Can we talk about The Rains Of Castamere?

Feature Juliette Harrisson 4 Jun 2013 - 07:00

We need to talk about what went on in this week's Game of Thrones, The Rains of Castamere. Massive spoilers ahead...

Warning: this piece contains major, major Game of Thrones spoilers. Avoid it like the plague unless you've seen season three, episode nine or read the books.

One of the more brilliant decisions David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have made in the course of adapting George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire for television is to put the most dramatic and/or shocking events of the season in the penultimate episode, episode nine of each season. In season one’s Baelor, the show’s apparent lead character was unceremoniously beheaded in front of his two teenaged daughters, and no matter how many jokes we’ve all made since then about how everyone should have seen it coming because he was played by Sean Bean, at the time that was a big rug-pull. Season two’s episode nine, Blackwater, was a huge battle that took over the entire episode, directed by a movie director known for violent and bloody films (Neil Marshall), and while only minor characters actually died, the effect of Baelor was such that genuine fear was felt for our heroes, especially Tyrion (by anyone who hadn’t read the books at least). 

And now we come to season three.

There are basically two huge events in Game of Thrones so far that have separated book readers from TV-only fans, that change the way we view the series and ensure that nothing in the books’ world will ever be the same again. The first was Ned Stark getting his head chopped off, and the second is the event unanimously christened ‘the Red Wedding’ by fans for… obvious reasons. Poor long-dead Ned’s downfall pales in comparison to this bloodbath and book fans have been waiting eight long weeks to see it, itching to put poor, deluded TV fans out of their misery, but hopefully too kind to do so. 

The structure of this episode was sublime. For the first time since season one, this is an episode all about the Starks (it’s also only the second episode in the series not to feature Peter Dinklage as Tyrion, following season one’s You Win Or You Die). The whole thing is built around doomed attempts to reunite members of the Stark family, who, as the dialogue points out, haven’t been so physically close to each other since season one. We get two reminders of poor Ned’s grisly death, as well as a more subtle reminder of their family values as both Jon and Arya fight against the rampant killing that comes with constant warfare. And of course, by the end, the only two pairs of Starks still together (not counting the wolves) have been separated, Bran and Rickon for Rickon’s safety, Catelyn and Robb by their vicious murders. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to season two’s Lannister/Baratheon-centric Blackwater, though it makes the few cuts to Daenerys’ story feel like an intrusion, no matter how much Ser Jorah emotes at the screen.

(We realise we just counted Sansa as a Lannister. To be fair, as of Second Sons, technically this is accurate).

It’s Catelyn and Robb’s story that drives this episode, opening it with tense strategy and closing it with gushing blood. Luckily there is some humour to lighten the mood towards the beginning and prevent the whole thing from becoming unwatchably awful. Edmure Tully’s expression as he examines Walder Frey’s girls, wondering which one he will end up with, is priceless. He really should have guessed something was up when he was given the beautiful one, but Walder Frey looks at Robb as if to imply that this is his petty revenge – showing Robb what he’s missing – so Edmure is forgiven for not smelling a rat, and so are viewers. Roose Bolton’s teetotal habit was also set up a few episodes earlier (when he has dinner with Jaime and Brienne in The Climb) so even his refusal of the wine doesn’t seem as suspicious as it did in the book, making the sudden turn of events following Edmure’s bedding that much more unexpected for anyone who doesn’t know what’s coming. 

For those who do know what’s coming, of course, the entire episode is like watching that moment in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Cedric Diggory says goodbye to his father and walks into the maze. Except that this lasts nearly an hour. The emphasis on the oncoming storm in Bran’s storyline may be a little cheesy in context, but cheesy or not it works, and the entire hour has that sense of grim foreboding and claustrophobic tightness that comes before a real storm. Perhaps most effective is Arya, staring at her brother’s camp, too genre savvy to expect that everything will be okay now. We know she’s right. 

The scene itself is a masterful combination of details from the books and new elements. Weiss and Benioff’s particular stroke of genius lay in creating the character of Talisa Maegyr to replace Jeyne Westerling as Robb’s wife. Because she’s a new character, even those of us who’ve read the books genuinely didn’t know whether she would be killed along with the rest, or whether she would turn out to have been a Lannister spy all along (as implied by the quick cut from Orell insisting to Jon that people only love each other when it suits them to Talisa writing a mysterious letter in the Martin-penned The Bear and the Maiden Fair). There was genuine tension surrounding what would happen to her for all viewers, book-readers and TV fans alike. And then, of course, she becomes the first casualty. She and Robb’s unborn child are killed together in the first, vicious attack and you can see the fight go out of Robb as he crawls over to her bleeding body. Catelyn still has something to fight for as long as Robb’s alive, but when he dies so does she – she already looks dead even before her throat is cut.

One element that is straight out of the books is the musicians switching from playing The Bear and the Maiden Fair to The Rains of Castamere, the Lannisters’ song about slaughtering their enemies. Benioff and Weiss mention in their DVD commentary on episode one of season two, when this tune is first introduced (Tyrion whistles it and it plays later in the background as Cersei confronts Littlefinger) that they needed to include the song as much as possible so that the audience would recognise it when the moment came. They did their best, having Bronn sing it and draw attention to it in Blackwater and having Cersei explain the lyrics to Margaery in the previous episode, Second Sons, but there will still be viewers without a good memory for tunes who won’t recognise it. That doesn’t really matter though. The look on Catelyn’s face when she hears it is enough to tell us that something is wrong, and the tune itself is brooding enough that it sounds threatening even if you don’t know what it is. 

Other than Talisa’s presence, events play out more or less as in the book, albeit with a slightly reduced role for Grey Wind (though we do see him die) and a slightly different take on Arya’s story (implying that anything too terrible had happened to her too would be a bit much all at once). It’s a shame to lose Catelyn’s pathetic final plea (‘not my hair, Ned loves my hair’) but worth it for that utterly blank petrification that takes over Michelle Fairley’s whole body just before her character is killed. There is one notable line change, the significance of which we won’t speculate on too much in order to avoid spoilers; we will just say that the reason ‘Jaime Lannister’ was changed to ‘the Lannisters’ (in the line "the Lannisters send their regards") is probably to keep the focus of the episode firmly on the Starks. None of the Lannisters were mentioned by name in this episode, and certainly not likeable characters like Tyrion and (as of season three) Jaime. Although it’s clear from the use of ‘The Rains of Castamere’ that the Lannisters are ultimately behind this, and the focus on Casterly Rock on the map at the beginning reinforced that, reminding viewers of Lannisters they like would detract from the horror of the scene – better to focus on the Starks’ tragedy.

This was the scene that book readers have been looking forward to (in a wanting-to-rip-off-the-band-aid sort of way) and that needed to shock and stun TV fans. If it had gone wrong, and been done badly, that could have really hurt the show. Luckily, Benioff and Weiss have produced a masterpiece. Game of Thrones was always, on some level, about the Starks, or so we all thought. With Robb gone, who do we root for? Stannis, the dullest man alive? Balon Greyjoy, who thinks his son is a wimp because he hasn’t murdered enough people? Joffrey?! The creators (who wrote this episode) knew how important this scene was and they’ve given it their all, culminating in a devastating performance from Michelle Fairley as Catelyn, so traumatising that even the credit sequence is in shock (who knew that silent credits could be so creepy?). As Walder Frey said, "the wine will flow red and the music will play loud" indeed…

Read our episode review of The Rains of Castamere, here.

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F**k this show

One day, I'm going to do a huge GoT marathon with a detailed map of Westeros and a complete family tree by my side, just so I can finally follow with everything that's going on. Thank god I can greatly enjoy the series without getting every bit.

One of the finest episodes of television ever crafted. An immeasurable viewing experience from start to end, masterful.

I'm still in shock and cannot stop thinking about it. Even after next week, this will live long in the memory. Superbly done - one of the most genuinely shocking, brutal and rug-pulling pieces of television I've ever seen.

I don't get people who don't want to carry on watching though: come on, the series is compulsive as that was horrific, and surely there's some retribution, somewhere along the line.

Also - nice to finally have some competition for the Lannister Rat as 'Character Who Evokes Hatred'.

Yeah, it wasn't bad was it?

A brilliant episode! They definitely did an excellent job bringing the Red Wedding to life! I was soooo hoping Talisa would get out of there! The whole pregnancy thing just makes it worse! :( Can we hope the Blackfish escaped when he went out to "look for a tree"?

DROP THE MIKE AND EXIT STAGE LEFT!!! Well played GoT! Well played, indeed.

A friend told me there was a shock moment coming but (because he's a friend) wouldn't tell me what. I did see it coming when the doors got closed on the room full of Stark celebrants, but then so did Catelyn so that's ok. I do feel sorry for Sansa when she finds out about her brother and mother.

In terms of who to root for to win the Game of Thrones now, I think it's obvious. Dany. Her father may have been a mad, murdering bastard, but then so was her brother and we don't hold that against her. Hopefully next season we will see her make it to Westeros, and her dragons will have another growth spurt to a size that means they are a threat to more than one person at a time. Also hopefully Jorah won't make some bad decisions out of jealousy to the new smarmy pretty boy in Dany's life. Although he probably will.

Read the books - it'll make more sense and be more enjoyable. Then re-watch the series and you'll notice the difference!

He's also a contender cause he date's Jenna Louise Coleman

Lucky son of a .............

Yup, thought the exact same thing straight after the episode but I still love it in a weird masochistic way. Great acting, directing and story but dear lord it can be depressing!

I agree that the showrunners have been brave because lets' face it - Martin essentially turned round to the GoT faithfull (Books then TV of course) and told them they can go f*** themselves because no character is safe. To do that in a book series is bold, to do that in the TV series could hole the whole thing below the waterline in terms of viewer numbers.

Of course I hope it won't as this series needs to continue that challenging trend. Let's see how well HBO keep up their end of the bargain.

Loved it. The wife hated it, because there was no Tyrion in it . Bit worried about her :-)

Given they've included the Red Wedding, I can't see them shirking from any of the other big moments

I think this season has been excellent, the changes that have been made from the novels have been small and with real purpose. In season 2, they seemed to be just doing what they felt like and too much was altered for no apparent reason.

It's the first season I've really enjoyed. Season 1 had me watching how they did it rather than the story and, like I say 2 was just odd at times and left me unsettled by the alterations.

Looking forwards to next week's episode already. If it's the other wedding, then I hope they include the pigs.

How is saying no character is safe telling people to go f**k themselves?

I don't think the show could keep someone alive when the books killed them off. There's no purpose in that and it untangles the web.

And that is what thrills and worries me in equal measure.

I think the person that said it was saying that Martin is not afraid to lure you in, get you nice and cosy with a character, then promptly stomp on the reader/viewer by killing them off (or worse).

Trust me, I think that is a very good thing - I just don't think everyone will see it that way.

In fairness Robb was never that main a character in the books (given that he was the only Stark child that wasn't a Point of View character, apart from Rickon, I expected something bad to happen to him since half way through the first book.)
Martin made it very clear from the start of the first book that no one was safe (Bran being pushed out a window is quite a huge thing) and beheading Ned should have confirmed it for anyone thinking he is not brave enough to kill off any character.
As for the writer's being brave for keeping it in, imagine the problems they would have created for themselves if they hadn't have kept it in (not to mention the fury of book fans!)
They would have to completely re-write most of what happens in Westeros to keep Robb and Catelyn alive and having active roles in the story...which would only hurt them in the long term as a huge part of the stories at this point is the fall of the North.

You like her? So do I. That's how I know she is doomed.

And that's why I thank the Old and New Gods that HBO picked this up. Can you imagine NBC or CBS have the brass balls to keep as faithful to the books as HBO have (within reason of book length of course).

Dany's group of confidants is growing and although they all seem loyal to her, it does not mean that they are loyal to each other. Don't forget that Jorah doesn't see eye to eye with Barriston either. Out of the all the characters, she's the one I'd like to see on the Iron Throne. If Tyrion could some how make it onto the Iron Throne he'd be a great choice to be king; even though it wouldn't last long as I doubt the other characters would want to be bossed around by an imp.


I'm on book 1, so this is pure speculation and no spoilers. I have a feeling Littlefinger will become the new power. I recall he had a crush on Catelyn, and he is on his way to marry Catelyn's crazy sister/ inherit their massive army (remember Catelyn first lobbied her before anyone else to send troops to fight the Lannisters). He is clearly not a fan of Joffery and I could see him rallying the survivors of the House Tully along with the Northerners.

The only thing about Littlefinger is that he's clearly a behind the scenes plotter/schemer and not a general, so it will be interesting to see who he'll have command his forces. Maybe Blackfish (assuming he survived?)
I also have a feeling Brienne will lose it after finding out what happened and maybe rallying the house of Tarth? I can't wait to see how this unwinds!!

It's not going to be that. There's loads of Storm of Swords to go, so that'll come early next season.

I must say that I love seeing people who haven't read the books speculating about what will happen next. For two reasons.
1. Lots of them are on the money.
2. Most of them get it so spectacularly wrong

It's great! :)

Fantastic review! Well done.

I am a person who chooses to watch the show first before reading the next book installment I find that my expectations become to high for shows if I expect it to come I am so glad I have kept to this. This episode was so devastating, My bf and I actually couldn't sleep last night. That's how well done this show is. For them to make you invest so much into the show that you are just as devastated as Catelyn afterwards is a testament of the quality. These kinds of things do tend to make viewers stop watching. Its devastating enough to make them quit. You have to be brave to slaughter the nicest family on the show because the backlash will be immense. Not a lot of shows is willing to take those risks for fear of angering their audience. I will tell you, this is the first time I am glad there is a week before the next episode. I am going to need it to recover from this one.

I agree that the other wedding cannot come yet, but I can see them bringing forward the epilogue of Storm of Swords into the the season 3 finale. It would actually make sense to do that dramatically and wouldn't be a problem in terms of narrative/chronology

I was devastated when I read the book, I was devastated when I watched the episode, no piece of media has ever managed to touch me on such an emotional level, this felt like a real loss....just marvelous storytelling

I just read this part today. I was rereading parts because I couldn't believe really what I was reading. The Starks are screwed. I wonder though if the surviving Stark's will join with Daenerys when she arrives?

I know, right? Practically everyone I know adores Dany, so I'm guessing something utterly heartbreaking is going to happen to her - probably in the final book.

I read the books, so I knew about the Red Wedding. Although I found the TV version a bit underwhelming, I'm somewhat glad they kept the killing of Grey Wind as off-screen as possible.

You my friend Harrison are a scoundrel! You would try to put a positive spin on a tsunami that floods the land and drowns 100,000 new born puppies and you would spin it as a masterpiece of realistic art that the audience never saw coming. You took the same crazy position after the Spartacus finale and it's because you don't have a righteous bone in your body. You and others can't comprehend or understand why some of us would be upset that characters who we've grown to love, who have been wronged by the ovious villainous scum get to continue on without proper retribution and I mean violent retribution not provided by some third party who nobody cares about, but by the people who have been destroyed by the cheap cowardly tactics of those who we've grown to hate passionately. I'm not saying that we should rewrite history(Spartacus) or rewrite an authors work, but the insensitive, positive spin that you put on these things baffles all of us with a soul. You and anyone who thinks like you is clueless and doesn't understand what a thoughtful audience wants to see. I'll be back for more as the Voice of Reason that you obviously need more than you know. Out!

I won't go into details for fear of spoilers, but I don't think that's a good idea. Best save it.

Fantastic episode. Fantastic series.

Events like this are the reason GoT is head and shoulders above most shows around. Brave and powerful and ultimately, despite the loss of some really interesting, well written and performed characters, the experience is made much better for it.

...and the silent credits trick hasn't been so powerful since the Cybermen got Adric, back in '82.

The lack of boobage in this ep told us something bad was going to happen :p


I really want to read the books, but I'm glad I haven't yet. I can't imagine being this shocked and horrifed by this episode if I'd known what was coming. Genuinely one of the biggest emotional shocks I've ever had watching tv. What a Brilliant Show!!

The episodes that I remember clearest of any show tend to feature the end of a character. DW (Adric), Eureka (Stark), Spooks (lots of them, but especially poor Colin Wells). Good TV should be a little challenging.

I keep on hearing about this being the end of the Starks, and I can't
help but think '...but the junior Lannisters/Boltons/Freys/etc aren't
developing insane magic powers'. If Bran, without any training, is
already more powerful than any warg in history (in that he's the first
to be able to do 'the impossible' and possess another human), surely
that's got to be counted as an advantage up there with Dany's dragons?

Especially if (SPOILERS - minor and predictable, but SPOILERS NONETHELESS)























It turns out to be a family trait:-).

Like to see how Dany's army and dragons will take on a foe who can just possess her and rule while in possession of her body:-). (though granted, even when other Starks start warging, taking possession of other humans seems to be Bran-specific awesomeness).

Just watched it today, but knew what was going to happen as had read the book. My wife begged the night before to know what happens as her facebook feed was covered with GoT statuses. She said today she was glad i told her otherwise she'd be blubbing her heart out after watching it :(

Yep, a friend a mine was just saying a few weeks ago that he couldnt wait to see Robb kill Joffrey when he attacked King's Landing - ahh poor lad, sooooo wrong lol

just a minor didn't come up with the name "red wedding" it's called that by many characters in the books

DAny ending up on the throne would be just to predictable. And I like dany, but most people only like her because she is surrounded by her so cool dragons... she comes across really bitchy in the books and is a little bit annoying, what I don't like on the show is that the writers obviously favour some characaters (Tyrion, dany) and other seem to get neglected by them, like jon snow or stannis, who are great characters in the books.

Not likely, Dany hates the Starks just as much as the Lannisters (seeing as how Ned Stark was practically a brother to the 'usurping dog' Robert Baratheon) she'll see the lack of a House Stark in the North as a huge bonus, because it is one less house for her to get revenge on.

I've read the books and, even though I wasn't surprised, I was still horrified. Horrified! Oh god... I'm still in the feotal position...

Annoyingly I saw a spoiler saying what happens the morning this aired on the telly. It lost it's impact on me sadly because I was expecting it :(

I've been waiting for days to read this article as I didn't have time to watch it but saw the episode last night and one word in this fantastic article just about sums up the episode and the show in general: masterpiece!

I couldnt stop thinking about it for hours afterward and got to thinking who is left to stop the Lanisters. I couldnt think of anyone so was wondering where the show could go from here, but then I remembered Daenerys Targaryen and her slave army - very much looking forward to seeing her march into Kings Landing!

I'm hoping this event gets Jon Snow moving, surely he's going to get a lot more involved in events soon!

I like her because she's gone from "slight character being taken vigorously in a tent on the orders of her horrible brother" to "incredibly noble woman, committed to the freedom of slaves and the fair rule of her homeland".

Even without the dragons she would be someone to root for. She's great.

Though I do agree that it would be a little too predictable.

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