In case you haven’t been anywhere near the Internet or a television for the past 18 hours, last night was a big one for Game of Thrones fans. The penultimate episode of each season of the show has always been a space for shockers, from the execution of supposed series hero Ned Stark to the harrowing Battle of the Blackwater, and “The Rains of Castamere” delivered the biggest surprise to date. This being 2013, the Internet wasted no time in sharing its collective feelings, from social media rants to memes to formal reviews. Read on for the most dramatic, on-point, and well-put responses to the episode. Obviously, there are some major spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen “The Rains of Castamere” yet, get thee to a DVR and join in on the fun.
The wedding at first seems to be a near miss: they are grateful for what it is not, unable to see what it is about to become. (Even the fool Edmure is relieved he’s not marrying an ugly girl.) Robb and Talissa are thinking sweetly about how their love marriage was the right choice, about the baby they are about to have, when they are really at a huge party celebrating their death.
This is consistently the most impressive thing about “Game of Thrones”: even as you root for certain characters and families, you can see— with your mind, if not your heart— that it’s all a matter of perspective. If we were watching the story through the Freys’ eyes, this episode would have been a rousing tale of a perfectly hatched plan, so meticulously plotted they hired a band to play a dirge when things got grisly…But instead we are with the Starks, and the end of this episode hurt.
I was prepared for rough shit to go down. I figured that Robb was in trouble, one way or another…But I didn’t expect the sheer brutality of the final scene, nor did I expect such a high body count, nor nasty little twists like Roose Bolton delivering the final blow with “the Lannisters give their regards” (an echo of his kiss-off line to Jaime a few weeks ago) or Arya being there, once again, to see the Starks decimated and her hopes lost.
Oof. I can only imagine what the unspoiled are thinking. My Twitter feed has certainly been blowing up, but not with much consternation or rage, more like melancholy and exhaustion and a feeling of shellshock. There’s no way the show can’t cut to black after Catelyn’s throat is slit. But that’s also an upsetting, tragic note that’s impossible to forget. It’s haunting stuff, and it’s to Game Of Thrones’ credit that the scene hits as hard as it does.
One of the things that TV and film have on books is the way that they can drive home the shock of a particular emotion. For instance, when reading the Red Wedding sequence in A Storm Of Swords, it’s tempting to either slow down a bit or read even more quickly, both the better to minimize the impact of what’s happening (though, as you can probably imagine, the impact is hard to minimize)…
On TV, you can’t really do that. The Red Wedding is a bravura scene, but it goes so quickly. Catelyn realizes what’s up—hell, Roose’s contributions to the scene are mostly condensed into a smirk—and then all hell breaks loose. Talisa is getting stabbed over and over in the gut, Robb gets shot with dozens of arrows, and Cat herself takes an arrow to the back. (For a time, I thought the show might avoid the terrible end of this chapter—where she has her throat slit—by having her play dead and survive to fight another day, since Michelle Fairley’s been such a valuable part of this ensemble. But no!) It feels like it’s over within seconds, even though it takes a few minutes. It’s awful and horrible and everything the sequence needed to be, and it marks a new high watermark for the series as a whole.
So after the dust settles, the blood congeals and everyone has done screaming ‘Holy shit’ and swearing they’re breaking up with the show, we’ll all have to admit that not only was the Red Wedding an outcome fully in line with the themes and tone of the show (nowhere is safe, words/promises are just illusions, love does not last) but that it was also very clearly telegraphed by the scenes leading up to it. If you had not read the books, what would have tipped you off the most that something truly devastating was about to happen, and why? Suggestions: Walder’s obvious contempt for Talisa; his line “the wine will flow red”; Roose Bolton’s sobriety (and everything else about Roose Bolton); the fact that everyone seemed to be happy, for once; the title of the episode.