All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
3.9 The Rains of Castamere
Let’s cover everything from the Rains of Castamere to guest right, Walder Frey and Roose Bolton analysis, and why this episode makes us hate most of Season 6.
As we learned in the last episode, The Rains of Castamere or The Reynes of Castamere is the karaoke song of choice for House Lannister. Cersei explains that the Reynes were once a powerful house in Westeros and tried to go over the Lannisters- so Tywin made sure they were wiped out to show the Realm who’s boss. Cersei left out a whole lot. If you’re not familiar with the lyrics, you should definitely check them out. They allude to a proud lord, presumably Lord Reyne, who sees the similarities between himself and the noble house of his realm, calling them two cats of different colors- House Reyne’s sigil was a red lion on a silver background, while the Lannisters are, of course, that gold and crimson we’ve seen several times. Lord Reyne sees that both houses are essentially the same in power and wealth- so why must one bow to another? Why should the gold cat have more than the red coat if they both have the same claws? The longer this lord speaks, the more power hungry he gets- and now the rains weep o’er his halls with no one there to hear- because Tywin made sure of it.
The Lannisters take care of those who threaten their place on top of the food chain. This title is a gigantic warning sign for us.
It’s a subtle tune, expertly placed throughout the series. The first time we hear it is by Tyrion’s whistling, then in various arrangements in Lannister Power Move scenes such as Tywin storming into the Throne Room at the end of the Battle of Blackwater, Jaime leaving Harrenhal with Brienne in tow, Cersei threatening Margaery, etc. The scene where Cersei describes the Lannister power within the song takes place directly before this episode so it’s deliberately fresh in our minds.
This is one of the best episodes the show has ever produced. I really mean that. I’d put it in my top five, nay, top three. As much as I hate it, it’s absolutely brilliant. There is an incredible tension and uneasiness felt throughout. I don’t even think I need to point out what the Scene of the Episode is, do I? From the staging to the acting to the sound, the editing- I don’t know if another episode made me say, “Ah, something seems off. No, it really does,” then No, no, no, no, no,” then delivered as many merciless gut punches as this one. Sure, we had some real shocking moments in others, but no other episode has made me cry into a bowl of ice cream, yelling at my spouse how sad I was after the third time watching it. Every time. Every damn time. Like I said for 1.9 Baelor– this show handles death, especially of meaningful characters so well. It makes it linger, it makes it felt, it makes it effective and affective- nothing in any of the storylines are in the right places after.
Let’s get on with it, shall we? In the credits, Riverrun is replaced by (sigh) the Twins and the episode opens here, with Cat supporting Robb in his decision to take Casterly Rock from Tywin. Robb sees this as a way to send a message to the other houses in Westeros that Tywin is only human and IS NOW TURNING TO CAT FOR ADVICE since his previous decision to send Theon to Winterfell against her counsel ended so badly. Robb. Y U no listen to Cat about MARRIAGE.
Cat isn’t exactly thinking clearly either, as she’s heartbroken over the burning of Winterfell, the execution of Ned, the news of Bran and Rickon, and no news of Sansa and Arya- she’s willing to put everything on the line to make the Lannisters feel the same sense of loss they have.
At the Twins, Walder welcomes the North army and Tullys with bread and salt, a major sign of hospitality in Westeros. Robb makes his apologies to the Frey girls- and Edmure is trying to figure out which one is his. Oh, Edmure. Anyway, all of Walder Frey’s daughters have a “Wa” or “Da” reference in them. Ha. Walder is disgusting and his own wife is younger than most of his granddaughters. He throws in a “One of them was supposed to be queen,” and this is one of the first lines that made me think on my initial watch that something wasn’t quite right- the guy still seems bitter, no matter how nice he plays here. That and the sarcastic clap. All feel wrong. Worse, Walder demands that Talisa step forward and comments on how “shapely” she is- and how he shouldn’t have brought her there in the first place. Walder, apparently, would have broken a thousand oaths for a night with her. He’s taking great pleasure in humiliating the Starks in front of everyone, knowing that Robb can’t act out as a guest and as he’s trying to win Walder’s allyship.
Let’s get back to that bread and salt bit. This is what “guest right” is in Westeros- basically, if you take food or drink under someone’s roof, the guest and host cannot hurt each other. It’s a sign of trust and hospitality for the time being- and it’s one of the most upheld and sacred traditions in the Realm. Remember we got into that extinct tradition called first night and how it slowly died out? Not guest right. This is respected and practiced throughout Westeros by every religion. Every kingdom has laws to respect it. Taking the bread and salt, it would be natural for Cat and Company to let their guards down a little. In the book, Cat rushes to eat the bread and salt, thinking to herself once she eats it that “now they are protected.” To break guest right is an unforgivable crime.
Over in Yunkai, Daario has no shame about touching Dany’s hands, waist, whatever. She’s feeling it, especially when Daario says he hates slaves because there’s a man can’t make love to property. Because everything is for sex. And love. I mean, I guess. He just knows how to hit the right buttons. Thanks, Daario.
Beyond the Wall, Sam is taking Gilly to one of the abandoned castles on the Wall, the Night Fort. Gilly is the only person who seems impressed at how much Sam has read and calls him a WIZARD.
Down in the Riverlands, the Hound pretends to be Arya’s father to help a man with his wagon wheel and promptly knocks him out to steal his wagon and play the role of a merchant going to the Frey wedding. Arya begs the Hound not to kill the man and the Hound… actually listens to her, but tells her kindness will get her killed one day. We’ll see if that comes into- HOLY CRAP, it totally does. In Season 6, Arya pretends to be Mercy and spares Lady Crane- and then the Waif hunts her down. Her kindness did almost get her killed. That was fun. This is one several reasons rewatching this show is so great- there are so many breadcrumbs and theories. It reminds me of the Harry Potter craze, most of which happened pre-internet so it would really just be me and like, four other people taking lunch period in the library and coming up with ideas for side characters. Good stuff.
Anyway, Bran and Company find themselves at the Gift, which is a parcel of land Bran the Builder gave to the Night’s Watch- abandoned as Wildlings started coming over the wall more frequently. There’s a storm coming, so they head inside to stay dry. At the same time, Jon and Ygritte and their party come across a horse breeder who works for the Night’s Watch. Jon’s okay with robbing the guy of his horses- but Orell convinces Tormund that he should be killed. Jon makes just enough noise so that the man sees the commotion and rides away, which Ygritte immediately sees as a sign of disloyalty.
Further south, Arya spots the Twins and she’s so close to her family and home- she can almost smell the North. The Hound teases her, saying the closer she gets to them, the more afraid she gets that she won’t make it and whether he’s speaking from experience, I don’t know. Arya’s smart and brave enough to let the Hound know that she’s aware he’s afraid of fire and she threatens to kill him. This is a small scene I forgot about. It sets them up at odds with each other so that when tragedy strikes, we know the Hound feels genuinely bad about what he has said to her.
Back at… the Gift, right, we get two stories that cross into each other- Bran’s and Jon’s. the thunder is making Hodor start Hodor-ing and Meera spots the Night’s Watch rider being chased by Wildings. The horse breeder is yielding, but they start in on him anyway. Bran wargs into Hodor to make him stay quiet, and meanwhile Orell becomes suspicious of the windmill. Not sure if wargers can sense each other or he was just attracted to the noise, but an explanation would have been nice. Jojen tries to convince Bran to warg into one of the direwolves, but Bran isn’t sure that he can- he hasn’t done it outside of his dreams. Outside, Orell demands that Jon kill the man to prove his allegiance to them and Jon can’t bring himself to do it, even with Ygritte’s urging- so she does it for him. The Wildlings move in on Jon and he pushes Ygritte out of the way so that she’s not in the fight and maintains her loyalty. It’s a weirdly beautiful scene as she tries to go help Jon fight her brethren but Tormund locks her down and screams in her face where Jon really stands. Bran finally wargs into… Summer? Shaggy Dog? I would think it’s Summer- taking down a few Wildlings and giving Jon enough time to escape. Shame that Jon doesn’t recognize the direwolves. They were so close.
Back in Yunkai (noooooo), something, something, Daario gets into the city and there;s a skirmish with Greyworm and Jorah and Yunkai soldiers and it’s fine buuuut I don’t care. They’re all fine fighters and they all have different weapons. Wait, the play has been reviewed. I take it back, it’s actually a cool scene. Greyworm wins. The end.
Outside the Twins, the Northmen are getting their drink on and inside, Edmure is given Rosaline as a bride and he lucks out because she’s pretty cute. This scene works to let the audience’s guard down- it’s soft, sweet, romantic (even if it is about her looks) and the music is so gentle. Roose Bolton is placed perfectly in the background over Robbs shoulder at all times. We’ve seen just enough of him by this point to be familiar with him- and if you’ve been paying attention, his background actions tell you everything.
At the Gift, Jojen tells Bran that warging isn’t unheard of- but warging into a human has never been done. Bran trusts that everything Jojen has said is true and wants to go with him North of the Wall, but sends Rickon and Osha to the Last Hearth, seat of House Umbers and loyal bannermen to the Starks. Yeah. Those Umbers. Anyway, say goodbye to Rickon for the next two and a half seasons!
Yunkai again. Jorah and Greyworm return with a report that Yunkai’s slaves refused to fight once they saw they had no chance. Dany casually asks for Daario, just as he comes waltzing in the Yunkai’s banner for her.
Finally, we’re at the wedding reception where Coldplay Drummer is banging the crap out of his little drum. Edmure seems to be having a great time with his new bride and joy is had by all. Unknown to Cat and to many others, Walder Frey told Roose to pick a granddaughter for a bride and he would match her weight in silver- so Roose selected a fat young bride and got a big fat purse. It’s hard to read Cat’s face in this scene as she tries to stay polite but there’s a thinness in her mouth and a sternness in her eyes when Roose reveals the news. The Blackfish steps outside to take a piss. That aside, the editing in this bit are perfectly timed so that we see exactly how unfazed and suspicious Cat is as Roose is talking. So, so good.
Robb and Talisa have a very corny moment where she pretends to swat at him and she tells him not to kiss her as to not insult the Freys any further (but then I remember they make out in the middle of the room later so)… anyway.
Walder calls for the bedding ceremony, a Westerosi tradition where the men carry out the bride and the women escort the groom to their wedding bed to consummate the marriage as The Bear and the Maiden Fair play. Weird, huh? Cat tells Roose that Ned forbade the ceremony at their own wedding and Roose delivers a spectacularly fake smile that doesn’t quite meet his eyes. Michael McElhatton has the best smile-but-not-really-a-smile on this show. In their last “Awwwww” moment, Talisa tells Robb she wants to name the baby Eddard if it’s a boy and they proceed to make out. So. I guess we are done not insulting the Freys.
Cat’s attention is caught by a Frey.
He closes the door to the hall.
A lone cello begins to play The Rains of Castamere and Cat turns, alarmed.
Outside, Greywind begins to whine from his pen.
The Hound and Arya pull up in their cart. The Freys aren’t letting anyone enter. Something is very wrong.
Cat’s looking for something out of place, anything, when Walder holds his hand up to halt the music, saying that he hasn’t given his new queen a wedding gift. Cat looks pleadingly at Roose for help and pulls up his sleeve to reveal chainmail, just before he smirks at her and she realizes they’re trapped. Roose runs off and the Red Wedding begins. Talisa is stabbed in the belly, the Northmen are taken down by crossbows and knives, and Robb and Cat are both shot.
Arya’s trying to sneak into the Twins when she sees Frey soldiers turn on the Northmen and execute Greywind. The Hound picks her back up- to save her.
Back in the hall, Cat finds her way under a table as Robb crawls to Talisa, already dead. Walder halts the carnage to talk some more, but Cat grabs Walder Frey’s wife and threatens to kill her, begging for Robb’s life. Walder has no interest in his wife and says he’ll just take another. She pleads for Robb to stand up, but Robb knows it is all over. Roose stabs Robb, dropping “The Lannisters send their regards” and Cat lets out a painful scream as she watches her son die. She’s frozen in silence- and a Frey comes over to slice her throat. The last shot lingers on the spot where Cat’s body has fallen from before cutting to black.
It’s a horrible scene. Well done, yes, but horrible. It’s extremely painful to watch. And it’s extremely painful to read as well- it’s told entirely from Cat’s point of view, which the show mirrored perfectly. Her last lines are that she feels someone grab her hair and she thinks, “Not my hair. Ned loves my hair.” Remember- Cat dies thinking that four of her five children are dead and watching her last son get killed. Walder Frey gets her at her lowest. It’s the most emotional, excruciating ending for any character within the series.
There really was no way out for the Starks in this. Roose and Walder are the types of characters that will align themselves with whoever can provide the best means. Case in point, Roose’s marriage. It’s not just an alliance with the Freys- it’s a prize of money to go with it. Robb offered Edmure, who was certainly not a king; and so he’s nothing as he can’t provide a kingdom, as Walder pointed out early in the episode. There’s no real power in that marriage with Edmure. Now Tywin, being the richest in the Seven Kingdoms, could not only outbuy the Starks, but being the Hand of the King, could provide nobility as well. He clears the path for the Boltons to sit in the North and the Freys to take over the Riverlands. I have a feeling this kind of betrayal also would have happened if Robb had married a Frey anyway. Walder was so willing to give up his wife. What’s a daughter out of several and a son in law, even if he calls himself King in the North? What good is a king if he’s not winning?
This episode (and the one following) are two of the biggest reasons I couldn’t really get into the sixth season. You did it to yourselves D&D. I think Battle of the Bastards is brilliant in its execution, but all the stuff leading up to it seemed out of place and thrown together. The Northmen are just fiercely loyal, a fact stated by several people, including Tyrion in the next episode. It’s highly inconsistent and such a… a LETDOWN that after this massacre, Northmen align with the Boltons- why, so we could have a huge battle? To an extent, it felt like Seasons 6 got really, really far away from the Starks- not individually, but collectively. What happened to all “The North remembers”? Wouldn’t the Red Wedding ADD to all of that? Then, going from Robb to Ramsay or to nobody, and definitely not to Jon or Sansa, the North is just like, “Ok, Jon is our new King in the North”… they come off as fickle and indecisive. This show made a fool of the North in Season 6- they’re not even close to what the first few seasons would have us believe. This is the plot I’m looking forward to most in the books because I have a feeling that none of this plays out the way it does in the show- Roose, Ramsay, the Karstarks, the Umbers, that Grand Northern Conspiracy… things are going to be different. They better be.
Aaaaand why are we such huge Bolton fans after this episode? It’s a great question. Roose is a fascinating character in and out of the books. He’s a strategy-facing character and willing to make big deals and slow moves to get there. He’s like Tywin but bloodier and may or may not be a Westerosi vampire or son of a White Walker, according to Reddit. Also, as I keep telling John- McElhatton could ask me to hug a cactus and I’d do it. He’s got a great voice.
I’d say let’s move on already to Episode 10, but the brutality doesn’t stop there. I need to put some space in between episodes for this. Heavy stuff. Take the weekend to process this. Up next is 3.10 Mhysa!