Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9, Game of Thrones)

1 Blackwater

The Lannisters: The most interesting family in Westeros

With the arrival of the fleet and army of Stannis Baratheon imminent, the main characters at King’s Landing are preparing for the battle. For Tyrion Lannister and Joffrey Baratheon, it means fighting (or not). For Sansa Stark and Cersei Lannister it means waiting.

There is beautiful pacing in the direction of this episode. With days and weeks of anticipating Stannis, there is almost a sense of relief that the waiting is over and now it is time for action. But there is still time for the sober consideration that Tyrion’s forces are greatly outnumbered and what the deadly consequences of defeat will be.

Cersei, Interrupted

Cersei begins he day with a visit to Grand Maester Pycelle. She has asked him to deliver a supply of essence of nightshade. Pycelle describes what the various doses will bring. Wanting to counsel her, Cersei quickly dismisses him, keeping her plans for the formula secret.

The next time we see Cersei she is in Maegor’s holdfast with the other highborn ladies. Cersei promptly gets her drink on, and passes the time alternating between doing her best to terrify Sansa and bemoaning the limitations that have been placed on her because she is a woman.

As she rambles and shares with Sansa, we learn that she lost her mother at the age of four and that Tywin mocked her for praying for her mother. She nastily elaborates on what happens to women when a city is sacked, and that Sansa “is a slice of cake just waiting to be eaten.”

Cersei compares her upbringing, clearly envious that Jaime was being groomed to do great things and be heir to Casterly Rock while she “was sold to some stranger like a horse to be ridden whenever he desired.”

Cersei is bitter and stunted. The more wine she imbibes, the more bile flows. She wanted more, she wanted to be like Jaime (and in this way, she is like Arya). She wanted to use her mind; she wanted to be powerful, and confesses that she would rather face a thousand swords than to have to perform these passive queenly duties. In contrast, Sansa aspired to the very things that Cersei feel so stifled by. She enjoyed her grooming and feminine duties. She is still a romantic about the position if not the specific circumstances and Joffrey.

Tyrion prepares to defend King’s Landing

Tyrion wakes and shares his fears with Shae. In spite of always being dismissed by his father, Tyrion has brilliantly performed in his new duties as Hand of the King. While Bronn and the soldiers are enjoying wine, women, and song (The Rains of Castamere) as they await battle, Podrick is performing his squire duties assisting Tyrion in putting on his armor. Lord Varys is there, offering his thoughts, words of encouragement and a map detailing all the tunnels out of King’s Landing.

While the exchanges between Tyrion and Joffrey are my favorites, a close second is the banter between Tyrion and Varys.

On the battlements, Tyrion watches as the ships of Stannis come into view, along with Joffrey, Lancel, and The Hound. Joffrey is alarmed that only one ship is headed to meet the enemy fleet. But Tyrion has devised a plan that placed the wildfire in the ship, letting it leak out into the waters around Stannis’s ships. On his order, Bronn releases a fire arrow that ignites the wildfire, which wipes out a significant number of the fleet – but the numbers are still in Stannis’s favor as the remaining.

As Stannis’s troops storm the walls, the meager Lannister forces regroup within. An incredulous Lancel is ordered by Cersei to find Joffrey and bring him back to the Red Keep. Joffrey is only too willing to leave, giving the laughable reason of his mother having urgent business for him (what could be more urgent than Stannis taking the city challenges the imagination).

3 BlackwaterAnd so, Tyrion is left to lead.

Like Cersei, failing to be born a perfect male like Jaime, Tyrion has always been marginalized and disappointing to his father. But whether it’s the cisterns of Casterly Rock, or leading the vanguard with the Hill Tribes against the Stark troops, as Hand of the King, and now as Commander of the troops – Tyrion rises to the occasion. Like Tywin, he proves himself to be both a strategist and a warrior.

Tywin Lannister, super patriarch

When Cersei hears that the battle is lost, she takes Tommen to the Iron Throne. We see what her plans are for the essence of nightshade. Shae takes advantage of Cersei’s departure to send Sansa back to her quarters, reasoning that she has a better chance of survival with Stannis than with Ilyn Payne.

Tywin’s entrance is befitting of the larger than life presence he is: at the forefront of the troops, atop a white horse, towering, sword waving and cutting down men as he makes his way to King’s Landing.

He enters the throne room and announces simply: The battle is over. We have won.

Joffrey has Sansa kiss Hearteater

Joffrey has Sansa kiss Hearteater

Sansa and The Hound

In this episode, The Hound goes rogue. He resigns from his duty guarding the king. It is not due to the horrors of battle, he has said on a couple of occasions that he enjoys killing, but rather the fire that is so prevalent in this battle.

He bears the scars on his face from where he brother held him to the flames. The wildfire and the flaming arrows are what rattles him: while killing by sword is enjoyable, watching a man burn to death is too much.

Before making his escape, he offers to take Sansa north to Winterfell. If you pay close attention, you’ll see the doll, the age-inappropriate gift that Ned gave to her shortly before he fate was sealed.

Sigil Notes:

  • “I’m a Lannister. I don’t have a choice in all this.” Tyrion Lannister
  • “I’m entirely sure you’re entirely sure what I’m suggesting.” Tyrion Lannister
  • “Always been a great romantic my nephew…” Tyrion Lannister
  • “The worst ones always live.” Sansa Stark
  • “No plan and Stannis Bartheon sacks this city and takes the Iron Throne and puts your pinched little head atop a gate somewhere.” Tyrion Lannister
  • “Lord Varys knows what you had for breakfast three days ago. There are no surprises here.” Davos Seaworth
  • “Maybe she hates you less than she hates everyone else.” Shae
  • “The gods have no mercy. That’s why they’re gods.” Cersei Lannister
  • “The dwarf has played his little trick. He can only play it once.” Stannis Baratheon
  • “If any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his fucking corpse.” The Hound

Further Reading:

AV Club:,75345/

Watch along with me: Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season