Recap: Game of Thrones 3.09 - The Rains of Castamere

This is going to contain BIG SPOILERS for this episode, and also for the books. Deal with it.

The Twins

And there it is: the Red Wedding. 

This is the episode I couldn't write about in the past eight recaps. The episode I didn't even want to hint at, because talk about shocking and brutal. That final shot, of Catelyn falling off camera, her throat slit... that hurt. Even if you've read the books and you knew it was coming—that hurt. 

Kudos to HBO for hiding this—the episode previews didn't even hint at it (at least, not the ones I saw). I suspected it would happen in this episode, because last season built up to the Battle of the Blackwater in the ninth episode, leaving the tenth—the final of the season—to address the fallout. So it made sense for the Red Wedding to land on the ninth episode (though I wondered if they would stretch it out to the tenth and end the season with a real gutcheck). But, no, here it is. Ouch. 

So the big question is, how was it handled? Because it's a pretty significant event in Westeros—the Lannisters just won. And this is one of those moments the fans of the book have been eagerly awaiting. 

This is not the time to drop the ball. And I think they pulled the whole thing off with aplomb (bloody, bloody aplomb).

I figured on the endgame pretty early into the episode—as soon as the salt and bread were passed around. In Westeros, when you partake in your host's salt and bread, you are afforded guest rights, which is an ancient and sacred law of hospitality. So Walder Frey just committed what Miss Manners would call a "faux pas."

But halfway through the episode I was a little concerned: The Battle of the Blackwater was effective because it didn't stray from King's Landing for the entirety of the episode. But this bounced back and forth between multiple characters. I wondered if that would dull the ending a bit. Though, besides some routine check-ins with Daenerys and Sam, the show was smart to stick with the Stark kids. 

These characters have been scattered for so long, so to put them in close proximity—Jon outside the windmill housing the wandering kids, Arya staring at The Twins from across the river—really drove home how far these characters have been pushed from each other, and how hard it's been for them to come back together.

And that opening shot, of Robb and Catelyn bonding after so much strife, really set the tone. The reminder of Talisa's pregnancy was icing on the cake, or salt in the wound, or something. That she wanted to name their child Eddard was pretty much a big neon sign reading "THESE CHARACTERS ARE ABOUT TO DIE", but it was still a very sweet moment. 

And as for the scene itself—when Random Dude closes the doors to the hall and a melancholy string version of The Rains of Castamere starts up—the look on Catelyn's face really sold the overwhelming sense of dread that had been roiling under the surface. 

The killing of Talisa and Robb and Catelyn was shockingly brutal. Afterward I asked my wife—who has not read the books—if she saw it coming. She said someone on the internet had alluded to Talisa's death, and figured maybe Robb would die, but not Catelyn, too. She also raised an interesting parallel, which I've been thinking about on the way to work today. 

Catelyn mentions that Ned Stark wouldn't allow the bedding ceremony at their wedding. Which is not terribly shocking, because it's a little rude and ribald, and that's not Ned's style. Tyrion did the same thing in the last episode, when he refused the bedding ceremony for Sansa. Which was a little different because Sansa is, what, 13 or 14?

But Robb allows the bedding ceremony for Edmure Tully and Hottie Frey. He's been driven by a need to emulate his father, but broke in one respect: Bucking tradition in marriage. The marriage between Catelyn and Ned was arranged. I seem to recall (someone who knows the books better than I do can point this out) they weren't disgusted by the idea, but they also weren't terribly thrilled. They did it because it was their duty. So no matter how much Robb wanted to be like his father, he failed in this one area, and it got him killed. 

Not to say Robb deserved it. But his fate could have been avoided, had he only followed through on living up to Ned's example. (Though, it should be pointed out that Ned was beheaded for his steadfastness... Westeros is a tough place.)

Robb made another big mistake by not listening to his mother. She told him to not send Theon to the Iron Islands. She told him to not cross Walder Frey, to stick to the arranged marriage. Her counsel was ignored and she was brushed off as being too beholden to her family—but the Lannisters have done a lot of crazy things in the name of family, and it's worked out for them. This is why they've got the Iron Throne. 

And that last shot, by the way, and then the silence over the credits: Someone should get an award for that. Also, Michelle Fairley should get a hundred awards for playing Catelyn Stark. I've always considered her to be one of the show's MVPs. She's not the flashiest and she's not the biggest personality, but when you call on her to deliver, she does it in spades. Those final moments, as she swings between rage and fear and regret, were amazing. 

So much happened in and around the Red Wedding, it's almost easy to forget that other stuff happened in this episode, too.

For example: Arya and the Hound. This show excels at odd pairings, and how well those odd pairings bounce off each other. I would watch a show where Arya and the Hound wander the countryside and get into adventures. Every now and again they could team up with Brienne and Jaime, who in my head also have their own show where they solve crimes.

But, as I mentioned, while the tension and strength of the Red Wedding was heightened by focusing on the Stark children, Arya was the one who gets it the hardest. Throughout the series she's been made to feel ineffectual for being a girl, and she's always raged against that. So being stuck outside the castle while her family is slaughtered can't do anything to improve that.

Especially since she has the temerity to stare down the Hound—one of the most feared knights in Westeros—and tell him she's going to kill him. 

The Wall

Finally, finally there's some forward movement with Bran and Rickon. This has felt like the biggest waste of a storyline this season—not that there's a ton for them to do in the book, but it always seems like they're walking in place. This episode injects some real life into their plot, and not a moment too soon. 

First, Rickon actually got some lines. Has he had a line on this show since the first episode? Also, Bran gets to show off his warg-ing powers, finally. Osha is tasked with taking Rickon away, which happens way earlier in the story, right after the sack of Winterfell. 

Meanwhile, Jon reveals himself to be a double-agent, and flees after killing a whole bunch of wildings. Again, more movement, which is nice, because it seems like they've been caught in this cycle of the wildings being like "OMG this guy is still a crow" and Jon being like "WTF guys no I'm not." 

As for Sam and Gilly, it's pure exposition, so we know that one of the Night's Watch castles has a secret passage and oh I wonder if that'll come into play for Bran who needs a secret passage to get through the Wall. (Spoiler alert: Yes.)


Finally, there was the "what the hell is this storyline doing in this episode" portion of the recap. Not to say it was bad. It just had zero to do with the events of the rest of the episode. 

Is that the fastest a city has ever been sacked? Because for real, Daario Naharis and Grey Worm and Ser Jorah were like "BRB guys, gonna sack this city" and then they stabbed a bunch of people and were like "LOL done."

Again, it's one of those scenarios where the restrictions on budget and time make it tough to let some of this stuff play out on a grander scale (see also: the hall in which the Red Wedding went down; I imagined it as being bigger, with more people).

But, it was nice to see some more sword-fighting, because that's always fun, and Ed Skrein as Daario shows that he's more than a pretty face: He's dangerous, and cool and kinda sexy? 

Also, the way they played it—cutting away from the three warriors under siege in the courtyard, coming back to them victorious—was just cute enough that I'll give them a pass. 

And there we are! Nine episodes in, and holy shit a bunch of people are dead. I'm very, very interested to see if we get the Royal Wedding in the final episode. We've had two episodes in a row of batshit weddings, they may as well go for the hat trick, right?  

Other stuff: 

  • BOOBWATCH: This was a boob-free episode. 
  • Seriously, there was a ton of sword-fighting in this episode. So much more than normal. It was good, if you like ridiculous amounts of gore. 
  • I want a recording of that string version of The Rains of Castamere. The music on this show is GREAT. 
  • There was one other reason I thought this might be the Red Wedding episode: The title. In the books, The Rains of Castamere is the signal for the Frey army to slaughter Robb's men, who are partying and wasted outside the castle.
  • Yes Gilly, if you read books, you are a wizard. 
  • Please know there's a whole bunch of stuff I'd love to discuss, in regards to the aftermath of the Red Wedding, but I won't, because I love you, and don't want to break your heart with spoilers (though there's certain things that are going to happen, that I wonder if they'll leave to next season, or insert into the next episode...)

So, discuss. What did you think?! 

If you've read the books, tell us if this squared with your vision of the Red Wedding. 

If you haven't read the books, tell us your gut reactions—did you see it coming? Are you sad? Do you want to cry now? Tell us your feelings. 

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Sarah Murphy Mannheimer's picture
Sarah Murphy Ma... June 3, 2013 - 8:50am

It wasn't jsut the difference in marital traditions that seperated Robb from Ned.  Ned was always a man of honor, he would never break his word.  Robb swore an oath, and broke that oath. Something Ned would have never done. 

What's the lesson though?  Evidently in Westeros it doesn't matter. Breaking your word gets you killed...  But being a man of your word still gets you beheaded. 

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman June 3, 2013 - 10:29am

The Internet told me a major character died. A major character as in ONE. I was not prepared for that slaughter fest. To be honest, the likelihood of your favourite character dying is so extremely high in this series, I'm trying not to care about anyone too much so I wasn't absolutely horrified by the massacre. To be honest, I was infinitely more upset by the way in which they murdered Robb's wolf than how they murdered him. THAT scene left me shocked and near tears.

I feel for Arya and I wish Jon Snow wasn't such a reactive character and actually took more time to think - like two giant wolves just happening to be around - hm, wonder if they're my brothers'? No, of course not, he just runs away... grrr...

As long as Daenerys and her dragons keep going strong I'll keep watching this show. She's the only one I'm allowing myself to feel anything for because of certain assurances from friends who have read further along in the books.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine June 3, 2013 - 11:14am

Great episode, totally br00tal.

One thing I wish they did, and they would have had to move the Red Wedding to ep 10 to do it, was make people think Arya was dead as well, as a cliff-hanger, and not reveal she was alive until next season.

If I remember correctly, in the book she is run down by a horse rider (not sure if it is the Hound or not, or if we know it is the Hound at the time) and we think she is dead for at least a chapter or two. That makes the Red Wedding even worse! The fact that they split book 3 into two seasons sets up that potential gut-wrencher so well.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this June 3, 2013 - 11:17am

I think Arya being presumed dead would have been too much. When a pregnant lady gets stabbed in the stomach a whole bunch, explicitly, you have to temper that with something.


Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 3, 2013 - 11:58am

Haven't read the books, so obviously I didn't see this massacre coming. As Rob above mentioned, I got the inkling something bad was about to go down when that random guy closed the door and the camera lingered just a tad long on that and Catelyn's reaction (seriously, she should get an Emmy just for this episode), but three major characters? I felt either Robb or his wife, but not both, and certainly not Catelyn. I can still hear her scream today.

So Jon was a double-agent? That explains it a bit more. I was left wondering why the hell he took off like that while leaving his crazy-sexy-archer lady behind.

Ultimately, I'm leaning with Josh above in wishing this WAS the season finale, but I felt the same over last year's penultimate episode, and I didn't feel gyped after episode 10, so I'm counting on an interesting resolution for this season.

Bertrand Lexcellent's picture
Bertrand Lexcellent June 3, 2013 - 12:54pm

I read the book, and I think it is worst. It is heartbreaking to see all the love the three characters share together and knowing what will happen.

But, one thing strange is in fact the death of Robb's Wife. In the book, she is left behind, and don't die. Sure, she is a minor character but her death is the most brutal of all that have been shown in the three seasons.

I wait for the 10th, even if I know it will, as always, be the worst. You can't go after the Red Wedding and be better, deal with it.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk June 3, 2013 - 2:36pm


DaveShepherd's picture
DaveShepherd from Calgary is reading No Country for Old Men June 3, 2013 - 10:25pm

But Ned doesn't keep his word -- he literally throws his honor out the window right before he's beheaded. He delcared Jeoffery as king when he knows Stannis is. He admitted to being a traitor when he wasn't one. He lies to the kingdom in an attempt to save his own life (along with the lives of his daughters). Granted it didn't matter -- he was going to be beheaded one way or another.

Yes, it was all to protect Sansa and Arya, which is noble, but it doesn't change the fact that he chose selfishness (his family) above selflessness (the truth) at the end -- as Rob did consistently.

I thought it was a brilliant work of storytelling by Martin -- the most honorable and honest character is sentenced to execution, and the only way out is to violate his honor and his honesty -- which he does, but it doesn't even matter.

As for The Red Wedding -- I was a little suspicious when the one guy refused to drink the wine. As soon as the door closed, the look on Caetlyn's face made me think they were basically dead. I thought Rob might make it out, but I figured his wife was a goner for sure. 

tishadw74's picture
tishadw74 from Louisiana is reading Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz June 4, 2013 - 8:39am

I figured this episode would have the Red Wedding, and thought I was prepared for it but wow, when they stabbed Talisa so brutally, it was so shocking I almost had to stop watching. My son, who has not read the books, absolutely refused to keep watching after Rob dies, so he missed Catelyn's demise (he did watch the rest the next day but is very pissed off about it). 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine June 4, 2013 - 9:22am

@Rob: How do you expect to compete with Daario Naharis for Daenerys' favor if you can't stomach a little fetus stabbing? She needs a real man.

Andreia Marques's picture
Andreia Marques from Brazil is reading Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood June 4, 2013 - 1:56pm

To be fair, in the books Robb doesn't marry for love, exactly; he marries because he dishonored some minor lordling's daughter with his penis (from the Westerlands. From Tywin Lannister's Westerlands. How can one be so stupid I don't even know - wait, I do. Teenager.) and felt the honorable thing to do was to marry her. So he follows the same mistakes his father did: being honorable to a fault and to the exclusion of all else. Of course, the honorable thing would have been to NOT sex up some random lordling's daughter, but, there is that.

To me the events in the series make Robb twice the idiot he was in the books, because marrying some random foreigner you happen to like over keeping your word with an old man you've been repeatedly warned is not going to take the breaking of said word lightly, that's basically sentencing yourself to death. He was as stupid as Ned on that regard (telling Cersei to flee? Honestly?) and paid the price just as Ned did.

In the Game of Thrones world, being honorable is worse than having grayscale.

Michelle Kidd Tackabery's picture
Michelle Kidd T... June 4, 2013 - 4:18pm

What a great extended scene, when the Starks are all murdered. No slo-mo, just bam, bam, bam, a pregnant pause, and then bam, they are all dead. Catelyn going was truly awful, befitting the grand upset of the third book. I thought the brutality fit the medieval settings of the novel, and the pace was very realistic, especially Catelyn still standing up, bleeding from the throat, just before she finally fell and died. (Death is messy and slow. Look at how many arrows it took to fell Robb.) Ow, ow, ow. Give that woman an Emmy. I loved that character, and knowing she was going to get dead was a terrible tension all season. But, Arya watching Robb's wolf die was the absolute worst. The look on Maisie Williams' face was pure terror. 

All in all, this episode was just like a car wreck. I could not look away. 

I was also glad that Bran and Rickon's story finally got somewhere because it was a snoozer. Seems like they could have condensed all of those scenes in about a quarter of an episode. Oh well. If the Royal Wedding doesn't happen in the finale, though, I think I will go postal. The only way to get over the Red Wedding is to witness Joffrey and Margery. What happens there is like Martin's salve to the reader for slashing up so many good people in the third book.


Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder June 4, 2013 - 4:58pm

Those of us who've read the books are tittering behind the scenes. There are more surprises to come, perhaps next week, next year, or years down the line. I'll never tell. Except to say:

There's more to come.


<evil mad scientist alchemist laugh>

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts June 4, 2013 - 8:21pm

I told my lady friend, who hasn't read the books, that Tyrion would die this episode to throw her off. It worked great, she was gutted by the end of the episode.

I had similar feelings that the big scene seemed to suffer for lack of a big budget. A lot less chaotic than I had imagined, and I did think the lingering death shots left a little to be desired, especially after the brutal as shit fetus stab death. That has to be the greatest, most horrifying shot of the series so far. In my head I imagined a really close-up shot of Catalyn's neck being slashed to end the season, but I think it was paced well for it to happen this episode. My second guess as to a season-closing shot would have been Tyrion's revenge scene, but I doubt they will fit in the Royal wedding next week, not only for the news of the masacre to permeate but also because there's a lot of Sansa's story left to fill in.

I think what really tied in the Yunkai storyline to the theme of woeful loss this episode was all in Iain Glen's reaction, that moment they get back from the sacking and Dany's all like "where's the porn star lookin dude?" and he's totally crushed. That was some amazing face acting.

Jeff's picture
Jeff from Florida is reading Another Side of Bob Dylan by Victor Maymudes June 6, 2013 - 12:13pm

 I was stunned to watch Rob, Talisa, Catelyn get it like that and Frey sitting there -- bemused villain.

After a while I appreciated the Shakespearian power of the betrayal but damn -- for the eldest son to get cut down without a fight was poisonous.

The horror.



James McArthur's picture
James McArthur from Potato is reading a book June 7, 2013 - 12:31pm

As I said to my dad, at least now we can look forward to The Purple Wedding.