‘The Rains of Castamere’: The Game of Thrones Episode that Almost Broke the Internet
**WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD**
Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones continued the tradition of a show that has become ruthlessly entertaining and brilliantly divided and paced. In what I feel is the season climax (often HBO series tend to have the climax occur in the second to last episode and then have the last episode proceed as the denouement and setting things up for the next season when there is one) Game of Thrones brought everything it has become great at doing and wrapped it into one special episode in which the end comes for two more of the Stark family members.
There were probably 4 basic reactions that members of the audience went through during the final events of what is sure to become one of the more tragic television wedding moments in history. Of course there are so many feelings that went through folks’ heads and onto their twitter accounts, but I’ve narrowed the basic reactions down to the following groups of viewers:
– The insufferable reader’s of the books who knew what was happening and were probably comparing the show to the books the entire time and could not wait to jump on the next group.
– The people who were legitimately shocked about the end of Robb and Catelyn Stark.
– The reader’s of the books who understand the show is a completely different medium than the books and accepted the fact that many people love the show and don’t care about the books (I suspect this is the smallest of the groups).
– Those who have not read the books and were not shocked by the final outcome of the narrative, but who were in awe of how brilliantly the tragedy was executed.
I was a part of the 4th group, although some part of me wishes I could have been one of the people who was legitimately shocked, if for no other reason to be able to point out how ridiculous it is for reader’s of the books to have some sort of odd sense of superiority (actually, I guess there’s no reason I can’t do that right now; just check out the comments sections of the reviews of any episode of GOT. Many of the comment sections have to be preceded by something that asks commenters to not talk about the books, reminding everyone that it is a review of the television program, NOT a review of the television program compared to the books).
To get off of the tangent I’ve found myself on and back to the show, these different reactions are part of the reason Game of Thrones is so brilliant. People everywhere seem to have strong opinions about the show and it’s drawing a fairly sizable audience. This is a very good thing for a show of this nature. Not only has it brought a fantasy (sort of) genre to the forefront, but it has brought a style of television into prominence (you know, smart and willing to take risks).
With the most recent events, the show proved once again, much like it did with the death of Ned Stark, that everyone on the show is expendable and there won’t be a whole lot of compromising. One thing that makes this work so well, though, is the general expectations that audiences have towards television series. As an audience, we expect the people who have the better values and higher moral compass to win every time. Somehow audiences of Game of Thrones continue to believe this, even though the show has continually proven that the world that has been created is quite the opposite.
Let’s take a look at the path of Robb throughout the third season. Every time he’s on screen he seems to be positive that his honor is the key to winning the war, yet he continues to make selfish decisions and disguising that selfishness with his honor. This attitude eventually leads him to breaking an oath he had made to Walder Frey as Robb gets married to a woman with whom he has fallen in love. In other words, Robb is really no different than anyone else. He just tries to disguise his desires with a mask of a moral compass.
Catelyn is the true victim in these events, as I believe she has been one of the few characters this season (along with Jon Snow, Tyrion and quite possibly Jaime Lannister) who actually is trying to do the “right” thing most of the time. Of course she has her reasons, almost entirely the safety of her family. I imagine she believed Robb was the last child of hers that was still alive as she was begging Walder Frey to spare her son’s life by threatening to slit Frey’s wife’s throat.
The way these final events were filmed were especially effective. Something this show has excelled at this year is making the audience aware of what is going to happen, yet creating a huge amount of suspense in the style of it’s presentation (see: dragon fire burning slave owner to ashes). The set-up for the two big deaths grew organically throughout the episode as the suspense grew and grew throughout the last 15 minutes or so.
I imagine Game of Thrones will continue its trend of being a merciless show in the upcoming seasons and that many things people want to happen will indeed fail to occur. It’s one of the few shows in which an audience really needs to change the way they watch a program as every scene tends to come back into play at one point or another. Hopefully, however, they won’t all be as devastatingly sad as the deaths of Robb and Catelyn Stark.
Note: I have read only the first book of the series and I think I’m about halfway through the second.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
The Rains of Castemere is arguably the BEST EPISODE OF SEASON 3, and perhaps the best episode of the series. So GUT-WRENCHING, HEART BREAKING, SHOCKING AND POWERFUL all at the same time. What’s next!
I was one of the people in genuine shock, but also in awe at the way it all played out. Fantastic show, cast and narrative.
*Sigh* at least everyone who hadn’t read the books yet can share in my sorrow now. And there’s still the true Queen, so all is not lost I suppose.
Although someone had spoiled one of the deaths for me, I had a suspicion that the death was coming. But I was shocked because I didn’t imagine it unfolding in the way it did. This show is brilliant, I’ve become a huge fan of fantasy and Its great to see a tv show with this kind of scope.
So far I prefer the TV show over the books. Which is unusual, so far this is a great adaptation.
I didn’t know what to do with myself when I finished that episode. I like your point about how the audience needs to change how they watch the show. I certainly do.
I think the “insufferable” readers’ problem with the death scene might be with how it was dramatized; while I’m a fan of both, I found the events of the book, though less brutal, more tragic somehow. Perhaps it’s because Catelyn takes her own life once her son has fallen, or because of the much more dramatic way he is killed (a knife twisted through his heart) or because Robb’s wife isn’t even present at the wedding; Robb had decided to go without her to hopefully not offend the Freys. Adding Robb’s pregnant wife and the moment he watches her die seemed to be a ploy for the audience’s sympathy to make the moment more tragic.
In any case, I love your point that the audience still roots for the moral or “good” characters and expects them to win, even though the creators have killed those characters off time and time again. I think it speaks volumes to how media has defined “good” and “evil,” and how Game of Thrones may be a more accurate representation of the world than many other films and shows.
I would actually encourage reading Andy Greenwald’s piece on the episode. It’s the source I added to this article. He actually puts the “good” and “evil” into a very interesting perspective and talks about how the Starks are like the fairy tales we are all familiar with but the world presented doesn’t allow those fairy tales to survive. He goes into more depth on the moral compass of the Stark family and how it relates to the audience.
I think they nailed it with this episode too! I have read all the books, so I was only too familiar with what was going to happen, but the final scene still gave me that dead feeling inside that reading that part in the book did. Michelle Fairley nailed it and deserves some serious Emmy attention for her work this season.
I wish all television shows would follow games of thrones lead and not give a shit if a character is a fanfavoritr or not.
Without knowing much about the plot of either Game of Thrones works, I think that I can say with confidence that the reason why favorable outcomes tend not to advance here is because most people here behave in baser west’s most of the time.