So, this was the episode, everybody. This was the hour with the scene from A Storm of Swords that everyone speaks about in hushed tones. And, no, I’m not talking about the part with the thunderstorm where Hodor keeps shouting, “Hodor!”
Last night, in the ninth episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, entitled “The Rains of Castamere,” we attended the Red Wedding.
This episode had been the carrot I promised my husband if he just stuck with the rest of the season. He claimed that nothing could happen on this show that would have the impact of the Battle of Blackwater or that time Ned Stark lost his head. Maybe he’s right, for him, but I thought “The Rains of Castamere” was pretty genius.
When I read A Storm of Swords last year, I went into it knowing that A Big Huge Thing happens in that book. The promise of a Big Thing had me burning through that book as fast as I could. And then I got to the Red Wedding, and I was like, “OK. That happened. What’s next?”
I think, in the book, the fact that the Red Wedding happens isn’t shocking. I knew Robb Stark was going to die. Of all the Stark kids, he is the most expendable and his death would have the most impact. He isn’t a point-of-view character and he’s King in the North. He lifts right out, and his death creates a whole bunch of havoc. Who will lead the Northmen now that Robb is dead? What will happen to his followers? Will they continue the cause? Will they join the Lannisters?
The death that did kind of shock me was Catelyn’s. She (like Ned Stark before her) was a POV character, and the matriarch of a Stark clan who has already lost their patriarch. I figured that when Robb finally bit it, Catelyn would just move on somewhere else to find her daughters and nag them for all eternity. That was not be. Because Catelyn done got her throat cut.
I found both deaths to have much more emotional impact in the Game of Thrones episode than in the book itself, which sounds counterintuitive. The books are huge. There are thousands of pages for suspense and character development. The show (we’ve been complaining all season) is only an hour long and the writers consistently try to cram a million story lines into those sixty minutes.
But in this case, I think the cramped format worked to the writers’ advantage.
We all (book readers and show watchers alike) went into last night’s episode expecting Big Things. For the readers, we knew that “The Rains of Castamere,” the title of the episode, is the song that signals the beginning of the Red Wedding bloodshed. For the TV fans, they knew that Big Things usually happen in Episode 9 of Game of Thrones. Big Things often equate to deaths on this show, and there were a lot of story lines happening that were perfect for the kind of big emotional death we’ve come to know and expect from a ninth episode of Game of Thrones.
Jon and Ygritte were in a tense scene with the wildlings and some poor man living in the Gift. Bran and Rickon and Hodor (and, oh yeah, Jojen and Meera and Osha) were hiding in a tower right next to where all that fighting was happening. Dany was sending Daario, Grey Worm, and Jorah out to free the Yunkish slaves. Arya was carting around with the Hound. Sam was walking through the wight-infested forest with Gilly and her baby.
These are the kinds of story lines were death happens. When you’ve got wildlings fighting wildlings while Hodor shouts, “Hodor!” in the background, the last thing you suspect is that carnage is going to happen at a wedding. The other stories provided some great, suspenseful red herrings, so that when “The Rains of Castamere” finally started playing and Catelyn grabbed Roose Bolton’s arm and saw the mail under his sleeve, we had been lulled into a false sense of security that the wedding was simply going to be this week’s comic relief (as it was when Tyrion married Sansa).
In the book, the entire wedding is told from Catelyn’s point-of-view (and sometimes Arya’s, from the outside). Catelyn is a big worrier to begin with, so it’s pretty obvious in the book that Bad Things are going to happen at this wedding, though it was unclear if those Bad Things would be death or a hideous bride for Edmure or captivity for Robb and Catelyn. But I knew something bad would happen, for sure, because there were no other story lines to distract me from how screwed up this whole wedding was and what a scheming, unsavory person Walder Frey is. So, in this case, the show wins.
Well, since I’ve already written 800 words of introduction, let’s get to what actually happened in the episode.
The Red Wedding: Robb and Catelyn go to the Twins where Robb’s Uncle Edmure (Lord of Riverrun) must wed the Frey girl of Walder Frey’s choosing. In case you’ve forgotten, Robb promised to marry one of the Frey daughters (his choice) in exchange for Lord Frey’s fealty. Then Robb went off to war and married Talisa, because he banged her and Robb, just like his father, is all about honor. He came home from war, Walder Frey was pissed, Robb offered his uncle’s hand in marriage, and Walder Frey accepted it. If one of his daughters can’t be Queen in the North, at least she’ll be Lady of Riverrun.
The Stark folks travel to the Twins, eat of Walder Frey’s food, drink his drink, accept his hospitality (which is a binding social contract that says no harm will come to them under the Freys’ roof), marry off Edmure to a shockingly cute girl, and get attacked by the Freys and the turncoat Stark supporters who have switched their loyalties over to the Lannisters (i.e. Roose Bolton, whom we saw sending his regards to Tywin over at Harrenhal when he sent Jaime back to King’s Landing. Whew. Got that?)
Robb gets shot with arrows. His wife’s belly is stabbed. Catelyn hides under a table. Catelyn begs for mercy, threatening to kill Walder’s wife. Walder says he’ll get a knew wife, in a line delivered so hard core by Harry Potter’s Argus Filch. Roose Bolton kills Robb (saying that the Lannisters send their regards). Catelyn slits Walder’s wife’s throat, and then someone slits her throat.
Arya is outside the whole time, worrying about her family. She sees the Frey men murder Grey Wind (poor puppy!), before the Hound comes up behind her and knocks her out to keep her from seeing anything else. Before last night, I thought the Hound hitting Arya would be the last shot of the episode. In the book, that’s a really shocking moment. We’re sure, but we’re not quite sure, that the Hound wouldn’t give Arya back to the Lannisters or even kill her. The Arya chapter ends with her being knocked out and we’re left hanging for a while about whether or not she’s dead. (George R.R. Martin has used this chapter-ending blackout a lot more since then and it’s become a tool with much less impact.)
The Gift: Bran wants to go find the Three-Eyed Crow, who lives beyond the Wall. He and his band of merry travelers have stopped inside a silo in the Gift, a bit of land near the Wall. Jon and his wildling buddies show up, and plan to kill the man who lives there. (Meanwhile, Hodor’s shouting, “Hodor!” and Bran’s wargging into his body to stop him from shouting.) Orell, the wildling who can become birds, senses that Bran and his buddies are up in the tower. He tells Jon to kill the man they’ve captured, to prove that he’s one of them. Jon hesitates (he sees his brothers’ wolves, I think, and that’s why he drops his sword?). Ygritte shoots an arrow through the guy’s heart, and a fight breaks out. Summer and Shaggy Dog come to Jon’s rescue and he rides off toward the Wall (sans Ygritte), but not before telling Orell that he was right about Jon’s crow-ness all along and then killing the warg (whose spirit then goes into a bird that attacks Jon one more time for good measure).
Dany: Whatever Yunkai blah blah slaves yadda-yadda Daario’s so hot right now.
Sam and Gilly: They’re looking at the Wall right now. Basically they were only in this episode to show us where they are and that they are still alive.
- Walder Frey on Talisa: “[Robb] betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit.”
- George R.R. Martin is a credited writer on this episode. Both here and in the books, he is constantly trying to make fetch (and by “fetch” I mean the love ship Daario and Daenerys) happen.
- Sam is telling Gilly random facts about history. He knows a secret place in the Wall to hide! Remember this bit of information randomly stuck into this episode!
- Rickon sighting! (John’s response: Who’s Rickon?)
- Book people: Isn’t it more that wargs shouldn’t enter the minds of other people, not that they can’t enter the minds of other people? Or is it really rare that Bran can do that?
- Roose Bolton was able to pick his new Frey bride based on weight. He’d get some money for each pound. So now he has a young, fat bride. Lovely. He’s such a sweet guy.
I wrote many things. I’m sure you have your own thoughts. Let’s discuss them. What did you think of this episode?
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