Picture for a moment the following hypothetical. It’s June. The sun is finally starting to come out, you’re spending your time off at the beach, and all of your friends won’t shut the hell up about Game of Thrones. You’ve never watched it before. But goddammit they have. By the time the season finale rolls around each year, you’re left standing on the sidelines while your friends babble on about characters and plot twists that you have no understanding of. Thankfully, we’re here to help.
Catching up on a show six years after its debut can be a daunting task. So instead, we’re going to run you through Game of Thrones, beat-by-beat and season-by-season. For this installment, we dive into the bloodiest run of episodes the series has to offer in Season 3.
1. Understanding the Red Wedding
Character deaths have almost become commonplace in the Game of Thrones universe. Both the books and TV series have instilled a “nobody is safe” sort of fear into fans, a threat that was never more real than in Season 3. In it, we were treated to a massive turning point in the series, brought on by the death of just about everyone we loved in one fell swoop. It was a moment that book readers were gleefully waiting to watch their non-reader friends experience for the first time. And in the penultimate episode of Season 3, it arrived in the form of the infamous Red Wedding.
The Red Wedding killed off a handful of primary Stark characters, including Robb, his wife Talisa (and her unborn baby), and his mother Lady Catelyn. The real kicker is that it happened at the hands of their own allies and at the wedding of Robb’s cousin, Edmure. It wasn’t a complete surprise though. The Red Wedding was set off by a series of poor decisions from Robb and company, leading us straight into the “why” of it all.
- First, Robb Stark reneged on his promise to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters, instead following his heart to marry Talisa Maegyr.
- Catelyn Stark released Jaime Lannister, despite Jaime having murdered one of the Karstark sons in cold blood. The Karstarks were previously one of the Stark family’s biggest and most loyal allies.
- When the Karstarks threaten to march home in protest, Robb beheaded their leader, Rickard.
- Without the support of the Karstarks, Robb needs the Freys (who he spurned earlier). He agrees to marry his cousin Edmure to one of Walder Frey’s daughters in exchange for military support.
- Roose Bolton, seeing that Robb no longer has control of the North and wanting more power himself, made a deal with Tywin Lannister to assist the still-spurned Walder Frey in executing the Starks at Edmure’s wedding reception.
Things didn’t go particularly well for any of the other Starks in Season 3 either. Sansa found herself married against her will to Tyrion, while Arya arrived to meet her family at the Red Wedding just in time to watch everyone she loved get murdered. But hey, Jon Snow got to have sex in a hot spring with a wildling north of The Wall, so at least someone in the family was having a good time (even if that same wildling shot a bunch of arrows into him for betraying her at the end of the season).
2. Jaime Lannister becomes sympathetic in one fell swoop (literally)
Through the beginning of the series, Jaime Lannister was made out to be eminently hatable. He was generally portrayed as the golden child in a privileged family with a sense of entitlement and ego to match. Season 3 saw him suitably humbled, bringing him down a level that made him not just sympathetic, but actually likable in a larger context. After getting captured in battle by the Starks, Catelyn released him from captivity to secure the release of her daughters, sending him off with Brienne of Tarth as a bodyguard. It’s not long before things start to go horribly wrong.
After a lengthy duel with Brienne, the duo happens upon a group of Bolton men who are far from friendly. For context, the Boltons, while loyal to the North, are known for their propensity for skinning people alive. After convincing them not to rape Brienne (hooray!), Jaime gets his sword hand lopped off in horrific turn of events. The real tragedy of it all lies in the fact that Jaime is widely regarded as one of the greatest swordsmen in all of Westeros. The loss of limb essentially renders him a defenseless cripple.
Soon after this, we get a touching scene where Jaime explains his “Kingslayer” namesake, and the impossible scenario he was thrust into when he plunged a sword into the Mad King’s back. What we get as a result is a broken, albeit sympathetic Jaime Lannister, who’s forged a friendship with the likable Brienne. More than that, it’s a skillfully executed 180 degree turn on a character who was a villain for the better part of the previous seasons.
3. Tyrion spends the whole season having a terrible time at King’s Landing
As triumphant as Season 2 was for Tyrion, Season 3 ran in the exact opposite direction for everyone’s favorite character. The youngest Lannister found himself stripped of all power in King’s Landing and firmly under the thumb of his father, Tywin. His role for a better part of the season is getting beaten down verbally by Tywin before being paired off with Sansa for an arranged marriage.
Initially, the match seems like a good one for all involved. Sansa doesn’t have to marry the insane psychopath Joffrey, and Tyrion becomes the warden of Winterfell. Unfortunately, things unravel quickly from there. Sansa is far from thrilled and spends a better part of their brief marriage being cold and distant (despite Tyrion vowing to not consummate the marriage without her approval). As a reward for Tyrion’s kindness, Tywin berates his son for failing to impregnate his teenage wife. It’s not exactly a high point for anyone, but really this is just the beginning; things get way worse for Tyrion Lannister in Season 4.
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