HBO, 27 May 2012
All hell breaks loose, as Stannis Baratheon lays siege to King’s Landing
This penultimate episode of Games of Thrones‘ sophomore season is the series’ most cinematic entry to date. Written by the novels’ originator George R.R. Martin and directed by horror film specialist Neil Marshall, that outcome should be no surprise.
For once, this show stays in one location and follows a handful of major characters instead of hopping all over Westeros as in most instalments. This allows the characters to breathe a little, especially Joffrey’s frightened boy king and the reluctant leader of men, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, at his best).
While no-one could expect a TV episode to be up to the big screen standards of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, and the attack on King’s Landing is no Helm’s Deep, it is actually not too far off (especially for television). From the stunning sea battle that’s almost over before it has begun to the frenzied close-up combat at the city’s walls, this is engrossing stuff.
Marshall delivers the goods in terms of the hand-to-hand combat, gore and grue, with various participants coming apart at the seams (literally). However, there are some great, simple character scenes from Martin, especially Lena Headey’s Cersie getting progressively drunker as she goads Sansa with the truth of their situation.
A sign of the brilliance of the writing here is that the viewer is entirely unsure about whose side we should be on. Yeah, Joffrey is terrible, but Tyrion is great. Maybe we’re supposed to be backing Stannis, but we don’t really know what use he’d put the power of the Iron Throne to. Every one has a legitimate argument for their actions and motivations, and each is utterly believable.
The final episode looks like it will need each of those extra 10 minutes it has been allocated to wrap up this part of the epic Game of Thrones story.
Verdict: Brilliant stuff! A thrilling, stunning episode that suitably pays off weeks of build up…
Episode 9 ‘Blackwater’: 10/10
Brian J. Robb