I have to admit, I’m one of those assholes who complains when the video adaptation of a book doesn’t follow the book closely enough. I know I know, the adaptation is its own work and should be judged independently, but it’s hard to do once you’ve already decided how it should be. For this reason, my biggest (and I don’t have many) complaints about the first season of Game of Thrones was the way the y depicted the first battle between the Lannisters and the North. As some of you may know, Tyrion and his hill people did an excellent job in the battle, thus somewhat ruining Tywin’s plan of funneling the opposing army behind the vanguard and into a trap. The episode disheartened me however when Tyrion was, somewhat ridiculously, knocked out by his own people, only to wake up at the end of the battle. Ridiculous because the audience missed out on a great battle. And ridiculous because if someone as small as Tyrion collapsed to the ground during a charged, they’d be trampled to death.
I know that the show has a budget that’s already considered high compared to any other television show and they needed to cut the battle for both time and financial reasons. But, for me at least, that just raised the question of why couldn’t they cut out some of the ridiculous sextoposition scenes, and the added non-book scenes (most of which didn’t provide much substance to the overall show) to make room for the battle.
The show pulled a complete 180 for this second season, in what might have been one of the biggest Westerosi battles in the books so far. They did just what I hoped they would do. They spent the previous few episodes cutting out unnecessary scenes and, almost perfectly I might add, devoted an entire episode to the Battle of Blackwater.
They started us off with painful tension both sides face as they feel the battle draw nearer and nearer. Everyone at King’s Landing slowly prepare and go on with their lives, trying to forget the imminent horror they’re about to face; then the bells sound, signaling the first sightings of the oncoming storm. We then cut to the Onion Knight’s flagship as Davos partakes in some small talk with his son; and then, the drums. When they called for the drums to start, I felt a small chill run down my spine. I turned to brother to see his reaction, but he was too enthralled to say anything. We later both wondered about how frightening it must be to stand on the wall and hear the drums, yet not see the enemy. This all slowly builds up until finally, the water itself is set ablaze with wildfire.
But, the true pleasure of this episode was the rise in leadership of the one man who epitomizes the saying that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog, the Imp, the Half-Man, Tyrion Lannister emerged as the leader he was meant to be. The Hound, petrified by the firestorm on the battlefield flees from the fight, not from cowardice so much as from the phobia he developed thanks to his loving brother. Joffrey “the king” spent the entire previous day boasting of how he would cut a red smile into Stannis’ face, yet the first sign of stress and he runs to hide behind his mother’s skirt. We saw him for the sniveling piece of shit that he was once when he attacked Arya by the river and cried and begged for mercy when he had his ass handed to him. We saw it now again, except his cowardice was on stage for all to see now. But Tyrion, the most unlikely of leaders, the man who no one sees as a true threat, instilled the will to fight back into his men. To top it all off, he takes the front line with his troops and leads them back into battle, taking some of the enemy with him as he went. That was the magic of this episode, it showed us that he is not just the smart and witty guy, who might be better at planning than at execution, he’s the best of the Lannisters, as a person and as a leader. The Tyrion of the show is finally becomes the Tyrion of the books. Sure some of the battle itself was different, the arrival of Tywin and the Tyrells was a bit underscored, and the battle ended unnaturally quickly considering how many soldiers they showed us, but Tyrion’s emergence as a leader, and his subsequent forshadowed loss as of leadership by the arrival of his father, was what made this battle so brilliant. And, it was the one place where season one failed. Here’s to more moments of brilliance in the future, which we’ll probably get next week when Daenerys visits the House of Undying.