Hoo boy, this episode. “The Rains of Castamere” contains one of the most controversial events in A Song of Ice and Fire, but it also has some of the finest scenes of exposition that I can remember in the show to date.
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The Twins are in the opening credits. I don’t remember seeing them there before (previously it was just Riverrun, I think.)
- The ominous shot of the Bolton token on Robb’s map was a nice touch.
- Robb and Catelyn have a sort of reconciliation when Robb asks Catelyn for advice regarding his (frankly, terrible) plan to attack Casterly Rock.
- Next up, the Stark party is arriving at the Twins. They eat Walder Frey’s bread and salt, and Robb offers a really asinine apology to a parade of rather plain Frey girls. Walder Frey calls Robb out, though, while also being particularly vile to Talisa. This scene, for me, is where the substitution of Talisa for Jeyne is most grating. Book!Robb deflowers Jeyne Westerling, and this creates a real crisis of honor for him. Does he marry Jeyne to preserve her honor or does he keep his promise to Walder Frey? Show!Robb, we are told, fell in love with Talisa and just couldn’t help but marry her. He makes a conscious and willful choice to prioritize his own feelings over doing the honorable (and responsible) thing and preserving the Frey alliance. I don’t see how there would be any way for Show!Robb to apologize that wouldn’t make him sound like an asshole. I was happy to see Walder Frey mock Robb’s so-called “honor” here.
- Tobias Menzies doesn’t get many lines as Edmure, but he makes the best faces. I’m honestly impressed with how much he’s able to communicate with his looks. Also, there is at least one laugh-out-loud funny Edmure face per episode, which is good.
- “The wine will flow red…” Well, something will flow red.
- Daario has a plan for how to get Daenerys’ army into Yunkai. Jorah hates it, but Grey Worm trusts Daario (inexplicably) and Dany gives them the go-ahead. I was surprised that the sacking of Yunkai was in this episode since the next episode title, “Mhysa,” seems to indicate a Dany-centric episode. There’s still a little more of this story to be told in the last episode, but I was hoping for a more epic battle scene next week. I guess we’ll see.
- Sam and Gilly arrive at the Wall in the first of several excellent exposition scenes in this episode. Sam tells Gilly about the Nightfort, one of the abandoned castles along the Wall, and he says that there is a secret passage into the castle that will allow them to get through and travel to Castle Black. He read it in a book, which prompts Gilly to say he’s “like a magician” and elicits a proud smile from Sam, who I don’t think is used to being useful and competent. I’ve loved this whole storyline so far, but I do hope this doesn’t mean the show is going to skip Coldhands.
- Arya and the Hound are still working their way toward the Twins, and they commandeer some old guy’s cart of salt pork. When Sandor goes to kill the old man, Arya begs him not to, to which the Hound replies, “You’re very kind. Someday it’s going to get you killed.” Arya then proceeds to bludgeon the old guy one more time to make sure he stays knocked out. The look on the Hound’s face is priceless. I guess Arya’s not that kind.
- Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Reeds are getting closer to the Wall. In the second great piece of exposition in the episode, we learn that the land they’re now traveling through is called the Gift. It’s the land for 50 miles south of the Wall, given to the Night’s Watch in perpetuity to help support them. Unfortunately, we also learn that it’s mostly abandoned because Wildlings raid so often that the diminished Night’s Watch couldn’t protect the people who lived there. Even Rickon has a line in this scene, and it’s adorable.
- Jon and the Wildlings are also in the Gift, where they are about to steal some horses from a man who breeds and sells them to the Night’s Watch. Jon begs Tormund not to kill the old man, but Tormund is eager to draw the attention of the Night’s Watch so they can fight. However, Jon manages to make enough noise to alert the horses so the man can escape.
- Arya is getting more and more anxious the closer she and Sandor get to the Twins. She proves all over again in this short scene that she isn’t all that kind at all. We’re really starting to see the toll her experiences are taking on her. Sandor seems to be only somewhat frightened of this fierce, hard girl, but I think he mostly just pities her.
- Bran and company are trying to figure out how to get past the Wall, and they continue to deliver valuable exposition that feels natural and not like a lecture on the history of Westeros. We learn that only three of the nineteen castles along the Wall are occupied and that the others have had their gates sealed with stone and ice. We also learn more about how the Wildlings manage to come south. Hodor starts freaking out about the storm just as Osha and the Reeds see Wildlings ride up outside, and Bran has to warg into Hodor in order to calm him down.
- Orell hears Hodor, but is momentarily distracted when they capture the horse breeder.
- Jojen wants Bran to warg into Summer and attack the Wildlings. Bran doesn’t know how to do it on purpose, but he figures it out after all.
- Jon can’t bring himself to kill the horse breeder, so Ygritte does. A fight ensues between Jon and the Wildlings. Summer and Shaggydog join the fight. Jon kills Orell, who wargs into his eagle at the last moment and then the fakest eagle ever attacks Jon’s face. Jon manages to escape on a horse, leaving an angry and heartbroken Ygritte behind. Rose Leslie did an incredible job of conveying Ygritte’s sense of betrayal here.
- Back at Yunkai, Daario gets himself, Jorah, and Grey Worm into the city where they fight with the guards in kind of a great battle scene.
- Edmure is apprehensive as he watches his bride walk towards him all covered in a heavy veil. Tobias Menzies and Michelle Fairley communicate so much with their looks in this scene, it’s really impressive. Edmure’s look of relief when the veil is removed and Roslin Frey turns out to be extremely young and very pretty and Catelyn’s encouraging and proud smile to her brother made this scene work. My only nitpick here is that they say “the Stranger” in their wedding vows. I thought that worshipers of the Seven didn’t say the Stranger ever because the Stranger is a god of death and it’s unlucky or something. People who haven’t read the books would never know the difference, but it bugged me a little.
- Bran says that he saw Jon Snow through Summer’s eyes, and we learn a little more about what it means to be a warg. Jojen says and Osha confirms that Bran’s ability to warg into another human is unique. Bran realises that he has to go with Jojen and Meera north of the Wall, so he sends Rickon away with Osha. This scene actually made me teary. It’s been almost a joke that Rickon hasn’t gotten much to do on screen this season, but his desire to stay and protect Bran is sweet and sad enough to make up for his previous lack of screentime.
- Daenerys is getting anxious back at her camp. She doesn’t know how long it’s supposed to take to sack a city. Jorah and Grey Worm come back covered in blood to tell her that they’ve been victorious. Jorah’s face when Dany asks about Daario is, I think, supposed to be sad, but I found it comical. (How do you say “friend-zoned” in Valyrian?) Daario comes back a moment later, and he lays the banner of Yunkai at Dany’s feet.
- The rest of the episode is dedicated to the wedding feast, which at first seems to be going well. We get to hear Roose Bolton’s story about how he got a fat wife. Brynden Tully goes to take a piss, which I think is what is going to save him from what comes later. Robb and Talisa are even being cute. Talisa’s look of alarm/horror at the bedding tradition is probably the moment that I have liked her best. Cat tells Roose that Ned forbade the bedding at their own wedding–because obviously the writers of this show want to keep making us fall in love with these characters right up to the very end. In that same vein, Robb and Talisa are talking baby names, and Robb actually tears up when Talisa talks about a baby Ned Stark.
- And that’s about when the musicians start playing “The Rains of Castamere” and Catelyn knows that something is very, very wrong.
- Cut to Grey Wind whining and trying to escape the kennel.
- Sandor and Arya have arrived, only to be told that the feast is over. The Hound has an idea of what is going on, but Arya has already run off.
- Cat still knows something bad is about to happen. Roose Bolton gives her a look and she pulls up his sleeve to find that he’s wearing chainmail.
- All hell proceeds to break loose.
- Talisa gets stabbed in the belly, which is horrifying. However, it’s not nearly as bad as some people made it out to be. To hear some people talk on Twitter, the Freys practically cut Fetus Stark out and kicked it around on the floor, but that is not the case.
- Robb gets about half a dozen crossbow bolts in the chest, and Cat gets one in the back.
- Walder Frey is just grinning like crazy while people’s throats are getting cut all over the place. I felt like the pure chaos of the scene was portrayed well.
- Arya is trying to sneak in when she sees a bunch of Stark guards and Grey Wind get killed. The Hound clubs her over the head and carries her off into the night.
- Back in the dining hall, Catelyn grabs Lady Frey as a hostage so she can make one last, desperate plea for her son’s life only to find out that Walder Frey doesn’t care about his wife at all.
- Robb has crawled to Talisa’s body, but he stands up, only to get a dagger through the heart from Roose Bolton, who also sends regards from the Lannisters.
- Catelyn’s face just empties of all hope as she screams in agony. She cuts Lady Frey’s throat; then her own throat is cut and that’s the end of the episode.
I guess I should talk about the Red Wedding and how it made me feel, but mostly I just feel relieved to have that part of the show over with. It’s been mildly amusing to see the reactions of people who somehow just had no idea that it was coming, but I honestly just don’t see how that’s even possible.
Robb Stark is a character that was basically doomed from the start, and he’s made pretty much every mistake he could possibly make if he really wanted to be a king. The Red Wedding is, not justice exactly, but the sort of natural result of Robb’s mistakes–as well as his hubris. As recently as the beginning of this very episode Robb was making plans to sacrifice the lives of someone else’s army in waging a campaign that is risky and not even particularly strategically sound. Robb Stark fails over and over again as a leader because he prioritizes his own feelings–his love for Talisa, his desire for vengeance on the Lannisters–over his responsibilities to his bannermen and his fledgling kingdom. Over and over we are shown that Robb doesn’t value or respect his supporters, so I don’t understand why people were surprised at Roose Bolton’s betrayal and Walder Frey’s bloody revenge.