Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend Reviews!

Trololololo, lololo, lololo...

You know that huge spoiler in Game of Thrones that everyone who's read the books has been annoyingly hinting at for months, maybe even years?

That was it.

If you had it spoiled ahead of time, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I can only imagine how furious you must be. For the rest of you? Trust me. It was just as shocking in the books, and we've all been waiting with desperate anticipation for you to catch up so we could talk about this.

My friend Noah's only started reading the books recently; his wife, Jenn, hasn't yet. When he got to last night's events in A Storm of Swords, he flipped out and threw it against the wall. He couldn't explain to Jenn what had happened, because he didn't dare spoil it for her. Instead, we had a text-based conversation with a whole bunch of capital letters and exclamation points. Because holy shit.

Okay, I've danced around this long enough. Here's the break. If you press on beyond this point, things will be spoiled. If you haven't seen "The Rains of Castamere" yet, and you've managed not to have the ending spoiled, you should stop right the fuck here. Because you absolutely deserve to go in with fresh eyes and get the full impact from what happened.


Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere"

Sorry, Robb.
So. Sure sucks to be a Stark, don't it?

Yes, folks. Robb is dead. He was honorable, brave, and a brilliant military commander. He was also an idealist in a world that grinds idealists up into hamburger and feeds them to their enemies. He was his father's son, to a fault. He treated others justly and expected them to respond in kind. He was honest and forthright. The only moral failing Ned Stark ever demonstrated, the (apparent) liaison with some unknown woman that produced Jon Snow, he corrected. Rather than subject some poor Frey girl to a sham marriage while having his true love on the side, he broke off the engagement to marry Talisa (or another girl entirely, in the books) honestly. And that shining example of moral fortitude, above and beyond what even his heroic father could accomplish, is what led directly to his demise.

Don't worry, though. The Freys betrayed one of the oldest and most sacred traditions in Westeros: the sacred pact between a host and his guests. Robb and his men ate Walder Frey's bread and salt, and he was bound by codes of honor as old as the Wall to offer them no harm within his halls. His betrayal is one of the most sickening and outrageous displays of dishonor and malfeasance in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, and he'll soon pay for his misdeeds.

Oh, wait. This is Game of Thrones.

The next episode looks likely to cover the immediate fallout of this massacre, hereafter known as the Red Wedding. As you may have inferred from Roose Bolton's farewell to Robb, the betrayal was orchestrated by the Lannisters... or, particularly, one Lannister, who also happens to be the most powerful man in Westeros. (No, not Joffrey. Be thankful for that, at least.) I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion about how, exactly, Tywin arranged everything and moved the pieces exactly where they needed to be, but the upshot is this: the Lannisters won.

By ladynlmda
Pictured: Consolidate Power, personified.
The war's over. The Karstarks left a few episodes ago. The Boltons betrayed Robb. A huge chunk of the Army of the North--basically everyone who went to the Twins--is either dead or will be a few minutes into the season finale. Winterfell is a burned-out husk, and the only (known) surviving Stark is Sansa, who is now married to Tyrion. It's over. Tywin Lannister ended the rebellion with a quill and a few ravens.

"Power is power," as his daughter once said.

And so begins the second act of A Song of Ice and Fire. The status quo established over the last two-and-a-half books (and three seasons) is done. The brave, heroic Starks we've all come to admire and love are utterly defeated. All they have left are their lives... well, some of them, anyway. Their House has been utterly destroyed by the honor they held so dear, and all we can do is hope that the survivors have finally learned their lesson. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, and you'd better be the most ruthless bastard on the board.

So, uh... what else happened? I admit, it's sort of a blur. Knowing the whole time what was coming, it was a bit hard to pay attention to the plots with Bran, Jon, Arya, and Danaerys.

Well, okay. The show runners did something really interesting there, and (I believe) made a few nice alterations from the books. It's almost diabolical how close the various, scattered Starks came to reuniting, knowing how the episode was going to end. Jon was literally a few yards away from Bran and Rikkon, and never knew it. Arya made it to the Twins, just as the betrayal was beginning. So close. So very damned close.

There was also a ton of action in this episode. Far more than we've seen previously, I think. Jon got to fight some wildlings, finally killing off
Later, dumbass.
That Warg Guy Who Died Way Back When Jon First "Betrayed" the Watch. Jorah, Grey Worm, and Ridiculously Photogenic Mercenary had a really great battle against waves of Yunkai soldiers; it was fun to see some real swordsmanship on the show, and yeah, I have to admit that Dharrio's kind of awesome. Poor Jorah, though. He's been patiently stuck in the Friend Zone for over a year, now, and then along comes Legolas. Handsome jerk.

(Also, dude. Grey Worm is like ninja Leonidus.)

But... c'mon. The story of this episode is the Red Wedding. And both I and, I'm pretty sure, the show's writers have been looking forward to/dreading this since the very first episode. All that work, all that buildup and anticipation, totally paid off. The scene was devastating. Even knowing what was coming, it was just as powerful and heartrending as in the books. Maybe even moreso, here, with the amazing acting done by Michelle Fairley (Catelyn). As the doors closed and band started up "The Rains of Castamere," and the dread and excitement started building up in my gut, her expression just... man, there are no words. She was perfect. The entire scene, right up until the very, very end, she was absolutely amazing.

Bad taste: playing "Rains of Castamere" while
Ms. Fairley receives her Emmy.
And... really, what else is there to say? The scene was sickeningly brutal. Talisa being stabbed so many times in the stomach, in the womb. Robb's wordless horror as he held his dying wife. Catelyn's desperate efforts to save her last remaining son. And Walder Fey's cruel, indifferent amusement.

This is the turning point, folks. The Red Wedding is what made the series what it is. When people who've read the books have smirked and shaken their heads, or remained infuriatingly silent, whenever you've asked about future plot points or the fates of certain characters, this is why. Because A Song of Ice and Fire does not care about your favorite characters. It does not care about your sense of justice. It does not care about typical narrative structure, or meeting your expectations. Westeros is a brutal, terrible place, and even when the Good Guys win, it's never as complete as they'd want, and never without some great cost.

If you still think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.

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