Five Essay Prompts for Game of Thrones 3×9: ‘The Rains of Castamere’

Illustration by Alex Bedder.

Illustration by Alex Bedder.

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. So after the dust settles, the blood congeals and everyone has done screaming “Holy shit” and swearing they’re breaking up with the show, we’ll all have to admit that not only was the Red Wedding an outcome fully in line with the themes and tone of the show (nowhere is safe, words/promises are just illusions, love does not last) but that it was also very clearly telegraphed by the scenes leading up to it. If you had not read the books, what would have tipped you off the most that something truly devastating was about to happen, and why? Suggestions: Walder’s obvious contempt for Talisa; his line “the wine will flow red”; Roose Bolton’s sobriety (and everything else about Roose Bolton); the fact that everyone seemed to be happy, for once; the title of the episode.

Can we actually just press pause to take a breather here? I know there was no episode last week (although, to paraphrase a friend, there was a nice fan fiction episode in which Jaime Lannister ends up in servitude to Michael Douglas playing my bubby), but last night packed enough developmental and emotional wallop to outdo even the first-season climax of Ned Stark losing his head. So please … just a moment of respect.

Okay, done. So now … holy shit. Yes. The Red Wedding. We’ve been waiting for it all season (those who knew it was coming), and it didn’t disappoint in sheer WTF-ness. I can’t say the moment someone would have been tipped off, but you could tell the moment Catelyn was: when they started playing that funeral pomp (which I’m assuming was the song from the title, and a Lannister tribute) after they shut the doors on her brother and his way-too-beautiful-for-this-to-go-well wife. That’s why she grabbed Bolton’s hand in what looked like a moment of very un-Catelyn-like passion, only to draw up the sleeve and reveal that he was wearing chain mail. Which, to be honest? If Robb was smart, he would have gone in wearing some in the first place himself. Poor, stupid Robb Stark. We never much cared for you, but it was sad to see your direwolf die.

2. Despite the fact that we finally got to see some fighting in the East, Dany’s campaign continues to be a nearly bloodless war in which everything she wants is rather conveniently delivered to her. Though we are told that it is her compassion that makes slaves lay down their weapons before her, the presence of romance novel cover model Daario Naharis reminds us that her physical beauty plays no small part in her victories. Does this alter our understanding of Dany, her entourage and their successes–especially in light of the increasingly jealous Ser Jorah? And how might it reflect on the proceedings at the Twins, which are also rather oddly focused on looks, both those of Talisa and those of Roslin Frey?

Oh, I mean … look. Would I watch that scene of Jorah and Daario and Grey Worm fighting a bunch of dudes six or seven times in one night? Certainly. Even if it was in the most horrific episode of the season. Why? Because they are all ridiculously attractive in their own way. It’s like watching Inigo Montoya and whatever that blond dude’s name was (Farmboy?) from The Princess Bride have a sword fight. “You guys are very attractive! This will be my favorite movie throughout childhood!” So in a larger meta-context, watching these three fight for Dany’s approval makes a good portion of the not-attracted-to-Dany audience more interested in her storyline, because the stakes just got raised, hotness-wise.

As for the Frey-Tully marriage, it’s another instance of the “Probably should have looked that gift horse in the mouth,” kind of scenario. Like, if Walder Frey is pawning off his hottest grandchild to the most arrogant, dickish member of a family that has totally slighted him, there might be a problem. Then again, I never trusted Talisa either, and her hotness seems to be now a red herring.

3. Imagine you are Bran Stark. You realize you are in a fictional tale of some sort, but you don’t know what kind: is it a Shakespearean political drama, a fantasy novel, a horror film? In order to make the crucial decision of whether to split up your party–which may be expedient in some genres, but is clearly a bad move in every extant horror film or thriller–what evidence do you use to determine which it is? How does your recent discovery that you are an extremely powerful magician, able to enter the minds of wolves and halfwits, affect your decision?

Look, Bran is not stupid. He knows there is powerful magic at work that is allowing his younger brother to suddenly age five years in one episode, as well as give him the power of fluent speech. If I were Bran, I’d put as much distance between myself and Rickon as humanly possible as well.

4. Speaking of magic, Gilly fulfills Sam’s childhood dream of becoming a wizard, naming him such because he knows how to read. She clearly finds this much more impressive than the actual magic he performed with the dragonglass in the last episode–and this season has made much of literacy, especially in the case of Davos. With the illiterate Osha getting a crucial scene this week and the almost certainly illiterate Ygritte being betrayed, what might Game of Thrones be saying about the relationship between the ability to read letters and the ability to read a situation?

Well in the case of Ygritte, I don’t think it would have helped much. Sorry, Ygritte, that’s what you get for kind of forcing a dude to sleep with you and then convincing yourself that that means he loves you. It’s not like Jon Snow kept a secret diary around that would have clued her in had she just been literate.

There is a sense in Game of Thrones that literacy is a trade-off: those who are literate often lead a much more sheltered life than those who aren’t, so people like Osha can play up their “wilding knowledge” card almost as much as some Maester can play up his ability to read a host of different languages. On the other hand, I do wonder about those characters whose literacy is never been called into question–like Dany–and wonder if that is going to hurt her somewhere down the line.

5. Jon Snow is the world’s worst undercover cop. He was willing to kill Thorin Halfhand in order to establish his bona fides with the gang, but now he blows his cover because he can’t just kill (or let the rest of them just kill) one guy who is an almost complete stranger? (He’s acting even more immaturely here than his little sister, who basically does the exact same thing in this episode, though with fewer repercussions.) Is there any way we can make Jon’s actions seem consistent? Is this all part of some larger plan, or has the weather south of the wall just thawed him out and made him soft?

I think it’s consistent if you remember that Thorin gave direct orders that Jon Snow SHOULD kill him if the situation arose, to make it look like Snow’s turncoating was legit. After all, Jon is very good at taking orders–going as far as having sex with Ygritte to “fit in”–but he’s also got a heart. So no, he didn’t act in his best interest, and if Bran hadn’t “warged out” from the rooftop, he probably would have died. But he’s also not as badly outnumbered as he was beyond the wall, so he probably figured he’d take his chances and hope that Ygritte would fight for, and not against him.

And hey, that gambit paid off. So who knows nothing NOW, Ygritte?