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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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@temem
It is a song from the books called "the rains of castamere", performed by the National, it is about one of Tywin's earlier conquests. Look on youtube.

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Game of Thrones has lost me (creatively) this season. I did not have a high opinion of it the first year but went back just to see where it might go. It went no where. This week's show looked great, but looking great and being great are two different things. The only original aspect of the battle was the wildfire which looked impressive, but after that, it's all been done before. The conversations between Sansa and Cersei were far more interesting, and I'm sorry there wasn't more to it. The Hound(?) or whatever he's called, I just do not understand. Are we supposed to be interested in this person? Should we care? Since the main-players of the series are still shockingly underwritten and mostly one dimensional, I was annoyed that the episode wasted so much time on yet another unlikable and unrelatable character.

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Kristin @30.
Not all the power of Renly's army, mainly just the Tyrells and some of their bannerman. I you remember, a lot of Renly's men went over to Stannis, which helped build his previously small army. But Tyrells are the Lords of the Reach and have a lot of soldiers at their disposal and a lot of their bannermen from the Reach joined Tywin. Where most lf Renly's supporters from the Stormlands(where the Baratheons are from) just switch to another Baratheon in Stannis. This has been a nerd update. :)

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I remember Littlefinger telling Sansa in season 1 that the Hounds brother the Mountain (gregor clegane) shoved his face in fire when they were children, hence his scar. And to me it looked like the Hound was scared of the fire, especially the way he talked bout the water being on fire. As for you saying the rest of the show seems like filler, im hurt. Jon Snows story will have a great ending. Dany is set to go into the warlocks House of the Undying , Robb must deal with the fallout of chosing a new lady and spurning his mariage (and alliance?) with the Freys, who are a very large house and powerful ally in the Riverlands. And most importantly, the Bastard of Roose Bolton was only a few days out from Winterfell, so we should be seeing some shit goin done there too. Last episode will be spectacular. Obviously Kings Landing is the main area of interest but this series is about all the 7 kingdoms. Without giving any spoilers, if it ends like the book, the last episode when be one helluva season finale. For those of u that say this episode sucked, well your stupid and i hate you and why dont u go what something boring like Luck or Newsroom ( which looks destined to fail).

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And of course missed Arya and my beloved Jaqen H’ghar.

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Well well.... They've won the battle but is war over? There are things happening in the books that this season MUST show ! if it doesn't it'll be a major let down ! Missed Dany, Jon and Robb, but LOVED the battle ! So reminded me of The Lord of The Rings ! Glad they caught Stannis , but the man had balls ! No arrow or rock got to him, he climbed the effing ladder, still nothing, Tywin had to arrive for him to get caught ! Wow ! Well I cannot talk about Sansa, Jeoffrey, the Hound or Tyrion without talking about the books thus spoiling sooooo, let's hope that the season finale won't disappoint. I have very high expectations regarding that one. That coward, cannot wait for the Granpa, the soldiers to find out !

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Goes anyone know the song at the end of this episode? I can kind of like it and I wanted to listen all of it.

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I think it's already been answered on here, but there seems to be some confusion as to why Sandor "The Hound" Clegane finally fled from the battle (I've seen the same confusion on a number of Non-Book Reader reviews, so maybe the episode didn't do a very good job of translating this particular bit from the book). It was the fire that finally broke the Hound. Remember his backstory from Season One; he was horribly burned by his older brother when he was just a little child (hence the horrible mutilation on half his face). He is therefore terrified of fire. We see a number of moments in this episode when the Hound reiterates that - a torch is waved in front of his face at one point and he jerks back with a frightened look on his face...he seems extremely horrified by the wildfire explosion on the river...he warns his own archers that they better not get near him with any of their flaming arrows or he'll kill them himself...and finally, in the midst of men all around him burning to death, he succumbs to his phobia and crumbles.

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THAT WAS THE WORST EPISODE OF THE SEASON!!!!
Sorry but that episode sucked. The whole season was one big build up and it was a big let down. I have never read the books so I'm going by the show but it was awful!
I actually like the side storylines way better than Kings Landing story so I Missed Jon and Arya and Dany.
Sorry but thy episode was major letdown And I'm very disappointed. Still an awesome show though hope things pull through. I hope Cersei and Joffrey get put in a dungeon for the rest of their lives. Wonderful acting from everyone. Just disappointing episode.

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Actually, i think the opposite. I don't really care for Joffrey, etc. and I watched the whole episode to see if Jon Snow and Robb Stark were in it....

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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