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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x09: The Rains of Castamere



So, not a great time to be a Stark, amiright?

It's not often that a show surprises and shocks me to the extent this episode did. When it happens, it's usually just based on the sheer quality of an episode, or because a show did something I wanted it to do but feared it never actually would (like killing off a certain character on a certain zombie show). But the ending of this episode, particularly the death of Catelyn, was probably the most shocked I've ever been on this show (Ned's death I knew about long before this series was even a gleam in HBO's eye. Work in a bookstore with people who read fantasy long enough and you pick up on a few things, like "Ned dies unexpectedly early" and "Tyrion is awesome").

Anyways, let's get to it.

The Twins
I've had a bad feeling about Robb for a long time (basically, ever since he married Talisa, which is part of why I've never liked her), and when he seemingly got off easy earlier this season for breaking his oath to Walder Frey, my trepidation grew. That tension was ratcheted up even further in the opening moments of this episode, as his dependance on Frey's troops and the question of whether Frey would comply despite the new arrangement was made clear, but even then, I figured Robb was heading for a disastrous turn on the battlefield, something where Frey's troops would leave the field of battle or turn on the Starks at a critical moment. I wasn't expecting a full scale massacre at the wedding.

And even then, I found Catelyn's death more shocking than Robb's or Talisa's. In part because I know Robb isn't a POV character in the books (while Catelyn is), in part because the idea of Robb avenging his father and living on as King of the North just seemed too easy for this story, and in part because Catelyn felt safer: with Ned dead, she felt like a necessary representative of the "older" Stark generation, she was from a still-powerful house (as opposed to the weakened Starks) and connected to the Vale of Arryn and Littlefinger and, frankly, because she was a mother.

In hindsight, the conversation between Robb and his mother in the beginning, when he asked for her advice, was an even deeper moment for the two of them. At least she died knowing her son had forgiven her. 

Arya drawing ever closer to a reunion with her family also lent itself to the foreboding atmosphere, as I continue to very much feel what the Hound described Arya as feeling, that she's somehow destined to wander Westeros, coming close but never actually coming into contact with her family.

The entire Red Wedding (as my brother tells me its called) was marvelously paced, but the breaking point came when Robb and Talisa were discussing "Baby Ned"; amidst the odd atmosphere of the wedding, that conversation more or less signaled their end. And frankly, as much as Talisa wisely showed restraint in not making kissy face with Robb at the reception, it was pretty stupid of him to bring her at all, considering why they were there in the first place.

I really hope we see some fallout from Frey's new son-in-law, unless he was killed as well. Plus, the show seemed to make a point that Blackfish left the hall before the massacre, so hopefully he's still around to get some revenge on the Freys.

Also, Baelish is gonna be hella pissed when he finds out about this, and he now technically has the power to do something about it.

Man, Roose Bolton is as much a bastard as his bastard.

Also, I hate to break it to Arya, but two blows to the head strong enough to knock a man unconscious in as many minutes is, realistically, almost as deadly as the Hound just killing the pig farmer outright.  

Yunkai
And with that, Daenerys sacks another city and frees another load of slaves. While I'm not surprised the show kept the actual sacking of Yunkai offscreen, I did appreciate the little action sequence we got when Daario, Jorah and Greyworm snuck in the back gate, particularly for the way it showcased the different fighting styles of the three men.

I was expecting a (irritating) fight between Jorah and Barristan over Barristan's desire to infiltrate the city alongside Jorah, so I appreciated that common sense prevailed and Barristan quietly accepted his place as the Queensguard. 

On the Road/Up North 
In addition to Arya getting this close to her family, we got another bit of rare interconnected plotlines as Jon and Bran end up in roughly the same place for the first time since, what, the first episode of the series?

We also got some much needed forward momentum on Bran's story, as he grows more powerful in his Warg abilities (he can now take control of animals somewhat by choice, and was also able to take control of Hodor, presumably because his mind is more simple than most humans). He also makes the decision to send Rickon, with Osha, to relative safety while he continues north with the Reeds. As much fun as Osha can be, I won't complain if we don't check in on her and Rickon much moving forward (and frankly, hope that we don't).

Jon, meanwhile, reaches a breaking point in his alliance with the Wildings, as he refuses to kill a farmer who breeds horses for the Night's Watch in cold blood, which somehow makes the Wildlings think he's still a Crow, thus forcing his hand.

The impetus of Jon's "betrayal" could have been handled better, even within the same circumstances. I mean, an unwillingness to kill in cold blood doesn't have to mean Jon's a Crow - it could just mean he doesn't want to kill needlessly. Aren't the Wildings supposed to be about freedom and choice and living your own life? While the circumstances and end result make sense (Jon refuses to kill, the rest of the Wildlings turn on him), Jon didn't plead his case very well, and the motivation for their turning on him seemed muddied and forced. 

I'm also bummed that Jon left Ygritte. I get why he did it (and appreciate the fact that he tried to knock her out of the fight early and keep her from getting targeted by the rest of the Wildings), but it's still disappointing. Not just because I like Ygritte, but because a Jon who is torn not only between the Wildlings and the Night's Watch but between his feelings for a woman and his duty makes for a far more compelling character than a Jon who just steadfastly does what's "right".

In one of this episode's few "place setting" bits, we also get a brief check-in with Sam and Gilly, as the former impresses the later with his book smarts. Remember kids: reading books makes you a wizard!

Other Thoughts
As with the last episode, this one benefited from a remarkably narrow focus, covering, essentially, only three locations and leaving everything else out. Thought the thematic connections between scenes wasn't quite as strong as the previous episode, it remains a pleasure to see the show willing to narrow its focus in this way.

As a result, I believe this was the first episode since the location was introduced that we didn't check in at King's Landing. We also didn't get anything from Dragonstone, Jamie/Brienne, or Theon.

I absolutely love that Ned forbade a bedding ceremony at his wedding. How very Ned Stark. 

Enough with the killing of the direwolves already (yes, I know it's cliche to be more upset by the death of animals than all those humans who were massacred, but still)!

My brother and the internet tell me that the title of the episode shares its name with the Lannister victory song Cersei mentioned to Margaery last week, which was the more dirge-y song that began to play as the doors to the wedding reception were closed (it was also the song sung by Bronn and his men prior to the Battle of Blackwater last season). It apparently commemorates a younger Tywin Lannister's complete victory over some rebellious bannermen back in the day.   

It's amazing how this show continually manages to one-up it's dickery. At the end of the first episode, you want Jamie to get some comeuppance for what he did to Bran. Pretty soon, you've forgotten about that because Joffrey is such a dick, then because Tywin is so cold and mercenary, and now I just want Walder Frey to get torn to pieces. As my brother has often said, pretty soon pushing a kid out a window doesn't seem so bad, relatively speaking...

So that's pretty much it for the Lannisters, right? They've won. Renly's dead. Stannis is beaten, licking his wounds at Dragonstone (for now). Robb is dead, which pretty much ends his rebellion, and with Sansa part of the family and Arya, Bran and Rickon missing and/or presumed dead, the North pretty much belongs to the Lannisters as well. Dany remains a threat, but she'll be busy freeing slaves for awhile. No wonder I've heard this book referred to as  the The Empire Strikes Back of the series (and it's not even half over yet).

Only one episode left this season. Anything following the intensity of this one is going to feel  like a letdown, but hopefully Benioff and Weiss have a few tricks up their sleeve to keep it from being a complete decompression episode, especially since it really just marks the halfway point of this particular chapter of the story.

28 comments:

  1. I'm glad the season is almost over. I'm just tired of the internet spoilage. Even when it's not direct, and even when i do my best to avoid it, i went into this episode knowing at least one, but probably multiple, characters would die and that one was most likely Rob. So not really shocked, or surprised, just irritated.
    And yeah, we also agreed that this pretty much means the war's over until Dany fucks everyone up. One good thing we were talking about, re Dany, is that we like her story line because in this season it's all been an up story line. Things are going right for her. Nothing ever goes right for anyone else, ever, so it gets tedious and tiresome (a reason i stopped reading the books)
    Another bonus about all the deaths is that it may mean fewer story lines to follow so we can have more of the characters we like (though i'm sure there will be new story lines that pop up, but you know)

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  2. And frankly, as much as Talisa wisely showed restraint in not making kissy face with Robb at the reception, it was pretty stupid of him to bring her at all, considering why they were there in the first place.

    That did seem ridiculous. There's been a lot of small changes to the character of Robb's wife from the books, and basically all of them seem to have been designed to maximise the jolt of her being killed in this episode. Which seems a little odd given a further jolt was hardly necessary, and it requires the baffling decision to bring her to the wedding as well.

    So that's pretty much it for the Lannisters, right? They've won. Renly's dead. Stannis is beaten, licking his wounds at Dragonstone (for now). Robb is dead, which pretty much ends his rebellion, and with Sansa part of the family and Arya, Bran and Rickon missing and/or presumed dead, the North pretty much belongs to the Lannisters as well. Dany remains a threat, but she'll be busy freeing slaves for awhile.

    There's still Balon Greyjoy's second rebellion to deal with, and whatever Melisandre is up to with those leeches. it's unlikely to just be for the sake of watching them burn. The Vale and Dorne are entirely untouched by fighting, and haven't made any move to make an alliance with the Iron Throne (or at least not on-screen). There's also the question of how much more time Cersei and Joffrey can spend being horribly unpleasant/murderous sadistic dickblisters respectively before the Tyrells start wondering whether they're really sold on this double marriage idea.

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  3. @Sarah: Even when it's not direct, and even when i do my best to avoid it, i went into this episode knowing at least one, but probably multiple, characters would die and that one was most likely Rob.

    That's too bad. I've gotten pretty good about knowing where not to look on the internet to avoid spoilers (and I just ignore Twitter entirely until I've seen the latest ep), but it's gotta be tough when you can't even avoid it within your own family (as you mentioned offline yesterday).

    I remain grateful that my brother, despite all our conversations about the show directly, has managed to avoid spoiling anything for me, even in terms of even spoiling that there's something to be spoiled (man, he must have been biting his tongue off all those times I was complaining about Robb and his stupid wife...).

    One good thing we were talking about, re Dany, is that we like her story line because in this season it's all been an up story line.

    Funny that you mention that. One of the things I've been saying (here and elsewhere) is how surprised I am at just how "up" her storyline has been this season, simply because George R.R. Martin seems like a writer who never wants things going too well for his characters for very long.

    But my brother suggested that Dany's storyline this season, at least in the context of the show, is meant to be the "up" that gives context to the "downs" being experienced by many of the other characters, which I thought was an interesting way of looking at it.

    Nothing ever goes right for anyone else, ever, so it gets tedious and tiresome (a reason i stopped reading the books)

    To be fair, nothing ever seems to go right for the "good" characters (ie the Starks). I mean, everything's coming up Tywin Lannister at the moment, and I'm sure he doesn't mind.

    And I get the impression that's intentional: that for as much as the audience comes to this story with expectations of the characters/narrative, especially since it's a fantasy story (ie that the good guys will overcome adversity to win the day over the bad guys), I think Martin wants to subvert those expectations. We view them as good characters and bad characters, but to him, I think they're all just characters, to which good shit and bad shit happens.

    Which then suggests a really interesting discussion about authorial intent vs. reader response and what the author owes to the expectations of his readers and the genre and how much being dicked around readers can reasonably be expected to take before they just throw up their hands and jump ship entirely, but we'd need an English class for that. :)

    Your complaints about the negativity surrounding the characters also calls to mind comparisons to Walking Dead, comparisons I've seen made online in the wake of this episode, another show that seems unrelenting grim and overwhelmingly despairing.

    Yet for some reason, that bothers me far more there than here; maybe because here, for all the bad stuff that happens to the characters, that stuff is at least rooted in their choices, hard or small they may be, and it's within the realm of possibility that somebody good could, someday, eke out a win, whereas on Walking Dead, everyone's just gonna die someday, it's just a matter of when, and there's no possibility for the unrelenting grimness to ever end?

    Or maybe it's just because with this show, the characters are more well developed and thus interesting to watch regardless of what's happening to them plot-wise.

    Another bonus about all the deaths is that it may mean fewer story lines to follow so we can have more of the characters we like

    Good point. As much as I wanted to see scenes of Robb waging war on the Lannisters, I won't miss NOT seeing those scenes and instead getting scenes where he makes kissy faces to his wife and his mom does tactically stupid things.

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  4. @SpaceSquid: ...and it requires the baffling decision to bring her to the wedding as well.

    I assume he brings her to the wedding in the book as well, so that the decision to do so is equally baffling in either medium? Or is her presence there entirely fabricated by the show?

    An argument could be made for Robb having some dumb honorable reason for bringing her, like, "she's my wife and she goes where I go, damn the consequences!" or some such thing (similar to the way he almost reacted to Frey obviously goading him by harassing Talisa earlier in the episode, like, you brought her and he wants to provoke a reaction so just shut up and don't give him the pleasure), but if that's the case, it could have been made more clear.

    There's still Balon Greyjoy's second rebellion to deal with, and whatever Melisandre is up to with those leeches.

    Yeah, I definitely don't think Stannis/Melisandre are out, just down. I didn't give much thought to Greyjoy's rebellion since the show hasn't seemed to (there was the mention in this episode of them running rampant over the North, but I guess I assume the Lannisters could care less who is doing what to whom in the North so long as they aren't rebelling against the crown and the Lannisters can say they have technical control over the region).

    The Vale and Dorne are entirely untouched by fighting, and haven't made any move to make an alliance with the Iron Throne (or at least not on-screen).

    I assumed the reason Tywin paired Baelish off with Lyssa Arryn was to effectively keep the Vale doing what it's doing: not fighting anyone. Of course, that assumes that Lyssa will accept the union and that Baelish will follow Tywin's lead, neither of which is certain.

    And, of course, in addition to Dany, there's the threat from beyond the Wall, which, like Dany, the Lannisters have already dismissed out of hand.

    So yeah, I don't imagine it'll be smooth sailing for the Lannisters from here on out, but for now, it seems like the immediate threat of the war that started in the wake of Robert/Ned's death has been mitigated.

    There's also the question of how much more time Cersei and Joffrey can spend being horribly unpleasant/murderous sadistic dickblisters respectively before the Tyrells start wondering whether they're really sold on this double marriage idea.

    Ha! Well said.

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  5. I guess I'm lucky because, other than a stray comment about the fates of a few characters who won't survive through the end of season 4, I was totally unspoiled.

    I am soooo tired of Arya and the Hound. Maybe I'm just ruined by how great Arya's interactions had been with Gendry and Tywin but I feel like every scene with them (except for his bit about her being afraid of being so close which in hindsight was fantastic) is just a variation on the theme of how much she hates him. We get it, Arya, he gets a dagger up the strap at your first opportunity, you can shut your face about it.

    I guess I'm not as attuned to the ways of boy/girl relationships as others because I interpreted Jon's parting shot to Ygritte as saying that he never felt anything for her and was playing her all along.

    I've been arguing with myself over whether Edmure will survive his wedding night. On the one hand, he has his line set up to integrate with the still-powerful House Tully. On the other, there's no way he's not going to be looking for payback for his sister's death.

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  6. @Sarah: "Nothing ever goes right for anyone else, ever, so it gets tedious and tiresome"

    Yeah, I'm very conflicted about this episode. I managed to avoid spoilers so this episode certainly shocked me. At the same time I'm not sure I'm happy with the shock.

    Sometimes I'm watching a series/movie or reading a book and I think to myself, does the writer just hate his characters? And this episode brought this thought front and center regarding George R.R. Martin. (I've had similar thoughts about Walking Dead.)

    Obviously it's his right as an author to do what he pleases with his characters. But at the same time, why do I as a consumer of this product want to just watch characters get created only to be abused and tortured?

    I saw in previews next week that Tyrion says "The North will not forget this." Or something to that affect. My impression of that statement was that he was implying the North would seek revenge. But whose left avenge the Starks? Yes, there are characters left, like Arya, but she doesn't have an army. Although I could certainly see he going all ninja assassin...

    Anyway, my real point is after this episode I'm not even sure who, if anyone, to root for. Dany's cool and all but she's so far removed from everything it's tough to get excited for her. Beyond that, the only reason she wants to conquer Westeros is because it's her "birthright" (not because Joffrey's a dick and a bad king) so she has a motive that I can't get behind.

    The same goes for Stannis, but beyond his lame motive for being king he also bores up the screen any time he shows up.

    So now I'm watching a show with some characters I like but I'm not even sure what I want to happen (that could realistically happen).

    Now, I'm not making any grand declarations regarding my opinions on this show or saying I'll stop watching it. These are just the thoughts that come to my head when a story becomes this bleak.

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  7. Maybe I should have included some thoughts on the actual episode.

    1. Do you think Stannis is going to credit the leeches for Robb's death?

    2. Speaking of Robb, why did he ask if the baby was boy or girl. Do they have sonograms in Westeros?

    3. Speaking of the baby, was it necessary to stab the mother directly in the stomach 85 times? Were they afraid the, like, 3-month-formed baby would magically survive the mother's death?

    4. After Catelyn slit Frey's wife's throat instead of just standing there she could have gone after Frey himself. True, she probably wouldn't have made it but it's worth a shot, right?

    5. You should have started your post with the line: "Game of Thrones must have taken a laxative cause shit just went down!"

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  8. @Anonymous: We get it, Arya, he gets a dagger up the strap at your first opportunity, you can shut your face about it.

    Heh. Yeah, I'm ready for Arya to sing a different tune with him. I love the character, but we've had enough of the "I hate the Hound" business. I don't mind the idea of them being stuck together for awhile, but we need to cover some new ground for that to work.

    I interpreted Jon's parting shot to Ygritte as saying that he never felt anything for her and was playing her all along.

    I can see that interpretation. I personally want for Jon to have not been playing her all along because, like I said, I like her and think Jon liking her makes him more interesting, but I wouldn't be surprised if, in the end, it turns out it was all part of his ruse.

    On the other, there's no way he's not going to be looking for payback for his sister's death.

    Then there's also the question of whether Edmure could succeed; I got the impressions from his bungled action on Robb's behalf earlier in the season that he's not the most cunning, strategically-speaking.

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  9. @Dr. Bitz: My impression of that statement was that he was implying the North would seek revenge. But whose left avenge the Starks?

    Yeah, my immediate interpretation (of a line, out of context, in a trailer) was that Tyrion is suggesting this will become one of those things that echoes through history, such that, while the Starks/the North are ill-suited to take their vengeance now, the North won't forget this, and someday will rise up against the Lannisters, rallying around the memory of this incident to strike back at the Lannisters.

    Beyond that, the only reason she wants to conquer Westeros is because it's her "birthright" (not because Joffrey's a dick and a bad king) so she has a motive that I can't get behind.

    I think what we're seeing with Dany this season is that she would conquer Westeros to free it from rule by a bad king, but at this point, she remains largely ignorant of just what a dick Joffrey is. I mean, she had no tactical reason to sack Yunkai and it probably would have been easier not to, but she did it anyway, for largely altruistic (free slaves) reasons.

    Other than Dany, I'm still rooting for Arya (even if its only for her to either get to point where she can live her own life or get some revenge on at least a micro level) and remain curious about where Jon goes next, not that his ultimate objective is all that clear at the moment (he is also, interestingly, the character on the most traditional "hero's journey", which probably means he'll be murdering puppies or something morally dubious soon).

    And of course there's Tyrion, who isn't going to, like, avenge the Starks or anything but whom I still want to see good things happen to and root to see him successfully navigate the politics and prejudices of his family.

    Do you think Stannis is going to credit the leeches for Robb's death?

    Absolutely. I mean, what is religious fanaticism without the ability to draw conclusions that fit its narrative from otherwise-coincidental events?

    Speaking of Robb, why did he ask if the baby was boy or girl. Do they have sonograms in Westeros?

    I made the same comment watching the episode, and meant to include it in the post. Like, it's one thing to wonder and discuss the possibilities, but how could Talisa possibly know the gender?

    Speaking of the baby, was it necessary to stab the mother directly in the stomach 85 times?

    I get that stabbing her there (once) was more symbolic than anything, especially as it was the opening salvo of the attack: we're murdering your your child, your line, your wife and, shortly, you. The other 84 times were just graphic for the sake of being graphic (or, as someone on Twitter put it: "guys, there's a sale on corn syrup this week; what can we do with that?").

    True, she probably wouldn't have made it but it's worth a shot, right?

    Good point.

    You should have started your post with the line: "Game of Thrones must have taken a laxative cause shit just went down!"

    A. Yes, I should have.
    2. I now have a disturbing image in my head I can't get rid of...

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  10. i'm glad the season's almost over because i need a break. i knew something terrible was going to happen just because of the internet reaction 'OMG GoT!' is spoiler enough for me to interpret too much. This episode was just emotionally exhausting- the end was just so awful that i completely forgot all the other stuff that happened in the episode until i read your blog post.

    I think the difference between GoT and Walking Dead in regards to why i get more angry at WD for basically pulling the same crap, is that i actually LIKE the characters in GoT, whereas there are only 2 or 3 characters i enjoy in WD. So when bad things happen to crappy characters, i'm more 'meh'.

    I think Bitz' comment is really just 100% spot on for me in regards to my actual feelings about this episode. Like- why do i even bother watching if the things i want to happen will never come to pass. like- i was really, really hoping that Robb would take Casterly Rock and just give a giant middle finger to the Lannisters but NOPE! Silly me to get my hopes up about anything ever.

    OMG the Captcha is 'this' and 'usuctsD' which i read as 'this sucks' and i thought it was very appropriate

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  11. Dr. Bitz: your thoughts mirror mine almost identically. I actually thought at one point, who do I even care about any more, and my response was Jaime, Tyrion and Sansa. And that's really it. If the show was just about them, then i'd be happy. But shit will go even worse for them i'm sure, and soon, so then i'll be tired of even rooting for them, too.

    Teebore: I'm a big fan of treating characters just as individuals, but if that's what Martin's going for (or, to be fair, this adaptation of Martin's work) then I think he's way off mark. Because the terrible things that happen only happen to sympathetic characters, or characters we like. Ie, Jaime only loses his hand after we like him because he protects Brienne (sp? gah, I can't remember). Joffrey is a monster and the only comeuppance he gets is Tyrion slapping him, which then of course leads to Tyrion's near death and loss of his position. Nothing bad happens to Tywin. Nothing bad happens to Joffrey. Nothing bad happens to Cersei. These are the characters that I would consider the most villainous in the context of the plot.
    And if we look at the ones who are most heroic, Robb, Ned, Jon(ish) it's just constant shit hitting the fan and straight up violent death for them.

    So I call bullshit on that. It's clear to me Martin purposely makes the worst things happen to the best characters and the not worst things happen to the worst characters. If they were actual individuals, then the shit and the not shit would be more evenly spread out among them

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  12. @Anne: OMG GoT!' is spoiler enough for me to interpret too much

    That doesn't bother me too much (because the internet freaks out over everything damn thing), but I saw some headlines yesterday morning that were trying to be vague but making it very clear something big and shocking happened, even if the details were unspecified. But I thought, "man, if I hadn't watched the episode already, I'd be pissed".

    I think the difference between GoT and Walking Dead in regards to why i get more angry at WD for basically pulling the same crap, is that i actually LIKE the characters in GoT, whereas there are only 2 or 3 characters i enjoy in WD

    Definitely. Even the characters on this show I don't like are still more well-drawn and well-acted than the vast majority of the characters on Walking Dead.

    @Sarah: Nothing bad happens to Cersei.

    Cersei is getting a bit of comeuppance this season, as she finds herself forced into another politically-expedient, loveless, arranged marriage, while also slowly realizing A. just how much of an inhuman monster her son is and B. that she's losing control of him, and thus, most of the power she'd previously wielded.

    It's not as much as I'd like, but it's a start, and I've been chortling with glee as its happened.

    But yeah, for the most part, the out-and-out villains aren't get nearly enough comeuppance. I hold out hope it's only a matter of time (as this is still relatively early in the overall story), but there is something to be said for throwing the audience an occasional bone to keep them sated as the story progresses.

    And if we look at the ones who are most heroic, Robb, Ned, Jon(ish) it's just constant shit hitting the fan and straight up violent death for them.

    I'd argue it's the characters who are most traditionally heroic, in a "does what's right/leader of men" kind of way, and again, I think that comes (for good and bad) from a desire to upend expectations of the fantasy narrative.

    I mean, Tyrion is heroic for trying to do what's best for the people despite his position within his family, Sansa (as insufferable as I find her) could be considered heroic for not devolving into a pile of goo after everything she's been through, and Dany is slowly transforming from someone who believes she's a leader because it's her birthright to someone who believes she's a leader because she can be a good, just one (which is why I fear she's headed for a bad end...), but none of them are heroic in the usual Luke Skywalker/King Arthur/Harry Potter kind of way that Ned, Robb and Jon-ish are.

    It's clear to me Martin purposely makes the worst things happen to the best characters and the not worst things happen to the worst characters.

    And I'd quibble with that just a bit, not necessarily with the sentiment itself but with the inclusion of Robb and Catelyn as best characters. Because I've rarely liked either. The former, after some initial battlefield success that endeared me to him, settled in for far too much angsty moping and inaction, while the latter has been a dunce almost since day one, when she pretty much triggered the current sequence of events by impetuously capturing Tyrion.

    Their deaths are shocking because of their place within the world and the narrative (and their deaths are a gut punch because of what it means for characters I like more, like Arya, and for the prospects of Ned ever getting avenged) but they were probably amongst my least-favorite characters. I mean, Tywin is a grade-A ass munch and I really hope he gets knocked down a peg or two, but I'd much rather watch a scene with him than one with Robb or Catelyn.

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  13. For what it's worth, Tasha Robinson over at the Onion AV Club wrote an article about this episode discussing some of the same things we've been talking about.

    In addition to linking to a GRRM interview w/Entertainment Weekly that makes him sound like even more of a twit, she talks about the emotional reaction to the deaths of characters many people didn't like, touches on the feeling hopelessness we've mentioned, and offers some reason to hope for the future.

    I tweeted it out, but in case you missed it, here's the link. Definitely worth a read.

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  14. I assume he brings her to the wedding in the book as well, so that the decision to do so is equally baffling in either medium? Or is her presence there entirely fabricated by the show?

    That was fabricated by the show. Robb's wife is a pretty different character in the books and also isn't in them a whole lot, because she's only seen from Cat's perspective. She gets left behind, and doesn't really do a whole lot afterwards. I'm guessing they added her death just to make it even worse and add in a surprise for the book readers.

    I thought it was a great episode, but I also am way more invested in Jon, Arya and Bran at this point than Catelyn and Robb, so I wasn't quite as upset as I would be if it was one of them.

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  15. Yeah i meant heroic in the more literal sense of things, if we're talking high fantasy, which we are.
    because i don't overly care about robb or catelyn, but their deaths help Tywin and Tywin getting a leg up only makes things more difficult for the characters i DO like.

    Though i will say that Dany, at least in this season so far, is the outlier. But again, i'm not sure how much of that is Martin and how much is HBO.

    I stand by the fact that the most horrible things happen to the characters we either like a lot, or the characters who are the only ones in a postision to directly oppose the characters we hate, and that the characters we hate just go on living their lives. Maybe Cersei has to get married, but it wasn't like anyone was going to let her marry Jaime anyway and it's not like her new husband is going to want to sleep with her anyway, so i don't actually see her life changing all that much.

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  16. @Jeff: I'm guessing they added her death just to make it even worse and add in a surprise for the book readers.

    Makes sense. Thanks for the info.

    I also am way more invested in Jon, Arya and Bran at this point than Catelyn and Robb, so I wasn't quite as upset as I would be if it was one of them.

    Robb really was the least interesting Stark, wasn't he (well, aside from Rickon)? I mean, Sansa drives me nuts, but its still more interesting to watch her (clumsily) navigate her way through Kings Landing than most anything Robb ever did.

    @Sarah: their deaths help Tywin and Tywin getting a leg up only makes things more difficult for the characters i DO like.

    That's actually one of the things that articles talks about: that Robb and Catelyn's deaths aren't upsetting because it means the villains will never see justice, but rather that any hope for justice is delayed by their deaths even further, until such a time that Jon or Dany get clued in or Arya, Sansa and Bran grow up and into a position where they can do something about it.

    so i don't actually see her life changing all that much

    Yeah, it's definitely not like Cersei is suffering that much. I'm just taking what I can get at this point.

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  17. Teebore'sBrotherJune 4, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    @Dr Bitz: I am going to be brief because I disagree with you on TV/Movies/Etc. in just about every way. I don't want to get into a long debate or anything with you or other people. I apologize for any grammatical errors. I am not a writer by any means.

    From your comment regarding something along the lines of "no one to root for" I find if you are rooting for anyone you are doing GoT wrong. If your rooting for a character is based on the actions taken by that character, actions you morally endorse (to a certain extent), and if rooting for a character is a requisite for enjoying the show/books then, from my perspective, you are going to be dissatisfied with the series as a whole.

    Keep in mind, for "rooting" there is still Jon, Arya, Bran, Sansa, Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Sam, Davos, Dany and her crew, Stannis (who is more of a good guy then you might think, despite the show's portrayal). There are also sweet characters who have yet to appear in the show (some of my favorite in the series) which you can root for.

    Please keep in mind, I realize your criticism are deeper then "all the good characters get shit on" and that your lack of likable characters is only part of the problem.

    That being said, while the series isn't over, as of book five, the story is (again, from my perspective) an exercise in nihilism. Nothing good happens to anyone. If it does, it doesn't last. If you care about someone, they will die. If you hate someone they will succeed. If they fail, worse events will be set in motion. Maybe there is a happy ending at the end of everything, but the journey is brutal and not for everyone. If you don't want to feel shitty at the end of day then quit now. Sad emotions and cool fantasy shit. That is GoT/ASoIF

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  18. @Teebore'sBrother:the story is (again, from my perspective) an exercise in nihilism

    If you haven't, I'd suggest you read that article I linked to - it's written by someone whose read all the SoIaF books, as well as the rest of GRRM material, and who considers herself a fan of his writing, and she argues that there's reason to believe the ending may not be as nihilistic as you suggest.

    Of course, having not read the books (or much else of GRRM's writing), I have no idea how offbase or not she may or may not be, but I thought it was interesting, especially in light of the nihilism you mention as pervading the series.

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  19. @Teebore I assumed the reason Tywin paired Baelish off with Lyssa Arryn was to effectively keep the Vale doing what it's doing: not fighting anyone.

    That's certainly the plan. That relies not just on Lysa going along with it, but Baelish not playing eleventy-dimensional chess with the Vale. Don't forget, it was him taking Eddard Stark to that brothel that set in motion the events that guaranteed the war couldn't end with Eddard being exchanged for Tyrion.

    Basically, Littlefinger comes third in the list of people responsible for the war, after Catelyn and whomever sent the assassin after Bran. Actually, you could maybe include Lysa in there too, since if it hadn't been for her letter to Cat at the start of season one the Lannisters wouldn't have been under suspicion.

    So yeah, I don't imagine it'll be smooth sailing for the Lannisters from here on out, but for now, it seems like the immediate threat of the war that started in the wake of Robert/Ned's death has been mitigated.

    I agree, in large part. Indeed, without wishing to give anything away, one of the major themes of the books is the difference between being good at managing full-on wars and being good at managing an uneasy peace. It will be interesting to see how the Lannisters cope with an upcoming winter and no clear enemy to unite against (though I imagine the Greyjoys will become more prominent now that the Northerners have been dealt with).

    Then there's also the question of whether Edmure could succeed; I got the impressions from his bungled action on Robb's behalf earlier in the season that he's not the most cunning, strategically-speaking.

    Yeah, I'm not sure I'd look to Edmure to be of much use, especially since right now he's half-drunk and entirely naked in the castle of the enemy. He'll be lucky to get out of his first marital shag without getting Theoned.

    There is an alternative scion of revenge, however: the Blackfish. In fact, the fact he left the hall just before everything went crazy would seem to me strong evidence that either he's going to be the guy Stark lovers will be rooting for soon enough, or that he was in on the whole thing like Bolton. Could go either way.

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  20. @ teebore

    Yeah, my immediate interpretation (of a line, out of context, in a trailer) was that Tyrion is suggesting this will become one of those things that echoes through history, such that, while the Starks/the North are ill-suited to take their vengeance now, the North won't forget this, and someday will rise up against the Lannisters, rallying around the memory of this incident to strike back at the Lannisters.

    Indeed. There's a major problem in what the Freys/Boltons/Lannisters have pulled off here, which is that they've just willingly broken a centuries-old understanding that guests should not be harmed by their hosts. They've set themselves up to be fair game for assassination attempts at their own weddings, for example, and no-one need honour truces with them anymore. This is an exceptionally dangerous game they're playing.

    Absolutely. I mean, what is religious fanaticism without the ability to draw conclusions that fit its narrative from otherwise-coincidental events?

    To be fair, it happened pretty quick and pretty unexpectedly and pretty bloodily. If Mel chalks this up as a win, I don't blame her.

    Besides, we already know Mel can see the future to some degree. Maybe the leech didn't kill Robb, maybe she only saw that he'd die and figured she could take the credit. Which raises the question: has she seen some tragedy befall Balon and/or Joffrey?

    I made the same comment watching the episode, and meant to include it in the post. Like, it's one thing to wonder and discuss the possibilities, but how could Talisa possibly know the gender?

    I assumed this was just some old wive's tale about mothers being able to tell the sex of their unborn babies. Well, actually I assumed she was shining him on because she was part of the conspiracy to have Robb killed, but boy was I wrong.

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  21. @Sarah Ahiers

    .I actually thought at one point, who do I even care about any more, and my response was Jaime, Tyrion and Sansa. And that's really it. If the show was just about them, then i'd be happy. But shit will go even worse for them i'm sure, and soon, so then i'll be tired of even rooting for them, too.

    Wait; you're worried things might get too bad for the guy who tries to murder children? Who killed his own cousin because it gave him a chance at escape? That's an... interesting choice of character to pin one's hopes to.

    Which is kind of the point of the story, as Teebore's brother has discussed. Martin's choice to kill first Eddard and then Robb wasn't out of desire to be intentionally unpleasant to readers, it was based in his desire to subvert the fantasy genre by first killing the noble lord, and then by killing the noble son of the noble lord who nobly avenges his noble father. The two of them were deliberate cliches to be deconstructed and then killed.

    Unsurprisingly, this isn't the last time someone bites the dust in the story, but by the very nature of what Martin is writing, we've had the biggest two gut-punches already, because the other characters are subverted either by their natures (Jaime being a kinslayer and child-crippler who also saved a quarter million people, for example), or by the tropes they're following (such as Sansa being the typical "fairytale princess" character who's been laid horribly low by successive doses of Real Life).

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  22. I guess i don't understand what you mean by "pin ones hopes on".

    I like Jaime because he's witty, he's complicated, he's fully realized and he's fun to watch. I liked him in the book because of the same reasons, and because even though he was this golden boy, he also loved Tyrion, who, i think most everyone can agree on, is awesome.

    My liking of him as a character isn't because he's morally good or bad. If that were the case i would have loved Robb instead of merely tolerated him. Why do i only have to like good guys? Why can't i like villains, or even those who flirt with both sides?

    So yeah, if i have limited characters i like in a show or book, and shit keeps piling on them over and over, or, shit piles on other people which then makes things harder for the characters i do like, it gets exhausting and i lose interest.

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  23. @ Sarah Ahiers My liking of him as a character isn't because he's morally good or bad. If that were the case i would have loved Robb instead of merely tolerated him. Why do i only have to like good guys? Why can't i like villains, or even those who flirt with both sides?

    Well, obviously you can like villains, but in an earlier comment you mentioned the characters you like keep getting slapped down, whereas the villains are all OK, which kind of suggests there's no overlap between the two. I guess that's why I was confused about you loving Jaime, though of course you're right that Jaime isn't in the same class of nastiness that Joffrey is.

    Still, it's personally tough for me to get upset about Jaime being maimed because he turns out to be capable of sticking up for his friends and preventing massacres. That's just too milquetoast a pair of good points when compared with his willingness to murder anyone any time it'll be of use to him. I confess that the show would be the poorer without Jaime, because he's fascinating, but that's a different matter.

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  24. @SpaceSquid: He'll be lucky to get out of his first marital shag without getting Theoned.

    Ha! "Getting Theoned" is my new favorite phrase.

    ...or that he was in on the whole thing like Bolton.

    Aw, I'd never even considered that (probably because he's Catelyn's uncle). But you're right: it's a possibility. Though I think I'd rather he died offscreen than be in on it.

    If Mel chalks this up as a win, I don't blame her.

    True. I'd be more bothered my Stannis doing the same, but I'm sure he will (and it's certainly in character for him to do so).

    Which raises the question: has she seen some tragedy befall Balon and/or Joffrey?

    One can only hope...

    Though I do like the idea of Mel's only actual power being precognition, and then she just does these grandiose rituals to make it look like she's bringing about the things she saw happen.

    Sort of a reverse con, I guess you'd call it?

    Well, actually I assumed she was shining him on because she was part of the conspiracy to have Robb killed, but boy was I wrong.

    Dead wrong, in fact. *rimshot*

    because the other characters are subverted either by their natures ... or by the tropes they're following

    That's a really great observation. Though it does leave me worried about Jon, who has always seemed like the most traditional heroic/noble of the characters after Ned and Robb. Even moreso than Robb at times, he's struck me as Ned's true heir and the most Luke Skywalker-y character on the show, which, given GRRM's desire to subvert our expectations of such characters, makes me think he might be ending for a similarly bad end.

    For awhile there I was thinking his alliance with the Wildings, so long as there was some truth to it, might be the thing that "tarnishes" him (in terms of making him more than just the Hero), but now it seems like that was all 100% ruse. Then again, maybe not.

    ...and I'm suddenly reminded of the difficulties in discussing what might happen in a story with people who know. :)

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  25. That's a really great observation. Though it does leave me worried about Jon, who has always seemed like the most traditional heroic/noble of the characters after Ned and Robb. Even moreso than Robb at times, he's struck me as Ned's true heir and the most Luke Skywalker-y character on the show, which, given GRRM's desire to subvert our expectations of such characters, makes me think he might be ending for a similarly bad end.

    I had the exact same thought just after Robb died and I started thinking about who might be next for the chop. For the first two books Jon seemed entirely safe because he was the only other viewpoint character up at the Wall. But then Martin started writing chapters from Sam's viewpoint and I started getting really concerned...

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  26. Man, Alternate-Earth Medieval Willie Nelson is one nasty son of a bitch.

    I was going to say "bastard" until you wrote much the same about Roose Bolton, who now impressively passes Michael Bolton on the list of Boltons you don't want at a party. Although props for "Captain Jack Sparrow"...

    Nobody is safe on this show / in these books, for sure, which honestly makes for some tricky waters to navigate when the grand saga finally ends.

    I wasn't expecting a full scale massacre at the wedding.

    I'm with you. To be honest, after the slimy way Frey sized up Talisa but ended up marrying his prettiest daughter to Uncle Edmure (in both a courtesy and a "f--- you" to Robb), I thought that the worst at the Twins was over — until the doors shut and the music started playing, anyway.

    Robb's idiot decision to bring his wife to the wedding frankly belonged to an established pattern of being blind where she's concerned and, honestly, pretty poor as a tactician overall. For all that Robb was a decent guy, and the Stark most likely to take the throne at this point in time, I can't deny that he probably deserved to pay — in some form; not like this, of course — for reneging on his pledge to Frey and for his suspect planning in general. The repeated stabs to Talisa's abdomen, given her just-revealed pregnancy, were especially horrific, and even more stunning than Catelyn's death was her resignation to it.

    Baelish is gonna be hella pissed when he finds out about this, and he now technically has the power to do something about it.

    I hadn't even thought of him in all this. Good call — and just one more indication of how much there is to keep in mind, how much all these diverse plot threads are connected.

    And with that, Daenerys sacks another city and frees another load of slaves.

    Ha! While I liked the little fight scene that we did get as well, the odds seemed so overwhelmingly against Dany's Warriors Three when we cut away from them that it felt like a cheat. Of course we get that sort of thing on TV all the time, but I don't expect it on a show like this that for all its melodrama tries to be as realistic as possible given the acknowledged fantasy of its realm.

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  27. In addition to Arya getting this close to her family, we got another bit of rare interconnected plotlines as Jon and Bran end up in roughly the same place

    Another good call and something that I somehow didn't explicitly notice in terms of the parallelism even though each of the discrete storyline-crossings were not just noticed but appreciated.

    and was also able to take control of Hodor, presumably because his mind is more simple than most humans

    Jojen seemed really impressed and mentioned that it was a tremendous leap from being able to possess animals to posessing Hodor, but all due respect to Hodor I was surprised that nobody piped up with a qualification there.

    I'll miss Osha as well, partly because I just love the way she say "lih'ull luhhd" and partly because now there's nobody to keep an eye on workplace safety.

    The impetus of Jon's "betrayal" could have been handled better, even within the same circumstances.

    I'm with you there too. To be charitable towards the show, Jon and Ygritte seem to have been stuck with more obnoxious and perhaps jingoistically anti-Crow / Wildling-superior companions than, say, Mance Rayder or Ygritte herself, but it the impetus still felt sloppy and in a larger context the cleaving of Jon Snow from the Wildlings felt too soon in terms of potential narrative.

    My assumption in the moment was that he was beating a strategic retreat with some plan in mind and will come back for Ygritte, but she clearly doesn't know or think anything of the sort; this may be completely wishful thinking on my part.

    Dany remains a threat, but she'll be busy freeing slaves for awhile.

    What's intriguing to me is that Tywin knows about Dany but from what little we've heard is probably underestimating her as a threat, and he's similarly unprepared for whatever Arya or Jon Snow might bring. Each of them is certainly quite a ways off from being a threat, for sure; the unknown unknowns are always what bite you in the ass, though. Plus one can't be sure what Varys or Olenna Tyrell or other players in the game might be cooking up and with whom they'll be throwing in their lot as the wheels of intrigue spin on.

    I'm sorry that I haven't had time to read the comments yet, but on the other hand I'm happy to be going out. 


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  28. @Blam: Robb's idiot decision to bring his wife to the wedding frankly belonged to an established pattern of being blind where she's concerned and, honestly, pretty poor as a tactician overall.

    Good point. As dumb as it was, it certainly wasn't out of character.

    ...and partly because now there's nobody to keep an eye on workplace safety.

    Ha! I think of that every time I type out her name...

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