So that happened.
But first, Robb Stark is at the war map where he plans his battle strategy. He has the men placed around the map and is studying it with his mother Catelyn by his side She asks if he’s sure and he says no. His plan right now is to take Casterly Rock from the Lannisters, weaken their reputation, take their gold, and diminish their power. Catelyn wants to know why he’s telling her and he said last time she gave advice (about sending Theon to Pyke) he didn’t heed it, so this time he will not so quickly ignore what she says. She asks if he has enough men and he says he will if Walder Frey cooperates. Though they could be defeated if reinforcements from King’s Landing get there. But Catelyn urges Robb to go forward with his plan.
We see Robb’s direwolf lead the way as the men carrying the Stark banners finally arrive at the Twins for the wedding. Walder Frey welcomes his guests to his home and they are symbolically treated to bread and salt, extending to them his hospitality and protection by the light of the seven. Robb begins by making his apologies to Lord Frey. Frey says it wasn’t him that Robb snubbed but his daughters and so he trots them out so Robb can beg each for their forgiveness for breaking his marriage vow. One wonders what the casting call was for the Frey girls and how awkward it was for the agents to call up their clients and say, they’re looking for plain, you’re perfect! Meanwhile, Edmure looks over the girls with great consternation as he knows he’ll be marrying one of Walder’s daughters shortly.
Robb gives a long impassioned apology/explanation to the women and at the end Frey gives a sarcastic slow clap then to show there are no hard feelings he asks for the other woman to come forward. Talisa approaches him warily and he instructs her to come closer. Robb said he chose love over his vow to the Freys, Walder Frey calls it ” a pretty face.” Much prettier than his daughters. Lecherously, he discusses her body further and says when he was a young man he would have broke fifty vows to have sex with someone who looked like her. He discusses plans for the wedding and entertainment and says they will celebrate and “put this mess behind us.”
At the encampment in Yunkai, Dany’s new ally ally Daario Naharis is helping her with battle plans, while getting too close for Jorah’s comfort. He has a plan of attack. He will kill the guards that protect the back gate, take Dany’s two best men, sneak through the back gate into the city and open the front gate for the rest of the army. It should take little time to control the city. Jorah is dubious, how does he know this isn’t a trap. Daario says trust me oh distrustful one (and you just don’t like me because I’m younger and prettier). They ask Grey Worm what he thinks, does he trust Daario? Not being jealous (and being young and pretty, too), he says that he trusts Daario. Barristan asks to go along, but Jorah says that his place is with Dany (Jorah has taken enough hits to his manhood for one day).
As Sam and Gilly continue towards Castle Black, Sam tells her the history of the region and all the castles that have houses the Night’s Watch. He’s like an encyclopedia and Gilly has never met someone with so much knowledge before. She can’t believe he’s learned so much just from reading marks on paper. He’s like a wizard. (Sam’s wish finally came true!). Gilly finally gets her first view of the wall, something she never thought would happen.
Arya and the Hound come upon an old man with a broken down cart. He was on the road to the Twins to bring salt pork for the festivities, but the wheel came off. The Hound lifts the cart and the man puts the wheel back, then he knocks the man out. He takes out a dagger to finish the man off, but Arya stops him. The Hound doesn’t want to leave any witnesses (something Brienne should have thought of when she was transporting Jaime), but Arya does not want any more innocent people being killed. She’s had it with the Hound’s posturing and she chides him and the begs him not to kill the man. Surprisingly, he agrees. Then, as the old man starts coming to, Arya picks up a heavy piece of wood and clocks him in the head.
Bran, Osha, Rickon, Hodor, Jojen and Meera are at the Gift (an area south of the wall that is controlled by the Night’s Watch). Bran remembers one of his lessons from Maester Luwin and tells them that Brandon the Builder gave all the land south of the Wall to the Night’s Watch, for their sustenance and support. Meera wonders why it’s abandoned and Bran says, wildlings (um, no offense Osha) and goes on to describe all the awful things the wildlings do and the even worse stories Old Nan told about them. All the while, Osha is glaring at them (though she later good naturedly jokes about it). With a storm coming, they decide to camp in an abandoned mill there for the night.
Jon, Ygritte, Tormund and Orell (and some couple dozen others) find a man on a small farm with eight horses. Jon explains that the man breeds them for the Night’s Watch. Ygritte wonders how he keeps people from stealing them, and Jon says the Watch protects him. Yet there appears to be no one else there today. The plan is to kill the man and take his gold and whatever else of value he has as well as the horses. But Jon tries to talk them out of killing the man saying that the Watch won’t put too many resources in looking for horse thieves, but will go after murderers. This doesn’t sway Tormund, he wants to Watch to come after him so he can kill them out in the open.
They all run towards the hut, with Jon trying to make as much noise as possible so as to warn the man of their attack. The old man hears the noise and comes out of his house and sees the wildlings coming at him. He mounts a horse and tries to escape, Ygritte takes aim with her bow, but misses and the man runs off.
Arya sees the Twins on either side of the Green Fork of the River Trident. They are waiting here for it to get darker, and, with no concern for trichinosis, the Hound is eating some of the pig. The Hound tells Arya that he knows she afraid, he can see it on her face. But she tells him, she’s seen fear on his face too. She knows he’s afraid of fire, and she knows why – “I heard what your brother did to you. Pressed your face to the fire like you’re a nice juicy mutton chop.” The Hound wonders if that has given her any ideas and she reponds, “Might do.” She then promises to kill him someday. So, there really is not much of a thaw in their relationship.
Inside the mill, Bran asks what the plan is for getting beyond the Wall. Hodor certainly can’t carry him up and over it. Osha said she took a boat to get around it and it took months. Jojen thinks that one of the sixteen abandoned castles have a way for them to get through, but Bran says his Uncle Benjen said the gates were sealed with ice and stone after the castles were deserted. Meera blithely says, “well, we’ll have to open them up again.” Meera looks out the window and sees a rider down below.
The rider is encircled by wildlings. It is the horse breeder and among the wildlings surrounding him is Jon Snow, just a matter of feet away from Bran and Rickon. Thunder is rolling and every time there’s a clap, Hodor shouts. The thunder gets louder and more persistent and so does Hodor, drawing the attention of Orell down below. Bran tries to get Hodor to quiet down, then suddenly his eyes roll back in his head and Bran is controlling Hodor and he gets him to sit down and be calm. Meera asks Bran what he did and he says he doesn’t know.
Outside, Orell tells Tormund that he heard shouts in the Mill, but Tormund thinks it was the sound of thunder or maybe ghots. The old man who ran away is on the ground and Tormund takes his dagger away from him. Orell says they have to kill him so he won’t warn the Watch. The man asks if he can at least stand first. We see Bran’s direwold Summer nearby. Tormund is about to kill the old man, when Orell has an idea. Have Jon kill him to prove that he’s really one of them now.
Back inside, Jojen tells Bran to enter the wolves that are outside. You’re a warg, he tells Bran, it’s in your blood. You can do this.
Outside, Jon draws his sword and puts it against the old man’s neck. But he hesitates. Ygritte tells him to do it and Orell tells everyone this proves that Jon is still a crow and Tormund orders him to do it. Jon pulls back the sword, but cannot land the blow. Instead, Ygritte shoots the old man with her arrow. Orell turns his sword on Jon and Tormund gives the order to kill Jon. Jon knocks Ygritte out of the way (it looked like she was going to shoot one of her fellow wildlings) and starts fighting Orell. Tormund tries to hold Ygritte back from helping Jon, telling her that he’s not one of them.
Inside, Bran rolls back his eyes and enters Summer. Summer charges in to fight off the wildlings. Jon sees the direwolf but has little time to register what’s going on and why his brother’s direwolf is there. He stabs Orell and tells him, before he dies, that he was right about Jon the whole time. Before he dies, Orell enters the eagle and it swoops down and attacks Jon, scratching and pecking at his face. Jon gets away, mounts one of the horses, and runs off leaving Ygritte behind.
It’s nightime just outside of the city gates and Daario is explaining the plan to Jorah and Grey Worm. When he whistles, they should come storming in. You know how to whistle, don’t you Jorah? You just put your lips together and blow. Daario is let into the back gate and within seconds we hear whistling. Jorah and Grey Worm come in and see that Daario already dispatched the guard. It’s quiet, for a moment, and then they hear guards coming. It’s a much larger group than Daario anticipated and the odds do not appear to be in their favor, but they kill them all. Phew, that was a lot of, whoa…. There’s more, a lot more.
Outside of the castle where the wedding and feast will be held, there are tents set up and Stark bannermen and their soldiers are having their own sort of fun. Inside, it’s time for the wedding. Edmure stands waiting for his first glimpse of his bride and Walder marches the girl down the aisle, her face covered in lace. Walder peels back the veil, and the girl is beautiful. Edmure is shocked and elated at his great fortune. He has an easier time with the cloaking than Tyrion had at his wedding, and it’s a lovely ceremony. So that’s the end of the episode, everyone lives happily ever after. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Onward!
Bran is starting to figure out he has some very special powers. Jojen explains to him that there are others who can get inside of animals, but no one who can enter another person like Bran was able to control Hodor. All of a sudden, Bran remembers that when he was inside Summer he saw Jon. Rickon is excited and Bran tells him that Jon was with the wildlings, but he got away. Osha figures Jon is heading back to Castle Black which is where she wants to go, but Bran wants to go north of the wall as that is where Jojen says he needs to go. Bran understands that Osha does not ever want to go back there. So he tells her, she should take Rickon and Shaggydog to the Last Hearth, where the Umbers will take care of them. Rickon needs to be protected, he’s the last of the Stark men and the heir to Winterfell. The rest of them will continue north.
Back at Dany’s camp, the wait for word about the nighttime raid is driving Dany crazy but Barristan tells her it hasn’t been that long. Finally, Jorah and Grey Worm come in, bloodied but victorious. Dany is pleased, but asks about Daario, deeply concerned. Jorah looks crestfallen that this new upstart has already grabbed her heart. Moments later Daario comes in and lays the Yunkai banner at Dany’s feet and tells her the city is hers. Dany swoons. And Jorah dies a little inside.
The band is playing, the guests are eating, drinking, and being merry, and Edmure the lovesick fool is grinning from ear to ear. Edmure’s uncle Blackfish excuses himself to go to the outdoor loo. Roose Bolton declines wine and Catelyn takes notice. He says he never drinks – it dulls the senses. Catelyn jokes, that’s the point. He mentions that Walder Frey offered him one of his daughters, agreeing to pay her weight in gold if he chose one. So, Roose, picked the heaviest girl. Robb and Talisa are talking about Catelyn, how she’s finally starting to like Talisa. But she notes that Catelyn would still have preferred if he had kept his promise to Walder Frey. He goes to kiss Talisa but she says no, they shouldn’t insult Lord Frey further.
Walder gives a short speech that signifies it’s time for the bedding ceremony. The men grab the bride and the women grab the groom and escort them out of the banquet hall and off to bed. When Catelyn comments “poor girl” Roose responds that she must have had to do the same thing at her wedding – but, no, Ned was not that kind of guy!
Elsewhere, Talisa questions what a strange custom it is. Robb says how else can you prove the marriage was consummated, and Talisa pats her pregnant tummy and says there are other ways. Then she pops the surprise on Robb – if it’s a boy, she’d like to name him Ned. “Wouldn’t you like to teach Ned Stark to ride a horse.” They kiss and Catleyn smiles looking at the two of them. And that’s the end of the episode, they all live happily ever after. Boy, that’s never going to work, is it? Okay, fine. And then…
Catelyn watches as one of Frey’s men closes the door to the hall. The band stops what they were playing and switches to The Rains of Castamere. That also gets her attention and causes her concern.
Outside, we hear Robb’s direwolf wailing and see the Hound and Arya approach on the hog cart. They are told they’re too late, the feast is over. They’re told to turn the cart around and get the hell out of there. While the Hound talks to the guard outside, Arya hops off the cart and disappears.
Back in the hall, the music stops. Walder Frey stands to speak to his guests. He says he’s been remiss. He still owes Robb a wedding present for his recent nuptials. While he talks, Roose looks at Catelyn knowingly, menacingly and then down at the table. She looks at his arm, lifts up his sleeve, and sees that he’s wearing mail underneath. Not dressed for a party, but protected for battle. She knows what’s happening; all her discomfort and fear was real. She knocks over Roose and stands up, shouting for her son, to warn him. But it’s too late. Everything from here on out happens so fast and yet takes forever.
Talisa is stabbed in the stomach, over and over, as her husband – her unborn child’s father – looks on, helpless. It’s so abrupt and so horrible, no glancing blow or faint wound, this is a slaughter. Suddenly, archers are firing from where the orchestra had just been playing, an arrow hits Robb. Another hits Catelyn. Talisa falls to the floor, dying.
All the while, Walder Frey sits at the head table, watching the slaughter, with joy like he’s watching some great sporting event and not the murder of dozens. His glee at what he’s witnessing almost as horrifying as the bloodletting.
Outside, Arya is trying to get into the feast, to find her brother and mother. She hears the Stark bannermen talking about heading back home to Winterfell. But then, one by one the Stark men are cut down as Arya watches, helpless. She hears Robb’s direwolf, locked up in a cage, and goes towards him, but some of Frey’s men kill the wolf before she could get to him. She goes running towards the hall, as others are running out, but before she gets there a huge hand grabs her. It’s the Hound, and he tells her it’s too late, knocks her out and carries her away to safety.
Robb, wounded, crawls to his wife. Walder raises his hand to get everyone to stop, while he mocks Robb further. “The King in the North arises,” he chuckles. Catelyn, wounded, had crawled over to the table. She grabs a dagger and Walder’s wife who had been cowering and pulled both out from under the table. She shouts at him, “Lord Walder, enough. Let it end!” She begs for the life of her first son. Please let him go and all this will be forgotten. She swears it.
But Walder Frey tells Catelyn that she already swore him an oath in this very castle. She swore that her son would marry his daughter. He has not forgotten and pretty clearly not forgiven. Catelyn pleads for him to spare Robb and take her as a hostage instead. She begs Robb to get up and walk out. But Walder replies, “Why would I let him do that?” Catelyn warns him that if he doesn’t let Robb go, she will kill his wife. Walder pauses, then says, dismissively, “I’ll find another.”
Robb, standing now, looks over to Catelyn and says, “Mother.” But he’s not given the dignity of any final words. Roose Bolton comes over and plunges a dagger into Robb, delivering the fatal blow, as Catelyn looks on. Robb falls, dead, next to his wife and the child they’ll never have. Catelyn gives off a wail that is heart-wrenching.
Catelyn, in shock, resigned and lost, slices the dagger across the poor girl’s neck, another shocking moment. Then Catelyn stands there, waiting, interminably, for the final blow.
Obviously, as shocking as Ned Stark’s death was in Season One, this episode, colloquially referred to as “the Red Wedding,” was a game changer. To kill two main characters and basically restructure the entire show three seasons in was totally unexpected. But should it have been? There was ample evidence that Walder Frey was already a loose cannon, someone who could not necessarily be counted on just because he was technically an ally. Remember how Catelyn’s father referred to him as the “late” Walder Frey for his propensity to wait until he knew which was the winning side before taking up arms. Catelyn said, of Walder, “some men take their oaths more seriously than others.” Greatjohn Umber once said, “Expect nothing of Walder Frey and you’ll never be surprised.”
When Catelyn negotiated for permission to cross the Twins it was very clear that a sacred oath had been created, a solemn promise to marry her son to his daughter. When Robb became enamored of Talisa, Catelyn warned him about breaking the promise and urged him to go foward with the promised marriage. Robb ignored her and followed his heart instead of his oath and they knew there would be repercussions. Robb failed to act as a leader, putting the needs of his people ahead of his wants. He fell back on magical thinking that there are ways around every problem and that he would not be held accountable for his actions because they were motivated by love.
Catelyn and Robb and their group were, it turns out correctly, quite surprised when the Frey representatives set forth the terms of the new agreement – the marriage of Edmure to one of Frey’s daughters and some other minor terms. They ignored the rule that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. They overlooked the grievous insult breaking their promise to Frey was and how a man like him would handle such an insult. They thought they were in control, but they failed to do the math.
Even before Robb beheaded Rickard Karstark, his numbers were dwindling as many of the bannermen wanted to protect their own holdings. But after he lost the Karstarks, their numbers were seriously low. Stark victory was no longer a sure thing. Stark needed the Freys, but what could they offer to the Freys that someone else – such as Tywin Lannister – couldn’t?
Finally, believing that the offering of bread and salt and words that they were granted protection should have been discounted. Again, Walder Frey may want others to take their oaths seriously, but he doesn’t.
Robb was naive to trust Roose Bolton, but were there signs of this as well? All we know of the Boltons is their sigil, the flayed man, which is enough to tell us they’re not an easy-going family. Roose was clearly irritated when Robb hooked up with Talisa and thought that was a tactical mistake. But how does one go from disagreeing with someone’s decision to being part of their murder? And what of his final words to Robb, the Lannisters send their regards. When Jaime Lannister left Roose Bolton, he made an off-handed comment like that, typical Jaime joking. I doubt Jaime knew about this plan beforehand. But what did Tywin or the rest of the Lannisters know about the wedding?
Catelyn: Show them how it feels to lose what they love.
Walder Frey (to Talisa): Your king says he betrayed me for love. I say he betrayed me for firm t*ts and a tight fit. And I can respect that.
Walder: The wine will flow red and the music will play loud and we’ll put this mess behind us.
Daario: I have no interest in slaves. A man cannot make love to property.
Daario (to Jorah): You have a very suspicious mind. In my experience, only dishonest people think this way.
Gilly (to Sam): You’re like a wizard.
Arya (to the Hound): You’re so dangerous aren’t you? Saying scary things to little girls, killing little boys and old people. A real hard man you are.
The Hound: More than anyone you know.
Arya: You’re wrong. I know a killer. A real killer.
The Hound: That so?
Arya: You’d be like a kitten to him. He’d kill you with his little finger.
The Hound (gesturing to the man on the ground): That him?
The Hound (moving towards the man): Good.
The Hound (to Arya): You’re very kind. Someday it’ll get you killed.
Arya: I’m not afraid.
The Hound: Of course, you are. You’re almost there and you’re afraid you won’t make it. The closer it gets, the worse the fear gets.
Arya (to the Hound): Someday I’m going to put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.
Hodor (every time the thunder claps): Hodor!
Bran: Hush, Hodor. No more Hodor-ing.
Osha: You southerners build your big castles and you never move. You’re easy to find.
Talisa (to Robb): Don’t you want to teach little Ned Stark how to ride horses?
Catelyn: Let him go or I will cut your wife’s throat.
Walder: I’ll find another.
Roose (to Robb): The Lannisters send their regards.