Portrayed by: Richard Madden, Michelle Fairley, Oona Chaplin
Die in: "The Rains of Castamere" (Season 3, Episode 9)
The death of Ned Stark in the climax of season one taught a harsh, but true lesson to both the surviving characters and the audience. And yet, we let George R.R. Martin and series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss lull us into a sense of narrative security yet again. Kill the hero, fine, but surely his son will avenge him. Or, at least, valiantly die trying. But in Martin’s world, characters get what they have coming to them, which is not to say the unjust get punished.
The Red Wedding is essentially a bigger, meaner, more efficient, and ferocious sequel to the beheading of Ned Stark, because his wife and his son continue his trend of fatal mistakes. Breaking oaths for love, beheading allies to uphold the law, releasing prime prisoners at the mere chance the other side will do the same—all noble sentiments, which are liabilities in this game.
Whis is to say, it’s not surprising that Robb dies. It is however, absolutely, unfathomably, unreal watching Walder Frey repay Robb’s broken oath to him with another act of betrayal, turning on Robb and his entire army, at a wedding and slaughtering every last one of them.
The whole sequence is constructed beautifully, with the dread mounting incrementally before an anvil full-on drops onto the viewer’s stomach. Why is Catelyn looking around with worry? Why did they close the banquet doors? Why are they denying The Hound entry at the gates? Why did the music shift to a dreary, pro-Lannister song? What is Roose Bolton’s excuse for smirking so goddamn suspiciously if he’s not drunk?
Then, it happens. The same Frey soldier with whom Talisa, (the wife Robb chose over a Frey girl) had been making small talk guts her numerous times in the womb. The balcony-seated band members whip out crossbows and the whole thing goes off with the nightmarish precision of a mob hit (they even run up on his caged wolf).
A combination of fantastic acting and direction makes every small moment in this otherwise huge sequence quietly devastating in its own right. Like how Robb and Talisa had just been talking about their baby (she wanted to name it Ned, a jinx that totally put the nail in the coffin). The palpable desperation of Catelyn contrasted with the defeated resignation of Robb. Arya, once again present for a family member's murder.
Apart from the brutality, what makes the Red Wedding sting is how it dangles the idea of a Stark victory at the beginning of the episode, only to completely and totally squander. There's no hope of justice or vengeance for the wronged of this show. A man’s wife, child and mother were murdered before his eyes, orchestrated by the same family that unjustly beheaded his father, and set his thirst for righteous vengeance in motion in the first place. Life in Westeros just isn’t fair.