Game Of Thrones 3.09 “The Rains Of Castamere” TV REVIEW
Writers: David Benioff, DB Weiss
Director: David Nutter
THE ONE WHERE Robb arrives at The Twins for Edmure's wedding, Jon takes part in a Wildling raid and Bran discovers new talents.
VERDICT And... breathe. Are you feeling weak? Is your heart racing? You're suffering from a Game Of Thrones shock, but don't worry. We're here to help you through. We recommend sugary tea and a warm blanket, stat. Has your pulse steadied now? Then we'll go on...
It would be remiss to start talking about this episode anywhere other than the end. The Red Wedding was without a shadow of a doubt the bloodiest event we've seen thus far, hurtling out of the clear blue sky and leaving devastation in its wake. You're no doubt still trying to process it all, so we'll recap: Robb, his pregnant wife Talisa and Catelyn are all dead. Extremely so. The King In The North reaped the rewards of his ill-advised marriage, with Walder Frey and Roose Bolton the architects of his destruction. All of the words we've come to associate with Game Of Thrones apply – shocking, brutal, bloody, gratuitous – but there was much more than bloodlust at work here.
The build-up to the claret-soaked climax was a master-class in misdirection and slow burn hinting. For a minute, the promise of a new Stark generation – and a new Eddard no less – was dangled in front of our faces, only to be cruelly snatched away. It's a moment that fans of the book have known was coming, but it lost none of the impact in its translation to the screen. Arguably, the one character who doesn't appear in the novels – Talisa – was given the cruellest fate, her bulging belly repeatedly stabbed. Robb and Catelyn's deaths were equally bloody, but the murder of an unborn infant was the moment our jaw hit the floor.
The Red Wedding is clearly a moment that will resonate. It's already caused Daily Mail outrage, and there's almost certainly going to be a percentage of viewers who will feel that the carnage was simply too much. But there's no denying that it's an astonishingly brave piece of narrative derring do. It throws an already complex plot into disarray, redrawing battle lines and alliances and making what comes next utterly impossible to predict.
As with Ned's execution in the first season, we're reminded that no-one is safe in this game. No player is too big to fall, no twist too far-fetched. It might hurt now, but think of what's to come. The Starks are finished as a major family, but what of the remaining wolf cubs? Bran, Arya and Sansa all face frightening futures, and Jon is caught up in a conflict bigger than all of them up at the wall. It's anyone's guess where their respective paths are heading next, but this week was as much about their new beginnings as it was grisly endings.
Game Of Thrones is always at its best when tackling the big themes head on, and this week we got the lot. Love and loss, life and death, honour and heartbreak – it was all on display in an episode that will no doubt be the hottest topic of TV conversation in the days and weeks to come. But now that we've been through the emotional blender, we've got to live with the fallout. So drink your tea, wrap yourself tight in your blanket, and prepare for whatever is coming next. The game has changed for good, and it's anyone's guess what the players will do now.
THREAT OF THE WEEK “Some day, I'm gonna put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.” We definitely believe Arya, and if we were the hound we'd be keeping a look out for the little wolf.
THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER Daario, Grey Worm and Jorah's back door break-in at Yunkai led to a fantastic fight scene, their three different fighting styles cutting down countless slave soldiers in minutes. Dany's new fancy man might not have gained everyone's trust just yet, but he knows what he's doing when it comes to sharp, pointy things, that's for sure.
DIRTY OLD MAN OF THE WEE K The superb David Bradley returned as Walder Frey this week, and achieved this impossible by giving Game Of Thrones a villain as bad – if not worse – than Joffrey. Magnificently disgusting.
EASILY IMPRESSED, MUCH? Gilly and Sam are one of the most enduringly innocent things about Game Of Thrones at the moment, and Gilly's wide-eyed Wildling amazement at Sam's education – “You're like a wizard!” provided some much needed sweetness.
SHOT OF THE WEEK Will any of us forget Catelyn having her throat casually slashed open? Probably not – a nightmarish full stop to the Starks as we know them.
Roose Bolton: “The Lannisters send their regards.”
NEXT TIME ON GAME OF THRONES A trailer for the season finale, if you feel up to it…
• Read our other Game Of Thrones season three reviews
• New episodes of Game Of Thrones season three are currently airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Mondays at 9pm.
• Check out our SFX Book Of Game Of Thrones , a 180-page guide to the TV and book phenomenon, which is available now!