So is everyone as horribly traumatized by episode 9, "The Rains of Castamere" as I am? We can work through this together. Recap therapy. We can do it. Yes, once again "Game of Thrones" lived up to its Penultimate Episode Promise of being bananas batshit crazy insane! We now must always fear episode 9, because you can't trust anyone in these games of thrones, especially director David Nutter, who helmed this truly shocking episode. Trying to look past the events of the plot though, it's an action-packed episode, as swords clash in Westeros, across the narrow sea and in the North. It's also an expertly plotted and paced episode, building to an unexpected and effective climax, with some unbelievably stellar performances to boot.
Though it's out of episode chronological order, let's start with Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), because I just can't get into the Stark business just yet. Danaerys, along with her new lover/warlord, Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein), have begun planning their attack on the city of Yunkai. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) doesn't trust his intentions, but Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), the stoic and young commander of the Unsullied believes him to be true and they decide to follow through with the plan for Daario, Grey Worm and Ser Jorah to infiltrate the city. Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney) is more than a little disappointed to have to stay behind to serve as the Queensguard.
When they broach the gates of Yunkai, Daario does keep his word, and the three warriors manage to hold off a host of Yunkish guards. A nervous Danaerys awaits back at the camp for news, when a blood-spattered Jorah and Grey Worm return with news that the slave army refused to fight for their overlords. Mormont looks positively gutted when her only concern is the safe return of boy toy Daario, who returns the conquering hero with the city's flag for his new Queen. Freeing slaves, taking cities, hot new boyfriend? Our Khaleesi is on top of the world (right now, always a "right now" caveat with this show).
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) are on their way to the Nightfort Castle, and apparently over their horrific White Walker attack. What I want to know, is did he go back for the magic dagger?! Wither the magic dagger? He impresses Gilly with his book learnin' of history and such wizardry, but she's even more impressed with casting her eyes upon the Wall, something her father Craster said no Wildling ever did and lived. Well, we'll see how that goes, Gill.
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Rickon (Art Parkinson), and their crew have made it somewhere! YAY! They aren't in the random woods anymore, they are in a random village! It's terribly exciting. Bran remembers from his schooling that with Maester Luwin that it's called The Gift, given to the Night's Watch for their sustenance and support. But, as he explains to the Reed siblings Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), even though it's a fine spot, and out of the way of all that warring down South, those nasty Wildings like to come a-raiding, no offense to Osha (Natalie Tena). They sense a storm coming and decide to hole up in the stone mill.
And don't those Wildlings come a-raiding: Tormund Gianstbane (Kristofer Hivju),
Gareth from The Office UK Orell (Mackenzie Crook), Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) are here to steal some horses from an old horse breeder. Of course, Jon disagrees about killing the old man, and tries to appeal to their practical side, but Gingerbeard would rather draw the Night's Watch out of their Castle Black anyway, and so the pack of Wildlings make a break for it across the field, yelling like the pack of barbarians they are.
Funnily enough, Bran finally has arrived at his once-intended location, which was wherever Jon Snow is. While he's cooped up in the mill, stewing about how to get past the wall, Jon is just outside, ruining all the horse stealing plans and thwarting Ygritte's kill shot at the old man. Hodor (Kristian Nairn) starts to freak out at the storm, and as things get chaotic inside, Orell notes the noise coming out of the old mill. Almost involuntarily, Bran wargs himself into Hodor to stop his panic attack and everyone is shocked. Meanwhile, Giantsbane talks Orell out of investigating the noise and into peer-pressuring Jon to kill the old man, something he can't bring himself to do, Ygritte finally loosing her kill shot into him. This unleashes an unholy battle of Wildlings against Jon and Ygritte. While they wrestle in the mud, Jojen pressures Bran to warg himself into one of the dire wolves outside, who dispatch the Wildlings post-haste, while Jon skewers Orell. Right before dying, Orell wargs himself into an eagle and attacks Jon, and good Lord, now we have eagles and wolves fighting, dogs and cats living together! Jon hops on a horse and rides off to his escape, leaving behind his Wildling missus, and she's pissed.
After the melee, Jojen tries to tell Bran just how crazy awesome it is that he can warg into a human mind. Even though he saw Jon Snow all up in the mix out there, he decides he needs to head North and find the three-eyed raven like Jojen said. Because Osha refuses to go there, he sends her to take Rickon to the Last Hearth for safety from the Umbers. Rickon adorably protests, in the most lines he's had EVER, but Osha scoops him up and takes him on their way right quick. Bran is stepping up to the plate as a leader in the Stark family, making sacrifices and embracing his own unique powers. And um, the Starks are gonna need him, as we will find out...
Arya (Maisie Williams) is so close to her family, after being on the road for so long in search of her family reunion that she can't quite believe it will actually come true. She still doesn't trust her traveling companion, the Hound (Rory McCann), and who can really, the man's a savage. But she more than proves own ferocity, clobbering random hog farmers in order to commandeer their wagons and promising to put a sword through the Hound's skull someday. She also knows his one true weakness: fire. It's the one trump card she holds and she lets him know it.
Arya's hoping her reunion with her mother and brother will take place at the wedding of her uncle Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) to one of Walder Frey's (David Bradley) daughters-- you know, one of the daughters Robb Stark (Richard Madden) spurned when he decided to marry hot foreign nurse Talisa (Oona Chaplin)? Yeah, one of those daughters, and Frey trots out the whole wretched lot for Robb to apologize to. Edmure looks pained at his prospects. Robb, during his apology, can't help but still declare his love to Talisa, who's standing right there. AWKWARD. Frey, of course, calls her up to sexually harass and denigrate her in front of everyone, making mention of her "firm tits and a tight fit," but he seems to sweep it under the rug, acknowledging that he's a connoisseur of lovely ladies as well, and gets the party started.
At the wedding ceremony, Edmure is more than pleased when Frey unveils daughter Roslin (Alexandra Dowling) and reveals her to be a total stunner. Frey's all, "IN UR FACE, ROBB," and is really just lording this whole situation over their heads, which they grimace and put up with because they need Frey's men in order to take Casterly Rock and really stick it to the Lannisters. Frey's other daughters even make eyes at Robb's great uncle Blackfish Tully (Clive Russell).
At the reception, the Starks are relaxed and happy, enjoying the proceedings with each other and bannerman Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), who happens to be married to a Frey daughter himself. Walder Frey calls for the bedding ceremony (we finally get to see one!), which we find, involves carrying off the married couple and watching them copulate and consummate the union. Edmure is only happy to be carted off by a bevy of Frey beauties. Somehow, all the Westeros wedding customs are making Robb and Talisa, secretly married, all lovey-dovey, talking about naming their baby after his father, and making out right out in the open.
Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) starts to suspect something when the doors to the hall close, and the band starts playing that merry old dirge "The Rains of Castamere" (remember two weeks ago when Cersei literally spelled out the meaning of that song for Margaery?). Outside, dire wolves are locked up and the Hound and Arya are denied entry to the wedding feast. The final straw for Catelyn is when Roose Bolton meaningfully offers her his sleeve, which when she pulls it back reveals his chain mail. She's no dummy and wastes no time busting him a fierce slap and shouting a warning to Robb, who's listening to Frey drone on about hospitality. It's far too late, though, as Frey hospitality involves, like, A LOT OF STABBING. Stabbing Robb's pregnant wife repeatedly. And crossbows. The entire room attacks them, and Robb and Catelyn take several hits, as Frey sits there drinking wine. Outside, Arya watches as Freys shoot the wolves, kill Stark soldiers, and the Hound bops her over the head and throws her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes in order to get out of there.
Inside, Robb and Catelyn have managed to survive, though Talisa has not. Catelyn quickly grabs Frey's wife and holds a knife to her throat in order to plead for mercy for Robb. Frey doesn't care, as wives are a dime a dozen for him. Nevertheless, as Robb stands, Roose Bolton gives him a quick stab to the midsection with the greeting "the Lannisters send their regards." Goddamn, you KNOW Tywin (Charles Dance) is behind this. The coward. And Roose Bolton, having admitted to marrying a Frey for the silver he was promised, has already indicated that he's only motivated by money.
As Robb collapses, Catelyn wails in pure agony, and she slits the Frey wife's throat anyway, before a Frey guard puts an end to her misery and slits her throat too. SO MUCH THROAT SLITTING. SO MUCH BLOODSHED. This performance is Fairley's swan song on the show, and she lays everything of Catelyn's experience out on the table: all of the rage, grief, anger, mother's love and ferocity that she always kept at bay, simmering below the surface in order to not ruffle feathers and keep the peace. Ultimately, she proves herself to be one of the most fierce warriors of the Tully and Stark clans. This is Emmy clip reel stuff, people!
Do we all have PTSD after that? What a cruel mistress "Games of Thrones" episode 9 is! In previous seasons, episode 9 brought us Ned Stark's beheading and the Battle of Blackwater. Season 3 ups the ante with the deaths of three major characters. I don't even know what to think anymore.
Not seen: since so little attention was paid to the Starks in previous episodes, this one was extremely Stark heavy. No Lannisters, no Baratheons, no Greyjoys. With only one more episode to go, there's so many strings that need tying up. But since I heard that book three may have been split into two seasons, there's no reason to expect much closure next Sunday. And with tonight's episode, there's no reason to expect anything at all really. Except blood. Lots of blood.