Warning: if you have not yet watched the “Rains of Castermere” episode of Game of Thrones, then you’re woefully behind the times or not going to care about the so-called spoilers.
It’ll be like that time in my English class last week when I said something about Gatsby’s death, and a student was like “Hey! I wanted to see that movie!” and I was all, “Um. We read the book, honey.” Well, some of us did.
The reason we love the Starks is because they’re the good guys and in some ways the underdogs. The Lannisters have more money than all seven old gods put together and therefore represent the Power Elite in the GoT Universe. Not that the Starks are hurting either. Winterfell is their empire and it’s not too shabby. Eddard (Ned) Stark was a man who did the right thing, no matter the consequences. When Robert called him to be Hand of the King, he didn’t want the job. He didn’t need the money. He was a loyal subject, and when the king calls you to serve him, you go.
Long story short (VERY long story), it got Ned killed. Fast forward one tedious, pointless second season and a third season whose only pleasure was Granny Tyrell, and we arrive at “The Red Wedding.” When I read Storm of Swords, this plot twist devastated me. I was angry and depressed for a long time. I wrote something on Facebook along the lines of “George R.R. Martin is a murderer who has destroyed everything I love!” Now, I’m watching the viewership of HBO’s Game of Thrones catch up and the result is similar.
Here is why King Robb Stark had to die. He broke his oath. In the world that George R.R. Martin created, oaths mean everything. A king who cannot keep his word is not fit to rule. Why did we love Robb? Mostly because he was Ned and Catelyn’s son and partly because the actor who played him is dead sexy. He was the good guy. He had honor. We were behind him in this war because we want vengeance for Joffrey’s murder of Ned. Robb killed Karstark for his treason and sealed his own fate. Through a series of poor leadership decisions, he showed himself unfit to lead. Remember, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Bitch.
Catelyn promised Walder Frey that his daughter or granddaughter would marry Robb and be queen (also that Arya would marry a son). She made a political alliance in exchange for soldiers and a strategic crossing that won The North a crucial victory in the war. After something like that, you don’t get to say, “Oh… hey, yeah, about that… Um… There was this other girl, and she’s really neat too, so… yeah. We cool?”
Martin is a storyteller who puts his writing above everything. The downright horrible season two of HBO’s Game of Thrones is none of his doing. His books are brilliantly written. I don’t always like the decisions he makes, but it all makes sense within the tirelessly researched universe he creates. There is justice, and it’s never pretty. When a character fucks up, whether that be a character you love or one you hate, justice may not be swift, but it is always sure.
We could not continue to love Robb and support The North in this war if we allowed him to get away with being an oathbreaker. Not even for love. It is because we cannot stomach it that we are so disgusted with Walder Frey. He participated in the custom of bread and salt. He offered the Starks and their party his hospitality and then slaughtered them. This is even worse than what Robb did, and he will pay for it.
We think that we love the Starks and hate the Lannisters, but Robb acted the fool. It’s easier to forgive in the novel because the king is only a teenager. Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister is one of my favorite characters who shows he has goodness in him frequently, but especially when he refuses to bed Sansa Stark on their wedding night. And who would’ve guessed we’d ever feel empathy for Jaime?
People have declared they’re done with Game of Thrones. Some have even threatened to cancel HBO subscriptions. Give them a few more days. They’ll recover from their anger and outrage in time to tune in for Sunday’s season finale. Martin has so much more to delight and horrify you with.
And winter is coming.