[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 9, "The Rains of Castamere"


Before we begin, can we acknowledge how completely David Bradley, as Walder Frey, completely owned this episode. His casting for a single epsiode (a single scene, even) in season one was done with this episode absolutely in mind, and he knocked it out of the park. As much as Dinklage and Charles Dance and Diana Rigg have been impressive all season, Bradley left them all behind, choking on the dust he kicked up in this lone episode. Every nervous, joyfilled shake of his hand, every tremble of his lips, every twisted, disgusting line that poured out of his mouth was perfect, and made everything that happened just that much better.

And now... Winter may be coming, but the Lannisters send their regards.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that don't squeak when their dead.

So, here we are then. Benioff and Weiss have said, from the beginning, that there is a passage in the third novel, Storm of Swords, that inspired them to create the entire series, just so they could put that one section to film. They have never stated exactly which passage, but I think it's safe to assume they meant the Red Wedding (a couple million more people now have that phrase as part of their lexicon then had it last week).

I remember when I read it the first time. It happens mid chapter 60% of the way through the novel, comes out of nowhere, and you don't even realise what's happening until it's half over. I read and reread that section of book, as the Freys turned on them, as the Rains of Castamere played over the sounds of Umbers and Mormonts and Starks having their blood spilt, as Cat tried to make sense of it all. As arrows flew and axes split, as outside fire rose and wolves howled. And because of that, during every episode, every scene of the series to this point, the Red Wedding has been bubbling behind my thoughts. It has all been leading to this.

And they did an amazing job. Until the chords of Rains began, there wasn't a hint of how things were going to go down (and kudos to the producers for making that tune as recognizable as it is). No tease, no winks and nudges. Until the knife came out. To be able to preserve the sort of surprise that can occur in text, in a visual medium, and have it come out as terrifying, as soul crushing and as fantastic as this is an achievement. They even afforded the viewer some hope, as Robb and Cat stand, wounded but alive, distraught and broken, but alive. And maybe things will go their way. Edmure and the Blackfish are somewhere, they could rescue them surely. Trust me when I tell you, if you've not read the books, so much more there happened then ever could have happened here. So much more pain, so much more blood, so much more misery in those final moments until the knife drew warmth, then silence.

The loss of Cat's internal monologue, which drives the description of the event, was countered quite nicely by the addition of Robb and Talisa, whose fawning over each other and joyfully ruminating about their future child gave the event the emotional punch it needed to be really devastating. And everything else was played just right. I especially liked the addition of Bolton letting Cat know what was about to happen, with only a twitch of the eyebrow saying so very much. There was something deeper there. Something, not respect, and certainly not pity. But there was something there, between Roose and Cat, that passed between them before the wedding turned red, that spoke to the humanity of it all. Bolton didn't act out of wrath or vengeance or scorn. He changed his allegiance out of survival, and he wanted Cat to see that. To show her that he wasn't a mad man, he was just a solider, picking the winning side.

They cut it just how I wanted them to, to stop after the initial bloodshed, and turn their eye towards Arya, as her last inkling of joy is ripped to shreds in the camps below (foreshadowed nicely by the Hound earlier, whose relationship with Arya is reaching the levels of she and Tywin last season). The darkness Melisandre saw was growing deeper, and her mother might have been able to turn her back. Now, what can Arya possibly be but hollow. And I knew what was going to happen (even if they did change one of my favourite passages from the books, of the Hound running her down on a horse), and still, with all the deviations this season has brought, I thought for a moment they might have changed things. That Arya might have made it to Grey Wind, that she might have let him loose. But what happened happened, and Grey Wind got to give a look himself. A look that said "if I could, I'd kill every one of you fuckers where you stand" before he was executed. The Frey's gave more dignity to the dog then to the wolves of Winterfell.

It was an evening of close calls, because other stuff happened too, other stuff that will be hazing by the time of next week's finale, because this episode will be remembered for it's final fifteen minutes rather then the proceeding forty. The Starks, splintered since episode two of the series, have never come closer to being together again then they did here. Jon and Rickon and Bran were within a stones throw of each other (though, they butchered the Queen's Crown sequence, my favourite location in the books, with it's water bridge. I'm more upset about it's alteration then I was the emotional fall out of the Wedding). But now, through death or the wilds, the Starks have been torn further apart then ever.

I've not been taken with any of the Wildling characters, Ygritte and Gilly especially, but Rose Leslie really impressed me with her growing understanding of what Jon really was. And that final shot of her face, watching him after he's butchered her fellows and taken off without her, spoke volumes (it really was a night of unspoken words, as Jorah gets in on the act too). It wasn't his betrayal to Mance that breaks her heart, it was that he didn't take her with him. She stood by him, against her own people, and he still took off. For once, she didn't say her words, and not saying them said more.

Sam got a brief scene that shouldn't have been here, and Dany padded out the rest of the run time, with Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario lead a secret mission into Yunkai. It felt like the sort of plotting that needed to be got out of the way, and couldn't be slotted in anywhere else. Though, the reveal of their victory really should have been left until next week (the finales are always Dany centric). Again though, the actors were called upon for their very best facial expressions, with Dany giving Daario some pretty distinctive "fuck me" eyes, and Jorah's "you can see the moment his heart breaks" look when it is Daario Dany asks after when they return from the mission.

This episode is a turning point. It marks the end of the Stark's being the main characters of the narrative (though the series reached this point long before the books, what with Peter Dinklage's performance overshadowing the others). This is no longer the story of the Starks, it's the story of Westeros. The Lannisters are no longer the enemies, they are the victors. It should be noted that Bolton's line was originally "Jamie Lannister sends his regards," but they changed it because handless Jamie is undergoing a redemption arc, and the story needs a new hero. It certainly can't be the King in the North anymore.

Oh, and if you're worried that killing Robb limits the direction the story can head in, trust me when I tell you, you have nothing to worry about. Just remember,

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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