Game of Thrones Recap: Love Stinks

We should have seen it coming. Damn love.

Love leaves us open to the crushing, damning pain of loss as well as the fiery sting of betrayal. It can also blind us to the obvious.

But love also redeems and offers hope for renewal.

Join us as we step gingerly over the crushed souls, lifeless bodies, and rivulets of blood for a recap of the harrowing, nightmarish “The Rains of Castamere” (Season 3, Episode 9).

Our recappers are three fans from very different perspectives: Laura Fletcher, a casual fan of the TV and book series; Corrin Bennett-Kill, a hardcore fan of the book and TV series (she has read all the books four times!); and Cheryl Collins, a TV show watcher who has never read the book series. Miss us last week? Catch up and read “Second Sons.”

Please join the discussion in comments!


Laura Fletcher
Well, I see no reason to start anywhere but the emotional rollercoaster that is the Red Wedding.

Corrin Bennett-Kill
That was rough. The only word that has been rolling around in my head was vicious.

I watched it with two friends who are show-only and my husband who had read a spoiler … and I still jumped the highest and almost covered my eyes when the Frey attacked Talisa.

I am dying to know what Cheryl thinks since Laura and I both knew this was coming. Does more of the season make sense?

Laura
I wish I’d been there to watch Cheryl watch this episode!

Cheryl Collins
What can I say? I knew Robb and Talisa were just a little too much in love and they were doomed. I was overwhelmed by Catelyn’s death – as the doors to the hall close, you knew no one was getting out alive.

As you say, almost all of this season was a build up to this.  For example, from the beginning we’ve been waiting for the reunion of Arya and her mother, a story arc we were working through the season to complete. And it was just crushed. Was the wedding enough of a device to make the rest of the season’s meanderings pay off? I just don’t think so.

Corrin
Cat was the focus of the Red Wedding in the books. And it was just as devastating, just for a slightly different reason. Cat was killed to shut her up because she had lost her mind and was clawing out her own eyes.

Laura
I really missed that first-person point of view. I don’t know how it could’ve been done, without being cheesy, but I wanted to get inside their heads!

Cheryl
What was chilling to me was, after Robb died, Catelyn screamed and slit Walder Frey’s wife’s throat – we knew he wouldn’t care if she died – and then Cat stood there mute, lifeless, dead inside. The knife across her throat was merely a formality. She was already dead.

Bolton’s betrayal, though not a surprise, was still terrible. Bolton’s throwaway info that he married one of Frey’s daughters (and that it had made him very wealthy, thus highlighting his values) carried heavy meaning later as we realize Bolton and Frey conspired with the Lannisters.

But for someone who did not read the books, it was all pretty shocking. Did it live up to the horror of the written description? Did it serve its purpose well?

Corrin
It did. It completely lived up to it. From the playing of the “Rains of Castamere” to the glee that lit Walder Frey’s eyes when he sent Edmure and Roslyn to their bedding. They played the horror of knowing what would happen as skillfully as the horror of not knowing.

Laura
Yes. There was something there for fans (recognizing the song, for example) and for newbies.

Corrin
I was even thinking that the Talisa character and her pregnancy (rather than the original bride for Robb) was an adaptation specifically made to provide the visceral shock that readers of the book would be missing in that scene.

In the novel, that scene is set from Cat’s point of view so we get to witness her own realization and growing horror as to Frey’s intention for the wedding.

The show writers knew they were contending with a fan base that was anticipating the red wedding. The brutality and shock of the Frey knifing Talisa with the sole purpose of murdering her baby had the dual impact of shocking the reader and horrifying the TV watcher.

Cheryl
I have a question: Robb I think was probably more appealing on TV than in the books – partly because he was so pretty. What say you? I think that’s why it hit TV viewers so hard, I mean.

It was never obvious to me what Robb’s lousy choices were – he seemed to be responding to what Cat did (capture Tyrion, let go of Jaime). One minute all his men loved him, and then when they go to Harrenhal things went south, but it’s not clear why.

Laura
He’s more sympathetic in the show, I still think, partly because of his loving relationship with Talisa.

Corrin
I think the visual of Robb certainly added to the likability of the character. My problem with Robb (in the books and the show) is that he kept making such stupid decisions and expecting everyone else to live with the ramifications. That we got to know Talisa and their relationship meant that his flaws were softened by their love. The books didn’t have that. Plus, I don’t remember many first-person chapters of Robb.

That being said, I cringed the entire episode any time the action was at the Twins. Edmure and his happiness at his bride’s looks. The oblivious drunkenness. It was painful to watch.

Cheryl
And did Edmure actually say “Careful ladies, once you set this monster free, there’s no caging him”? Blecchhh. That one line summed up his wet-noodleness.

Laura
I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly sprained something.

Cheryl
What about the first scene, in which Robb laid out his plans to crush the Lannisters? I felt that the reliance on nothing but revenge doomed him. That, and the kiss between him and Talisa in the hall. He had no ultimate plan – simply to destroy the Lannisters.

Corrin
I felt like the opening scene was more about his reconciliation with his mother than about the plan. It was he and Cat getting on the same page again rather than strategy. Plus, Cat is bloodthirsty. Far more so that the Starks generally. I think that it reveals the differences between the bloodthirsty, impulsive Tully genes and the cold-blooded, calculating Stark genes.

And OMG. Arya. Her delighted expression just before her countrymen were killed was the worst!

Cheryl
I think Arya and the Hound will be the Brienne and Jaime of the next story arc. She hates him but needs him. She’s lost her own family and he’s all that she has to protect her.

And she might bring him something, too. Humility and vulnerability, perhaps love and affection. He did not have to come back for her after the massacre: who was he going to get money from for her?

Arya and the Hound, like Brienne and Jaime, are fulfilling needs they didn’t even know they had, the yin and the yang. “I’m your father,” he said to her, to get their stories straight before talking with a stranger. But he is now her father.

And she is someone who sees knows his Achilles’ heel. The Hound is one of those guys about whom they used to say “he needs the love of a good woman.” He clearly has not known love.

Laura
I want to rewatch the scene where Arya gets right up in the Hound’s face and says someday she’s going to stab him in the eye through the back of his skull. Then she walks away, looking conflicted and unsure. We’re reminded that she’s tough, but she’s also traumatized – and like Sansa (even more so), still a kid.

Corrin
We also have two usurpers left alive: Joffrey and Balon Greyjoy.

Cheryl
I was wondering if now that Theon’s “brother” Robb is dead, Theon will somehow redeem himself (although I know he kind of disappeared already in the books).

Corrin
I do have to say that we saw some of the first compelling action from Brandon and Rickon.

Cheryl
I guess now that Rickon is older, he is allowed to actually utter lines?

Corrin
We saw Bran using his powers to help his family, which gave him a much-needed (and missing to date) sense of agency in the story. Too much being pulled around in a wagon for that lad.

Laura
I feel like Bran is becoming a little Harry Potter-ish, and that’s a good thing! With the help of Jojen Reed (his Dumbledore, if you will), he’s realizing what natural talent he has – and huge potential.

Cheryl
So what about the Wildlings’ attack on that horse farmer? We knew instantly that good old Jon could not allow an innocent to die – kind of like his sister.

Laura
My thoughts exactly. I think that was a well-done parallel between Jon and Arya.

Cheryl
Much good it did the horse farmer. But Jon had to abandon Ygritte – whom I am guessing will be killed off in the next episode.

Corrin
At some point he had to leave the wildlings and Ygritte.

I think that Ygritte was upset at Jon leaving because she hoped he would choose her and stay. But it was inevitable. As soon as he crossed the wall, Jon was making his way back to Castle Black.

Cheryl
Or maybe she hoped he would at least take her with him? He, though, has to move into place as the heir to leader of the North, I’m guessing – but that may be a while yet.

Laura
Cheryl, that’s what I was hoping. Even though basically this same thing happens in the books, I held out a silly hope that he’d at least give her the option to come with him.

Then again, no women or lovers are allowed to the Night’s Watch.

Ygritte knew the deal, even if she never really accepted it. She knew Jon wasn’t really with her, that it was only for a time.

Cheryl
I felt that Jon made the hard call. He knew what he needed to do, and he never took his eyes off the big picture. He left his love when he needed to. But Robb, somehow, he lost his focus. Jon made the hard choice, and that will make him a better leader than Robb.

Corrin
Cheryl, given that Jon wouldn’t break his allegiance to the Watch even in the face of a place amongst the Wildlings and a woman who loves him, do you really think he’ll try to claim the North in his family’s name?

Cheryl
Well, I kind of feel all the rules are changing now, with the North in disarray, his family scattered, the Wildings on the move, the White Walkers approaching, and the Night’s Watch imploding … and he’s already had sex.

Laura

Yeah, I think we’re going to see a bit more northern action next episode.

Cheryl
Like Gilly and Sam? Does she really think she’s going to make it? Even I can sense she’s doomed.

Laura
Everyone seems doomed after an episode like this one!

Corrin
Except Dany. She’s sacking cities and shit.

Seriously, except for moving the story forward, I could have completely done without the Dany storyline this episode.

Laura
I was a bit shocked at Daario’s forwardness. I’m like, dude, you do know those two old guys guarding her are actually super badass, right?

Corrin
We lost the impact of the loosening of the relationship between Jorah and Dany with the entrance of Daario Naharis into the picture.

Some of the expressions on Jorah’s face when Dany shows her interest in Daario are priceless.

Cheryl
Yes, another pouty face from Jorah! But Jorah kicked ass as a swordsman, I thought. (And have you ladies noticed that everyone has stolen our meme on Daario being Fabio?)

Laura
Grey Worm was the best, though! I could’ve watched him for much longer, and I usually don’t care for fight sequences in this show.

Grey Worm’s extreme precision was a wonderful realization of the Unsullied’s fighting style, in my mind.

Cheryl
Grey Worm was oddly robotic and mesmerizing. I just don’t care about this story line now.

Also, wondering how Brienne will take the news that lady Cat – whom she is still theoretically serving – has been killed? And Baelish, too – I wonder how he will react to this news, and act?

Corrin
Might I take a moment to harp on two adaptation choices?

First, the bread and salt from the beginning of the episode. I don’t think they did enough to mark the significance of that. In the books, Cat impresses the importance that Robb make Frey give him the gifts of hospitality: bread and salt. That meant that Robb’s men were supposed to be protected by the rules of hospitality. That is why the naturally suspicious Northmen all let their guards down. And why it was so significant that Roose Bolton was wearing chainmail. There should have been no need for that sort of protection.

Second, Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind. It was a big deal that the Freys asked him to keep Grey Wind out of the castle. And it was a concession to the Freys that made Robb do it. Any time a Stark child is separated from his or her direwolf, bad shit happens. That that was completely omitted bothered me as well. They could never have ambushed the Starks with a direwolf in the room.

Laura
Agreed on the bread and salt. Way too vague. I suspect that both of these explanations were filmed but cut for time. Bad call, I say.

Cheryl
As for the bread and salt, I thought they were making a joke on Frey’s meager hospitality as it was passed around: it looked the medieval version of onion dip and generic chips.

Corrin
That’s exactly what I meant, Cheryl! Otherwise the Northmen just look foolish for getting drunk and stupid rather than protecting their fucking king. Sheesh. Can you tell it bugged me?

Corrin
My husband noted the lack of music in the closing credits. It was a nice touch letting the horror really sink in.

Laura
Maybe the showrunners realized we’d be screaming at the TV and unable to hear any music over the credits!

Still reeling? Please join the discussion in comments! (And no spoilers, please.)

  1. I haven’t read the books; but I think you’re not paying enough attention to the way Dany’s destiny is changing. She has now become a liberator, and has a powerful army not of slaves and serfs, but of conviced soldiers, dragons, and three cool guys of different ages. If you think about it, her plans of regaining the throne are no longer so distant, nor are they unjustified: she is, after all, the rightful heir, as well as a fair ruler to her subjects (so far).
    Who else, really? The Starks are filled with good intentions, but they don’t have the strenght or the stomach for “real politik”; whereas the Lannisters are tremendously lucky, wicked, and strong – almost too much, imho, and I predict they will kind of implode; and the wildlings and white walkers are just a distraction.
    Tides are changing.

    • As the one of the trio who has not read the books, I like you don’t know what’s going to happen. And I agree, Dany’s destiny is changing — with each step, she becomes stronger: first she had only Jorah and her rag-tag crew, then Berristen (sp?) pledged to her, then came her army, then Daario. But it just feel like her story is its own standalone series now, and I don’t care about it so much. Who knows how long Jorah will stick around, though. Nothing like being a doormat.

      I think the Wildings and White Walkers are not a distraction, but will force previously warring factions to unite to deal with them. Or the chaos will allow Dany and her dragon to regain to make serious problems, if not more. Thanks for reading!

  2. Two quick thoughts. Since the Lannisters (Tywin, specifically) were likely involved in the planning of the RW (otherwise why play “Rains of Castamere” before the bloodbath) and that this was likely in the works for some period of time, I think the urgency to marry Tyrion to Sansa makes a lot more sense now. Sansa’s new husband (Tyrion) is now the Lord of Winterfell and of the North. That is a pretty big amount of responsibility and power that just got placed onto Tyrion. Given the amount of disdain that Tywin feels for Tyrion, I think that is a pretty good indication of just how many self-repugnant things Tywin is willing to do to build his family’s legacy. With the war in the north coming to a close, at least Sansa will get to return home with Tyrion unless she kills herself first.

    Secondly, I’m not sure if this is a pun or not but The Hound seems to be spending a lot of time protecting members of the “Wolf” family (the Starks). He really didn’t have to protect Arya at the end of the RW. There is no one else to give him money for her really except maybe Cat’s crazy sister up in the Eyrie (and with Littlefinger on his way that could be problematic). He could have just left Arya to die but he chose not to.

  3. @fernando – Team Dragonstone still exists (and is making headway with the leach curses), and I think Stannis is actually the rightful heir.

    • Yup. Think Joffrey might be feeling the heat just about now. Where can I get me some of that? Let’s see: leaches, check; king’s blood, hmmm … oh, Rahm!

  4. Season One: The Price of Honor (Ned Stark looses his head, the realm descends into war, Dany throws herself on the fire)
    Season Two: The Price of Duty (Stannis defeated at the Blackwater Bay, Jon Snow forced to kill a fellow Crow)
    Season Three: The Price of Love (Robb killed for breaking an oath because he was in love, whatever happens next week)
    Season Four: The Price of ???

    I know the season isn’t over yet, but…thoughts?

  5. This “rightful heir” thing is a real doozy, though – King Robert seized the throne from Mad King Aerys Targaryen, after all, although (and I had to Wikipedia this, so I’m not sure if it’s not in the show or just glossed over) Robert was some nephew of another Targaryen, which is how he justified his rebellion, at least on some level. Stannis is indeed Robert’s heir if you discount Joffrey, I think, but that may be up to legal interpretation (and not just by Lannisters or nosey Hands of the King who notice Joffrey isn’t “black of hair”). Daenerys is the youngest child of Aerys, but she’s a woman, and not everyone in Westeros is okay with the line of succession including women.

    @Michael Kill: Or, in short, without thinking too hard about what the books have or haven’t said so far, I think we’ll see a bit about the Price of History and/or Tradition.

  6. I’ll try to not be too negative, for I liked the first two seasons, but this season has been a disappointment and bore, even this last episode. Robb and his mother think they can go back to Lord Frey after stiffing him, and talk him into . . . attacking the Lannister’s home?! I think we have a new definition of bat-shit-crazy. There were so many times I rolled my eyes this season, too many to list. The TV show has to be judged on its own (without the books): it has great sets, characters viewers get attached to, but mediocre writing, mediocre directing, mediocre acting (a couple decent ones just got killed off), as opposed to something like Breaking Bad that has award winning writing/directing/acting. And the never ending gratuitous female-only nudity! Star Trek Into Darkness just apologized for 3 seconds of an actress gratuitously in her underwear. Eight plus meandering episodes and then suddenly three major characters are killed that you could not have predicted, well, that to me is not good writing, that is pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

      • I understand that was a rhetorical question Cheryl, but I’ll respond with an answer. I really liked (loved?) the first two seasons. Even the stuff that seemed perhaps stupid, like wildfire, I searched and found it was based in reality (yes, all you GoT geeks know all this):
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_fire
        One can’t just blame S3 on the books. Jackson rewrote stuff in Tolkien that would have come across bad (such as the lack of any significant female characters!), and fans loved it.
        GoT S1/S2 was so much better to me than the LotR movies which were way too much battle after battle. GoT S1/S2 concentrated on before the battles and after the battles, which was great.
        You can’t suddenly just kill three major characters out of the blue! Booooo! Bad writing. See the last ten seconds of the end of S4 of Breaking Bad to see great writing that pulls everything together.