The Red Wedding: Insights from a Dejected Game of Thrones Newbie

(WARNING: the following article contains heavy spoilers from Game of Thrones S1-S3)

Game of Thrones (2011-2019) is a television series that needs no introduction. It’s the medieval fantasy epic that has captivated audiences all over the world for its violent battles, plot twists and royal politics throughout its eight seasons. The show originally premiered April 17th 2011 on HBO and would soon become a household name when it comes to television and popular culture.

Given this profound impact in entertainment, it’s hard to fathom why some didn’t watch the series; but surprisingly, I was one of those people! For the first five seasons, I was a slave to graduate school, and television was the last thing on my mind. Even after, I felt it was just too late, so I waited until the series was over. Now here I am, out from under the rock I’ve been living, four months after the series finale, and ready to join the conversations surrounding this award-winning fantasy.

My experience watching the show has been a roller coaster thus far. I wasn’t hooked right away, and admittedly, I found myself fast-forwarding through certain characters’ scenes. That’s not to say that this show isn’t great, but I get frustrated when it feels like I’m wasting my time, and that’s what some of Game of Thrones was for me early on. Despite this, I kept watching and ceased my skipping thanks to some good old-fashioned peer pressure. Thank goodness I did because Season 3 has been such an achievement in television. It has found itself on my list of best seasons of a TV show ever.

Image result for game of thrones season 3
courtesy of HBO

At this point in the show, the Starks are all scattered, King Joffrey’s still awful, Robb Stark is living in bliss as the new King of the north with a wife and a baby on the way, and Daenerys is hell-bent on conquering the Iron Throne and every kingdom that stands in her way.

What could possibly go wrong?

I was warned early on to not get too attached to characters because the chances of their survival was minimal, but I couldn’t help myself. Robb Stark, for example, accepted the challenge of being King when Ned fell, led his men into victorious battles, and stood his ground when it came to achieving his goals. Alongside his reign as King of the North, he found true love with Talisa Maegyr! How could you not get attached to him and cheer for his happiness? Well, I made the mistake of doing so during S3, and then came the Red Wedding…

Episode: Season 3, Episode 9
Title: The Rains of Castamere
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Cinematography: Robert McLachlan
Original Air Date: June 2, 2013

Image result for game of thrones season 3
courtesy of HBO

Before I go any further, you’re probably wondering how I’ve managed to remain spoiler-free all of these years. Truth be told, I’ve done small bits of muting on Twitter mostly because I had no idea what people were talking about and didn’t care. And for things that seeped through my censorship, I simply don’t remember because, let’s face it, most of these names are weird.

Towards the start of the episode, I was already nervous because Robb Stark & co. had just negotiated with Walder Frey to marry his daughter to Edmure Tully when Robb was already promised. (tsk tsk!) Going back on your word seems like a recipe for disaster in a show called Game of Thrones. But hey! I’m just a GoT newbie. What do I know? To witness Frey’s forgiveness on this matter was a suspicion that I could not shake. Not to mention, the insults, the blank stares and evil glares from Frey to Robb was enough to send me to an anxious frenzy.

But everything seemed to be at ease… until it wasn’t.

I will never forget the day I watched The Rains of Castamere. In between screaming at the tele yet feeling hopeful, I decided to tweet the following statement: “Robb’s love story is gonna end in tragedy. I’m not even gonna become invested lmao.” It’s like I knew there would be blood ahead, but nothing could ever prepare me for what I was actually about to witness. Two minutes later, the most epic television massacre I’ve ever seen sent my jaw to the floor and the tears flowing out of my eyes like a river.

My anxiety skyrocketed when Catelyn Stark sensed something was unusual about the evening. After she pulled back the sleeve of Bolton to reveal his chain mail, I just knew, and my heart sank. You know when you feel a good cry coming on by the building lump in your throat accompanied by a racing heart? That’s exactly what happened to me. And to witness the murder of Talisa and her unborn child in the most brutal way while having to watch Robb’s reaction was heartbreak in the highest order. There he was – Robb Stark, one of my favorite characters, having to live through these horrors, frozen in time, completely shocked by devastation and unable to react.

How could this possibly get any worse?

(Narrator: it canand it did)

courtesy of HBO

Robb’s inability to react is exactly what happened to me when the events of the Red Wedding unfolded. It was like trying to let out a scream, but losing my breath in the wind instead. Then, in his final moments, and with Catelyn’s doleful wailing and pleading, that’s when I really lost it. If I’m being completely honest, I began to laugh incessantly. It was the kind of nervous laughter that hid the anxiety and uneasiness that I was truly feeling. To make matters worst, Arya Stark was several feet away from being reunited with her family. Instead, she’s gifted the privilege of seeing the murders of Robb’s banner-men and his direwolf. COME ON, MAN! What a rough childhood! My heart couldn’t take it.

At this point, I’ve watched this episode 12 days ago, and I am still not recovered from it. How could I prepare for the slaughtering of basically everyone- and the main characters at that! But that’s a testament to the craft and care with which the artists have created this series. The same series that managed to shock me to my soul and outdo the beheading of Ned Stark. And that’s certainly because of the remarkable cast and crew.

In the minutes of the actual Red Wedding event, I witnessed some exceptional acting, cinematography and storytelling. Michelle Fairley, in particular, sent chills up and down my spine from her tormented screams, alone. In her realization that death was all too imminent for her greatest pride & joy, Catelyn Stark pleads with Frey to have mercy. This being Game of Thrones, of course, mercy does not exist. And in that moment, with her last appearance, Fairley made me realize that I was witnessing one of the greatest events in television history.

Image result for the red wedding
courtesy of HBO

The sequencing of S3E9 is exquisite, as well. Though the cuts to various scenes may seem like simple transitions, director David Nutter’s ability to conjoin the vantage points into one large perspective was masterful. There’s a bit of frustration that comes with this style, but that’s all a part of the fun. Knowing family members were so close to reuniting only to be interrupted by tragedy and seeing a glimpse of hope only for it to be replaced by despair is the kind of optimistic falsehood this show is far too good at. But it’s got me hooked. And the woefully somber end credits that is accompanied by silence (in lieu of the theme song): *true art… but make it tragic!

Game of Thrones has taken a lot out of me that I was never expecting to give in return. But I guess that’s what happens when you invest in these characters – their stories, their triumphs, their downfalls. It’s like I’m knowingly becoming a part of a tumultuous family with many days of agony and despair ahead. And yet, I can’t turn back now. It’s too late. I’m here for the long run. It just might take me a couple of weeks to recover and get back in the swing of things… Game of Thrones fans, how’d you do it?

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