Not All the Red at a Wedding is Wine
A TV Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
There are certain narrative junctures that occur whose very concept is enough to create palpable tension. And then to see those junctures brought to a reality is a sharp jab through the brain and the heart. Perhaps you were just shocked by the events of what was supposed to be a routine wedding. Maybe you cried from sheer trauma and vowed never to watch another episode ever again (even though you’ve already DVRd the season finale). Or you were one of the people who had read the books and knew what was about to happen and videotaped your friends’ reactions. And still, there’s a slim possibility that you just didn’t care. There is no doubt that Game of Thrones will lose viewers over the massacre of the Starks at the Twins. But there is also no doubt in what arguably is one of the most massive episodes in all of television history that this bold crimson stroke will forever change the narrative of the series. The war between the Lannisters and the Starks, which made up the bulk of the War of the Five Kings (we’re not going to completely ignore Stannis Baratheon, even if I may want to), is effectively gone. For those who have not read the books, there are a few Starks left, scattered to the winds but the idea of them as a united force again seems more distant than perhaps any other concept in the series. The North has been crippled, and now it seems that geographical region of Westeros has become a wasteland, primed for the White Walkers who will descend in terror about Season 8, or 9 even. However, despite what audience afterthoughts may suggest, a lot more happened in The Rains of Castamere outside of the Red Wedding.
Bran and Company are hiding in the rook Ygritte and Jon had their swooning conversation. Roughly soon thereafter, the wildlings approach and Hodor starts to panic loudly. Bran, in his ever developing warg abilities, manages to get inside Hodor’s head to calm him down. Everyone remains in shock and as Jojen Reed points out, no one else can do that. Damn, Bran. And to top that off, he manages to save Jon Snow below without knowing where exactly he was. Badass over here. And then that badass separates the party, bidding farewell to Osha and Rickon.
Jon Snow is an absolute idiot, can I just make that point? There is a profound stupidity as to what he does here, but let’s go back just a little bit. The wildlings come upon an old herder and Jon, still distrusted, is tasked with killing them. Jon, the noble yet foolish Stark, refuses to do so and Ygritte kills the herder in his stead. But Jon’s cover is blown. He kills the warg Orell, but is attacked by his possessed crow as the warg falls. And here’s where the stupidity comes in. Jon runs off, which is fine, but he leaves Ygritte behind. Yep, you read that right. He. Leaves. Ygritte. Personally I don’t care for Jon Snow as he really doesn’t know anything and frankly he lacks a personality. His storyline hasn’t been the most exiciting, but it becomes palpably electric with Ygritte. He does save her life to his credit and in that instant it becomes clear that he loves her, but he doesn’t love her enough to take her with him when he escapes. This won’t end well.
Daenerys has a relatively small portion of the episode, especially in comparison to Second Sons. Grey Worm, Daario, and Ser Jorah attack the city of Yunkai in a brilliant bit of sword fighting, each ripping apart Yunkai guards in distinct styles. The scene is short, but exciting. The sequence culminates in the Yunkish guard getting slaughtered and Daenerys being informed of her victory. She’s naturally happy, of course, but she immediately asks if Daario is all right. The expression on Ser Jorah’s face is absolutely priceless. The man has come to be a synonym for the friend zone. And certainly his distrust of Daario will grow, fueled in part by his own passionate love for Daenerys that seems destined to go unrequited. It’s certainly hard to blame the Mother of Dragons in this case, but one has to wonder to what extent she does trust Daario versus wanting to use him for sex. But at the end of the day, Yunkai is now hers. What is next?
Arya & the Hound have quickly become one of my favorite pairings on Game of Thrones. At first his interest in keeping Arya alive is indicative of monetary interests, because as far as he knows the Starks are still alive and kicking. But there is more than monetary value at stake here. Both are outcastes in their own way, making their way through the treacherous wastes of Westeros. A friendly bond inetivably forms and it is honestly one of the sweetest things in the series. But then they reach the Twins. The slaughter has already begun and the Hound and Arya are barred from entering the fortification. The two are naturally immediately suspicious, hiding instead of turning away. Then they witness the butchery of the Stark soldiers outside. Then Grey Wind is slaughtered. Arya, terrified, tries to get in, but the Hound knocks her out, dragging her away and saving her life. He doesn’t have to, of course. He could have easily sold her out. But he doesn’t, and now Arya is alive, albeit heartbroken.
The Wedding. Let’s start from the rosy, awkward, perverted beginning. The Starks reach the Twins, where the pervert Lord Walder Frey chastises Robb for his broken vow while admiring Talisa’s, um, bodily appearance. He then parades a long line of his very inbred-looking granddaughters, before revealing the surprisingly beautiful Rosalyn Frey. Everything is going swimmingly up until this point and it does seem to be odd. There’s not many happy moments on Game of Thrones, after all. The wedding ceremony goes smoothly, followed by a rambunctious parade for the bedding. Talisa, in a neat stab at Westerosi “superiority”, chafes at the bedding ceremony, finding it barbaric. And then the doors close. And Catelyn notices. Slowly the tunes of “The Rains of Castamere” begin to play, the mournful tune building steadily. In a quiet moment, Catelyn pulls back Roose Bolton’s sleeve and sees the chain mail hiding oh so innocently. She slaps him, yelling “Robb!” And then the slaughter begins. The musicians reveal their true nature as archers and the most uncomfortable murder on the series occurs right about here. Pregnant Talisa, who had oh so sweetly decided to name her unborn child Eddard Stark, is stabbed repeatedly in the womb. She collapses on the ground in a bloody mess. Robb and Catelyn are hit by arrows as their soldiers are slaughtered in every way possible. In a fit of absolute desperation, Catelyn grabs one of Frey’s wives, threatening to cut her throat if Lord Frey doesn’t let Robb go. He casually responds that he’ll just find another wife as Robb utters a weak “Mother”. Then Bolton walks up to him. “The Lannisters send their regards” he says, right before stabbing Robb in the gut. He falls and then the camera just lingers on Catelyn. So much of this episode is about characters being near yet so far (Jon and Bran, Arya and her family), and as Catelyn lives her final moments, her mind just collapses, not knowing some of her children were so close by. For all she knows, all of her children are dead and she saw her only hope in Robb just gutted before her very eyes. She’s a terrible mother in her mind. In rage, she’s consumed by the desire to die. She slits Frey’s wife’s throat. The camera never moves from her face, deepening the terror and misery of the moment. A Frey comes behind her as the wife fals and slits Catelyn’s throat. Blood sprays from her throat and she collapses. Then the screen falls to black and silent credits.
Where the series goes from here, book readers know but otherwise the series now is heading into territory even more removed in comparison to Season One’s Baelor. Out of the War of the Five Kings, Stannis Baratheon and the Lannisters remain the most aggressive contenders, with Daenerys still off in Essos pursuing her campaign to crush the enterprise of slavery. Mhysa will no doubt be a good finale to the third season, but it’s very hard to imagine anything in that episode matching the final, gut-wrenching final minutes here. I suspect the carnage was too much for some, and that is frankly understandable. But it was necessary. Every action has its consequence, and breaking a vow in Westeros is the most consequential one of them all. No doubt this episode further cements Game of Thrones’s reputation of brutality, and even more so than the death of Ned Stark, the Red Wedding proves that anything, anything at all could happen in Westeros. We’re just along for the ride.
Title: The Rains of Castamere
Written By: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Director: David Nutter
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