Monday, 28 May 2012

Game of Thrones: Blackwater recap/review

The Prince of Winterfell recap/review 

Well, after weeks of waiting Game of Thrones exploded with a bang (literally) as it turned into a fully fledged war film, leaving all trace of innocence and frivolous things behind. While this episode, Blackwater, did my least favourite film and television trick of having scenes in the dark, it really worked, right up until the final moment. 

The Lannisters 
Everything the Lannisters have been dreading (even if they didn't know it) came to fruition this week - the walls of King's Landing were breached, one of their most loyal soldiers turned his back on them, thousands of men were killed, and the best of the Lannisters was badly injured (okay, maybe it was just us dreading that last one, and not so much Cersei and Tywin). 

Game of Thrones is all about shades of grey, and no one is all good or all bad. That said, the Lannisters are arguably on the wrong side of this fight (as is Stannis) and Robb Stark is on the right side. It's a testament to how great a character Tyrion is that despite all the terrible behaviour exhibited by the Lannisters, we still root for them (him).

We saw all sides to Tyrion this week, starting with the scared and loving Tyrion who had to try and say goodbye to Shae. Piece by piece that Tyrion disappeared - literally, as he was covered by his armour. And although he showed a moment of weakness when he saw Sansa and Shae, putting on his armour was the start of truly battle worthy Tyrion.

He showed off his propensity for cutting Joffrey down to size when he scolded him on top of the battlements, and his disappointment later on when the Meanest Character on Television™ abandoned the battle to run to his mother (cementing our view of Joffrey as a complete coward).

But it was in battle that Tyrion truly showed why he's the best of the Lannisters, and why he takes after his father more than Cersei and Jaime, even though the family might not think they have much in common.

First, Tyrion showed he can hold his nerve, refusing to give in when others demanded he start the battle. He showed numerous times his preparedness for battle - he had not one plan (the wildfire) but two (the tunnels).

He showed his courage by stepping in to the role of leader when Joffrey abandoned the men, even though he has little battle experience. And he showed he understands the men on the ground, rousing the soldiers with a proper battle speech when they were ready to abandon ship (as it were).

Still, it wasn't enough to keep him from being hurt, and right now Tyrion is lying on the battlefield, bloody and bruised and on the verge of death. Will he survive? I hope so.

And what about Cersei? While her brother was out fighting to save King's Landing against a war she and her son started, Cersei was getting drunk and plotting to kill her own children.

You knew from the moment that she was given the vial of poison that she would be killing herself and/or her family should the worst come to pass. You knew it was worse than you thought when Cersei turned up wearing that ridiculous gold breast plate, and then proceeded to get drunk off her head, be mean to Sansa, berate her servants and just generally be a heinous cow instead of the comforting queen she should have been to her subjects.

Even though Cersei was hiding out with the womenfolk during the battle, she was at the centre of the pivotal final scenes. Her story about the young lion cub scared of the bears and wolves in the forest was a beautifully told allegory for the battle raging across the Seven Kingdoms. But although her story ends with the lion cub triumphant, it's clear Cersei isn't talking about triumph in battle, she's talking about triumph in death.

Her words were a beautiful soundtrack and contrast to the battle scenes raging outside, as a group of men on horseback ride to the rescue of the Lannisters at King's Landing. And those final moments, as Cersei lifts the bottle to Tommen's lips and the doors burst open to show Tywin proclaiming the battle is won while slow-mo scenes of Stannis realising he's lost play out are a brilliant climax to a fantastic episode. 

The Starks 
Sansa was representing for the Starks this week, and she did her family proud. From last season when she was one of Game of Thrones most annoying characters, she's turned into a strong woman.

While Cersei was busy drowning her sorrows in wine, it was Sansa who kept her cool, and comforted the women who could hear the battle going on around them.

And unlike Cersei, Sansa also showed she could listen, when she obeyed Sansa and ran away. She didn't get very far, and we got a brilliant scene with her and the Hound in her bedroom.

Having decided enough was enough, and haunted by visions of the fire which detroyed half his face, the Hound abandoned Joffrey in the best possible way (by telling him to f*** off).

The scene between Sansa and the Hound was, like the scene with Cersei telling the story of the lion cub, filled with wonderful contrasts. The Hound and Sansa are polar opposites - in looks, personality and life experience - but they seem to have a strange bond. It's strong enough that the Hound offers to rescue Sansa, and that Sansa can tell the Hound he won't hurt her, and he agrees.

All this was done while Sansa clutched at a doll from her childhood - the contrast between her youth and Sansa as she is now (having seen death and murder and betrayal) was brilliant.

The Baratheons
It seems like Stannis Baratheon has been two days away from King's Landing for about six episodes, so it was good to finally see him arrive to do battle.

It didn't start well, with much of his fleet being destroyed by the wildfire. But Stannis has revenge in mind, not just against the Lannisters - Stannis also has years of pent up tension and anger against his dead brother which he needs to release. And because of that, instead of dwelling on the destruction of his fleet Stannis forges ahead with a plan to get into King's Landing.

He succeeds, and it looks like it's going well for Stannis - until Tywin Lannister turns up to throw a spanner in the works and win the battle for the Lannisters.

The Targaryens
Nothing Qarth this week, however dark it would get for Danaerys would not be dark enough to match the Battle of Blackwater.

Jon Snow
Nothing from Jon, the snow's too bright for this episode.

The Greyjoys
They're grey, that's not nearly dark enough for this episode.

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity count
Game of Thrones was back to doing its season one favourite - playing important scenes out with a naked prostitute in the foreground for no good reason. This week it was a prostitute undressed by Bronn just before battle, as he and the Hound faced off. Still, it was the only real nudity this episode.

That's because this week more people were killed in Game of Thrones than have been killed in all the episodes from the first and second seasons up to now combined.

Notable kills, among the many, included all the men dying on the ships destroyed by wildfire; Bronn coming to the Hound's rescue by killing the soldier fighting him; and Tyrion's servant slashing a man down to the ground as he's about to kill Tyrion. 

And while Stannis lost the battle, he won the award for single best kill, as he lopped off the top of a guy's head, leaving blood to spew out.

When you play the Game of Thrones...

This was a brilliant episode, and beautifully played out. It was an episode that really worked on contrasts, the best of which was the wildfire blowing up Stannis's fleet of ships. From a distance the ships looked like they were home to a gorgeous firework display, up close they were the scene for hundreds of murders.

George R. R. Martin wrote this episode, and his eye for detail (shown in the books) was stamped all over the episode.

My only worry is that Blackwater is the penultimate episode, and it was so, so good. Can the season finale possibly be better? And if it is, just how good is it going to be?

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