The Lannisters send their regards
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: David Nutter
**If you're reading this and have not yet seen "The Rains of Castamere", then I would advise you to close out of whatever tab you have this review open on right now. This episode contains, in my opinion, the biggest spoiler in all of Game of Thrones (save for anything that occurs in season 8), so if you want to get the full effect of this episode, then do not read any further until you have watched the episode in its entirety.
Alright folks, how are we doing? Are we still breathing? Yes? Good. I know it's hard to try and keep yourself together, but I'm here to promise you that we're all going to make it through. The sun will still come up in the morning and life will go on. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through myself when I saw "The Rains of Castamere" for the very first time a few years ago. I fondly remember how much trouble I had falling asleep on that cold Friday night, all alone in my apartment bedroom, not able to fully comprehend what I had put myself through. I had just witnessed an episode of television that rattled me to my core, more than any other episode of television that I can ever remember seeing. I think that "Ozymandias" from Breaking Bad still has me won over as the greatest episode of television that I have ever seen, but "The Rains of Castamere" is way way way way up there. This is more than a plot twist that is stunning to the umpteenth degree; this is a moment in the series that crushes all our remaining hopes that characters resembling honor and respect will make it out of this game alive. Even George R.R. Martin, originally writing the chapter containing The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords back in 2000, had to skip over the chapter and come back to it because of how traumatizing the chapter would be to readers and now to viewers ten plus years later.
I of course am referring to what goes down in the final ten minutes of "The Rains of Castamere", but before I go full steam ahead with The Red Wedding, I want to give a little love to what happens beforehand in the episode, because I think everyone else forgot that Daenerys, Bran, and Jon Snow are also featured in this episode. Daenerys continues to build up her forces in Essos, having now gained the allegiance of Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein) and the Second Sons. She only grows stronger as Daario, Jorah, and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) sneak in to Yunkai and kill several slave soldiers, later returning to tell Daenerys that the city is hers. My main issue with Daenerys' storyline this season has been her lack of setbacks. At least while she was with the Dothraki, she had to learn how to truly love her husband. Then in Qarth, she had to deal with her dragons being stolen. This season? Well...I guess Yunkai didn't go down without a fight. Seasons one and two were great at building up Daenerys and showing us how she was able to overcome the odds, thus making her worthy of the all the support she has been getting from the likes of Jorah and the Dothraki. Season three has not continued that trend, sadly.
Meanwhile, Bran and Jon Snow find themselves together in the same location; Bran and his group take shelter in a windmill, while Jon and the wildlings are right outside, deciding what to do with an old man that they took horses from. Here we get both Jon and Bran revealing part of their true natures: Jon refuses to execute the old man, revealing that his loyalties still lie with the Night's Watch. Bran is able to tap into his warg abilities for the first time, first entering Hodor's mind to stop him from yelling about the thunder, and then entering the mind of his direwolf Summer to assist Jon in the fight with the wildlings. I like the way D&D coupled these two revealing moments together; it's a big step forward for both Jon and Bran's respective character arcs, and it's all the more impactful because Jon has no idea that Bran is in his general vicinity. If Bran had let his presence be known to Jon, it would slow down the pacing and soften the blow of this break-up between Jon and the widlings, as we would get a heated fight scene immediately followed by a heartwarming reunion, and that would be kind of awkward.
And now, the main event: the episode's final scene where Game of Thrones does its worst, stabbing you square in the heart and twisting the knife until it feels as if all blood circulation in your body has stopped altogether. After Edmure Tully and his new bride are dismissed from the celebration, Walder Frey rises to announce to Robb that he has not shown him the hospitality he deserves. That's when Roose Bolton gives Catelyn a suspicious look, and she finds that he is wearing chainmail underneath. The slaughter begins: one of the Frey sons stabs Talisa in the abdomen several times, Robb and Catelyn are struck by crossbows, and the other Stark bannermen are killed one by one. Never has a scene in Game of Thrones escalated so quickly from calm to pure pandemonium until now. This revelation that will forever be known as The Red Wedding is such a shock to the system that it has spawned a series of Youtube reaction videos, capturing the genuine reactions of unknowing viewers. It only gets worse from there: a grief stricken Robb looks over his now deceased wife, as Catelyn tries to convince Walder Frey to let Robb walk free, threatening to slit his wife's throat. Walder refuses, and Roose Bolton walks over, telling Robb what Jaime Lannister said when he left Harrenhal, "The Lannisters send their regards." Bolton stabs Robb with a knife, and Catelyn watches as her son falls over dead. She lets out a final scream and kills Walder Frey's wife, with the camera easing in on her as we watch her will to live seemingly flow out of her. Then to kick us while we're down, one of Walder's sons walks over and slits Catelyn's throat.
The first thing I want to mention: it is a crime that Michelle Fairley did not win an Emmy for this episode, let alone never win an Emmy for her acting in Game of Thrones period. In terms of pure acting skill, Fairley is arguably the very best out of anyone who has ever been a part of the cast, and that's saying a lot cause there a ton of pretty damn great actors that have been in the series at some point. The way that Fairley pleadingly speaks Catelyn's final distraught words and the look on her face right before her throat is cut sound and look so natural, it's almost as if D&D had no need to show Catelyn getting killed. She was already dead as she looked on at the dead bodies of her son and of her new daughter-in-law. The episode could have cut to black as the camera was still easing in on Catelyn's traumatized face, and we would be no better off.
Anyone watching Game of Thrones for the first time most certainly doubted that the show could never top the unpredictable, stunning death of Ned Stark. Even when the reality of Ned's death sunk in, viewers would go through seasons two and three, thinking that perhaps George R.R. Martin envisioned the War of the Five Kings would be a tale of revenge for House Stark. But The Red Wedding destroyed those hopes. In one fell swoop, all our remaining hopes that Ned Stark would be avenged and that the wicked members of House Lannister would be defeated, those hopes were permanently sent to the grave. Evil characters emerging victorious is nothing brand new to film or television. Given the mistakes made by Robb Stark, something like The Red Wedding, in hindsight, felt inevitable. What it means going forward is why The Red Wedding breaks our hearts and psychologically damages us as much as it does. With this one scene, George R.R. Martin makes it certain that his book series, and almost all of Game of Thrones for that matter, will not fall under the usual guise of heroes defeating villains. It is Martin defying all almost usual tropes of not just the fantasy genre, but of story telling all together. The Red Wedding leaves us with no choice but to fully accept the fact that Martin's fantasy world is one where, as Ned Stark's death first taught us, honor and respect don't earn you titles and respect; they get you killed.
Whatever flaws exist in "The Rains of Castamere"' early scenes are pretty much irrelevant. The magnitude of the episode's final 10-15 minutes is something that no one of a fragile psyche should be allowed to watch. That being said, anyone with a fragile psyche should not be allowed to watch Game of Thrones period, because the dramatic blow that "The Rains of Castamere" delivers, primarily with the build-up of the previous 28 episodes, may just be too much to handle. I'm being serious here. This is one of the most trauma-inducing moments to ever air in the history of television, which is what is propelling me to hurry up and continue reading all the A Song of Ice and Fire novels so that I can see how Martin originally contrived the event on paper. D&D have stated in interviews that the chance to create The Red Wedding was one of the main reasons they approached George R.R. Martin so that they could create Game of Thrones, and seeing the way it plays out, you know that they poured their hearts and souls into the sequence, knowing it would go down as the most unforgettable moment in the entire series. D&D could do almost anything with the remaining characters in season 8. I don't think it matters. No plot twist they came up with will be able to outdo what The Red Wedding did, and no other moment in Game of Thrones will hurt us the way The Red Wedding does. It hurts so much, and it's a big part of why I love this show as much as I do.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: