Game of Thrones: Blackwater   First Watch 
May 22, 2015 9:43 AM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

In one corner we have Joffrey, Tyrion, Cersei, Bronn and the city army – about 7,000 men defending King’s Landing. In the other, there’s the contender for the Iron Throne – Stannis, backed by Davos, Melisandre and about 200 ships and 20,000 men. This is The Battle of Blackwater.

Tyrion: "Don't fight for a king. Don't fight for his kingdoms.
Don't fight for honor, don't fight for glory, don't fight for riches, because you won't get any.
This is your city Stannis means to sack. That's your gate he's ramming.
If he gets in it will be your house that burns. Your gold he steals, your women he rapes.
Those are brave men knocking at our door.
Let's go kill them!"

Longer Summary (contains spoilers)
- The entire episode takes place at Kings Landing.
Before the Battle: Tyrion leads the defense of King's Landing against Stannis's armies. He spends the night before the expected siege in bed with Shae, telling her she can still leave the city. Bronn drinks with the Lannister men and has a confrontation with the Hound.

The Battle: Stannis plans a naval assault. He will overcome the city's small defensive fleet and land his troops at the walls of the city near the Mud Gate. Tyrion sends a single ship filled with and leaking wildfire into the heart of Stannis's fleet. Bronn fires a burning arrow at it and triggers a massive explosion, devastating Stannis' fleet, destroying Ser Davos' ship and killing Davos' son, Matthos. Stannis puts his men ashore with row boats, then personally leads the assault. Under Tyrion's orders, The Hound lead the battle against the attackers, but his terror of the fire overwhelms him. Bronn saves his life. Lancel is wounded. The Hound retreats, demands wine, insults Tyrion and Joffrey and walks away from the battle and his place in the Kingsguard.

Cersei offers protection to the ladies of the court in Maegor's Holdfast. She keeps Ser Ilyn Payne with them. If Stannis is victorious, she will drink poison and order Payne to kill the ladies. She drinks heavily during the assault and torments Sansa with dire, cynical predictions of what will befall the women if the defenses fail. She also questions Shae, who seems to Cersei to be an unlikely handmaiden.

Under Cersei's orders, Lancel removes Joffrey from the front lines. The gold cloaks' morale is broken by his departure. Tyrion rallies the troops and leads a charge, defeating Stannis's troops, but he is betrayed by Ser Mandon. Mandon brutally slashes Tyrion across the face with his sword, but is killed by Tyrion's squire Podrick. Podrick carries Tyrion to safety.

Sansa leads the ladies in a hymn. Cersei leaves and takes Tommen to the throne room, then sits with him on the Iron Throne and tells him a story about a young lion and how it did not need to fear other beasts of the forest, the wolf and the stag. Shae tells Sansa to go to her chambers, lock herself in, and await Stannis, as he would not harm her, but Ser Ilyn might. Sansa finds the Hound waiting in her room. He offers to take her north to Winterfell, but she says she will be safe in King's Landing when Stannis takes the throne. Cersei sits on the Iron Throne and prepares to poison Tommen in order to prevent him from being taken captive.

Big Damn Heroes: Tywin arrives with his cavalry, accompanied by new allies House Tyrell. The charge is led by a warrior dressed in Renly Baratheon's armor. Stannis's army is destroyed. The survivors flee to their ships. Stannis is dragged from the battle by his guards, screaming for his men to stand and fight. Tyrion falls unconscious. Tywin bursts into the throne room to announce the victory, stopping Cersei from killing Tommen. Ser Loras reveals himself as the knight wearing Renly's armor.

The Hound: "Any man dies with a clean sword, I'll rape his fucking corpse!"

Notes (Cribbed from here and here.)
* The episode is named after the Blackwater Rush. The battle takes place where the Blackwater Rush pours its waters into Blackwater Bay.
* The special-effects department developed a catapult that fired bags of burning green napalm for the wildfire explosion, but decided to instead color regular fire green in post-production.
* Second episode of the series written by George R.R. Martin, following on from "The Pointy End" in the first season. However, the scene between Cersei and Tommen was written by Benioff and Weiss.
* This episode had the largest budget and largest number of visual effects of any episode of Game of Thrones to date.
* The song playing over the end credits is "The Rains of Castamere" (theme song of House Lannister) performed by The National. That really was Bronn singing the song earlier in the episode. The actor who plays him, Jerome Flynn, had three BBritish #1 singles in the 1990's as half of the pop duo Robson and Jerome
* Initially HBO asked the producers if they needed an extra $500,000 to film the battle. Benioff and Weiss asked for $2,500,000 and got slightly more than $2,000,000. The conference call to discuss this was described as "intense"
* The scene where Cersei prepares to poison Tommen was inspired by Magda Goebbels poisoning her own children before committing suicide during the fall of Berlin in World War II.
* In the Blu-ray commentaries, Martin, Benioff and Weiss said that despite all of Sansa Stark's scenes in Season 2 involving severe beatings, rapes, and threats of violence, easily the scene actress Sophie Turner was most frightened of filming was the brief moment when she has to sing in front of everyone in this episode.
* The episode won two Creative Arts Emmy Awards, for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, in 2012. It went on to win the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Varys: "I've always hated the bells. They ring for horror. A dead king. A city under siege...."
Tyrion: "A wedding."
Varys: "Exactly."

"For all the many memorable vignettes elsewhere, this episode ultimately belonged to Tyrion and Cersei and as such featured two wonderful performances from Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey. As the former admitted his fears, attempted to rally the disheartened troops ("They say I'm half a man so what does that make you?") and led his own half-suicidal charge into battle, the latter displayed a terrifying strength of her own.

Holed up with the court's women and drinking steadily, Cersei passed the time by alternatively berating Sansa and delivering some harsh truths ("He was heir to Casterly Rock and I was sold to some stranger to be ridden like a horse whenever he pleased."). Yet it was the scene in which she planned to poison her younger son Tommem and herself rather than face capture by Stannis, that proved the most gut-wrenching. In its way it was more terrifying than all the flaming arrows, burning ships and violent deaths we had seen in the 50 minutes before, because you never for a moment doubted that Cersei would follow through with her plan, and never doubted she did it for love."
The Hound: "Fuck the King's Guard. Fuck the city. Fuck the King."
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a First Watch with Books thread.

Please do not reveal spoilers for subsequent episodes from any source.

Thank you.
posted by zarq at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2015

The A.V. Club recap (linked in the sidebar to the right) notes the irony of Stannis' fleet being attacked and destroyed by fire.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

But Melissandre wasn't there, so you can't pin the failure on her, and that's some weird chemical fire, not the pure stuff of the Red God.

Poor The Hound, and good on him for ditching King's Landing. I always felt bad for him being so close to that literal dog that gets kicked by its master but stays loyal because that's what a good dog does.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on May 22, 2015

(was about to say something about Melisandre and then realized it was a spoiler).

There's quite a few things I like about this episode/piece of the story generally:

-The Hound - his fear of fire is never explicitly re-stated in this episode; it is all conveyed through his body language and actions.
-the fact that you have Joffrey, who the audience loathes, in a city being defended by Tyrion, who the audience loves;
-Stannis never felt more like Stannis to me than the moment right after half his fleet - including the boat that Davos is on - goes up, and he just turns around and tells the men to get in the boats so they can land and begin the assault. No emotion, just going to do what he came here to do. The plan is going sideways, but he's still going straight ahead.
-I think this is the first episode where they stayed in one place for the entire hour; I think that was important because (a) it really built this episode into something and (b) it allowed the show runners to relax a bit and trust that they didn't have to check in with every location every week.
posted by nubs at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

When Bronn reached for his knife, I instantly thought to myself, we need a Bronn prequel series.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:17 PM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

That awkward moment when the Hound becomes one of your favorite characters.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:41 PM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

he just turns around and tells the men to get in the boats so they can land and begin the assault

"Hundreds will die, your grace."


And then he rides in the lead boat and is first to scale the wall. Cold as fucking ice.

I'm pretty sure Stannis is just the goddamn worst, until he turns on Battle Stannis.
posted by rocketman at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he's copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day." -Donal Noye
posted by nubs at 9:57 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

That awkward moment when the Hound becomes one of your favorite characters.

This. The show gives us hints that the character is more than a horror villain during the Tournament of the Hand - when the Clegane brothers fight, and King Robert hollers at them to stop. The Hound immediately bends the knee, and The Mountain follows through with his swing, missing his little brother.

My question: if Sansa had known Stannis would fail to take King's Landing, would she have taken the Hound up on his offer?
posted by rocketman at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2015

And what worse hell would she have been delivered to if she had? Winterfell is being sacked by the Bastard of the Dreadfort about that time; nothing there but corpses and ashes. Or he brings her to Robb, and she attends the wedding of her Nuncle.
posted by nubs at 3:59 PM on May 27, 2015

I really enjoy this episode. We get to see a lot about the characters when the chips are down.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:16 PM on June 10, 2015

I watched this episode again today and damn does Lena Heady do some magnificent acting here.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:21 PM on May 4, 2019

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