Title: Game of Thrones
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Watched: Episode 29 – June 2, 2013
Title: The Rains of Castamere
Summary: Darkness descends
As much as this season is about marriage and The Rains of Castamere centers on the second of three weddings, the episode is more about the breaking of oaths than the keeping of them. The sundering of possibilities than the forming of them. This is a dark dark segment, probably the darkest yet.
Like last week, the writers have narrowed the narrative focus. We have only three major threads here. One is a bit more of Dany in Yunkai, another one of a Storm of Swords more complex segments (the near meeting of Sam, Bran, and Jon) and the last being the Red Wedding. Structurally the writers cut more rapidly back and forth between these segments than usual. This becomes particularly necessary as the threads overlap and cross, something that while rare in the series, gives this segment of the novel tremendous tension.
Dany – Daario’s addition to Dany’s inner circle only makes things even more complex. Jorah, who once had the queen all to himself is pulled in various directions by the men around her. He Daario, and Grey Worm go to open the gates of the city. This segment is by far the weakest. The battle is not only skipped, which we have sadly come to expect, but the little bits we get are unclear at best. The three go in, have a bit of a fight, are ambushed, and then are somehow back at Dany’s camp. I’m just confused. The whole thing felt small and squeezed for time. Dany waiting for Daario felt forced.
Sam & Gilly – approach the wall. Their excellent chemistry continues as he info dumps (letting us know there is way under the wall) and she is so impressed she calls him a “wizard,” which is a delightful reference back to season 1. But where is Cold Hands?
Bran – and crew approach the windmill that Jon saw two episodes ago. A storm is coming and they take shelter.
Jon – along with the wildlings, approaches a horse breeder who works for the Night’s Watch. His loyalty is again put to the test. He warns the man and stops Ygritte from shooting him. But when the wildlings catch up with him outside Bran’s windmill he’s assigned to kill the guy — a task for which he’s a notorious failure. Ygritte cuts short the argument by choosing sides and Jon, but as he fights the wildlings she is neutralized by Tormund. Jon gets the drop on Orel and gives the man what he deserves, but not before his consciousness slips into his Eagle and he attacks Jon with this second body. Despite the Warg explanations offered by Jojen below, I wonder how well non-readers will understand this.
But most central to this whole scene, and most thematic to the episode is the play out of loyalties between Jon and Ygritte. Is she siding with him? Where do her loyalties lie? I choose to believe with them as a unit. But Jon doesn’t just chose her, he chooses the Watch too. Her expression as she watches him ride off is sad indeed.
Bran – employs his special Warg powers first to silence Hodor and then to jump into Summer and Shaggy Dog below, helping Jon out with his fight. When he returns to himself he decides to send Rickon away with Osha for his own safety. Here he also saw Jon below, and I can’t remember if that happened exactly in the books. Reading, there was always this intense desire to see the family members reunite, and it is here in ASOS that they come the closest, with heart rending consequences. It should be noted that Jojen isn’t so much a character but a mouth piece to explain what’s going on with Bran (somewhat). Also, after being pretty much entirely lame this season, the moment with Osha as she takes on Rickon is actually fairly touching. Her character this season has bugged me, as she was great last year, and it’s nice to see her slightly redeemed.
Arya – also nearly intertwines here. As she approaches the Twins the back and forth between her and the Hound is great fun. Neither totally has the upper hand. The pig parts (pig knuckles – ick) are an amusing touch as they spar. In many ways they see sides of each other that few do.
Robb – reconnects with his mother as they plot their assault on Casterly Rock. Then riding out, wolf in the lead, they approach the Twins for the wedding (a second near convergence). Deviating from the books, he brings his wife to the wedding. This initial meeting, and the wedding in general, is handled excellently. They break bread and salt, which viewers might not totally get, but initiating traditional guest rights. Robb apologizes and old Frey is highly amusing as he introduces his daughters and teases Robb. In a bit of foreshadowing, he uses the phrase “the wine will run red.”
A little shot of the Starks camped outside the Frey castles, along with the establishing shot during Arya’s segment, clue us in that Robb is inside with less than his full force. The wedding itself is touching. Edmure gets a decent looking bride and he does a good job wearing his emotions on his face. I like the repeated and reinforced cloaking ceremony and the vows to the seven.
The celebration is fairly nicely handled, feeling decent in scale considering. It’s full of telling little bits like Bolton refusing to drink and the amusing speech by Frey about “every sword needing a sheath.” The writers take one last opportunity for some genuine warmth between Robb and his bride, which makes what is to come all the more tragic.
Why Cat doesn’t figure it out as soon as The Rains of Castamere begin to play, I don’t know, but things go south very very quickly. The tragic action is split in two parts by Arya’s segment, which I felt diminished the emotional impact. Probably they did this to end where they did, but it might have been better cut a different way.
Arya – approaches the castle, her cautious optimism at seeing the Stark men quickly shattered by violence and then the sad sad slaughter of Grey Wind (I feel worse about the wolves than many of the human loses). For a second time, the Hound grabs her and carries her away.
Robb & Cat – The whole existence of Talisa was a considerable deviation from the books, and it comes to an end here. In season 2, I wasn’t her biggest fan, but some of the recent scenes between her and Robb have built up character not present in the novels and I was deeply saddened to see her go, hoping she, like her doppelgänger Jeyne Westerling, would survive the wedding. Alas, it was not to be, and the manner of her death, and that of her child, felt like a stab to the gut. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but seriously, as a husband and father, her end was pretty awful.
The play out in the end between Robb, Cat, and Frey — and of course Bolton, was well handled. Her desperation is apparent, she will do anything to try to save her son. Michelle puts in some fine acting. But it is not to be.
The writers chose to end with the stabbing and double throat cutting, which has a certain visceral power, but perhaps at the cost of the signature imagery of the “double wolf’s head.” Or perhaps we’ll get that next week.
Overall, this was a dark and powerful episode, in which the Jon/Bran and Robb/Cat segments were largely successful particularly the Red Wedding. Dany’s was just lame, but you can’t win everything and the sacking of Yunkai was hardly the most important moment of her journey. All this leaves me speculating about what might fit into our one remaining episode.
Certainly NOT the siege of Castle Black. Possibly not even our third wedding (Joff’s). It might feel odd to start season 4 with that, but from the trailer it seems that episode 30 will be concerned mostly with the consequences of episode 29. How far will we get on the Jon/Ygritte storyline? Hard to say. I register my prediction that episode 30 ends with Beric Dondarian finding Cat’s body. It seems in keeping. It’s very clear that season 4 will start to deviate hugely from the chronology laid out by Martin — although this can’t help but be a good thing as he botched the flow pretty bad in books 4 and 5.
Absent this week were Jaime, Theon, all of King’s Landing, and Dragonstone.
And below, some inside the episodes from HBO:sharethis_button(); ?>