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Game of Thrones Review: Half Man, Full Hero

by at . Comments

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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As someone who has read the books, I always check here to read the review and comments to see how the show is received by those who haven't. My wife watches the show with me and hasn't read the books, and she sometimes asks me for alot of character and plot clarifications. I'm always tempted to post info for confused posters here, but it's hard to do that without crossing the line into "spoiler". I'm pretty confident that the finale will explain all about who attacked Tyrion, and why Sir Loras arriving with Tywin was significant.

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I have stopped reading the reviews here a couple episodes ago. However, I continue to enjoy the comments posted here by the far more insightful posters.

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@ anon "who is mandon moore" yeah it is a bit hard to follow if you haven't read the books. cersei mentioned ser mandon moore last week in the tyrion/ros scene. Other than that, he hasn't been shown at all really.

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`Totally agree - the grooming habits of these women for that century are furthermore laughable` It`s a work of fantasy. There is no century. But imagine trying to put on muff wigs or arm pit hair wigs. Ladies lip hair, anyone? The quality of their dental work could equally be described as risible but I`ll live with it.

Richard3

@confused: I think we were supposed to think Tywin was going after Robb so when he showed up at Kings Landing it was a surprise. As far as the Kingsguard, I think you're supposed to be asking yourself why, but then again just think about it. He's in the "king's" guard...and it's not like the King likes Tyrion...

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i thought tywin was going after rob ..?? and that the gay guy was going with stannis...??? as amazing as the episode was it was hard to tell who was on what team
its not the hard to tell the hound is scared of fire (i havent read the book)
ok so this Ser Mandon Moore of the kings guard...?? huh...??? did tyrion piss him off....??

Richard3

@blingerz: He was one of the Kingsguard. I find that their armor isn't as distinctive as described in the books, so it's hard to distinguish them in the show unless you're really looking.

Richard3

@Elle542: Yeah believe it or not I learned that on a Halloween tour of Philly last year. It wasn't so much a "ghosts and goblins" tour as it was a "crime and STDs" tour. Still scary though... :)

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@blingerz
Sorry..... who is mandon moore? is it casts name or why cant I find it in hbo website on game of thrones.
Could you remind me where this charecter comes anytime before slashing elfs face? The only 2 I remember to be built that big is that lady in armour who fights like a knight and the hound.

Matt richenthal

@Pratni: haha, it was expected. I understand that people have favorite storylines/characters and that I'm not familiar with what happens in the future.
All I can do is express my opinion as a viewer of the TV show and hope others do the same in a respectful manner.

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.