S02 EP09 – BLACKWATER – This is the episode the fans of the books have all been waiting for – Blackwater. Penned by none other than George RR Martin himself this is the epic battle scene that the whole of the second season has been working towards. The focus is entirely within Kings Landing this week – so fans of Robb Stark or Jon Snow et al might be a little disappointed, but only a little.
The episode opens with Davos Seaworth commanding Stannis’ fleet of ships up the Blackwater. Davos is on edge as you would expect of a man about to attempt to sack a city whose walls have never been breached. Mathos, Davos’s son attempts to placate his father with his faith in their cause and his faith in the lord of light – a false God as far as Davos is concerned.
In the Red Keep Tyrion is concerned too – the odds are stacked against them. With a only a depleted force to defend the walls he knows that Stannis is on his way and that come the morrow he could well be dead. His consort and whore Shae attempts to calm his fears the only way she knows how. Cersei is making contingency plans in the event that the battle is lost. She takes a vial of Nightshade from Grand Maester Pycelle – a deadly poison, but who it is for she declines to say. The only man who seems relaxed about the coming battle is Bronn, Tyrion’s Sellsword. Drinking and whoring he has a run in with the hound, Joffrey’s personal guard. The Hound doesn’t like Bronn much, to be honest he doesn’t like anyone much, not even himself. As the two men look set to come to blows, the city bells begin to sound warning of the approaching fleet and at once everyone is at battle stations.
Lord Varys hands Tyrion a map of the tunnels under the city as Tyrion is being prepared for battle by his squire Podrick Payne. Varys thinks the map might be used to help Tyrion escape, but Tyrion assures him otherwise, which Varys is pleased by, confessing that tonight Tyrion with his wits and his wildfire is the only man who can stop Stannis.
As Tyrion readies himself for battle he has a touching (and somewhat tragic) moment with Bronn where he declares the mercenary to be his friend; then later with Sansa when she tells Tyrion that she will pray for his safe return. He is taken aback by this, but her words are somewhat diluted when she follows up with “Just as I will pray for Joffrey”.
Joffrey has a new sword which he wants to show Sansa, the Hearteater he calls it, however its obvious to all that the young king doesn’t know how to use it. He takes it onto the battlements after making Sansa kiss his sword where he continues to be a Royal pain in the arse making petulant demands and issuing pointless commands to Tyrion. Tyrion takes it with a pinch of sale, biding his time until the attack begins.
With the men outside defending the walls Cersei is getting obnoxious and drunk within the red keep. Sansa is with her – as is Ser Ilyn Payne; the headsman who took the head of Sansa’s Father Eddard Stark. She tells Sansa that Payne is there to protect them, but Sansa has her doubts.
As Stannis’ fleet sails closer to the walls of Kings Landing, Tyrion sets his plan in motion. He sends a single ship to meet Davos and the enemy ships. A fact that makes Davos nervous. He commands his archers to lock and load until he realises that the single ship is deserted. It doesn’t take him long to figure out why – the ship is leaking wildfire into the water and, at Tyrion’s command, Bronn ignites it with a single flaming arrow. The river and the ships explode in green flame that burns so bright even the defenders on the shore have to shield their eyes. All hells break loose as the fleet burns and the screams of dying men fill the air. Davos himself is thrown into the water and we don’t see him again. Stannis however it far enough away from the wildfire to be unaffected and commands his men to land on the shore and take the the city. The dwarf has played his hand now its time to beat him.
As a counterpoint to all the men burning and dying, Cersei continues to get drunk and bleat to Sansa about how she wishes she had been born a man, but since she is woman she best make the most of that fact when the conquering army comes knocking down the doors of the red keep. The best weapon a woman has lies between her legs she tells Sansa – unfortunately, she also realises that it would probably be ineffective against the stoic Stannis Baratheon.
As Tyrion watches Stannis land on the shoreline he sends out the Hound to deal with them while raining down burning arrows from above. Sadly the Hound has a problem with fire – he was badly burned by his brother when he was a child. The Hound and his men fight ferociously, until Lancel Lannister takes an arrow in the shoulder and returns to the sanctuary of the Keep where he tells Cersei that the battle is not going well for them – alarmed Cersei commands that Joffrey be removed from the front line. The Hound meanwhile is terrified and surrounded by flames with Stannis scaling the city walls, he retreats back behind the walls – much to the amusement of Bronn. Tyrion is not so impressed and demands to know why he is on the wrong side of the wall commanding him to get back out there. The Hound refuses in no uncertain terms. Things get worse for Tyrion when Ser Lancel arrives with word from the Queen that Joffrey is to retreat.
Alone now, Tyrion realises he must do something to repell the invaders at the gates. He announces that he will lead the attack as Stannis’ men take a battering ram to the gates. In a rousing speech which gets the men on his side he recalls the map showing the secret passageways under Kings Landing and leads his men outside to take the battering army from behind.
With King Joffrey safely in his chambers Lancel return to plead with Cersei to send him back outside, the gold cloaks have lost all heart for the fight now that they have seen their king flee he tells her. But Cersei doesn’t care. She pushes Lancel over and storms out of the keep. Sansa then steps up to the plate and for a moment becomes the Queen everyone wants Cersei to be imploring the other ladies in the keep to remain calm and telling them that all is well, leading them in a Hymn of prayer. As the ladies are singing Shae councils Sansa to the hell out of there while she still Can. Ilyn Payne will have her head if she stays there much longer. Sansa flees to her room where she finds the Hound waiting for her. He has given up on Kings Landing, given up on the King. But he tells Sansa he can keep her safe and take her Winterfell if she likes. Sansa refuses and bitterly the Hound bids her goodbye.
Tyrion successfully leads his men against the army at the gate, but it is a small victory and when he turns round Stannis’ reinforcements are on the way. The battle gets bloodier then and Tyrion gets his hands dirty with more kills. He finds it hard to tell friend from foe though and Ser Mandon Moore, Joffrey’s sworn man and representative of the King on the Battlefield raise his sword and slashes Tyrion across the face, but before he and deliver the killing blow, Podrick Payne drives a lance through Moore’s head.
Cersei sits on the Iron Throne with her son, Prince Tommen. Fearing the worst she is preparing to use the Nightshade on him rather than see her son in the hands of Stannis. As Tyrion lies dazed on the battlefield he suddenly sees men on horses riding in to rescue the beleagured men of Kings Landing. Before he slips into unconsciousness he swears that it is Renly leading the charge against Stannis’s men, but that can not be.
As Cersei is about to administer the poison to her son, the doors of the red keep swing open and her father walks in. Announcing the battle is over, we have won!