I wrote these rewatches on the old site a few years ago, and now I’m posting them here. These recaps naturally contain spoilers.
Episode title: Blackwater
Director: Neal Marshall
Written by: George R.R. Martin
Summary: Ser Davos, with his son Matthos, lead Stannis’s fleet into Blackwater Bay. Tyrion and Shae discuss the possibility of the Lannister defeat. Cersei is given a powerful poison by Pycelle, to be used should the city fall. Outside the Red Keep, Bronn drinks and sings with his men, but the mood is soured by the arrival of the Hound. Before they can fight, the bells ring, indicating Stannis’s fleet has been spotted.
Lord Varys brings Tyrion a map of the tunnels beneath King’s Landing, should they need to escape the city. Cersei calls for Sansa, and the two discuss the impending battle, and the need for Ser Ilyn Payne, the royal executioner, to which Cersei claims is for their protection should Stannis’s men breach the Holdfast. One ship slowly lurches toward the Baratheon fleet, confusing Davos, who is at the front of the fleet. As it passes his ship, he realizes there is no crew aboard, and sees a green fluid flowing from the back of the ship, quickly deducing the substance is wildfire. On the walls of King’s Landing, Tyrion signals Bronn to fire a flamming arrow at the ship. Bronn hits the trail of wildfire left by the ship, which causes a massive explosion, destroying many of Stannis’s ships and men, among them Ser Davos and his son Matthos.
Having been far enough back from the explosion to be unharmed, Stannis orders the men to land, and begin the assault. Tyrion orders the Hound to form a party and meet the Baratheon army at the Mud Gate. Lancel, injured during the confrontation, runs back to Maegor’s Holdfast, where he informs the Queen that Baratheon men have landed. Cersei orders Lancel to bring Joffrey back from the battlements and into the safety of the Red Keep. Lancel says this will cause morale to suffer, but Cersei does not care. Cersei also tells Sansa that she lied about Ser Ilyn’s purpose in the hold, and that he is actually there to kill them if Stannis takes the city.
The Hound continues the battle outside the Mud Gate, but loses his nerve after seeing a soldier burn alive. He retreats to behind the walls, where Joffrey orders him back to the battle, which the Hound refuses to do. Meanwhile, Stannis leads his men on the field, climbing a ladder onto the walls of King’s Landing and battling several soldiers. The Baratheon men outside the Mud Gate set up a battering ram to knock down the gate, and are met with a weakening resistance. Lancel arrives at the Mud Gate and tells Joffrey that Cersei has ordered him to return to the castle. Tyrion tries to convice Joffrey to remain on the battlements to set an example for his men, but Joffrey refuses him, and returns with Lancel.
Tyrion takes charge of the remaining men, telling them there is a tunnel which will take them around the Mud Gate and behind the Baratheon men. Lancel reports to Cersei that the battle is lost, and she departs the hold with Prince Tommen, leaving the other noble ladies alone. Sansa rallies the panicking ladies with prayer, and soon departs the hold as well. When she arrives at her chambers, she is startled by the Hound, who offers to take her north with him. Sansa, believing this is a trick by Cersei to see if she will betray Joffrey, initially refuses his offer, but her final decision remains unclear.
Tyrion, having lead his men through the tunnel, attacks the Baratheon men from behind, defeating them with ease. They stop to celebrate their victory, but soon return to fighting as a large group of Stannis’s men arrive from nearby. As Tyrion fights, he is unexpectedly attacked by Ser Mandon Moore a member of Joffrey’s Kingsguard. Tyrion is wounded, but before he can be killed, his squire, Podrick Payne, kills Ser Mandon. As Tyrion lays dying, a large Lannister army arrives to save the Mud Gate force, just as he loses consciousness. Cersei, having run to the great hall with Tommen for safety, is startled by the arrival of Ser Loras and her father, Tywin, who informs her that they have won the battle.
My take: I think this is the most thrilling episode the show has so far produced. I love the scene between Bronn and the Hound, and it gives us a chance to here former pop star Jerome Flynn sing. This is the first time we hear “The Rains of Castlemere,” one of only two songs that exist in Westeros. The parting scene between Tyrion and Bronn is great, and Sansa shaming Joffrey is brilliant. The explosion. I mean I know it’s tinted green in post-production, but think about the pyrotechnics involved. I also love the gleeful look the pyromancer gives watching it. Of course it’s hard to root for either side. We don’t like either Stannis or Joffrey, but we like Tyrion and Davos. Drunk Cersei is the best Cersei. I think this is Tyrion’s finest moment. This episode continues the tradition of the ninth episode being an important episode.
Changes from the books: In the book, Tyrion collects all of the armorers in King’s Landing and orders them all to forge one chain link each. He collects them and has them linked together under the surface of Blackwater Bay. Once the majority of Stannis’ fleet has passed the hidden chain, it is raised, creating a wall for the warships, preventing them from escaping once the wildfire has been released. The battle happens during the day. Stannis does not personally fight; he stays south of the bay in case of a defeat. Despite this, he is still adamant about not retreating. The Royal Fleet is sacrificed in the books by leading Stannis’ fleet into the Tyrion’s wildfire trap. In the series, Tyrion sends the bulk of the fleet away to safety, and only one ship filled with wildfire is let loose. The scene with Varys and Tyrion never happens. Varys has long since told him how he was made a eunuch. In the books, all the burned out hulls of the ships create an effective bridge for Stannis’ infantry to reach the beach. Cersei never obtains Essence of Nightshade from Pycelle, or anyone. She never contemplates killing herself, nor Tommen, who is even not in King’s Landing during the battle, having been sent away from the city by Cersei beforehand. Shae does not speak to Cersei or Sansa during the battle. The Hound holds a knife to Sansa’s throat after throwing her on the bed, has her sing him a song, and then leaves. It is Ser Loras Tyrell’s older brother, Ser Garlan, who wears Renly’s armor in the battle.
Nudity: Bronn plays with a prostitute, Armeca, before the battle amid other whores.
Locations on the Map: King’s Landing, Harrenhal, Pyke, Winterfell, the Wall, Qarth (although the entire episode takes place in King’s Landing)
Death Count: Too many to count. Notable ones include Matthos Seaworth, killed by wildfire, and Ser Mandon Moore, killed by Poderick
Quotes: Sandor Clegane: Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his f^cking corpse!
Tyrion Lannister: Don’t fight for a king. Don’t fight for his kingdoms. Don’t fight for honor, don’t fight for glory, don’t fight for riches, because you won’t get any. This is your city Stannis means to sack. That’s your gate he’s ramming. If he gets in it will be your house he burns. Your gold he steals, your women he’ll rapes. Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!
Sandor Clegane: Look at me! Stannis is a killer. The Lannisters are killers. Your father was a killer. Your brother is a killer. Your sons will be killers someday. The world is built by killers… so you better get used to looking at them.
Cersei Lannister: Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs.
Episode title: Valar Morghulis
Director: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Summary: After the victory in the Battle of Blackwater, Joffrey gives Tywin the title of Savior of King’s Landing and formally names him Hand of the King. For uniting the Houses of Tyrell and Lannister, the alliance which caused the victory, Littlefinger is given the Castle of Harrenhal. Margaery asks for the King’s hand in marriage, and though Joffrey insists he is bound by oath to Sansa, Cersei and Pycelle argue that the Gods will allow him to reject the oath on grounds of Ned Stark’s treason. Sansa appears elated to be rid of Joffrey, but Littlefinger warns her that she is still in danger while she is in King’s Landing. He offers to scheme to see her home safely.
Lord Varys works to undermine Littlefingers’s successes and plots to turn his associate, the prostitute Ros, against him. Meanwhile, a scarred Tyrion wakes from the injuries that he received from the attempt on his life during the battle. With the arrival of Lord Tywin, he has been removed from the position of Hand of the King and is left powerless and without allies, except for his squire, Podrick Payne. He is consoled by Shae, who remains loyal and tries to convince Tyrion to leave King’s Landing for Pentos with her. Lord Varys informs Tyrion that the Queen was behind the attempt on his life and says that he knows Tyrion to have been the true hero of the battle, even though he will receive no official credit. Despite his fall from power, Tyrion refuses to leave King’s Landing, saying that he has finally found a role he both excels at and enjoys.
In a rage over his unexpected defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, Stannis blames his Red Priestess Melisandre and attempts to strangle her. After informing Stannis that he will betray all that he has known in his quest to be King, Melisandre leads Stannis over to a burning bowl of coal and has them together observe the dancing fire. As Stannis watches the flames, he seems to be struck by divine visions from the Lord of Light.
Robb confides to his mother, Catelyn, that he is in love with Talisa and will not proceed with the arranged marriage to one of Lord Walder Frey’s daughters. Despite Catelyn’s warning that breaking his oath with Lord Frey is reckless, Robb marries Talisa in private. Meanwhile, Catelyn’s knight Brienne continues in her mission to escort the prisoner Jaime to King’s Landing, in exchange for Sansa and Arya. They happen upon the corpses of three women lynched by Stark patrolmen, who soon arrive and discover that Brienne’s prisoner is the wanted Kingslayer himself. Brienne slays them after they are discovered, avenging the three women.
Theon rejects the advice of Maester Luwin to abandon the castle and flee to the Night’s Watch, and decides to fight to the death with his men. However, during a rallying speech, Theon is knocked unconscious by Dagmer and betrayed by his own men, who drag him off. Luwin, in an attempt to save Theon, is stabbed by Dagmer. Bran Stark and his party emerge from hiding to find Winterfell sacked and Luwin dying in the Godswood, where he declares his loyalty and love for the Starks before having Osha perform a mercy killing on him, out of sight of Bran and Rickon. Bran and his group then escape the remains of Winterfell, bound for the Wall.
Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie are fleeing from Harrenhal when they run into Jaqen. He offers to take Arya with him to Braavos to train her in his abilities. Arya declines. Before departing, Jaqen hands Arya a special coin and the password “valar morghulis.” Before departing, Jaqen turns to reveal he has changed his face, an ability of the “faceless men” he mentions to Arya.
Ser Jorah escorts Dany to the House of the Undying, a stronghold where the warlock Pyat Pree has her dragons held captive. Once inside, Daenerys is struck with a vision of her entering a ruined version of the Red Keep’s Great Hall in King’s Landing. She then finds herself north of the wall, near Castle Black’s gate into the Haunted Forest. She enters a Dothraki tent where she encounters her deceased husband Khal Drogo and their stillborn son Rhaego, both apparently alive and well. Dany again leaves when she hears her dragons. She finds herself in an antechamber with her captive dragons chained to a pedestal. Pyat Pree appears and uses his magic to conjure chains and bind Daenerys with them. He explains that with the return of the dragons, magic itself has returned as well, which is why the warlocks kidnapped her dragons and intend to keep her prisoner as well. Danythen orders her dragons to breathe fire, killing Pyat Pree but leaving her unscathed. The chains then dissolve. After escaping the House of the Undying, Daenerys, with her dragons and Jorah, finds Xaro asleep in bed with Doreah, whom she now realizes had betrayed her, and takes them prisoner. Opening Xaro’s vault, they find it empty, with Xaro’s boasts of extreme wealth having been lies. Despite Xaro’s and Doreah’s pleas, Daenerys orders her followers to seal them in Xaro’s vault. Daenerys proceeds to have her horde loot as much as they can from Xaro’s house in order to buy a ship.
Qhorin provokes a fight with Jon with the apparent goal of convincing the wildlings that Jon has defected. Qhorin goads Jon into running him through by insulting the memories of his mother and of Ned Stark. After Qhorin is killed, the wildlings free a stunned Jon and introduce him to their massive wildling force, promising him a meeting with their King-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder. Meanwhile, while on duty, Sam, Grenn, and Edd overhear a three-note horn call, which they recognize as a call that signifies White Walkers have been spotted. The others flee, leaving Sam behind. He is quickly surrounded by Wights and a fearsome White Walker riding an undead horse. Apparently ignored by them, Sam watches in horror as the immense army marches onward towards the Night’s Watch encampment, shouting and screeching as the episode ends.
My take: Haven’t you always wanted to see a horse take a dump on TV? And don’t you want to smack the smug look off of Pycelle’s face? I wonder do all the women of Highgarden usually display so much cleavage? I like how Theon’s speech is a take on Henry Vbefore he’s knocked out. And then we have Robb making the mistake that will cost him everything. It is known. But how cool is it to see Drogo again? I did miss seeing the vision of Rhaegar, though, and there should have been a blue rose in the wall to symbolize the R+L=J theory. And I’m still curious why the White Walker didn’t kill Sam.
Changes from the books: In the books, Tyrion’s wound is much more gruesome. He has half of his nose and a part of his upper lip cut off by Ser Mandon, not just a gash across his face. He was also hit in the arm with an arrow, and almost lost his arm as a result. Dany receives several visions relating to her past and future. She does not meet the Undying Ones and receives no prophecies about her future in the show. Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Doreah are not locked in a vault by Dany in the books. Xaro does not betray Dany and no vault is mentioned. Doreah has long been dead, having died of a wasting sickness in the Red Waste. Dany and her people do not loot Xaro’s house. Three ships have been sent to her by Magister Illyrio to return her to Pentos.
Nudity: Ros disrobes for Varys
Locations on the Map: King’s Landing, Harrenhal, Pyke, Winterfell, the Wall, Qarth.
Death Count: Xaro and Doreah, sealed up in the vault by Dany. Phat Pree and the other warlocks incinerated by the dragons. Qhorin Halfhand, killed by Jon Snow. Maester Luwin, stabbed by Dagmer and finished off by Osha. Brienne kills three northerners who recognize Jamie.
Quotes: Tyrion: I’m a monster, as well as a dwarf. You should charge me double.
Theon: And whoever kills that f**king horn-blower will stand in bronze above the shores of Pyke!
Varys: There are many who know that without you this city faced certain defeat. The king won’t give you any honors, the histories won’t mention you, but we will not forget
Littlefinger: Look around you, we’re all liars here, and every one of us is better than you