Finally, after eighteen episodes of people talking about battles, preparing for battles, or having major battles happen offscreen, Game of Thrones shows us an enormous battle in its entirety. Stannis’s fleet has arrived at King’s Landing, and all other storylines are dropped for the moment because stuff. Is. Going. Down!
First thing's first: HOLY CRAP THAT WAS AWESOME!
Comparisons to the siege of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings can’t be helped, and at first glance I’m not sure I can say which battle was better. They both shared rousing speeches, surprise explosions, sneak attacks, cuts to the women and children in hiding, and then a tide-turning sudden arrival of new forces at the end. Helm’s Deep certainly looked bigger, as the film’s larger budget allowed for hundreds more actual combatants, not to mention its MASSIVE-generated background hordes. But last night’s Battle of Blackwater may have had more going for it character-wise, with more people—on both sides of the fight—with different motivations for being there and different reactions to what was going on. Not to mention how much gorier things were at Blackwater: arms, legs, and heads were all getting chopped off, sliced in half, set on fire, and crushed by falling bricks. The two sieges serve as a great comparison overall for the differences between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. Things are a lot messier in Westeros, and there are no clear “good guys” and “bad guys.”
Except maybe for Good King Joffrey, who, for all his big talk about putting a red smile on Stannis’s face, has no idea what to do when the fighting starts and is more than happy to abandon his troops and hide the moment his mother says it’s okay. It’s up to Tyrion to lead the Lannister forces, and once again the right man for the job is the Half-Man. He’s figured out the best way to make use of all the pyromancers’ Wildfire without any risk of setting the city itself on fire, by loading the whole lot of it onto one boat and sending it out to meet Stannis’s fleet. One GIANT green explosion later, and Stannis is down half his ships. Hopefully Ser Davos survived; he was pretty much the only cool guy on that side. I’m going to guess he made it, because of that old rule again—if a character is really dead, you’ll see it actually happen.
The Hound’s story arc took a major turn. The biggest and baddest dude at King’s Landing spoke a great deal about his love of killing, and when the fighting began he more than demonstrated it. Seriously, he was CHOPPING GUYS IN HALF LIKE IT AIN’T NO THING. But then he had enough of it, went back inside to where that little psycho Joffrey was NOT taking part, and told him straight up, “F-- the Kingsguard, f-- King’s Landing, and f-- the King.” And with that, he finds Sansa, who had been on the receiving end of another one of Cersei’s excellent demotivational speeches, and the two of them make tracks for Winterfell.
With the Hound gone, Joffrey not even pretending to lead his men anymore, and Stannis’s forces battering down the gate, the Lannister soldiers are just about ready to give up hope. Lancel, who was ready to call it a day after taking one arrow to the armor, goes down to report to Cersei that they’re all screwed. But Tyrion, all three feet of him, rallies the troops by appealing not to any sense of patriotism or higher duty, but to the simple fact that it’ll be their homes that get burned and their women that get raped if Stannis wins. And then he puts on a helmet, picks up an axe, and leads the men out through the secret tunnels Varys had told him about to attack Team Stannis from the rear. It’s a risky move, and Tyrion comes pretty close to losing his head for it, but is saved by his trusty squire Podrik and walks away with just a slash across the face that will look completely badass when it heals into a scar. And that’s when a whole other horde of troops arrives, identity and affiliation unknown.
Cersei, meanwhile, has gone to the throne room with her youngest, non-psycho son Tommen, and is just about ready to poison the boy in order to save him from a far more brutal death. Then the door breaks down and we learn who the new troops were—it’s her old dad, Lord Tywin, along with his new ally Ser Loras Tyrell. Loras’s appearance was a nice twist: While we never saw any negotiations between the Lannisters and the Tyrells happen, it made perfect sense that Loras would ally himself with whoever would give him the chance to kill Stannis and get his revenge for Renly’s death. And it was fun seeing Tywin pull pretty much the same trick Robb pulled on him last season, creating the impression that he was going north to fight the Starks, but instead marching south to reinforce King’s Landing.
And with that, the battle’s over, the Lannisters have won, and we’ve got one episode left. Next week we deal with the aftermath, along with, oh, every other dangling storyline from this season! Betcha Daenerys still wants her dragons back.