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Game of Thrones Review: Half Man, Full Hero

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On the penultimate episode of season one, Ned Stark lost his head and Game of Thrones viewers lost their minds.

Yes, this series really would be unlike any other. No, not a single character would be safe. And, damn, where could the show possibly go from there?

The answer has been to a number of areas around Westeros and into the lives of endless characters, most of whom have been angling for the Iron Throne and a few of which ended up in King's Landing tonight on "Blackwater," the penultimate episode of season two and an hour that topped anything else this drama has delivered to date. Maybe anything else I've watched on TV this year.

Wow. Just... wow.

Battle of Blackwater

The first half of the installment expertly built anticipation.

There was drinking, there was a creepy speech from Varys, there was fear on the face of Tyrion and then there was Shae on his lap, quoting his line on the day they first met: F-ck me like it was the last night of my life.

Repeated and then played out here, it perfectly encapsulated the journey Tyrion has gone on in front of our eyes. He uttered it a year ago as just another example of being a selfish, irresponsible, funny little imp. Certainly not a man who could actually fall in love, who could inspire, who could plot a genius attack and then lead men into battle.

But he did all that and more during "Blackwater," as Peter Dinklage cemented his second consecutive Emmy by expressing anger, shock, courage and... death. No way, right? On any other show, I'd easily assume Tyrion got dragged to safety and sewn up, but Game of Thrones has made it clear that anyone can die at any time.

(NOTE: As usual, I am writing this from the view of someone who has never read the books and I ask that no comments make any mention of the novels. Read Carissa Pavlica's Novel Approach and please respect us newbies by saving any spoiler-related Comments for her review.)

The action was simply incredible, scored perfectly, shot beautifully. And yet it was interspersed with quiet, human moments that anchored everything in real emotion and stakes as serious as they get.

And who the heck would have guessed they'd be led by Hound?!? Apparently it's easy to talk like a killing machine until you're surrounded by blood and gore, fire and screams. Was it the fear of death that finally broke this beast? The understanding that victory was impossible? The realization that his king was anything but worth fighting for?

Cersei also had herself quite the drunk breakdown, talking of rape and death and scaring Sansa more than Joffrey ever has. In many ways, she's been my favorite character on season two, as we've witnessed the guilt of her actions wash over her week by week - and yet she never fully softened, not even close. Vulnerable one moment, lashing out the next six moments, there's little doubt Cersei would have Night Shaded her son if Tywin walked in just 10 seconds later.

But he arrived, Stannis (who deserves major props for walking the walk; he was the first of his men on to land and on to the ladders) was defeated and we're left to wonder if Tyrion is alive; where Sansa is off to with Hound; and how the King's Guard will react to its highness as a coward. I have a suggestion: turn the Heart Eater into the King Slayer 2.0.

The episode itself was flawless, but it did highlight an overall complaint I have about the series: I don't care very much about events outside King's Landing. Did anyone miss Jon Snow? Dany? Robb Stark? I certainly credit the writing and the pacing of this installment for making it impossible to think about anything other than the raid and its consequences... but I've had this concern before and it was only exacerbated this week.

Tyrion, Cersei and Joffrey (and Bronn, I love that guy) are such rich characters, and almost everyone else is so admittedly focused on King's Landing, that almost any story outside its walls feels like filler.

But that's a separate issue, one unrelated to the events - sad and happy, serious and funny, shocking and exciting - on "Blackwater" themselves. War came to Game of Thrones this week and we now all know what it's good for: absolutely everything related to a great hour of television.

Check out the promo for next Sunday's Game of Thrones season finale now and react: What did you think of the battle?

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (379 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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You DUMB F**k - The hound wasn't scared of the violence or death, he was haunted by his past when his face was nearly burned off. He got shaky when fire was all up in his shit again. God F**kin Damnit who writes these reviews. I mean Seriously, the mother of dragons is the moon of my life, how dare you say she's a filler. Jesus Christ

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I do miss Dany.

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"The books and the show are masterpieces, in my and many people`s opinions." Your opinion is no more valid than Albert Barr's no matter how many people share it. I gave up on the books myself after reading the first two. I thought the writing was meandering, and just plain bad. You might even say "pedestrian". I find the TV adaption mildly better since it cuts through pages and pages of plodding nothingness, but in my worthless opinion, the show still suffers from a cast of uninteresting yet celebrated villains and an absence of any worthy/engaging counterpoints.

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The Hound is terrified of FIRE. Remeber Season 1- they talked about what his brother did to him... Burned his face when he was a child.

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`Sorry folks, I just can't call something a masterpiece if it is just OK.` The books and the show are masterpieces, in my and many people`s opinions. Perhaps you would think the Mona Lisa pedestrian too? Anyway, fair enough, it`s your opinion but I would like to know what TV shows you think are good/great, if you think GOT is only OK. If there are shows out there better, then I would love to watch them. The other show I know that is better is Breaking Bad, although Homeland was pretty good too.

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@JiffyPopCorn
I don´t hope for Joffrey to get redeemed. I just enjoy his scenes more than any others. They always get my blood boiling. I love him for being an unredeemeble little piece of shit. In the world of villans, he is the best one and, frankly, there is always going to be a bad guy - why not this one? I´m actually rooting for him to get worse. I´m honestly gonna cry for him more than the goody-two-shoes John Snow, whose scenes tend to bore me the most (while they still are really good)

Fifty

Great episode but would've been superb if they included some storyline from Robb and Jon Snow. Specially that drunk nude scene does not add any value to the story. Seriously what's the deal with nudity on this show. It has a great story to sell without being a porno. Writers should definetely think about cutting those out and use that time to show other storylines. Other than that a great episode. Loved wildfire!!. That was some serious firepower. BTW as always Tyrion was legen...waitforit....dary!!!! Second emmy for Peter Dinkage please :)

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Why in the world would anyone be "so worried" about Joffrey? The sooner this twit is off screen and out of the story the better. He's not a villain you love to hate, he's a one dimensional brat with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever - Martin's specialty. They could probably cull half the cast and no one would care; the majority are absolutely vile and hateful. I guess it's a good thing "they made Bronn and the Hound more likable"... WHAT? Try making the lead characters likable and the show might be worth the Shakespeare-like praise the fans dump all over it.

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I´m so worried about Joffrey! There is no way Tyrion died, not even on GoT, but he is in some serious danger. And I love that little piece od shit! I would miss him. We haven´t had a villan this amazing for like ever!
And I wish Sansa would stay. And the un-burned of the brothers gives me the creeps. I bet he was the one who hurt Hound.
They sould let the writer write all the episodes. He CLEARLY knows what he´s doing, :) This battle had more epicness than film version of Two towers.

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Episode was pretty great, loved how they made Bronn and the Hound more likeable. Keep hoping Joffrey will get decapitated. The Hound fled the field because of his fear of flames, plus I'm guessing he got sick of Joffrey. Hoping Tyrion is alive as well. And, I'm glad it focused solely on King's landing, jon Snow is a boring character, he too righteous. Plus his little sidekick (The Big dope) is the WORST character, any time he gets any screen time I cringe and find something to hit myself with. He's winy and dumb and selfish. Just bad. Dany is also a pretty boring character, shes too removed from the event of Westoros and she just cries about dragons and how she should rule blah blah blah, and then she fails at everything. However I DO like Robb Stark, He's less of a self righteous piss ant then jon snow, and he's driven to free the north from the rule of King's landing, I'd like to see him succeed and kill Joffrey.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 9 Quotes

Tyrion: I'm the captain. If this ship goes down, I go down with it.
Varys: I'm sure many captains said the same when the ship was afloat.

Tyrion: You can't fuck your way out of everything.
Shae: I have so far.

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