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The Best of This Week’s Game of Thrones Recaps: ‘The Rains of Castamere’

Devastated by the episode that may as well be renamed “The Red Wedding,” critics who were expecting the big event wallowed in despair along with those who were shocked by it. Approaching their critiques from a variety of perspectives (directed at A Song of Ice and Fire experts and newbies alike) recappers seemed to settle on one point of agreement: "The Rains of Castamere" has altered Game of Thrones forever. Here, to help in the mourning process, the best of the recaps. 

* "That, in the end, is what makes the Starks such good protagonists—even if they’re fairly shitty occupants of the universe Martin has turned them loose in. By constantly striving to do something approaching honorable and right, they earn our respect, even if we know it will cost them dearly. And by having such a strong connection running among all the family members, they put themselves into even greater danger to protect those they love. The only reason Catelyn ends up with a sword at her throat is because she couldn’t bear the thought of her daughters dying, and hoped against hope that returning Jaime would return them to her. Her problem is that she lives in a world where that will be visited back upon her tenfold, that her mother’s anguish will be felt, raw and real and aching, right up until the sword does its nasty business and she bleeds out." - A.V. Club

* "You could sense gravitational pull towards Something Big from the episode's opening strategy chat. 'We'll lose the war and die the way father died,' Robb says of one possible outcome of his proposed campaign. Catelyn seems worried by the risks, but lets vendetta guide her ultimate judgment: 'Show them how it feels to lose something they love.' Dun dun dun. The exposition scenes at the Twins then radiated tense comic energy (Frey struggling to remember his female progeny's names) and foreboding creepiness (the piggish courtroom evaluation of Talisa) — until the show finally downshifted into a rare mood of tragedy." — The Atlantic

* "I don’t think it was made very clear for non-book readers, but it is the custom in Westeros that when you have eaten in someone’s home you are then 'sheltered' there and protected from harm. The Stark party is shown eating at the very beginning, which just goes to further highlight what complete hypocritical dicks the Freys are. They are the ultimate trailer trash of Westeros." — Collider

* "Roose Bolton said the Lannisters 'send their regards.' I think it's fair to assume Tywin was pulling the strings here. Remember Tywin writing those letters? The show played those scenes of Tywin making his kids wait while he scribbled for light humor. Doesn't seem as funny now, does it? But it's a masterful addition by the showrunners, having beats that play as humor the first time you watch the show, then as ominous foreboding the second time. They did the same thing with Frey not remembering one of his daughter's names in this hour — amusing at the time, but it's foreshadowing about how he doesn't care about his women and will later let Catelyn sacrifice one of his wives." — Entertainment Weekly

* "Betrayal is a feeling that's explored only in reality. Characters die, yes. Moral centers of shows die, yes ... But betrayal. I cannot remember a time I felt betrayed by a character who wasn't Martin's creation. And so it has become an emotion native to two places: Westeros and reality. For that — that ability to make me feel something new, something that I can find nowhere else in fiction — I cannot help but love Martin even as he breaks me." — Esquire

* "But though the scale was bigger than it was in "Baelor," the impact on me wasn't the same. It's not just that Ned's death was a defining moment for the series, signaling that anyone could be killed at any point, but that Ned was such a compelling character ... Stupid Robb Stark, on the other hand, made bad decisions but without the consistency of the old man, and certainly without the screen presence. And Catelyn caused a lot of this trouble in the first place by taking Tyrion prisoner, and then badly undercut Robb's campaign by setting Jaime free without promise of anything. Michelle Fairley brought more to the table than did Richard Madden (she also, in fairness, was given more to work with than he was most of the time), but ultimately I won't miss either of them, nor Talisa. I feel bad for Arya, and for the general balance of good vs. evil on the series. But where Ned's death felt shocking (even though I knew it was coming) because the series was getting rid of what had been its central character, the wedding massacre felt more like the series pruning the cast of some inessential characters in the splashiest way possible." — HitFix

* "Maisie Williams kills it week in and week out as Arya, but give credit to Rory McCann for going toe-to-toe with a 16-year-old without ever condescending or pulling punches." — The Huffington Post

* "Cat Stark's final scream, as she slit one innocent throat in grim anticipation of having the same thing done to her own, was one of acceptance. She had spent a lifetime trying things the honorable Stark and Tulley way, trekking up and down a continent to receive a box of bones and calling it a kindness, freeing Jaime Lannister, the man who tried to kill her son, in hopes of saving her daughters. In her final moments, Cat Stark saw the world as it truly was, not the way doomed crusaders like her late husband desperately imagined it to be. 'The gods love to reward a fool,' is how her drunk uncle put it, moments before stepping out to relieve his bladder — and, no, I don't think Blackfish or Edmure were in on this; I believe the Lannisters consider the Tulleys, like the Tyrells, cobblestones to be trampled, not roadblocks to remove. But the biggest fool isn't the man who remains unaware of his circumstance, it's the man who grows too comfortable within his own." — Grantland

* "[The red wedding] killed much more than Robb Stark, and Catelyn Stark, and Talisa Stark, and Grey Wind, and the Northern army. It killed an idea. In the world of the show, it killed the hope of the North, the spirit of independence and rebellion and justice that promised one last bloom of warmth before the coming winter if the Starks had prevailed over the Lannisters. But for readers and viewers, it killed our idea of what this series is. The central conflict, Stark vs. Lannister, is now over. The Lannisters won." — Rolling Stone

* "Midway through this episode, Arya looks out onto the Frey’s bridge, almost close enough to her mother and brother to sprint to them. The Hound, knawing on pigs feet, tells her she’s scared: “Of course you are, you’re almost there, and you think you won’t make it,” he says. She should be scared: she doesn’t make it. This entire episode is about that terrifying closeness, the so closeness of being almost, but never, ever, actually there. It’s an episode about how dreams and plan can almost come to fruition, only to be halted, destroyed, undone at the very last second, for no good reason, and be all the more painful for almost being real." Salon

* "[Sansa] is both pitiable and pitiful. And yet, she is the key to the North. If only she realized her own power." — Slate

Photo: HELEN SLOAN/HBO