Game of Thrones (Season 2, ep.9)

On this Sunday past, we came to it at last… the siege of King’s Landing! After eight episodes building up to the climactic battle, it finally got underway. And as expected, it was pretty damn epic and bloody! And more importantly, it last all episode, no breaks!

And as usual, I had some observation to make just as soon as the episode was over.

Blackwater:
The episode opens on King’s Landing just as Stannis Baratheon’s galleons begin moving up the Blackwater towards the city gates. With so many ships and troops upon them, Tyrion and his right hand man, Ser Bronn, unleash their big surprise, wildfire that sets the water ablaze! Stannis responds by ordering his men ashore at the Mud Gate where they begin to lay siege.

Meanwhile, Cersei ferries Sansa and all the women retainers into a hall where they take shelter and waits things out. True to form, she has several cups of wine and begins acting like a total bitch, telling Sansa off and wallowing in self-pity about her life. Rather than let her son do his duty and defend the gates, she has Ser Kevan take him from the battle for his own safety. And then leaves the women to their fate when Ser Kevan says that the gates have fallen.

Sansa takes up her place as morale officer, but Shae tells her to take the opportunity to run. She returns to her room to find a drunk Ser Clegane who says he’s running off, and offers to take her with him. When she refuses, he seems hellbent on raping her, but instead fades off into the night without another word.

At the gates, Tyrion takes command of the city guard when Joffrey leaves and leads them into battle. They secure the gates, only to be beset by more of Stannis’ men. Things are desperate and Tyrion is nearly killed by one of his own, a member of the Kingsgaurd in Cersei’s employ. Luckily, his squire, Podrick takes the bastard down with a spear through the head and shelters Tyrion in his arms. Good ol’ Pod!

And wouldn’t you know it, help finally comes when the Tyrells, led by Ser Loras and Tywin Lannister, show up to drive the last of the Baratheon host off. Stannis yells at his men not to retreat, but between the loss of their boats and the outflanking maneuver, the siege has been broken. Tywin arrives in the King’s Hall to announce to his daughter that the battle has been won… Cue music and roll end credits!

Good Points and Bad:
I’ll just start with the obvious stuff. The battle was pretty freaking awesome. Some might be so bold as to compare it to Lord of the Rings and say they’ve seen better, but to them I would say it takes a lot to pull of an epic battle when you don’t have hundreds of extras and a whole lot of digital effects at your disposal. And given their limited budget, I’d say they pulled it off quite well.

My only complaint about the imagery would be the wildfire scene. I’m not sure, but somehow, all that green just reminded me of industrial light and magic, aka. artificial. It was faithful to the book, mind you. In the text, George RR Martin stipulated specifically that wildfire burnt green.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something inherently alien about it, like it was something out of Green Lantern (Which I refuse to see! Ryan Reynolds, what were you thinking?).

And of course, there were some changes that deserve mention. For starters, they left out the part where Tyrion deployed his other little surprise. You see, it was originally Cersei’s idea to use wildfire, something Tyrion would not get credit for in the end because of it. But Tyrion perfected the idea by commissioning the construction of a massive chain that would be lain across the mouth of the Blackwater.

When he gave the order, the lighthouses there pulled the chain up, thus preventing Stannis’ fleet from escaping from the river. THAT was when they unleashed the hellfire, only after Stannis’ many man boats had clogged the river. It was an ingenious plan, using Stannis’ own numbers against him, hence why I was disappointed that they chose to leave it out.

But beyond that, everything was done quite faithfully. Joffrey’s own incompetence and brattyness, the desertion of Ser Clegan, Cersei’s bitchiness in the face of death, Sansa’s attempts to play the innocent fool, Tyrion’s brave stand, the betrayal… All of it was downright faithful to the original novel. And the pacing and intensity of it was really awesome to watch.

And let’s not forget Cersei’s outfit for this episode, an armored bustier. Already there’s been a lot of talk about this bit of wardrobe, and for good reason! Look at and tell me it’s not the perfect melding of medieval armor and high fashion chic!

Yes, with everything this episode had going for it, the hour just flew by and left me wanting to know how they would wrap things up next week. But of course, I didn’t want to wait when the episode was over, I wanted to know NOW! The mark of a great production if ever there was one 😉

Well, only one episode left to go, then I imagine all us GOT geeks will be in for another long wait until season 3 comes out. It’s a blessing really that Martin keeps on writing, otherwise we’d all know exactly when the show would be over. And I do wonder just how far they’ll go with the HBO adaptation. Probably until it becomes unprofitable! In the meantime, check out this video clip I stole of the big scene where wildfire meets the Blackwater:

Game of Thrones is back!

This past April 1st, fans of the Game of Thrones miniseries were treated to a real delight! For months, we had been told that season two was coming. And, praying that this was no April Fool’s joke, fans everywhere kept their fingers crossed and their feet tapping while they anxiously waited for it to come true. Seriously, I don’t think there was a fan among us who wasn’t sitting on one butt cheek the whole month of March!

Finally, the rumors were confirmed and it was no prank. After witnessing the big set-up, the death of Ned Stark, the build-up to war, and the cliffhanger ending (complimented by dragons and a nude lady!), we were finally going to see A Clash of Kings on our screens!

So, now that we’re two episodes in, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on season two. I would have offered up a review of the first episode the second it broke, but I wanted to wait until at least two episodes aired so I could see where they would be going. Now that I think I have a feel for it, here it is…

Ep.1. The North Remembers:
Well, episode one was a bit of a letdown. After months and months of waiting, and knowing what to expect, I found it both topical and rushed. Naturally, any season opener needs to introduce everything and this can weight it down a little. And knowing what to expect can also lead to the inevitable sense of “they changed this, they changed that”. But I’m quite certain my impressions were not informed by either.

For starters, the book opens with a chapter from the point of view of Stannis’ priest. His perspective informs us of the comet that has appeared in the heavens (something that got barely any dialogue in the episode) and how Stannis has taken up with Melisandre. It also introduces Sir Davos Seaworth, the “Onion Knight” who will become a central character as the story progresses. Sure, these things get some coverage in the first episode, but the real development is left to episode two.

And then there was the scene between Cersei and Lord Petyr Baelish. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall this ever happening in the novel. Granted, in the wake of Ned Stark’s execution and Joffre’s ascension, there was plenty of plotting and suspicion in the royal court. But none of it that took place between Baelish and Cersei. So really, this scene was just superfluous. The same is true of the scene where Robb confronts Jaime in his cage. Again, not in the book! Aside from recapping how they have him prisoner, I didn’t see the point in it.

But they did get two things right. First, we got to see and hear plenty from Tyrion and Cersei upon his return to court. And the scene between Sansa and Joffrey during his name-day tournament, that was quite faithful! And then there was the scene where the Night’s Watch reach Craster’s Keep and get an eyefull of his twisted little commune. All bang on, from what I recall. But as for the rest, it felt rushed and topical. Sure, they picked up where the last season let off and managed to tackle the salient points. But other that, didn’t seem like there was much development.

Ep.2. The Night Lands:
And then episode two aired, and things began to pick up. For one, they finally got into Arya’s story and provided some details on her situation. This included her companion Gendry and the fact that the Kinsgaurd were looking for him; not to mention Hot Pie, Lommy, Joaquin H’ghar and the other two criminals. There was also the faithful scene where Tyrion begins exercising his powers as the new Hand, removing Janos Slynt as Lord of the City Watch and replacing him with Bronn. The subsequent scene where he has it out with Cersei was also pretty awesome! And last, there was the highly accurate scenes depicting Theon’s return to Pyke, and the little misunderstanding between him and his sister.

As for things that didn’t quite fit or misfired… Well, there was the scene in the brothel where Baelish threatens one of his ladies, a woman who never appeared in the book but is a recurring character in the show. She is apparently mourning the loss of one of their fellow ladies, who was cut down with her child when the Kingsguard went around slaughtering Robert’s bastards. Didn’t happen in the book, so I really got the feeling that it was just jammed in for some added nudity and evil character development. You know, just in case we didn’t already know Baelish was an asshole!

And then there was the final scene where Jon witnesses what Craster does with his sons. In short, he sees him bring one out to the forest where the Others take him away. Granted, it was established in the novel that this is what Craster does with all the boys his daughters/wives bear him, but it was never shown. Neither was the part where Craster knocks Jon out after he realizes he’s seen the whole thing. This I can’t imagine will be easy to explain in episode three. Craster is a man who threatens to kill anyone who so much as touches one of his daughters/wives. How is he going to let Jon go now that he’s seen how he’s offering up sacrifices to the White Walkers?

What’s more, there’s the added issue of White Walkers now being spotted near their camp. In the novels, they themselves aren’t spotted even in Book III, preferring to let their Wights do their fighting for them. This totally throws things off, especially where the Night’s Watch and Craster’s working relationship is concerned. What is Lord Mormont going to do when he finds out, say “shame on you” to Craster, pick up and then leave? Having read well into book IV, I know for a fact that they come back his way later and stay with him again. They can’t do that if they know he’s welcoming Others into his property! This just doesn’t jive!

Good episode, inexplicable ending. Ah well, I’m sure episode three will have something in the way of explanations…

Overall, so far, so good. I can’t wait until they get into the big burly battle at King’s Landing! That is sure to be awesome, as are the various other action scenes involving (edited for spoilers). See you next time!