Columns > Published on June 3rd, 2013

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. 

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at

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