Because it’s Memorial Day and I’ve had a weekend of floating on water with lime-and-rum-laden drinks, please allow me to go blue right off the bat: Fuck the King. Oh, was I happy. The Battle of Blackwater was no Helm’s Deep (nothing can ever be Helm’s Deep-level, though. Peter Jackson, you have raised the bar too high. And hey, that was also 83 minutes of battle, so no one has the funds to get there on network tv) but this was pretty bad ass. Maybe the best battle I’ve seen on a television show ever. And better than most movie battles, come to think of it.
Scene: the dark and roiling sea at night and Stannis’ fleet moves ever closer to shore. They’re working against the tide, but the Gods favor them with a strong wind at their back—
“God,” Matthos (Davos’ super-religious son) corrects. “Not Gods, God.” There’s only one, and we’re headed for the promised land. Davos rolls his eyes because he’s heard it all before. Besides, what matters is that they all get that this is a battle and to not take it lightly.
Awesome moments in the opener: the sweet crane shot following Davos to the stern, with a shot of the black sails of Stannis’ fleet on the dark water. And the shot of the soldiers below deck puking into the chum buckets, already over-flowing and splashing at their feet. Fleurgh. Davos and his realism continue to please me greatly.
(My favorite characters tend to be the ones who know that nothing but shit is headed their way but square their shoulders and face it, regardless.)
On shore, Tyrion lies in bed with Shae, worried that he’s going to die. He’s pretty realistic, too. Shae reminds him of the first time they met in the Lannister Camp (when he arrived with Lothar and the Hill People back in Season 1) and she was told to make love to him like it was his last day on Earth. That’s what she plans on doing now, as well. Tyrion is visibly moved by her affection. (Me too.)
Cersei awaits the attack in her chamber, already into her cups, as Grand Maester Flash mumble-bores her with “it’s the duty mumble burble of eighteen forty-three, the year of the Dragon babble stammer bore,” trying to build to something. But no one cares because he’s so goddamned boring. She sends him on his way after taking a phial of nightshade. (One drop is Valium, three drops is Lunestra, and ten drops is a dirt nap.)
Bronn, the most awesome leader of the Thieves Guild (not really) leads the Goldcloaks in a drinking song—one of the Lannisters’. He begins undressing a whore (good lord she’s beautiful, and can I say once again how much it would suck to be hired to stand naked on a set all day with men?) and telling her all about his broken nose (“don’t feel sorry for it; he’ll be halfway up your arse before the night’s through!”) when The Hound and friend walk in, bringing a bad attitude with them. (He was supposed to bring finger sandwiches.)
The Hound is clearly itching for something major to happen. He’s miserable, he hates his life and his job, and there sits someone every bit as hard as him—but Bronn is having a great time of it. Clearly Bronn must die. They stare each other down, both ready for someone to blink, when they hear the bells toll. (Bronn has one hand behind his back on his dagger—from the looks of it, a pretty sweet one with a carved ivory handle, perhaps.)
Uncle Fester is with Tyrion, bemoaning his hatred of the bells. They only mean horror (Death or marriage. Which is kind of the same thing, come to think of it.). Fester asks Tyrion if the boy…Podrick, is it? If Podrick can be trusted. Tyrion throws out a “Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know every little boy in this city.”
Fester is affronted. “I’m not entirely sure what you’re suggesting.”
“I’m entirely sure that you’re entirely sure of what I’m suggesting.” Hahahaha. I love that Tyrion won’t mess around and admits that he’s playing the game. Anyway, if Tyrion trusts Podrick…
He pulls out a map of the city, but this one has all of the secret tunnels listed, oho! There’s a good 50 miles of underground passageways, complete with secret escape routes. The Targaryens planned the city well. Fester then says that while he understands Tyrion is a realist and most likely an agnostic, Fester has…seen things. Terrible things. Dark things. And to have Stannis—a user of dark arts, whose bint shat out a great pnumbric evil—to have him sit on the throne… Nothing could be worse.
More importantly, Fester believes that Tyrion is the one man who can stop this from happening. Wow, that’s a pretty huge compliment, Spider!
Back at sea, Matthos blathers on about the bells sounding a welcome to their new king, because he’s an idealistic idiot. Davos knows better and calls for the drums to sound. A dude comes up on deck and drops a funky (and fast) beat and this is the first place where I got chills. Oooh, a battle is coming!!
The drums get all of Stannis’ men ready for action, and even though it slips into some Riverdance groove, who cares. It’s about to get awesome.
Tyrion is dressed by Podrick in his armor (Dwarven, of course, with an increase to his Intelligencia) and he carries a battle ax. (I don’t think his One-Handed is high enough for him to be useful in battle, but this isn’t about me, is it?) Bronn teases him, they share bro-moments of “Well, I might die; I liked being your friend,” when Tyrion sees Sansa and Shae in the throne room. He bids them both to be safe and gives his farewell.
King Weaselteat comes out in full swagger, wanting Sansa to kiss his blade. He’s too stupid to make it a double entendre. (I bet Robert Baratheon would have managed it. Further proof Joffrey isn’t a Baratheon.) Raise your hand if you thought that when Sansa kissed his sword (again, literally a sword) he was going to cut her mouth open. Just me?
Sansa, though, is pretty bad ass with her smarts and says that surely Joffrey will be out fighting with the Vanguard. Um, huh? Or rather, er… Wait a tic. Joffrey isn’t going to talk battle plans with girls who are so stupid (even though she clearly knows what she’s talking about).
She simpers that yes, she is stupid. Of course Joffrey will be fighting with the Vanguard because he’s so very brave and wonderful, and even her pretender to the throne brother Robb fights with the Vanguard. Well played, m’lady. Joffrey is pissed that she stumped him, threatens her brother’s life once again, and I’m sorry, Weaselteat—I just don’t think you can best Robb Stark.
As he pissy-stomps off, Shae comments on how many of the men will not be coming back. Sansa sighs, and says that Joffrey will. “The worst ones always live.” She’s not wrong.
The guards and troops prepare for battle at the wall as families flee and scream down below. Joffrey is starting to visibly freak out; Lancel, however, is steadfast at his side. Well, at least one of the Lannisters is brave. (Barring Tyrion, who is my favorite Lannister, with Tywin a close second.) Tyrion gets to the wall and mentally prepares himself for what’s to come.
Because Joffrey missed all of the strategy meetings, he has no idea what’s going on, doesn’t understand where their fleet is (the water below is empty of ships) and gets upset, ordering Tyrion to fix everything or be cut in half.
“That would make me the quarter man, and that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.” Look, Tyrion is the man with the signal and the plan, so how about you and your pinched face just hang back, hmm?
Davos is also concerned to not see any ships, and Matthos—filled with Jesus-lust, err. Lord of Light-Lust—assumes the sailors have mutinied against Joffrey. Or they’ve managed to surprise them? Something, it’s just always good for Stannis because LOL (Lord of Light) wants Stannis for a Sunbeam, and it’s all going to be great, huzzah! (Matthos is a bit of a dummy. Idealistic types usually are in these situations.)
Davos shakes his head. Varys (Fester) knows what Matthos had for breakfast three days ago; there’s no such thing as a surprise in King’s Landing. (Oh, yes there is, Davos. Except it’s for you.)
Sansa and Shae head down to the hidey hole for noble women and children with Cersei, who is getting close to the “I love you, man!” stage of being drunk. Except she’s a mean drunk. A guard comes in and tells Cersei that some people tried to flee with a stolen horse, and she orders their heads pike’d at the gates as a reminder. It’s always work, work, work, right? Can’t she just unwind and get shnockered before having to deal with all of the impending doom and gloom?
She asks Sansa if Aunt Flo is still there, explains that Ser Ilyn (the guy who killed Ned Stark) is there with the women for…protection, and orders more wine. She explains to Sansa that a leader’s job is to make their people fear them more than any attacking enemy—that’s the key to loyalty. And so begins the training of how to be a Queen, Cersei-style.
Tyrion calls for the archers to nock and stand fast as Stannis’ ships draw near. Joffrey is trying to not piss himself and understands nothing, for he is Weaselteat and I hate him. (Love to hate him, understand. I don’t want the character gone.) One of the Imperial ships Ghost Rides up to Stannis and his fleet. Davos calls for his archers at the ready, but when he sees no one is on the ship becomes confused (you can see the helm has been tied fast).
As the ship draws closer, we catch sight of green liquid spilling out of the back, all Exxon Valdez-style. Now that’s just environmentally dangerous to leak–
“WILDFIRE!” Davos shouts, ordering them to steer clear of it.
Tyrion gives the signal with his torch. Bronn, on the other side of a cliff? A wall? Doesn’t matter, Bronn pulls out a Monster Bow, draws his flamed arrow and shoots a gorgeous freaking arc as everyone—everyone—watches it slowly fall to the green liquid behind the one ship. Davos yells for his son to duck, but NOPE. This is the closest thing to nuclear power in Westeros and the ignited liquid races across the water to the empty ship—filled with the explosive—and Holy Mary mother of Dog, an almighty explosion absolutely fractures everything around it, blowing the ships to smithereens.
Flaming smithereens. With flaming men added to the mix. It’s a domino effect spreading the circle of destruction as men and bits of ship go flying, igniting everything in its path. (And yet some guy is beaned by a falling sail weight. Didn’t even get to be killed by wildfire, how pitiful.)
Joffrey starts to giggle because he is the worst. Tyrion looks on in horror, hearing the men screaming on the water.
Perfect time to finish them off with the archers, right! Guys? Hey, Tyrion? Call the archers to—no? Okay, then.
Stannis orders the men who weren’t killed by the blast to make land. But…the wildfire? Nope, Stanni is pretty sure that’s the one trick Tyrion had up his sleeve, so now it’s just good old Melee and Hand-to-Hand combat. (But Davos was blasted into the water, how can he fight Tyrion? Oh, I’m taking that too literally.) One of Stannis’ men stammers that hundreds of men will die.
“Thousands,” is Stannis’ dry response. He’s a dick, but fuck if he’s not a ruthless and good leader. “Come with me and take this city!” he cries to the men, and they all climb overboard to the row boats.
Cersei is really drunk now, but she’s still able to bitch out Sansa. She mocks Sansa for praying because it’s not like the gods actually care about mortals. “The gods have no mercy; that’s why they’re gods.” She’s just pissed about being cooped up. It’s not fair that she had to be a lady, which for Cersei means being taught to be fucked for the Family’s Success. (I think she would really love Arya. Or to be like Arya. No, she’d kill Arya without blinking. But out of jealousy.)
She’s super fun with Sansa, explaining how everyone should get prepared for a bit of rape come morning! See, that’s how it works. She’ll try to yield to Stannis, but she sure can’t use her greatest weapon—the lioness between her legs—because Stannis is frigid. Unless you’re a fire crotch mage. Bet Sansa is happy she’s on the rag right about now—at least she won’t come away with a rape baby! (Man, Cersei is just bitter. Then again, if I were in her position, I would be, too.)
Stannis’ men are in row boats pushing hard to make land. Back at the wall, Tyrion orders the men to “rain fire” down on Stannis’ men once they do make land, and sends The Hound to get the men at the King’s Gate to “greet them.” Joffrey is a total titty baby (except for how Robyn Aryn was pretty fucking ruthless for a breastfeeding seven-year-old) and freaks out.
Stannis is first to make land. Damn, son! I want to hate Stannis, and I do, but the guy knows how to freaking lead men into battle, doesn’t he? He calls for the first and second squads to go to the mud gate (and this should be a clue that he has a shit-ton of men. There are multiple squadrons.) The Hound meets them in battle and this guy has mad Master Training in Two-Hand, because his Greatsword is literally cutting people in two. Blood and guts go spilling as he cleaves men in twain. I mean, every strike is a critical strike.
Lancel is there, too, and I have to say that this guy is at least not a chicken. He’s got a lot of Lannister in him (not as much as Cersei has at a Family Gathering, hey-o! She fucks her family, that’s what I’m getting at) and he even takes an arrow to the chest and doesn’t let it drop him. Good job, Lancel! He takes off. Oh, come on. I just said you weren’t a chicken.
Cersei is at the drunken storytelling of past lovers portion of the night, telling Sansa about how close she and Jamie were as children. Um, we all know, Cersei. Except it’s not that, it’s how he was taught to fight and she was taught to fuck. (Same thing, really.) She was sold to Robert for him to “ride like a horse.” Bitter, bitter woman. Again, I would be, too.
She notices that Shae is someone new, and she’s not that drunk to not have her Spidey-senses tingle. Hmm, Shae can’t curtsey, either. What’s your story, chick? Shae freaks a little but tries to be calm. Just as she starts to tell her story, Lancel bursts in, telling Cersei that Stannis’ fleet is destroyed. Oh, and yet he still managed to make it to shore. Cersei orders him to bring Joffrey back to his chambers because she is who made him a Weaselteat. Lancel is offended by that, because a king shouldn’t flee battle! Uh, he does if the king is Joffrey, now do as your Queen commands. (I love that he’s actually honorable as far as being a knight is concerned.)
Perfect time for Cersei to tell Sansa that oopsie! She lied about Ser Ilyn being there to protect the women. Well, he will, but by killing them all if Stannis comes into the chamber. Stannis won’t be taking them alive. Now drink up, girls, whee! Who’s up for a mani-pedi while we wait?
The Hound is still slicing and dicing when a burning man runs to him, wielding a battle ax. The Hound has a serious case of PTSD from all of the fire, and can’t move. Fortunately Bronn arrows the burning dude’s face, killing him. Bronn’s all smiles and “See? We can be friends!” to the Hound, but the Hound has left the building. Mentally. (And Bronn…damn I love that guy! He’s just a bad ass.)
The Hound—remembering his shit of a brother and the whole face-burning thing—is beyond reason at this point. Or maybe he’s actually becoming reasonable? I think the latter. He leads his men back behind the wall.
Stannis orders a ladder up against the city wall and is the first to climb it. The guy stands behind his orders, gotta respect that. But why don’t the people on top of the wall anticipate this? Get a pole/shoving-stick and have people shove the fucking ladder over. Problem solved. I’m just saying, it’s always going to be a problem in this type of warfare, anticipate it. Stannis gets up and over and the men there fight him ninja style—one at a time.
WHY AREN’T THEY ALL GROUPING TOGETHER AND FIGHTING STANNIS?
Ugh. Yeah, yeah, fear and stuff, but come on! It’s the leader of the other team, go after him in a defensive strike! (They need football in Westeros. They’d know to sack the quarterback.)
The Hound calls for wine and Tyrion sarcastically asks if he’d like some ice milk and raspberries? Maybe a nap and a bit of a snuggle? Get your ass back over the wall and kick Stannis’ men to the deepest circle of hell! You’re kingsguard, Hound!
And the greatest thing ever said in King Weaselteat’s presence comes out of Sandor Clegane’s mouth. He tells Tyrion and Joffrey, “Fuck the Kingsguard. Fuck the city. And fuck the King.” Screw you guys, I’m going home.
Stannis had some sweet ships manufactured with high posts on either side, enabling them to be flipped over as protection for the men manning the battering ram. The poles are high enough to make a space for the men to stand without the weight of the ship on their shoulders. Really clever, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before! The battering ram starts in on the Mud Gate, the known weak spot.
Lancel shows back up at the wall, saying how Cersei wants Joffrey to run and hide. Joffrey thinks that’s a swell idea, but Tyrion says that if he won’t fight for his city, why the hell should his people? Excellent point.
“What would you have me do?” he whines.
“LEAD!” Tyrion replies.
Yeah, that’s not going to happen. He’s pretty sure his mother had some important business with him. Joffrey tells his Kingsguard to stand in his stead and weasels out of leadership yet again. What a dick. And his men see him slither away. Good job on morale boosting, dummy! So they all lose the will to fight and things are swiftly falling apart. Tyrion man’s the fuck up and says he’ll lead the attack, but no one listens to him at first.
“They say I’m half a man, so what does that make you?” he chides the crowd.
They know the only way out is blocked by Stannis’ men, so they’re cool with cowering behind the walls, thanks.
“There’s another way!” They can sneak around and “fuck them in their asses,” which cheers up the King’s Landing soldiers. Tyrion then rallies them by saying not to fight for him, for Joffrey, or any ideal. Fight because Stannis is going to burn their houses and their city, take their gold and cows, and rape their women. That does it! They’re ready to follow.
Lancel, who has been busy escorting his lame-ass cousin to his hidey hole, doesn’t know any of this and reports back to Cersei that the city has fallen. Joffrey needs to go back out and fight. He tries to reason with Cersei, but she arrow-wound-punches him, and he falls to the ground, gasping in pain. She leads her youngest son out of there, leaving the ladies to their beheading-or-raped fate.
Sansa steps up and tells all of the people in the chamber that Joffrey will still save them all (ha, riiiiight) and maybe they could sing some hymns? “Joffrey take the wheel….” Shae tells her to go to her chambers and bar the door. She’s not leaving yet, because she has to find “someone,” and shows Sansa her hidden dagger. “No one is raping me.” I love you, Shae.
Sansa races to her chamber and encounters the Hound. Huh?! He says he’s leaving for someplace that isn’t burning. The north, probably, and he would be happy to take her to Winterfell. OKAY, she says, and they go off to have merry adventures on the road. No, she says she’s staying (which is actually smart, because she is going to face Stannis and not be on the run, possibly endangering her family further) and asks him why he’s not helping the king.
“He can die just fine on his own.” Ha!
Sansa argues that Stannis won’t hurt her, which the Hound quickly explains that yes he will, he’s a killer. Like him, like Ned, like Robb. And to look him in the face so she can get used to seeing men that kill—they’re all around her, making the world what it is. She looks at him and is no longer afraid. He’s the Beast, and she’s Belle, and gosh, he’s just gruff because he’s scared! Tale as old as time… song as old as rhyme!
“You won’t hurt me,” she realizes.
“No, little bird, I won’t hurt you.” But he will leave, and does.
Stannis and his men are at the wall still trying to sack the city (and doing a fine job of it, it seems) when some ornate armor about waist high shows up with an ax and de-legs the captain of Stannis’ troops. TYRION! He just leveled up his One Handed with that sweet blow! A bloody and quick battle ensues with the men of King’s Landing and the “remaining” forces of Stannis.
Tyrion’s a good leader, they quickly end the skirmish, and all of the King’s Landing men start cheering, “Halfman! Halfman!” After about a nanosecond of relief, Tyrion turns to the right, has removed his helmet (never take off your fucking helmet in battle, guys. That’s the quickest way to get a shot in the brain-meat.) and mutters, “Oh, fuck me.”
A HOARDE runs at them—the remaining squadrons of Stannis. Good god. Quick cut to Stannis on the battlement, cutting people in half with his magical Valyrian steel sword (Light-bringer?) and it looks pretty certain how this is going to turn out.
Tyrion is about to be killed when someone tackles the guy and leaves him there with one of the kingsguard. Whew! Except the kingsguard pulls his greatsword and slices at Tyrion’s face, cutting his cheek and forehead open, the hell? But Podrick saves the day by spearing the guy through the chesticles. Either Joffrey or Cersei (I bet Cersei) planned for Tyrion to not survive the battle, because they are idiots. He’s the best Hand they’ve had in ages! Tyrion falls to the ground, slowly losing consciousness as he bleeds out.
Cersei huddles with her son on the Iron Throne and tells him the Westeros version of The Lion King and how everyone will bow to him. Outside at the battle, a new group arrives on horseback, led by someone on a white horse with freaking stag horns on their helmet—more Stannis troops? No, can’t be, because they’re fighting Stannis’ men. WHAT IS HAPPENING.
The shots of the Throne Room door as Cersei tells the story are super tense. They close in on her uncorking the phial of nightshade, ready to poison her son (and presumably herself). Stannis is being dragged away by his men, who is shouting for his own to stand and fight these new troops. But the new troops are laying waste to every Baratheon-supporter in their path.
The door to the Throne Room bursts open and the white horse rider pulls off his helmet. LORAS! Renly’s lover! The Tyrells came to the rescue? NO! Tywin mother trucking Lannister strides in—he’s made a deal with them! He looks like a god damn king as he walks in and tells Cersei “The battle is over. We have won.” Cersei drops the phial, which shatters to the floor, crying in gratitude.
CUT TO BLACK, holy shit my adrenaline is still pumping.
(Um, Tyrion is my favorite though. Is he going to get credit for being AWESOME and winning this thing? Wait, don’t tell me. Just know I’m gunning for that.)
Next week! Last episode! It’s going to take a lot to top a naked Daenerys with newly hatched dragons on her shoulder. I think they’re going to do it, though, if this episode is any indication.
Ze End of Ze Season! Ep. 10: VALAR MORGHULIS