First comes first – the ninth episode of GoT Rains of Castamere, was, by far, the best episode of season three, if not ever. Next week’s finale, Mhysa, might top it, however, in all honesty, the writers/directors need to put a lot of effort if they wish to succeed. And they will, IF they invite us to another wedding we so desperately want to attend. This would maintain the continuity of the Storm of Swords, and continuity is the key to fully grasping the magnitude of this fantastic book.
AH, THE STARKS, QUICK TEMPERS, SLOW MINDS
If we were asked to describe this week’s episode painted in red, in one word, that word would, without a doubt, be: Honor.
Ned Stark’s tragic, and only flaw was his honor. Yes. He was too noble and too stern in his belief, which lead to his tragic loss in the game of thrones. Cersei told him as much, but he wouldn’t listen, to her or anyone else for that matter. And many had tried. Was he a fool that believed his enemies to be more honorable than they actually were, or is it that he just couldn’t bear himself to descend down to their level? That I do not know, but what I do know is that either way, it cost him his head. Robb isn’t quite the same man. He will break a vow, in a blink of an eye – something his father would never have done. Betrayal is betrayal, regardless of whether it was done for passion or for worse. “You say you betrayed me for love,” the Frey patriarch intones, “I say you did it for….”
Robb is honorable, but breaking the oath he gave to Lord Frey proves that he is not ruled by his honor. He’s a smart warlord, but he makes too many mistakes. Far too many, I must say. However, not to put the blame solely on poor Robb, and this must be said, Lady Catelyn had an equal share in their undoing. She foolishly captured one Lannister and freed the other. The former act of foolishness wounded Tywin Lannister, whilst the latter wounded Karstarks and half of the Stark army, including the Boltons. Add Lord Frey into the mix and what you get is the bloody wedding. Robb Stark is young, which is hardly a flaw, in comparison to let’s say Joffrey, Ramsay and even Theon, but Lady Catelyn, well, she should have known better.
In the books, the betrayal of Robb Stark at the hands of the Freys and Boltons was a huge shock. Like the execution of Ned Stark, I didn’t see it coming. Of course there were hints and signs along the way, in the books as well as in the series: Lord Bolton freeing Jaime Lannister, sending him back to King’s Landing along with the regards to Lord Tywin; the threatening behavior of old Walder Frey toward Robb and his entourage; and finally the song playing over it all, once it was too late, once everyone was far too drunk to notice that it was the infamous The Rains of Castamere. Cersei told us the story of that song a couple of episodes ago, of House Reyne, whose power and wealth grew until it rivaled the Lannisters, House that rebelled against them, until the Lion rode forth until he exterminated it. A Lannister always pays his debts.
THE NORTH REMEMBERS
What escaped me during the reading of Storm of Swords was the inability to notice the parallel between the events surrounding the Red Wedding and Great Sept of Baelor, something that, this time around seen on a screen, became so chillingly apparent. And though the scale of the Red Wedding was bigger than it was in the Sept of Baelor, the impact on me wasn’t quite the same. It’s not just that Ned’s death was a defining moment for the series; a moment that – with cruelty and without any mercy – signaled, point-blank, that anyone could be killed at any point, but it was also that Ned was such a compelling character, a man with charisma and code, something that can’t be said for either Robb or Catelyn Stark. But perhaps more importantly, Ned was a character the story revolved around. Killing him – the very core of the story – before we even reached the finale was a classic Hitchcockian moment, contemporary style. All this to say how I was not as surprised as the first time around and how I won’t miss Robb as much as I miss Eddard.
As for the connective tissue, I am, of course, talking about Arya Stark. In my eyes this mirroring was just brilliant for it reinforced the gravity of the situation. In the first season it was Arya who witnessed the execution of her father and imprisonment of her sister from a safe distance, unable to do anything but endure. Blessing in disguised came in the form of Yoren, a Night’s Watchmen, who was, in the nick of time, pointed at Arya’s presence by Lord Eddard Stark, just minutes before his head rolled. This time around, after second-hand-witnessing the death of her mother, her older brother and the entire Stark entourage, she was saved by the Hound. Rock in the head was the only way to stop the devastated wolf girl. Poor Arya, to get so close only to see her brother’s direwolf slaughtered in the kennel… It makes you wonder, to what end? Well, if Varys or Baelish thought us anything, the revenge is a dish best served cold.
LIFE IS HARD SOUTH OF THE WALL
Up in the North, just south of the Wall, Bran and company have a curious meeting—of sorts—with Jon and the wildling bunch. I feared they would stray from the book letting Bran and Jon meet face to face. Luckily, they didn’t. I say luckily because the gravity of the Stark situation – coming so close after so long only to end up further a part than ever – is only increased with the fact that his brothers, whom Jon believes to be dead, are only few meters away, safe and sound. Knowledge of this truth, despite the revelation and joy it would bring with it, would only get him killed. Furthermore, both Bran’s and Jon’s destines lie elsewhere. With the help of Jojen and frantic Hodor, Bran is finally able to warg and at will, not to mention that his first warging-at-will left him in the body of a human, something that was never done before. Entering a wolf is a piece of cake compared to this, however, Bran is still reluctant and that is precisely why Jojen is there – to give him a little push when push is needed. Speaking of which, we are back to the question of Stark honor.
Stark survival on this show or in this book depends solely on how quickly they get along with the realization that their survival sometimes means not playing by the rules. This sequence is indicative of that – using a direwolf to attack a bunch of wildlings isn’t a fair fight, sure, but it’s the only way to save Jon’s life or their own for that matter. In all honesty, have you seen Orell dwelling about sending his soul into an eagle the minute Jon runs a sword through his belly? No. Therefore, Bran must toughen up and do the same, without a second thought or Jojen by his side to tell him what to do. The sooner, the better because once they find themselves beyond the Wall, the wildlings will be the least of Bran’s worries.
As for Jon Snow (who is more of a Stark than Robb will ever be), his sense of honor is what gets the better of him, as per usual. He’s doing his best at going undercover with the wildlings still, yet when it comes to killing an innocent man, Jon simply can’t do it. He’s got this compulsive, somewhat stupid sense of honor running through him, symptomatic of the Starks. But don’t get me wrong: Jon’s stupid sense of honor is what makes him a character worth rooting for, because he may as well be one of the very few good men on GoT, an endangered species of sorts. On the other hand this stupid sense of honor is also what makes him a particularly poor choice in leading an undercover mission as it turned out in the end. On a bright side, putting a sword through Orell’s gut put a smile on my face. However, leaving Ygritte behind, albeit a necessity was not very gentlemanlike. Furthermore, this choice is precisely what sets him apart from his brother. Robb broke an oath in the name of love. And don’t let the sequence of the events fool you, Jon is, likewise, deeply in love, yet, he chose the honor over the girl. Tough choice, nevertheless a one that absolutely needed to be made. Yes, he failed the girl, but he did not fail his father, the House Stark and his beloved Winterfell. And in comparison to Winterfell, that, after all, came along first, poor Ygritte didn’t stand a chance. But for what is worth, at least we don’t have to hear any of those “You know nothing Jon Snow” lines from now on. And, in all honesty, he did warn her – once a crow, always a crow. Suit is not what makes a man. He gave an oath, a one he, unlike his brother, intends to keep no matter the cost…for he shall live and die at his post.
For the first time, in a very long time I will not say: “Bonus point: No Daenerys” because this was the best we have seen from Daenerys in awhile. I say this albeit I am fully aware that the only reason for this claim are the men that accompany her, and not Danny, per se. I mean we are talking about a Second Son mercenary, an Unsullied and a Westerosi knight. Man, what a trio! All three are warriors of the unique way of fighting, something they do with beauty and if I may say, grace. The style, the pace and choreography of the fight was so wonderfully executed that I have found myself actually wishing for more – something I haven’t done in the case of Danny’s storyline since the first season. I thank the Gods for giving us Daario Nahaeris. Too bad it happened towards the end of the season. Oh well, at least I have a head on the shoulders. Mine.
Well, it is a good day to be a Lannister. The Lannister boys, although impaired – one noseless, the other handless – are both still alive. One married a Stark, whom everybody now believes to be the heir of Winterfell (Bran and Rickon are presumed dead by the hand of Theon Greyjoy; Arya is missing and presumed dead; Robb actually died in a plot hatched by Lannisters and Jon is allegedly not a rightful Stark) and the other is almost at the gates of King’s Landing. Cersei is marrying the heir of Highgarden, her son is the King and her father silently observes the pieces he cunningly put in motion come to place. We know things are far from over and we know there are still threats from: (a) the White Walkers no one believes in, (b) from the magic Melisandre is cooking up at the Dragonstone, and (c) from Danaerys, should she ever put her anti-slavery crusade on pause and hop onto a boat to King’s Landing or onto a back of one of her dragons, but for the moment, it’s a very good day to be a Lannister indeed.
Speaking of Melisandre and her magic, I hope you now understand what was the whole Gendry leeching all about?
In regards to this little detail, I might have been too harsh on Catelyn earlier on. Sure, if she hadn’t captured Tyrion Lannister and lost Jaime Lannister soon after, none of this would have happened. Or perhaps it would now that Melisandre is also in the picture. “Balon Greyjoy. Robb Stark. Joffrey Baratheon.” is the last we heard from Stannis.
One down, two more to go.
Things I liked: Everything!
But I’ll narrow it down
– Gilly calling Sam the wizard!
– The perfectly choreographed fight for Yunkai.
– Talisa informing Robb that she plans to call the baby Eddard Stark. Bringing Eddard’s name only further enhanced the mirroring I was talking about earlier on leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.
– How show made a point to highlight the fact that Lord Frey broke the sacred law of hospitality. He did it only after Tywin Lannister’s reassured him of protection, however, regardless, the House Frey will be forever marked as breakers of one of the most sacred traditions in Westeros. There are two things Westerosi do not forgive lightly. First being the breaking of the oath: Night’s Watch desertion is punishable by death, Kingsguard’s violation of the oath is either punishable by death or by Night’s Watch, and there is of course the violation of the betrothal, and we have seen the punishment for it in this week’s episode. Second thing Westerosi do not forgive lightly is the Violation of the Sacred Law of Hospitality, otherwise known as the Guest right, a law Lord Walder Frey has just broke. When a guest, be he common born or noble, eats the food and drinks the drink off a host’s table beneath the host’s roof, the guest right is invoked. Bread and salt are the traditional provisions. When invoked, neither the guest can harm his host nor the host harms his guest for the length of the guest’s stay. For either to do so would be to break a sacred covenant that is believed to invoke the wrath of the Gods both old and new. Let’s pray the worst befalls him.
– Queenscrown’s entire scene at the Gift. Bran embracing the warg side of him; Bran and Rickon’s departure; Rickon’s declaration of being a Northman; the Northman (Jon Snow) against the Northmen (wildlings); Direwolves helping a Stark to escape; and the escape itself…
– The execution of the Red Wedding. I have read the book; I knew what was coming; yet I was so shocked when it finally happened and utterly disturbed at the images unfolding in front of me followed by the Rains of Castamere and Catelyn’s awestruck look in the eyes. To say how the execution of the wedding succeeded beyond my wildest dreams would be an understatement.
– And last but not the least – the credits rolling in absolute silence. Chilling. Terrifying. Brilliant. Bravo!
Things I didn’t like:
– Roose saying, “The Lannisters send their regards,” instead of “Jaime Lannister sends his regards,” which is a minor change, but still. Those of you who follow me know that Jaime Lannister is, apart from Jon Snow, Brienne of Tarth, Sansa, Tormund and Davos, my favorite character, however, despite this love, it felt like a cover-up for his – as of recently redeemed – new personality. Sure he is an honorable man, a man he deep down always were, but in all fairness he is also a vindictive man, one who does not forget lightly, which is precisely what makes him such a compelling character of contraposition. Having said this, the Red Wedding must be seen, to a certain extent, as a retribution for what has happened to him ever since he was captured at battle of the Whispering Wood. He lost a year of his life and a sword hand. Robb lost his head.
– Talisa’s death. I didn’t like this at all because I hoped her pregnancy will mess with Tywin’s plans. Darn! I think it is safe to say that the whole thing about the Blackfish refusing to turn over Jeyne in the books won’t be paralleled here, and it is also safe to suggests that if Jeyne’s pregnant (in the books, something that is not yet confirmed), her pregnancy won’t play a bigger part in the end. Therefore, if we want to see Winterfell back in the hands of a Stark we need another Stark to put our faith upon. The good question would be – which one?
“We’ll lose the war and die the way father died — or worse.”
R.I.P. Robb Stark…
P. S. I’ll leave Sam’s story for the next week’s review.
Text written by: Monika Ponjavic
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