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Game of Thrones Episode 209, Blackwater

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Game of Thrones 209, Blackwater

This Memorial Day weekend, celebrate the Battle of Blackwater with an episode penned by GRRM himself, a brilliant bit of epic fantasy and pseudo-medieval warfare, all lit by the wildfire’s green glare.

There were a lot of amazing things in this episode, but the one element that really stood out to me was how wonderfully self-contained it was. The entire hour was focused on a single storyline: the preparations at King’s Landing, the arrival of Stannis’ fleet, and the battle as Stannis tries to take the city. There wasn’t a single cut to a character not immediately involved, and the episode was so much better for it.

You could show this episode to a person who has never watched or read anything about Game of Thrones and they’d understand everything. Every character was perfectly encapsulated, not by windy exposition but by their own actions. I think that was a bit of George’s genius showing in the script – I wish he had time to write more than one episode per season (but not really, I’d rather have the next novel in the series).

Tonight’s celebrity lookalike award goes to Ser “License to” Ilyn Payne:

There’s an awful lot of tension in the Red Keep while the battle brews. Cersei is a mean drunk, but not really any meaner than she is sober. She invites Sansa to play the Cersei drinking game (drink whenever Cersei says, “Drink!”), then doles out delightful little bon mots about life as queen. “If Stannis takes the city, all the women here are in for a bit of a rape.”

Let’s take a moment and applaud the casting directors for Game of Thrones. They hit it out of the park time after time. Jerome Flynn as Bronn is just one example, but a great one. An already fantastic character is made indelible by Flynn’s performance. I could watch Bronn carouse and battle and banter all day. Dude has excellent taste in whores, too. How awesome is the Lannister song? It sounded suitable stirring, yet strangely ominous as the drunk mercenaries sang it with Bronn. The dirgelike presentation of it at the end credits was great too.

I was prepared going into this episode for some significant divergences from the novels. It’s boring to pick at every little discrepancy, but perhaps more enlightening to discuss why they happen in the first place. In this case, the Battle of Blackwater is simplified somewhat, omitting the “giant chain across the water” aspect. That’s fine, it trimmed a bit from the SFX budget and kept the crucial element of the whole thing, the fire. Still, I missed a lot of the ship-to-ship fighting and the added danger that sword fights on boats aflame bring to any battle. We lost Renly’s “ghost,” too, but that could have been tremendously confusing. I have no problem with those cuts.

The effects for the wildfire explosion were stunning. Perfectly executed – that explosion, Davos’s ship disintegrating beneath him, and the incredible image of the river burning amidst dozens of shattered vessels were all top notch stuff.

Here is a shot of Joffrey peeing in his codpiece. You’re welcome:

The fate of Tyrion would seem to hang in the balance here. That was a nasty wound, but still not as nasty as what happened to him in the novels. I might suggest that Peter Dinklage’s handsomeness and charm are part of the success of this series, and the producers may have been reluctant to disrupt that formula any more than necessary. In this episode alone they went to great lengths to depict Tyrion as a bad-ass.

Ok, it worked better in some scenes than in others.

The one thing that did not make too much sense this week was Stannis literally leading his men into battle. It was a great counterpoint to Joffrey’s pathetic cowardice, of course, and it’s not surprising that Stannis would be in the battle, even at the front lines. But being the first man over the rail of the boat? First one up the ladder to take the wall? I mean, did he even see what happened to that guy who got a rock dropped on his head?

While this episode was perfect epic fantasy, I love how it subverts so many epic fantasy tropes at the same time. You’ve got a heroic figure, Tyrion, fighting to defend incestuous cowards. The attacker, Stannis, is bitter and incredibly uptight, but not evil – except he works with a witchy woman who is not above black magic assassinations. An army shows up at the last minute to save the day, but this ain’t Tolkien. No elves and friendly ents here. This time the rescuer is Tywin Lannister, a man we’ve come to at least respect through his interactions with Arya, yet who is a very cold and brutal man above all else.

That’s the beauty of Game of Thrones right there. Even if you’ve read the novels, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. And even when you do, you’re never quite sure how to feel about it.

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Posted by on Sunday, May 27th, 2012. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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