The Rains of Castamere:
If you’ve been a religious watcher of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, then you’ve come to expect monumental things each time we hit episode number 9. In the ninth episode of season 1, “Baelor”, poor Ned Stark lost his head as a result of a Joffrey Baratheon bait-and-switch further escalating the Northern rebellion against the Iron Throne. Moreover, in season 2, episode 9, “Blackwater”, gave us Stannis Baratheon’s siege of King’s Landing in the only detailed battle scene on the show to date. Characteristically, Episode 9 in “Game of Thrones” has become the de facto climactic episode throughout the series; that climax, by proxy, always ushers in sweeping change to the Westeros we’ve come to know and love (or hate). Season 3, Episode 9 of “Game of Thrones”, aptly titled “The Rains of Castamere” has been described as traumatic, gruesome, and downright heartbreaking and for just cause. At the conclusion of “The Rains…” the War of Five Kings is lessened by one and the nature of his subtraction from the sum is gut-wrenching, to say the least. In typical GOT fashion, the show does a good job of giving the major players a fair share of screen time, so while the events that take place at The Twins may be the most important, other scenes featuring some of our favorites were delivered masterfully in this episode.
In the East, Danaerys and her motley crew of Westerosi exiles, freed slaves, and Dothraki tribespeople are still contemplating the siege of Yunkai. Newfound accomplice Daario Noharis leads Jorah Mormont and Grey Worm on an almost suicidal, guerilla warfare styled infiltration through Yunkai’s back gates, dispatching the Yunkish guards almost effortlessly. This scene was a real treat to watch as the directors and choreographers did a wonderful job displaying the different fighting styles used by Jorah, Daario, and Grey Worm during the fight scenes. To be fair, this was one of the most action-packed moments to date over the course of the series and I wish it had gone on a little longer. With bated breath, Dany and Barristan Selmy await the return of hastily assembled task force. Jorah and Grey Worm return, bloodied yet successful, and finally albeit dramatically, Daario comes home last and you can’t help but wonder what’s in store between he and Danaerys given the emphasized “stolen glance” they give one another- could Dany be smitten with this cut-throat? Time will tell. She certainly was more interested in Daario’s well-being than old news Mormont, or so it seemed.
While Danaerys is becoming quite the conqueror in the Free Cities, back in Westeros things start off teetering on the hopeful side. For once it almost seems like the Stark family will be partially reunited as Sandor Clegane takes Arya to The Twins for the wedding of her uncle, Edmure, to Rosalin Frey. The interplay between Clegane and Arya has been enjoyable to watch. Arya’s contempt for the Hound coupled with his brash and callous, yet patriarchal caretaking of the Stark girl almost makes us wonder if the Hound is really all the piss and vinegar he presents himself to be. As they arrive at The Twins during the throes of the Red Wedding, the hopes of any reunion are cut short and the most Arya gets is meeting eyes with poor Grey Wind, Robb’s direwolf-turned-crossbow-target by Frey soldiers. The Hound, maybe for Arya’s benefit, knocks her unconscious to save her from the horrors of the betrayal dealt by House Frey. Part of me was happy that Arya was “reunited” with Sandor as I would love to see their dynamic continue through the finale and into later seasons of the show.
For all the Kit Harrington fans, we have one of the better Jon Snow scenes to date. His band of wildlings led by the likeable Tormund Giantsbane happen upon an elderly horse breeder at a lone homestead en route to Castle Black. Here we have the second possibility for a Stark reunion, of sorts. Hiding in the homestead’s windmill is Bran and his companions taking a needed respite from their sojourn north of The Wall. While again, Bran and Jon never reunite face to face, Bran is able to warg into his direwolf, Summer, and see his long lost half brother and not a moment to soon. Jon’s Night’s Watch instincts betray his façade as a wildling as he refuses to kill the elderly horse breeder. Wildling swords are drawn on Jon, Jon finally kills that pesky asshole Orell who, with his dying breath, wargs into an eagle dealing a scratch or two upon Snow’s pretty visage which, in my opinion was second in the badass category only to Bran warging into Summer to give a brotherly hand to the outnumbered Kit Harrington. This scene was a great break from the seemingly endless, and pointless adventures of Jon and Bran in the aesthetically uninteresting northerly locales of Westeros.
While this scene may have had us finally seeing the Starks catch a break for a change, the penultimate moment of Episode 9, The Red Wedding, reminds us all that the Starks are the underdogs of Westerosi kingmaking, perhaps “underwolves” would be a more fitting title. At The Twins, Robb apologizes to a surly Walder Frey who makes no bones about his reasoning behind Robb’s choosing the exotic Lady Talisa over his rather homely selection of daughters. While Frey accepts Robb’s apology, the tone is a grim as it gets and for good reason.
Cersei explained the meaning of “The Rains of Castamere” to Margaery Tyrell a few episodes ago. More of a warning than a song, “The Rains…” tells the story of House Reyne who defiantly rivaled the Lannisters on all fronts: wealth, power, showmanship, you name it. The Lannisters responded by completely eradicating House Reyne and the song was written as a warning to those who would even consider crossing Casterly Rock.
The wedding between Edmure Tully and Rosalin Frey has us all on edge, and in terms of vibes, it’s fairly ominous however Lord Walder Frey adds a little levity as the bride is revealed. Rosalin Frey turns out to be quite the beauty and Lord Frey shoots Robb a “see what you could’ve had if you would’ve waited” glance which, had me chuckling as did the Blackfish’s uneasy expressions as he tried to disregard the wanting eyes of the remaining Frey girls.
What happens next is essentially the dismantling of the northern rebellion one crossbow bolt at a time. As the wedding feast comes to an end and the door to the main hall is barred shut, Catelyn lifts Roose Bolton’s sleeve to notice he’s armored. Almost simultaneously as we realize what’s about the happen, Catelyn lets out a scream, slaps Roose Bolton and the band begins to play “The Rains of Castamere”. Frey soldiers, aware that Lady Talisa is pregnant with Robb’s child brutally disembowel her as Robb is riddled with crossbow bolts. As Walder Frey chuckles throughout the entire proceeding, Catelyn makes a last ditch plea for her son’s life, grabbing Walder Frey’s wife and threatening to slit her throat if any harm comes to Robb. Frey, very coldly, announces that he will “find another wife” as Roose Bolton ends the short reign of the King in the North with a coup de grace to his heart uttering, very coolly, “the Lannisters send their regards.” Catelyn’s throat is slit shortly after making sure she takes a Frey with her and the credits roll to no music.
Quite simply, this was one of the most jarring episodes of Game of Thrones to date. The Starks, always the honorable and merciful family, were given no quarter by those they thought were friends and while I personally thought Robb arrogant and careless with his oaths and promises, it was a real blow to see the one family that I considered wholly “good” (or at least, as good as could be by Westerosi standards) further dragged through the muck .for which they had no acumen. Quite possibly the most riveting moment in Game of Thrones history to date, it will be interesting to see where season finale “Mhysa” takes us through Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.