The write-up of this week's episode:
[bold]Why do we sit through the brutality of Game of Thrones every week?[/bold]
Ever since we lost Ned Stark, Game of Thrones has been turning into a more and more chaotic show, in which horrific events befall various characters in a seemingly random fashion every week. This one loses a hand, that one gets crossbowed to death. So why do we keep watching it? Are we just sadists? Masochists? Spoilers ahead...
Seriously, we signed up for last night's episode, by sticking with the show after Jaime Lannister's hand and countless other atrocities, large and small, which we've witnessed these past few years. Last night, an unspeakable massacre happened, seemingly out of nowhere, in an episode that I'm tempted to call "One Wedding and Four Funerals."
It's Edmure Tully's wedding day, and Robb Stark's uncle is convinced the worst that could happen is that he'll be stuck with one of Lord Walder Frey's ugliest daughters. Instead, he gets a beautiful daughter — and his wedding guests are slaughtered, including Robb, Catelyn Stark, Talisa and poor Grey Wind.
Obviously, even on the surface, this isn't random. The episode builds up carefully that Walder Frey is still piqued by Robb's failure to marry his daughter as promised. And Roose Bolton, who sent Jaime Lannister home, has made a deal with the Lannisters. But it still feels like it comes out of nowhere, in some fashion, because up until the last moment you feel as though Walder could be satisfied with Edmure as a replacement groom. And it's not like a battle, or like the sort of obvious trap that Ned Stark walked into. The Starks and Tullys are under Walder Frey's explicit protection, and he still does this.
And more to the point, this isn't a slaughter that leaves us with hope for some future pay-off. Maybe Arya Stark, who witnesses some of it, will grow up and get revenge on her increasingly long list of targets. Maybe Rickon Stark will become a great leader. Maybe there will be some karma. Maybe Daenerys and her dragons will eventually show up and burn the Freys and Lannisters, along with a lot of other people. But when Ned Stark was beheaded, we were offered the comforting possibility that Robb Stark would avenge him — and now, in fact, we're seeing how that turns out. This time, there's no such comfort.
So why do we choose to watch Game of Thrones, now that it's turned into a carousel of death, torture and mutilation, culminating in last night's Red Wedding? A couple of reasons, maybe:
1) We know that none of this is entirely random, and we're seeing the results of decisions people have been making all along. Which makes it worse, in a way, but more fascinating.
2) The rising climate of violence only makes the small acts of kindness or mercy that we keep seeing more vital and significant. In this episode alone, there are a couple of attempts to spare an old man's life, one of which turns out okay.
So taking the first one first, we don't have to reach that far back to see how the Starks are bringing this destruction on their own excessively proud heads. Sure, it begins with Catelyn Stark making a promise to Lord Walder Frey, that Robb Stark later breaks by marrying Talisa. And then Catelyn letting Jaime go, and Robb beheading Rickard Karstark. But you don't have to reach that far back, at all.
The crux of this latest episode is the scene, at the beginning, where Robb asks Catelyn's advice on his plan to attack Casterly Rock using Walder's army. The last time Catelyn gave her son advice (about not sending Theon home), Robb ignored it — and paid a huge price. So this time, he aims to listen.
(much more at the link)