First, the bad news: The boy-king Joffrey is still alive.
Now, the good news: That was one amazing episode of television.
Written by George R.R. Martin himself (hallowed be his name) and directed by Neill Marshall, "Blackwater" used the lion's share of "Game of Thrones'" Season 2 budget on a large-scale, epic, fiery battle that showed off special effects and action sequences rarely seen on TV. This was television not as mere television, but as a big, blockbuster action movie. If the show's produces wanted to add 30 minutes of more content, they could have shown "Blackwater" in theatres.
Moreover, "Blackwater" succeeded in aspects in which the show sometimes struggles: Namely, trying to cover too much ground with too many characters and therefore doing too little quality dramatic development. The "A Song of Ice and Fire" books are so long and cover such a vast world that the television episodes sometimes spend only a few minutes on specific scenes before switching to another character.
That wasn't the case Sunday night. The entire episode took place at King's Landing and Blackwater Bay, which sits just outside the capitol city of Westeros. It didn't even bother me that Dany Targaryen had no scenes this episode (something I normally complain about during slower episodes). The show built momentum so well there was no need to change settings.
It began with Davos Seaworth and the mighty fleet of Stannis Baratheon sailing through Blackwater Bay to attack the Lannisters. They outnumbered the Lannisters 10 to one in ships and five to one in troops.
As he sailed in, the stern and judgmental Stannis looked, well, stern and judgmental. (I think his own hypocrisy is giving him constipation.)
The former smuggler Davos noted the irony of his current situation: "I spent most of my life dodging the royal fleet. Now I'm sailing right at them," he said.
Tyrion Lannister spent the pre-battle hours with Shea, while Maester Pycell gave his sister Cersei a poison she could take to commit suicide should the Lannisters lose.
The hired swordsman Bronn (now commander of the City Watch), meanwhile, was not so circumspect. He led a group of his men in a drunken song at a whorehouse, before he had a rather tense exchange with The Hound.
"Killing's the thing you love. You're just like me, only smaller," The Hound said.
"And quicker," Bronn countered.
The two badasses were about to exchange blows ("Your lord imp is going to miss you," Sandor Clegan said) when the bells sounded, signaling the battle was about to begin. They decided to share a final drink instead.
As the bells rang, Varys gave Tyrion a map of the 50 miles of secret tunnels the Targaryens had installed in King's Landing during their reign. The eunuch told the dwarf how he feared Stannis and his dark magic.
"You are the only man who can stop him," Varys said as Tyrion picked up an axe. (That's a lot of pressure on a man whose experience has mainly been confined to brothels.)
The cameras cut back to Davos at the front of Stannis' fleet of ships. He ordered a drummer to begin playing as the battle was about to begin, and the episode's action really began to pick up from this moment.
Inside the castle's gates, the pathetic boy-king Joffrey shouted at his betrothed Sansa Stark, "Sansa! Come here!"
"He's always been a great romantic, my nephew," Tyrion joked. (As much as I hate the Lannisters, it's literally impossible to dislike Tyrion. Where others employ strength, beauty or cruelty to their advantage, he uses wit and strategy. He's also just so damn reasonable.)
"Your king rides forth to battle," Joffrey boasted, before making Sansa bend down to kiss his new sword, Hearteater.
"You'll kiss it again when I return and taste my uncle's blood," he said. "Your brother's turn will come. Then you can lick his blood off Hearteater, too."