I’m not going to recap last night’s Game of Thrones because A) The internet’s been covering it to death already, and b) If you’re even the smallest Thrones fan, then you already know what happened. So, instead, I’m going to discuss why I loved last night’s episode and why I appreciate shows (/books) that aren’t afraid to kill off major characters.
***MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW***
First off, I’ve read the first three Song of Fire and Ice books, so I knew the Red Wedding was coming up, and I never expected the writers to deviate from the storyline in the book (mainly because they followed through with beheading Ned Stark in the first season). The event was horrific and tragic in the book, and I think seeing the massacre visually was even worse. But, I’m not angry at the show OR George R. R. Martin for writing the scene or choosing to keep it in. Game of Thrones has never been about happy endings because, despite the show’s elements of fantasy, it has always been about realism and characters behaving like real human beings. In real life, people die. Sometimes they die violently or unexpectedly or at the hands of other, generally monstrous, human beings.
Walder Frey is undeniably a monstrous human being. He doesn’t care if the Starks are honorable or noble (though Robb wasn’t, when he broke his vow to Frey). He doesn’t care about apologies; he cares about getting even with the people who wronged him. And Roose Bolton clearly cared very much about money and very little about anything else–he married one of Frey’s heaviest granddaughters simply because Frey promised him her weight in gold–so of course he would betray Robb for the right price. In real life, people like this exist and have always existed, and they’ve gotten away with hurting people, including good and respectable people. Robb Stark chose to trust the wrong people, and he chose to break a vow with the wrong person, and he paid the price.
Now, I know people are upset with the graphic violence shown in the scene, specifically when Robb’s pregnant wife was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach. I was horrified, too. But Game of Thrones has never shied away from extreme and gratuitous violence, though I feel that last night’s episode was violent for the sake of horrifying (not entertaining) us. We were meant to be horrified by what we saw, because we were meant to see how cruel Walder and Roose were as people. What if the Starks had been killed quickly? We’d still be horrified by their deaths, of course, but not to the same level as we were last night. Also, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, George R. R. Martin pointed out that the Red Wedding was based on actual historical events that were equally awful. Isn’t basing fiction off of actual reality realism at its finest? I think so.
And, though I loved both Robb and Catelyn as characters, and I liked Robb’s wife, I don’t feel like the show was punishing me for caring about them. Life isn’t punishing you for loving someone when someone you love dies. If anything, I’m thrilled that Game of Thrones made me (and countless others) care so much about these characters that we were outraged and heartbroken when they were killed. If we hadn’t felt anything at all, then the show failed at doing its job.
I’m going to call Game of Thrones a work of art because I truly believe storytelling like this (on the show and in the book) is a form of art. Art is supposed to make you feel something, and art is supposed to draw strong emotional responses out of you. If it can manage that, then it’s clearly doing its job right. Game of Thrones never fails to pull a strong emotional response out of me or make me care deeply about its characters because it does its job very, very well.