Monday, June 3, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Rains of Castamere, Robb Stark and Red Wedding

Life at last sit and listen while the fun begins
Hearts are broken and the bad guys win
Sit and listen all the cutting up is easy
And this isn't for the queasy or the weak of heart
You had better start for home while there's still time

-Life at Last by Paul Williams
Well now you know the exact moment in the book A Storm of Swords that made me hurl the book across the room, run over to pick it up to see if there was some mistake and then upon discovering that there wasn't, seriously consider hunting GRRM down and going completely Annie Wilkes on him.  Ok. Well not really. I am joking. It's just a story. But I would like to just ask him WTF dude? Why? I stopped reading the book for a few days because I was so po'd. Well life goes on. There are other shocking moments remaining in the published series. I'm sure GRRM probably has a few others planned in the books yet to be written. And no doubt Benioff and Weiss have their own surprises in the HBO adaptation. But I don't think anything will ever shock or anger me more.

Who could have expected The Red Wedding. In hindsight it was obvious. Robb was unbeatable in battle. Unfortunately Robb neglected to understand Bolton's self-interest, Frey's pride and duplicity and the political challenges caused by Stannis' loss at King's Landing. 
This episode was extremely powerful not only for the brutal betrayal but also because it kept to a very tight group of characters with minimal jumping around. Before we get to the event which really changed everything even more than Ned's execution did, let's take a quick look at the other storylines in the ninth episode.

Daenerys and her advisors are looking for a way to attack Yunkai. Daario takes the opportunity to get close to and touch Daenerys. She doesn't seem to mind. Daario knows of a back gate thru which he can enter, kill the guards, and then take Grey Worm and Jorah in and then open the front gate.  Daario thinks this is a piece of cake. Jorah doesn't trust Daario but Grey Worm does. Of course Grey Worm doesn't have his little grey worm any more which is probably why he is not threatened by Daario the way that Jorah is. Barristan wants to come along but Jorah tells him to stay and guard Daenerys, the Queen. In Yunkai Daario does just as he said he would. Grey Worm and Jorah enter and find dead guards and Daario smirking. However the three men are then attacked by reinforcements. At this point the three men show that they are some baaaaaaaad motherf- shut your mouth!! Outnumbered 20 to 1? They don't care. Surrounded and facing certain death? Bring it on. Although the later battle is not shown in detail they obviously survive and manage to open the gate and let the army in. Daenerys is anxiously awaiting for news. The bloodied but triumphant Jorah enters and tells of victory. Daenerys thinks that's great and all but what about Daario? Daario enters and repeats what Jorah just said but with more flourish. This makes Daenerys quite happy. Jorah is obviously wondering why being a nice guy just doesn't seem to be getting him anywhere with Danerys. You had better brush up on your Game, Jorah. It's all in the reflexes. Just ask Jack Burton.
Sam discusses Castle Black's history and how to reach it with Gilly who finally seems to be impressed that Sam actually knows something useful. Of course one wonders how much it would really take to impress Gilly but Sam's happy and that's a good thing.
Tormund, Orell, Ygritte, Jon Snow and their wildling commando party come across an old man who breeds horses for the Night's Watch. Jon doesn't want to kill the man but the wildlings are eager to kill someone. They attack the farm but Jon accidentally on purpose clangs his sword against a rock which gives the old man a warning. The fellow gets on his horse and rides off. Ygritte shoots at him but misses (deliberately?) just as Jon tells her to stop.

Bran and his group are in a tower in the Gift. Bran wants to know how to get past the wall. Hodor is scared of lightning.  As it turns out the old man that had escaped was ridden down by the now horse equipped wildlings. They are outside of the tower. Hodor is yelling in fear and almost by accident Bran wargs into Hodor to calm him down and prevent him from giving away their presence. Orell thinks he heard something but Tormund dismisses it. He's eager to kill the captured man. 

Orell demands that Jon Snow kill the man to prove his loyalty. Jon won't do it.  Trying to save face Ygritte kills the man but it's too late. Orell wants to kill Jon Snow and Ygritte too for that matter. It's precisely then that Bran is able to warg into Summer. Summer and Shaggydog attack the wildlings. Jon kills Orell, who wargs into an eagle and attacks Jon. Jon rides off and most emphatically does not stop to pick up Ygritte. She's heartbroken by this but Tormund tells her it is what it is. This is an important point here. It goes back to conflicting ideas and demands of honor. We know that Jon Snow is a "good guy" but from Ygritte's POV he's betrayed her in a very ugly way.  From Ygritte's perspective Jon Snow is a real SOB. She's given him her body, her love, her trust and her knowledge and he's given her what exactly? 
Bran decides that he will head North with Meera and Jojen while Osha will take Rickon to Last Hearth, the Umber stronghold. Arya and The Hound continue to the Twins, bickering with each other about their fears and killing. Arya says she will kill The Hound one day and that he's not so tough. The Hound intends to pose as a meat/wine salesman in order to get inside The Twins, the Frey's castle.  I am sure that the 6-6 Hound who is nothing if not dangerous looking will be able to convince other men of violence that he is a simple peasant seller of meat and wine. And now we get to the horrific part.

Robb apologizes to his mother for not listening to her advice about Theon. He wants her assent to his plan to attack Casterly Rock with Walder Frey's help. Catelyn gives it. They reach The Twins along with their remaining soldiers as well as Edmure and the Blackfish and their men. They parkake of bread and salt. This is really freaking important as it indicates that you have guest right and may not be harmed under your guest's hospitality. Violating guest right is an atrocity akin to kinslaying, if not worse. However guest right doesn't extend to insults. Despite Robb's heartfelt apologies to Walder Frey and his various female relatives, Walder Frey makes highly sexual and extremely insulting comments to Talisa.  Bolton is attending the wedding. To Edmure's surprise Roslin Frey is actually quite pretty. So he's happy to be married to her, something which amuses his sister and uncle. Bolton refuses to drink claiming that drink removes his edge. He points out to Catelyn that marriage to a Frey was very profitable for him. This worries Catelyn a bit as Roose looks exactly like the cat that just swallowed the canary.
Talisa tells Robb that she will name their child Eddard if it's a boy. The bedding ceremony begins. Edmure and Roslin are removed from the room. Roose temporarily excuses himself.  Shortly after his return Catelyn's sixth sense goes off. It's quiet. Too quiet. She gets even more nervous and wary when she sees a Frey bar the door. The wedding band starts to play "The Rains of Castamere", which if you were paying attention in the last episode, you know is the Lannister retribution theme. Bolton is sitting very close to Catelyn and she sees that he's now wearing mail. Catelyn cries out a warning to Robb but it's all too late. There's a shot of Grey Wind trying to get out. The slaughter begins. Talisa is stabbed in her stomach/uterus multiple times. Stark loyalists are shot from above by Frey soldiers. The Hound and Arya arrive at the Twins but are refused entry. The Hound notices armed Freys entering the Twins and knows something's amiss. Arya has gone into the courtyard where she witnesses the murder of the Stark-Tully contingent by Freys and presumably Boltons. All throughout the castle Starks and Tullys are killed. Robb is shot multiple times and Catelyn is wounded. Grey Wind is trying to break out. Arya is this close to rescuing her brother's wolf but Frey soldiers come and shoot the wolf dead. Arya still wants to get inside but The Hound has found her and takes her away saying it's too late.

Inside it's almost over. Just about all the Starks are dead. Walder Frey mocks Robb as he holds on to his dead wife. Catelyn grabs a dagger and snatches up Walder Frey's wife saying that unless Frey lets Robb go she will kill his wife. Frey shows that his sexism runs bone deep as he says he'll just get another wife. On his mother's orders the badly wounded Robb is trying to stumble to the door when his treacherous bannerman Bolton stabs him dead, saying the Lannisters send their regards. Catelyn keeps her word by killing Frey's wife. She is then herself murdered. There was no ending music.
And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? 
Only a cat of a different coat, that's all the truth I know. 
In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws, 
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,as long and sharp as yours. 
And so he spoke, and so he spoke, that lord of Castamere, 
But now the rains weep o'er his hall, with no one there to hear. 
Yes now the rains weep o'er his hall, and not a soul to hear 

What I liked
  • As a Stark bannerman there was really nothing I "liked" in this episode. I knew it was coming obviously so it didn't quite have the gut punch that it did in the book but it was still pretty freaking horrible to watch. So Benioff and Weiss deserve much credit for getting the series' most shocking moment mostly right.
  • Frey is suitably appalling. It wasn't just about the broken betrothal of course. 
  • The confused look of hurt and betrayal that Ygritte has when Jon doesn't look back to her. Honor has costs. Jon may think he's doing the right thing but that doesn't change the fact that he deeply hurt Ygritte. Jon broke a commitment for honor while Robb did so for love.
  • I really identified with Robb. He's a young man trying to lead his people after his father's murder. He doesn't have all the answers but none of us do.
  • After Season One Michelle Fairley really grew on me as Catelyn Stark. I don't think she had quite enough to do in Season Three especially but her scenes last night were incredibly good. Her rising sense of unease and panic were just so well played. Well done, Ms. Fairley.
  • I guess the speculation about Talisa being a spy can be put to rest. 

What I didn't like
  • Well that's rather evident isn't it.
  • I also missed Robb's northern contingent, especially the GreatJon. Most of them are killed of course but in the book they go out hard and take some people with them, unarmed though they are.
  • In the book Grey Wind, along with Catelyn, provides more of an early warning to Robb. Grey Wind snarls anytime a Frey is around and completely freaks out upon reaching The Twins.  Robb ignores these warnings. The Freys also insist that Robb separate himself from Grey Wind. IIRC Grey Wind also takes out a few Freys with him before being killed. I could be wrong about that though. I threw the book across room remember so some details are kinda fuzzy. I do know that if my dog doesn't like someone...I listen to my dog.
  • The bread and salt acceptance should have been a bit more played up in importance. It is only then that Catelyn relaxes and lets down her guard.
  • GRRM seems to have a serious disdain for characters that try to do the right thing. I understand realism and cynicism, being somewhat of a cynic myself but dammit do you have to keep killing Starks? The author says some things are required.


1) Did you see anything like this coming (assuming you didn't read the books of course)

2) Does this make you give up on the series or are you more interested now?

3) What should/could Robb have done differently to avoid this? 

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..of course as the series biggest spoiler is no longer a spoiler perhaps instead of decapitation you would just get sent to the Wall...
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