Robb Stark (Richard Madden) at Frey’s wedding banquet.
Will there be more than temporary victory for rouges and rascals?
There should not be any doubt about the ferociousness that has been depicted in American epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, since its debut two years ago.
In the medieval kingdom of author George R.R. Martin, heroes and heroines do not earn favor for bravery or kindness.
A patriarch of one of the noble families, Eddard Stark, paid for loyalty with his life while the valiant and formidable horse lord Drogo was poisoned by his own healer.
For creating merciless twists and turns and brute power plays, Martin has earned praise for his novel, better known as A Song of Ice and Fire, and the adapted series airing on HBO.
The ninth episode of the third season, “The Rains of Castamere”, last night sank the audience deeper into their couches with the carnage of the Starks at a wedding banquet.
The graphic portrayal of the murders of Eddard’s wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), their first born Robb (Richard Madden) and his pregnant wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) on television is already historic, with many critics and non-book-reader fans condemning the author.
What lingers is the more tragic deaths of the Starks, who have been seen as the purest highborn with a less ambitious reason to rule the Iron Throne: to avenge the death of Eddard. As the former Hand to the deceased King Robert Baratheon, he was executed by the king’s illegitimate son and heir to the crown, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
Their deaths were the fruit of another treacherous act by the Lannisters, the Queen-mother’s family, collaborating with the Stark’s former allies Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) and Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton).
Breaching the ancient custom of “guest’s rights”—in which hosts are obliged to protect the safety of anyone, including their enemy, under their roof, Frey slaughtered his guests after holding a wedding between his daughter and Robb’s uncle.
It turned out that Frey still held a grudge for the annulled betrothal of Robb and his daughter and chose to switch sides to support the Lannisters.
If there was “a sin” for the Starks, it might be Robb’s choice to marry for love instead of forging allies through marriage. In the medieval era, where women’s worth was limited to the value of their wombs to produce heirs for a kingdom, true romance was a luxury that even a powerful king could not afford.
In the third season, we have seen many political betrothals to form allies among the warring kingdoms. Joffrey Baratheon will marry his uncle’s widow Margaery to get support from her rich and powerful Tyrell family while his mother, the widowed and wicked Queen Cercei (Lena Headey), is promised for Margaery’s brother, Loras. Joffrey’s uncle, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), has married Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) to sustain their power over her collapsing family.
With such a dense plot that can match a soap opera, the series will keep our attention in one way or another. Staying faithful to the medieval backdrop, the Thrones is the next sought after saga after J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
What keeps them apart is the realist view of characters and their fates in the Thrones. In Tolkien’s world, good and strong-willed hobbits can beat Dark Lord Sauron, something that even the noble dwarf Tyrion cannot dream of. Living under the influence of his wicked father Tywin (Charles Dance) as well as his sister Cercei and sadist nephew Joffrey, he can only fail with one cruel act after another.
There are no elves or white wizards, as Martin keeps his story on the ground.
“You’re very kind, someday it will get you killed,” said Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) to young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who arrives at Frey’s land only to witness her mother’s and brother’s deaths.
Yet, to keep humanity in the Thrones is also to keep hope alive. This is what the last episode of the season, “Mhysa”, offers on June 29. A breathing space after the devastation at the wedding, the closure will see that the remaining Starks are getting stronger while there is a cold celebration in the Lannister camp.
Drogo’s widow and the Mother of the Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is learning that true power can be achieved without noble birth.
— Photos courtesy of HBO Asia