The much anticipated invasion of King’s Landing by Stannis Baratheon’s army is the focus of this episode, one that has promised a lot of action in addition to some resolution of lingering plot threads. Whether Cersei’s trust in Westeros’ own version of napalm is misplaced will be put to the test.
‘If the city falls, Stannis will burn alive any Lannister he can find.’
Cersei obtains essence of nightshade from the maester, an implement of suicide. She’s probably going to kill herself in case Stannis overwhelms the city’s defenses because Cersei is the type of lady that would never be taken alive. There is some tension between Bronn and the Dog because they are two sides of the same coin. Though different in presentation, they are ultimately the same in their love of killing.
‘Your lord imp is going to miss you.’
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The Targaryens built King’s Landing to withstand siege and, in case the walls are breached, have sliced the bedrock underneath the city with over fifty miles of tunnels for escape. The Lannisters quavering in the face of Stannis’ invasion is a new position to find them in. Varys warns Tyrion about the dark arts in Stannis’ service.
The set up for the battle is impressive and the scope of it is far larger than those depicted previously. Of course, those depicted before have usually been the before or the after of a battle and not the real battle itself so the opportunity to view a battle is unique to this episode. Sansa’s ability to compose herself in Joffrey’s presence is a testament to her adaptation as a character. When we first met Sansa, she was naïve and artless, though now she is wise to the political arts and how to survive in King’s Landing – perhaps to a greater degree than any other member of her family.
‘Guards we have paid. Should the city fall, they will be the first ones out the door.’
It’s amazing that Cersei’s sloppy Machiavelli is just now coming to a head. While some of her tactics were quite ingenious, others, like completely discounting public sentiment, show a lack of mental acuity necessary for governance. In a tactic oft used in ancient warfare, the Lannisters launch a lone ship laden with enough pyrotechnic wherewithal to sink Stannis fleet with wildfire.
Rip through Stanis’ fleet it does! In a gigantic green fireball, the entire invading fleet is dispatched with in mere seconds. Cersei’s gambit has resulted in the Lannisters maintaining their grip on King’s Landing. Of course, Stannis, in his madness, refuses to see the writing on the wall.
‘You’re perfect, aren’t you? Praying…’
‘The Gods have no mercy…That’s why they’re Gods…’
In a very graphic explanation of what happens to a city when it falls to a raging horde, Cersei does her best to terrify the living hell out of Sansa. Of course, given that Stannis is determined to move forward with the invasion anyway, being terrified of a man who watches hundreds of his troops become engulfed in green flame yet still press onwards to invade a city is merited.
The battle is a lot fiercer than the initial explosion of wildfire would lead the audience to believe it would be. Though they are not breaking in the face of Stannis’ determination, the Lannister army is nonetheless feeling the heat from his ferocious determination.
Cersei notices Shae’s presence in the Red Keep with the other women in waiting. She stands out because she is not properly trained to be a lady’s maid, her inability to curtsy properly reveals this to Cersei, and she is quite beautiful besides.
On the battlefield, the Dog is temporarily distracted by fire and is nearly killed by a man on fire wielding an ax. He is saved, at the last minute of course, by Bronn, who he had previously been threatening to kill. Fire, of course, is one of the few things that the Dog is afraid of and its presence on the battlefield ends up driving him back behind the walls.
‘Fuck the King’s Guard. Fuck the city. Fuck the king.’
Exit the Dog, enter chaos. Without the Dog to do his bidding, Joffrey is caught between a rock and a hard place during the siege. To boost his troops’ morale, Joffrey leaves the battlefield. It is rare that his presence does anything good for anyone anyway so likely this was a bit of tactical genius.
The Dog offers to take Sansa along with him to the North, to return her to Winterfell. While prematurely celebrating victory on the beach, Tyrion is rammed through by one of Stannis’ men in their pincer retaliation attack. His life, and that of the Lannister campaign, is saved by the arrival of Lannister reinforcements. Loras Tyrell and Tywin Lannister arrive to save the day and prevent Cersei from killing herself along with her youngest son, Tomen.
All photos courtesy of HBO.com.