Game of Thrones season 3 episode 9 review: The Rains of Castamere

Posted on 11 June 2013
By Debs Marsden
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We avoid the capital in entirety this week and keep our eyes fixed north, beginning with an apology of sorts from Robb Stark (Richard Madden) to his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley).

Sequestered in his tented inner sanctum, Robb seeks Catelyn’s counsel on a plan to present the Lannisters with the gift of a rusty sword to the abdomen.

From her situation of recent weeks this is progress indeed, and met with grace and dignity from her, in a touching performance between the two actors, one wrought of a few years’ kinship.

In an unusual pacing move, the Starks accompany us to the next scene, escorting us to the bargaining with Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) and subsequent wedding.

To start with two such slow scenes (especially following the same characters) is unsettling, so used are we to skipping with gay abandon to places far flung; yet in storytelling there is a masterplan, it seems.

Upon leaving Westeros, we are privy to Daario Naharis’ (Ed Skrein) first strategy meeting, witnessing how well he compliments the rest of Daenerys Targaryen’s advisors, Grey Worm (Jacob Alexander), Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinny).

They reveal themselves to be a fan of the classics, planning to pull the Siege of Antioch manoeuvre, leaving Barristan by the side of the Mother of Dragons (Emilia Clarke). A wise move, perhaps regretted later, when they find themselves almost cruelly outnumbered in the act.

All acting on display here is fabulous; the briefest of glances ‘twixt the company assembled delivering far more than simply littered words in other, rather clumsier, televisual hands.

Erstwhile, unlikely hero Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and his beloved Gilly (Hannah Murray), are still on the run after their terrifying ordeal when last we met them.

Their journey through snowy woodland has always been beautifully shot, and this glimpse is no exception; ending with sight of The Wall, in a soaring upswell of both music and vision, to skies exultant, bring joy and baited hope in equal measure.

Still in the north, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) tells Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) in no uncertain terms to spare mercy on a man: a commoner unfortunate enough to be in possession of something The Hound needs.

These two actors work incredibly well together, best seen here at the climax of a spew of rattling, knotted dialogue, in a discussion about power.

“Someday, I’m going to put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.” Arya spits at The Hound with righteous anger.

The seething hatred Willams so imbues Arya with is reddened, hot and aching. McCann’s disdain at her insistent threat is a murmured whisp, containing the merest flicker of fear. It is performances such as these which round the show into more than its’ parts; inhabited with people, not merely characters.

When The Wildings make an appearance, the highlight falls upon the great costume work throughout the series. Their natural ragtag furs and strings, when combined with their elegant hunters’ mannerisms, create the most disarming realistic camouflage effect.

The stakes for Jon Snow (Kit Harington) quickly escalate this week as he must prove his loyalty in a stare down, set agonisingly close to Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright); the closest they have been to one another since the first series, separated by naught but a tower cleft in upstanding stone.

On one side of the stone, a Stark brother will demonstrate he is forever changed. On the other, one will show that he has never changed at all.

In a banquet hall elsewhere, the wedding is progressing well, with minstrels playing jaunty tunes for maidens fair. It is a cheery occasion, full of laughter and song, and one which lulls us entirely. Until the guard bolts the doors tight shut.

A shift in tone employed through haunting strings and the baying of wolves, which jars and scrapes against the previous happy accord.

Lord Frey, it appears, is not so quick to let a bygone remain where it fell, in the now settling dust. The recompense comes fast, a heart-wrenching slaughter across the room, decimating the gathered throng.

The pacing of this episode, slow to start but spinning wayward, is artful and dense. It builds magnificently, with a steady, beaten rhythm, crashing still heavier upon the close of action.

The thrill of the conclusion is all-encompassing. As affecting as the most real of massacres. It it testament to the world which we see here, that the killings visited starkly clear, are truly as unpalatable as that of one most dear.

The sickly sweet smell of blood fills nostrils whole; the soul left wanting for what it cannot have. A mess of feelings scattered bare. The stench of death upon the air.