So last night, Game of Thrones happened… I know. I know. It’s hard to get up and deal with life this morning after that episode. People are gnashing their teeth. Walking around in a daze. Asking WTFu-Schnickens just happened!? You wanna know what just happened? George RR Martin just happened! That’s what! The old man giveth, and he taketh away! So c’mon, let’s talk about it already…before someone puts up one of those inappropriate “Hitler Reacts” memes. Oooh, too late.
So we begin somewhere at night in Robb Stark’s tent, where the King of the North is sitting with his mother Lady Catelyn Stark on the eve of the upcoming wedding of Edmure Tully. The two stare down at a war map, showing the varied competing forces of Westeros in the form of carved pieces: the Lion of House Lannister, the Wolf of House Stark, the Flayed Man of House Bolton and the Twin Towers of House Frey. “Are you sure about this?” Catelyn asks her son, uncertain about Robb’s attempt to take the Lannister’s home Casterly Rock. Robb, in an uncharacteristic move, admits “No.” Even more uncharacteristic, he asks for his mother’s advice. He reveals that it weighs heavy on his conscience that the last time he did not heed her, he lost Winterfell. He explains that he will be able to take Casterly Rock, and thus tip the many Houses in his favor, once he has gained the full alliance of House Frey–to be secured upon the marriage of his Uncle Edmure to a Frey daughter. With the understanding that gaining House Frey’s troops and backing is central to their plans, Lady Catelyn finally gives her blessing. Remembering how much the Lannisters have cost them, including the death of her husband Eddard Stark, she instructs Robb, “Show them how it feels to lose what they love.”
The next day, the banners of the wolf fly proudly as Robb and his entourage make their way to the The Twins, the castle of House Frey. Inside, Lord Walder Frey welcomes his guests with the ceremonial offering of “bread and salt,” thus pledging under the old gods and the new hospitality and safety to his guests under his roof. Following his mother’s advice, Robb steps forward to beg Lord Frey’s forgiveness, for previously breaking his oath to marry a Frey. The old man replies the King of the North should apologize to his daughters for spurning them. He trots them out and names most of them, each a bit on the plain side, eyes downcast and rather unkempt. Edmure looks them over, wincing. Frey tells Robb he could have had his pick of any one–even two plump twins. Being disgusting, of course, he says the only one Robb could not have had is his youngest–a girl who “hasn’t bled yet.”
Robb, playing the humble gentle
man lord, steps forward to apologize to the Frey daughters directly, stating “Any man would be lucky to have any one of you.” He assures them that what he did was not meant as slight to them, but because he had fallen in love with Not-Jeyne-Westerling. He hopes his apologies will once again make the Starks and Freys become friends. To all of this, Lord Walder Frey gives a slow sarcastic clap, then asks the young Lady Stark to step forward. Calling her “prettier than this lot,” the lecherous old man goes on to discuss what she’s “hiding” under her robes. Speaking loudly to the hall, he says Robb didn’t break his oath for love–but for what’s under her robes. “I say he betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit, and I can respect that,” Lord Frey declares. And he jokes crudely with Robb, “When I was your age I would have broken 50 oaths to get into that without a second thought.” In an even odder statement, Frey says to a discomforted Robb, “If you wanted to hide her, you shouldn’t have brought her here in the first place.”
Robb manages to keep a tight lip as his wife is creepily undressed and felt up by this dirty old man, mostly because Lady Catelyn holds him back with a restraining arm. Seeming having had his fun, Lord Frey finally declares it’s time to prepare for the wedding. “The wine will flow red and the music will play loud,” he says, “and we’ll put this mess behind us.” Red wine huh….
Somewhere across the sea in the lands of Essos, Daenerys plots how she will take the slaver city of Yunkai. Weird-faced pretty boy Daario says he knows the city’s weaknesses: a back gate where he can send in a small force and get rid of the guards. Old Bear, Ser Jorah Mormont, who doesn’t like the cut of this pretty-boy interloper, scoffs at this–and asks how they can trust a mercenary’s word not to betray them. Daario, not missing a step, says he has learned that men who are so suspicious cannot be trusted. Before the two Alpha males can go at it, Dany asks baby-faced Grey Worm his opinion. He says he trusts Daario, and thus, so does Dany. They agree to try his plan.
North of The Wall, there’s a minor Gilly and Samwell sighting. They’ve finally reached the Wall, or at least are in sight of it. Sam tells Gilly about a secret passageway through the Wall in a rambling about some histories he’s read. She’s amazed, even a little doubtful, that anyone could learn such things through “staring at markings on paper” and declares Sam must be a wizard. Oh, you rustic simple Wildling folk. Your illiteracy is so precious. She recalls that her father told her that no Wildling ever looked upon The Wall and lived. Can’t say that anymore!
Just South of the Wall, Brandon Stark and his odd company come across a small tower where they decide to seek shelter. Young Rickon makes a quip about Wildlings nearby that drink human blood, then realizes Osha (a Wildling who has saved his life) is standing a few feet away. Awwwwkwaaaard! While in the tower, they hear noises outside–armed men. The group tries to remain quiet, but a thundering storm has Hodor freaking out. And he begins stomping around saying his favorite word–Hodor. Fearing he’ll give them away, everyone tries to settle the usually gentle giant. Bran tries hardest of all. Then, before you know it, his eyes roll-back. Hodor’s eyes do the same, and he goes quiet. When Bran returns to normal, the Reeds explain that he’s a Warg–people with the ability to enter the minds of animals. And he just warged the hell outta Hodor. Uhhh, Hodor’s an animal now? Not cool man. Not cool.
So those armed men outside, turns out it’s Jon Snow and his merry band of Wildlings–scouting the land for supplies. They decide to steal some horses and kill a local horse breeder who works for the Night’s Watch, the logic being that he could betray them to the Crows. As they dash towards him, Jon manages to send a warning by banging his sword on a rock. The horse breeder escapes in the nick of time. No one else seems to have noticed, but Ygritte is suspicious.
Eventually, they catch up with the horse breeder and prepare to do him in. Orell, part-time Warg, full-time hater, declares Jon should kill the man to show he’s on their side. This is like what, the third time he’s had to prove himself? Hardest fraternity ever! Jon get his sword ready, but hesitates. Ygritte decides to get him out of the predicament by putting an arrow through the horse breeder. His reluctance causes Orell to scream Jon’s still a Crow! The band’s leader Tormund Giantsbane agrees, and declares “Kill him.” Donnie Brasco time is done!
Ygritte tries to stop it, but Jon pushes her out of the way–not wanting her to join in his battle, and lose her place among the Wildlings.Tormund wrestles her down, telling her she has to accept that Jon’s a traitor. Still, the young Stark bastard is pretty handy with a sword. He manages to take out one of his attackers and holds his own.
Meanwhile, in the tower, hearing the commotion and thinking it could spread to them, the Reeds tell Bran he has to use his warg powers. Reluctant, he does so–taking hold of his dire wolf, Summer. Before you know it, several tons of canine is all over one of the Wildlings–ripping his throat out. Rickon’s Shaggydog gets in on the act as well. It’s just enough time for Jon to turn the tables and he (thankfully) buries a foot of steel into Orell, making sure to whisper in his ear, “You were right the whole time.” If he had added the word “Bitch” right at the end there–would have made my night.
In his death throes though, Orell goes all Warg and his friggin’ eagle comes screeching out of the sky, all feathers and claws–scratching the sh*t outta Jon’s face! Eagle Attack! Jon survives, and manages to hop on a horse and ride out! Ygritte, realizing his betrayal, watches him go in hurt and anger. The sucky part? The two sons of Eddard Stark were *this* close, and never knew it. Aaarrgggh!
Later, as Osha begins to protest once more about going north of the Wall and all this warg mumbo-jumbo, Bran decides that he’ll go on with the Reeds. Rickon will go off with Osha to find one of the Stark Bannerman. The young Stark boys are breaking up. Cries. Hugs. Sniffle.
Back in Westeros proper, Arya and The Hound make their way to catch up with the Starks at The Twins. They come across a wagon driver heading to the wedding with his hog meat, and pretend to help him before the Hound knocks him down and draws a knife. Arya jumps in front of the wagon driver, saying not to kill him, and admonishing The Hound for his killing of boys and old people. She says she knows a real killer, who would take him down like a kitten. The Hound relents finally, telling Arya one day her kindness will get her killed. She reacts to this by knocking the wagon driver out cold with a bit of wood. They take his wagon.
When they reach just beyond the Twins, the Hound stops to eat every damn hog in the wagon. Arya stares out at castle Frey in the distance, realizing she’s close to finally being reunited with her family. The Hound, reacting to her snappish attitude, says she’s just afraid. He tells her he can see her fear all over her face–frightened that she’s gotten so close after so many harrowing escapes, and that fate won’t let her be reunited that easily. Arya, angered at being discovered, tells him she’s seen what he’s afraid of too, like a scared little girl–recalling the battle in the dark cave, when Beric Dondarrion lit up that fiery sword. And she says she knows why, having heard of what his elder brother The Mountain did to him as a child–the burn scar of that ordeal still plain on The Hound’s face. He gives one of his usual retorts, evoking the memory of her father getting his head lopped off. (Another Ned Stark reference) To this, she replies coldly, “Someday, I’m going to put a sword through your eye, and out the back of your skull.” That shuts him up.
Back across the sea in Essos, Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario make their way through the back gate into Yunkai. They think they’ve gotten the upper hand when almost a dozen armed men show up–what was supposed to be some light resistance. Back to back, the three fighters take on their attackers and, despite the odds, win! Grey Worm is pretty mean with a spear! So that wasn’t too hard. Oh wait, here come even more armed men. And now they’re surrounded. This is going to require a little overtime.
In her tent, the Mother of Dragons is pacing like an anxious father to be. Finally, a bloodied Jorah and Grey Worm appear. Old Bear is exuberant, declaring that the city is hers. The slave soldiers threw down their weapons, just as she predicted. Yunkai is hers. His exuberance dies a bit when she casts eyes around asking, where is Daario. Sure enough, weird pretty-faced dude saunters in, carrying the standard of Yunkai. Bowing before Daeneyrs, he offers it to her and seems to suggest a bit more with his googly eyes. On to Mereen….
And finally, there’s Riverrun. Sigh. Let’s just get on with it shall we?
So, there’s a wedding, kinda like Tyrion’s and Sansa’s without all the royal infighting. Outside, the Stark army is getting pretty sloshed and having manly bare-knuckle brawls. Lord Walder Frey presents a veiled bride to Edmure, who is expecting someone rather, well, homely–given the usual Frey types. Turns out though, she’s not bad in the looks department. “I hope I’m not a disappointment to you,” she says. Edmure smiles, thinking he’s lucked out.They go through the vows, reciting each of the Seven Gods. The Blackfish does some comedic bits when some not-so-good-looking Frey women sends suggestive eyes and titters his way. The Seven gods are invoked. Edmure cloaks his bride. And Robb and Lord Frey share an eerie weird smile, though we’re left wondering just what the usually dour old man is smiling about.
The wedding is followed by a grand feast. A band plays on. Robb and Not-Jeyne-Westerling share smiles with the Freys. Even the soft-spoken Roose Bolton is all dressed up, chatting idly with Lady Catelyn like they were a couple. As usual though, he doesn’t share in the wine, as such things “dulls the senses.” In the conversation, the Blackfish asks if it’s true that Bolton has married a Frey girl. This seems to be news to Catelyn, who studies him, saying she hopes the Frey girl makes him very happy. He nods in his soft-spoken way and says, “she’s made me very rich.” Roose Bolton married to a Frey? Nothing odd about that Catelyn seems to be trying to tell herself–right?
Inside, Lord Frey interrupts the festivities and declares its time for the bedding ceremony–cuz “a sword needs a sheath.” Unlike Tyrion’s bash, there’s no threat of a royal de-sexing with an eating utensil. So that’s good. A drunken Edmure and his bride are carried off to their bed chamber. A smiling Robb turns to ask Not-Jeyne-Westerling about their impending baby. Is it a boy or a girl he asks? She claims if it’s a boy, she’d like to name him Eddard Stark. There’s a kiss. Lady Catelyn smiles watching them. Wait. Whats with all this sentiment? Is that music playing too loud? And why are we talking about the dead Ned Stark, again?
Then, as Lady Catelyn sits enjoying it all, she notices a Frey going to close the door to the main hall. She frowns at this. Around that time, the band suddenly switches up and starts to play a new song–The Rains of Castamere. Wait, that’s not a wedding appropriate song. That’s not appropriate at all! Catelyn doesn’t seem to think so either, seeming more concerned. The hall has gotten oddly empty. And the faces she sees don’t look…right. Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong.
Outside Robb’s direwolf Greywind has been placed in a big metal cage. He begins an ominous whine. The Stark army is still getting drunk off Lord Frey’s wine, not even noticing as Arya rolls up on her wagon full of hogs with the Hound. Oddly enough, they’re told the feast is over and they should turn around. Soldiers run to the castle past them.
Back in the hall, Catelyn is studying things when Lord Frey calls “Your Grace.” Robb turns from his wife, and walks towards the old man expectantly. Lord Frey says he’s been remiss, in not showing Robb the hospitality he deserves. Troubled by those cryptic words, Catelyn turns to Roose Bolton. And he gives her this…look…this creepy half-smile, like the cat who got into the canary cage look. And then she knows.. Something is very, very wrong. And did he just give a glance down to his sleeve?
She reaches down, snatching back his shirt to show something glinting beneath–chain mail. Hey, you know what you don’t wear to a wedding? Chain mail. I don’t care if it’s a night or day wedding! Not appropriate! Somewhere in the distance, Admiral Ackbar is screaming “It’s a trap! It’s a trap!”
Catelyn comes to her feet and slaps Roose Bolton, knowing he’s betrayed them. She calls to Robb urgently and he turns. But it’s too late. One of the Frey men steps forward with a knife, and shanks Not-Jeyne-Westerling in the belly–her pregnant belly–like this was a prison flick. She goes down clutching the bloody wound. Robb is in shock, until several arrows plunge into him. It all goes to hell after that.
The music has stopped. In the top balconies are men with crossbows, who keep the arrows coming. Even Catelyn takes a bolt to the back. Others start slitting the throats of any Starks left in the hall. Lord Walder Frey watches the massacre spreading out across the floor of his hall–where a wedding just took place–with the delight of a man at theater. Outside, Arya watches in horror as drunken Stark men are ambushed by heavily armed Freys–who slaughter them. Then, men with crossbows surround Greywind’s cage, killing the direwolf. Witnessing the carnage, The Hound grabs her, saying “it’s too late.” When she resists, he knocks her out and gets her the hell outta dodge.
Back in the bloody hall, Robb manages to crawl over to his dying wife. Lord Frey laughingly mocks, “The King of the North arises.” Catelyn, desperate, grabs Frey’s young wife. “Enough,” she says. She begs Lord Frey to end this now. To let her walk out with Robb, her first born son. Do that, or she’ll kill the girl. Walder Frey reminds her bitterly that both she and her son had made oaths to him before, to marry one of his daughters, only to break it. Catelyn even offers herself up as a hostage, begging Robb to get up and walk out. But Walder Frey isn’t having any of it. When Catelyn puts the knife closer to his wife’s throat, giving her oath as a Tully and a Stark that she’ll cut it, Lord Frey gives a second’s thought and merely says, “I’ll find another.” Old dude is cold.
Robb Stark manages to get back to his feet, and wearily looks to his mother as if to say, “it’s fine.” Roose Bolton walks up and looks him in the face, before running him through, with the last betraying words, “The Lannisters send their regards.”
An anguished Catelyn, watches her son die–the last of her children in her hands–and seems to go catatonic. But not before releasing a scream and making good on her threat, slicing through her hostage’s jugular. She stands there immobile, until someone slits her throat as well. As Lord Frey promised, the wine runs red.
And it’s done.
In the book, this becomes known as The Red Wedding. Quite possibly the most heart-wrenching scene for fans in the entire series. Reliving it again through HBO’s version was every bit as traumatic. Even the closing credits had a moment of silence. I was no more emotionally prepared now, as I was then. Some things were changed. Gone are the pounding drums (boom! boom! boom!) and the full extent of Catelyn’s growing worry. We don’t see Catelyn asking Edwin Frey of their oath of “bread and salt.” Roose Bolton actually leaves the hall before returning in armor to do in Robb. And it’s Edwin she feels the chain mail on–who she slaps. And the young Frey she kills is a mentally-challenged boy, not a girl. In fact, she is first attempting to put the knife at Walder Frey’s throat. Neither is the actual Jeyne Westerling killed; rather she is captured and remains a hostage. I suppose her expanded role (and recreation as Talisa) in HBO’s adaptation was given to make her death more vivid. But I think the full bloody tragedy and spectacle was achieved, nevertheless. And the gruesome stomach sinking finality of it is much the same.
Robb Stark, the King of the North, is dead. Catelyn Stark, is dead. The war of the North is over. This family must be made to give us heartache.