This was the one. The biggest OH FUCK moment in the ASOIAF series since Ned’s beheading. And, like Baelor, the episode in which Ned loses his head, The Rains of Castamere comes down to one scene: the Red Wedding. In this one scene everything you thought you knew about this show changes in a shower of blood. If you watched it you’re probably still a little dazed. If you didn’t GTFO BECAUSE SPOILERS.
Given how important and crazy this scene is, I am going to focus on this one scene and its effects in Westeros rather than getting into the each individual story.
Plot-wise, the whole series has been about the fortunes of The Starks. They’ve been our entry point. Ned introduced us to the families, the history, the power dynamics, and the way of life in Westeros. After Ned’s death, Robb became the core of the Stark family and his war against the Lannisters became as much about trying to return to the status quo as it was about revenge. Of course, it was also about power. Like it or not, Robb is still playing the game.
Robb’s war, however, has not been going well. He had allies, but keeping them together has been proving difficult. He had duties, but doing them always meant choosing between two bad options. He won battles, all of them in fact, but the war itself was slipping away from him. After last week’s installment, we learned he had a plan which was daring in and of itself, but even more daring because it relied on the help of the very man he himself had already betrayed: Walder Frey.
So Robb walked into the Twins with the vain, idiotic hope of finally getting himself and his allies in a position to finally confront the Lannisters and, hopefully, of turning the war around. All he had to do, he thought, was suffer the verbal slings and barbs of an old crank.
And suffer he did, as Lord Frey insulted his honor, and his wife, all before, superficially at least, putting that behind them. Edmure’s wedding to his grand-daughter would be enough to settle all the old debts, claimed Frey. But slings and barbs are fine when your host has offered you bread and salt, and thus, given his oath to protect you until your fortunes are bound in matrimony.
Of course, just when everything seems to be coming together, everything falls apart. As the wedding unfolds we begin to suspect that Lord Frey was not so forgiving, nor as loyal, as he tried to appear. When he claims to have a wedding gift for the King, we know we’re not getting a stand mixer.
Even though I’ve read the books and I knew that this was coming (I even noted in my last review that the ninth episodes of the season typically have these kinds game-changing moments), I was still blown away by the sheer brutality and storytelling audacity of the Red Wedding. As the scene approached, I felt dread, real, powerful dread. As it unfolded, I found myself wishing that there would be some change from the books. Maybe someone would get a reprieve.
But no. From the moment some Frey stabbed Talisa (OH FUCK) to the moment Catelyn Stark’s throat was unceremoniously sliced open (OH FUCK) there was no retreat, no surrender, no quarter.
I was also shocked at how well some of the call backs in the scene worked, most especially this call back to Roose and Jaime’s last meeting.
Now Robb Stark is dead, and so are his mother, wife, wolf, and many of his friends and allies. The War of the Five Kings is over. The Starks lost, scattered, and broken.
In a shocking moment of violence, betrayal, and desecration, everything in Westeros has changed.
The Lannisters have won, effortlessly, what could have been a long, costly, and devastating, war. With the Starks out of the way, Tywin’s plan to rule all of Westeros through a web of intermarriages is coming together. Through Tyrion, Tywin rules Winterfell, with the Boltons and Freys as support. Through Joffery he rules King’s Landing. Through Joffrey and Cersei’s marraiges he will rule Highgarden. Through Littlefinger, he will rule the Eyrie. All that remains are the lands of Dorne and the Iron Islands.
Of course, as folks who’ve read the books know, things can change in a heartbeat. This should be what fans of the show should know by now. George R.R. Martin has always been clear about the moral world of his books. Bad things can happen to good people, good things can happen to bad people. Sudden reversals of fortune can happen at any time.
Fate is a fickle fucker.
As you should know by now, nobody’s position is so good that it can’t change, and there are plenty of wildcards left to play. Dany and her dragons, for example. Bran and his powers. The coming wildling threat. The Red Woman’s magic. The great evil lurking beyond the wall. It’s all still there.
Maybe some of this evil will take out Roose Fucking Bolton and Walder Fucking Frey.