Game of Thrones Memory Lane 309: The Rains of Castamere

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A Game of Thrones episode as pivotal as “The Rains of Castamere” requires a lot of lovin’ and a lot of attention. It stands as the dividing point of the series- everything is before or after the Red Wedding. Today we’ll be enjoying this incredible episode with three posts: after this one, we’ll have a fun look back at the fan reactions to the scene that broke the internet, and then we’ll cap the day off with Marc N. Kleinhenz’s Anatomy of a Throne analyzing the book-to-screen adaptation for the episode. Starting us off with our walk down Memory Lane- please welcome back Greatjon of Slumber! – Sue the Fury

Game of Thrones as a television show was already well accomplished by the time it reached the penultimate episode of season 3; its ratings were strong, it was hailed for close attention to character, acting, and engaging storyline, was both a critical and cultural favorite, and had tons of fans among both fans of the novels and those who discovered it via HBO. But it was this episode – more commonly known as “The Red Wedding,” that turned it into a phenomenon.

With that in mind, there’s also been a hell of a lot written about “The Rains of Castamere,” and justifiably. It remains one of the show’s most critically acclaimed episodes, but the litany of brutal deaths – including the shocking murders of three primary characters – gives it a “water cooler” appeal that is probably only rivaled by “Hardhome” and a few others that feature deaths of iconic characters.

Because so much has been written about this episode, this time on Memory Lane we’re going to try a slightly different approach, with a series of somewhat short (and shorter) observations about this hour of television. But first, let’s start with the text – not George R.R. Martin’s text, but William Shakespeare.

TR

It is said that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet could have as easily been a comedy as a tragedy. The banter and chest-beating among the younger set – Romeo’s friends and Tybalt’s entourage – is rather light-hearted in the early setpiece of the play, the Capulets’ party, where Romeo first encounters Juliet. And in fact, the play only reveals its true nature as a tragedy when Mercutio is killed at the open of Act III – which motivates Romeo to kill Tybalt, and from there, things go downhill. The same can be said of this episode (not that it’s a comedy, but that it for a time seems to be headed towards a relatively peaceful resolution). Walder Frey gives us several moments of humor, including the cringe comedy of trotting out about a dozen children and grandchildren to accept Robb’s apology for breaking his vows; his raised eyebrow later at Robb when everyone gets a good look at Edmure Tully’s bride, Roslin Frey, who is nowhere near as homely as most of the Frey offspring, and of course the nutty bedding ceremony. Until the doors close and “The Rains of Castamere” is heard, the episode’s true intentions have not been revealed. Again, this is Game of Thrones, so we have certain expectations – but that’s our past knowledge only.

This episode concludes the unstated, but crucial, link between the characters of Roose Bolton and Talisa Maegyr. The showrunners were careful – and brilliant – in their subtle means of tying Robb’s slow break from his bannermen and union with Talisa throughout seasons two and three, expressed by visually connecting Roose with Talisa in several instances:
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  • The two characters are introduced within moments of each other in “The Ghost of Harrenhal.” Bolton’s introduction is more fleeting; at that time, we don’t know that he’s anything more than another bannerman. He gives way to the first scene with Talisa, as she amputates the leg of a wounded Lannister soldier following the Battle of Oxcross.
  • Two episodes later, in “A Man Without Honor,” Robb ends a meeting with his bannermen with the imprisonment of Alton Lannister. Roose Bolton is the last to leave; he hesitates for a moment in front of Robb as Talisa approaches and asks Robb for medical supplies; only then does he turn to depart.
  • The next episode, “The Prince of Winterfell,” features a conversation between Robb and Roose about the progress made by Ramsay Bolton (then unnamed) towards re-taking Winterfell. They are interrupted, again, by Talisa – a scene which ends with them making love.
  • By the time season three rolls around, in “Dark Wings, Dark Words,” this time, it’s Roose Bolton who is the outsider, the one doing the interrupting, as he steps into a conversation between now-married Robb and Talisa with word of the death of Hoster Tully and that Bran and Rickon were not found in the sack of Winterfell. With the reversal of roles here, it’s a sign from the filmmakers that Talisa is the more primary advisor now, but again, serves as an important visual connection between the two.

Until now, Roose Bolton has mostly been a disapproving bannerman. In “The Rains of Castamere,” we learn much about Bolton with a few nimble gestures that involve very little dialogue – his disdain for alcohol, his shrewdness, exemplified by his decision to marry the fattest of Walder Frey’s daughters to enrich himself, and his depraved sense of humor, as he lets Catelyn in on the plot just before it commences, by glancing to his sleeve, which reveals his chain mail hidden under his clothing. It’s a showcase for Michael McElhatton, one of the show’s strongest assets.

Walder

Speaking of assets, the episode’s most valuable guest player, David Bradley, does tremendous work as Walder Frey, shifting between his own wicked sense of humor and his sense of wounded pride for having had a promise reneged upon by a young man who he suspects sees him as less worthy of his respect. Classism is never far from the surface in character motivations – and Walder Frey is rightly aggrieved, given he has two assets he can offer: the crossing, and his daughters and granddaughters. Bradley is letter-perfect in this role, even just in the reaction shots to the slaughter that show him lasciviously continuing to eat while his men eliminate all of the nobility in the room.

Oddly enough – and this is the only time I’ll refer to the books – Bradley is far younger than the Walder Frey described in the book; he was 71 when the show aired, and Frey, in the books is said to be 90 years old. He also seems to lack one of the defining physical characteristics of the Freys, the “weak chin,” which Tom Brooke, who plays Lame Lothar (he’s the one who stabs Talisa), and Tim Plester, who plays Black Walder (he cuts Cat’s throat), do possess, and it’s nice to see that bit of description make its way into the casting. The costumers seem to have also decided to give most of the Freys what we should call “schmuck with earflaps” hats, another common visual cue.

This is, of course, the final episode for Richard Madden, Michelle Fairley, and Oona Chaplin. The first two get a scene at the beginning that seems designed, in part, to answer criticism that the show had removed much of Catelyn’s intelligence and made her too passive. But Robb rightly acknowledges Cat’s advice not to trust Theon Greyjoy, and he clearly has also made a mistake in marrying Talisa, just as she was arguably mistaken in releasing Jaime Lannister.

It’s hard to overstate how great Michelle Fairley is in this episode. Her final scene is full of white-hot fury, and her blood-curdling scream to close the episode is hard to forget. After she slits the throat of Joyeuse Frey, you can see the life has left her, and Black Walder’s murder of her is almost a formality.

After she falls, the show runs the credits with no music at all. It’s as if it wanted you to wrestle with what you’ve just seen without any relief from an orchestral score to calm your nerves.

Catelyn


Other Observations:

  • This episode has several other notable action scenes – Jon Snow kills his tormentor Orell in a fight just south of the Wall, for one. This scene also features the phenomena known as Deus ex Direwolf, though at least the show acknowledges their presence by showing them looking on before the Wildlings kill a horse breeder who supplies the Watch. It’s also curious that Tormund elects not to attack Jon himself. One could argue he’s mostly occupied by keeping Ygritte from protecting Jon – but given he’s clearly one of the best Wildling fighters, if he really wanted Jon dead, he could have done it himself. Ygritte’s reaction – not to go after Jon – is easier to understand, as she’s only starting to take the measure of his betrayal.

YgritteTormund

  • Another scene involves a nice bit of action in Yunkai, where Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont and Grey Worm take out about a dozen (or more?) guards in the city, featuring a showcase of their differing fighting styles, from the more formal Jorah to the somewhat more brutal Daario to the lithe, almost balletic movements of Grey Worm.
  • The partnership between the Hound and Arya deepens. We see the Hound is yet again a perceptive judge of character – even with his brusque delivery. And Arya nearly matches him by throwing his injuries at him, a moment that would be revisited, more tenderly, in season 4.
  • Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that standing next to Roose Bolton during the wedding ceremony is a hirsute man with a merman sigil pinned to his chest. The unnamed character is Wendel Manderly, of House Manderly of White Harbor, a city in the north mentioned at various times during the show.
  • These aren’t real “departures,” as the characters in question aren’t dead, but this does mark the last time – so far – that we’ve seen Natalia Tena’s Osha, always a great presence on the show, and Art Parkinson’s Rickon. If we ever see the latter again, he’ll probably be six feet tall and tower over most of the House of Umber, where Bran sent them. Their farewell is a great, tender moment, and it also helps elevate Bran’s character – making the decision to go north of the Wall his, rather than Maester Luwin’s at the end of Season 2.
  • It’s also – so far – the last appearance for Tobias Menzies (Edmure) and Clive Russell (the Blackfish).

bride and groom

Introductions:

Joyeuse Frey, Walder Frey’s wife, looking appropriately miserable throughout the episode; Roslin Frey; the Twins’ house band, replete with crossbows, a pig farmer, a Night’s Watch’s horse breeder, daughter Walda, daughter Arwaya, daughter Derwa, daughter Waldra, granddaughter Janeya, granddaughter Neyela, Serra and Sarra – granddaughters, twins, you could have had either, could have had both, for all Walder Frey cares, granddaughter Marianne, granddaughter Freya, granddaughter, uh, “Wertha? Waira? Waldina?” Ed note: Merry (fine), and the youngest daughter, Sherei.

Departures:

Catelyn Stark; Robb Stark; Talisa Maegyr; Joyeuse Frey; Wendel Manderly; Grey Wind; any expectation for ever seeing the Greatjon again; a whole hell of a lot of Northern soldiers and bannermen, some pig’s feet, Orell, a couple dozen ineffectual Yunkai soldiers, an old man, a bunch of horses.

Beautiful Death’s The Rains of Castamere entry:

BD Rains

78 responses

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    1. Very nice “memory lane”, Greatjon!

      I remember this episode so vividly. I was about 1/3 into A Storm of Swords at the time the episode aired so I hadn’t read yet about the red wedding. Because the books give us a little more insight about the true character of Walder Frey I suspected something bad was going to happen, but nothing could have prepared me for that blood bath. And then the soundless fading to black and the credits just left me in a dire state. It was almost as bad as the state I was after watching the massacre portrayed in Black Hawk Down, and these were fictional people.

      How I love these memory lanes… Keep up the good work, WOTW!

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    2. I thought this was a great “scene” but that doesn’t make it the best “episode” overall – I still think “Kissed by Fire” was the best episode of Season 3.

      Yes some wanted it to be the whole episode.

      The non-Red Wedding scenes are okay in this, it’s just that they’re not really related to the Red Wedding so it doesn’t really make for one unified “episode” experience….not that this is a bad thing, it just feels like a supercut of unrelated though brilliant scenes, as opposed to other episodes which had some sort of narrative theme or link.

      As for the TV Red Wedding itself, I enjoyed it, but I intellectually acknowledge that it could never plausibly include all of the events in the book version — Dacey Mormont’s death run for the door is engrained in my mind, just that she was the ONE person who managed to make it all the way to the doors, only to then run into enemy reinforcements and get cut down as they enter. There would never be enough time in a TV show to include all such characters.

      Not a criticism of the episode but of Talisa in general….and I liked her in Season 3…..is that I think stabbing her in her pregnant belly became emblematic of how little the character was used. I read Richard Madden’s explanation and actually fully agreed: they wanted to kill off Talisa in the TV version to dispel any romantic notions that she would live to give birth to his heir who would live to avenge him, just as they dispelled romantic, stereotypical notions that Robb would live to avenge Ned. I get that.

      What I mean is….years later, Talisa was such a forgettable and poorly written character that the only thing many people seem to remember about her is that she got stabbed in her (not visibly) pregnant belly. Essentially reducing a female character to her breeding capacity.

      This isn’t the episode’s fault, I wouldn’t have done it differently, but it’s more a retrospective that for all their “we wanted to show what was going on off screen” they didn’t really come up with a solid romance storyline for Robb. Which is a shame because Oona Chaplin is a good actor.

      I think it was great ending on Catelyn’s throat being slit with a jump cut to black, no music.

      Some wanted the hysterical version of her scratching out her face, but this would have been difficult to portray on-screen without her internal POV narration.

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    3. Bran’s post-ACOK/Season 2 story was unfortunately running on fumes before GRRM’s original Act 2 story would commence in TWOW/Season 6, but this is the one major cinematic setpiece they had left (and the meeting with Sam next episode, which wasn’t action, but was interesting on a character level).

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    4. You know, I’ve wondered if that moment when Brynden Tully seems embarrassed at the admiring looks of the Frey women was a hint that he is homosexual.

      I wonder if this will be revealed when he returns in Season 6.

      An unmarried man at his age, people get talking.

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    5. The Dragon Demands:
      You know, I’ve wondered if that moment when Brynden Tully seems embarrassed at the admiring looks of the Frey women was a hint that he is homosexual.

      I wonder if this will be revealed when he returns in Season 6.

      An unmarried man at his age, people get talking.

      You know I wouln’t mind if the Blackfish does turn up to be homosexual. Not all gay men dream of their weddings and fringe sleeved gowns. Which is why I don’t want Yara to turn out to be a lesbian in s6. The strong, butch woman is a lesbian is too cliched.

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    6. The Dragon Demands:

      Not a criticism of the episode but of Talisa in general….and I liked her in Season 3…..is that I think stabbing her in her pregnant belly became emblematic of how little the character was used.I read Richard Madden’s explanation and actually fully agreed:they wanted to kill off Talisa in the TV version to dispel any romantic notions that she would live to give birth to his heir who would live to avenge him, just as they dispelled romantic, stereotypical notions that Robb would live to avenge Ned.I get that.

      What I mean is….years later, Talisa was such a forgettable and poorly written character that the only thing many people seem to remember about her is that she got stabbed in her (not visibly) pregnant belly.Essentially reducing a female character to her breeding capacity.

      That totally contradicts the statement you wrote in the “talk” section of the Red Wedding. You know: “We don’t give a shit about Talisa as she’s a horribly written invention of the TV writers”. I wonder if that was just another of your “overreaction moments”.

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    7. I started watching Thrones after Season 3 and i remember after this episode aired all i saw on social media were people freaking out and a couple of my friends kept insisting i started the series. I finally gave in and here i am today. Good thing i took my friends advice! While Rains of Castamere doesn’t place in my top 5, it remains very nostalgic for me.

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    8. Lord Parramandas,

      Truth be told, Jeyne Westerling is one of the most fully fleshed-out characters in all literature. Her romance with Robb makes Shakespeare ashamed at his own inadequacy. It is easy to see how unfavorably Talisa compares to such a giant literary figure.

      Or something…

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    9. This aired on my friend’s birthday. She joins us every week for a viewing party and she spent most of the night crying because of the Red Wedding. Good times 😀

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    10. Lord Parramandas: That totally contradicts the statement you wrote in the “talk” section of the Red Wedding. You know: “We don’t give a shit about Talisa as she’s a horribly written invention of the TV writers”. I wonder if that was just another of your “overreaction moments”.

      …..you do realize that’s something I wrote in anger, over two years ago, and my thoughts have LONG since cooled and moderated on the subject?

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    11. Yaga:
      The Dragon Demands,

      What do you mean? Is this a joke I’m not getting? Because I know I spelled it correctly.

      Sorry, bad joke, thought I deleted it (joke that Dubya Bush pronounced it “ambilivant” on SNL)

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    12. Yaga:
      The Dragon Demands,

      What do you mean? Is this a joke I’m not getting? Because I know I spelled it correctly.

      I don’t know if this person is just argumentative but he seems to be trying to start something with a lot of folks on here…. IJS… all of his comments seem to have a negative slant. IMHO… and yes you spelled it correctly.

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    13. Yoyo: You know I wouln’t mind if the Blackfish does turn up to be homosexual. Not all gay men dream of their weddings and fringe sleeved gowns. Which is why I don’t want Yara to turn out to be a lesbian in s6. The strong, butch woman is a lesbian is too cliched.

      I completely agree. I thought it would be interesting if Brynden turns out to be this seasoned, grizzled, veteran warrior of the Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion and even young Jaime was in awe of him, and privately he’s actually homosexual.

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    14. mau:
      Walder Frey’s wife was introduced in S1.

      Yeah the actress is actually a member of the props department who is also a background double for some of the other major characters, she’s cool.

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    15. The Dragon Demands: Sorry, bad joke, thought I deleted it (joke that Dubya Bush pronounced it “ambilivant” on SNL)

      Mayhap you should only “joke” with folks you have an established relationship on here? It’s too hard to understand contextual meaning in “written communication” unless you are a very good writer… and it was really coming from left field so I doubt anyone would remember that misspelled word by Bush.

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    16. It is rare to watch something that gives me immense pain and pleasure at the same time. And I thank all the gods of the ASOIAF universe that I was unsullied when I first saw it so that the haunting feeling returns every time I watch it. My favourites Fairley and Bradley. Superb performances! And of course Long live LSH!

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    17. The Dragon Demands:

      What I mean is….years later, Talisa was such a forgettable and poorly written character that the only thing many people seem to remember about her is that she got stabbed in her (not visibly) pregnant belly.Essentially reducing a female character to her breeding capacity.

      That is just a fantastically absurd statement. I don’t even know how to begin unpacking it.

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    18. Excellent analysis. Such a bittersweet episode and sweet in only the sense that I knew unsullied reaction would go through the roof during/after the episode. I loved watching the reaction videos. Especially when there was one smug smiling book reader sitting amongst the group.

      Michelle Fairley was positively Shakespearean in this episode. I can see why D&D saw her in a play and knew she would make a good Cat. I don’t know if she even submitted this episode to the Emmys but I can’t imagine there were many better single episodes for any actress on television that year.

      I think book readers tend to not love Robb Stark all that much, and I am firmly in that camp, but Richard Madden did such a great job with TV Robb. I didn’t even so much mind his playful relationship with Talisa (attack! attack!) because the actors had great chemistry. His “Mother…” was heart wrenching.

      I don’t know if it was Maisie’s choice, the director’s choice or a script note, but I feel like Arya’s murder of Meryn Trant last season had a bit of a callback to her mother’s murder of Joyeuse Frey. When she finally slit his throat, seemingly devoid of emotion, she looked just like her mother. 🙁

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    19. Yaga:
      The Dragon Demands,
      Ice Spider,

      Nah, Spider, chill (although you seem cool (pun intended) enough). TDD: I’m not American. Went totally over my head… But I did suspect this was a joke. That’s why I asked.

      All good… thanks for setting me straight!! Lowers head in shame!!

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    20. Yaga,

      What do you mean by everyone? I certainly think Talisa is much more of a chracter than the plot device that Jeyne was in the books.

      You bring so much negativity everytime you comment on here….I recommond you try westeros.org for more like-minded folks.

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    21. The Dragon Demands: …..you do realize that’s something I wrote in anger, over two years ago, and my thoughts have LONG since cooled and moderated on the subject?

      Yes I’m aware of that. But considering that prior to RW you stated that the only possible resolution for Talisa’s story would be her being a Lannister spy, I wonder what changed your mind…

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    22. The Dragon Demands: I completely agree.I thought it would be interesting if Brynden turns out to be this seasoned, grizzled, veteran warrior of the Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion and even young Jaime was in awe of him, and privately he’s actually homosexual.

      I noticed that when I watched this time, probably because I had read the theory on that other website. It would be a nice parallel to

      Jon Connington.

      I am still hearing the Rains of Castamere in my head, even though I watched this episode three nights ago…

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    23. My brother still refers to the Freys as “The hillbillies in the shitty hats.”

      .. so yeah – no respect garnered for House Frey. Sorry, Walder lol

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    24. Brilliantly gruesome final act, though not an overall great episode. Then again, I still think “Baelor” and “Hardhome” are the only truly great episodes of the show for me. And as big as this event was it also halted the show’s momentum and felt more like a step backwards than forward unlike Ned’s death. The show didn’t start to gain momentum again until the last few episodes of season five.

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    25. I fucking love Michael McElhatton. Just stating this for the 50th time.

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    26. Yaga:
      The Dragon Demands,
      Ice Spider,

      Nah, Spider, chill (although you seem cool (pun intended) enough). TDD: I’m not American. Went totally over my head… But I did suspect this was a joke. That’s why I asked.

      Again, even I realized I was being stupid, tried to delete it, but the timer ran out.

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    27. KG:
      My brother still refers to the Freys as “The hillbillies in the shitty hats.”

      .. so yeah – no respect garnered for House Frey. Sorry, Walder lol

      The Freys remind me of the McPoyle clan from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”….or rather, the McPoyles remind me of the Freys.

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    28. Ah, this was an astounding episode. I think that the best touch of all was having the Frey henchman stab Talisa repeatedly in the gut, moments after she and Robb had decided to name him Eddard. For most viewers, it was shocking enough that they killed Ned in the first place: and now they killed Ned Stark AGAIN!!! And, of course, it was a wonderful in-joke for the hardcore fans, given the silly fan-conjecture that Jeyne Westerling was pregnant with Robb’s son and that this son is going to be the “long lost heir” to be restored to the Throne in the North, etc., etc. And best of all: although I knew what was coming, I had no idea this was coming. Kudos.

      I would add that the show took a bit of a risk elevating Robb from a secondary character to an actual protagonist. Book!Robb exists primarily to create dilemmas for Catelyn, and often trying to shift a character from foil->player has major “butterfly” effects on the rest of the story. By chance and skill, they pulled it off well. Talisa was used excellently for this. It is amusing to me how much the “purists” complained about her when she actually helped do something that this type of fan craves most of all: world-building. One very important thing we learn from her is that the rest of the world considers the Westerosi to be barbarians, or little better than barbarians. And to a high-born woman from that world, one Westerosi savage is little different from another, regardless of what titles they put before their names. (It also tells us that people in Volantis view Westeros as “third world”: after all, Westeros is where their Peace Corp equivalents go!) This will almost certainly be important later.

      And, of course, this in turn helped Show!Robb’s character immensely: weak men fear strong women, and if Show!Robb had married a medieval barbie-bimbo like Jeyne Westerling (I could hear her saying “Wobb-Wobb” a la Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter series when I re-read the series in 2011), then it would have made it a lot tougher for viewers to take him seriously as a man of ethics. That in itself was important: although both Book!Robb and Show!Robb fail in the end, Show!Robb becomes a precursor to what we see in Daeny and Jon, i.e., leaders who want equitable solutions for the many, not just the few. And having Show!Robb fall for the “Peace Corp” analog who initially writes him off as a savage makes him stand in stark contrast to other male characters who state things such as “smart women do as they are told.”

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    29. I loved Talisa’s barely hidden disgust at the bedding ceremony. You and me both, girl.

      Roose was perfection, although the shot where Roose just sort of slides into frame to stab Robb is weirdly hilarious.

      If they weren’t going to explain the bread and salt thing, they should have just cut the shot of that bit altogether.

      Brynden could very well be homosexual, but just because Brynden wasn’t interested in the Frey women doesn’t mean that he’s gay. They weren’t anything to write home about.

      I’ll give the showrunners a pass if Yara turns out to be a lesbian, since Brienne, who’s far stronger and butcher than Yara, is 150% straight, and since it’s been strongly hinted that TV Margaery, who’s as uberfeminine as they get, is either bisexual or a lesbian as well.

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    30. “The King in the North arises …”

      So … yeah. Nearly three full years later, this episode still hurts like hell.

      “The Rains of Castamere”, and specifically the Red Wedding, has been mythologized to such a degree in popular culture that one might expect I’d feel some degree of desensitization to the horrors it depicts. And I do … when I discuss the events out of context. Yet whenever I watch the entire sequence from beginning to end, I’m drawn right back into the way I was when I was sitting on my couch on June 2, 2013, taking it all in for the first time.

      Even though I knew it was coming, it’s hard to overstate just how powerful and gut-wrenching the entire sequence is, especially the final scene. I spent the entire hour watching with a tight knot of dread in my stomach, and when the doors slammed shut and the music started playing, that knot only tightened.

      Speaking of dread, Andy Greenwald said something very apt in his recap of the episode on Grantland. He’s Unsullied, but he offered up what I consider one of the best summations of the sequence I’ve read.

      “Dread is an underutilized emotion on TV … Director David Nutter choreographed the entire massacre like a ballet, focusing not only on the showstopping leaps (in this case, of arterial blood) but also on all the small steps necessary to get there: the ominous clank of the castle door, the baleful whine of a suspicious wolf. This was horrifying, spellbinding filmmaking. And when the bolts and plasma started flying, Nutter wisely focused not on the gore but on the ferocious performance of Michelle Fairley, a lioness regardless of her banner who somehow managed to cram all five stages of grief into a four-minute scene.”

      Perfectly stated. The full piece is well-worth reading, if you haven’t already. Check it out here. http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/game-of-thrones-season-3-episode-9-its-like-rains-on-your-wedding-day/

      I listen to the Game of Thrones soundtracks often (particularly when I’m running) and I go through cycles with Ramin Djawdi’s Red Wedding track: “The Lannisters Send Their Regards”. At times, I want listen to it on repeat, because it’s such a beautiful, powerful, and terrifying piece of music. Other times, I skip over it and go on to the next song. I’ve memorized the details of the massacre to such a degree that I can play it back in my mind as the song plays, filling in all of the chaotic visuals and ambient noise of the slaughter – the screams, the crashes, the thrum of the crossbows, the sound of cold metal tearing into warm flesh. When I’m outside, and the sun is shining down and the wind is wind is flowing past my face, I don’t always want to revisit Walder Frey’s hellish, bloodstained halls. It can be a little too much to dwell on.

      Still, as haunting as all of that sound and fury is, it can’t compete with the power of silence. As in, the total silence that accompanies the closing credits. It was a perfect choice – the only choice, in fact. I commend the show for doing it. I also hope that they never do it again, no matter how powerful of an ending any future episode might have. Such a tactic should remain a one-time commemoration.

      David Benioff and Dan Weiss have said that reading the Red Wedding chapter in A Storm of Swords was the moment that cemented their desire to adapt George R.R. Martin’s series for television. If they could keep the show alive for long enough to make it to that moment and successfully bring it to the screen, they could look back on their work with pride. Well, they should be proud. They pulled it off … to an absolutely astonishing degree. They created a piece of art that people will remember and celebrate for many years after Game of Thrones leaves the airwaves … once they’ve finished drying their tears.

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    31. I remember reading ASOS just after S2 finished (I was introduced to the books by the show) and thinking there’s no way they can make the episode as shocking as the books. But BOY did they succeed in making it even more traumatic.

      The butchering of Talisa in the belly for me was the most shocking not only due to her pregnancy, but because I’d been suspicious of her from her introduction in S2, where I’d assumed she would take on a dual Jeyne/Sybell role. The ep where she’s writing to her “Mother” had me convinced she’d betray the Starks. So when she died I felt both shock and guilt.

      Michelle Fairley was outstanding in this and she should have been given the Emmy for her portrayal.

      A truly excellent episode and I feel it could only have been capped in terms of drama by creating the illusion that the Hound had killed Arya, just like in the book. At least that way the audience would have some consolation the week after.

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    32. M: I loved Talisa’s barely hidden disgust at the bedding ceremony. You and me both, girl.

      Ah, that is a good point! It was one last reminder that the Westerosi are looked upon as barbaric. However, it was another reminder that different customs often are viewed as barbaric by others: after all, Daeny has much the same reaction to many of the customs of the much more advanced Essosian cultures.

      Jared: They pulled it off … to an absolutely astonishing degree.

      What is truly remarkable is that it made the show more popular rather than less popular. I genuinely worried that this would kill the show. However, it seems that the audience got it: this is not about “good guys” vs. “bad guys,” but something much more and something much more real.

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    33. I have a friend who – amazingly – just saw the episode for the first time last week (she just got around to binge watching GoT) and knew nothing about it. She said it practically left her with a concussion. Years later, it hasn’t lost an ounce of its potency.

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    34. Wimsey: What is truly remarkable is that it made the show more popular rather than less popular. I genuinely worried that this would kill the show. However, it seems that the audience got it: this is not about “good guys” vs. “bad guys,” but something much more and something much more real.

      I have a feeling that the internet explosion that happened afterwards really helped the show add new viewers. It made it Must Watch TV for anyone who was sitting on the fence, if only to be in on the conversation of what happens next. I get a little irritated that each season has now become a guessing game of “who dies next?” since I think the show is much more than that, but I guess that’s just a testament to this episode’s lingering power.

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    35. Jared: So … yeah. Nearly three full years later, this episode still hurts like hell.

      What still gets to me is Michelle Fairley’s final scream. It is bone chilling. I’m stunned she got zero recognition for this episode (and the series). I think her moment here is as good as anything Bryan Cranston did in BB.

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    36. Jack Bauer 24:
      I started watching Thrones after Season 3 and i remember after this episode aired all i saw on social media were people freaking out and a couple of my friends kept insisting i started the series. I finally gave in and here i am today. Good thing i took my friends advice! While Rains of Castamere doesn’t place in my top 5, it remains very nostalgic for me.

      Same here!
      And as you say, this is not one my top ten episodes either.
      Sometimes I wonder if having watched the first 3 seasons at once, not taking my time to savour them is why I did not particularly care for any of the “king in the north” characters. Including Robb, Catelyn and of course Talisa, who on top of that is a very curious character.
      The red wedding was a shock though.

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    37. Jared:

      Still, as haunting as all of that sound and fury is, it can’t compete with the power of silence. As in, the total silence that accompanies the closing credits. It was a perfect choice – the only choice, in fact. I commend the show for doing it. I also hope that they never do it again, no matter how powerful of an ending any future episode might have. Such a tactic should remain a one-time commemoration.

      Beautifully put, as always. However, didn’t Hardhome end with silence as well, which I thought perfectly portrayed how utterly dismal the future of Westeros is going to be.

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    38. Ravyn: I get a little irritated that each season has now become a guessing game of “who dies next?” since I think the show is much more than that, but I guess that’s just a testament to this episode’s lingering power.

      Well, that is part of what happens for each season: but only part of it. In part, it is unusual to make protagonists of characters that do not make it to the end: after all, why waste time on character development if that development is not going to be important at the zenith? And if you waste time developing those characters, then won’t that often leave the truly important characters underdeveloped in the end? However, when main characters die, they always die towards the conclusion of the series (usually Episode 9): and thus when they are wrapping up another story-within-the-story each year.

      Indeed, this year, if there is a question, then it’s not “who will die” but it is “is X dead?”

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    39. Sou:
      The Dragon Demands,

      You are kidding! Two years ago? Not that it is any of my business but who would remember what someone said on a forum two years ago???

      It was not on the forum but on RW’s talk page, which I stumbled upon, and I was shocked that an administrator would make such a harsh response.

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    40. Apollo: The ep where she’s writing to her “Mother” had me convinced she’d betray the Starks. So when she died I felt both shock and guilt.

      A lot of people expressed this view. I asked then what I ask now: why wouldn’t she write to her mother? It is not as if only spies write to their mothers. Moreover, are reminded of what the Essosi think of the Westerosi, and I suspect that is going to be important for the story. No, the audience will not remember it per se: but it will be easy to remind them of this.

      At any rate, if the show had been doing this, then they would have hung some guns on the wall first. How did the Lannisters know that Robb was sending troops to X? How did they know that a Stark supply train was at Y? Etc., etc. However, there was no indication that the Lannisters had any spies of importance in the camp. So, if Talisa had been unmasked, then her villain’s monologue would have been pretty uneventful! (“Who do you think it was that told the Lannisters…. um…. well, why do you think that the Mountain… er… let’s see…. um… crap, I really did get behind in the reports. OK, the real point is that you are smelly and I never loved you like, I dunno, one of those skinny-hipped Westerling girls would have done.”)

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    41. Name *,

      I believe that “Hardhome” had about ten seconds of silence after the screen cut to black, but you could still hear the wind blowing. At that point, the eerie theme that plays whenever characters on the show talk about the White Walkers kicked in.

      EDIT: dothrakian raven beat me to it.

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    42. I’ve got some time, so I’m going to run through some of the characters who make this sequence so memorable.

      Catelyn: What more can be said about her? Her scream after Robb is stabbed by Roose Bolton and falls – first to his knees, and then to the ground, dead – is still one of the most haunting sounds I’ve heard in film or TV. It still sends chills down my spine, and I’d recognize it anywhere. At time the episode aired, Game of Thrones was well-represented at the Emmys, but it wasn’t quite the juggernaut that it is now. If it had been, Michelle Fairley would have nominated. She should have been nominated anyway. She is devastatingly great.

      Robb: Richard Madden’s performance helped elevate the Young Wolf into one of my favorite characters. That made losing him here all the more painful. Seeing how happy and at ease he is at the beginning of the feast, laughing and joking, reminds me of what natural and easy charisma Madden brought to the part. I always loved the jaunty little smile he gives Talisa when she expresses bemusement at the bedding concept. “It’s a tradition.” He’s charming as hell.

      (As the closest thing Game of Thrones possessed to a Prince Charming archetype, it’s fitting that Madden would go on to actually play Prince Charming in the live-action Cinderella film two years later).

      Yet Madden brought great range to the part as well. His skill at playing the steely military commander was well-established in prior episodes, as was the easy charm I mentioned. Yet contrast those qualities with the utterly heartbroken look on his face when he crawls over to his dying wife, and the hollow defeat in his voice when he says “Mother …” He knows it’s over. He’s lost everything. He’s ready to be done. Even if Walder Frey had allowed him to walk out of the hall, as Catelyn so desperately pleaded, who’d want to survive this?

      Talisa: I never believed the “Lannister honeypot” theory, so I suspected that she was going to be added to the carnage. It was all-but-confirmed when Robb brought her along to the Twins. Still, as an avowed fan of the character, seeing her meet such a cruel fate was horrifying. Oona Chaplin was a beautiful performer in every sense, and she brought a great warmth to all her scenes. I can’t fault Robb for falling in love with her too much, because I was pretty smitten with her myself. And I was just watching the show!

      “Don’t you want to teach little Ned Stark how to ride horses?” Yes. That would have been lovely. I like to think that little Eddard is riding his horse somewhere on the Great Farm Up North, while Grey Wind runs alongside him, Robb shouts instructions and encouragement, and Talisa looks on with pride. That daydream makes me happy.

      Just kidding. As Beric Dondarrion said a few episodes ago. “Other side. There is no other side. I have been to the darkness, my lady.” *Sigh* No Great Farm Up North, then. And no happy ending for anyone named Eddard, it seems.

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    43. Arya: God, Maisie Williams crushes my heart in this episode. She’s trying so hard to be brave and will herself into believing that her chance to be reunited with their family won’t be snatched away yet again. As the Hound says: “You’re almost there. And you’re afraid you won’t make it. The closer you get, the worse the fear gets.” If only her fear wasn’t so eminently justified. Seeing the look on her face when she witnesses the Freys turning on the Northern soldier and killing Grey Wind shatters me, as I’m sure it shattered her.

      The Hound: He’s the unsung hero of the episode – one of the few. I’m very glad they didn’t attempt to pull the trick that the book did, where “His axe took her in the back of the head.” It’s an incredibly powerful moment on the page, but it would have been difficult to capture, and the audience needed some ray of light in this episode, no matter how small. Speaking of rays of light, the Hound’s exchange with Arya over the pig merchant’s unconscious body is dark comedic gold. “I know a real killer …”/”That him?”/”No.”/”Good.”

      Roose Bolton: Whatever praise we’ve bestowed on Michael McElhatton over the years – and there’s been plenty of it – it’s still not enough. He’s such a valuable asset for this show, and this is one of his best episodes. The way he looks at Catelyn, inviting her, daring her, to pull up his sleeve, only to reveal the chainmail that lies beneath is a phenomenal visual beat. And then there’s the relish with which he delivers that infamous line: “The Lannisters send their regards.” Unlike everyone else who participated in the Red Wedding, I’m actually going to miss Roose whenever he goes.

      Walder Frey: It’s kind of remarkable that David Bradley has only appeared in three episodes of the show, because he’s left such an indelible mark on every Game of Thrones viewer. He plays the lecherous old man so well, and yet the savage glee with he watches the proceedings can’t be characterized as anything but childlike. Having Cat kill his wife instead of his halfwit grandson is worth it for Bradley’s cold delivery of the line “I’ll find another” alone.

      Lame Lothar and Black Walder: I know that we all want to see Walder Frey die a slow and painful death, but please … let’s not forget to bring these two back so that they can get their just desserts as well. Particularly Lame Lothar. Stabbing Talisa in her pregnant belly merits a special level of retribution.

      The Blackfish: His life-saving piss break has become something of a running joke, but hey, we all needed something to joke about after such a devastating hour. I also enjoy the beat where he furtively glances over at the Frey women who are openly ogling him, and quickly turns away. (I don’t think that was meant to imply that the character is gay. He might well be, but I doubt that’s a question the show will answer).

      Edmure: As his uncle said, the gods love to reward a fool. Now, surviving the massacre of almost your entire family at your own wedding is a paltry reward at best, but I trust Edmure enjoyed his time with Roslin before her family burst in and hauled himself to a dungeon cell. “Careful, ladies. Once you set that monster free, there’s no caging him again.” Oddly prescient words.

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    44. I remember after reading this chapter I put the book down and paced around for a bit trying to think where the story was heading now? I continued reading again after about 10 minutes of mumbling WTF and then I got to the PW and somehow the loss of the the RW didn’t sting as bad. The reactions of the folks I watched this episode with were priceless though

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    45. Other things happened in this episode besides the events at the Twins. Right.

      Bran and Rickon’s goodbye is a quietly heartbreaking scene. This was the episode when we all realized “Holy shit. Art Parkinson isn’t just a featured extra. This kid can act.”

      I also like how Osha’s rivalry with Meera pays off when she puts aside her earlier mistrust and commits Bran to the Reeds’ care. “Keep this one safe. He means the world to me.” She’s come a long way from holding a knife to the little lord’s throat during their first encounter.

      In the past, I always smiled at the line when Bran tells Osha and Rickon to seek refuge with the Umbers at Last Hearth. I did not smile this time. With the rumors that the Umbers are supporting the Boltons in Season 6, that line has now taken on a far more ominous tone to me. Damn it.

      Ygritte really was prepared to choose Jon over Mance and the wildling cause, wasn’t she? She would have shot Tormund if Jon hadn’t knocked her down, and she keeps desperately trying to help him … until he rides off without her. The look on her face when Jon leaves her behind says it all.

      Jon taunting Orell as he impales him with Longclaw is one of the few moments when we see Jon take actually pleasure in a kill. Then again, Orell deserved it.

      I got a good laugh out of Daario claiming to be ‘the greatest whistler in the land’. The way Jorah and Grey Worm glance at each other, they seem to be saying “Seriously? We’re staking our lives and our mission on this guy?” Yet the three of them work well together in their action scene – which I actually think is underrated as GOT action scenes go. Maybe the slave soldiers surrendered when they saw what Grey Worm can do with that spear. Dude can move.

      (The conquest of Yunkai does feel a bit perfunctory, but I’ll forgive that. It happens “offscreen” in the book as well, and the show was obviously trying to save its budget for the Red Wedding, which was the correct choice.)

      Given my empathy for Jorah, the look of devastation on his face when he reports their victory to Dany and her first instinct is to ask about Daario really shouldn’t be funny … but it kind of is. The quintessential “Oh no” moment.

      Since I’ve gushed about the episode at such excessive length, I’ll offer up one small piece of criticism: the Sam and Gilly scene. Don’t get me wrong, the scene itself is quite good. I love the way that Sam smiles when Gilly calls him a wizard. It’s a wonderful payoff to that moment he had with Jon in Season 1.

      Nevertheless, the scene does feel slightly out of place. I always forget that it’s in this episode, because it really feels like it belongs in the finale. Then again, “The Rains of Castamere” is only about 50 minutes long, while the finale is over an hour. Maybe the scene was put in this episode for length reasons.

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    46. Jared,

      Jared, as always your commentary is insightful. I was unsullied in Season 3 and just rewatched this episode and, as others have stated, it still has not lost its resonance. In retrospect, it is so easy to see the writing on the wall, especially in the books. The actions of Tywin, and espcially Roose point to some betrayal (sending Jamie to KL, Duskendale, the Ruby Ford, the reports from Winterfell) … Walder Frey’s comments on putting wrongs to right … I agree with the earlier comment re bread and salt … in the books Catelyn is rightly (and singularly) focused on the dangers associated with the wedding and brings that up to Robb and then at the Twins, thinking that guest right would apply. What I’ve always loved about the show and books is that the main characters who die generally have taken, or not taken, actions that contribute to their own demise. Robb and Catelyn both made major mistakes and in GoT that is usually sufficient for you to lose the game and die.

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    47. My (unsullied) jaw actually dropped at the end. I couldn’t believe what happened. I rushed to the internet to find out more about everything and then got the books and read most of them before season 4.

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    48. Lyanna_Targaryen,

      Yes you are wrong 🙂 There we have the classic Stark theme. But it is very quiet when Jon is lying stabbed on the ground and gives you the impression that something will happen. Nothing happens which set the internet on fire and then comes the violin slow music that signals that Death is Coming for another Stark…

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    49. Never having read the books (TBH had never even heard of GRRM or his ASOIAF books until I started watching S1 back 2011), I didn’t see the Red Wedding coming either.

      Looking back, my reaction certainly wasn’t as frantic or crazy as seen in some of those videos on You-Tube, but pretty certain I uttered something like: “Jesus H Christ… What the fuck is going on – The Starks are being eradicated!” 😉

      This scene (much like Ned getting beheaded) was a real gut buster and the reason I love GoT so much? Nothing like this has been shown on TV in a series where the good guys end up getting ‘the shitty end of the stick’. However, I was well happy when Joffrey got his comeuppance which compensated somewhat 😀

      It will be interesting to see how S6 turns out and who’s still alive after episode 10? Not long to go now…

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    50. Great departure not only of Catelyn Stark, but of Michelle Fairley too. She was for sure one of the best actors and it was always a pleasure to see her on screen.

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    51. M: If they weren’t going to explain the bread and salt thing, they should have just cut the shot of that bit altogether.

      Bread and salt is a tradition in certain parts of our world. Maybe the show should have explained the meaning behind it, but a lot of people who never read the books are quite familiar with the custom.

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    52. ?????,

      I didn’t hate Robb. I can’t say I particularly “liked” him. I could forgive him for simply being a dolt and not savvy enough to realize how serious could be the implications of his actions…blinded by love and perhaps the youthful naivety that it would conquer all. But his attitude while carrying out these decisions didn’t convince me that’s all it was because if so he should have been more circumspect, not so cock-sure. Instead I sensed it came from a place of entitlement, arrogance.

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