Episode 9: Blackwater
"Blackwater" is the ninth and penultimate episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 19th overall. The episode was directed by Neil Marshall, his directorial debut for the series, and written by George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels from which the series is adapted. It first aired on May 27, 2012.
Episode 9: Blackwater
The episode centers around the Battle of Blackwater Bay, in which the Lannister army, commanded by acting Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister, defends the city of King's Landing against a naval invasion by the Baratheon army, commanded by Stannis Baratheon, who seeks to take the Iron Throne for himself. Unlike all previous episodes, "Blackwater" does not feature the storylines of characters outside of King's Landing, making it the first episode of the series to take place entirely in one location. The episode achieved a viewership of 3.38 million during its initial airing in the United States.
"Blackwater" received acclaim from critics and audiences, with many praising the acting and visual effects in particular. At the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, the episode won the awards for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Drama Series (One-Hour) and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (One Hour). It was Peter Dinklage's choice to support his nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. The episode was also the recipient of the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
"Blackwater" is the first episode of the series to take place in one location and does not feature plotlines from characters outside of King's Landing. The episode depicts the series's first large-scale war sequence: the confrontation between the Lannisters and the Baratheons towards which most of the season builds. Showrunners were concerned that adapting the full scale of the battle described in George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings would require a larger budget than the $6 million HBO approved for the episode. As a cheaper alternative, early proposals suggested the battle take place mostly offscreen, with viewers experiencing it through the eyes of Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark, receiving occasional updates from the battlefield as they sheltered in Maegor's Holdfast. However, executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were not satisfied with this idea, believing that it was important the battle be shown. Benioff and Weiss eventually convinced HBO to approve a $2 million increase in the episode's budget as well as an extra week of filming in order to stage the battle onscreen. The final product cost about $8 million to produce.
With their still-limited resources, producers decided not to stage the battle precisely as described in the novel but rather to scale it down. Producers decided to set the battle at night to make it easier to hide any production errors and to save money on special effects. Benioff and Weiss resisted pressure to stage the battle exclusively on land, which would avoid the difficulties of filming on water, because they considered the naval confrontation to be essential to the season's principal storyline. Benioff and Weiss opted to craft the battle scenes around characters familiar to the audience to keep the audience engaged while also avoiding expensive wide shots involving many extras. Benioff named Saving Private Ryan, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, El Cid, and Zulu as influences on the episode's choreography.
The episode was written by George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which the series is based. For the episode, Martin adapted material from chapters 58 to 63 (Sansa V, Davos III, Tyrion XIII, Sansa VI, Tyrion XIV, and Sansa VII) of his novel A Clash of Kings. Martin said that Benioff and Weiss gave him "the hardest episode of the season" to write, and that he was forced to weigh budget restrictions against the huge scope of the battle he described in the book.
About a week before filming was set to begin, the episode's planned director had to leave the production because of a personal emergency, and a replacement had to be found quickly. Executive producer Bernadette Caulfield suggested they hire Neil Marshall for his experience as an action director. Marshall was aware of Game of Thrones and had unsuccessfully sought a directing role during the first season. Benioff and Weiss eventually settled on Marshall because of his work on Centurion and Dog Soldiers, where he created intensive action sequences on a limited budget. Marshall was asked to direct the episode just two days before he was scheduled to appear on set. Marshall avoided watching the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as it was, according to him, "an obvious comparison"; instead, he studied films such as The Vikings and Kingdom of Heaven.
The episode contained more visual effects shots than any other episode up to that point. For the wildfire explosion, the special-effects department developed a catapult that fired bags of burning napalm, but they could not make the fire burn green, and Marshall was unsatisfied with the way it looked. The crew instead decided to color regular fire green in post-production. The final product was created by visual effects studio Pixomondo.
"Blackwater" received critical acclaim and is generally cited as one of the best episodes of the series. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 100% of 26 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 9.5/10. The website's consensus reads, "GoT delivers a thrilling tour de force in 'Blackwater', an epic hour of blockbuster television full of spectacular battle sequences and equally powerful drama." Many reviewers used superlatives: for Time's reviewer, the episode was "possibly the best hour of TV" of the year, for Rolling Stone it was "the show's best episode yet", and Entertainment Weekly described it as "arguably the best battle sequence ever produced for television", surpassing those in HBO's World War II series Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
IGN's Matt Fowler gave the episode a perfect 10 out of 10, calling it a masterpiece. Alan Sepinwall, who reviewed the episode for HitFix, called it "an epic battle, and an intimate hour" and continued "but what ultimately made Blackwater so impressive wasn't the scope, but the focus". Ed Cumming's review for The Daily Telegraph praised the episode as "an emerald inferno, as lethal as it was beautiful to watch".
Commentators praised the battle's emotional impact and epic scale. Although much reduced compared to its description in A Clash of Kings, it still went beyond anything attempted by any other regular series, according to Emily VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club. Lena Headey's performance as the increasingly cynical, drunk, and desperate Queen Regent Cersei was particularly noted. Sean Collins of Rolling Stone commented that the episode "gave actress Lena Headey her finest hour on the show so far". Writing for The Guardian, Sarah Hughes described the performances of both Headey and costar Peter Dinklage as "wonderful", going on to say of Headey's Cersei that she "displayed a terrifying strength" and that her final scene with Tommen was "gut-wrenching". The episode also received praise for its unsentimental depiction of warfare as a harrowing and costly enterprise, with VanDerWerff interpreting it as a critique of "the sorts of political systems that perpetuate it".
"Blackwater" is the ninth episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. It is the nineteenth episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 27, 2012 on HBO. It was written by George R.R. Martin and directed by Neil Marshall.
Rob Cesternino (@RobCesternino) and Josh Wigler (@roundhoward) launch their official Game of Thrones rewatch podcast, called Winter Was Here, in which they will look back on every single episode of the HBO series, week by week.
Episode nine was a grand spectacular in the truest sense. I don't mean to come over all gushing nerd-fanboy, but that's what I've become so that's what it will sound like. The whole series had been building to this episode, and the producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff wheeled out the artillery accordingly. George RR Martin himself wrote the script, and the British director Neil Marshall, who has Hollywood-budget-battle experience from Centurion, directed.
Most of all, though, I felt for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Tyrion, bleeding into the shingle, having saved the day with neither Cersei nor Joffrey nor Tywin (Charles Dance) there to see it. He won the hearts of the men, but if the series has proved nothing else it's that the word of a single dysfunctional aristocrat is worth more than the love of all the peasants in Westeros. Surely this isn't the last of the imperious Imp? George RR Martin has been cruel to us in ninth episodes before, but even he can't have done it twice in a row. Can he?
I just hope one more episode is enough to wrap it all up. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Game of Thrones could use a 12, rather than a 10-episode season. If the budget can support it without harming the quality of the episodes, that is. I want more.
Once again the inescapable phenomenon is approaching: the end of a Game of Thrones season. A lot has happened in season seven, but if promos are any indication, the next episode might just eclipse all the rest. Not to say that important things haven't happened in the final episodes of past seasons (three words: \"For the Watch\"), but the penultimate episode of every past season of Game of Thrones has always left audiences in awe, sometimes confused and usually heartbroken. Take a look.\n","id":41645627,"type":"gallery","photo_source":"Image Source: HBO","permalink":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","canonical":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","share_text":"Why the Penultimate Episode of Game of Thrones Is Always the Best","use_tall_image":false,"omit_from_countdown":false,"caption_num":false,"slide_tags":"Game Of ThronesTV","is_cover":true},"embed_html":"","share_image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/lksDkzzyD_J8pcjNVIVeR-SxsQY\/fit-in\/2048xorig\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/173\/n\/41306495\/b11d1f01bc5ee78d_season_1\/i\/Season-1-Episode-9-Baelor.gif","title":"Season 1, Episode 9: \"Baelor\"","intro_text":false,"body":"This is the episode that first showed viewers that Game of Thrones had no qualms about killing off lead characters who everyone likes. In the penultimate episode of season one, King Joffrey, in typical human-scum fashion, almost makes everyone think he's going to show Ned Stark mercy \u2014 and then sentences him to death, right in front of his daughters. \nThat's what most people remember about this episode. However, there's a lot more going on that makes this episode so interesting and sets up a lot of later action. Daenerys puts her trust in Mirri Maz Duur to heal her husband's wounds (which as we now know goes very wrong). Catelyn Stark and Walder Frey strike up their fateful deal: the Freys will join the Starks in their war against the Lannisters, in exchange for Robb marrying one of Lord Frey's daughters. Robb also wins his first major battle against the Lannisters and captures freaking Jaime Lannister himself. And then there's the minor detail that Maester Aemon at Castle Black is actually Aemon Targaryen. No big deal. \n","id":41645680,"type":"image","photo_source":"Image Source: HBO","permalink":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/photo-gallery\/41645627\/image\/41645680\/Season-1-Episode-9-Baelor","canonical":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","share_text":"Season 1, Episode 9: \"Baelor\"","use_tall_image":false,"omit_from_countdown":false,"caption_num":false,"slide_tags":"TVGame Of Thrones","embed_html":"","share_image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/Fn8bb8VRd4zlBqAFV46GJQlQflA\/fit-in\/2048xorig\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/176\/n\/41306495\/23b44b850df8e44e_season_2\/i\/Season-2-Episode-9-Blackwater.gif","title":"Season 2, Episode 9: \"Blackwater\"","intro_text":false,"body":"This episode stands out simply because of the fact that it's the first episode of Game of Thrones to focus only on one location: King's Landing, under attack by Stannis Baratheon. And this battle hit home the fact that the Lannisters are not ones to mess with, even for someone with the Lord of Light (supposedly) on their side. But \"Blackwater\" also reveals a lot about the character of the Lannisters themselves: Tyrion discovered some serious courage and leadership, we saw the depths of Joffrey's cowardice, and we saw Cersei's selfish bitterness about the limitations of being born female come to light \u2014 and it is revealed just how far she is willing to go to protect her children. \nAll that character development is still broken up by moments of serious awe and badassery. The incredibly destructive power of wildfire, the Hound getting fed up with risking his life for a king he despises (and instead offering his aid to poor Sansa), and the revelation that someone high up in King's Landing is out to get Tyrion killed. Lots of action for only one location.\n","id":41645721,"type":"image","photo_source":"Image Source: HBO","permalink":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/photo-gallery\/41645627\/image\/41645721\/Season-2-Episode-9-Blackwater","canonical":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","share_text":"Season 2, Episode 9: \"Blackwater\"","use_tall_image":false,"omit_from_countdown":false,"caption_num":false,"slide_tags":"TVGame Of Thrones","image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/tJN8g05KPBgBGKouDpP5NqZUL54\/fit-in\/1024x1024\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/177\/n\/41306495\/92f876a87f7bf4a0_season_3\/i\/Season-3-Episode-9-Rains-Castamere.jpg","share_image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/XN7Flk_8Iw9_u2-bvQE-7c_OaSk\/fit-in\/2048xorig\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/177\/n\/41306495\/92f876a87f7bf4a0_season_3\/i\/Season-3-Episode-9-Rains-Castamere.jpg","title":"Season 3 Episode 9, \"The Rains of Castamere\"","intro_text":false,"body":"At this point in Game of Thrones, everyone felt like the Starks had been through enough. And in season three it sort of seemed like things were looking up: Robb Stark meets a nice girl and is going to be a dad, and the Hound is on his way to The Twins to give Arya back to Robb and Catelyn. \nAnd then, in \"The Rains of Castamere,\" it falls apart so fast. Robb dies; his wife, Talisa, dies; their unborn baby dies; Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, dies; and then Catelyn dies after watching it all. In one fell swoop, the Starks are almost decimated, and their war against the Lannisters ends, thanks to the betrayal by the Freys and Boltons at what came to be called The Red Wedding.\nAs if that wasn't enough, the wildlings that Jon Snow had tenuously persuaded to trust him finally realize his true loyalties and turn on him. He barely escapes thanks to Bran's warging into Summer but never realizes that Bran is the one who helps him. This is also when Bran tells Osha to bring Rickon to the Umbers to stay safe. There's no way for Bran to have known it at the time, but we know now that going to the Umbers is definitely not safe for Rickon. \nThe episode tries to lighten things up by giving Daenerys another victory over the slave masters in Yunkai thanks to her soon-to-be boy-toy Daario Naharis, but come on. Like any of us were ever going to be happy again.\n\n","id":41645756,"type":"image","photo_source":"Image Source: HBO","permalink":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/photo-gallery\/41645627\/image\/41645756\/Season-3-Episode-9-Rains-Castamere","canonical":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","share_text":"Season 3 Episode 9, \"The Rains of Castamere\"","use_tall_image":false,"omit_from_countdown":false,"caption_num":false,"slide_tags":"TVGame Of Thrones","embed_html":"","share_image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/cJ00_QEBac3BFIExIW4TjbG3iCg\/fit-in\/2048xorig\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/181\/n\/41306495\/5a6219024b4af344_season_4\/i\/Season-4-Episode-9-Watchers-Wall.gif","title":"Season 4, Episode 9: \"The Watchers on the Wall\"","intro_text":false,"body":"This is another Game of Thrones episode taking places in only one location \u2014 and again focusing on one battle. It's definitely one of those episodes that had audiences holding their breath almost the entire time. \"Blackwater\" is impressive, but the battle at Castle Black in \"The Watchers on the Wall\" is wholly different. This episode shows that a battle on Game of Thrones could still be epic, even if it isn't between the well-trained armies of great houses: that scythe swinging across the Wall, the huge forest fire, and freaking GIANTS.\nBut this episode really belongs to Jon Snow. He is torn between two worlds: that of his sworn brothers in the Night's Watch (the only family he really has left) and that of the girl he loves. He loses two of his best Night's Watch buddies in the battle, not to mention the irreplaceable Ygritte herself. As if this guy isn't brooding enough.\nAnd after all of that, after Ygritte dies in his arms and the wildlings finally retreat for the night, Jon takes on the responsibility of protecting his brothers yet again by going back outside the Wall to find Mance Rayder. It's only fitting for a man who had shown time and time again how far he was willing to go to do what he believed was right \u2014 no matter what the sacrifice might be for himself. \n","id":41645805,"type":"image","photo_source":"Image Source: HBO","permalink":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/photo-gallery\/41645627\/image\/41645805\/Season-4-Episode-9-Watchers-Wall","canonical":"https:\/\/www.popsugar.com\/entertainment\/Why-Game-Thrones-Penultimate-Episodes-Best-41645627","share_text":"Season 4, Episode 9: \"The Watchers on the Wall\"","use_tall_image":false,"omit_from_countdown":false,"caption_num":false,"slide_tags":"TVGame Of Thrones","embed_html":"","share_image":"https:\/\/media1.popsugar-assets.com\/files\/thumbor\/FJtqpGOrulJPr7Cm0aktP1dMneU\/fit-in\/2048xorig\/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-\/2016\/06\/13\/183\/n\/41306495\/da3efb201e350451_season_5\/i\/Season-5-Episode-9-Dance-Dragons.gif","title":"Season 5, Episode 9: \"The Dance of Dragons\"","intro_text":false,"body":"This is a roller coaster of an episode, to be sure. \nJon Snow brings the wildlings he saves from Hardhome back to Castle Black, which makes a lot of people unhappy, especially Alliser Thorne. Arya discovers that Meryn Trant is in Braavos and practically begging to be killed on account of being a pedophile creep \u2014 except she can't kill him if she truly wants to be a Faceless Man. Jaime and Bronn are allowed to leave Dorne safely and take Myrcella home with them, though Ellaria Sand is not happy about it at all.\nAnd then Stannis burns Shireen alive. Perhaps never before had an episode of Game of Thrones managed to take a character that v