I’ve seen a lot of reactions to Rains of Castamere, last night’s episode of HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones. I sympathize with all of you; the emotional content was amped up in several ways that were different from the circumstances in the book. Let me say for the record that this post contains spoilers, so please stop reading now if you haven’t seen the episode or don’t wish to know what happened.
For anyone who’s watched the entire series so far (I have, and I’ve also read all the books), I have to wonder if you thought that suddenly, the sun was going to shine, that winter was going to stop coming, that power-hungry money-grubbing land-grabbing long-time enemies would suddenly sit down for a friendly chat and put aside all their issues with one another, Since the first book — since Ned Stark lost his head to a power-drenched new adolescent king — I’ve realized that in this book series, things are not going to get better. George RR Martin set a high bar for disaster, and in that he’s never disappointed.
Watching last night, I was glad I’d read the books. The whole Red Wedding business has got to be one of the most unsettling affairs in all fiction. It left me feeling gut-wrenched and empty, but unlike some viewers who were taken by surprise at the turn of events in last night’s show, it didn’t make me want to stop reading (or watching), and trust me, the occurrences in the book were far worse than what HBO presented in the episode. The buildup to the murders in the book is a slow and terrible torment. For that, be glad that HBO only had an hour to work with. Yes, they made it worse by having Robb bring along pregnant Queen Talisa (the discussion on baby names! ouch!), but what they couldn’t possibly convey were Catelyin’s myriad thoughts and her amazing internal narrative, horrifying and touching and possibly even more emotionally devastating as any of the visual impact.
Then there’s Arya coming so close to her family and failing. That to me was a slap in the face when I read it. Last night the impact of that was subsumed by the greater tragedy.
In the course of reading the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling taught me not to become too attached to fictional characters. I thank her for that lesson. Early on in reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I realized that I’d better not invest too heavily in any of Martin’s characters either. That’s easier said than done, but as I run through my mental list of the characters in the series, I realize that I’ve automatically added (doomed) after each name on that same list. Somehow, having already dismissed them makes it easier to read about them, although I still care about their fates.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that Walder Frey (and by extension David Bradley, whose portrayal was beautifully cruel) is the least popular character on the planet today. Not that I was ever fond of him to begin with, but I have to admire the added level of just plain evil the series writers imbued him with. I hope they don’t take the next step and put the even more grisly immediate aftermath in our faces, but they probably will. At least if they do, they decided to save it for next week.
No, Game of Thrones, I won’t quit you, even though your series is measured in death after death after death, with an occasional other interesting thing happening in between. The adventure is still in its childhood, and there’s so much more yet to come.