6/03/2013

Seven Kingdoms Scoop: “Game of Thrones” recap of “The Rains of Castamere”


“The wine will flow red, the music will play loud, and we’ll put this mess behind us.” So says Walder Frey, right before HBO’s version of Game of Thrones tackles one of the most intensely awful and wonderfully written portions of George R.R. Martin’s series: the Red Wedding. For fans of the books, it’s been 13 years since Martin wrote this particularly tragic event in the timeline of the Starks—and David Benioff and D. B. Weiss do such, such a good job adapting it. The whole thing is tense and frightening and overwhelming, and of course further drives home the series’ idea that no one is safe. This won’t have a happy ending. That hope you had? Bury it along with the bodies of Robb Stark, his mother, his wife, his unborn child, even his wolf, Grey Wind. It’s over.

Yes, other things happened on this week’s episode, and I guess we can talk about them. But the bulk of this post will be the five best moments from the Red Wedding and its impact on the Starks; for them, click through! (Oh, and of course: SPOILERS ahead!)


1. So, let’s get into it—that was one hell of a wedding, huh? As a reader of the books, I’ve been looking forward to this episode all season, and I think it has phenomenal impact. Let’s first talk about the lead-up: Robb finally asking his mother for advice about battle and worrying that “We’ll lose the war and die the way Father died—or worse”; the Freys giving Robb, Catelyn, Talisa, and the other Stark men bread and salt, a tradition that supposedly protected visitors from any harm in their host's home (but which the Freys blatantly break only hours later); and Walder Frey going on and on about Robb breaking his vow to marry one of Walder Frey's female offspring. How he offered up daughters and granddaughters (“You could have had either, you could have had both, for all I care,” he says of twin granddaughters) to Robb felt very icky and Craster-like, and his treatment of Talisa was pretty revolting, too. “I can always see what’s going on beneath a dress” and “I say he betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit” are the kind of entitled things men in this world can get away with saying, and not only does he fit into the typical “gross as fuck” mold of many men on this show, but his presentation also confirms everything Catelyn Stark has been saying for weeks. Walder Frey refuses to be fucked with. If only Robb Stark had taken that warning from his mother a little more seriously.

2. And next up we have Edmure’s wedding to Walder Frey’s daughter Roslin, young and thin and beautiful. Edmure actually gets what he wants here, and so does Walder, so he lets the newlyweds leave the hall to participate in the gross Westeros custom of “bedding,” where members of the opposite sex tear the clothes off the bride and groom and send them along to consummate the marriage. Edmure couldn’t look more proud of himself—and because he’s out of the Red Wedding, means he lives to be ruler of Riverrun. Missing in action is his uncle the Blackfish, who in the novels doesn’t die but in the TV show version was out of the castle, trying to find a place to pee, when shit went down. If he’s alive, awesome; the Blackfish is good value.

3. And finally, the wedding itself. There is so, so much foreboding stuff going on here, from Roose Bolton rejecting a drink because it “dulls the senses” to the Frey man closing the hall doors after Edmure and Roslin leave to the band (featuring a cameo by Coldplay drummer Will Champion) starting to play a dirge-like version of “The Rains of Castamere,” which Cersei explained in the last episode as a song discussing the ruin of the family who rose up against the Lannisters. After that, things start to move very, very fast: Talisa being stabbed in the stomach numerous times, killing her and the baby she hoped to name Eddard (a change from the books, when Robb’s wife lives, might be pregnant, and is being protected by the Blackfish); Robb getting shot with numerous arrows; Catelyn taking an arrow in the shoulder; Grey Wind being shot numerous times in a locked-up stall. And when Catelyn’s ploy to save Robb doesn’t work—taking hostage Walder Frey’s young wife, only to see him shrug his shoulders at her death and reply, “I’ll find another”—it means things are truly finished. It means Robb dying from a knife to the gut, delivered by Roose Bolton, traitorous former Stark bannerman, who tells him “The Lannisters send their regards” (similar to the exchange Roose and Jaime had a few weeks ago) and it means Catelyn’s throat being casually slit by a Frey man after she lets out a very tragic scream. Important things to realize here are Roose Bolton reminding the Starks that if Catelyn hadn’t let Jaime Lannister go, a lot of this probably wouldn’t have happened; that Roose Bolton is one cold motherfucker (in the books, he actually says “Jaime Lannister sends his regards,” an attempt to fully blame the Kingslayer for Roose’s actions instead of his taking ownership of his dickishness); and that Catelyn, as she died, was consumed by a desire for vengeance, which can be a very powerful motivator. Think back to someone like Thoros of Myr and you’ll know what I mean. (Oh, and if you're keeping track of Melisandre's leech sorcery, then yes: one of the usurpers of Stannis Baratheon's rightful crown is indeed dead. Don't forget that there are two more.)

4. And now onto the impact of this: The Stark men are slaughtered along with their leaders, and it’s something Arya sees, after the Hound gets her close enough to the wedding only to be turned away at the door when the massacre begins. The two continue to spar along the way (“Remember what happens to children who run,” he says to her, referencing his murder of her friend Micah, until she questions his bravery with, “Killing little boys and old people—a real hard man you are,” and threatens him with, “Someday I’m going to put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull”) but ultimately it’s the Hound who saves her from running into the castle and being slaughtered along with the rest of her family, and it’s he who very nicely sums up the Stark mentality: “You’re very kind. Someday it will get you killed.” The Hound isn’t a particularly nice person, but by this point, we’ve seen what has happened to Ned, to Robb, to Catelyn, to Talisa, and so forth. We want to root for these ethical, noble people, but that’s not how the world works. That’s something the Hound knows and perhaps Arya is beginning to figure out, too—and her boasting to him about knowing a real killer, a veiled reference to Jaqen H’ghar, should not go unnoticed.

5. Arya isn’t the only Stark child affected, however; there are Bran, Rickon, and bastard Jon Snow, too. Although they don’t know what’s happened, the deaths of Robb and Catelyn will have undeniable impact. Before then, though, we see the wildlings finally figuring out Jon Snow isn’t one of them when he refuses to kill an innocent horse breeder (there’s that Stark honor again), and so he kills the Ygritte-lusting Orell instead only to have the warg send his spirit into his bird and peck and claw at Jon’s pretty little face. And as Jon Snow gets on a horse and rides away, leaving the fight behind, he also leaves Ygritte—the wildling girl who so desperately wanted the two to devote themselves to each other. Nevertheless, Jon Snow wouldn’t even be alive if Bran, Rickon, Jojen and Meera Reed, Osha, and Hodor weren’t hiding in a nearby tower. In it, Bran finally realizes how to warg, going into Hodor’s body to get him to be quiet so the wildlings don’t notice them (“Hush, Hodor! No more Hodor-ing!”) and then going into the body of his direwolf to attack the wildlings and protect Jon Snow. But now that Bran has harnessed his power, Jojen is even more adamant about getting him past the Wall and to the three-eyed raven, a journey that can’t accommodate Rickon and Osha. And so Bran sends them and Rickon’s direwolf Shaggydog to the Umbers, Stark bannermen who will theoretically protect them, as Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor continue forth past the wall. This is a change from the books, when Rickon and Osha split off from the pack immediately after Maester Luwin’s death and haven't been heard from since, but there is something very sweet and sad about Rickon telling older brother Bran “I have to protect you” while fighting back tears, and Osha telling Bran that Rickon will “learn to walk in darkness” if they’re to be safe. So no, the Starks aren’t all dead, but they were already scattered, and now they’re becoming even more so—and winter is coming.

+ And some other thoughts:

+ Yup, still couldn’t care less about Sam and Gilly. Whatever, she’s impressed that Sam read some books once. YAWN. If there are any characters I think the show has actually done a really poor job with, it’s them. Stop with your cutesy flirting and maybe talk about the fact that you killed a White Walker or something, you know? Why didn’t we really get any discussion between the two of them about that? The only information provided by this conversation is that there is a passage in the Wall, a hole that would allow someone to pass through. That is certainly useful, but I think it’s a little weird that neither of them talks about that undead winter demon thing they just destroyed.

+ Daario further oozes his way into Dany’s heart by scheming a way to capture Yunkai: sneaking through a back door the Second Sons mercenaries use to visit prostitutes and eventually opening the front door for Dany’s men. And, accompanied by Jorah and Grey Worm, Daario pulls it off, capturing Yunkai for Dany. But Jorah knows there’s something more brewing between his queen and this sell-sword, and his face when Dany’s first words when he returns from the battlefield are to ask about Daario is pretty crestfallen. Sorry she’ll never want you, Jorah. And it must also be tough for him since Daario is not only a weird hybrid of a handsome Viking and a grungy surfer, but also questions Jorah’s loyalties (“You have very suspicious mind … only dishonest people think this way”), reminding us again that Jorah initially joined Dany's ranks as a spy for King Robert Baratheon. Drama, drama, drama.

+ Finally, after a tough-as-fuck episode, have a picture of Hodor sleeping to help you feel better. (My apologies, ladies, Gendry wasn't in this episode.) Hodor!