“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God,” was the only appropriate chorus for the colorful final 15 minutes of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones‘ third season — hauntingly titled “The Rains of Castamere.” Readers of George R. R. Martin’s novels have been anticipating the bloody scenes that would take place in Sunday’s episode since the series began and the episode’s title was a harbinger of the betrayal to come. But for the purists who stick to HBO’s version alone, the episode was no less heart-wrenching. For, by the time the credits rolled, we had lost three of the series’ main characters (four, if you count four-legged characters).
I’ll get to Daenerys’ (Emilia Clark), Bran’s (Issac Hempstead Wright), Jon’s (Kit Harington), and Arya’s (Maise Williams) stories in due time — but let’s first focus on the carnage at the Twins.
Before we arrive at the Red Wedding (are all you non-book readers so happy you finally know what that means?) we had some ground to cover. Ground that was, for the most part, permeated with optimism and humor. From the episode’s opening shots of Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) planning their attack on Casterly Rock to Grey Wind leading the way to the Twins to our playful introduction to Walder Frey, it looked liked things were looking up for the King in the North.
But ultimately it was Robb’s fatalistic proclamation, “We’ll lose the war and die the way father died… or worse,” and not the whiff of hope we were given, that won out — only, his prophecy was realized before he had a chance to lead his army anywhere near Casterly Rock. As breaking bread with one’s guests — a guarantee of protection in Westerosi tradition — was obviously one vow Frey didn’t mind breaking.
Edmure Tully’s wedding at the Twins started with a fortuitous twist — his bride wound up being not one of Walder’s homely daughters or pre-pubescent granddaughters, but the lovely Roslin. Edmure’s glee was evident on his face during the entire wedding ceremony, feast, and bedding ceremony. Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and Robb share a tender moment as well when she tells Robb that, should she give birth to a boy, she would like to name him Eddard. Seeing Catelyn’s hint of a smile as she stands quiet witness to her eldest son’s love is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, considering what is to come.
But there the happiness ended. The way the audience realized along with Catelyn that something was not right — first as the guard locks the banquet hall’s door and then as Catelyn discovers Roose Bolton’s armor — was one of the best parts of this finely crafted episode. In a few quick, clever shots the mood turns from joyful to terrifying as the audience experiences first Catelyn’s unease and then her horror. As a fan of Martin’s books, I think this aspect of the episode most perfectly captured the spirit of Storm of Swords. The impending dread one feels while watching the events unfold — on the page as well as on the screen — is almost as painful as witnessing the massacre itself. Almost.
Having Talisa present at the Red Wedding is a departure from the book (Jeyne Westerling is kept safely away), and one that raises the scene’s stakes. Robb is forced to watch his wife and unborn child die before he is savagely stabbed to death, and Catelyn sees it all. Catelyn, believing Robb to be the last of her children alive, is at her most desperate, her most crazed, in these final moments. Having her throat cut is almost a mercy, considering the loss and trauma she would have felt should she have lived through this ordeal. Again… almost.
As the credits roll on “The Rains of Castamere,” the Lannisters have the most power we’ve seen to date. The clash of kings is now down to three — Joffrey, Stannis, Dany (well, technically she’s a queen) — as the North effectively crumbles. It seems, now more than ever, that the good guys are going to finish last. If only Dany’s dragons would hurry up and grow already.
Speaking of dragons….
ODDS AND ENDS:
– More satisfying than Jorah, Worm, and Daario Naharis’ battle with the Yunkai guards was the look Jorah gave Dany when she made her attraction to Daario evident. Dany’s storyline has long felt stale to me, only occasionally peppered by moments of greatness (such as her acquirement of the Unsullied a few weeks back), and this love triangle might be just what’s needed to spice things up.
– Jon Snow’s plot is another that has felt redundant as of late, so this mini battle between him and the Wildlings — and his separation from the group — was a welcome departure. More heart-wrenching than watching Jon leave Ygritte behind, though, was knowing just how close he was to being reunited with Bran and Rickon.
– Speaking of, Bran finally did something cool! And Rickon got a nice little monologue. I’ll be sad to see Osha go, but their split needed to happen in order for Bran to fully learn the extent of his warg powers.
– And that brings me to Arya and the Hound. Arya has been a scene-stealing character from the very beginning, and — much like her relationship with Tywin Lannister in Season 2 — her conversations with the Hound have been highlights of this season for me. Her frankness and courage is astounding, as is the Hound’s surprising, tacit compassion for the youngest Stark girl. Arriving moments after the violence, Arya witnessed the atrocity of the Red Wedding through the murder of Grey Wind. Her tardiness surely saved her life, but Arya has yet again born witness to the murder of her family while remaining just barely on the action’s outskirts.
Finally, some spoilery bits for the book readers. Stop now if you haven’t read the books!
As I wondered in my spoiler-filled post before the season began, I still hope (sickly, of course) that we get a glimpse of Grey Wind’s head sewn on Robb Stark’s body. How can HBO pass up such a nightmare-inducing image?
And, how long do you think we have before Lady Stoneheart makes an appearance? In the books we first meet her in the prologue of A Feast for Crows, but I hope we don’t have to wait until Season 5 for her grisly appearance.
See you all next week for the Season 3 finale, in which we find out whether anything can top “The Rains of Castamere.”