Game of Thrones Review: The Rains of Castamere

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There’s a reason HBO took a week off of Game of Thrones last Sunday over Memorial Day weekend. They didn’t do it last year, and suffered a drop in the ratings as people were out and about vacationing rather than sitting in their homes watching TV.

They sure as hell didn’t want anyone to miss this episode this year.

The Rains of Castamere came pouring down for what very well may be the most shocking episode in the show’s history. And considering how many gasp moments there have been so far, that’s really saying something.

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There’s no point beating around the bush, the Red Wedding was finally upon us last night. I’d heard the phrase bandied around before, and assumed it was in reference to Joffrey’s upcoming nuptials, so imagine my surprise when it was the Frey’s who turned their own affair into a bloodbath to effectively neuter the Starks and more or less end the rebellion in the North in one fell swoop.

Most would agree that the most stunning episode of the show thus far was when series protagonist Ned Stark was beheaded on the spot at the behest of Joffrey. But what trumps one major character death? Three.

Robb, his wife Talisa and his mother Catelyn were all summarily executed by Walder Frey at the behest of the Lannisters, breaking about every sacred oath across all the gods. It was a trap that was sprung perfectly, with no one ever thinking that Walder’s little grudge against the Starks would ever go this far. Roose Bolton was in on it as well, killing Robb personally and implying that the Lannisters have paid and promised both he and the Frey’s a great deal for their support.

And it wans’t just Robb. Jeyne and her unborn child were mercilessly butchered as well, assuring that the King in the North will never have an heir. With Bran and Rickon supposedly dead, there are no more Stark men alive that have claim to Winterfell. At least that’s how the world sees it.

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Poor Catelyn did her best to try and save her son in his final moments, but slit Walder’s wife’s throat as Robb lay dying on the floor. Unfortunately, the two lives were not of equal weight, as Frey didn’t so much as lift a finger to save his young wife. And then Catelyn too felt the cold edge of the knife in what is probably one of the most jaw-dropping cuts to black we’ve ever witnessed on the show before.

If you managed to experience the full horror of the Red Wedding free from spoilers, I salute you. I’ve had nearly every major character death on the show spoiled for me at one point or another, which is why I ended up reading the books. But I hadn’t had this ruined for me, and I remember my eyes widening and chest tightening as I re-read the pages over and over again to assure myself this was really happening.

Many have complained that season three has been a bit slow, but the last three or four episodes knew what they were building up to. I think they tried to throw people off the scent by including not one, but two battle scenes ahead of the Red Wedding. First, Jon finally shows his true colors and strikes out against the Wildlings, breaking Ygritte’s heart in the process. He got eagle talons in the face for his trouble, and those scars look like they could be worse than Tyrion’s. Such a shame, he’s so pretty.

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Then there was Daario, Jorah and Grey Worm sneaking into Yunkai in order to take it down from the inside. What was supposed to be a simple job ended up with them surrounding by multiple waves of dozens of guards, and they had to hack through them like they were in a video game. The day was won, and you could almost feel the heat coming off Dany at the end there as she looked at Daario. Ser Jorah is not amused.

We finally spent more than five minutes with Bran, Rickon and the Reeds, as they were just outside where Jon Snow’s battle took place. Bran is mastering his mutant warging powers, thrusting himself into the mind of not only his wolf, but Hodor too. The former is a common skill for wargs, the latter is thought to be impossible. But to be fair, Hodor is pretty dumb. Does this make Bran the “chosen one” of the wargs? Is that why they’re going North? Also, A+ performance from little Rickon who doesn’t want to leave his brother. Sadly, I’m guessing this means we won’t see him or Osha for a very long time.

Lastly, Arya made it to the Twins with Clegane just in time to see the Freys turn on the Starks and her brother’s Direwolf get massacred. For a second I thought she’d be able to let it out and it could take down a bunch of Freys before it met its end, but that would have cost too much in CGI I guess. They already had one direwolf fight earlier in the night.

Obviously, the Red Wedding changes everything. I’m half surprised this wasn’t the season finale, but the show does like to do an incredible eventful penultimate episode followed by a finale that’s something of a cleaning up affair, and I suspect this year will be the same. Ending the entire SEASON with Catelyn getting her throat slit might have been too much for people to handle.

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So, what the hell happens now? The Stark rebellion is over, which was essentially the main plot of the series. It’s just..who now in Westeros? The Lannisters and Stannis and the Ironborn up North? Removing the Starks has completely changed the dynamic of the entire show, though yes, the younger children still live on in their own plotlines. But none will be leading an army any time soon.

What went through your mind when things went awry at the wedding? When did you suspect something was up? I’m curious to know.

Book Discussion (Spoilers)

I think it’s safe to say that most of us were waiting with baited breath for this episode to come ever since we saw the title of it when it was announced months ago. It’s one of the most shocking events of the books, and it was going to be crazy intense to see how it would be handled onscreen.

The most major change to the Red Wedding is the death of Jeyne and her child, which didn’t happen in Storm of Swords. I was always confused about whether or not she was complicit in this plan, or if at the very least, her family was, as in the book they were some minor house loyal to the Lannisters, which was not the case here.

It made everything even more brutal, watching her get stabbed in the stomach to kill her unborn child, who also did not exist in the book. By doing this, it removes any idea that she will be a factor later on. I always wondered if she was secretly pregnant or something, and it would turn out Robb would indeed have an heir (little Ned!), but that notion has been effectively eliminated. As I’ve often said about the HBO’s edits, I think the show has handled this better by making things very, very clear in regards to her character, and it made the evening even more memorable. (Update: I didn’t realize that Talisa wasn’t Jeyne, and her character has been ENTIRELY changed from the book)

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Smaller details were changed as well. Roose Bolton was the one who was wearing the chainmail discovered by Catelyn. I didn’t realize he was actually the one who delivered the deathblow in the books, and thought that was new for the show, but it appears I missed that while reading. And finally, Catelyn killed Walder’s wife instead of his idiot son, something which also had greater significance if you ask me. I think the changes made to the scene were indeed for the better, something that is usually the case. I’m amazed at how the show is able to consistently make little improvements over the books, and sometimes even major ones.

In the book, I was always suspicious if Catelyn actually died in that scene. The chapter ends with the “cold bite of the knife,” but in George RR Martin land, that could mean she survived, as characters have lived through worse. But seeing her throat opened onscreen? I don’t think there are going to be many show-only watchers who believe she’s coming back. And when she does, it won’t even be until the end of season four, which will be one hell of a surprise. I do kind of miss being surprised by this show…

The question now is whether or not Joffrey’s wedding will be next week. Both events happen very close together in the books, but I don’t know if they want to jam two episodes that important together. Rather, I can see it being one hell of a series premiere for season four.

Did you like the way the Red Wedding was adapted for the screen?

33 Comments

  1. Matt June 3, 2013
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    • Paul Tassi June 5, 2013

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