Was Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, entitled Blackwater, the TV equivalent of the Helm’s Deep sequence from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers?
Of course not. The budget differences between the two represent the distance between Dany and the rest of the cast.
However: was “Blackwater” the best episode Game of Thrones has ever done?
“Blackwater” was one the strongest episodes to-date because it did away with the usual tactic each episode takes of focusing small bits on each of the main characters—though frequently, someone will get left out for a week. As Alan Sepinwall wrote, what made “Blackwater” was amazing “wasn’t the scope, but the focus.” This week, ignore the opening credits and instead prepare to focus in on everything happening at King’s Landing when Stannis finally, finally, FINALLY prepares his assault on Joffrey.
The spectacle of Stannis’ ships burning and exploding thanks to Tyrion’s ingenious plan of using the wildfire coupled with tiny, intimate scenes of a drunk Cersei and Sansa interacting underground while the men fought showed us how powerful the show can be when it focuses on one particular part of George R.R. Martin’s sprawling epic. (Strange irony that he wrote this episode.)
Let’s focus, for a second, on some of the amazing character moments we got in this week’s episode:
• Joffrey walked around in the early parts of the episode trying to seem like a King not afraid to lead his men into battle. Sansa even called him out about it when he made her kiss his sword Hearteater, but when push came to shove, he was only concerned with own life. Also disturbing? The way he almost took pleasure from seeing Stannis’ men burn with the wildfire, while Tyrion looked on guiltily, knowing the men had to die but still upset at it at the same time.
• Varys almost told Tyrion how he became a eunuch—something that was clearly the result of dark magic. I’ve read that we’re told it in the books, but I wonder when we’ll get the story on the show.
• Bronn saving The Hound’s life after they almost killed each other in a bar for no reason was a fun partnership to see. I actually thought one of them had perished after the bar scene cut away and we would find out later. I almost wish we had had a few more minutes of them just drinking in a bar, plotting away.
• Speaking of the Hound… how shocking, and yet perfectly poetic, to see the man who gleefully yelled “Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his fucking corpse!” go into near catatonic shock at witnessing men on fire. Leading him to…
• “Fuck the King’s Guard! Fuck the city! Fuck the King!” It was about time someone said that to Joffrey, but color me surprised that the most loyal of all his soldiers was the one to say it.
• “Fuck me!” Yes Tyrion, not only because there were more to Stannis’ army than you thought, but because your nephew Joffrey tried to kill you. (I didn’t realize this until I read other reviews online, but Ser Mandon Moore, Joffrey’s man, was the one who tried to kill Tyrion on the battlefield. If not for the kind-of-awesome Podrick Payen!)
• The poison Cersei had all episode was like Chekov’s gun—you kept waiting for it to get off. But color me surprised that she planned to use it for a murder suicide. (Well, I assumed she was going to kill herself after she gave it to Tommen.)
Some final thoughts and questions:
• Where was the African American pirate Salladhor Saan that sold the pirate ships to Davos and Stannis? The one obsessed with raping Cersei? Guess he changed his mind…
• Did Sansa leave? If so… how pissed is Brienne going to be when she arrives with Arya and both Sansa and Arya are nowhere in sight?
• Did Cersei already find out about Shae and just not have a chance to say anything?
• Will Stannis get beheaded next week? Or will there be some plot mechanic that keeps him alive as a prisoner?
• And did Davos survive his tumble into the ocean?
One more final, final thought. A lot of critics online are suspecting Tywin lied to Arya since he figured out who he was. He never planned to go after Robb—he was always heading to King’s Landing. I don’t believe that—but what does everyone else think?