The second season of HBO's Game of Thrones reached its crescendo with the Battle of Blackwater, which saw Westeros's rightful king, Stannis Baratheon, repelled in his effort to claim his crown by Joffery Baratheon, who seized the throne through deception.
Two full seasons worth of material had been building toward this moment. George R.R. Martin, author the book series the show is based on, wrote the script for the episode. It did not disappoint. Previous battles in Martin's series had to be cut for budget reasons. Blackwater gave viewers their first chance to witness large scale warfare between characters we've been getting to know and love (or loathe) for the last two years.
|Tyrion Lannister, Hand of the King, carries out the high octane defense of King's Landing.|
The effects were unlike anything anything seen in the show's current run. The giant green wildfire explosion that took out most of Stannis's fleet was awe inspiring; it signaled that the producers had truly taken things to another level for this episode. The battle went through several fascinating progressions. Sandor Cleagne was among Joffery's fiercest warriors, but was mortally frightened of fire after having been burned as a child. His terror of the flame engulfing the battlefield was brilliantly captured, and the scene where he breaks from the battle and retreats was eloquently pictured.
Also turning tail was Joffery Baratheon, who returned to the safety of Maegor's holdfast on the orders of his mother, the queen regent. Jack Gleeson was once again terrific in the role of the boy king, as his horror and indecision highlighted perfectly what a little shit Joffery is. This cast a stark contrast to the actions of Stannis, who led his troops into battle and was the first man to land on the shores of King's Landing as he rallied his troops into battle. And it gives us a chance to see Stannis as a great war general, something often referred to but rarely seen first hand in the novels.
Elsewhere, the psychological game between Queen Cersei and Sansa Stark was first rate. This episode gave us the chance to see a side of Cersei the HBO show had largely skimped on. She was venomous, cruel and wretched as she sipped her wine and terrorized Sansa with her tales of the gritty ramifications of leadership, and the horrible fate that awaited them all should Stannis take the city. Lena Headley's performance as Cersei was chilling, especially the tale she told her son Tommen on the Iron Throne.
|Stannis Baratheon prepares to take the Iron Throne of Westeros by force.|
Peter Dinklage had another great outing as the queen's brother, Tyrion Lannister. His rousing speech to rally the troops served as a lightning rod for what would come. In a nice nod to book readers, we also got the chance to see Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard turn on Tyrion and leave him with a ghastly scar. His rescue at the hands of his squire Podrick Payne capped off one of the greatest scenes from Martin's novel A Clash of Kings.
It was hard to find fault with any aspect of the episode. Pre battle, it did a great job of building a dreadful sense of foreboding; you knew some **** was about to go down. With only one episode left in the season, it won't be long until a storm of swords engulfs all of Westeros.