***WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS OF GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3 EPISODE 9 ‘THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE’***
These are some initial thoughts and reactions to the events of the closing moments of ‘The Rains of Castamere’. A more detailed review of the episode as a whole will be posted later in the week.
So, it happened. Regarded as the climatic centerpiece of the third novel in the series, A Storm of Swords, The Red Wedding has a reputation as perhaps the single most devastating moment of the saga so far. Purportedly, this was the scene which showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss used to sell the entire concept of the show to HBO.
The Red Wedding makes you question everything you thought you knew about how this series is structured. Game of Thrones as a unique ability to make you believe you know where things are heading before veering off into a radically different yet oddly logical direction.
The easiest path was to see this as a battle purely between Lannisters and Starks; good vs evil, honor vs deceit. The Starks have always been painted as the unabashed heroes of this saga, and yet though Jaime and Tyrion in particular we have seen a more humanizing side to the Lannisters. In one shattering scene earlier in the season we learn that his most notorious moment actually saved an entire city from a brutal death. The whole reason he is presented as a villain rather than a hero (as mentioned previously) is because he broke his oath and the man who found him was the most honorable man in the kingdom, Ned Stark.
We are preconditioned to believe that in works of fiction the good guys always triumph and vanquish the evil. Yet in real life we know that this simple dichotomy is false. There are good rulers and there are horrible ones while most fall somewhere in between. Decisions are not always purely right and wrong but about choosing the best of a whole lot of bad. This is a medieval society and one in which we know power was not exerted through a liberal democracy but as an authoritarian monarchy.
The Red Wedding is in many ways it is a result of Robb Stark’s naivety in ruling. He may have won every battle but lost the war predominantly through two terrible decisions that lost key allies. First he went and broke his oath and alliance through marriage to the Freys and secondly he executed Lord Karstark against all advice offered. Already dreadfully outnumbered by the Lannisters these two mistakes chipped away at his support and ended with his demise.
Catelyn’s last moments are truly heartbreaking. She has lost everything during this war. Her husband at her insistence and against his own desires left Winterfell to serve the realm, but ended up executed as a traitor. Bran and Rickon are assumed to have been murdered by a man who Ned raised as one of his own sons who then supposedly burnt down her home. Arya is lost at best a captive of the Lannisters at worst dead. Sansa has been married off to the dwarf son of their worst enemies and Robb has treated her with contempt ever since she freed Jaime Lannister in exchange for her daughters.
She has watched Robb win every battle yet make horrible political choices that have doomed his already fragile hopes. She feels guilty not only for the mistakes she has made to initiate this war (talking Ned into going to King’s Landing, capturing Tyrion, freeing Jaime) but also because she feels she has slighted the Gods. And then her eldest child is brutally murdered in front of her eyes as she looks on helplessly.
After fighting so long to escape the clutches of the Lannisters, surviving Harrenhall and then the Brotherhood Arya gets so close to being reunited with her brother and mother before it is all so brutally extinguished.
Stay posted for my review of the rest of the episode and perhaps take solace in the fact that The North Remembers.