There was a lot of hype surrounding Sunday night’s penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, the epic battle, how much was spent to create it and how long it took to film. And…I ended up not being that impressed.
I wish there hadn’t been so much hype, because otherwise I would have been more excited and thrilled by what was before me. I don’t think this was a bad episode, but my expectations had been raised to impossible heights. But from what I’m seeing online, it looks like I may be alone in feeling this way. Anyway, let’s take it from the top, shall we?
OK, the big battle for King’s Landing. We have essentially spent all season moving towards this. The writers made a very smart decision in focusing this episode only on the battle at hand – so no Dany, Arya or Robb this week.
At King’s Landing, we had the brilliance of Tyrion along with Bronn, Joffrey (ugh, the snot-nosed kid didn’t get offed in battle, unfortunately), Cersei and Hound. Approaching we had Stannis, Davos and Melisandre – and their ships and soldiers outnumbered those of the Lannisters.
Before we dive into the actual battle, there is one thing that I really liked about it – it’s something that I’ve always liked about Game of Thrones. There was no clear ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’. Yes, I hate Joffrey and Cersei and want to see them taken down. But I like Tyrion, and didn’t want to see his head put on a spike next to theirs. And what of Stannis Baratheon? Would he be a good king? Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is that he’s under the spell of some crazy religious zealot witch lady.
At first, it was very unclear was Tyrion’s plans were. Stannis’s ships were approaching and there seemed to be no retaliation from King’s Landing. But then a lone, unmanned ship approached Stannis’s fleet and the wildfire was unleashed. Even I can admit that the uncontrollable green flames were pretty bad ass.
The wildfire didn’t exactly work, though. I mean, it did. It killed a lot of people, including Davos’s son. But there were so many soldiers, enough made it to shore to continue the attack – and the Lannister’s defense appeared to consist of throwing large stones. And what, name calling? Geez. Anyway, the battle was quite graphic and bloody, which is what one expects from Game of Thrones. Tyrion was injured by one of his own men (thanks for that, Cersei) but, it appears, was rescued by his loyal squire.
Meanwhile, Cersei was putting on her best “Real Housewives of Westeros” performance in a fortress with the other women and children. Those scenes were some of my favorites, because the tension was so high. Just how much does Cersei understand about Sansa? Has she realized that Shae is Tyrion’s lover? I also like how it created just the faintest amount of sympathy for Cersei. She’s still hateful, but her feelings about what her life would have been had she been born a boy do add an interesting layer to her character.
Cersei had been given a substance called essence of nightshade, which in varying doses could calm, put to sleep, or kill a person. I was never sure who she planned to use it on until the very end, when she nearly offed her youngest son, thinking that the battle had been lost. I thought she might use it on herself or Sansa, but she had other plans for them – should Stannis be victorious, she was going to have them both executed by the man who’d beheaded Ned Stark.
Speaking of Sansa, she’s been absolutely fantastic this season. Yet, I still can’t quite figure her out. Yes, she’s no longer the giggling teen in love with Joffrey. She hates Joffrey, and is vocal about that only to Shae. But when Hound decided it was time to get the hell out and offered to safely deliver Sansa to Winterfell, she hesitated. I don’t think she’s going to leave, and I don’t understand why. I guess he’s a bit scary, but he’s saved her life before. And Sansa’s fate in King’s Landing is dire whether Stannis or the Lannisters prevail.
I have two main problems with this episode. One was that the wildfire was probably the most exciting moment, and it occurred very early on. The other was that it became difficult to tell whose soldiers were whose, and thus difficult to know what was going on at all. Cersei sent for Joffrey to be brought to safety; Tyrion inspired the troops not by pleading to their loyalty, but by reminding them that their homes would be burned and their women raped; and then, when it looked like the Lannisters had been defeated, Tywin showed up with his army and saved the day for his family. But I felt it took so long to realize what was going on that the moment was lost.
There’s only one more episode left, and how it plays out will largely determine how I feel about this season as a whole. This battle felt big, but accomplished very little. Stannis has been defeated, yes. But the Lannisters are still in charge. And no one else was involved. This season we’ve seen a lot of different storylines chug along, rarely intersecting. With only one episode left, I have to wonder where they’re all going. If we spent all that time in Qarth, and beyond the wall, and with Robb on the battlefield, what was it for? If I don’t get some pay off in next week’s episode, if it seems to have all been to set up the pieces for the third season, I’m going to be disappointed.