tl;dr - Blackwater was awesome. Discuss.
Hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day weekend. We went to Austin for the weekend, had an absolutely incredible time. Got home late last night and the first thing I did as soon as the kiddo was in bed was to watch Blackwater -- an episode of television that I haven't anticipated seeing so much since the finale of Lost.
I was not disappointed.
I have felt that Season 2 was a bit aimless at times, something I that I understand was an issue with the book as well. What's really interesting about this season (and about this particular episode) is that it has a decidedly "Two Towers" vibe to it, as if this season season and ACOC is merely a very detailed bridge between AGOT and ASOS and that certainly carried over to to this season's series as well.
A lot has happened but it never felt like there was something substantial to really hold on to. It felt like pawns in a chess match were slowly being moved and placed, very slowly, over eight episodes -- setting up for what I assume is going to be an incredibly active Season 3 and 4. But so far, everything felt like it was moving in slow motion and there just wasn't enough actual "action" taking place.
With everyone spread out across Westeros and only Littlefinger apparently able to travel from one place to the other, sometimes it seemed the different locales and characters we've spent time with this season weren't as connected as they should have been, or at least it didn't feel that way.
There have still be some great moments and some really great episodes but after watching Season 1 again last week, I realized what the difference between the two really was -- momentum. Season 1 was constantly building toward something, there was a growing doubt and unease as the season progressed and Ned Stark came closer and closer to uncovering the truth about Robert Baratheon, his bastards and who Joffrey really was.
This season, while there has been plenty of talk about impending battles -- we have yet to ever see one and the thought that we'd get a truly momentous battle to really wrap up everything this season never really occurred to me. As someone who has not read the books, of course I had no clue what The Battle of Blackwater Bay was all about and just how incredible the battle could really be. Even those that have read the books, I'm sure, were worried that this battle would not be portrayed like it deserves.
Ladies and fellas, we were treated to one of the absolute best hours of television I have ever seen. Where to begin?
I realized just how much of a treat we were in for when Neil Marshall's name came up as Director during the opening credits. I don't read any news during the week about the upcoming episodes for fear of spoilers (I don't even watch the "next week on" segments) so I had no clue about the drama behind how Marshall was hired. But I do know that he is one of the best at staging action and combining VFX with traditional filming methods and more than anything -- he knows how to work with a limited budget.
That really came through in this episode. Marshall's fingerprints were everywhere, especially when it comes to the gore we were treated to this week. Blackwater had everything that makes GoT so incredible, including some nice sexposition, but it was absolute satisfying on so many levels to finally see some real, no holds-barred action for almost an entire episode.
This really did feel like a medieval "Saving Private Ryan" and you can see how they were influenced by Spielberg and Peter Jackson in how they filmed this season. Hell, the Two Towers comparisons for this season even carry over to the "Helms Deep" way in which this battle took place.
Here are some very specific thoughts on such a great episode of television.
- What made this episode so great, and something I think they need to do more of, is that they never left King's Landing. The episode stuck with this very particular storyline for the entire hour and I think it worked for the best, especially in allowing the growing dread and anxiety of the coming battle to build and build. Hopefully they'll write more episodes like this, instead of ones where we are treated to six different storylines in six different locations.
- I love how, from the very start, there was the building anxiety of what was to come. It's one of those very interesting things about wars and pitched battles -- you know what is coming and there is little surprise to what is on the way. Everyone in King's Landing knows they are about to be attacked and they are just waiting for the moment when it all begins.
- Has The Hound now become the best character in the series? He's certainly rivaling Tyrion for that top spot. He's such an evil, brutal man but at his heart is a sense of honor -- in a way -- that makes you want to see more and more of him. It was also great to see vulnerability there, in how he reacted to the fire and the burning water and how he basically "NOPED" his way right out of that war. Fuck the King, indeed.
- Wildfire. HOLY. FUCK. I can't remember the last time I verbally shouted like that at the television when sports wasn't involved. Now we see where the budget has gone. Wow. I don't even know what to say about that.
- Just when I thought that Cersei could not get any more evil, she takes it too a brand new level. Lena Headey may be an incredible woman in real life, but she makes me want to punch her square between the eyes everytime I see her face.
- Really love Sansa's character arc this season. She was such a despicable, spoiled girl the first season but the trauma of being prisoner in King's Landing has brought her down a few notches. The way she stepped up to try and help calm the frightened women in the hold was really great to see. Of course, now we have to wait to see if she decided to go with the Hound. I sure as hell hope so -- that's a road trip I want to see.
- Tyrion is one of the best characters ever created and each episode he gets better and better. Love the juxtaposition between how Stannis and Joffrey "lead" their troops, and how Tyrion overcomes his fear of battle to lead his own troops against Stannis. Ingenious motivations, of course. "Don't fight for the king, fight because those other guys want to kill you and rape your women!" Also -- it was great to see his strategy go so well, but it would have all been for naught had Tywin not shown up.
- During the battle, I was openly rooting against Stannis. I want to see all the Lannisters dead, but Tyrion made me root for his side.
- Is there any doubt that Tyrion is alive? Duh.
- Finally -- my one gripe about the episode is the rushed ending. I recognized that Loras Tyrell showed up with Tywin's forces -- it makes sense for him to go against Stannis -- but what I didn't get was the panic over HOW he showed up. Apparently he was dressed like Renly in battle and it freaked everyone out, thinking the Ghost of Renly was come to kill everyone or something. That wasn't really that apparent.
What did everyone else think?