Game of Thrones S3 E9: The Rains of Castamere, response

Just want to chime in with my two cents on the Red Wedding scene; if you haven’t read Kyra on the rest of the episode (I’m only going to talk about the finale), you must. First the technical side of things (pretty damn good), then the emotional side of things (I’m at odds with how I’m “supposed” to feel).

 

I don’t think I could tell you with a straight face that I was shocked—SHOCKED—to learn of that 1/4 of the Stark clan (one quarter depending on how you count; I’m using the six kids plus the Ned and Catelyn, but a larger fraction goes down should we count Talisa and Fetus Ned) met their untimely demise within the walls of The Twins. Mrs. Stark made sure to remind her eldest son of the epigraph Kyra quoted from above, that Walder Frey is “not a man to cross,” but ultimately neither Mrs. Stark nor Robb heeded that warning. Instead, the (false) promise of a too-easy resolution to a sticky situation lured them into the trap. There should have been no reason for the Starks to take Frey at his word. That, having lost a chance to marry off his (hot) daughter (again, SHOCKING to discover that Robb’s betrothed was attractive) to a king, or at least a claimant to the throne, Frey would readily settle for the Tully nephew who couldn’t properly shoot a flaming arrow onto his father’s corpse, had every hallmark of a classic set-up. Makes you wonder how he’ll shoot his own flaming arrow into the Frey girl, but he could be taking lessons from Michael Douglas for all I know.

All of this to say that I harbored no surprise when the climax arrived, but David Nutter somehow managed to preserve some ambiguity as to how the bloodletting came about. The castle entrance bolted shut, but the episode let the viewer outside The Twins’ walls to follow Arya, suggesting that there still might have been an opening to the outside. Catelyn’s brother stepped away to take a leak—surely Frey wouldn’t spring the trap without all victims inside (unless the Tully conspired with Frey). The minstrels strummed “The Rains of Castemere,” but even then Catelyn managed a smile. I confess that the finality of the sinister plan only happened upon me when Catelyn realized it herself, when she peeled back Roose Bolton’s shirt to find yet another layer—of chainmail.

I do think Kyra makes a great point regarding the effects utilized to show the successive throat slitting, first of Frey’s uncared-for wife, and then of Catelyn; the outcome shared much with a Tarantino movie or Eastern Promises to the point where it bordered on the comical. That slight misstep  didn’t detract from the gruesome whole, though. It was a cruel twist of the knife that killed the first victim(s): Talisa, and the unborn child. Nutter made strong use of the set pieces and the lighting, and did well to set up the set-up, leading to a satisfactory conclusion. The silence as the credits rolled, rare for Game of Thrones, reinforced the unprecedented slaughter.

Satisfactory? Yes, satisfactory. I’ve written before in my responses that Benioff and Weiss (and Martin, though my understanding is that he, unfortunately, keeps adding characters) needed to cut some stragglers, and that I’d start with Mrs. Stark and Robb. That desire puts my emotions at odds with where the show thinks they lay. The Starks are the closest thing to a moral compass that Game of Thrones has (though the Khaleesi has evolved in this department this season), but paradoxically that almost makes me care less for their well-being. We saw with Ned that stubborn moralism not only doesn’t guarantee success in this world, but actually guarantees doom. Robb and Catelyn played a child’s game, dealing them, therefore, a losing hand, because of every other player’s cynicism and duplicity. Consequently, I wasn’t not sad to lose the pair, I was happy to lose them. Thus, I’m probably at least as excited as Kyra to see what flows from this massacre—excited to spend time with other characters, and excited to see how others with much more charisma react.

Game of Thrones resists much in the way of thematic interpretation, and given that, I want my protagonists moving, shaking, and conniving, not clinging incautiously to ideals (or if there are some who insist on morality and goodness, they’re frankly not worth much of my time). In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die—there is no middle ground. The Starks (sans Arya, Sansa, and Bran, who have all benefited and continue to benefit from the watchful eye of a prescient if flawed protector, whether they know it or not) have had a death warrant on them for a long time. It’s about time they got what’s been headed their way.

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