Wow. The Rains of Castamere was the ninth episode of Season 3 of HBO's hit series, Game of Thrones, based on "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin. Needless to say, this recap will have massive spoilers. If you did not see the episode, you are warned. If you did see the episode: Are you okay? Take a breath. It'll be okay. We're here for you. In the previous two seasons, the penultimate episode was the climax of the season - Ned Stark's beheading in Season One, and the Battle of Blackwater in season 2. The climax of this season was the destruction of House Stark and the end of King Robb's rebellion.
The Red Wedding
How did we get here? Why did this happen? Well, if you remember, after the bratty King Joffrey Baratheon removed Ned Stark's head, his eldest son Robb Stark broke off Winterfell's allegiance to the Iron Throne and was proclaimed King in the North. In order to gain the upper hand against Tywin Lannister's army, Robb needed to take a river crossing guarded by the Twins - the stronghold of the lecherous Lord Walder Frey (played wonderfully by David Bradley). In exchange for allowing the Stark army to cross, Robb vowed to marry one of Lord Frey's daughters and went on his way.
Along that way, Robb met the beautiful Talisa (played by Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of famed actor Charlie Chaplin). Seeing the look in her son's eye, Lady Catelyn Stark reminded Robb of his vow and said that he had a duty to keep his oath to Walder Frey. Of course, there's no telling a hotheaded young king that he cannot have the beautiful maiden fair. Robb secretly marries Talisa and then, much to Lady Catelyn's chagrin, reveals Talisa as his new queen. Obviously, the Freys are not pleased.
The tragedy of House Stark, the most noble and honorable of the great houses of Westeros, is that they are often blinded by honor. Eddard Stark lost his head because he would not play in the dirty politics of King's Landing, and because he warned Cersei that he knew of her incest. Robb Stark trusted in Theon Greyjoy, believing honor would rule their relationship, only to have the Iron Islands run roughshod over the north. His most grievous mistake (outside of marrying Talisa) was executing Lord Rickard Karstark, his most prominent bannerman, for murdering two teenaged Lannister prisoners. By bringing Karstark to justice, Robb lost half of his army and thus had to return on his knees to Lord Walder Frey for assistance.
And then we arrive here. Edmure Tully is set to marry one of Frey's daughters. The Stark army arrives at the Twins and Lord Frey extends them hospitality and forgiveness. Then the Red Wedding. That terrible, terrible wedding. It didn't start out as a terrible wedding. Lord Frey reveals that he has given Edmure his most beautiful daughter to wed, and the ceremony goes off without a hitch. The entire time Talisa and Robb are looking lovingly at each other, and Catelyn finally seems to approve - though the plotting was all for naught, her conversation with Robb about sacking Casterly Rock was some nice closure to their relationship. Like most weddings, though, the problems start at the reception.
Robb and Talisa have that gut-wrenching conversation about naming their child-to-be Eddard Stark, after Robb's honored father. It is as Robb places a hand on Talisa's pregnant belly that the band suddenly finds its tune - and, unfortunately, that tune is the Rains of Castamere, the theme song of the Lannisters. A man walks forward to shuts the doors to the feast hall. Catelyn, wide-eyed, notices chain mail under Lord Bolton's clothes and tries to warn Robb, but then Lord Frey gives the order. A man comes and stabs Talisa repeatedly in her pregnant stomach, and archers open fire. The Stark and Tully families are besieged, and King Robb's court is destroyed. Multiple arrows hit Robb, and one hits Catelyn.
But these are Starks of Winterfell. Robb, King in the North, crawls over to Talisa and is just completely paralyzed. The pain on his face is powerful. Robb and Talisa truly loved each other, and he stares on helplessly as she dies. Catelyn still has some fight in her, though. She grabs Frey's frightened wife and threatens to kill her if he doesn't let Robb go. That old git shrugs off the threat and say he can find another.
"The Lannisters send their regards," says Lord Bolton as he stabs Robb Stark, killing him. This massacre, this Red Wedding, was orchestrated by the Lannisters, whom Roose Bolton had made nice with in a previous episode, betraying his king.
Catelyn's death was powerful. The scream, the slitting of Frey's wife's throat, the shocked and defeated look, and then her own death as a Frey soldier slices her own throat. Good job, Michelle Fairley. Also props to Richard Madden. When Robb looks at Catelyn just before he dies - that look of grief and that farewell from a son to his mother - that was great. Heart wrenching, but great.
And thus ends Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and the central conflict in this show to date: the Starks versus the Lannisters. The Lannisters have triumphed over Robb and denied him vengeance for his father's death. He did not get a giant, heroic death - he had his heart ripped out and stomped on. Like his father, Robb Stark had a good heart and trusted people. Like his father, Robb Stark paid the ultimate price for that naivety. Westeros is a land without honor, and now the Lannisters reign supreme.
— Daenerys Targaryen apparently conquered the great and ancient city of Yunkai by sending just three guys in to do it.
— Bran, we find, cannot just control animals, but can control people as well (or at least Hodors). Too bad he couldn't find that out before his entire family was massacred. After three seasons together, we see Bran send off his brother Rickon with Osha to safety as he and the Reeds continued north.
— Did Jon Snow really just leave Ygritte in the dust like that? I mean, she's not the easiest girl to get along with, but I certainly wouldn't want to have her pissed off at me for abandoning her. Come on, Jon. You're Ned Stark's bastard. Act like it.
— Arya. Poor, poor, poor Arya. I feel so bad for her, to finally get to her family only to watch the Stark Army get destroyed. Tremendous acting from Maise Williams (and Rory McCann as the Hound!) in this episode, especially the scene when they're talking about fear. Let's hope that Ser Clegane can keep her safe.
This was the most shocking episode since Ned Stark's beheading. The addition of Talisa's brutal death and that of her unborn child amidst the slaughter raised the level of grief. The Lannisters destroyed the Starks, but will the rains weep o'er their halls without a soul to hear? As Tyrion forebodingly warns in the preview for the season finale, the Northerners will never forget. They remembered Ned Stark's death, and they will certainly remember the Red Wedding. Tune in next week for the season finale of Game of Thrones.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know how you're holding up. Comment below or tweet @RobinsonOB