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The penultimate episode of the third season of Game of Thrones was the most brutal, shocking episode since Ned Stark’s death back in season one. It was harsh, it was violent, it was brutal, and it was emotionally affecting down to the fade-to-black. Decisions were made and events happened that I’m not sure I can entirely process. It was a game-changing episode for Thrones for sure, and will certainly lead to enormous repercussions for the rest of the main characters. But there were other events to discuss and dissect, so we’ll leave the shocking portions of the review for the final paragraph.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen and her council plan the assault on Yunkai, the slave city and strategic port that Daenerys needs to sail to Westeros. Her new follower and master military strategist, Daario, suggests that he, along with Ser Jorah and Grey Worm (the ex-slave and leader of the Unsullied army), will sneak through a back entrance and open up the front gates for the rest of the soldiers to attack en masse. Jorah disagrees with the plan, as he is suspicious of Daario’s intentions (and jealous as well). Grey Worm agrees with Daario, so the three set out. Their ensuing assault on the city is minimalist but effective, and Grey Worm shows off some spectacular spear work in the battle. With Yunkai now under her command, Daenerys continues her majestic assault across the free cities. I still feel this is the show’s absolute best story at the moment, largely because of how much forward momentum the show has given us out of Daenerys when compared to last season.
Near the Wall, Jon Snow and his wildling companions run across a horse breeder allied with the Night’s Watch. They chase him down to steal his horses for their use, and capture him against Snow’s wishes. The wildlings demand Snow kill this old man to prove himself, but Snow is hesitant. The wildlings attack him, and he shoves aside Ygritte, wanting to protect her from being labeled a traitor, and kills a few of them as he flees on horseback. The show has long needed to separate Ygritte and Snow in order to get my interest back in this storyline. It is high time that Rayder and the wildlings attack the Wall and Snow’s conflicting feelings for duty and for Ygritte were growing incredibly tired.
Unbeknownst to Snow and the wildlings, Bran, Rickon, and crew watch them from an old guard toward but dare not make their presence known. This is a good way to coax momentum from both of these sagging stories, and there is finally forward progress in the awful Bran subplot. We’ve known for some time now that Bran and Jojen are wargs, or people who can see through the eyes of an animal and take control of that animal. What Bran finds out is that he can do the same with humans, about which Jojen says no one else has ever been able to do. Osha and Rickon will head toward Castle Umber to be safe with Stark bannermen. Bran and company will head north beyond the Wall in search of information.
In the most somber portion of the episode, the Tully/Frey wedding celebration is finally taking place. After a length opening in which Walder Frey makes lewd comments about pretty much every women in his family as well as Robb Stark’s wife, Edmure Tully is relieved to see his Frey wife is actually quite beautiful. Everything pretty much goes as planned for the evening, but Catelyn notices some strange goings on. She eventually sees that Lord Roose Bolton, a Stark bannermen himself married to a Frey, is suspiciously wearing chainmail. Catelyn’s warnings do not make their way quick enough to Robb, however, as Robb, his wife Talisa (along with their unborn child) are horrifically murdered at the end of the wedding by Lord Frey and Roose Bolton. Bolton himself stabs Stark through the heart, who dies shocked at the events which had just taken place. A terrified Catelyn shrieks in horror and heartbreak before she too is murdered. Making matters worse, Arya Stark was only moments away from the terror, the Hound having taken her to Lord Frey’s as a hostage.
As noted earlier, this is game-changing episode for Game of Thrones. Robb Stark has been waging a successful war against the Lannister’s for two seasons now, and though his war began to fall apart somewhat (mostly due to his inability to keep his vow to marry a Frey daughter), I can’t imagine the audience expected him to die horribly like this. Catelyn herself has been an enormously strong presence throughout Game of Thrones as well, and it feels like her death has been in vain. Lady Talisa, the Queen of the North to Robb’s King, also gets the short end of the stick, and I still feel like I know very little about her other than she’s from the Free Cities on the other continent. Still, her death is a major shock as well. Next week’s episode is the season finale, and I hope but also dread that there are a few more twists in store for the end of season three.