I think if I had to break down my review process for this show this season, it’d be 40% recap, 40% thoughts about the show/book and 20% trying to not in any way spoil what happens in this episode for non-book readers. The Red Wedding isn’t one of my favorite moments from the book to be honest. But it probably got the strongest reaction from me while reading. I think it was the one time I put the book down because I couldn’t read more. Not because I was tired, or because the point of view character wasn’t my favorite. But I literally needed a break after that. There was no denying how well-written and surprising it was, but still enough to have me stop for the day. This week’s episode of Game of Thrones aptly titled “The Rains of Castamere” portrays the source material extremely well and still felt like a punch in the gut even when I knew what was coming.
The big event here is the wedding between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. The early parts of the episode involving Robb and company and the Freys have some surprisingly funny moments for what is going to eventually go the worst direction ever. Of course, Edmure is somehow marrying the best-looking Frey girl possible and the look Walder gives Robb when she is revealed is kind of humorous. Probably more so if I didn’t know shit was about to go sideways. Things are definitely uncomfortable early on in these two families’ interactions, but I think the show did a good job of hiding the fact that it would all be going to hell. I think until the doors closed and “The Rains of Castamere” began to play (love that Cersei talked about this an episode back), it wasn’t obvious something was going to go wrong. And even then, if I hadn’t read it, I’m not sure I would have known how wrong it was going to go. The final sequence was gut-wrenching though well-done and filled with small moments that made it extra great (or terrible… whichever way you want to put it). Roose Bolton’s description of why he chose the wife he did or the look on him and Cat’s face as she realizes he is wearing chainmail. The discussion between Talisa and Robb about a little Ned Stark running around in their future. There were a couple of other moments that were a bit different than the book, but for this blog I’ve decided to push those to the bullet points. If you are curious about them, they won’t spoil anything that hasn’t occurred on the show, just point out some differences between the two portrayals of The Red Wedding.
I’ve been wondering to myself which event was worse between this or Ned’s death in season 1. I think I’m going to side with this one. I was more of a fan of Ned than any characters we lost here, but this was such a massacre. And I think even when Ned died, you had Robb and Cat to root for as far as getting some kind of vengeance. As far as who I want to take the Iron Throne, I actually want that to be Daenerys, but I still root for the Starks. It’s hard not to. And I would have loved to have Robb cut down Joffrey or something like that. So now that is gone too. Though I guess our hopes shift to a different Stark maybe. I think the way these events unfold. The way Cat pleaded for her son’s life. The way Talisa was killed. The idea that Cat died thinking all her children were likely dead save Sansa who is married to Tyrion (which as far as anyone knows sort of makes him Lord of Winterfell). Or Grey Wind’s death (animal deaths always hit me super hard). Or how about just how close Arya got to meeting back up with her family. Arya has always been a favorite of mine. Easily my favorite Stark and I just want her to catch a break. But no. That’s not going to happen here.
I think the Hound and Arya have been a great pairing though. And while some fans have always loved the Hound, he is someone that had to grow on me and his interactions with Arya have been a lot of fun prior to the heartbreaking end to this episode. She isn’t afraid to call out The Hound for being scared against Beric’s fiery blade or threaten him either. These two should continue being fun going forward.
There were some storylines separated from the madness in the Riverlands. After a whole lot of nothing post-meeting the Reeds this season, Bran has his most substantial episode yet. We see Bran warg his way into Hodor (!) and then Summer, the latter of which he does to help out his half-brother Jon. So not only do we get to see Bran flex his abilities, but also another close call between this family re-uniting which is both exciting and a little heartbreaking. Meanwhile Jon finally showed his allegiance lies with the Night’s Watch as he takes out some Wildlings and rides off. We’ll have to see what happens with him and Ygritte from here on out, but I will miss their interactions for the time being.
The other two storylines were a little less meaty. Dany’s plot finds Jorah, Daario and Grey Worm sneaking into Yunkai to help them take the city and at the very least gave us a really entertaining small-scale battle scene. Game of Thrones’ fight scenes have actually been a little hit and miss, but this was a good one and I particularly liked seeing Grey Worm’s fighting skills in action. He had a certain smoothness to his fighting style that was fun to watch. I didn’t even mind the one-off scene this week with Sam and Gilly. Much like Jon and Ygritte’s scenes, it shows how different a world these two come from and Gilly saying Sam was like a wizard cracked me up.
In the bullets here, I will be making some comparisons between the show’s Red Wedding and the books for those curious about differences or just those who read the books:
- Talisa is actually a fairly different character than the girl that Robb marries in the book, Jeyne Westerling, but the big difference here is Jeyne doesn’t come to the wedding. Talisa and as a result Robb’s heir coming to the wedding and getting killed made the Wedding a bit rougher in that way.
- The Blackfish also doesn’t come to the Wedding in the book. I wonder if we will see him next week? He had left to go to the bathroom before the slaughter here in the show.
- In the book, Cat grabs and kills a lackwit grandson of Walder Frey’s at the end. In the show she kills Walder’s latest wife. This might be an improvement and makes Walder’s reaction even more shitty maybe? Really he just sucks either way though.
- I kind of missed some of the actions Cat made at the end of the book chapter. Maybe her scratching her face up might have been a bit much, but I liked the “Ned loved my hair” bit and kind of figured it would be in. On the other hand, the more silent ending (especially in the credits) was good, so not a huge loss I guess.
- The band is terrible in the book. Which foreshadows that they are actually crossbowmen and the like. I totally didn’t get this the first time around, but it is kind of neat in hindsight.
- They play up the “Guest Right” more in the book. When one has eaten food and drink under another’s roof, they are supposed to be safe from one another. It’s one of those honor-type codes in this world. Robb and company do so at the beginning of this episode. Honestly making a big deal of it in the show all of the sudden might have tipped off the bad proceedings to follow (Guest Right was discussed at Craster’s Keep in the show earlier this season I believe though).
- There are a couple others, but I want to see what they show of the aftermath of the wedding before I mention them.
This was an event (or perhaps the event) that book readers were waiting for and it is hard to complain much about how it was adapted here. It made for an excellent television sequence well-acted and portayed all-around. Throw in a good step forward for Bran and the show once again focusing on fewer storylines and it made for one heck of an hour of television. The Red Wedding is definitely a little depressing, but it also feels very Game of Thrones. It subverts our expectations in a way shows rarely do. It’s evokes a number of feelings from the viewer too. We feel terrible for Cat and Robb (I worried that not handling Robb as well as I’d have liked in the show this season might hurt this moment, but it did not and the internet seems to agree). We absolutely loathe the Freys and Bolton (and Lannisters for whatever role they played). And we’ll root that much harder for the remaining Starks to be okay against mounting grim odds. Again this isn’t one of my favorite parts, but I definitely see why it is so great and moments like these are probably why this show and the books stand out so much. And for that I appreciate it immensely and am glad it transitioned to the screen so well. Despite knowing what is coming, I am curious what will be featured in next week’s season finale. Based on the internet’s reactions, it seems people might need a win. We’ll have to see if that is in the cards.
I’m dying to hear what people thought of this episode. Non-book readers, was this as shocking as it was supposed to be? Did you see it coming? Did you love it or hate it? Book-readers were you satisfied with how they handled this pivotal event? Both groups how does this compare to Ned’s death in Season 1/Book 1? Did that prepare you for a moment like this or did this still blow your mind? Let me know in the comments any thoughts you have on The Red Wedding (or other stuff this ep I guess!). As always thanks for reading!