Game of Thrones – Young and Wildfire and Free

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.

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About Jill

Pop culture junkie and TV aficionado. I write sharp and snarky TV recaps at www.couchtimewithjill.com
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7 Responses to Game of Thrones – Young and Wildfire and Free

  1. I liked what they did with the Battle of Blackwater, including keeping the entire episode focused on the battle (which makes sense, since George RR Martin, who did the screenplay for this episode, did the same thing in the book). But overall, I think the whole thing worked really well. With respect to it being hard to follow: my only complaint is that the actors playing Loras Tyrell and Lancel Lannister look too similar: similar faces, exact same hair. When Tywin came marching triumphantly to Cersei in the throne room at the end, accompanied by Loras, I thought Loras was Lancel (which made sense, since Lancel had last been seen warning Cersei that the battle was all but lost). It’s a fairly important point: Loras is seeking vengeance on Stannis for killing Renly. That’s why he joined up with Tywin. He’s also supposed to be one of the greatest knights in Westeros, so it’s sad we couldn’t really tell who he was, or see him fighting. In the book, the small folk mistake Loras for Renly’s ghost. Being mistaken for Lancel seems like a big step down.

    • Jill says:

      You’re right about that – in fact, I had no idea Loras Tyrell was even there. I feel like maybe he should have been focused on a bit more this season, since he became so important. As someone who hasn’t read the books, he barely registered with me since there are so many characters to keep track of.

  2. jose says:

    Just to clarify one thing, the battle did change the balance of power in Westeros. You might have missed it, but Loras was with Tywin at the end, and now the Lannisters owe them big. Now that I think about it, this is a setup for next season, but you will like the result.

    There will be some shockers before the end of the season, but I won’t say any more. Plot twists aren’t really twists if you see them coming. Have a little faith.

    Oh, and Stannis lost, but that doesn’t mean his part in the story is done. He is not one to give up easily.

    • Jill says:

      Thanks for the clarification! I’d totally forgotten about Loras Tyrell altogether. I kind of feel like we should have spent more time with him this season. Good to know we’re in for an exciting finale!

      • jose says:

        It is one of the traditions of the series that background characters come back with a more important role later on. One good example is Gendry, who gets one scene in the first book then ends up being central to Arya’s post Kings Landing story. Now that I think about it, it is probably actually easier to follow in the book because names get used so frequently in the text. I can see how it would be much harder to keep up with faces in a show with the largest cast on television.

  3. Dana says:

    I wasn’t disappointed at all, but I tend also not to read ahead about what’s coming as I have been, with other shows let down when I anticipate too much. I was glad that the action didn’t go to and fro so we didn’t see Robb, Arya and Daeni. Although it really was tough to tell it was the Lannisters victorious in the end (I really need to memorize their flags better, I always know the Lannisters from that deep color red but you couldn’t see that in the night).

    Cersei indeed is a fascinating character, I hate her but also feel for her, in many ways she plays the game the best of all of them.

    • Jill says:

      I feel like this was definitely a really good episode for Cersei, and making her a more interesting villain than she’s been before.

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