The Rains of Castamere. Where do I even begin with this one? Chances are by the time this goes up, you’ve seen something, somewhere, talking about the audience reaction to the events of last night’s episode. You’ve seen people familiar only with the show freak out, and you’ve probably seen people who read the books years ago telling them not to freak out and stop watching the show, because you’re in for a treat soon (that treat probably getting pushed to sometime next year).
So let’s get the nasty business of the Red Wedding out of the way first. Holy crap, how could they do that, yadda yadda yadda. The scene was done very effectively, and all the complaints about the writers changing Jeyne Westerling into Talisa and actually giving her some presence as a character (still not sure why people had a problem with that change) paid off. Was it a bit over the top? Yes. Did it push the bounds of good taste? Definitely. But despite the brutality of it, it was the perfect outcome for this particular story about honor and oath breaking.
And now, a little bit of a tough love perspective. Look at it this way. Aside from Sansa and Rickon, all of the useless Starks are dead now, giving the ones we should actually give a crap about more screen time. For everyone saying there’s no reason to watch the show, have you forgotten about Jon, Arya, and Bran? What about Tyrion, Dany, Jaime, Brienne, and the other half dozen characters who are much more compelling than the ones that met their demise last night?
The most heartbreaking thing about last night’s episode, for me, was watching the various wayward Starks come so close to being reunited before circumstances drove them apart. It happened twice, first with Bran (whose story just got a hell of a lot more interesting) taking control of his Direwolf and helping Jon in the fight outside of the windmill he was hiding in; and again with Arya trying like hell to sneak past the chaos and not being quite fast enough to let Grey Wind out of his cage, which I guess we’re supposed to believe would have led to a totally different outcome.
Before moving on, I want to give props to Michelle Fairley, and her portrayal of Catelyn Stark. Cat was a pretty thankless character, and one I’m under the impression was not a fan favorite. I felt Fairley nailed the character every single time, however, and last night’s final moments were a brilliant cap to her time in the role.
Moving on to the rest of the episode: After helping out Jon, however indirectly, the time comes for Bran and the Reeds to part ways with Osha, Rickon, and Hodor. This scene is great not only because Bran is finally starting to make choices, but because Rickon is shown to exist and be capable of talking and having emotions and stuff. They part ways (probably for the last time, a fact only underscored by the Red Wedding), and Osha takes Rickon to one of the Stark bannermen while Bran follows the Reeds to find a way North of the Wall, in search of some mythical figure that will hopefully shed some light on the whole White Walker business and how to take care of it. Probably not, though.
Jon comes to blows with the other wildlings when he is asked to prove his loyalty by killing a man who sells horses to the Watch. He refuses to murder the man and the others try to kill him. Ygritte makes as though to stand by his side, but Jon, knowing he will likely not survive the encounter, pushes her away. Bran and Rickon’s dire wolves intervene and Jon is able to escape, leaving a heartbroken Ygritte behind with Tormund, who tells her that Jon has betrayed her. It’s a good action scene that makes effective use of one of the show’s more mystical elements without going over into camp.
Across the narrow sea, Dany makes her move against Yunkai. It’s a testament to the final events of the episode that the battle of Yunkai is barely being talked about, because what little of it we do see is great. Jorah, Daario, and Grey Worm infiltrate the city through a guard house and are quickly surrounded. What follows is an incredibly staged sequence as the three men, each with wildly different fighting styles and weapons, not to mention varying levels of trust, work together to take out a large group of attackers. The scene ends with them surrounded, and the rest of the battle takes place off screen (as it did in the book…which I suppose would be ‘off page’). Jorah and company return victorious, with Daario delivering the city’s banner to Dany.
A pretty important departure from the book is made here. In the novel, before the battle, Dany learns that Jorah was Varys’ spy and the man responsible for her nearly being assassinated by a wine seller. As a punishment, Dany sends him (along with Barristan, whose identity is kept hidden from the reader until this point and the revelation of such angers Dany) into the city through the sewers on a suicide mission. After the battle, a shamed Jorah leaves Dany’s side. It is also effectively the end of Dany’s story in Storm of Swords, and she apparently sits book 4 out and doesn’t show up again until book 5, which means if I don’t want ANYTHING spoiled for me, I need to start reading.
Well, that about wraps up my thoughts on this episode. I’m interested in seeing what else the showrunners decide to include in the season finale, and how they continue from here. It was recently said that they plan to end the show with season seven, no matter what. Should be a wild ride.