‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2, Episode 9: ‘Blackwater’ Recap

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Jack Gleeson Game of Thrones Blackwater Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater Recap

After all the talk and all the preparation, war comes to King’s Landing before winter does, and Game of Thrones calls upon author and executive producer George R.R. Martin, and director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion) to properly depict the battle for the Iron Throne in ‘Blackwater.’

The episode also reunites the director with Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), who has found himself in a Neil Marshall picture on more than one occasion, so it’s fitting that the ever-humble Davos would open the episode in conversation with son Matthos (Kerr Logan) – an ardent supporter of the claim Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) has to the throne. Matthos’ belief in Stannis’ greater numbers and supposed allegiance to the “one true god” will be tested beyond what he’d imagined since the fleet Davos commands is on a collision course with an enormous gamble made by Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), in an effort to cull the enemy’s fleet before they can make land.

And while the impending battle is likely the pressing concern for the viewer, Martin and Marshall take their time by setting up the preparation for war; paying considerable attention to the sense of impending doom and helplessness, as nearly everyone in King’s Landing seems to reconcile themselves with the likelihood that this will be their last night on earth. There is even a Saving Private Ryan moment, where a soldier in Stannis’ army does the old Technicolor Yawn in anticipation for the carnage about to be unleashed.

Tyrion and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) spend the time with a quiet moment together, while Cersei (Lena Headey) brusquely dismisses Pycelle (Julian Glover) after he delivers to her a vial of nightshade (poison) – just in case things get to that point. Meanwhile, brazen in the face of impending battle, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) stops to introduce Sansa (Sophie Turner) to his new sword, Hearteater – which seems destined to remain as pristine as the day it was forged.

Some, like Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann), who both revel in taking lives, spend their last fleeting moments of calm by drinking and, in Bronn’s case, displaying a lovely singing voice. Given their respective loyalties and aptitude for violence, the pair nearly face off in that typical ultimate killing machine sort of way, but the sounding of the city’s bells halts any chance of bloodshed.

As pointed out by Varys (Conleth Hill), the bells only signal horror: war, death or weddings, but they also ring out loud enough that Davos orders his drum players to strike up a terrifying beat in response. As Stannis’ fleet emerges through the blackness, though, they are met not with an armada waiting to engage in battle, but instead by a single, empty vessel spilling Wildfire as it slowly approaches the enemy ships. While Joffrey cries for the archers to attack, Tyrion holds his signal to Bronn until it is too late for Davos and many of the other ships to turn back. The order is given and Bronn, with a single flaming arrow, ignites the Wildfire – which then lays waste to a great number of ships, including Davos’, in a spectacular explosion that’s as visually stunning as it is deadly.

The Wildfire does little to deter Stannis, however, and soon he and his remaining forces are landing on the beach to meet the Hound and his men in combat.

Jerome Flynn Game of Thrones Blackwater Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater Recap

While the battle rages on, Cersei, Sansa and a group of other women are gathered in a room that has come equipped with loyal servant Ilyn Payne (Wilko Johnson), who is ordered to kill them all should King’s Landing fall to Stannis and his men enter the room in search of the spoils of war. Cersei approaches this prospect with a less-than-delicate touch, while also expounding on the wonder of being queen, as she becomes more and more inebriated. Over the last few episodes, Cersei seems almost ready to apologize to Sansa for her misfortune of drawing the Joffrey card – having been through the unpleasant ordeal of being betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Here, however, as she gathers snippets of the battle, and how it is seemingly lost, Cersei’s tone becomes wistful in a bitter sort of way that’s surprisingly amusing, considering the circumstances. Convinced all is lost, she requests that Joffrey stop standing idly by in battle, and come stand idly by in the confines of the castle.

Outside, the Hound goes all Martian Manhunter when presented with the still-burning Wildfire, and pulls his men back so that he may wisely get drunk and tell Joffrey where he can stick it. With the Hound absent and Joffrey out of the picture, it becomes clear that Tyrion is going to have to lead what remains of King’s Landing’s defense in a last ditch effort to keep the army from breaching its walls. The quick-witted Lannister appeals to the men not with a promise of glory or riches, but by telling them that fighting in this war doesn’t have to be about any ruler’s ideologies or some greater notion of justice; it’s simply about them standing some chance of keeping their homes and loved ones safe by following him into battle.

Using Varys’ map of the tunnels underneath King’s Landing, Tyrion and his group effectively prevent Stannis’ men from breaking past the gate and entering the city. Despite briefly turning the tide, Tyrion falls to a nasty slash by Ser Mandon Moore, who himself is felled by the spear Tyrion’s squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) impales him with. Before he falls, though, Tyrion is witness to another large force heading toward the gate. Ahead of recognizing who it is, however, he loses consciousness and the audience is briefly left to assume the worst.

Given the anger of Stannis, though, we can presume the incoming force hasn’t arrived to bolster his own. And so ‘Blackwater’ ends with Cersei’s intended mercy killing of Tommen (Callum Wharry) being interrupted by the arrival of her father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who is accompanied by his new ally, Sir Loras Tyrell (clad in his dead lover Renly Baratheon’s armor). Thanks to Tyrell / Lannister alliance arranged by Littlefinger, Tywin is able to ride into the throne room as he proudly proclaims the battle has been won – and that, for now, his family will keep the throne.

Despite a lack of the ongoing stories elsewhere in Westeros, Game of Thrones successfully focused on a single event and group of characters, by bringing to life the all-pervading subject of warfare that has resonated throughout this season.


Game of Thrones season finale, ‘Valar Morghulis’ will air next Sunday @9pm on HBO. Take a peek at the episode below:

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  1. best episode this season “those are brave men knocking at our door… lets go kill them” brilliant delivery by peter dinklage. don’t want this show to ever end as long as it’s the quality of these first two seasons

  2. The first sentence of this review is so true. After all the talk, exposition, and set up we finally get to SEE everything hit the fan in King’s Landing or should I say explode? Some of my favorite moments is the suspense of Ser Davos coming up on the single abandoned ship leaking wildfire just before it explodes and Tyrion telling Lancel to tell the Hound to … that exchange was just too funny! My full thoughts on this episode and why I think George R.R. Martin’s writing subverted our expectations in several scenes are on my Game of Thrones Blog.

  3. Totally agree. Best of the series IMO. Most of the episodes go in too many directions. This one was perfect.

  4. I loved how this episode focused soley on Kings Landing. Really made it awesome by not having the battle chopped up with other adventures.

  5. “They want music, we will give them music. Drums!” Haunting. The rise of that drumbeat reminded me a little of several sequences in There Will Be Blood. That episode was more than worth the wait.

  6. This was an absolutely awesome episode of a season that was meandering for a while, no doubt because the second book is meandering.
    I am of two minds about Cersei as on the one hand her single minded evil-ness is very predictable, but on the other hand the scene with her in the throne room was just fantastic.
    Concur with the above – “those are brave men knocking at our door… lets go kill them” – LEGEND!!!

  7. Sadly, I cannot share your enthusiasm for this episode as a whole. While the build up was a necessary plot device, setting the stage for an “epic battle,” one big explosion does not a battle make. It fell far below my amped expectations as the whole thing seemed to be not even as long as the opening credits to the series. I cannot suspend disbelief enough to think that a castle siege could be wrapped up in a neat little bow in under 15 minutes, while in reality, castle battles in the middle ages took months. I moreso enjoyed select scenes, rather than episode as a whole. Cersei’s drunken rant to shock Sansa, and exchange between the Hound, Tyrion, Lancel and Joffrey was priceless. I still have hopes for the season finale, they haven’t lost me yet…

    • Wow, relax. It’s a fantasy series, not a history lesson on battles. I do know your entitled to your opinion, but I kind of feel sorry for you. This was by far the most entertaining episode in the whole series so far, and by far the greatest battle in the book series so far. So if you were expecting a better battle later on, I wouldn’t have you holding in your breath. This battle, IMO, and it seems most others would agree, definitely lived up to its hype.

      • To quote Walter Sobchak: Calmer than you are.
        Listen I’m not extatic about this episode either, and for similar reasons as Dista Point amongst others.
        But please don’t feel sorry for me, because I don’t like the action.
        I’m still a fan of the show even though I find it a bit uneven at times. Too many sidestories with nothing going on at times.
        But not so in this episode. Only Kings Landing and a lot more action. Only it was way underwhelming. Sure there was a nice green explotion and then what…. the rest was a mess to me.
        The hound gives up… why? there was a guy on fire, ok he has an issue with fire.
        The Kings gives up… why? His mama told him too, ok he’s a wimp psyco lunatic….
        ALL is lost… the great batle is over….
        If only we could cut one of the legs of that guy staning at the back. Let’s do what (now that we think of it) should have been the battleplan all along, go through the secret passage and cut that guys leg of.
        only here comes some other dudes who for some reason come out thin air. and so on.
        It’s bad directing to me at least. Why? because it fails to convince me in anyway, it dosn’t make me feel anything but anoyed. anoyed that it doesn’t make sense.
        I’m sure with a lot of explanations it all fits, but when you’re watching a show there no time for such things.
        Now I’m sure you feel different and I don’t think you need to relax and I don’t feel sorry for you, I’m just of a different opinion.
        but even so… Great show

        • Although one only needs to stop reading at “extatic” to decide your post is lacking, I continued to find your logic against the logic of the show very poor.

          “The hound gives up… why? there was a guy on fire, ok he has an issue with fire. ”

          Wow, ok. Let’s start here: His little issue with fire is actually probably a HUGE issue. The first season needed a whole scene to give background of his scarred face being burnt by his brother resulting in what could be psychological damage maturing into a complex of fear. He drowns his psyche in the world of slaughter only to be shaken and found in the midst of chaos in a losing battle surrounded by fire, not just one man on fire. I really hope you can at least have an inkling of an idea as to the unsettling amount of emotion this could all bring, let alone being in the face of death.

          “The Kings gives up… why? His mama told him too, ok he’s a wimp psyco lunatic….
          ALL is lost… the great batle is over….”

          I can’t even believe this came from your brain down into your hands. I don’t think I should even start because I would not have enough space to even handle how lost you are watching this show, apparently, so this one is just self explanatory excluding you.

          “I’m sure with a lot of explanations it all fits, but when you’re watching a show there no time for such things.”

          If only this was true for anyone that has short or long term memory or perhaps is able to disperse the total effort of their mind to handle more than eye function. Character development, plot devices, depth. All of these things are so contradictory to your statement, I really don’t know what you think comprises this show. Sometimes, you can explain things yourself by connecting relevant scenes to a character and vice versa without requiring a show to spell it out for you in front of your face. This only adds to the quality of said scenes instead of equaling a detriment in directing as you think.

          • lol ya’ll cracking me up here

      • In a sense to this season, yes I would have to agree but as far as execution, I say they dropped the ball. When you think of epic battles I was thinking the majority of the episode would be within the battle but it only was about maybe 10-15 minutes worth of actual battle scenes. The rest of it was Cersei and Sansa mumbling uselessly, Joffrey being more annoying than that crying baby in a movie theatre, Bronn and the Hound talking about how they like to kill. Unless consumption of time. I love the series but it seems like compared to season 1 they dropped the ball and even more so in following the hype within the book IMO

  8. This episode was PHENOMENAL!!!! -I would have preferred episodes 9 and 10 air back to back in a 2 hour finale but that’s just me pipe dreaming.

  9. Vote !

    Stannis and the Hound in 2012

  10. “the Hound goes all Martian Manhunter”, Hilarious! Yeah, a really great episode! I’m still reading the 3rd book now.

  11. at long last – game of thrones finally delivers the spectacle – that its grandiose set up has rarely threatened to do throughout this season. The wildfire explosion was a particular highlight. Season 2 as whole has lacked such a central focus and has laboured around mostly irrelevant characters , but this episode almost made up for all of that. No it wasn’t quite the epic scale of Spartacus Vengeance but it does leave you with an excitement and anticipation for the finale next week.

    I know there is an answer to this but couldn’t Stannis asked that woman to breed so more of those black smoky creatures to help infiltrate the castle, He could’ve really done with some more of those.

    • *I know there is an answer to this but couldn’t Stannis asked that woman to breed so more of those black smoky creatures to help infiltrate the castle, He could’ve really done with some more of those.*

      That wast the whole reason Davos told him to leave Melisandre behind – if she did breed a bunch of shadow babies to invade the castle, the victory would’ve been hers, not Stannis’. And I’d think people would be less apt to be glad to have a king connected to black magic on the throne. Things like that would get out eventually.

    • It doesn’t explain it at length in the show, which was really disappointing because I had a bad feeling people who hadn’t read the books would have the exact same concern as you. “Why doesn’t Stannis and Melisandre just make a giant effin army of shadow snatch assassins?” The book explains that creating just one cost Stannis a large portion of his lifeforce, and if Melisandre were to take anymore, it would cost him his life.

  12. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH….Thyat damn Joffery still lives while Tyrion might be dying…….Who doesn’t want to see the brat put down?

    I never read the books, but I hope Tyrion lives….He’s one of the most interesting, and smartest of all of them. It’d be a damn shame if he doesn’t make it too

  13. Easily the best episode of season 2 so far.

  14. In the books Tyrion came up with a huge chain that rose out of the water to block more ships from entering & trap those within the bay. The chain stretched between two towers and all the trapped ships were burned with wildfire.

    In the books the whole battle of blackwater is just a lesson for Stannis to always listen to Melisandre. She told him not to go and he left her behind, and look at the result.

  15. This ep was amazing !!! ….well done HBO …

  16. The best episode yet! Great battle! Joffrey is an even bigger punk that usual his mother, Cersei the queen his still hot!

  17. You don’t know how much I feel like punching that face…..

  18. Weak episode, but hard to match intensity of such a great series of books. I guess my imagination is more vivid than what tv can give. Too much talk, not enough action.

  19. It was a good episode and at least some things happened. It seems that nothing has really happened all season and the season is nearly over.

    • [It seems to me that nothing has really happened all season and the season is nearly over...]

      Try reading 4000+ pages of the series over the span of nearly 20 years, and you’ll be left feeling the same.

  20. What a heart-pounding episode..can’t wait to see next!

  21. I know that it is sort of designed for it. But i’m really disappointed that it is pretty much over already. It feels like it just started. With only ten episodes and all there isn’t much to it, honestly. Even 12 episodes would have been a lot more impressive, a lot more to do. But i guess 10 is better than nothing.

  22. Best episode soo far this season. Finally there is some action again in the series in a season that seemed to drag on.

  23. Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 9 is such a big disappointment. I expected more, so much more. I expected a bloody battle outside the walls of King’s Landing, not some poorly illustrated clash of steel.

    Maybe I can’t really expect too much, because after all this is still a tv series. The battle in the book cannot compare to the episode’s poor interpretation, I can only sigh in displease. I sincerely wish that someday they’d make a movie of A Clash of Kings, something like Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. If you have read the book, you’d understand. :(

    • I agree Jason. Although Season 2 Episode 9 was good it was not great. This season really dragged. I was really excited with the pace season 1 went but it seemed that season 2 they slowed it down a bit, maybe to get more seasons in the series and in doing so they really dropped the ball this season. Yes, episode 9 showed more action than was seen all season but it seemed kind of lame.
      I also agree with the whole LOTR comparison as that’s the only film thus far that seemed to follow the book very well. Peter Jackson seems like he knows what he’s doing in that aspect and therefore produced a masterpiece. Hopefully season 3 will move at a faster pace and provide more action when the time comes rather than a thump here, an arrow there, and fire everywhere

  24. Dude how much did dish pay you for that! I think everyone needs reasonable expectations. It is a tv series & has a tv budget (albeit a bigger HBO budget). There was so much great dialogue that if they had more battle scenes, would have cut out. Dialogue is what makes HBO series successful. I am also a huge LOTR fan but even the Battle of Helms Deep was rushed & that had a movie budget!

    • Yes, it did seem a bit rushed but then again the trilogy moved at a steady pace which kept people who even read the book entertained. There were some episodes this season which felt like it was there to take up an episode. Yes, the dialogue is important but when it overshadows a big event in the book it comes off as just laziness. My expectations was with a battle this epic from the book it would last about 75% of the episode given that this is the best and most memorable one from the book IMO. As this radio talk show host said it today on his station when talking about Season 2, “this season felt like a middle aged version of the desperate housewives”. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that but this season has left me deeply disappointed.

      • its the same way in the books the second one was pretty slow…however imo the third book is the best in the series and A LOT happens… i know that is a year away but wow the third book is awesome…hopefuly the show can match it.

  25. I’m surprised by the good review of episode 9. I love Game of Thrones, but felt that the 9th episode was the most boring to date. Yes, the fighting is visceral etc., but the repetitive, drawn out scenes with Cersei in between just lull you to sleep. Typically, GoT episodes thrive on the multiple storylines developing in parallel, cutting back and forth to key moments in each story. Focusing on 1 storyline, basically, sapped that strength and led to overly long, boring moments. The setup of the wild fire took was too long, we all knew what would happen, more or less. The altercation between Bronn and the Dog did not go anywhere, unless it pays off later. By the way, after Bronn “saved” the Dog in battle, where did he go? Why was he not by Tyrrion’s side? Cersei’s potion bit also dragged on way too long, after a promising start where it was hinted that she might poison Sansa.
    I’d much rather have seen more of Rob Stark, Jon Snow, and even Danerys Targaryen, I guess.
    Hopefully, the last episode will rock once again!

  26. Does anyone know who the singer was at the end of Season 2 Ep. 9 with the credits??? His voice was amazing and I would like to see if he has any other songs.

  27. Absolutely the best show … Season 2, episode 9 was very exciting! I am in love with Peter Dinklage…can’t get enough of him… He is spectacular in every scene that he’s in. Please don’t kill him! I couldn’t stand to watch the show anymore if he were gone.

  28. My wife and I were watching and both thought we saw Stannis climb the wall do battle and was captured. Then in a latter scene he is transported back to his castle and talking to his witch women. If this is the case how the heck did he get back there so fast or was he ever leading the battle for Kings Landing? This episode had more holes in it than Swiss cheese. In fact the more we watch Game of Thrones the more issues we find with the plot and what takes place. I got to believe the book has to be better. The head of the group that attacked Winterfell can’t leave because it is surrounded by Stark soldiers. So his band of men can beat him over the head and they can leave even though they are surrounded? And the farm boys were killed and he thought they were the Stark boys even though he personally knows the Stark boys?