Game of Thrones S3E9: The Red Wedding

The latest episode of Game of Thrones was pretty much business as usual. It turned out Walder Frey was ready to let bygones be bygones, and a lovely wedding feast was held for Edmure and Roslin. Wine flowed, and music played.

I mean, they played the Lannister family song at a Tully wedding, which I thought was pretty rude. It's like, why are they playing that song?

Why are they playing that -- oh.

You should definitely watch the episode before you read this recap. I really mean it this time. If you read recaps of things you haven't read or seen and then complain about spoilers, I hope you marry a Frey.

Book fans have been waiting for the Red Wedding since the series began, most of us quietly sitting on our hands and gnawing on our knuckles the closer we got to the mighty, shocking event. This is the sort of event that spoiler warnings were invented to conceal, as Gus Mastrapa points out in this lovely piece on the long wait for others to learn the secret so many were keeping.

I knew what was coming, and it was still incredibly gutting television. What I didn't expect was just how broadly the impact reverberated -- crying about fantasy character deaths was the kind of thing that would have gotten you punched in high school, and now we have @RedWeddingTears, a brilliant Twitter feed curating all the outrage across mainstream social media. It's funny, especially because so many people seem to blame HBO as an entity, alongside the show's writers, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. Maybe they don't know A Song of Ice and Fire was a series of books at all.

In this interview, George R.R. Martin talks about why he brutally killed off beloved characters in one fell swoop -- and arguably more importantly, effectively ended the war effort of the Starks, the story's favorite family. For the author it's about surprise, and ensuring readers never get the story arcs they expect.

It's an innovative choice for the fantasy genre, which has for years been led by predictable tropes. Set in quaint lands with old social orders and often including feuding races, fantasy books tend to be a way to process social anxiety and examine ideas of heroism. That can result in narrative arcs with predictable moral ends -- the heroes will be tested, but in the end they must win. It's brave, in a sense, of an author to take on this established expectation and challenge an audience eagerly anticipating gratification of a certain kind.

It's new for TV, too. I've heard a lot of buzz from viewers saying they've never experienced something quite so shocking and absolute on their evening program before. From the event itself to the anticipation, spoiler-guarding and aftermath, the Red Wedding feels culturally momentous, no doubt a unique feeling for the quiet sorts who first fell in love with Martin's less-known, sprawling tomes over a decade ago.

I can't imagine what it would have been like to watch the episode not knowing what was going to occur, but for those who knew, the show was strewn with so many delightful little tells -- the ominous music as Stark banners approached the Twins, the splash and spill of red wine at the tables during the festivities, a tight shot of the musicians who would later play The Rains of Castamere as a signal for the assault. Walder Frey's magnanimous statement to his throne room that "the wine will flow red, the music will play loud" could even be seen as some kind of coded signal to his men to go forward with the plan.

The book eventually makes it explicit that Roslin Frey, Edmure's bride, was aware of her family's plan and forced to participate, as she wept during her marriage and seemed unduly anxious. The show is much more subtle, her stricken look easily mistaken for an especially nervous young bride at her wedding to a stranger. But knowing what's to happen makes her dread little whisper -- "I hope I do not disappoint you" -- so delicately weighted.

The most grueling thing about the gory losses that close this episode is that fundamentally the rest of the episode is about the Stark family, estranged from one another by war but holding fast to their values while apart. It opens with something of a reconciliation between Robb and his mother, his acknowledgment that he ought to have followed her advice and trusted her judgment.

If he'd only listened to her about mistrusting Theon as an envoy, perhaps Winterfell would still be standing and the Stark sons wouldn't have been killed (few know that Bran and Rickon actually escaped, making Catelyn's worry for her last living son and her desperate ache to see her daughters again that much more touching). And while Catelyn's choice to set Jaime Lannister free was a selfish decision, the fact that Jaime was able to save Brienne and to take up her mission to retrieve the Stark daughters probably spells a higher chance of having them returned than trusting in Cersei, Joffrey and Tywin at King's Landing.

It's not just maternal instinct: Catelyn is wise. She has a spine of steel and a good military mind as well -- better, at least, than her brother Edmure Tully, whose Frey marriage is the best penance he can make to the Starks for his folly at war. Catelyn has, of course, had a bad feeling about Robb's marriage from the beginning, so his acknowledgement of his mother's wisdom in some things and not that crucial thing over the war table is bittersweet.

Even though a siege on Casterly Rock is a risky, desperate thing to do, even assuming the fickle Freys lend their strength, there are really no alternatives. As the family procession approaches the Twins, we believe somehow the Starks have to prevail, after having suffered so much. They just have to get through this wedding. Urgh.

The bread and salt served to everyone in the throne room is significant. Eating one's bread and salt ensures you have "guest right" in their home, and to harm someone to whom you've given guest right is almost a spiritual violation. Robb makes very elaborate and graceful apologies to the Frey family even as Walder pervs on his wife, and doofus Edmure just looks concerned that none of the Frey daughters are pretty, increasing his anxiety that he'll be disappointed with his bride.

Walder makes a great show of being offended, of implying that perhaps Robb Stark just felt he was too good for one of the Frey girls, but eventually appears to concede to the marriage. Oh, good, that solves that.

In Yunkai, Daario Naharis, who recently won over Daenerys Targaryen by killing his comrades in support of her beauty, hatches an incredibly risky plan to sack the city, one that puts her best men -- loyal Jorah Mormont and Grey Worm of the Unsullied at risk. I haven't heard from anyone who likes the portrayal of Daario, who in the books is a swashbuckling, lusty Tyroshi with a dyed, sculpted beard. Such a grand look might be distracting for the show, which seems to disdain unnecessary flashiness (According to the books Renly's bannermen were all meant to be wearing rainbow cloaks, which would probably have been both too garish and too literal for the program).

But I don't think one is meant to like sloe-eyed, grinning Daario, or to empathize with Dany's attraction to him and his corny pickup lines. Her attraction makes her more liable to like and trust the romantic mercenary, which suggests something of a flaw in her silver queen's armor. It must be hard for Mormont, too, who's been silently in love with her all this time. Daario's implication that Mormont's suspicion means he's probably a dishonest person is an interesting stab.

We've been able to admire Daenerys because she's moved through an inhospitable land refusing to allow herself to be underestimated or diminished by men. But one "I serve beauty" from a guy whose dagger hilts are shaped like nude women, and she's willing to put her loyal old Mormont in harm's way? No, we aren't meant to like Daario, even when he proves dependable and orchestrates the sack of Yunkai on her behalf, ultimately prevailing: he's a device to remind us Dany is still quite a young girl, barely able to hide her desire to see him unharmed after the battle.

I have a controversial confession: I didn't find Arya Stark interesting in the books. She is a conventional archetype, the girl men are supposed to admire because she takes up a sword and is physically brave in a man's world. Especially as I work in video games, I tend to be unhappy when the "strong female character" -- i.e, the one that best wears traditionally-masculine traits -- is held up as the most popular way for women to be admirable. It's simplistic, lacks imagination, doesn't require much empathy.

But. But! I love Maisie Williams' portrayal of Arya, a tough kid finding her way in the world who still openly wants her family again, doesn't dare to hope she can have them back. I thought I'd never like anything so much as the complexity and nuance of her scenes last season posing as Tywin Lannister's cupbearer, but I love her with The Hound as well. Arya's experience of the adults in her world sheds more light on them, and we get crucial perspective from her.

Arya begging The Hound not to kill the old cart-driver isn't just Arya being a tough kid -- it's Arya being a Stark. The series opened with Eddard's important lesson about executions -- if you sentence a man to die under the law, you kill him yourself. Ned Stark would have never killed an old cart driver.

Nor would he have killed an old horseman. Arya's standing up to The Hound has parallels in Jon's standing up to the Wildlings, even at the risk of earning their fatal distrust and damaging his relationship with Ygritte. His inability to kill an innocent friend of the Night's Watch is the last straw for Orell and Tormund.

Even Ygritte urges him to do it, perhaps afraid of what it means if he can't. She's never asked for him to prove himself before. Yet even when Jon can't come through, she can't bring herself to stop defending him, though he tries to stop her from turning against her own people by bumping her into the mud. Remember a few episodes ago Jon asked Orell what would happen to his eagle if he killed him? He gets an answer.

All the while, of course, Bran is achingly close to his half-brother, even closer than Arya was while gazing at her family's location across a river. Bran is able to save Jon by inhabiting his direwolf, Summer, and along with Rickon's Shaggydog the Stark wolves help Jon get away from a people and a value system that could never be wholly his. Ygritte's stricken face as Jon rides off without so much as a look back is painful to behold.

Part of what's so hard about this episode is that the Stark family draws nearer to one another than ever since the war, and no reunion ever occurs. In fact, little Rickon and Bran need to be separated now, as Bran's ability to possess Hodor's mind proves even to Osha that the boy is on a dangerous spirit quest where she can't follow. Bad memories and fears keep her from ever journeying North of the Wall again, but she can take Rickon to House Umber, Stark bannermen that can be relied upon to protect him.

Back at the Twins, we get more of an idea that Roose Bolton, who sent Jaime back to the Lannisters before coming to this wedding, is not so good a guy. We're again reminded he doesn't drink (a fact Jaime thinks makes him hard to trust), and we learn he married the heaviest Frey wife because he wanted the money offered for her weight. That kind of transaction disgusts Catelyn, again delineating the difference between the Starks and other people.

The wedding band begins playing The Rains of Castamere as a signal to begin the massacre. Last episode, Cersei explained to Margaery the tune is about the perils of standing up to the Lannisters. Only Catelyn seems discomfited by the song, suspicious of it, as guards pull shut the door to the dining hall. Perhaps the Hound is alerted by it too -- when their cart is stopped by guards at the gate and Arya bolts, he decides to investigate rather than chase her. Earlier Arya knocked out the cart driver as a way of proving she isn't too kind to survive; Sandor Clegane's knocking Arya out in turn here is most definitely a kindness. He knows she mustn't see what's going on inside, and that it's already too late.

What can I say about the rest of it? It's truly unspeakable, and that is a sort of miracle in and of itself.

You don't have to love Robb or Talisa or Catelyn for it to matter. It's the sad death of what their family stood for, that the wife of a man who was too noble for a rowdy bedding ceremony dies because her hostage, Walder Frey's wife, was worth nothing to him (in the books Catelyn killed Walder Frey's mentally-handicapped son, but this is clearly a wiser adaptation). It's Catelyn's maternal grief that carved me personally. She has borne a succession of losses -- her husband, her children, her eldest son, a war -- and she breaks at Walder Frey's feet, just another founting corpse. I can't remember ever seeing a fantasy story so unafraid to be so cruel.

Whether or not you were prepared for the events, how did the Red Wedding affect you?

Phew. Okay. Lighter stuff. How many "Wedding Crashers" memes featuring Roose Bolton and Walder Frey have you seen this week? Did you, like me, think of the "Arrested Westeros" crossover blog when Robb delivered that portentious "made a huge mistake" line? Are we okay?


  1. You know, pointing out how long book fans have been holding back from spoiling the Red Wedding is something of a spoiler itself.  You’ve now told me that this is as bad as it gets, which takes away from the feeling of “sweet jeebus ,what won’t this author do to his characters?!”

    1.  Maybe not.  (I haven’t read the books.)  Holding back from spoiling this doesn’t mean there aren’t more huge events to come, only that this was the first. There are zombie-ice monsters and another character has multiple suitors and dragons–chances are good that things will end poorly for multiple somebodies.

      1. I disagree.

        “Book fans have been waiting for the Red Wedding since the series began, most of us quietly sitting on our hands and gnawing on our knuckles the closer we got to the mighty, shocking event.”

        That pretty much says that this was the big one.

        1. This is A big one.  This is just the first big one that make everyone lose their innocence in this series :D There are lots more big ones.  And probably a lot more bigger ones to come if he’s to really finish this story.

        2. Before that, Ned’s Head was the big one. It’s not so much a matter of magnitude so much as inverted expectations.

          Show watchers haven’t even found out that Hodor is actually a troop of dwarves standing on each other’s shoulders, or that Old Nan was one of the disguises Varys wears.

          1. It’s nothing compared to the shock they’ll have when they find out that Cersei Lannister, Daenarys Targaryen, and Melisandre are actually the same person.

          2.  Especially once you finish reading the books and realise that the one who was prophesied  to come back and defeat the white walkers with the help of dragons was none other than Dolorous Edd, who eventually becomes the king of all Westeros.Oh shit, I might have spoiled that one, sorry :(

          3. @phuzz:disqus On a more serious note, I love the out-there theory that Rhaegar was the chosen one and that all this is for naught.

        3. We were also waiting for Ned’s beheading. We were also waiting for Renly to be killed by Melisandre’s shadow baby. We were also waiting for the Battle of the Blackwater, and for Tyrion to get his nose chopped off. We were also waiting for Beric Dondarrion to be resurrected.

          The Red Wedding is just the latest one, and the one we’ve been waiting for the longest until now. This series is full of twists and turns, don’t worry.

    2. Actually, I had no problem holding back, simply /because/ there are more momentous moments.  Like the ending of the latest book…

      1. As I told my wife, don’t worry there are at least 2 more weddings planned.

        Never know what may happen at a Game of Thrones wedding. Maybe two savages will kill each other and have sex in front of everyone, maybe a little person will be humiliated, you just know that they are hardly ever boring affairs.

    3.  We held back from spoiling Ned Stark’s execution in season 1 as well. There are still major events, some good and some terrible, coming up (and no one, except maybe George R. R. Martin himself, yet knows what’s to come in books 6 and 7. And if he can’t finish in 7, books 8+.)

        1. I’ve hesitated to say this but now, just can’t help it. It’s possible that if GRRM can’t finish this story then HBO and these writers can.

      1. I am currently (right this very second) holding back from spoilering things related to the aftermath of the Red Wedding that are, if not quite as “holy shit”-able, only lesser secrets because they involve fewer people. 

        1. I know what you mean. I was in the car while the boyfriend listened to the part to which you’re referring on his headphones and his dawning horror was one of the sweetest moments of my life. 

    4.  I’d also point out that pointing out that they play the Lannister song at the wedding is a pretty huge spoiler to have before the jump, especially as it’s when a lot of people seemed to have realised what was about to happen. If I hadn’t already seen the episode, just saying that would have brought together a lot of things I have been wondering about and completely ruined the surprise for me…

      1.  At this point if people aren’t watching the show before Wednesday they really don’t deserve much pity.

        1. Reading the books doesn’t ruin the TV show. There is rather more to it than the element of surprise.

      1. Yes, he is, and “Haviland Tuf” is even a name that could fit into Westeros easily.  Too bad he’s a GRRM character from a completely different universe.

        But I’ve always wanted to see how well TUF VOYAGING could translate to film or tv.  (Perhaps Conleth Hill for an actor, if Hill want to keep the shaved-head after GoT is done?  Tuf is a bit like “Varys in space”.)

    5. After the Red Wedding, I’ve decided that Martin’s capable of anything. I kind of dig it, too.

      1. I totally agree with this! That said I think the translation to HBO has been a great benefit. The whole thing is so much tighter and engrossing. I find myself wondering at the end of each episode where the time has gone. I also find myself feeling fond of the most non-endearing characters…Jaime, the Hound, Tywin Lannister…I know, I know….

      1. The whole “oh Grey Wind is kept in a cage now because he goes psycho around my new wife’s family” kind of gives it away.

        Dudes… if your magical universe gives you a supernatural soul-bonded dire wolf familiar… try to trust its instincts about people.

      2.  **SPOILERS** I actually disagree, if you’re referring to the “Roose Change” youtube vid. I still think it’s plausible. Perhaps she fell in love with Robb in spite of her role? Perhaps she only knew she was to distract him and had no clue about RW?

        1. Just watched that “Roose Change” vid on YouTube. That’s brilliant! I’m convinced. Not sure why they killed her though if she was a plant.

          1. Ahh, that’s right. It’ll been awhile since I’ve read that books. Thanks. I think I’ll have to reread them before the next book comes out.

      3. If I’m remembering right its heavily implied, but the girl herself seems unaware. Twas the parents.

        1.  Yes, parents trying to avoid being the new Reynes and getting back into Tywin’s good graces…..with a dose of Westerosi RU486.

      4. I think it was probably more an accident and her parents did the only thing they thought they could to protect their daughter and their house from the Lannisters after the fact. That said, I don’t feel the change from Jeyne to Talisa affected that whole part of the very much, except that the writers clearly felt it was originally too complicated and not impactful enough for the audience.  

    1. The funniest part about the Lannister Honeypot theory was that it was called Roose Change. Had a whole conspiracy theory video and everything!

  2. I first experienced this event on audiobook in bed, and woke my wife by whispering  “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…”.

    Why do you suppose they killed Robb’s bride rather than keep her and her fetus around as a plot point as in the books?

    1. Probably for three reasons:

      1) To kill off speculation that that dangling plot thread will ever be important in the books;
      2) To show Robb’s utter cluelessness about what’s coming (in bringing her to the wedding and putting her in harm’s way);
      3) For the shock value of not only seeing Robb killed, but everyone he loves as well.

      1.  For shock value of naming the Kid Ned 30 minutes before it gets stabbed to death.

    2. There was no fetus in the books. Not even a hint of one. The hints are that her family was involved in the plot and that they kept feeding her drugs to keep from getting pregnant.

      They have not diverged in major points in the tv series. If there is no child after the Red Wedding in the series, there was none in the book either.

      Seriously, the Lanisters would have killed the wife instantly had they found she was pregnant.

      1. Right but by killing the equivalent character in the show they pretty much show she was ultimately unimportant after that point and kill the ridiculous fan theories. 

        1. Martin brought the bride into Book 4 just to address that also. She was not pregnant when she appeared in Book 4. Did nothing to stop fan speculation.

  3. Finally the recap is up, so I can ask Roose_Bolton what kind of an insane psychopath he is to take his name from such a singular bastard! When he smugly showed his chainmail to Catelyn, basically saying “I’m SO going to enjoy killing your son, daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild in front of you”, he instantly shot to the very top of my “I need to see him die” list, beating out even Joffrey and Walder Frey.

    1. Remember when we all thought the character fucked his own sister and threw kids out of windows was going to be the “bad” guy?

        1. Oh, he’s certainly an irredeemable bastard by any normal standard of human decency. But this is Westeros. Compared to some of his peers he’s basically Luke Skywalker. (Love interest, dickish father, amputation and all.)

        2. But Roose Bolton is the responsible, thinking man’s psychopath. 

          One of his best scenes in the books is when he complains to Theon about another, much less classy and down-low, psychopath. 

          1.  If it’s the psychopath I’m thinking of, it didn’t really do Roose Bolton that much credit.

      1. Thanks, I didn’t notice that before. And when I think about it, if he hadn’t done that, everyone could have been killed with perhaps less ado; no warning sounded.

        I think it definitely shows not only the detail work that goes into each part of the scenes, but also the depth that the actors are working out their characters. 
        I think the reasons for  Roose’s chainmail give-away itself could be bandied about for awhile…

      2.  One of the remarkable things about Martin’s writing is that several times as the story progressed, I’d pause, and realize how radically my perception of a character  had changed.

    2. I’ve read teh book but am just starting the tv series.  Has RAMSAY Bolton been introduced yet?  The bastard?  He makes his father look like a pussy cat.

          1. Why did I hear that curse in Alanis Morissette’s voice?

            To be fair, it’s not really a spoiler since the show has been so heavy handed with hints… a watcher may not know his first name, but they certainly know what banner will appear when he lets his freak flag fly.

          2. Erm, blame me, I guess. I’ve been yakking about Ramsay Bolton since he showed up. I had no idea they were going to use some kind of ‘reveal’ of him as a narrative trick. 

    3. I just found him to be one of the most intertesting characters in my favourite fantasy series ever. No biggie.

    4.  Did Roose show Cat the chainmail, or did she slide his sleeve up as the horror of the situation dawned on her? I thought it was her, but I’ve deleted my recording of the episode now =

      1. That part in the book was a little more logical – it’s not Roose, but one of the Freys, and Cat chases him down after he loudly and strangely rejects a dance from one of Robb’s main guards. When Cat grabs his arm to stop him, she feels the chainmail under his silk garment.

        Makes more sense that way, but it’s obviously not something that could be shown on screen, so I’m ok with the new version.

    5. Yeah, Roose_Bolton … you have some explaining to do.

      My mistrust for the character started in the books a while back, but I didn’t think he’d screw over the Starks in quite this way. I should know Westeros better by now.

      1. At the point you’re at in the books, surely they’ve related by now the history of Bolton on Stark violence lo these last thousand years, no?

        1. I knew there was the usual power-jockeying that comes before one house ends up the lord and the other the vassal, and the lingering hard feelings. I guess I should have known where this was going between Ned’s death and the sacking of Winterfell, but Bolton seemed to be one of Robb’s more sensible and competent supporters.

          1. I knew he was worth keeping an eye on once I read of his family’s proclivities re: skinning of their enemies.

          2. Martin harps on the banner being The Flayed Man as well. I guess you can tell a little by the banners, but what does one make of a flowery one?

          3. That’s just typical medieval stuff. I sorta respected him for being up-front with the savagery, but it slowly became clear he’s just as sneaky and treacherous as Tywin.

      2. The books really make a point of how the expression “bloodless” describes Roose Bolton. Him and his leeches, and his whispering, which is something you unfortunately don’t get in the show. You know way ahead of time that he’ll turn out to be a bad guy, because… just look at him!

    6. Roose is an arsehole, but a cunning one.  He realises he’s supporting the wrong side, and takes steps to ally himself with the most powerful man in the land (Tywin Lanister).
      Mind you, if you think Roose is a bastard, wait until you meet his son…

  4. It could still be possible, I think, only with Tywin finishing up loose ends.  He wouldn’t want a potential Stark heir left lying around if he went to the trouble of getting winterfell for Tyrion

    oops, this was meant to be a reply to David!

  5. I’d just like to thank all you book readers for not spoiling this. I had heard the term “Red Wedding”, of course, but I totally thought it was going to happen in King’s Landing. When the doors closed and the band started playing, I knew that this had to be it, though. The fantastic build-up of the scene and the almost casual slaughter of the Starks made it as horrifying for me as it must have been for those who read it in A Storm Of Swords. It’s a brilliant narrative move by Martin, as he explains in the EW interview: to drive home the point that the just do not always prevail, you need to not only kill your heroes, but you have to do it in this completely senseless, unheroic way. The way that Michelle Fairley just went dead inside after seeing her eldest son murdered will stay with me for a long, long time.

  6. Even having read the books didn’t prepare me for how badly seeing it was going to affect me.  I didn’t anticipate Talisa dying, for example.  Watching Cat slowly put the pieces together was terrible, and the look Roose gave her was perfect in how chilling it was.  A lot of book readers seemed upset Grey Wind didn’t manage to escape and take down a few Freys or Boltons but his last scene really brought home how hopeless the situation had been since the moment they stepped onto Frey land.

    I thought Grey Worm saying he trusted Daario was interesting. I love Grey Worm, so I’m curious what this means – is Daario therefore trustworthy? or just trustworthy when it comes to battles?

    sorry Jorah, but lmao at your ralph wiggum heartbreak face.

    1. I love Iain Glenn, and he’s made Jorah into such an appealing character… but when I feel sorry for his scorned puppy love all I have to remember is that he’s something like 35 and she’s something like 14 in the books.

      Daario is far different in the show than in the books… in the books he’s such an over-the-top douchebag in clown makeup, while in the show he might be a cocky playa but at least he actually does something other than bullshit and tag slave girls..

      1. Im glad for the changes to Daario to be honest. Like Leigh said, it’s one of those things that would have translated rather clownishly to screen. This way his character has far more potential (and I find deviations from the books kind of refreshing in that I don’t know /everything/ that will happen)

        1. Me too…

          I hope Selmy is given a chance to show his skills soon, since we don’t have his locust-loving side-kick in the show. He looked like he was getting kind of drunk while they waited for news… perhaps he thought they left him behind because he’s gotten old.

          1. I am still holding out hope for a Strong Belwas in season 4 or 5. Since we did not have Selmy’s deception it is ok to cast/introduce him later kind of like they did for the Reed kids.

        2. The way I pictured Daario from his description in the books is utterly ridiculous, but I’m also not sure how it was intended. The way he is in the show is probably not an unreasonable way of visualizing him. 

          Either way, I think the way they portray him in the show is the right choice.

      2. And in the show Jorah’s like 50 and Daenerys is like 20. Bigger age difference and still well outside the “half your age, plus seven” rule.

        However, Glenn’s performance, to me, conveys a tripartite conflict. He has paternal protective instincts towards her, he admires her as a queen, and she’s way hot. You can see how that would put him into some emotionally difficult places.

        1. Glenn’s doing a great job with the character, but is very physically different from his book incarnation, where his appearance, demeanor and future side-job are repeatedly compared to his house sigil.

        2. Also, IIRC, Jorah’s wife was a lot younger, beautiful, and so high maintenance he had to turn to slaving to keep her in jewelry which is why he’s here in the first place. 

      3. I must be alone in preferring the book Daario, changed from a take no crap blue-bearded killer that Dany bean-diddles over to a Fabio clone,  more fitting for the Harlequin-novel HBO has made ASOIAF.

  7. Walder Frey officially surpassed Jeoffrey with the amount of hate he receives from fans of the show. At least that’s what my twitter feed looked like.

    For the episode itself and the last scene in specifc: I haven’t read the books (well just the first two) and I was literally shaking after it. I think it is one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever seen on television, cinema or a stage. Just the little things like Robb and Talisa talking about naming their baby, the jokes at the tables, the scene with Aryia and the Hound where they talk about fear… And then, at the end, silent credits.

    This is truly one of the most intense experiences I had with fiction in my life and I’m really looking forward to what is coming in the season finale after this amazing episode.

    1. Oddly, the thing that galled me most about the RW when I first read it was Walder Frey. We already knew he was a wretched old shitstain and I expected he would pull something at the wedding, like maybe capturing the Starks and selling them to King’s Landing. We see Walder as somebody slowly and deliberately amassing power for his house – he doesn’t have a big army or lands to speak of, he just has this river crossing and hundreds of offspring that he is trying to insinuate by marriage into every other house or position. So then he would completely demolish all their reputations forever with this one fell stroke??? Well, that is partly true. His people are not well thought of thereafter, but you eventually figure out that if the Lannisters had a hand in it then he must have been bought off or granted immunity somehow. And it makes sense that he would have to kill them because he wouldn’t get away with anything less. Yes, it would have been a perfectly ridiculous thing to do for the sake of petty vengeance, but there is almost certainly more to it.

      What makes Walder Frey even more infuriating than Jeoffrey is that he can’t be punished in any way that you can think of. He’s already at the age of half-past dead and he doesn’t really care about anything — even concocting schemes for his children seems to leave him cold at this point, or maybe he’s just given up on them. One thing that struck me is how utterly stupid and ineffectual they must be to let him run the House the way he does. But of course, we’ve already seen the Freys being as stupid and ineffectual as you could imagine a festering swarm of inbred louts being, so that’s no real surprise. If I recall correctly they even had to get mercenaries to do all that crossbow stuff, because Freys suck at everything.

      So talk about killing your heroes in a completely senseless, unheroic way, there you go.

      1. Well that is a interesting point. All of the characters we see have some amount of power that mostly relies on their “families” (even the *mother* of dragons, claiming “daughters” back in season 1 and still being proud of her heritage). They always rely on and use their names to their advantage and somehow this old man made himself invincible by not giving a damn about anything.

        He is in a position where everything that follows the violation of the guest rights won’t bother him directly and this is so against the whole notion of keeping your family, reputation and name above everything else. All of the systems this society developed to ensure something like that won’t happen (or never goes unpunished) don’t apply to him anymore because this old man doesn’t care about what will happen after he’s dead. 

        It’s still odd that he is one of the few characters that freed himself of that and used it to take vengeance for something that wouldn’t even bother him anymore. He clearly stated that he doesn’t even care for his wife (son in the books) and he openly sells his children and grandchildren as long as some profit can be made. So maybe he’s really just gone mad in his age (and he probably has all kinds of STD’s, let’s not forget about that).

        1. That change annoyed me a bit.  The trade of Robb, Cat’s firstborn, last surviving son, and a king for Frey’s youngest, mentally-broken, jester son was an important point in the scene IMO.

          1. I did not mind it since that same girl was set up as a sympathetic character in Cat’s eyes in season two. So there was still an undercurrent, just different.

          2. Guilty as charged.   Well, mostly.

            One detail that made more sense in the show:  ‘The Lannisters send their regards’ vs. ‘Jaimie Lannister sends…’.

            I was incorrect in my reply above, Jinglebell was Frey’s grandson, not son.

  8. “Book fans have been waiting for the Red Wedding since the series began, most of us quietly sitting on our hands and gnawing on our knuckles the closer we got to the mighty, shocking event.”
    Which knuckles are you gnawing if you’re sitting on your hands?

      1. I know a guy with a whole cart of pig knuckles who’s willing to let them go cheap. Apparently they were intended for a business venture that didn’t work out.

    1. Maybe they’re Davos Seaworth’s finger joints. They’ve gone missing from around his neck ever since Blackwater Bay.

      Jaimie Lanister’s knuckles are also a possibility. When you think about it there are lots of spare and detached hands and fingers floating around Westeros.

      1. Davos was stranded on that rock for a while. Maybe he ate his own mummified fingers.

    1.  I like how the show makes Bolton the one who kills Robb. Much better than some random Frey lackey.

      1. It’s not super clear in the book because Cat’s mental stability is already sliding off its cracker, but Roose was also Robb’s killer in the books – she doesn’t name him, but comments on the pink cloak and Bolton armour.

  9. Leigh, you mentioned that you [couldn’t] imagine what it would be like to watch, not knowing what was coming.

    (raises hand)

    Well, I hadn’t read the books… I was paying attention to the episode, kind of drifting along with it as I do, almost in a dream state. Aware, but passive. 

    I’m a musician. I noticed the shift to a significantly different piece of music, and it got my attention. I thought… that’s an interesting choice…

    And then, of course, my attention shifted from passive to riveted. It accelerated, mounted, and left me genuinely shocked as the credits ran the only way they could – silently.

    It’s no joke, and not a cliché, to quote Col. Kurtz from the end of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now – 

    “The horror… the horror…”

      1. First, I laughed… and then I thought “hmm… is that funny?”

        Yet another reason to make sure musicians are always well fed, and have access to an open bar at any social event.

    1.  The music tipped me too. Being absolutely, 100% ignorant as to what was to transpire in the show, it was the closing of the doors and the change in music that got me rattled. I said to my wife, “oh shit, something bad is gonna happen.”  Even though at that point I suspected something was up, it did not in the least prepare me for what happened. Stunning.  It was the first time ever watching a television program that I went through all five stages of grief during the credits.  I’m still working through the “acceptance” phase though. 

  10. I knew what was coming but despite/because of this, my heart was pounding. I could actually feel it. And the silent credits. Oof.

      1.  It reminded me of the silence after an explosion. I could almost hear that high-pitched whine.

        1. Dig, I *heard* that whine – along with my pounding heart – as I tried to catch my breath while the credits scrolled.

  11. Another neat thing about the s109, s209 and s309 is how tonally different the three episodes are. Baelor was a dreamy operatic climax, whereas Blackwater had a big action hero feel to it, with explosions and heroic speeches, and this one was like a brutal mob movie.

  12. Couldn’t have been choreographed to be much more brutal.

    Every character was allowed to see the person they most cared for die ahead of them in a separate beat, starting with Talisa’s unborn child.

    It worked in GoT because the show is well written and acted. 

    I wonder how many crappy new shows next fall will feature main characters that will meet gruesome deaths in an attempt to replicate this.  You can bet that the industry is looking at the reaction to this episode
    and thinking to themselves that all they need to do to generate buzz is
    to brutally kill off some protagonists. 

      1. Or The Wire. They’d brutally kill off a central character in an instant, often without even a hint of foreshadowing first.

  13. I’ve been following Maisie Williams’ Vine feed.

    Thankfully I had just watched this episode a couple of days after it aired before I saw her Vine about it. She gives it all away in 6 seconds: “They  dead. Like so dead. Like OMG dead. Ma Muttha and Brutha are dead.”

  14. Yes. Actions have repercussions. 

    The heir-apparent has more time for booty than battle plans…soft talk and sweet words in a time of blood and death; and leaves himself open to the whims of a wronged and powerful bitter old man…?

    The King of the North is dead…long live King (?) Bran!

    Arya and the Hound…a fine pair….that kid is goin’ places.

    Catelyn…poor belaboured woman thou art, your worst nightmare made flesh before your very eyes: go softly into that good night unfortunate Queen.

    All the players are so well realized in this production…the casting is So Perfect!

    Yet while the fanciful nature with its ice zombies and fire breathing lizards will never reach the realms of High Art…it sure is a pleasure to behold. Damn fine entertainment: and the TV version thankfully mitigates the endless dripping turkey legs and middling heraldry…you can’t imagine it unless you’ve been there.

    And after untold pages read…I eagerly await Ms. Targaryen astride dragonback sweeping Westros of evil from Dorne to the Wall and beyond. (my desire only…not writ by a long shot…)  

    But Fantasy has it’s place: Daenarys astride and leading an inexorable, unstoppable uber-herd of bison might result in the same destructive effect…but there is little poetry there…


    (this message is not for the actor who is doing a fine job, but the character who is such a royal fuck up…I find his actions painful to read and watch: will he ever find himself? He should be a desiccated icicle by now.)

    Anyhow…one more episode! Let the chips fall where they may…

    1. Aw, Sam gets so much shit. No one has killed a white walker in living memory, and they were being pursued by a flock of killer crows. I’d do the same!

        1. Yeah, despite the books I always thought that if you stick a piece of dragonglass into an ice creature, there should be fire or melting.

      so glad you said this :)

      1. I realize we are supposed to empathize with his good heart and inexperienced bumbling…but that Walker killing was the best thing he’s ever done in his life: and he screws that up too!!
        AARRGGHH. His archetype wallows in traits I condemn in myself: squishy, mewling, luckless, uncoordinated and utterly incompetent…thus, for me, a hard guy to like…

        Joffrey is a far more horrible person…but he’s more of a ‘love to hate’…Sam just makes me squirm and grit my teeth.

    3. As if Catelyn could rest peacefully after this…

      When I first listened to the audiobook describe the red wedding, I lost my shit. This episode brought the same level of intensity, despite me knowing what was coming. The guest right is stressed so often and held to be so sacred… I imagine the Frey’s will be facing a proportionally terrible fate in consequence.

      I also immediately was reminded of Arrested Westeros, I felt like it must have been slipped in their intentionally.

  15. Not having read the books, I was clueless what was happening until Talisa got stabbed.  The music didn’t tip me off and I didn’t know why Cat slapped Roose.  I thought the Starks were clawing their way back up to the top slowly but surely and a lovely reunion with Arya was about to happen.  I woke up sad Monday morning.  I was shocked just how much of an impact it had on me.  Especially considering that in the end, I’m rooting for Dany. 

  16. Well, I kinda had the same feeling when I watched The Pillars of the Earth. People were dying all the time in that show too, even the favorite ones.

  17. Why such untempered sympathy for Catelyn? Does no one remember that her poor judgement and hotheadedness in kidnapping Tyrion, for her misplaced suspicion in the knife attack on Bran, precipitated a war that cost the lives of many thousands besides that of her son and husband?

    1. Why such untempered sympathy for Catelyn?

      This is just a hunch but I think it has something to do with her being forced to watch her daughter-in-law, unborn grandchild, and first-born son brutally slaughtered in front of her eyes just before being murdered herself.

      1. Not to mention suspecting her other two sons have been murdered during the sack of Winterfell by her oldest’s best friend, or that her two daughters are in the hands of the Lannisters or also dead. Her husband is dead, her dad just died.  And to be fair to Catelyn, she had no way of knowing her sister’s insanity was going to make such a botch of Tyrion’s trial.

        1. Well there’s some nice irony – Lysa’s bat-shittiness actually resulted in Tyrion’s justified exoneration. Though he did confess to making the bald man cry in Cersei’s turtle soup.

  18. Great write up Leigh, I have to say I have read very little fantasy over the years since sixth form so this was a complete shock, there I was sitting over my lunch watching it on sky +, just thinking how the family Stark was so well played, how the mothers character was very well done, with great dialogue, then BAM! – all dead.. blood…everywhere, I was just screaming HOL|Y SHIT at the TV for a few mins… it was awesome. I don’t know why everyone is so upset though, it’s Drama, can’t you all be admiring in instead for beguiling you, tricking you and then giving you a dose of what the real world is like ?, apart from Moma Stark all the interesting ones are still about anyway :)

  19. Violating the “bread and salt” tradition is not “almost” a spiritual violation–it is exactly that. The books make it clear that in the context of the religion of the Seven, it is a sacred covenant, the breaking of which will ensure divine wrath. Oathbreaking is one of the major themes of the story, and the transcendent element of the many oaths taken (and broken) is crucial in understanding what they mean to the characters. Walder Frey, by harming those under his protection, is risking damnation for the sake of revenge and Lannister support. Either that, or he has, like many, lost faith in the Seven.

    1. The tv guide for next week says that Bran tells a ghost story, so I suspect they’re gonna make it clear to watchers how badly violating guest right goes for the violators with a gruesome northern scary tale.

      1. That was my read. Too old/bitter to give a damn.

        Plus, what all did the Lannisters give him, exactly? I don’t think we know yet.

    2. As I said above, I thought it was odd that he seemingly torpedoed his own life’s work of getting his children all married advantageously and such. The name of Frey will be mud in Westeros for the foreseeable future. But also as mentioned, there may be other things at stake.

      My impression of Westeros religion (as a generalization) is that only peasants believe in the Seven.  OTOH, that may be a bigger deal than some people expect…

      1. In the books it is more of a very weak version of the Catholic Church. We could probably debate as well about how much the nobility in Europe really believed in religious doctrine vs used it for power.

  20. A few comments on your observations:

    The bread and salt was a nice touch, another way Martin goes against the standard expectations of fantasy. We should understand at this point in the series that all these vaunted rituals of honour are broken the moment it becomes expedient for the warlords who rule this place, and yet we’re still surprised when the sacred “guest right” is violated to this extent. If this doesn’t kill the reader’s and viewer’s inner Sansa, nothing will. No more illusions for me, George RR Martin! 

    The same goes for expecting a reunion between the members of the Stark family. The lack of reunions were torture … so close and yet so far. From now on I’ll take the Hound’s advice: “you’re almost there, and you think you won’t make it.” And you won’t in Westeros, the worse for poor Arya

    Your confession about her is controversial indeed. Arya is one of my favourite characters, not because she’s an archetypical martial tomboy but because she’s true to herself and has been from the beginning, even if it means rejecting the rules of this brutal place. They carry that over well into the show.

    I also disagree about Catelyn. She may be wiser than her brother, but that’s a low bar to clear. She isn’t wise enough to see the long-term results of her actions and advice — a lot of the recent misery and bloodshed in Westeros can be traced back to them.

    The portrayal of Daario in the show works for me. In the books he’s older, and what’s needed here is a jealousy conflict with the less age-appropriate but probably more true Jorah.

    Continuing with the theme I’ve seen throughout the season, the aspect of honesty and openess being portrayed in this episode are the various characters proving themselves true or false to the others and themselves. Trust is earned or decimated, personal codes are honoured while societal codes are thrown out the window, the Wall loses its magical power for Gilly but Sam Tarly becomes a wizard in her eyes because he proves the value of understanding marks on a page. Another nicely crafted episode.

    A grueling episode, too, but I’m okay. Thanks for asking.

    1. Of course we’re surprised when the sacred covenant is broken. We wouldn’t be surprised in the real world, because we know the sky fairy isn’t going to do jack shit about it. But in a world of decade-long winters and magic and weeping tree gods, you’d expect people to tread a little more carefully around that stuff.

      It’s been pointed out that Walder has one foot in the grave already, but I suspect there are things worse than death in Westeros.

      1. She (Catelyn) may be wiser than her brother, but that’s a low bar to clear. 
        Wiser than the one who was forced into marriage, maybe, but that’s neither here nor there. Her other brother, the Blackfish, is better than her in every concievable way.

  21. It’s an interesting inconsistency of book vs tv that many of the characters are cast older than written. Michell Fairly appears to be in her mid 50’s, while Catelyn married as a teen and Robb is still a teen, putting her in her mid 30’s.  Had she and Ned been cast that 20 years younger, they would have had less gravitas on screen, changing the story not a little. 

    1. That’s probably due at least in part to the fact that many people aren’t comfortable watching (let alone filming) so many nude and/or sex scenes involving underage actors. And by “many people” I also include the FCC.

      1. Robb & Jonn are still portrayed as late teens, I don’t see how your point is relevant. She was no more than 18 when she was married off to Ned, 18+18=36, a best guess MAX age for Catelyn.

        1. Ah, I thought you were asking “why are most characters portrayed as older than their book counterparts” in general.

          I think the “older with more gravitas” works in the show’s favor though. Besides, it’s not like middle-age-or-older actresses are hogging up all the best gigs in Hollywood.

        2. Perhaps he’s suggesting that HBO couldn’t make a love story out of showing Dany getting fucked by a giant barbarian at age 13. Especially since in the books it was less rapey than in the show… which actually makes it even more creepy.

          1. IIRC, Dany makes the first move on her wedding night.
            She eats a whole raw horse heart for him, (unknowingly) sacrifices her unborn son for him, kills for him and pines for her ‘sun and stars’ well into ADWD.

      2. I was getting uncomfortable with it while reading the books — but I think we’re supposed to be uncomfortable.

        1. being one of the minute few consensual couples is just one of the reasons I’ll miss robb/talisa :(

      3. I don’t think the FCC applies to HBO. They could have gotten caught up in some federal lawsuits on child porn but that would have likely been shot down on artistic license, see Lolita, Romeo and Juliet, etc. 
        No, it was probably a combination of viewer comfort and getting good actors who won’t change their looks too much over several years, (yes we are looking at you Bran.)

    2. Wikipedia says she’s 48 or 49 though there’s no citation for that. Keep in mind that these people go through some long fucking winters with medieval technology so they probably appear older by our standards. Especially our standards for actresses.

      1. Also how anyone measures years in Westeros where winters and summers are not of any standard length is anyone’s guess. I think that, like how crows work, is one of those things GRRM hand-waves away. 

  22. Perhaps its because I watched soap operas growing up (everyone dies once or twice when contract negotiations fail) but their deaths weren’t surprising. Shocking, because I didn’t go into the episode thinking it would happen. I never read the books, but I knew something was up before the band started. My husband and I looked at each other and said “something really bad is going to happen.” And I couldn’t tell you that it was the Lannister song. And given that any character you like is killed I was waiting for them all to die at that point. However the way they killed Talisa was one of my irrational fears while being pregnant, so that was way too much for me.  But I never really trusted/liked her anyway. What will get me is if they off Arya. And Michelle Fairley should get an award for her portrayal of Catelyn, solely for her last scene. 
    As for Sam, we yelled at him to get the knife. That boy is seriously daft sometimes. I’ll be a bit disappointed if he survives. But I expect that girl will turn on him. 

    Now I need to read the books. 

    1. They made Sam into an even bigger screwup in the show than he was in the book, which is the only decision so far that I can’t understand. The changes have mostly made the characters a little more realistic and relatable, but not him. He’s tolerable in the book but the show takes it too far, IMO.

  23. I blooming well called it as well! But when I predicted Robb’s death I never thought Catelyn would go too. She was just about my favourite character in the darn thing and not just because of my monumental crush. 
    I watched the final 10 minutes of the episode with my hand over my gaping mouth. Absolutely amazing television, this never happens! 

    The angry reactions on twitter were hilarious. 

    As Catelyn’s throat was cut I actually made a noise, a noise sort of like a high pitched whelp. The credit roll was really abrupt too eh? Seems to have happened a few times this season, just like BANG. END.

    I had just about recovered but this has brought it all flooding back. Thanks a lot Leigh!

  24. As much as I loved the books (I read them all over and over waiting for each new publication), I may even love the show more. Mostly because I think HBO has done a bang-up job of giving the female characters more depth. GRRM created male characters who are stunningly complicated, weirdly sympathetic and fully-realized, but female characters who sometimes seemed trite stereotypes, and failed to adapt and evolve. 

    I despised Catelyn in the books: cold, unyielding, proud, and often wrong. Some subtle changes and additions (the story of prayerfully repenting of her cruelty to baby Jon Snow), as well as the phenomenal acting made me genuinely grieve her character after this last episode. Whereas after reading the Red Wedding in the books, I thought, “well, at least we don’t have to deal with Catelyn chapters anymore.” 

    1.  ‘Whereas after reading the Red Wedding in the books, I thought, “well, at
      least we don’t have to deal with Catelyn chapters anymore.” ‘

      I remember thinking the same thing. Ironically, at the very start of that chapter (which was a Catelyn chapter…) I remember commenting publically “not another bloody chapter of ‘I’m so proud of my son’, ‘he’s growing up so fast’, ‘she can’t wear those shoes with that skirt!'”
      followed up twenty minutes later with “Oh.” Needless to say, everybody knew what I was talking about…

    2. >>I despised Catelyn in the books… “well, at least we don’t have to deal with Catelyn chapters anymore.”
      Oh Lord. I confess, me too. You get some real hate on SoIAF message boards if you admit to disliking Catelyn. I’m not even sure she’s meant to be liked, but try explaining that to a bunch of rabid fans.

      My least favorite thing in book 2 was turning the page and seeing either “CATELYN” or “BRAN” at the top. Not that I even dislike Bran, but those Winterfell chapters were really dull. I just had to close my eyes and picture Chevy Chase saying, “In other news, Brandon Stark is still crippled.”

      1. You know what, I couldn’t stand Catelyn’s chapters either. I was surprised by how much I came to love the character in the show, given how indifferent I was to her in the books. Actually, while reading, “can she just die already GET TO THE JAIME AND CERSEI AND TYRION PARTS’ crossed my mind a few times!

  25. I’m really enjoying your write-ups, Leigh. Thank you.

    I will admit that this particular time may be partly because of your comment of sympathy for Catelyn. I think it’s very interesting that over and over, Catelyn is often raised as the catalyst for the war, as if the participants had no choice but to war, and the war has been prolonged for no reason except the seizure of Tyrion … which, to me, has long ceased being the reason for this war. (Remember when there was still a possibility of peace between the North and King’s Landing, until Joffrey cut Ned Stark’s head off?) 

    Her release of Jaime Lannister is more questionable; I can’t really say I remember the book events perfectly, but I think in the show, Karstark wants Jaime executed for murdering one of his sons, so that’s at least partly the reason Catelyn releases him. 

    Also, Catelyn did end up brokering the agreement with Walder Frey … which Robb broke, not her. I found it a bit funny that both Robb and Edmure were so unhappy about marrying for political expediency. Catelyn, as a woman, would have known what it was like to marry for a purpose like that (in fact, like Cersei, or any other noblewoman). She was just lucky to marry into the Starks.

    In the books, I think she actually often gives sound and knowledgeable advice, as a noblewoman who then became the lady of a prestigious house. Ned, being Ned, would have brought her into his lordly confidence more than other husbands probably do. You can see how she and Ned brought up good kids and have such loyal people in their household. (If anything, one of her greatest personal flaws is her hatred for Jon Snow.) 
    One of the other great flaws of Catelyn’s I don’t seem to see a lot about (in my own experience, of course) is the one most of the Starks suffer from … trusting the wrong people. She trusted Littlefinger, and she trusted Lysa, not knowing how paranoid and unstable Lysa had become. 

    1. completely agree. compared to her son and husband, cat was downright suspicious. But she was only human and her hatred of Jon Snow, while vicious, was understandable within its context

        1. He still had a home, training in reading, writing, swordplay, besties with his step-brother, siblings that adored him, and a father that clearly loved him.  How much did Cat really influence Jon Snow’s life? 

    2. She also distrusted Tyrion Lannister, the one Lannister who could have been trusted. Indeed, I have to wonder if the situation was manipulated so that the two of them, specifically, would hate each other.

    1. The new Lord of Harrenhal is supposed to be in the Eyrie, arranging his own wedding to Catelyn’s nutty sister Lysa. As a Lannister loyalist his presence at the Red Wedding wouldn’t be welcome by anyone (even us — if anyone would survive that bloodbath, it would be him).

  26. The most gruesome, vivid memory I have about the book’s red wedding, was all those soldiers being burned alive. Simple enough to ambush the army’s leadership in the house, but annihilating an entire army took amazing luck, bad weather, lots of wine, and torches. I can see how the show would choose to low-budget that part, it isn’t essential, but I miss it all the same. 

    1. Along those lines, they show couldn’t do justice to the horror that happened in Blackwater Bay. The battle was a great episode, but the book was a little more clear about the thousands upon thousands of people burning alive.

      1.  Yeah, to my reckoning they told less than half the story of the Blackwater, Tyrion’s chain was brilliant- and made me glad I’d bothered with the book. Then when they shortchanged Dany’s ordeal in the puzzle prison, I figured they’d blown their whole special effects budget on the previous episode.

        1. The House of the Undying is one of my only big disappointments with the show.  But the show definitely doesn’t place any value on prophecy the way the books do.

  27. I’d heard the phrase “Red Wedding” as being a big one coming this year, although I didn’t know which wedding it was (I wondered if it might be Joffrey’s), and I’d heard SOMETHING bad would happen to Robb (possibly but not necessarily his death)… and not being a musically inclined person, I couldn’t recognize the song when it played, so the surprise for me was just seconds before the first stabbing when I thought, “Oh, man, he’s going to kill Robb’s wife!”).

    But then the deaths didn’t stop there. 

    Wow.  Messed up.  And mom killing Frey’s wife, essentially out of spite (and to honor her vow, I suppose, but I’m morally okay with breaking vows that involve pointless murders)…

    And then the realization…


    I mean, Dany’s still too far a way to be a viable factor, and until Joffrey dies (my hope, not any book-gained knowledge) I can’t root for the Lannisters… and… that’s pretty much it, there are no other major armies actually in conflict for the throne (the undead and wildlings and the water people strike me either as minor skirmishes/raders or looming threats that will eventually be the big plot but probably not until a lot more things are settled)

    So that’s it, in this war, I root for Joffrey or Stannis. :P

    Ah well.  I can still enjoy my favorite characters… luckily none of them died, at least not in this episode.

      1. Not until he adopts at least one puppy.

        (I actually did root for him a little, up until the betrayal, but part of that was the “no drinking” thing, since it’s a characteristic we share)

          1. @boingboing-e69219486d79f823e8048101bb844acf:disqus : Hodor’s character was just a blatant attempt to win over Pokémon fans.

          2. True, but that doesn’t mean that all drunks are going to be awesome, or that someone who doesn’t drink can’t be awesome.

            (And I though I was the only one who noticed Arya’s drunken lechery!)

        1. Nonono! Don’t! Say! That! I haven’t read the books, but a quick check on real world history would imply that Bran and Rickon get caught (and silently disposed), and Edmure  will be King for a while, before being killed by another King arriving from the Mainland. His corpse would be publicly shown in a pub called The New Wake.*And I, for one, DON’T want to see this.*Otherwise, of course, I welcome our new Overlords.

        1. This is George R.R. Martin we’re talking about: If it’s bloody, it’s likely.

    1. Nothing wrong with supporting Stannis! Sure, he’s rigid and inflexible towards morality and duty, and this sometimes blinds him, but he’s aware of this weakness which is why he chose a trustworthy advisor in Davos to keep him on the straight and narrow. He may not be the king Westeros wants, but he probably is the one they deserve.

          1. His reign would be short and bloody. At least this is what Varys says to Tyrion when he asks why Varys helps defend King’s Landing from Stannis’ attack.
            He’s moral, unbending man who fervently believes in a foreign god. He’s not going to live and let live in the moral cesspool of the Westeros.

        1. Think of it as supporting Melisandre. That chick’s all kinds of fun; especially if blood rites, penis leeches, and snatch demons are your idea of fun — and why wouldn’t they be? 

      1.  He’s also the only one (of the kings anyway) who knows who the real enemy is, and acts on it.

  28. You may not like Arya’s book character very much but her chapters in books 4 and 5 are the best in the entire series.

    1. Yeah I think that changes her arc tremendously from the stereotype Leigh outlined above.

    2. Do watch the spoilers!  Those who haven’t read are assuming after the Red Wedding that no character is safe, you just assured them of Arya.

      1. Just because a character is alive in latter books, does not make them ‘safe’. Sorry but even given Martin’s penchant for killing characters, that is a pretty minor thing to be worried about.

        1. Spoiler (not really, we’ve already seen one…) alert- you can kill a character, but you can always bring them back.

      2. I agree, and I am sorry if I caused anyone spoiler-fatigue.

        So here’s another- even though she has very few chapters, they are again (I think) the absolute best writing that GRRM did in the entire series.

        It isn’t just the character arc, its the style and the descriptions.

  29. Here in the UK, the BBC have just finished a rerun of I, Claudius – which was a lovely reminder of what Martin is doing in GoT that people keep forgetting: he’s doing history, not “fantasy” (dragons aside), and history doesn’t have that nice narrative flow that we tend to embrace more easily.  I think that’s why the books have kept their following through Martin’s erratic schedule. (Also, it’s nice to have something that doesn’t slavishly adhere to the wretched Hero’s Journey for a change.)

    The only innovative thing here is that the books and adaptation are prepared to show stuff which previously was perhaps only implied – to take the Claudius example, I can’t imagine Messilina’s sex competition would have remained entirely behind closed doors these days!  Go back and read some history books and practically nothing in GoT will shock you…

    1. I read far more historical novels than fantasy, and it seem to me GRRM is reluctantly throwing in the magic just to remain in the genre that has been kind to him. It really doesn’t affect the plot significantly very often at all.  Eliminate the secondary effect of walkers driving the wildings to the wall, and there’s almost none.

      1. While based on real history I would say magic is integrated pretty well. We are still dealing with a world where magic has not been very apparent for hundreds of years. The birth of the dragons and the coming of winter has resulted in the reappearance of magic everywhere. From the Red God to the House of the Undying to Bran.

    2.  Actually, your comment is most sensible. However, “fictional history with dragons, giants, and ice zombies” is still pretty much “fantasy”. I remember distinctly that a lot of Marion Zimmer-Bradley’s Books are also very loosely based on a historical framework, and are also developing like history. Still, It’s fantasy because of the supernatural stuff included. And she is never that much interested in politics, but more in the character development (as in Bildungsroman).

      Heading over to wikipedia, checking Richard III. again. In several languages, to get more details. Oh my, oh my, I don’t like this at all.

  30. So does Mark still show his daughter a ‘safe’ version of GoT? This episode’s going to be real short…

  31. Anyone else wondering if Mark still shows his daughter edited episodes of GoT? I think the safe version of this one runs for about ten minutes…

  32. Forgive me if this has already been said here, but I’ve been surprised at all the bloggers and authors out there representing fans of the books as they collectively pat themselves on the back for not spoiling the events of this episode.

    Give me a break!  I came across so many people making underhanded references to the Red Wedding during season one that I gave up on comment forums.  Sure, the details weren’t spoiled – but I saw enough comments along the lines of, “you think this is cool?  Wait until the Red Wedding…” that when it happened, I actually thought to myself, “oh, this must be that Red Wedding thing finally.”

    Hell, even in this comment forum, there are people stepping up not to spoil all the good stuff yet to come.  I’m a bit shocked that there aren’t more overt references to the events’ names, so that the commenters can both praise themselves for keeping their mouths shut and satiate their desire to ruin the experience for those they deem haven’t earned the right to enjoy it firsthand because they haven’t read the books.

    1. Welcome to the internet. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a less useful venue for avoiding information than for finding it.

      The books are worth reading. You should get started on them before the show ruins all the surprises for you.

  33. I figured it was GRRM throwing up his hands and saying “I’ve got way too many characters here.”

    But maybe that’s just me.

    1.  My favorite social media reaction was, “Why can’t George R. R. Martin use Twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.”

  34. I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire a few years ago, probably indirectly influenced by the popularity of the show. For some reason, I gave up in the middle of the fourth book, about a year ago. Two months ago, I started over with the fourth book, and I was enjoying it immensely, then found out there was a fifth, which I just finished a few weeks ago.

    Initially, I’d read fan reactions to the Red Wedding, and felt a bit annoyed with the reaction. It’s shocking — but once it happens, how can you not see how everything was leading to it? And it was in a book published thirteen years ago.

    But then it occurred to me that the reason I’d given up on the fourth book, the first time I’d read it, was that I read it immediately after finishing the third, and I was reading the fourth as largely an account of the aftermath of the Red Wedding — that is, I was strongly affected by the Red Wedding, enough to make me stop reading after my inertia wore off.

    However, it made a difference, to take a break, and start the fourth book fresh. Not to spoil anything, but Martin really is an excellent storyteller, and there’s lots more story.

    1. AFFC was pretty universally disliked, and I think your POV (as a denouement to the Red Wedding and aftermath) is a good explanation of why.

      FWIW i really like AFFC, probably my favourite after ASOS.

  35. I was surprised, but not shocked. I have found the deceased characters’ story the least interesting part of seasons 2 and 3 (along with Theon’s story), and I never liked Robb or Catelyn.

    In fact while the Starks are clearly set up as the archetypal heroes, that label only genuinely applies to Ned and Arya (probably Bran too, but he has yet to really do anything). The other Starks are noble compared to the other families, and are sometimes sympathetic and/or strong characters (particularly Sansa and Catelyn), but they are not likable (to me), including Jon Snow.

    It’s terrible, but I think I mainly feel relief after this. It got rid of some characters I don’t really like (though not in the way one doesn’t like Joffrey, obviously) and will now allow the main plot to radically move forward (it was starting to get a bit stale, IMO). And it will obviously help Arya become more awesome – pretty obvious that she needs to remain separated from her family (or get separated again, if this hadn’t happened) for her story to advance.

    Now that this storyline is out of the way, think of how much more time can be devoted to characters I actually like! Of course, I fully expect that new stuff will fill the void as well.

  36. Ok, I know this episode was shocking, but I’m still worried about poor old Theon who’s now spent several weeks having his manparts removed off-camera.

  37. Are you deliberately trying to have an incorrect opinion about everything? I work in video games too, but I have somehow managed to preserve my taste and insight.

    Daario’s portrayal is great! He’s arrogant, but honest, and uses his bravado (so far in the series) in the service of justice. And I think he is physically very appealing, as well as classically swashbuckling (speaking as a straight male, for what it’s worth). How are we “meant” to not like him???

    Also, you didn’t like Arya in the book? Dafuq??? She is not anything like the cliched videogame heroine (Lara Croft and all her successors), which is essentially a male badass personality transplanted into a hyper-feminine body.  Yes, she’s fierce and independent, but also vulnerable, awkward, and often scared. If anything, she’s similar to Hermione. And the show’s portrayal of her is even more strong and confident than the book’s. Which plunges your whole analysis even further into wtf-land.

  38. Jon got away without his going away present from Yggritte.    A portent of another change down the line at their next meeting?

  39. Many thanks for a thoughtful review. I knew what was coming, multiple reads of the books, yada yada yada and I was still devastated.  The show handled the RW so damn well.  Agree  that the actors (particularly those playing Cat and Arya) have given those characters more nuance, but I also think that is the nature of the medium.  
    The characters on this show (and in the books) are human — flawed, often stupid, complicated, prickly, and above all, interesting.  (As noted by Roose_Bolton, leech-lover and knuckle purveyor extraordinaire) So while I agree with you that book-Arya is more conventionally “likable”  for precisely the reasons you identify (and I share your discomfort with that trope) I think both book and show Arya present depth and complications that subverts those expectations.  Yeah, Arya is “feisty” “plucky” and above-all, not “girly” but she is getting closer and closer to the flip side of the Ramsey Snow/Bolton coin.  And watching that process is really disturbing, because we are rooting for her.

  40. Cat’s brother was taken off to the bedding ceremony, her uncle, the Blackfish went out to pee. I expect they may spend just a short amount of time next episode wrapping those up.

    edit: I don’t mean wrapping them up like in body bags :), just that they left it up in the air whether they lived or not.

    1. Ah right, now I remember Blackfish saying he was going to find a tree to piss on. I don’t see how Frey could let them live… seems too dangerous!

      1. Well Edmure’s marriage to his daughter gives him ties to Riverrun so it would make sense to keep him alive at least until he can be sure he knocked her up. Maybe that is part of the deal he made with Tywin, getting control of Riverrun. It would be quite a step up from the Twins.

        (I have read the books but I don’t remember anything about this, so no spoilers, just speculation, I promise.)

  41. Have NOT read the books…  My take away from the GoT on HBO so far is this:  In a world where corruption and greed reign supreme, idealism is an incredibly foolish behavior (unless you own fire breathing dragons).  The Stark’s were fools and they paid the price.  Also, the winter IS coming.  And all this parry, dodge, lunge behavior as the game of thrones plays out will be for naught.  So, a world at war with a few less Stark’s makes no difference.  Brilliant move by GRRM.

  42. It’s been said that A Song of Ice and Fire is fantasy for those who don’t read fantasy, and as evidenced by The Red Wedding, George RR Martin is not a conventional author.  Some people might be put off by this approach to story telling, however it’s a much more honest way of writing than adhering to a predictable storyline just to appeal to a reader’s (or in this case, the viewer) expectations.  

    Indeed, the Red Wedding, along with the wars of ascension being fought over the throne of Westeros are themselves inspired by historical incidents.  Rarely are there a fairy tale endings in real life, that’s just the stuff of fantasy, which is precisely why the series differentiates itself so well from others.  In a way, it’s almost more like historical fiction, which makes the fantasy elements all the more intriguing (they aren’t an overwhelming aspect, and Martin writes sparingly of them, this subtle approach only serves to enhance their impact and make them much more shocking and powerful than if they were an everyday occurrence).  At least thats my impression.  

    This is a very interesting point in the story, we’re not quite through some of the other more startling events that occur in A Storm of Swords, yet the season finale is at hand.  There is no way the season can end along with the book, given there is just so much ground to cover.  I suppose a tremendous abridgment could occur, however I seriously doubt that it will.   Alas, the next book will open up the world even further, it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle so many new threads to the storyline…

    1. They split book 3 into 2 seasons. I am very glad they did because like you said there is a lot left to cover.

  43. ‘It’s new for TV, too’. HELLO? You write for BoingBoing and not have watched anything Joss Whedon made for TV???

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