It is here. The dreaded and anticipated Red Wedding has happened and we are left with all our anger and grief. I'd be at loss to think of a sequence that I consider more cruel or more shocking. George R.R. Martin books were filled with prophecies and signs written in a way that as I reached that chapter I still didn't know what will happen. And then everything fell into place.
Before I discuss a sequence that made me so deeply shocked when I read it in the book and so horrified I had nightmares about it, I need to discuss two other storylines that we saw in this episode.
In Queenscrown, Bran and Rickon are hiding, while storm is approaching. Meanwhile, at the same place Jon is gathering with the wildings. There is an old man there and wildings want to kill him so he wouldn't warn the Night's Watch about them approaching. They tell Jon to kill him but he can't and Ygritte shoots the man with the arrow. The wildings want to kill Jon and at the same time Bran is warging into Hodor to make him stop shouting. Then he successfully warges into Summer and Shaggy who help Jon and attack the wildings. Jon kills Orell who before dying warges into an eagle and attacks Jon. He manages to escape, though and Ygritte looks angry and shocked that he abandoned her. The Stark kids were almost reunited here.
But soon after that Bran and Rickon separate - Rickon is going with Osha and Bran will travel with Reeds. It was a touching little scene and it was great to see Rickon finally doing something.
Meanwhile in Yunkai, Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario sneak into city and the battle begins. Daenerys awaits them and then they arrive - Jorah informs her that they won and Daenerys asks about Daario. The look on Jorah's face was horrible - you could actually see his heart breaking. At this point the only thing that can make me root for Dany again is if she flies on Drogon to The Twins and fries Walder Frey.
Arya and The Hound are approaching The Twins for the wedding. Arya is soon to be reunited with her family. On their way Hound wants to kill a traveler but Arya stops him. Then they talk a little and Arya tells him she knows he is afraid of fire. She also tells him one day she will kill him. Then she looks at the Twins again, where her brother and mother are.
At the Twins Robb, Catelyn, Talisa, Edmure and Blackfish are welcomed by Walder Frey, his wife and his many children. They eat bread and salt - sealing the guest right. The guest right is a sacred thing - once you ate the bread and tasted the salt the host can't do any harm to the guests or he will be cursed.
Walder looks at Talisa and makes several gross and perverted remarks but Robb and Catelyn try to act polite and gracious. At the wedding ceremony we finally see Edmure's bride - Roslin. They chose just perfect actress as she looked exactly how Martin described her. She is actually very pretty unlike the other Freys and Edmure is very pleased as Walder Frey and Robb exchange glances.
I really liked how the wedding and part of the reception was so light in tone. Blackfish exchanging looks with Frey women, the happy music, Catelyn looking relaxed. Then...then the horror came.
Catelyn sits next to Roose Bolton and they talk a little. Meanwhile Robb and Talisa talk about their unborn child and Talisa says she wants to name him Eddard, after Robb's father. Well, fuck my life this just made everything so much worse. The two kiss and Catelyn, who is standing next to them, looks very happy seeing her son's happiness...
As Arya is outside the Twins, inside Walder calls for bedding ceremony. Roslin and Edmure are carried away. We shift focus to Catelyn who notices that one of the Freys is locking the door. Then the musicians in the gallery start playing The Rains of Castamere...The look on Catelyn's face was hands down my favorite moment of the episode. It was literally how I imagined that moment to play out.
We see the cage Grey Wind is locked in outside. He is howling and scratching the door, sensing the danger Robb is in. Inside the Twins Walder Frey says that he never gave Robb a wedding gift. One of the Freys approaches smiling and unsuspecting Talisa and stabs her repeatedly in the stomach. The musicians start shooting and the quarrels pierce Robb and one reaches Cat who falls on the floor.
Outside Arya is next to Grey Wind's cage. Suddenly she sees men coming out of Twins and brutally slit the throats of northmen. Then they shoot Grey Wind and horrified Arya sees him die. That was just..heart wrenching.
Inside the slaughter continues as Robb is crawling towards stabbed Talisa and as Freys are slitting the throats of everyone in the room. Robb looks at dead Talisa, at her bloodied body, at his dead unborn child. You could actually see the will to live leave him at this moment. Richard Madden was fantastic here.
The Hound grabs Arya and tells her they are too late. The slaughter continues. Catelyn sees Walder's young wife hiding under the table and grabs her. She holds a knife to her throat and says she will kill her unless they let Robb go. Robb looks at her and says "mother" clearly not wanting to go on. Catelyn is devastated. She yells to Walder that Robb is her son, her first son....
Suddenly Roose Bolton appears and says "The Lannisters send their regards". He stabs Robb and he falls on the floor, dead, next to Talisa. Catelyn lets out devastating scream and slits the girl's throat. Then she is standing there, emotionless, grief-stricken, catatonic. One of the Freys comes from behind her and slits her throat.
There are several changes from the book made in the show, most of which I am fine with. I'd prefer if the whole sequence was done faithfully to the book, but it's not the perfect world, isn't it? One of the alterations was the lack of significant northmen in the sequence. There was no introductions to them in the show, so for TV audience they were all random while when you read the book you were affected by all those men, faithful to Robb, dying in their futile attempts to rescue their king.
Another alteration is obviously Talisa. Since it was said she is pregnant in the show I just knew she will die here and die in such a way. The showrunners had to compensate the emotional impact somehow, since the connection between Grey Wind and Robb was so poorly portrayed. So while Grey Wind still dies, which is horrible, the audience can also be shaken by Robb witnessing his pregnant wife stabbed in the stomach.
In the books one of the most iconic lines is Roose' Jaime Lannister sends his regards', altered here to "The Lannisters send their regards". While the line was fantastic I can certainly understand why it was changed as some of the audience might have incorrectly thought Jaime had a hand in planning the massacre.
Two things which I certainly missed - first one being Jinglebell. He was Walder's grandson who was mentally challenged and because of that he was a fool in The Twins. He had jester costume, with those bells attached to the hat and sleeves. In a number of prophecies it was noted that bells were the saddest sound for it was actually him that Cat dragged out from under the table and swore to kill. I was horrified by all of that. This poor boy, hiding under the table, scared while Cat grabs his hair and holds a knife to his throat after which she starts sawing on it, till she reaches the bone.
In the show it was altered and the point remained just the same - Cat going so desperate, so furious, so horrified she is willing to kill innocent person, though to be perfectly honest it didn't seem like the girl was completely clueless to what was being planned there. She threatens Walder's young wife instead and kills her. I suppose showing mentally challenged person killed in such manner would be were HBO draws the line so I understand the change. But I still missed the bells.
And the final thing I'm sad about - the most gruesome and horrifying image of the very massacre was Cat clawing her own face. When she saw Robb die and killed Jinglebell she started scratching her own face, deep beneath the skin, tearing off flesh. Then she saw the blood run down her arms and she started to laugh. In the final moments when someone grabbed her hair her final thought was "don't cut my hair, Ned loves my hair". She has gone so completely insane that she believed someone was going to cut her hair and she forgot her husband was dead thinking he will be sad about that.
In the show we got catatonic, paralyzed reaction which also worked effectively. But the image of Cat with red and white tears flowing together was so iconic to me, I have to note that I don't understand why at least a part of that wasn't kept here. That said the look on Michelle Fairley's face was haunting. The look of someone who has witnessed something so awful, their soul looks like it just died. Fairley was outstanding here and managed to beat Lena Headey's work in Blackwater as my favorite female performance of the series.
We got nods to the book despite changes - the part where Catelyn sees the chain mail under the shirt and slaps the one wearing it was kept and I was so happy that Cat got to slap Roose Bolton in the series. There are several hugely shocking events in The Storm of Swords and Red Wedding is just the start of them. Unfortunately we will have to wait for the rest until next season when King's Landing will be the stage of many twists and turns.
Red Wedding is still the most devastating of book events. It's not just Stark tragedy - it's the tragedy of the whole North. Most of the important houses had someone there at the Twins, attending the wedding. Each family lost someone. Not only did Robb die, his soldiers, his forces were slaughtered and scattered ending the Northern rebellion. The Young Wolf, Stark hope for justice - dead.
But perhaps the most shocking thing here and the reason for which I thought "they can't possibly kill them" when I was reading the book is the guest right aspect of it all. The Freys slaughtered their guests, under their roof. This is why the whole realm is shocked by Red Wedding. Guest right is something that is absolutely sacred and those who break it bring the wrath of gods upon them.
It's not over. The main architect of Red Wedding is yet to be revealed but I'm fairly certain you can guess who it was (“Some wars are won with swords others with quills and ravens."). Unfortunately for us the most gruesome part of Red Wedding hasn't been shown yet and as that part was filmed I suspect we will see it in the finale.
This Sunday - season finale entitled Mhysa (Mother). I hope I'm correct in my assumptions for what I think will be the final scene of the season. Because we truly need hope.