Content Warning: This article contains discussions of intense topics such as violence and murder.
Despite its early popularity, it’ll be hard for House of the Dragon to top Game of Thrones season 3 penultimate episode “The Rains of Castamere” as one of the most iconic in TV history. It is not only renowned for its gorgeous musical scores and riveting acting but is notorious for being one of television’s darkest and most glorious episodes. The episode featuring the wedding of Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) and Roslin Frey (Alexandra Dowling) resulted in a deadly massacre against the Stark family.
The loss of such prominent characters in an extremely horrific way was simultaneously terrifying and infuriating for fans. While the conspirators behind The Red Wedding all got their just deserts, there are still major shake-ups in the fandom over some outcomes.
“The Red Wedding” would not be the only devastating event in this episode. Another occurrence was when the surviving Stark brothers Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) parted ways so Bran could continue his journey beyond the wall.
Bran ultimately decided to have Osha (Natalie Tena) take Rickon and his direwolf Shaggydog to House Umber, devoted bannermen of House Stark. What makes this so upsetting for fans is the realization of retrospect. House Umber’s season 6 betrayal would result in Rickon’s death, who was the last true-born son of Ned Stark.
Catelyn Stark’s brash uncle Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell) was both a sharp war general and much-needed levity to contrast intense scenes. Brynden left the wedding reception moments before the massacre began, not knowing that he wouldn’t be with his family when they needed him the most.
Similar to Bran and Rickon’s separation, this is another moment that feels hurtful in hindsight. Brynden narrowly escapes the wedding and makes it back to Riverrun, only to surrender to the Lannisters in season 6. To add insult to injury, Brynden’s death was offscreen, making him a GoT character gone too soon.
As House Stark’s sigil is a direwolf, the discovery of five direwolf puppies in the pilot episode was a kismet. The direwolves grew into loyal, strong companions for the Stark children, but almost all of them met a saddening death.
Robb’s devoted direwolf Grey Wind was also a victim of The Red Wedding, with Arya Stark witnessing his takedown at the hands of House Frey soldiers. To find out in the following episode that Grey Wind’s head was sewn onto Robb’s decapitated body was disgusting and enraging to both Stark supporters and fans alike.
The Red Wedding is one of the man’s real life historical connections in GoT. 1440’s Black Dinner and 1691’s Glencoe Massacre were the driving force of “The Rains of Castamere.” Having Walder Frey (David Bradley) at the helm of this group assassination showed his true colors as both a person and somebody in a position of power.
When Robb Stark and company arrived for the wedding, Walder Frey shared bread and salt with them as a form of offering guests rights into his home. To rescind this protection is not only sacrilegious but proved the distrust of his character.
Until the final seasons, the Stark children had been separated the early episodes. Hope was provided that Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) would soon be reunited with her mother and older brother upon being brought to The Red Wedding.
When Arya realized what was happening, she had every intention to rescue her family. Arya’s temporary guardian, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann), knocked her out and got her away from the scene. Luckily, Arya avenged her family’s murders later on.
The Red Wedding was a breaking point for Catelyn Stark. A strong female character, she had narrowly been on the edge of mayhem over the death of her husband Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and the separation from her children. The events that transpired at The Twins sent Catelyn spiraling.
Seeing her son, daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild slaughtered was traumatizing for Cat. Upon failed negotiations with Walder Frey, she murdered his wife. Lost in the harrowing thought that all her children were dead, Catelyn was so catatonic that she didn’t even notice “Black” Walder Rivers sneak up from behind to kill her.
Game of Thrones storylines have been the cause of much uproar in the fandom, but the perspective of the show’s fine acting is unanimously positive. One standout performance was Michelle Fairley, who played matriarch Catelyn Stark. Catelyn was the epitome of her origin house’s words, being honorable and dutiful with a fierce allegiance to her family.
When Fairley didn’t receive an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Emmy nomination for “The Rains of Castamere,” fans were outraged, an opinion that still holds up today. Fairley’s final performance was a penultimate episode’s heart, flawlessly exhibiting her rage and anguish.
Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) Lord of House Bolton, was one of House Stark’s allies. The Red Wedding revealed that Roose double-crossed the Stark family by aligning with Houses Frey and Lannister. As House Stark is a fan favorite, this betrayal in a dark hour is disappointing, especially when he single-handedly murdered Rob Stark.
Being Walder Frey’s son-in-law, it made unfortunate sense for Roose to conspire against the Starks. Alas, this power move by Roose would eventually lead to his downfall, being murdered at the hands of his son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon).
Robb Stark was a character whose onscreen adaptation differs from the ASOIAF books. Game of Thrones molded Robb into an independent and intelligent young leader, stepping into war to avenge his father’s death. As Robb is such a force to be reckoned with, his untimely demise is still troubling for fans.
Basically, Robb was murdered for following his heart. If only the Freys had adopted the same logic as Jaime Lannister, who stated quite a few times throughout the series that people don’t get to choose who they love.
In season 1, House Stark entered into a marriage alliance with House Frey, only for Robb to break this vow in season 2 by marrying Talisa. Robb and Talisa we’re one of the more successful Game of Thrones couples, beautifully complemented by Richard Madden and Oona Chaplin’s on-screen chemistry. Unfortunately, The Young Wolf’s bride met a grizzly fate.
Talisa’s appearance at the red wedding was a grave mistake from the start. To being sexually objectified by Lord Walder Frey shortly after arrival, followed by the brutal murder of her and her child is something fans still find ghastly.
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