Do you always cry at weddings? I know I do, and this week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ is no exception. It’s titled ‘The Rains of Castamere,’ which, as we learned from last week, is a popular song in the realm written about how the last family to strive for power and cross the Lannisters were obliterated from the face of the planet. What a…cheerful theme! Don’t worry. There weren’t even any Lannisters present in this episode! Although, since it is the penultimate episode, you probably should still worry.
Stark Camp in the Twins
The episode opens with Catelyn and Robb discussing strategy, which is interesting, considering her on-again-off-again wavering between prisoner and trusted advisor. The plan and whole reason for conspiring with the awkward Freys in the first place is that, with the Karstarks having rescinded their support after the beheading of their patriarch, Robb has few others to help him hit the Lannisters where they will feel it the most: in their home, Casterly Rock.
Inside the Twins
Any worry that Catelyn had over upsetting the Freys dissipates when the commanding members of the Stark Kingdom are given salt and bread, which, under the traditional hospitality laws of the region, states that no harm shall come to a guest who has shared salt and bread with the host. This is glossed over a bit on the show, but if you recall the incredulousness of the honorable Night’s Watchmen who watched the mutinous Crows murder Craster in his own house after having shared bread and salt with him, it’s a nod to this hard-and-fast law of men.
Speaking of Craster, the equally elderly Walder Frey parades daughters and granddaughters young and old in front of the Starks in an attempt to win “Biggest Creep” in the series. He does this to show Robb everything he’s given up by going back on his word and marrying Talisa in private, although he lecherously looks her up and down, promising he would have done the same. Meanwhile, Edmure, who is to wed one of Frey’s most eligible daughters, gulps hard wondering which Walder has chosen for him.
With Daario Naharis on Daenerys’ side, it is time to mount an attack on Yunkai. Daario knows of a secret back entrance where he and two of her best fighters could sneak in, fight off a few guards, and open the main gate to lead the Unsullied and Second Sons armies in. Jorah and Barriston are understandably suspicious of the plan, which sounds like it will lead Jorah and Grey Worm to the slaughter, and Daario would be paid the entire sellswords’ fee, having betrayed his two captains AND the Unsullied. But sometimes you just have to trust the guy with the luxurious Herbal Essences hair.
Dany’s two swordsmen hide in the shadows while Daario sneaks in the back and gives the signal, proving that not only does he have the most glorious hair in the land, but also the most melodious whistle. The three are quickly surrounded by a cadre of guards, of whom they quickly dispense. Fighting scenes are infinitely cooler when you’ve got a swooping arakh like Daario and are nimble with a spear like Grey Worm. Oh, you’re cool, too, Jorah. (Awkward.)
Back at camp, Daenerys paces before Barriston, as she wonders how long it usually takes to sack a city. Bloodied and exhausted, Jorah and Grey Worm emerge, saying they are victorious, and Yunkai has bent the knee. Seemingly not even hearing the good news, Dany frantically asks where Daario is, and he dramatically emerges from the shadows with the Yunkai flag, a symbol of their surrender. If you pause the show here, you can actually see Jorah’s heart breaking that he’s no longer the #1 man in her life.
Just North of the Wall
Samwell and Gilly have almost approached the Wall, but Gilly’s not encouraged because, as usual, the Debbie Downer hasn’t thought ahead about how they’d surmount it. Sam tells her of the secret passageway under the Wall on the opposite side of Castle Black and gives a bit of history on it that he’d read, as well. She’s amazed at his ability to read and calls him a wizard, which was probably an insult, but it brought a smile of pride to dear old Sam’s face.
Outside the Twins
As the Hound and Arya approach the river, they steal a cart from a pig farmer, and Arya begs to leave the innocent man alive. Audiences probably can’t help but recall the foolish mercy Brienne and Jaime had on a farmer who later double-crossed them outside Bolton territory, but the Hound shakes his head, saying her kindness may kill her some day. When the pig farmer suddenly sits up, Arya knocks him out with a yelp. He’s left alive, but they’re not complete fools.
Arya’s jumping out of her skin to approach the Twins, when she’s waited for so long to be reunited with her family, but the Hound knows to keep distance until the time is right. They trade some angry insults, everyone says a few hurtful things they might want to take back, and the pair are forced to endure each other for a few more hours.
The Gift, South of the Wall
Bran and crew journey north, much to Osha’s dismay, but take refuge in a nearby abandoned castle when Jojen predicts it’s going to rain an instant before a clap of thunder echoes across the land. Cheeky little soothsayers…
A bit away, the Wildlings and Jon Snow happen upon an elderly man who breeds horses for the Crows. Jon plays it cool, trying to explain that stealing a couple horses wouldn’t draw as many Night’s Watchmen’s attention as murdering the man would. Thormund looks at him sideways and informs him that, since they’re all here to kill Crows, drawing them out into the open to kill them is a better plan, wouldn’t you say? Orell the warg pouts some more.
As they run across the field to mount their attack, Jon “accidentally” brushes his sword against a stone in an attempt to alert the elderly breeder. It gives him just enough time to hop on a horse and begin to gallop off, but Ygritte is too fast and has a bow trained on him immediately. Jon shouts, “no,” and she loses her aim. The Wildlings roll their eyes as they hop on the remaining horses for a pursuit.
As the rain starts really coming down, Bran and his companions hear a commotion outside. It’s the elderly breeder and the Wildlings! Thunder cracks even louder, and Hodor starts shouting his name in fear, which isn’t really funny unless you’re a horrible person who imagines him as a giant Pokémon. Desperate to shut him up, Bran suddenly takes control of Hodor’s body as a warg and gently puts him to sleep in a corner, then turns to the gaping mouths of his comrades.
Outside, the Wildlings challenge Jon to kill the elderly man, and when he can’t do it, they threaten to attack, but not before Ygritte fires an arrow through the man herself. Jon pushes her aside — likely to save her life, since the other Wildlings must assume they’re in cahoots — and mounts an attack against the Wildlings. Thormund grabs Ygritte as a prisoner, and right before Jon kills Orell, he wargs up into his eagle and tries to peck Jon’s face off.
As the Reeds in the castle give Bran a play-by-play, they beg him to take control of his direwolf Summer, who is still outside. He protests that he can’t just do it on command; it just happens. Stressed and frightened, he is finally able to take control of Summer and help Jon Snow out in his battle. Direwolf…attack!
Thormund and Ygritte are the only ones left standing as Jon makes his escape into the woods.
Back in the castle, Bran reiterates his wish to go north of the Wall to search for the three-eyed raven. When Osha disagrees again, he gently tells her that she doesn’t have to go, since it’s too dangerous for Rickon anyway. Rickon knows what this means, and his eyes well up with tears as Osha promises to bring him to Umber territory, bannermen of the Starks and a safe haven for them until Bran finishes his duty.
Back at the Twins
Edmure is braced for the worst as his veiled bride is led out to him, and again, someone needs to get David Tutera out in Westeros, because these weddings are GLUM. The young Frey daughter’s veil is pulled off, and the look on Edmure’s face is priceless, and we soon see why. This girl is good looking and, heh, a bit young, but, hey, it’s a joyful occasion! She mirrors Sansa’s line before her wedding to Tyrion: “I hope I’m not a disappointment to you,” and the audience doubts that either of them could be.
After a quick ceremony, a feast begins, followed by the jovial bedding ceremony, which is actually carried out more tastefully than one might imagine — what we saw onscreen, anyway.
Talisa and Robb cuddle — but not too much, so as to not rub their love in the Freys’ faces — and she tells him what an odd tradition that is. He smiles and shrugs, saying it’s the only way to guarantee that a marriage is consummated. She puts his hand on her stomach and reminds him that it’s not the ONLY way to prove it. Robb asks if she thinks it’s a boy or a girl, and she pulls out an ultrasound — er, impishly tells him if it’s a boy, she’d like to name him Eddard. Dawww!
Catelyn sits next to Roose Bolton for the festivities, and Blackfish excuses himself to see a man about a horse. Suddenly, the dining hall’s doors are closed and the band begins playing the popular dirge, “The Rains of Castamere.” That can’t be good. Catelyn furtively pulls back Bolton’s thick sleeve, revealing chainmail underneath.
As she shouts out a warning, a Frey soldier pulls a knife and stabs Talisa in the stomach like fifty times! Sweet Jesus! A swarm of Frey soldiers with crossbows appear on the upper level and fire a volley into Robb and Catelyn.
Outside, the Hound and Arya try to make their way in the gates, but a Frey soldier denies them entrance. In the commotion, Arya slips away. Hiding behind a barrel, she sees some Stark bannermen finishing up the feast outside, and Frey soldiers descend upon them and slaughter them, too.
The last straw for any dry eye in the house comes when she hears Robb’s Direwolf Grey Wind barking in a stall, sensing the awful commotion around him. The Frey crossbowmen descend upon him and kill him too, and Arya watches as his eyes close for the last time. Without thinking, she starts to run to his side, but the Hound knocks her unconscious for her own good and scoops her over his shoulder, taking her to safety.
Back inside, Robb stumbles to Talisa’s side, but there’s so much blood, you guys. Catelyn emerges from underneath a table and pulls a knife to Frey’s wife’s neck, saying that if Robb is allowed to leave here unharmed, everything will be forgotten. They can even take her as prisoner if they just let her son go. Frey shrugs, saying he can find a new wife, and Roose Bolton grabs Robb and stabs him in the gut, saying, “The Lannisters send their regards,” which is the chilling last line Jaime said to Roose before heading off for King’s Landing.
Catelyn lets out a blood-curdling scream, slitting the young woman’s throat, and suddenly, you just see her die inside, void and incapable of any more emotion. A soldier appears behind her and slits her throat, almost a mercy killing, as she drops to the ground without her expression changing.
So. Here we are. The scene that so many book-readers feared seeing brought to life on the screen has come, and it’s more horrific than we ever could have imagined. And who knew Argus Filch from ‘Harry Potter’ could be even MORE evil than Joffrey?
Tune in next week for the season finale of ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO if you’ve stopped crying by then.