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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Rains of Castemere” (S3, E9)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 3, Episode 9: “The Rains of Castemere”

Original Air Date: June 2nd, 2013
Director: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Hmm, that’s weird, nothing of note happened in this episode. Nothing at all.

Yup, not a thing.




You can’t make me do it.

I don’t want to do it.

FINE! Fine.

This is the Red Wedding episode.

And it is still totally devastating—maybe even more so than when it first aired. Because originally, the shock of what happened was dulling in some ways, but on a re-watch there is no numbness, only the ever encroaching doom of what is about to happen and the emotional crush of experiencing it. You know it’s coming, you are powerless to stop it, and then it hits you with the force of a thousand Roose Bolton daggers to the heart. Every single moment before the arrows start flying is a lead balloon of sadness being dropped on you. Like when Talisa tells Robb if they have a boy she wants to name him Eddard. “Don’t you want to teach little Ned Stark how to ride horses?”

Uuuuuuungh. After you’re done slitting Catelyn’s throat just finish me off next.

Oh, and if what’s going on inside isn’t enough to ruin your day/week/life, don’t forget Arya arrives at the Twins just in time to see it all take place. Because she hasn’t experienced enough tragedy in her young life already.

It’s just awful in every way and time has only made it worse.

Talisa/Jeyne Westerling Makes a Claim for Winterfell On the HBO iteration, Talisa—Robb Stark's wife/babymomma—is murdered quite brutally in the Red Wedding, but in the book world, she was shipped away, pregnant as can be. This, naturally, leaves a ton of room for twist-y interpretation. Could she come back and make a claim as the new Warden of Winterfell? It would certainly mess things up for a few players—especially the Boltons and Sansa Stark. And since her claim is valid, being that she's the mother of the eldest Stark child's son, it could lay waste to all the alliances being built (and rebuilt) up in the North and turn the whole place on its head. Color us intrigued!

So let’s do ourselves a favor and forget about that horrible wedding for a minute, and instead think about how Robb ended up there, and whether or not it ever made sense for him to go back to Walder Frey for help.

Having righteously, but foolishly executed his bannerman Lord Rickard Karstark, driving away the Karstark forces, and having lost Winterfell to Theon (but not knowing it was now in the hands of Roose Bolton’s bastard), Robb decided to do something bold to change the tide of the war by attacking the Lannisters’ own home, Casterly Rock in the westerlands. Needing additional men to do so, he realized the only undeclared force with those numbers were the Freys, so he reached out to Lord Walder, the man to whom he had broken his sacred vow.

Trusting Walder Frey under the best of circumstances was a dicey proposition, let alone under duress—and especially after you have wronged him—but let’s imagine a world where Robb’s plan worked, and rather than being murdered at the Red Wedding he marched on Casterly Rock with all of his men, the Freys included.


In this episode he asks his mother what she thinks of the plan, but before agreeing with it she points out that if the Lannister forces arrived from King’s Landing before they took the castle Robb would become trapped between an army and the sea. Without a fleet, it’s hard to imagine his army fighting their way out when Tywin had far greater numbers.

Even if Robb did manage to escape in that scenario, where would he head next? Back to the Riverlands? Home to retake Winterfell? How would any of that help him win the war and exact revenge on Joffrey? Even in that case he is weakened and still searching for a plan that could lead to victory.

But what if he had taken Casterly Rock, and in doing so the gold mines? In practice a massive influx of money would help any war effort, though in this capacity it’s hard to wonder how that would give Robb the men who he needed most of all. Would he hire outside mercenaries from Essos? Doesn’t seem like a good way to win a war fought in Westeros, let alone the hearts and minds of the citizens you hope to have flock to your cause.


Not to mention, as Tywin will eventually tell his daughter, the mines had run dry—there was no gold to be had. So Robb would have taken the richest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, only to find it had nothing to offer but a beautiful view of Lannisport Bay (assuming the Iron Islanders didn’t ruin it by then attacking him too, either as opportunists or after making an unlikely but beneficial alliance with Tywin).

However, while that bit of knowledge might have been disappointing at first, it might have paid the biggest dividend of them all in the form of propaganda. That’s because announcing to the entire country that the Lannisters no longer had the wealth they claimed, the riches that gave them so much power, would have severely weakened them. And this might have taken place before the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery, giving the Tyrells pause about who they should be aligning with.

By taking Casterly Rock and learning the Lannister secret a big part of Robb’s plan would have become a battle of public relations, which was partly what he had been hoping for anyway.” Take his home, take his gold, take his power,” he said of Tywin, though instead the power would have been the perception of strength the Lannisters relied on so much.

(That calls to mind Varys’s riddle to Tyrion, about how power resides where people think it resides.)


Beyond just the damage that revelation would have done to Tywin, his oversized family pride would have made him furious. It’s almost a guarantee he would have marched on Casterly Rock to take back his family’s home. Unfortunately for Robb, no one would have been left to take advantage of a poorly guarded King’s Landing when that happened, what with Stannis’ forces having been decimated and all. Robb was the only other threat to Lannister rule, and he’d have no way to directly capitalize on such a move by Tywin.

So where would Robb’s big plan have ended up if he had taken Casterly Rock? In yet another battle, all of which Robb had won to that point, but with a few advantages. Namely that he would be able to expose that the Lannisters greatest strength was now a myth, weakening the commitment of the Lannisters allies, but also Robb may have made the unflappable Tywin Lannister lose his focus, because the war had literally come to his own home in a way it never had before. The great tactical mind of Tywin might have been compromised in a way it hadn’t been previously.

Whatever happened, that showdown would have been something the fate of the Seven Kingdoms would’ve rode upon.
Too bad we’ll never know, because long before Robb Stark was able to march on Casterly Rock the Lannisters sent him their regards.
And it hurts more than ever.
What do you think of this infamous episode? Would Robb’s plan have worked if Walder Frey hadn’t conspired against him? Or are you still too upset over the Red Wedding to care? Tell us your thoughts—or have a good cry—in the comments below.
Images: HBO


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