All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
I consider Blackwater to be one of the most definitive episodes of the series. It’s the first to feature a really big, prolonged battle scene, is pretty expertly composed and focused (the first episode to focus on one location, extremely rare in the show’s run), and really made “Episode 9” a phrase with a special set of connotations. We always knew GOT was different and fantastical, but we didn’t know the scale or how big it was willing to go and Blackwater taught us that the show would exceed our expectations.
Blackwater refers to a bay in King’s Landing with the Mudgate is located and where Tyrion suspects Stannis will make his move, as this particular sewage entrance is only 50 yards from the shoreline- the quickest, shortest distance into the Keep. The pacing of this episode is one of its best features, so we’ll stick with scene order.
The episode opens with Davos delivering a bunch of seasick Stannis supporters as his young son Matthos tells him how the Red God is in favor of Stannis. He’s a bit of a fanatic for the Lord of Light but Davos, siding with humanity, is skeptical of his confidence. Davos is always a very cautious character and realistic in his expectations- possibly the character that is the easiest to trust throughout the series. I’ve always thought he typically speaks for what most of the viewers are thinking and really guides our allegiances.
Up in the Tower of the Hand, Tyrion is kept awake by the thought of Stannis sacking the city. Harkening back to when they first met, Shae offers to fuck him like it’s his last night in the world. I’m always trying to pinpoint where Shae turns on Tyrion and I think in this case, she figures she’ll either live or die and all the focus will be on the battle- so she might as well have fun with it.
Across the way, Cersei coldly dismisses Pycelle after he delivers her Essence of Nightshade, which is a sleeping draught and Pycelle implies that one can very easily overdose. HMMMMM. Is that just a bottle of liquid WALNUTS?
At a bar, Bronn is singing the Rains of Castamere with a bunch of Lannister soldiers, the first time we hear any words to this tune that has been quietly playing during this season. It plays consistently throughout the episode. Bronn is totally in his element, undressing a prostitute in public, drinking, and talking about old battle scars, when in walks the Hound and two of the biggest fighters on the show are in the same room. Bronn has shown he has skill and the Hound- well, we know he’s a violent fellow. Bronn tries to make pals but the Hound says they’re both killers and are basically the same person, which is pretty accurate- Bronn is just ruggedly handsome, and I suspect the Hound is jealous. The Hound says Tyrion is going to miss Bronn, implying that he’ll make sure Bronn is dead, or perhaps that’s Tyrion. Just when things are about to get dirty, bells begin ringing, signaling the start of the battle.
Pod is helping Tyrion with his armor and Varys wants to know if Tyrion trusts Pod before presenting a map of King’s Landing sewers. Varys is a little sneaky in this scene, coming off as not entirely trustworthy- it’s possible he knows that Joff is plotting for Tyrion’s death but wants to keep Tyrion in the right mindset as he doesn’t believe that Stannis is the right king for Westeros.
Still sailing, there’s a chuckle-worthy moment where Davos hears the bells and orders his men to strike the drums in response. It’s like Mad Max: Fury Road– but on water and a lot slower, and no guitarist. The drums cut out pretty fast- not so exciting.
In the Throne Room, Tyrion and Bronn are parting ways and having another love-hate argument. They don’t want to admit that they actually care for each other past professional services, but there’s absolutely a natural kinship between the two. They’re both bit of loners and outcasts, with the same sort of dark humor and honesty. I want this friendship to be fully on display- with possible sacrifices- come Season 8.
Sansa tells Tyrion she’ll pray for him as she prays for the king- which means not much. Joff orders Sansa to kiss his sword as a little blessing and tradition which is basically a display of dominance for Joff and subservience for Sansa. Sansa gets a few biting parting words with Joff, asking innocently if he’ll be in the vanguard and that her brother always fights where the battle is thickest but since her brother is stupid, he wouldn’t know anything- Joff, clearly having been kept in the dark for the strategy, is shown up. It’s fun to watch these little trolling scenes – Sansa gets very little visible triumph, but seeing Joff gasp and scoff is enough to know that she’s won. This is also the debut of Sansa’s purple dress, which she wears the most often in Season 3- it’s a little southern in color, but very much in the style of her home and extremely reminiscent of Cat, especially in the darts and pleating. It’s a visual to show the breakage she is having from the Lannisters.
Davos is extremely suspicious that King’s Landing hasn’t sent any ships forward. Atypical in his experience.
Ilyn Payne is escorting Cersei to Maegor’s Holdfast, where all the other women are staying and Shae points out that Cersei is probably jealous of her. Cersei calls Sansa over to her, cup of wine in hand, and tells her that the only way to keep people in line is to keep them fearful of their ruler. We bounce a lot back and forth between the battle and the women upstairs, highlighting the differences in the roles between men and women, both visually and in Cersei’s conversations.
Outside, Stannis’ ships are closing in on the bay and Tyrion sends out one ship, which everyone now finds suspicious. There’s nothing and no one on the boat except for a few leaking vats of Wildfire and there’s a nice silence in music before BOOM- Bronn shoots an ARROW ON FIRE up to wipe out the first few Baratheon ships, including the one Davos and his son Matthos are on. It’s very much like the part when the Uruk Hai blows up the outer wall of Helm’s Deep in the Two Towers and therefore, very cool.
Utter chaos on Stannis’ boats, as people are set aflame or killed by debris. Stannis should have hightailed it out of there but stubbornly pushes forward. It’s pretty cool that all he has to do is say one sentence to his men, though, and they all just fall in line behind them.
Upstairs, Cersei is more w(h)ining and sick of how precious and innocent Sansa is, somewhat bitter of her youth- think of the stepmother in Snow White. Cersei proceeds to destroy Sansa’s innocence and naivete, telling her the gods are basically Santa Claus and somewhat hazes her, telling Sansa to chug some wine. Cersei’s inability to be taken seriously as a woman is brought directly into the light as she laments that she wasn’t born a man but knows she should be outside, leading the command; instead, she’s with a bunch of gossiping females- very similar to Arya’s previous thoughts that most girls are stupid and that Arya reminds Tywin of Cersei. Cersei echoes Salladhor Saan’s early theory that a woman’s best weapon is the one between her legs- gosh, they would have made a great couple. Cersei feeds Sansa the idea that she’ll most certainly be raped.
Tyrion orders the men to get ready for combat as Stannis rows faster and faster, as Joff begins to worry that they are getting too close. We get some ARROWS ON FIRE and a sweet tracking shot of Stannis as he charges the walls; meanwhile, the Hound charges and shows us where his reputation comes from. To contrast how tough everyone else is, Lancel gets shot- once- and decides to retreat. Yoren, he ain’t. I guess the Lannisters really are full of cowards and Jaime as a skilled swordsman is a rarity. I’d hate my family too, if I were Tywin.
Cersei is complaining about how she and Jaime were raised differently, likening marrying Robert to being sold like a horse, a strangely similar statement to how Dany saw her marriage to Drogo. Cersei hones in on Shae, noting her attractiveness and inability to curtsey, finding it suspicious she would be a handmaiden to a highborn girl without having proper manners as well as being foreign-born- Cersei is really smart, especially when it comes to using/recognizing feminine tactics and wiles. Before she can interrogate Shae, Lancel storms in to provide an update. Cersei orders that he bring Joff inside for safety, rather than fulfill his duties outside. Cersei kills Sansa’s youth when she reveals that Ilyn is actually there to kill them if the city is lost as to spare them the “bit of rape” she had promised earlier.
Outside, the Hound freezes when a flaming man runs his way and this dude is killed by Bronn, who is have a great exercise just playing stab and slice. The Hound, surrounded by fire, cuts his ties with the Lannisters and chooses to leave the battle when they begin retreating back into King’s Landing, telling Tyrion, “Fuck the King” and Tyrion and Joff are in such shock that he just walks off. As they’ve now taken the beach, Stannis scales up the wall of the Mudgate and it looks like its shifting into his favor. There’s a pretty excellent tactic, as Stannis’ men use a boat to shield the battering ram from falling debris- I’m just glad they didn’t use a phalanx. That’s been overdone.
Tyrion urges Joff to lead but Joff leaves to please his mother and also because he’s fairly frightened of the fight, leaving with Lancel and it’s super weird how young Lancel looks compared to Joff. Tyrion, at his wits end and not really knowing what to do, leads the attack which no one takes seriously until he gives a fairly rousing speech, challenging their manhoods and ends with “Those are brave men knocking at our door- let’s go kill them.” It’s such a simple way to wrap it up and so indicative of how Tyrion has run out of options.
Already playing the role of the queen, Sansa calms down the other women before Shae tells her to flee and bar the door to her room. Shae acknowledges that Stannis would not harm Sansa as she is a Stark, but there’s no trusting Ilyn Payne or the queen to do the same. Surprisingly, the Kingsguard just lets Sansa leave because… whatever. In her room, Sansa picks up Ned’s last gift to her, the doll from Season 1, as if to remind her that she is very much still a child- something she tried not to be last season. Turns out the Hound has also made his way into Sansa’s room and offers to help her escape. There’s such a strange, tender relationship between the Hound and Sansa as he seems to genuinely want to protect her and then is otherwise harsh with her. I think the Hound has tried for so long to be morally unconscious of things, but when his path crosses Sansa, she gives him a clear, unbiased view that some of his actions have been heroic (at least to her) and that he is capable of humanity. It’s the start of a huge crack in his exterior- I’d be excited if they had a scene together in the last season.
Outside, Tyrion is WINNING. They’ve overturned the battering ram, but more of Stannis’ reinforcements come out. An excellent pullback shot of Lannister and Baratheon soldiers just crashing into each other, putting us right in the thick of the battle. Tyrion finds himself face to face with a Kingsguard, who instead of chasing an enemy soldier, slices Tyrion through the face. POD comes to Tyrion’s rescue as Tyrion bleeds quite heavily- presumably dead.
In the Throne Room, Cersei is telling a story to Tommen about the Mother Lion and her cob- obviously representative of the two of them. Evil things like stags (Baratheons) and wolves (Starks) threatened the lions and the mother-cub tells her son that all the other creatures will bow to them and rest a crown upon his head.
This turns into a very nice voiceover as the battle turns to show yet another group of reinforcements- and this time it’s Tywin as the Lannisters take over the battlefield. Using the story as a distraction, Cersei is incredibly close to slipping Tommen the Essence of Nightshade- she would rather kill her own children than let them be taken. I’ve sided with Cersei in previous episodes, but this is- for me- an indicator of how this love for her children is driving her mad. Just as Tommen is about to drink, Loras storms in, Stannis’ men force him to retreat, and the Lannister soldiers part to let Tywin have ANOTHER EPIC ENTRANCE to declare a Lannister victory over Stannis.
To really drive home the Lannister-centric episode, the full Rains of Castamere is played over the credits- possibly the first full iteration of the song we get to hear to get us nice and familiar with that opening verse. Super eerie and great rendition by The National.
We’re moving into the Season 2 finale: 2.10 Valar Morghulis!