Well, it finally happened. Stannis (Stephen Dillane) brought the drama to snide king Joffrey's (Jack Gleeson) front lawn with Davos (Liam Cunningham) at the helm, and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) leading the charge on the opposing side. The season has been building to this moment since the premiere. Did it deliver? Without a doubt. In addition to fulfilling the promise of carnage—the Hound (Rory McCann) must've cut at least five people clean in half—the siege of the Red Keep ignited equally intriguing character moments within the walls. Let's get into it.
Tyrion holds it down
Technically Tywin (Charles Dance) is the Hand of the King, and Tyrion is only "acting Hand" while his father handles business on the battlefields. Now that Big Daddy Lannister is actually in the house, it'd be a shame if he stripped his son of his duties because Tyrion damn sure earned his position last night.
The episode gained its title, "Blackwater" (penned by author of the source material, George R.R. Martin), from the cunning way the imp implemented Cersei's (Lena Headey) wildfyre stock against Stannis's fleet, proving he really is the brain of the family. Joffrey would have marched the royal fleet out to meet Stanis in the ocean; Cersei would've armed the archers with the very dangerous, very volatile wildfyre. Tyrion marries both of those half-witted plans into a genius one, casting off a ghost ship that's secretly leaking the wildfyre stock. At his master's signal, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) light's the match with a flaming arrow that instantly decimates a third of the fleet.
Later, when the Baratheon soldiers reach the gates, and with Joffrey and The Hound (more on him later) M.I.A., the smallest guy on the field steps up to the plate. In the second display of Tyrion Badassery of the night, he gets morale up with a self-deprecating speech that gets the men to think not of of their cowardly king but of their homes that will be burned and women who will be raped, then leads them through a secret entrance to get the jump on the enemy.
All's well that ends well? Not quite. Wildfyre and offensive plays aside, Stannis still rode in 100,000 deep, and the flank move is flanked by even more troops. When we last see Tyrion, he's been brutally slashed across the face, facing certain death...until Ser Loras rolls up with his own army.
Queen Cersei was in rare form last night, filling in for the preoccupied Tyrion with one-liners that were as horrifying as they were hilarious. She's holding court in Maegor's Holdfast, a chamber within the Keep, filled with all of the important women and children—Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) included.
She continues to terrorize Sansa as the worst would-be mother-in-law of all time, with her eerily dark viewpoint on the life and duties of the royal wife/mother. Even worse, she comes thisclose to uncovering Shae's true identity (Tyrion's lover and weakness), until the threat of Stannis reaches their quarters. After thugging Lancel into giving Joffrey an out from the battlefield, she unveils why she let Ser Ilyn Payne into the women and children's hideout chamber: If Stannis does take the throne then he won't get to take the Lannister's alive. Sheesh.
In the ensuing panic, she disappears from the chamber with her young son and winds up on the iron throne, with scary battle sounds raging all around them...and she's holding a bottle of poison procured by Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover). The way the scenes were staged made it seem for one frightening moment that Cersei was about to euthanize her son over a battle her side had already won. Thankfully, Tywin entered at the very last second to declare victory. Looks like Myrcella (Aimee Richardson), shipped off to Dorne, got off easy.
The Hound is Joffrey's dog no longer
Sandor "The Hound" Clegan enters every room like he's the baddest motherfucker in the spot, and given his size and skill with the blade we don't blame him. We're sure we weren't alone in assuming that he would be front and center in the Battle for the Red Keep, and after inciting a dick-measuring contest with Bronn he did just that, cutting a bloody swath through Stannis' men.
It's all good...until the fire gets too close to him. If there's one thing that breaks through that steely demeanor, besides Sansa, it's fire. You'll remember that he got those gnarly facial burns from a brutal childhood incident with his brother, the equally imposing Mountain. When the effects of the wildfyre get too close for comfort, Sandor utterly bugs the fuck out, going so far as to chuck the deuce to Joffrey and Tyrion.
When Sansa runs off to her bedroom at Shae's behest, she finds none other than a despondent, psychologically broken Hound sitting on her bed. He's done serving this fucked up family and he's on his way out, and he's got an extra seat non-stop to Winterfell if Sansa's interested. Sansa is obviously reluctant, but as the Hound reminds her, one thing unites many of the series' vast cast of characters: They are killers.
As much as he'd like to present himself as an ultra-badass, generically speaking, he is no different than Ned Stark and every other "good" man Sansa knows, he just looks the part more than they do. Taking up with killers is something everyone on this series just has to accept. So will she go with him?
—Ser Loras' arrival may have seen abrupt, but remember the last we saw of Littlefinger, he was attempting to politic a truce between their camps, so it tracks. As for Tywin, we were led to believe last week that he was riding for Robb but apparently he was riding to help his children and grandson all along.
—The Hound's parting speech to Joffrey and Tyrion—"Fuck the King's Guard! Fuck the city! Fuck the king!"—was epically disrespectful, and public. That can't stand.
—Little does Sansa know, Winterfell is the last place she would want to be right now.
—What the hell happened to Davos' pirate friend who was thirsting after Cersei way back in "The Night Lands"?
—Casualty Report: Davos and his son bear the brunt of the wildfyre explosion and remain unseen for the rest of the hour. Stannis, however, made it up the walls. Has he been captured or is he covertly within the Keep?
—Speaking of Stannis, it should be noted that unlike his faux nephew, he was at the front of every charge further into the Keep. Also note that Joffrey still refers to him as uncle despite the revelation of his true lineage.
—This is the first hour of the series in a long time to stay in one place, geographically speaking, and rightfully so. Having said that, how in the hell are the rest of the season's loose threads going to be tied up in one hour next week?