Game of Thrones: Review: Season 3 Ep 9

GoTS03E09HBO, 2 June 2013

Bran’s abilities are put to the test in an encounter with the Wildlings, including his illegitimate brother Jon Snow, while at the Twins Walder Frey welcomes the Starks and stages a wedding…


Who’d be a Stark in Westeros?

Never mind the curse of Superman (Henry Cavill watch out!), the Stark family appear to be doomed, or they’ve done something really bad to book series author George R.R. Martin at some point and he’s getting his revenge.

Weddings don’t seem to be the happy events we’d naturally expect in Martin’s world. In the previous episode, the first of several forced marriages of political convenience took place. ‘The Rains of Castamere’ featured yet another political marriage, one aimed to make up for would-be King Robb Stark’s failure to live up to his vow to personally marry one of Walder Frey’s many daughters, that pledge itself being the cost of safe passage across his carefully controlled bridge at a vital moment in Robb’s battles with the Lannisters.

Having fallen in love with Talisa (now pregnant, and intending to name the child—if a boy—after Robb’s late father Ned), Robb needs the help of the Freys once more. He has to make good on his promise, so puts forward his uncle Edmure Tully as a marriage substitute. Walder Frey (a chilling David Bradley) is not happy, but seemingly accepts the deal…

This episode featured the infamous ‘red wedding’ and the events would have come as little surprise to anyone who has read the novels (although wild card characters like Talisa, who have developed differently in the TV series, can confound the expectations of even those up-to-date with Martin’s thousands of pages of story). As it turns out, Frey is still not happy and being something of a vengeful bastard, he has his men kill the Starks and Tullys in a most brutal fashion at the height of the wedding feast. This is a cruel move on those viewers expecting some heroic payoff where Robb Stark avenges the killing of his father Ned Stark (a big surprise in season one) by overthrowing the Lannisters and claiming the Iron Throne. Now we know that’s not going to happen…

It is, however, much truer to life in a way that many fantasy epics simply are not: in real history (which Martin draws on a lot for his inspiration), the ‘good’ guys don’t always win and the ‘bad’ guys don’t always fail. It’s a brave and courageous move on behalf of those adapting Martin’s tale to TV that they stuck rigidly to his story and didn’t feel the need to ‘go Hollywood’ and give the Stark saga a nice happy ending… It seems there are no happy ending in Westeros, not yet anyway.

Some other stuff happened, but in light of the last few minutes, it doesn’t really matter much…

Verdict: Brilliant, brutal stuff… a shock to some no doubt, but superbly made, exciting and engaging television drama that refuses to become sugar coated confort viewing… quite the opposite, in fact.

Episode 9 ‘The Rains of Castamere’: 10/10

Brian J. Robb


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