Game of Thrones S3E9 “The Rains of Castamere”
Deferring the dramatic events of this episode for a sentence or two, let’s talk about the pacing of Game of Thrones. Season one moved at a surprisingly quick pace given the amount of groundwork it had to put into place. Likewise, season two moved fairly quickly as the threat of Stannis’ attack loomed over and tied together the entire season. Season three could be described as a slower pace, perhaps building up to something that wasn’t super apparent. “The Rains of Castamere” makes that pay off known and it does it in grand fashion. The massacre of Robb, his family, and his bannermen is known as “The Red Wedding” and boy was it a red one indeed. Over the course of its final ten minutes, “The Rains of Castamere” changed the game more than any other event depicted in the show ever has. With a whole plot line basically erased, the bulk of the review will obviously be dedicated to the event that caused it but we will also quickly take a look at the other sparingly few plot lines that “The Rains of Castamere” showed us. Without any further delay, let’s begin.
Two plot lines in the North this episode and one agonizingly union between the two so let’s take a look at them individually and see how we got so close to that union. Bran and crew are getting very close to the wall, and arrive at the windmill that Ygritte was so inspired by a couple episodes ago. The weather takes a turn for the worse so the group decides to take shelter at the top of the windmill. Inside, it seems as though beyond the wall has become the agreed upon destination as the Reeds discuss how they’re going to get to the other side of the wall. While they’re discussing, Meera spots an elderly man on a horse outside, being chased by wildlings. How did they get there? Let’s take a look.
Jon and his wildling group ran into this elderly man a few minutes up the road. The man breeds horses to sell to the night’s watch and Jon tells the group that he isn’t a threat. Orell and Tormund aren’t having it and tell Jon that they’re going to attack him. As they charge, Jon bangs his sword on a rock “accidentally” and it’s loud enough for the man to hear them coming and he rides his horse south and gets tracked down at the windmill.
While this is happening, the storm has picked up considerably and Hodor is yelling in fear. Everyone is worried that he will blow their cover and then Bran does something awesome. He wargs into Hodor and knocks him out. Who knew he could do that with humans?
With the old man trapped, Tormund goes over to kill him but Orell convinces him to make Jon do it as a test of loyalty. Jon confirms his loyalty to the night’s watch by sparring the man’s life and taking the fight to Orell and killing him (not before Orell warged into his eagle and scratched the living hell out of Jon). Orell may be dead but Tormund orders his whole group to kill Jon. Jon holds his own in the fight but he also gets a sweet assist from Bran’s direwolf Summer, who Bran has warged into. Jon manages to get away on horseback as Tormund watches while holding back Ygritte so she won’t chase him.
Back in the windmill, Bran tells Osha that he has no choice but to go seek the three eyed raven beyond the wall. He asks Osha if she’ll watch over Rickon and take him to Last Hearth, home of their bannermen House Umber. Osha gladly agrees and they share their heartfelt goodbyes. Osha, Rickon, and Shaggydog depart, making the trip beyond the wall a four man mission.
Just outside of Yunkai, Dany and crew devise their plan to sack the city. Daario says that there is a poorly guarded gate that they can sneak into and from there they can open the main gates to the rest of their army and win. Jorah seems skeptical when Daario mentions that he can only take two people with him and they have to be Dany’s best men. Jorah asks Grey Worm if he trusts Daario and the Unsullied captain puts his trust in him. That seems to be enough for Jorah as he and Grey Worm follow Daario to this poorly guarded gate. Daario seems to have underestimated how poorly guarded it was as a rather large group of guards challenges them once they’re inside, but the the trio still proves good enough to end the threat. Hours later, the trio returns to Dany’s camp and Daario delivers the good news that the city is hers. Dany’s on a winning streak with taking cities isn’t she?
And now to the main event. Robb and friends make their arrival to The Twins and Walder is quick to offer them bread and salt, the formal way of evoking guest right. Knowing that they are now safe (or should have been), Robb starts things off by giving his formal apology to both Walder Frey and his too many to count daughters. To me it does kind of seem like rubbing salt in the wound with Robb bringing Talisa to this wedding but Walder makes the best of it and mocks her for a minute or two. Walder’s made them uncomftable but that’s far batter than what the rest of the night holds for them.
There was great foreshadowing of the massacre all throughout the episode and one of the earliest and best examples of it was the unveiling of Edmure’s wife. During Robb’s apology, it was made very clear that Walder has a ton of daughters and none of them are very pretty. But when Roslin, Edmure’s wife to be is unveiled, she is actually quite pretty. We’ve only seen Walder Frey for a few episodes but does he really seem like the kind of guy to let a broken promise against him go? Something just had to be up, Robb breaks his oath to you and you reward his uncle with the one pretty daughter you have? No one makes much of it off the bat, especially not Edmure who is over the moon that Walder Frey has given him his sole pretty daughter.
If you overlook the oddity in Edmure getting a pretty wife, a large chunk of the episode afterward does a pretty good job of making you think this is just a normal wedding. The feast is quite the festive one and the music is so loud it can be heard outside where the bannerman have been giving benches and plenty of wine to celebrate as well. We even get a bedding ceremony, something that you may recall didn’t go over very well in last episodes wedding. The majority of the people in the feast hall leave to take part in the ceremony and it leaves the noble folk as the last ones in the room.
From here on out, the “somethings about to happen” levels goes through the roof. First you have Walder’s sons closing the entrance to the hall when the bedding ceremony cleared out of the feast room. Secondly we have Robb and Talisa talking way way too cute about their child to be (Eddard if it’s a boy). The band then plays a much more somber tune, “The Rains of Castamere”. Other than the fact that it’s a sad song and those usually don’t get played at weddings, there is also something else. Cersei made mention of the song last episode when threatening Margaery and she explained the song is a Lannister victory song of sorts. Hearing your enemy’s victory song, weird for sure. Cat puts it all together when she looks underneath Roose Bolton’s coat and sees he’s wearing mail. By the time Cat warns Robb that they’ve been betrayed, it’s too late as Walder has given the signal to start the massacre. Massacre isn’t even an exaggeration here, Talisa gets stabbed repeatedly in the stomach, killing her child, Robb gets shot multiple times by crossbows from the musicians up on the second floor, Cat takes a crossbow bolt too, and nearly all of the Stark bannermen outside are killed. Even poor Grey Wind gets killed, and even sadder is the fact that Arya was there to see that. Still imprisoned by the Hound, the two got there by knocking out a rancher and taking his wagon to The Twins to pass it off as food delivery for the wedding. They are denied at the gates and while Sandor tries his best to reason with the guard, Arya sneaks her way inside where she witnesses the murder of her brother’s direwolf. Sandor quickly realizes she sneaked in and comes after her. He realizes it’s too late to ransom her and if she goes in she will only get killed so he knocks her out to prevent her from running straight into her death. At least one Stark made it out.
Back inside, Cat has taken refuge underneath a table and Walder Frey basks in his success and mocks the King in the North. Robb limps his way over to his wife and he holds her in his arms as she dies. During this time, Cat spots an opportunity. Walder’s wife is also hiding underneath a table and Cat crawls over to her and holds a knife to her throat. She begs Walder to let Robb leave, saying he can keep her as a prisoner and that they swear to seek no revenge for this. Walder berates her, telling her their swears are worth nothing since they’ve already broken them. Down to her last option, she threatens to slice Walder’s wife’s throat open if he doesn’t let Robb leave. A defeated Robb calls out to her mother to not bother but before he can even do that, Roose Bolton puts an end to the King in the North, stabbing Robb through the heart while saying “the Lannisters send their regards”. With absolutely nothing else to live for, Cat kills Walder’s wife and yells in grief and shock and becomes motionless. Walder’s son, Black Walder ends the massacre by slicing her throat open, Cat hits the floor with a thud and we cut to credits. Wow.
There was really no other choice than to go mute for the credits so they definitely made the right call there.
Arya was complaining to Sandor that he was taking too long, eating those pigs just outside The Twins but she should be thanking him. Without that lunch break, they would have made it in time for the Red Wedding. Sandor is quite the fighter but it’s still a very safe bet that they’re both dead right now if they made it on time.
King’s Landing doesn’t show up once in this episode. I love the political games played in the capital as much as the next person but it was completely unneeded here. Good call to give it a bye week. With that bye week, Tyrion sits out an episode for the second time all series.
The Blackfish lives, I think. After a fair bit of wine, Blackfish left the feast room to break the seal. We didn’t see him again so I’ll be the optimist and say he got away.
Walder is a bad dude, no arguing there, but he can be funny at times. That look he gave Robb during the actual wedding ceremony was great. “You could’ve had that Robb”.
Nearly forgot, Sam and Gilly make it to the wall this episode. Nowhere near Castle Black but it’s all good because they’re near the Nightfort an abandoned castle that will give them passage.
I usually don’t like short episodes but at fifty minutes, “The Rains of Castamere” has the shortest run time of any Game of Thrones episode to date. Quality over quantity in this case I suppose.
Quote of the day comes from Bran, trying to get Hodor to keep quiet. “Hodor! No more Hodoring!” A genuinely funny line from an extremely grim episode.
“The Rains of Castamere” delivers us the infamous Red Wedding, an extremely shocking and game changing twist that all but ends the Northern Rebellion.