This is Game of Thrones’ first truly PERFECT episode, and it’s a glorious achievement on every level.
Blackwater‘s greatest strength is that it focuses its entire runtime on the siege of King Landing. There are no distracting subplots or superfluous shenanigans here – no Daenerys dragon drama, no Jon Snow road-trips and no Theon tantrums. All we’ve got is the horrifying ordeal of Stannis’ attack, and the episode is all the better for it.
The last time we had an enormous battle, the show (quite creatively) sidestepped the entire blowout due to budgetary reasons. But now? Director Neil Marshall elevates Thrones to another level with a massive scope and blockbuster action sequences. It’s all thrillingly realized with top-notch cinematography and impeccable editing. The tension is maintained throughout, with a multitude of noteworthy scenes providing just the right dose of relief but still maintaining that ominous tone.
That foreboding that I refer is undoubtedly the entire series of events that happen in the Holdfast as Cersei watches over the noblewomen. Lena Headey has been tremendous thus far, but watching a drunk Cersei belittle Sansa and threaten the women with the rape that’s about to befall them is such an effective and unsettling subplot. And on top of Headey’s darkly funny comedic timing, we’ve got Cersei figuring out that all is not what it seems with Shae, and ultimately revealing that Sir Illyn Payne is there to ensure the women don’t make it out alive. Incredible!
As for the battles, they provide the ideal opportunity for Joffrey to showcase his cowardice and leave his army behind, while allowing Tyrion to finally step up to the plate with an inspiring speech and a will to win against all odds. Peter Dinklage is a downright national treasure, and he fills the character of Tyrion with so many conflicting layers at every turn: he’s brave, he’s scared, he’s determined and everything in between. Quite unexpectedly, he’s proven to be the hero of the story thus far. Cheers to the “halfman” indeed!
And that ending? Well it’s just goosebump worthy with Cersei narrating a story to Tommen (an effective distraction before taking both their lives) as a surprise army arrives just in time to save Tyrion. And who barges through the Iron Thorne? None other than Tywin Lannister (preceeded by Ser Loras of all people). His prophetic line (“The battle is over, we have won“) provides an exceptionally climactic moment to bookend the episode as Cersei drops the poison and kisses her boy with tears of relief. Remarkable!
Bits & Beheadings
– The drums as Stannis arrives are so darn blood-pumping, I feel like running into battle myself!
– I really wanted to see Bronn and The Hound go at it. But after the former saved the latter during the battle, it doesn’t look very likely…
– Joffrey ordering Sansa to kiss his sword – every time I think I can’t hate that spoiled brat any more, the show surprises me.
– The Wildfire explosion was freakin’ gorgeous. The sight of those green flames? Wow! Talk about movie-level CGI.
– Is Davos dead? Surely not!
– I love that Cersei said that she would prefer to be fighting in the battle. I guess what Tywin told Arya about her and Cersei being alike is accurate indeed.
– So much gore in this one! Boulders smashing heads, and all kinds of limbs getting sliced off. Thrones really went all out!
– Why did The Hound freeze during battle? Was it the sight of the burning flames since his brother traumatized him as a child? His ditching Joffrey (“fuck the king“) was beyond satisfying through. More of that rebellious streak please!
– At least Cersei got some action: viciously pushing Lancell to the ground! Girl’s got strength!
– Awesome character moment for Shae: her revealing the dagger on her thigh as an anti-rape tool.
– I kind of wanted Sansa to accept The Hound’s offer to go home. Is she that scared of him?
– Who is the Kingsguard who sliced Tyrion’s face? Thank God for Podrick!
– What will Stannis do next? More importantly, what punishment awaits Melisandre now that Baratheon failed to capture the Iron Throne?
Kings & Quips
Tyrion: I’m a Lannister. I don’t have a choice in all this. But it’s not your war.
Shae: It is now.
Tyrion: You can’t fuck your way out of everything.
Shae: I have so far.
Whore: Poor nose.
Bronn: Don’t feel sorry for him. He’ll be halfway up your ass before the night’s through.
Varys: Podrick, is that it?
Tyrion: “Is that it?” Nice touch. As if you don’t know the name of every boy in town.
Varys: I’m not entirely sure what you’re suggesting.
Tyrion: I’m entirely sure you’re entirely sure what I’m suggesting.
Tyrion: Strange as it sounds, I’m the captain of the ship. And if the ship goes down, I go with her.
Varys: That is good to hear. Though I’m sure many captains say the same while their ship is afloat.
Tyrion: Just because I pay you for your services doesn’t diminish our friendship.
Bronn: Enhances it, really.
Tyrion: Oh, enhances. Fancy word for a sellsword.
Bronn: Been spending time with fancy folks.
Shae: Some of those boys will never come back.
Sansa: Joffrey will. The worst ones always live.
Joffrey: Hound, tell the Hand that his King has asked him a question.
The Hound: The King has asked you a question.
Tyrion: Ser Lancel, tell the Hound to tell the king that the Hand is extremely busy.
Ser Lancel: The Hand of the King would like me to tell you to tell the King …
Joffrey: If I tell the Hound to cut you in half, he’ll do it without a second thought.
Tyrion: That would make me the Quarterman. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Cersei: (to Sansa) Drink. Not like that. Drink, girl. I should have been born a man. I’d rather face 1,000 swords than be shut up inside with this flock of frightened hens.
Cersei: (to Sansa) If it were anyone else outside those gates, I might have hoped for a private audience. But this is Stannis Baratheon. I’d have a better chance of seducing his horse. Have I shocked you, little dove? Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs. Learn how to use it. Drink.
Cersei: (to Sansa) Do you have any notion of what happens when a city is sacked? No, you wouldn’t, would you? If the city falls, these fine women should be in for a bit of a rape. Half of them will have bastards in their bellies come the morning. You’ll be glad of your red flower then. When a man’s blood is up, anything with tits looks good. A precious thing like you will look very, very good. A slice of cake just waiting to be eaten.
The Hound: Any of these flaming fucking arrows come near me, I’ll strangle you with your own guts.
The Hound: Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his fucking corpse.
Cersei: When we were young, Jaime and I, we looked so much alike. Even our father couldn’t tell us apart. I could never understand why they treated us differently. Jaime was taught to fight with sword and lance and mace, and I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock and I was sold to some stranger like a horse to be ridden whenever he desired.
Sansa: You were Robert’s queen.
Cersei: And you will be Joffrey’s. Enjoy.
Cersei: I don’t think I know this one. Pretty. (Shae bows) That’s the worst curtsy I’ve ever seen.
The Hound: I’m going.
The Hound: Someplace that isn’t burning.
A supremely ambitious penultimate episode that’s packed with thrills and heart. Blackwater is undeniably one of the show’s greatest episodes ever.