Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater



Ser Davros is leading Stannis’s fleet to Kings Landing and, as is usual with Ser Davros the Onion knight, we get some more exposition as he speaks to his extremely devout and fanatical son.

In Kings Landing Tyrion wakes next to Shae, discussing the war, how he has no choice but to fight it and admitting his fear while Shae again makes it clear her loyalty is with him. Cersei is having her own council before the war – with Maester Pycelle , giving her a potion that would help her sleep or be used as a powerful poison.

Bronn is partying on the eve of battle (including naked women, of course) and singing in rather good harmony, actually. It seems that the soldiers of the Lannisters could double as a decent choir. But the revelry is interrupted by Sandor Clegane, the Hound and he and Bronn lock horns. Sandor to strip the illusions from Bronn and make his cold violence and love of killing seem more honest. The show down as to who is the most dangerous of the 2 is averted by an alarm bell ringing.

Varys and Tyrion are indulging in some verbal sparring while Tyrion puts on his armour. Varys has a map of tunnels under Kings Landing through which they can escape if necessary (though Tyrion is determined to stay, for which Varys has a wonderful little snarky barb). Varys also reveals he knows about Mellisandre, the priestess of Asshai that Stannis has – and that he believes in her sorcery and that Stannis has used the dark powers to gain his army. Something Varys considers intolerable.

Tyrion and Bronn  have a moment (I do like Bronn) and Tyrion sees Sansa has been called to see Joffrey off (rather than stay in the most secure keep), Tyrion also makes a point of pretending not to know Shae. Sansa pledges to pray for Tyrion’s safe return just as she does for Joffrey – now make of that what you will! Sansa’s getting good at these little barbs. Unfortunately, Joffrey arrives (alas, may something kill him soon) and calls Sansa like a dog. Sansa shows more of her devious cleverness as she manipulates Joffrey to fight in the Vanguard.

Cersei and Sansa retire to the secure keep, with Ser Ilyn (the mute executioner) standing by to guard them and to execute any servants trying to flee the castle with full pockets. Cersei busies herself getting drunk and trying to teach Sansa hard lessons about being a queen.

Cersei continues to get drunk while Sansa prays. Cersei reveals some more about how hard she is and why. She encourages Sansa to drink and expresses her frustration about being trapped and discusses how she would use seduction to win over their attackers if it weren’t for it being Stannis. She speaks frankly and callously to Sansa about what happens when a city falls and how the women in the room are likely to be raped, including Sansa.

Cersei speaks about how she and Jaime were treated so differently even as children when they looked almost identical. It’s a really good, angry summation of the fierce and rigid gender roles in Westeros and how much they devalue and demean women and Cersei in particular. Sansa protests that she was Robert’s queen but Cersei artfully points out that Sansa will be Joffrey’s queen and she’s unlikely to be happy about it. She also notices and question’s Shae – whose actions and inability to curtsy rouse Cersei’s suspicions.

They’re interrupted by Lancel carrying news and it distracts the tipsy Cersei who reveals the real reason for Ser Ilyn’s presence – to kill them all should Stannis get through. Cersei doesn’t intend them to be taken alive.

Joffrey and Tyrion have an amusing and childish game of communicating through proxies. And Ser Davros leads the fleet into a nearly empty harbour – the Kings Landing fleet is missing. And Tyrion’s plan becomes clear – 1 ship has sailed out, empty of men, trailing wildfire across the water. One flaming arrow later and it sets the water alight and explodes, devastating Stannis’s fleet and killing Ser Davros. But Stannis still lives and still outnumbers them – he’s determined to go forwards even though the cost will be far higher.

Joffrey loses his shit – predictably, while Tyrion keeps his cool and moves his soldiers appropriately. The Hound, Sandor Clegane, reminds us of his fear of fire (recall that the scar on his face was caused by his brother holding his face in the fire. He's deathly afraid of fire to the point of phobia) and threatens the fire archers painfully if any arrow comes near him. I’m not even entirely sure why they’re using flaming arrows since the stabby part seems to work just fine and a small flame isn’t likely to do that much more damage, but hey, it looks dramatic.

Time for dramatic fight scenes! It looks stylistic and bloody – arrows and dropped rocks and people and all kinds of nasty bloody, death. Thankfully, Clegane opens a door for them and dramatic swordplay is added to the mix. It’s pretty hard to see who is who in the night fight or who is on whose side. Clegane cuts people in half with his big sword and Lancel gets shot with an arrow.

There’s more and more fire on the battlefield (which I doubt helps either side) and Clegane becomes more and more frozen with his fear. He’s saved by Bronn but eventually leaves the battlefield, and the Lannister troops retreat, closing the doors behind them.

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