TV Review: “Game of Thrones” Episode 9 – “Blackwater”

Written by Guest May 30, 2012

 

“Those are brave men knocking at our door…”

“The Lord of the Rings” is a frequent source of comparison in discussions of “Game of Thrones”. One thing that Peter Jackson nailed in his adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy was battle scenes. Because of the nature of television and the restrictions of budgets, doing a full battle scene is near impossible. “Game of Thrones” has proven yet again that it can do the impossible and make it work with “Blackwater”, an episode that will be talked about for years to come.

“Blackwater” narrows the focus of the episode to just the battle. We do not get to see Arya, Theon or Jon just as their plotlines have escalated. This is fine as the thrill-a-minute nature of this episode has us too caught up in the moment to think about them. The battle pits Stannis’ fleet headed by Davos with Joffery’s city defenders headed by Tyrion and Bronn. It is hard to decide on who to root for as many viewers want Tyrion to triumph but want the despicable needs-another-slap-to-the-face Joffery to die. From the beginning to the end, it is hard to pinpoint who will win the battle of one of the most exhilarating episodes of television ever.

This is the only episode of the season directly penned by the novel’s writer George RR Martin. Because he has a better feel of the characters than anyone else does, the character moments shine above all else in the episode. Every major character in the episode has at least one great scene. Bronn and The Hound’s conversation before the fight has two cold-blooded killers discussing the joy of killing. This digs deeper into the characters than ever before and we definitely see their thirst for blood when they are slicing foes in half in the battle. Cersei’s drunken confessions to Sansa are fascinating as it illustrates the scary parallels between an obvious villainess and a trapped young princess.

Now is as good a time as any to get drunk!

“… Let’s go kill them!”

One common complaint with the series and the books is the lack of representation of the common citizen of Westeros. As the lords and Kings fight for honour and power, they use commoners as pawns but you never get an understanding of how they feel about the war. Small scenes like the fearful men vomiting in Davos’ boat and the reluctance of the city’s soldiers to fight before Tyrion rallies them with his speech show the plight of the pawns in this game. By taking these men from mere extras in a battle to realistic soldiers, the horrors of combat become apparent and every loss on either side has that much more of a punch.

HBO increased the second season’s budget just for this episode and it shows as “Blackwater” is unparalleled by anything I have ever seen on TV. Stannis’ navy is believable as well as the flames that consume it. The costume variations between the Stannis Baratheon’s forces and Joffery Baratheon’s are different enough to distinguish the two sides yet remain subtle enough to act as a reminder that it is a family battling itself. The blood looks as real as the sword clashes sound, and the sweeping musical score helps elevate the emotions and experience. All these aspects are brought together to create a viewing experience like no other. More so than any previous episode of “Game of Thrones”, “Blackwater” sucks the viewer in and you truly feel like you are part of the chaos of war.

“Blackwater” avoids simply being mindless fighting and instead finds the perfect balance between both its violent and emotional scenes. This symbiotically improves both and not only makes a great episode of “Game of Thrones” but a landmark episode of television in general. This gamechanger episode has shifted the balances of power and has set up plenty of fascinating plots that all have the potential to be as exciting to watch as “Blackwater.” “Game of Thrones” has a new episode to try and top.

 

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