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”Well, let's get ready. The wine will flow red. The music will play loud. And we'll put this mess behind us.”
Yes. That really happened. And don't say you weren't warned. On top of Arya informing us last season that "anyone can be killed," Game of Thrones has actually been laying the groundwork for this event, aptly nicknamed the 'Red Wedding,' for some time. Co-creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss have dropped ample hints along the way - Tyrion and Varys talk the horrors of weddings in last year's ninth episode before the Battle of the "Blackwater" (which happened to play The National's cover of "The Rains of Castamere" over the closing credits) - as well as repeatedly stated that the infamous chapter was pivotal in convincing them to take on the show in the first place, praying to the Old Gods and the New that they would last long enough to bring it to life (well, put the devastating deaths) on the small-screen. It may take some time for audiences to get over the trauma of the "The Rains Of Castamere" or realize that the penultimate episode of the third season was one of the most thrilling, well-written and skillfully directed installments of the fantasy drama's run so far. So let's get to the details! One sec, I have something in my eye...
”The city is yours, my Queen.”
Across the sea, Daenerys' season long quest to conquer the Slave Cities continues with the action picking up pretty much right where "Second Sons" left off. And that action, is the hot hot heat between newcomer Daario Naharis and the Khalessi. But come on, they can't be together. Daenerys Naharis. Terrible name. The Queen and her bloodriders plot the best way to take Yunkai when Daario offers a much easier solution. He will simply walk through the front door as the trusted returning leader of the Second Sons and kill the guards, allowing Jorah and Grey Worm to follow and help finish the job. Jorah's suspicions are raised (or just jealousy), wondering if the suave sell-sword is simply leading them into a trap but Grey Worm's up for the plan so all is a go. Oh, and sorry Ser Barristan. Looks like you aren't one of the two best in Dany's service, says Jorah in the penis measuring contest. And besides, someone has to stay behind and protect the Queen. The attack runs smooth until a dozen extra guards filter in from nowhere and offer the audience a pretty great, multiple-hero combat scene. Not many of these team skirmishes have taken place and this fight was especially well choreographed. Grey Worm is badass. And it turns out the slave soldiers aren't keen to battle for their masters, so the rest decide to join the Khalessi's cause. Yunkai has a new Queen.
”Our father used to tell us that no wildling ever looked upon the Wall and lived.”
Although it sounded optimistic, it's a little gross when you really think about what Gilly's saying in the above quote because we know that 'our father' means Craster, both her and her baby's daddy. However, Sam is doing his very best to take over the role of husband and father, protecting her from the White Walker last week and now amazing her with his reading wizardry. It's nice for Sam to have someone besides Jon think, well, something positive about him and the two make a good pair, book smarts and actual skills. Let's hope his 'magic' takes them to the right place and they find the ancient tunnel to the Nightfort. Getting back to Gilly's words, they obviously weigh on Jon's current circumstances as well, with the once a Crow, always a Crow trying to say something similar to Ygritte last week regarding their impending, and inevitably failed, assault on the Wall (even if coming from all sides). En route to Castle Black, Jon's band of not-brothers stumble across an old stableman who raises horses for the Night's Watch and decides to take them and his life in the process. Jon doesn't see the need for bloodshed, trying to reason with the wildlings but it proves fruitless and the group charge full steam ahead.
”I'm your brother, I have to protect you.”
The way they attack is actually a little ridiculous, considering one of them could have snuck up quietly and got the job done. Stupid wildlings. No planning at all. And while sprinting like a bunch of fools, Jon manages to spook one of the horses with a clink of steel and alert the man of their presence not to mention alert Ygritte of her lover's 'weakness.' I was really hoping that the next scene wouldn't use the 'prove yourself' cliche when they eventually caught up with the farmer but it is an efficient way to force Jon to finally break his cover. It's about time he rode ahead to warn his brothers, anyway. Sorry, Yrgitte. It was to watch the lovers split but there was so much awesome happening in the scene that I didn't really focus on their relationship until the final shot of her face as he left her behind. Tormund, again, seems like a good guy, preferring to save her life instead of simply killing her along with Jon. And how satisfying was it to see him stick Longclaw through Orell? Well, until that bastard came back as his eagle to continue the fight. I mean, that was still rad but not so much for Jon. It was probably pretty encouraging to see a couple of familiar faces show up to his defence, though, human or dire wolf. I know I was pretty excited to see Bran warg into Summer to help his brother.
"Keep this one safe. He means the world to me.”
It was also the first time in forever that the long separated Stark children were so close to being face to face, not to mention Game of Thrones cross-cutting between threads until they met in one extended sequence. I really enjoyed watching the events unfold inside and outside the windmill simultaneously, with the outcome of one character's encounter directly affecting the the other 'scene within a scene' so to speak. Like a chain reaction of suspense and emotional release. And seeing Bran do some rad warging was also pretty amazing. Calming Hodor from 'Hodoring' was one thing, but when he jumped into the wolves, I got chills. So well executed! Having read the novels and been prepared for the devastating events to come (well, as prepared as one could be), it was actually the final scene between the young Stark brothers and Osha that hit me the hardest. And no, not just because Rickon spoke more than one line (although that was surprising, especially to hear him be called the 'Heir to Winterfell') but the goodbyes. Something about being so brave so young, and knowing that Osha's surrogate mother status was going to become more important, made the scenes very emotional
”... closest you've been to family since Ilyn Payne snipped your Daddy's neck.”
Just like that, right when three Starks were so close, the family continues to split with Rickon off to the Umbers with Osha and Bran headed north of the Wall with the Reeds. Not too far south, a similar story of some Starks getting so close only to be pulled apart takes place as we're finally getting closer to the main events of "The Rains of Castamere." Very close to the way that the show cross-cuts between Bran and Jon's threads before merging them, Arya and the Hound's journey takes them from the outskirts of the Red Wedding right into the action (and arguably one of the saddest scenes of the episode). It was nice to see that Arya still has some good in her heart as she stands up to the Hound and saves the life of the butcher. Only to turn around and knock him out. That was perfect. Their banter is great and I'm not sure which pair I like better, the Hound and Arya or the Hound and Sansa. I'm not sure what one he prefers either. Arya certainly pushes his buttons more than her proper, older sister but in a different way. Their japes become more and more pointed the closer they get to the Twin, arriving just in time to see the end of the party and beginning of the slaughter. And we watch with her as the Frey cowards come out and murder Grey Wind. She tries to do something but it's too late, the Hound knocks her out and carries her away.
”Show them how it feels to lose what they love.”
On to the main course. Robb and Cat open the episode in a tent not far from where we left them last week except that the son and King is reaching out to his mother for council. It's an important moment of reconciliation between the strained family members and she does a great job of getting our blood hot and primed for revenge, advising her son to go after the Lannister home. All they need is for Walder Frey to cooperate. Ugh. Typing his name makes me sick. Even though he is pretty hilarious in the disgusting way he treats his family members. Last time it was his sons and grandsons that were the brunt, this time he shames pretty much all of his female relatives with his wretched tongue. Not to mention goes way over the line when talking about Talisa. He's not lying, but you just don't say that. But Robb is able to hold his tongue (with the help of Cat and Talisa staying strong) and it seems like all is well between the strained Houses. I mean, they shared bread and integral part of guest rights. While the Stark banner-men drink and fight outside, the wedding reception goes off without a hitch. In fact, the Frey girl chosen for Edmure turns out to be the pick of the litter and boy, he couldn't be happier to say the words and get on with the bedding!
”The Lannisters send their regards.”
The reception is joyous. Talisa sits chatting up a Frey while Rob laughs with another guest. Cat and the Blackfish talk about their foolish relative and his new wife. And Lord Bolton refuses a drink. Hm. He goes on to share how disgusting a man he is, telling the tale of how he chose his Frey bride, Fat Walda. The Blackfish excuses himself (?) and Talisa is smart enough to not rub Lord Frey's nose in their love. They do name their unborn boy though. Eddard. Not that it matters. The bedding all but clears the room and once those doors shut, you knew something was amiss. The song switched to "The Rains of Castamere" - the famous ballad about a Lannister military triumph - and Cat is directed to Bolton's armour. He's a cold bastard that one. It's not long after that arrows rain down and serious wound Robb and his mother, the rest of his men quickly murdered by the Freys. Finally, when all seems quiet and lost, Cat manages to get her hands on Lord Walder's wife, putting a knife to her throat in order to bargain for her son's life. We've seen how much Lord Walder cares for the female (and male) members of his family and is happy to let Cat slit her throat. And, once Roose delivers the fatal blow to Robb, she obliges only to have hers opened shortly after. Cut to black. No music.
?”And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? Only a cat of a different coat, that’s all the truth I know...”?
Game of Thrones Season 3 returns with the season finale, “Mhysa,” on Sunday, June 9 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The series stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.