Game of Thrones
|Episode #||Season 2, Episode 9|
|Airdate||27 May, 2012|
|List of Game of Thrones episodes|
"Blackwater" is the ninth and penultimate episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones. The episode is written by George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels of which the series is an adaptation, and directed by Neil Marshall. It aired on 27 May 2012.
The entire episode revolves about the climactic Battle of the Blackwater, where the Lannister army fight for their lives as Stannis Baratheon's fleet stages an attack on King's Landing at Blackwater Bay.
In King's Landing
Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), with his son Matthos (Kerr Logan), lead Stannis Baratheon's (Stephen Dillane) fleet into Blackwater Bay. Before their arrival, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) discuss the possibility of the Lannister defeat. Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is given a powerful poison by Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), to be used should the city fall, as she believes most noble women will be attacked by Stannis's army. Outside the Red Keep, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) drinks and sings with his men, but the mood is soured by the arrival of the Hound Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). Tensions rise between Bronn and the Hound, but before they can fight, the bells ring, indicating Stannis's fleet has been spotted. Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) brings Tyrion a map of the tunnels beneath King's Landing, should they need to escape the city. Cersei and Prince Tommen Baratheon (Callum Wharry) arrive in Maegor's Holdfast, where the noble ladies will be staying during the battle. Cersei calls for Sansa Stark, and the two discuss the impending battle, and the need for Ser Ilyn Payne (Wilko Johnson), the royal executioner, to which Cersei claims is for their protection should Stannis's men breach the Holdfast.
As the battle is set to begin, King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) demands to know where the royal fleet is, as only one ship has arrived for the battle. The ship slowly lurches toward the Baratheon fleet, confusing Davos, who is at the front of the fleet. As it passes his ship, he realizes there is no crew aboard, and sees a green fluid flowing from the back of the ship, quickly deducing the substance is wildfire. On the walls of King's Landing, Pyromancer Hallyne (Roy Dotrice) hands Tyrion a torch, which he uses to signal Bronn to fire a flamming arrow at the ship. Bronn hits the trail of wildfire left by the ship, which causes a massive explosion, destroying many of Stannis's ships and men, among them Ser Davos and his son Matthos. Having been far enough back from the explosion to be unharmed, Stannis orders the men to land, and begin the assault. Tyrion orders the Hound to form a party and meet the Baratheon army at the Mud Gate. Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), injured during the confrontation, runs back to Maegor's Holdfast, where he informs the Queen that Baratheon men have landed. Cersei orders Lancel to bring Joffrey back from the battlements and into the safety of the Red Keep. Lancel says this will cause morale to suffer, but Cersei does not care. Cersei also tells Sansa that she lied about Ser Ilyn's purpose in the hold, and that he is actually there to kill them if Stannis takes the city.
The Hound continues the battle outside the Mud Gate, but loses his nerve after seeing a soldier burn alive. He retreats to behind the walls, where Joffrey orders him back to the battle, which the Hound refuses to do. Meanwhile, Stannis leads his men on the field, climbing a ladder onto the walls of King's Landing and battling several soldiers. The Baratheon men outside the Mud Gate set up a battering ram to knock down the gate, and are met with a weakening resistance. Lancel arrives at the Mud Gate and tells Joffrey that Cersei has ordered him to return to the castle. Tyrion tries to convice Joffrey to remain on the battlements to set an example for his men, but Joffrey refuses him, and returns with Lancel. Tyrion takes charge of the remaining men, telling them there is a tunnel which will take them around the Mud Gate and behind the Baratheon men. Lancel reports to Cersei that the battle is lost, and she departs the hold with Prince Tommen, leaving the other noble ladies alone. Sansa rallies the panicking ladies with prayer, and soon departs the hold as well. When she arrives at her chambers, she is startled by the Hound, who offers to take her north with him. Sansa, believing this is a trick by Cersei to see if she will betray Joffrey, initially refuses his offer, but her final decision remains unclear.
Tyrion, having lead his men through the tunnel, attacks the Baratheon men from behind, defeating them with ease. They stop to celebrate their victory, but soon return to fighting as a large group of Stannis's men arrive from nearby. As Tyrion fights, he is unexpectedly attacked by Ser Mandon Moore (James Doran), a member of Joffrey's Kingsguard. Tyrion is wounded, but before he can be killed, his squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), kills Ser Mandon. As Tyrion lays dying, a large Lannister army arrives to save the Mud Gate force, just as he loses consciousness. Cersei, having run to the great hall with Tommen for safety, is startled by the arrival of Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) and her father, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who informs her that they have won the battle.
"Blackwater" is to depict the series's first large-scale war sequence, the confrontation between the Baratheons and the Lannisters that the whole season builds towards. In the episode's first drafts, the battle took place offscreen for budgetary reasons, and viewers would have experienced it mostly through the eyes of Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark, ensconced in Maegor's Holdfast while the battle rages outside. Eventually, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss convinced HBO to approve a "considerable" increase in the series's budget in order to stage the battle on screen.
With their still limited resources, the show's producers nonetheless decided not to attempt recreating spectacular mass scenes similar to that of The Lord of the Rings's Battle of Helm's Deep, but rather to focus on the infantryman's perspective, hampered as he is by the fog of war. They said that this also allows the series to draw on its viewers' empathy for the battle's participants, with whom viewers are already much more familiar than the audience of a typical two-hour movie. They nonetheless resisted pressure to stage the battle on land, which would have been much easier to shoot, because they considered the naval confrontation to be essential to the series's principal storyline.
About a week before shooting was to start, the episode's director had to leave the production because of a personal emergency, and a replacement had to be found quickly. Benioff and Weiss settled on English director Neil Marshall (who hadn't seen the series before) on the basis of his work on Centurion and Dog Soldiers, where he created intensive action sequences on a limited budget.
Benioff and Weiss described the episode's filming as "pretty much a month straight of night shoots". The cold and wet climate of Belfast taxed actors and extras so much, they said, that their battle-weariness was no act, and neither were weather machines required to simulate the wind and rain. The episode also has far more visual effects shots than any other.
"Blackwater" featured the fewest members of the principal cast of any episode, 11 out of 25. The episode is focused on the royal court, which includes Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Shae (Sibel Kekilli), Varys (Conleth Hill), Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). The episode also features their opponents Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) in the attacking fleet, as well as Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who arrives with his army to save the city.
The song played over the end credits, "The Rains of Castamere", was adapted from the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Performed by the American indie rock band The National, it is sung by their vocalist Matt Berninger. In the novels, the song is sung or mentioned repeatedly. It remembers Tywin Lannister's victory over his rebellious vassals House Reyne and Tarbeck, about 40 years before the events of the novels. The stanza of the song that is reproduced in the novels and adapted for the series tells of the vassals' defiance – "And who are you, the proud lord said / That I must bow so low?" – and the subsequent obliteration of their houses: "But now the rains weep o'er his hall / With no one there to hear."
- Hibberd, James (20 May 2012). "'Game of Thrones': Blackwater battle has 'dramatically exceeded our expectations'". EW.com. http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/05/20/game-of-thrones-blackwater/. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- "Listen to The National’s new Lannister-happy song from The Game of Thrones soundtrack". [[w:io9|]]. 24 May 2012. http://io9.com/5913172/listen-to-the-nationals-new-lannister+happy-song-from-the-game-of-thrones-soundtrack. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
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