Tyrion. 

Tywin and Arya wasn't supposed to happen either but I'm pretty sure you and your wife weren't complaining. So what if it wasn't in the books? Throw everything you know about ASOIAF out the window and just enjoy it.

Yeah totally agree- I did have a few "that's not in the book" whines this season but I've realised there's no point, they could never bring all of the books to life in painstaking detail, it would a) be boring and b) be the most expensive media series ever. My wife however cannot let go- even in last night's amazing episode all I got was "where's the chain", "it needs more men", "Tyrion won that a bit easy" "Why did they not cut off his nose" - argh! Be quiet and just enjoy dammit!!!

No, I was referencing the late king of Westeros as another example of a tragic figure caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was to kill them in case the "enemy" got inside.

If I remember Clash of Kings correctly there are a lot of things left to be resolved yet. I honestly dont think they can pull it off in a satisfying way with only another hour long episode to go. I suspect they will leave some of the events unresolved until series 3 

I was so tense throughout that episode. Even twenty minutes later I feel shaken by it. I obviously wanted them to see Stannis off but at the same time so many of the Lannisters are too despicable for words! Only in Game of Thrones would you find this.

Peter Dinklage of course was amazing just like always but Jack Gleeson who plays Joffrey seriously needs some recognition. For weeks now I have been sickened by is  amazing portrayal!

Unbelievable. Incredible. Superb. Episode 9 was one of the finest productions to ever grace the television. Never read the books. Why bother if the tv version can be this good.

Yeah, wonderful episode, but I must be the only person on the planet who thought Sansa was off character.  Showing a little too much backbone, all of a sudden.  When did she stop being a frightened little mouse?  Answer: When the author of the books stunt-writes an episode.  ;)

Just saying a bunch of the dialogue felt clunky.  Other than that, fantastic.

I've read up to book 5 and even though I already know everything that is going to happen next, I feel blown away with this episode, it was excellent! just can't wait for the final episode now!

I'm surprised by the good review of episode 9. I love Game of Thrones, but felt that the 9th episode was the most boring to date. Yes, the fighting is visceral etc., but the repetitive, drawn out scenes with Cersei in between just lull you to sleep. Typically, GoT episodes thrive on the multiple storylines developing in parallel, cutting back and forth to key moments in each story. Focusing on 1 storyline, basically, sapped that strength and led to overly long, boring moments.  The setup of the wild fire took was too long, we all knew what would happen, more or less. The altercation between Bronn and the Dog did not go anywhere, unless it pays off later. By the way, after Bronn "saved" the Dog in battle, where did he go? Why was he not by Tyrrion's side? Cersei's potion bit also dragged on way too long, after a promising start where it was hinted that she might poison Sansa.
I'd much rather have seen more of Rob Stark, Jon Snow, and even Danerys Targaryen, I guess.
Hopefully, the last episode will rock once again!

A below-par ep for what was a mind-blowing section of Book 2 - Tyrion's speech in the book "...let's go and kill the s** of a b*****, before riding out on his destrier, had me whooping with delight on reading the book. In the series it fell a bit flat.

They did give Cersei an awful lot to do, she carried it off well, I love the character but the writing wasn't quite as taut as it could have been.

Likewise I don't know what Dog and Bronn's bar scene achieved apart from some sexposition, and giving Bronn a bigger part than he has in the books.

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