40 Days. 40 Episodes. Game of Thrones, S2E9, “Blackwater”

Oh man, in my crazy, long, Game of Thrones, recapping project, I’ve made it to the “Ned’s Head” of Season 2: “Blackwater.” I remember this was such a thrilling episode to watch at the time. And the season closer was so quiet after it.

This episode is super dark. It starts at night with Stannis’s fleet sailing into King’s Landing. His soldiers are puking. Davos’s son is typically convinced of Stannis’s royalty and their victory. Davos is a realist.

Inside, Tyrion lies in bed with Shae. Neither sleeps. Tyrion explains that Stannis will burn every Lannister should he succeed. Shae tells him it’s her war now. Pycelle brings Cersei essence of nightshade–a suicide potion. In the cantina, Bronn sings “Rains of Castamere” with the Lannister soldiers while he undresses a prostitute. The Hound comes in to act all serious-like. Bronn tries to be friendly but the Hound wants to contradict him. There’s one of them in every bar. The Hound, for some reason, wants to kill Bronn right now. But the bells ring. Which I guess is how they kick off a war.

Varys too hates the bells as he says a second later. Podrick is dressing Tyrion in his armor and Varys shows them the map he’s asked for. It shows all the tunnels below the city. They were built by the Targaryens to protect the city from siege and provide escape. Nice of someone to show up with it the day of the battle. Varys also tells Tyrion about Stannis and the Red Woman. It’s an intriguing peek into the magical elements of the universe. Late maps and spooky talk aside, Varys does seem confident that Tyrion can stop Stannis. I hope there’s a Tyrion/Varys spin-off sitcom.

Davos orders the drums to start playing on the ships. It’s a little Titanic of them, I think.

Tyrion and Bronn discuss The Plan and say nice things to each other. Joffrey has ordered Sansa to see him off to war. Joffrey asks Sansa to kiss his new sword which he has named “Hearteater” which is…cute. It would have been so awesome if she’d pushed Joffrey to his death several episodes ago and skipped us ahead.

Joffrey is perturbed that Tyrion hasn’t shared his battle plans. So he’s being snippy. Someone walks by with a torch and the Hound pulls away. Foreshadowing.

In Maegor’s Holdfast, the royal women and children are hiding from the battle. Cersei talks to Sansa about her period which is so inapprops. Ser Ilyn is in the room with them. To “protect” them Cersei says but, of course, it’s to kill them, if necessary.

On the battlements, Tyrion gives the orders and Joffrey just gets all whiny. There’s only one ship! Where are the rest of them? Stannis’s army is confused as well. Why is there only one ship? And it’s empty. And what’s that green stuff leaking from it? This is such a great scene as Davos discovers what is happening and Tyrion gives the signal to Bronn who shoots the flaming arrow to set the water on fire.

It’s such an impressive decimation of the army before the battle even starts but it is choked on the show by the absence of Tyrion’s other innovention–the underwater chains which have trapped Stannis’s fleet in the bay.

Stannis, in his typical idiocy, just orders the siege to proceed despite his losses and the archers on the walls just waiting for them.

Cersei, meanwhile, is drunk and bothering Sansa who has been praying. Cersei also takes the opportunity to insult Sansa’s religion and force her to drink wine. Sansa acts more of a queen than Cersei does (natch). Sansa also discovers that Cersei has an exit strategy. At least one of them: to go to Stannis and plead for mercy. Cersei imparts some other inappropriate advice about vaginas and then describes how all those women will be raped if the siege succeeds.

On the wall, Joffrey, who was obviously hoping that the Wildfire had ended the siege gets terrified of the army approaching him. The Lannisters nock their bows and let loose a rain of flaming arrows on Stannis. The scene cuts back and forth to the flood of soldiers and the hail of arrows. It’s tense. It’s a huge battle that should satisfy the hardest-core fans, the Helm’s Deep of GOT. But still, you know, it’s not the book…

Cersei spots Shae and begins questioning her. Cersei is really good at figuring out who the prostitutes are. Just then…!

Ser Lancel who has been hit with an arrow, bangs open the door, and runs to Cersei to give her the news of the battle. Cersei tells Lancel to bring Joffrey back to the castle. Then Cersei tells Sansa the true reason why Ser Ilyn in with them: to kill them all should Stannis take the castle.

In the battle, The Hound sees too many burning men and just checks out. He walks back behind the wall and Tyrion starts yelling at him. Then Joffrey orders him to fight. The Hound announces his new code: “Fuck the King’s Guard. Fuck the City. Fuck the King.” Ballsy. He leaves.

Stannis’s army is tenacious but stupid. They keep pressing on even though they’re getting obliviated. Lancel shows up to take Joffrey back to Cersei. Tyrion explains how bad that will look. Still. Baby goes to mommy. It kinda looks like the Lannisters are losing. But then Tyrion announces he’ll lead the attack. And he gives the most bad-ass speech. “Don’t fight for your king!” Then he leads his army through the tunnels to emerge behind Stannis.

Lancel is giving terrible news to Cersei telling her that the battle is lost. Cersei just wants to know where Joffrey is. She storms off. Sansa jumps in and comforts the women by leading them in a hymn. Shae tells Sansa to run. Sansa gets to her chambers to pack and finds…The Hound. He generously (though terrifyingly) offers to take her with him when he leaves. But she says she’ll be safe. Stannis won’t hurt her. With that, he goes.

Outside, Stannis’s army keeps banging at the front door while Tyrion’s army appears behind them and has a huge fight. In the middle of it, Tyrion gets slashed across his face. As things look darkest, Cersei begins telling Tommen about all the scary things in the world. She’s opening the poison as she speaks. Outside, Tywin’s army rides in and crushes the Baratheons against the walls of the city. Before Cersei serves Tommen the poison, Tywin appears in the hall.

Stannis’s men drag him away.