One of the weird things about me is how nervous I get watching certain scenes in certain television shows. I don't read spoilers, so most of my nerves come from instinct. During the days of LOST, my favorite TV show in all the land, I thought about what happened on an episode for weeks, or I thought about what might happen. Hell, I dreamed about what might happen. After Michael killed Libby and Ana-Lucia, I walked around the downstairs of my house for 90 seconds yelling, "OH MY GOD," shaking, and then calling my friend to tell him to watch immediately. I was an emotional rollercoaster during most of LOST runs and had tears in my eyes for much of the finale.
"The Rains of Castamere" made me a different kind of nervous because I knew what was coming in the end. With each passing scene, I felt more and more nervous until the chaos ensued. I read A Storm of Swords two years ago and nearly stopped reading the series after The Red Wedding chapter (but specifically after the Arya fakeout, which the show did not choose to do). I felt nervous because of the brutality of the scene, the horror of it all, and the pain of it. Game of Thrones is a painful series to watch, and A Song of Ice and Fire is a painful series to read. "Baelor" changed the show. Ned's death showed the audience that Martin's story is not interested in telling the typical triumphant hero story. Game of Thrones is a long and involved story with an insane amount of characters, an insane amount of stories, and an insane sense that nothing good will ever happen; that the bad men will win the day, that Joffrey will rule the Seven Kingdoms to old age, that Walder Frey will continue breathing, dining, and fornicating, while the noble Starks just seem to die.
Ned Stark's name is invoked and remembered multiple times this episode. Cat remembers the night of her marriage to Ned in a conversation with Roose Bolton. Talisa tells Robb their child, should he be a he, will be named Eddard. The Hound reminds Arya about Ilyn Payne cutting his head off with her watching AS he reminds her that she hasn't been with family since that day. Cat remembers Ned's nobility: he wouldn't let a bedding ceremony happen, because he didn't want to break a man's jaw on his wedding night. Ned's among the most noble and honorable characters in the series. Perspective changes a man, though. Jaime's story portrays Ned as a cold judge, a sort of Catholic figure, standing in a large, dark empty hall, passing judgment on a man he's not bothered to listen to, to possibly understand. Robb's prepared to die like his father, fighting the Lannisters. Cat outlined what might happen at Casterly Rock. Of course, Casterly Rock didn't matter. Glory at Casterly Rock was a fever dream. Robb was doomed from the day he broke his oath.
Tonight's episode finally brought out a truly frustrating thing from the books--the close proximity of the characters and the audience's awareness of it so that the audience goes nuts thinking of the ways character x and character y can finally reunite. The wildling/tower scene is tortorous to watch but for different reasons than the red wedding. Jon's just below with his wildlings while Bran's in the tower, trying to calm Hodor down. Arya's can SEE her family's tents at the Twins. Bran and Jon can't meet because of their different stories. Jon shows he's not a true wildling when he fails to kill the older man and then flees for Castle Black. Bran wargs to protect himself and everyone in the tower, but he catches a glimpse of Jon. Jon's absence from The Wall lends more credibility to Jojen's green dream about Jon Snow's absence from The Wall.
"The Rains of Castamere" would've been a success with solely defining Bran's story. Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and the Reeds haven't done much this season. Finally, though, Bran's story is defined. He's the only warg in Westeros to warg another person. Hodor freaks out when he hears the thunder, so he gets inside Hodor to calm him down. He gets wargs with Summer to protect those he loves. Jojen hasn't told a single lie, which means Bran needs to meet the three eyed raven Beyond-the-Wall. Osha refuses to go, and Bran won't force her to; indeed, he needs Osha to take Rickon to the Umbers in the south. Rickon will be safe, and he'll be heir to Winterfall should something terrible happen to the Bran or the other siblings. Their goodbye scene is sad. Little Rickon's an underrated character. Bran, the Reeds, and Hodor, are moving north, and it's going to be awesome.
Another thing about the episode: it is contained. Critics complain about the number of character and storylines, whining that episodes should be more contained. The episode follows four stories. Over in Essos, Dany's men take Yunkai. Daario leads the charge, while Jorah and Grey Worm back him up. I think Jorah's facial expression after he returns to Dany's tent is more telling and important than the victory. The expression on Jorah's face seems to suggest Daario died, but Jorah seems crushed that Dany seems to care about Daario more than him. Jorah's been with her since Pentos. He enters the tent covered in the blood of the men he's slain for her, and she urgently asks about the well-being of the pretty boy.
Of course, the scene that'll linger will be the red wedding. It's the most famous chapter in the books, and it's a scene that pretty much moves Game of Thrones to a whole nother level, from a pop-cultural standpoint. I hope that you didn't see it coming, and I hope that it stays with you, because that's the mark of great fiction. The red wedding devastated me.
-Sam and Gilly had another delightful scene. Sam's thing about the nightfort is worth remembering. Gilly's amazement over what Sam learned from marks in a book remind me of Shireen wanting to teach Davos how to read. I'm also reminded of Tyrion's affinity for words in season one. There are power in words, in notes. Dark wings, dark words--the essence of that is important in this series.
-Richard Madden and Michelle Fairley portrayed their characters terrifically for three seasons. Madden's Robb was more prominent in the show versus in the books whereas Cat was reduced to background scenery for most of season three.
-The Hound saves Arya by knocking her out and carrying her away. Earlier, Arya promised to stab him through the eye the first chance she got. Martin devastated me in A Storm of Swords by ending Arya's chapter with 'and she took an axe to the back of the head.' I read it during August 2011. I was already incredibly sad that year, and that last sentence just did me in for two days. I love Arya. She's my favorite character in the show. I do think Benioff and Weiss should've had Cat's insane death scene as the penultimate scene followed by the fake-out with Arya just so that the internet could further explode.
-Cat's death could be described with many adjectives, but that goes for the entire Red Wedding. The end of the slaughter is chilling. Robb stands up and turns away from Talisa, and he's dazed. Like a little boy he calls "mother" before taking a knife to the gut. Cat tried to save his life by threatening the life of Walder's wife, but Walder Frey is a true bastard. Cat watches her son die and then slits the throat of Frey's wife before her own throat is slit. Fairley's excellent in the scene because she's numb, empty--it's like she's left herself and there's nothing left. Those two moments will stick out in my mind: Robb's weak "mother" call and Cat's emptiness.
-So, who's worse? Joffrey or Walder? I'll say it's a tie.
-David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. David Nutter directed the episode.
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