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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
All season long Stannis Barratheon’s large, angry shadow has loomed over King’s Landing. Stannis spent the entire season gathering as large an army as he possibly could, even bending his hard moral stance by employing pirates/privateers for their services. Stannis even has a witch, practicing the dark arts that eventually assassinate Renly, on retainer (and whom he slept with so that he could “produce a son” in what was surely a not well thought out plan). Stannis is also one of the most hated, feared, disliked, unlikable men in all of Westeros. His school-of-hard-knocks, no nonsense approach to life have earned him scorn, enmity, and fear. His claim to the throne may be the strongest of all would-be-kings in the land, but his hard-nosed approach to life is about as welcomed as explosive diarrhea.
The threat of war has long loomed for Tyrion Lannister, and he is the only member of the royal family who seemed to take it seriously and responsibly throughout the season. Tyrion and Stannis are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One austere and severe, the other a free-spending, whoring Dionysian. With an ineffective, cruel young king in Joffrey, an increasingly maniacal queen in Cersei, and an absent father in Tywinn (fighting against Rob’s men away from King’s Landing), Tyrion must prove his mettle and defend the city. Utilizing what can only be described as a rag-tag team of misfits (including Bronn, Clegane, the old man who made the fire-stuff, Lancel, Joffrey, and some servant kid), Tyrion leads the men quite bravely and admirably against Stannis’ men.
Rumor has it that “Blackwater” is the single most expensive hour of television ever produced. I have to say that it really shows. The explosions, knocking out much of Stannis’ fleet and killing poor Ser Davos (unconfirmed, but probably), make for fantastic television. There are quite a few gory effects shots as well, including several beheadings and a few dudes getting chopped in half (courtesy of Clegane). Speaking of Clegane, the wildfire terrifies him into standing down, denouncing Joffrey, and abandoning his post. Bronn gets his due in this episode as well, messing up dudes like an ultimate bad-ass rogue out of World of Warcraft or something. Bronn and Clegane are two more characters who couldn’t be any more different in who they are. The contrast between Tyrion/Stannis and Bronn/Clegane is incredibly interesting in this episode to me.
Though he eventually breaches the walls, his men fail to hold the beach, largely due to Tyrion’s cleverness in using the city’s escape tunnels to double back around Stannis’ men. After dispatching some men, Tyrion takes a cleave to the face in what is a brilliant effects shot. Though he’s probably not going to die, it is exciting seeing the show’s best character put into such mortal danger. Lord Tywin and his men storm the beach (apparently they headed to King’s Landing rather than face Robb Stark) and mop up the rest of Stannis’ bannermen. Stannis ends up calling his men cowards from the wall as they scatter the beaches and he is taken into custody. His fate remains unknown, but he will assuredly pay for the insurrection.
This episode highly delivered on the action and story I have been craving all season long, and there’s still another episode left! The wildfire, the battles, the gore, Cersei’s speeches, Clegane’s defection, Tyrion’s bad-assery… everything made for an excellent episode of television (and all of it filmed terrifyingly at night). The decision not to focus on Winterfell/Theon, the Wall/Jon Snow, and Qarth/Daenerys was an excellent one. I imagine this is the episode that will be submitted for upcoming Emmy Awards, and I can already hear Peter Dinklage giving his second acceptance speech when he picks up his trophy. Next week is the season finale, but like last year’s penultimate episode “Baelor,” I can’t see anything topping “Blackwater.”