Review: GAME OF THRONES S3E09, THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE (Or, With The Season Coming To A Close It's Time For Things To Get Stabby)

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
It would be tempting to call this penultimate episode of Game Of Thrones series three a game changer if not for the fact that the game had clearly changed quite some time ago. The moment Robb Stark lost Jaime Lannister he exited the game. He lost his leverage. Tywin left the field of battle and was free to play the waiting game secure in the fact that he had more men and more money and one of those two factors would eventually win out. Turns out it was the money. No, the events of The Rains Of Castamere don't really change the game so much as they put a brutal, bloody exclamation point on to the fact that robbed of the one asset that may have provided sufficient leverage the Stark clan are too minor a power to be in this game at all. But we'll get to Robb et al in a moment ... there's some other Stark-y action to get to first.

There are big happenings afoot with two of Ned's other children in this generally Stark-centric episode with the bastard Jon Snow and the crippled Bran crossing paths and only one being aware of it.

Snow is over the wall with Tormund Giantsbane, who shows a general lack of advance planning and a desire to raise a little hell rather than simply heading for Castle Black to prep things for Mance Rayder's arrival. Which is bad luck for the horse breeder that the band comes across and who Tormund decides to kill rather than simply rob. Also bad luck for Snow, who is ordered to do the deed and whose moment of hesitation confirms to those who don't care for him that his conversion to the Wildling cause isn't to be trusted. Swords are drawn, blood is spilt, Ygritte throws her lot in with her lover rather than her people, and though Snow takes down his warg rival - having his face shredded in the process - his death is imminent and inevitable until he is saved by a pair of direwolves. At which point he runs. And leaves Ygritte behind. Which strikes me as a monumentally bad decision, what with women scorned and all that.

But note there that there's a pair of wolves at hand. And Jon's wolf very definitely did not climb the wall with them. What's with that? Bran's with that, in short, the young boy who increasingly appears to be the only Stark who actually matters in this story sheltering in the tower overlooking the scene of the conflict.

You see, it turns out that Bran is something more than a seer and a warg. With the wildlings gathering outside their hiding spot and a lightning strike sending Hodor into a very loud panic - meaning they're all going to be dead very soon unless someone can calm the half giant fast - Bran reacts by instinct, his eyes clouding as he projects himself into Hodor's mind and putting the giant to sleep. Controlling animals is one thing. But a person? No warg can do that. And if a warg can control multiple animals simultaneously that's news to me as well, and yet there's Bran doing it as he sends the beasts in to protect his half brother.

Question: How long before Bran changes mode of transport and rides a wolf under his own control? If that fails to happen someone needs to give George RR Martin a smack, because it very clearly should.

Anyway ... the end point of all this is that Snow is on the run - presumably to Castle Black to warn of Mance Rayder's plans, Ygritte is pissed off in that special way only a jilted lover can be, and Bran parts ways with the thoroughly useless youngest Stark boy to try and preserve the line rather than walking into danger together.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Danaerys sends Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario through a minor rear gate of Yunkai where the three men kick a bit of ass and kill of the free guards before enlisting the enslaved soldiers within to turn on their masters and take the city from within. Meaning, yes, three men orchestrate the overthrow of an entire city without taking a single casualty and there's a fighting chance that Danaerys also picks up a whole lot more freed slaves as part of her army. Also, Jorah realizes she likes Daario better than him and he's not ever, ever going to get laid.

Arya's around, too, but meh ... she shows up too late to do much of anything but be sad until the Hound wisely knocks her out and carries her away.

And now back to Robb. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I said to my wife - who will verify this - that I thoroughly expected Lord Frey to try something underhanded at the wedding of Edmure Tully with his daughter. Specifically, my hunch was that he would try to have Talisa killed to force Robb into the wedding that had originally been promised to him. I was on the right track but didn't go nearly far enough.

Because, you see, I forgot - just as Robb forgot - that Frey was a potential ally only because he was thoroughly amoral and inclined to do things only to his own advantage. I forgot the same thing about Lord Bolton, for that matter, which is a big thing to forget given that it wasn't so long ago at all that Bolton released Jaime Lannister. Granted, Robb didn't know that bit. What Robb also seemed to have a tenuous grasp on is the fact that he's a traitor, he and his entire army committing an ongoing act of treason every day they continue with this war. Which means whoever brings Robb down will be very well rewarded, indeed, which makes amoral people very, very bad allies.

All of this to say that when the doors closed I knew someone was about to die. And when the knives plunged into Talisa's pregnant belly I was appalled but not surprised. But when it continued from there - leaving Robb filled with arrows, his key supporters bleeding out on the floor, and Frey casually accepting the death of his own wife before having Catelyn Stark's throat slit - that was rather farther than I expected things to go. And yet it makes sense. It ends the illusion that the Starks were ever anything much more than an annoyance for the Lannister clan and establishes very clearly that the Starks were never the ice referred to in 'A Song Of Fire And Ice'. No, those are the White Walkers and we've been told from day one - whether we noticed or not - that this is ultimately going to end up as a battle between the Walkers and Danaerys' dragons with the real question being who ends up on which side and who gets crushed along the way.

[Twitch has been tracking Game Of Thrones from Season One, Episode One from the perspective of someone who has not and will not read the books at all until the series has come to an end so that it can all be experienced for the first time on the big screen. Discussion of the current episode and what has come before is welcome and encouraged but PLEASE avoid spoiling anything that lies ahead in the novels so that those of us who haven't read can experience everything fresh.]
Around the Internet:
  • darrenjh

    Wasn't the identity of the traitor kept a secret in the book right up until the moment Robb was killed (maybe I wasn't following closely)? And also, didn't Robb leave his wife in some other place on the advice of Catelyn and she wasn't actually at the twins? And also, wasn't Robb planning to take on the Iron island dudes and not the Lannisters?

  • harumph

    Robb's wife--who is not at all the same character as Robb's wife in the show--was left back at Riverrun. And if by "traitor" you mean Tywin, then as I recall, his involvement in instigating the Red Wedding was communicated a bit more subtly in the book. In the show, Robb is just told by his murderer that Tywin is responsible. But in the book, that's information that only the reader is given, and I believe it's given after the fact. I can't remember if Robb was planning a siege on Casterly Rock or headed back North to take back Winterfell, but both plans were discussed and debated between Robb and Catelyn in the book.

  • Ard Vijn

    After nearly three complete seasons, I'm still astonished nobody spoiled the "red wedding" to the masses on a grand scale before it was shown in the series!

    But now I get the impression people are catching on to the fact that the books are out there, worth reading. And though the readers have kept their mouths shut so far so as not to spoil things for the viewers, I'm afraid less scrupulous people will now quickly wiki the books' plots to try and act smart about "what is going to happen next"...

  • Thanks to the show, I finally read the books.

    I was never one for the sprawling series, and as I have aged, it became harder to read so many pages...with life and all that.

    These books are the best thing I have read in a long time (since my old days of LOTR and the Thomas Covenant series)..Now, I get to read the differences and pick up new hints and clues...and enjoy both the show AND the books greatly.

    But, I am staying behind a season...so, lets see how that goes. Can't wait to see what happens next.

  • Greg Rivera

    What will be interesting to watch will be the consequences to the hosts of the (red) wedding; The Freys have screwed themselves quite nicely within the entire kingdom of Westeros. Though unexplained, the bread and salt offered to the Starks when arriving at the forks is an indicator of that.

  • I don't think so at all. As the people who killed Robb Stark, they've just bought themselves a HUGE amount of favor with the Lannisters.I would expect them to be granted some new titles.

  • Greg Rivera

    Wait.

  • Alrighty then.

  • Greg Rivera

    I refuse to spoil, but I can (and will) snicker annoyingly. No worries, there's no amount of ambiguous comment anyone can make that can even hint at what what's coming. Buckle up, friend Todd.

  • Kurt

    I would have thought that the Frey/Bolton actions would be brought about in part by all of Tywin's letter writing at the beginning of the season. Those correspondence had to have been going out to someone.

  • Greg Rivera

    It was! But as in The Wire, Tywin and Bolton are just players in the Game, playing it to their advantage. But killing your guests? Not part of the Game, way outside of it. Baaaaaaad JuJu.

  • Mad_Dog_Yayan

    Indeed, the Freys just broke the Guest Right and in an honor bound land like Westeros, Lannister connection or not, it's going to be bad for them. Don't want to spoil anything though

  • TheWalkeronTheWall

    You are forgetting that there is a strong possibility that one of the stark children is very possibly a Targaryen. The dragon has 3 heads my friend

  • Guest

    when was this revealed?

  • Ard Vijn

    In the series: not.

    I'm pretty sure who is being referred to here, but seeing as how all the hints in the books have disappeared from the series, I'm not sure George R.R. Martin wants to develop this, except maybe as a red herring in the books.

  • Pedro Rica

    Don´t forget that with the return of magic, it´s possible to return from the dead. So I wouldn´t be surprised to see the return of at least one important person slain in the halls of the Frey.

  • darrenjh

    Who's that then?

  • Guest

    No spoilers here please.

  • Kurt

    I feel almost ill from this abattoir of an episode. TV has come a long way from Mr. Ed.

  • Joe Foolio

    Bran doesn't need to ride a wolf, he needs to ride a dragon!!! Danaerys has three, so she can share.

  • You are a wise man.

  • Joe Foolio

    Yes, and no... In the books they often refer to Targaryen's riding dragons as they conquered Westeros. So it only seems likely that Bran (being the warg) will be a key player, but then this story doesn't always follow the obvious path.

  • Aaron

    I still think the Starks have too many kids to not play a part. I mean it's like Tywin said, you have to have a Stark in the pocket to unite and hold the North. Boltons a jerk, the Karstarks are strong but unambitious, it's still going to be a Stark kid in Winterfell in the end.

  • yuwonosigit

    Arya will have her own story later on, just you wait.

  • Chuck

    They really don't go into it on the show but maybe they will, the only reason Bran or any of the other Wargs can't skinwalk for more then a few hours at most is the longer you do it the more you start to forget who you are, your mind gets melded with whatever animal you are occupying. So Bran tries to be selective when possible so he doesn't forget he is human and not a Dire Wolf.

  • Genesis

    That's A Song of Ice and Fire.

  • You are correct. I shall tweak.

  • Jesse Thomas Cook

    Todd, the two direwolves: one was Bran's, the other was Rickon's. You're correct, Jon Snow's wolf is north of the wall.

  • Duh. Yes. Obviously.

  • Toofless Granny

    Just an aside: Bran can NEVER ride a wolf, no matter how good of a warg he is, unless there is someone talented enough to construct some sort of saddle like the one Tyrion designed for Bran's horse. Bran's lower body is completely useless. You have to have lower body control to be able to ride anything.

  • So make him a harness. Kid can control the massive wolf he's raised from a cub. Ride that shit.

  • It'd help me not think of the atrocious film THE MIGHTY (http://filmfest.ca/the-mighty/ ) everytime I see Hodor, so that'd help.

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​