As evidenced by Sunday’s episode, the classic dichotomy of good over evil is not a standard held by George R.R. Martin, the author of the books behind “Game of Thrones.” In “The Rains of Castamere,” the Red Wedding, as many readers coined the Stark slaughter, plays out to the expectation of those familiar with the books and to the horror of everybody else.
As a member of everybody else, the show seemed to be headed toward a long-deserved retribution against the Lannisters in the name of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). Instead, Sunday’s episode provides a severe unbalance to the amount of wins and blows the Starks experience in their regime.
On the winning side, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is taken under the Hound’s (Rory McCann) wing. At first, the pairing seems to be motivated by the Hound’s greed for the award he will receive after returning Arya to her family. However, following the Red Wedding, which was played out right before Arya’s eyes, the Hound scoops Arya up, says, “It’s too late,” and whisks her out of the bloody scene. This finally gives viewers some direction to the Hound’s character and shows a bit of empathy in the thug’s disposition.
Also on the winning side, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the bastard of Ned Stark, ditches the wildlings through the help of his little brother Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). As Bran, Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), Osha (Natalie Tena), Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) hide out in a ruined tower beside the area where the wildlings set up camp, Snow is ordered to kill a man from whom the wildlings stole horses. This would be a sign of Snow’s loyalty to the wildlings, given Snow would rid the life of a man who would report the wildlings to the crows. However, Snow hesitates his sword to the throat of the man, and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) shoots the man to speed up the process. Once deemed a plausible traitor by Orell (Mackenzie Crook), Snow begins to attack the wildlings. Unbeknownst to Snow, Bran possesses the mind of a wolf near the scene of the attack and helps Snow finish off the wildlings with the exception of Ygritte, allowing Snow to flee the scene. Bran then reveals he will be continuing his journey to the wall with the help of Hodor, Jojen and Meera, and leave the littlest Stark, Rickon, with Osha.
But of course, the spilled blood of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Talisa Stark (Oona Chaplin) and the Stark army overshadows these small victories. In order to advance on King’s Landing, Catelyn advises Robb to make good with the Freys despite Robb’s blatant betrayal of his promise to marry a Frey daughter. As the Starks stand before Walder Frey (David Bradley), Walder tells Robb to not apologize to him, but to his daughters and granddaughters who will never be queen. Robb begs forgiveness from the women, but understands that Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), Catelyn Stark’s little brother, will still marry one of the Frey daughters. Walder allows the Starks and their army to stay within the Frey’s realm with easy reprieve, raising a red flag for all viewers.
The wedding of Edmure and Walder’s daughter, Roslin (Alexandra Dowling), takes place, and following the “bedding” ceremony of Edmure and his bride, the doors to the hall are closed, and the swords of the Freys wipe all smiles and good feelings from the reception. Pregnant Talisa is stabbed in the stomach multiple times, kicking off the fury of the Stark slaying. As Robb looks over his dead wife, Catelyn holds Walder’s wife hostage with a knife to the throat. Catelyn begs for mercy for her son. However, Walder orders Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to kill a numb and awed Robb. Catelyn slits Walder’s wife’s throat as she stared in stupor at her deceased son and is returned by the slicing of her own throat by one of Walder’s men.
Sunday’s episode was centralized around the Stark storyline with a sprinkle of a Targaryen victory, as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) conquered Yunkai, a huge slave city, and increases the size of her army. But with only five Starks left and spread throughout the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Daenerys far from King’s Landing, and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) still gambling with the Lord of Light, it is unclear who will take the iron throne at this point. One thing’s for sure, though, Martin has no mercy for any of his characters.
Grade: A, for a game-changing plot twist.