Obligatory Spoiler Alert for GOT S3 Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”
I have never had so much anxiety when watching something.
No soundtrack to a horror movie or buildup on a television show has ever caused such a physical reaction. As the seconds ticked past and the action crawled across the screen, I could barely watch because I knew, I KNEW what was about to happen. My heart was beating so fast I might have been spending the hour at the gym, not sitting at my computer screen so close I’m bound to have a headache later.
I don’t usually recap Game of Thrones because I’ve read the books and so I feel like I come at them from a very different angle than an average viewer. Even though I try to take the episodes for what they are, an adaptation and a different entity from A Song of Ice and Fire, I often find my mind wondering to the divergences, loving them or hating them. My recaps would be tainted with my knowledge of the differences, and of things to come.
So tonight I offer a reaction, because even though I knew the Red Wedding was coming this episode, even though I knew it had been coming all season, and indeed, since pilot aired, I found myself swept up in the thing, not quite shocked, but definitely equally or more horrified than I was when I read the words on the page. Maybe it was the visualization of the blood and violence, or that Richard Madden’s Robb was more likable than the distant figure in the books or maybe it was the fantastic way the episode was written and directed.
Knowing what was going to happen made the episode really hard to watch. Everything Robb or Catelyn did during the wedding only made me think, “you’re going to be dead in a few minutes.” The happy parts of the wedding seemed to drag, and the reader was left wondering when the pin would drop. Edmure and Rosalyn seemed to take a long, long walk to their bedding ceremony. Catelyn’s interaction with Roose Bolton seemed to happen in slow motion. The big doors shut with an ominous crash and the arrows began to fly.
The Hound’s psychoanalysis of Arya ended up being a premonition: the closer Arya gets to her family, the farther she ends up from them. We have now seen the two most shocking events through her eyes, the Red Wedding and Ned Stark’s death. She’s a good audience surrogate. She’s a child but not naive. She is as deeply connected to the beloved characters as we are. You can argue about how much she knew when she was hiding in the castle grounds, but when Grey Wind is showered with arrows, it was clear the smartest Stark understood the symbolism.
The episode was always going to be about the Red Wedding, and the other scenes only seemed to serve as a distraction, a way to keep Robb and Catelyn’s deaths until the very last minute of the hour. But it was still great television. Dany’s storyline seemed a bit robotic in execution; her sudden favor for Daario is a bit too obvious and the stakes for taking the city did not seem high enough. Although I have to say, Grey Worm was really badass with his spear. They did a good job meeting Jon and his wildlings with Team Bran, without making the moment seem too contrived. Both Jon’s split from Ygritte and Bran’s from Osha were much more emotional than they were on the page. And Sam and Gilly’s scene was the only time I smiled for the whole hour. Absent were the Lannisters, which we learn with Roose’s literal stab (not in the back but the heart, same idea) were definitely involved in the Red Wedding. But when other people were doing their dirty work, why should they be around? We’ll see them later when they pay the debt.
Something that has become abundantly clear about the show is the slow build to episode 9 in each season, followed by a season finale that is all about reactions. First reactions to Ned’s death, then to the Blackwater Battle and Stannis’s crushing defeat, and next week we’ll see how Westeros deals with the idea that nowhere, not even a wedding, is safe anymore.
But I think the biggest result of “The Rains of Castamere was when readers and non-readers alike stared at the silent credits after Catelyn fell to the ground to join her son and daughter-in-law, and said “Damn.”