With the tremendous response erupting from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I wanted to put down some long-form thoughts that I could point people toward in a format where I had some control over spoiler visibility. If you haven’t seen the episode or read the third book of the series, stop reading now.
Ah, the Red Wedding.
The amount of grief, hate, anger, and shock spilling across the internet right now is delicious. That said, though, I’m a little surprised by it for one simple reason: did you not see this coming?
As soon as Robb broke his vow with the Freys and married Jeyne Westerling (or Talisa, in the show), his life was forfeit. The Freys made up a sizable portion of his army, already smaller than that of the Baratheon-Lannister army and certainly smaller than the Baratheon-Lannister-Highgarden army. Without them, he had no chance to defeat them and it would only be a matter of time before they laid siege to the north and destroyed him.
As soon as the Freys consented to treat with him to make amends, I knew he was walking into a trap. Everything we know about Walder Frey makes him out to be a prickly, proud, spiteful old man. He wouldn’t just forget Robb’s slight, even if it meant securing Riverrun through a marriage to Edmure. He wanted a king for a son-in-law, not a lord. He would never forgive that. Making amends with Walder Frey was never a realistic option and Robb walking blindly into it telegraphed his demise loud and clear.
So, yeah. Robb was a dead man. One could make the case that Talisa’s death was shocking, since in the books Jeyne Westerling remains behind at Riverrun (and thus survives), but she’s largely a non-character in the books. Talisa has a much-expanded role and her presence at the wedding in the show ensured that she, too, would die. The manner of her death, through the stabbing of her unborn, was horrific and brutal…but not altogether worse than anything else we’ve seen the villains of this world carry out.
I’ll admit that I didn’t expect Catelyn to die when I read her death in the book. I had long since written off Robb, but I expected her to be taken prisoner or otherwise make some escape. In hindsight — and even as the situation unfolded — her death became inevitable. She was already broken, with her husband decapitated, her daughters missing, and her youngest sons presumed dead. Robb was the only thing holding her together, so his death meant the death of her mind, if not her body. Ending her life was an act of mercy at that point.
Two quotes really encapsulate the situation, one of which appears in the narrative and the other is a more recent one coming from GRRM.
I try to make the readers feel they’ve lived the events of the book. Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience isn’t it?
If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
– Ramsay Snow
Edit 16:14: Here’s some speculation about how the future seasons will follow the stories in the books:
- Season 4 (2014): Book 3, Part 2
- Season 5 (2015): Books 4 and 5, Part 1*
- Season 6 (2016): Books 4 and 5, Part 2*
- Season 7 (2017): Book 6**
* For those who haven’t read the books, Books 4 and 5 happen concurrently but are split geographically. The show has no reason to stick to this format and would probably be better served by following everyone at the same time, so as to not break temporal synchronicity.
** Hopefully, we’ll see book six in 2016, which then gives them enough time to adapt it and film it for 2017. That sort of leaves things in the air for Book 7, though, which I suspect will take GRRM longer to write than a year.