(Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen episode 9 of “Game of Thrones,” don’t read this).
David Nutter has traumatized me. Seriously. I’m a mess.
If you don’t know David Nutter, let me explain: He’s the guy who directed episode 9 of "Game of Thrones" that aired Sunday night. It was shocking. It was brutal. It was just… wrong. And it might just be the best thing I’ve ever seen on television. It’s certainly the most well-crafted GOT episode since the series began airing on HBO. And it will likely remain the most disturbing for those of us who have declined to read the books or Wiki plot lines for fear of ruining our viewing pleasure with spoilers.
In this case, my strategy of not knowing left me naively unprepared for the slaughter of perhaps the only decent people in Westeros. The only honorable ones. The only ones most of us were truly rooting for (other than Daenerys, who is on a slave liberation kick at the moment). That the remaining adult Starks died in such an undignified, dishonorable, underhanded, unfair, uncompassionate, sadistic way—and in full sight of one another so that it was even more emotionally cruel and heart-breaking—well, thanks again David Nutter. You have destroyed my faith in humanity. You have broken my spirit. I’m a shell of my former self. Throats slit without mercy? And Robb’s beloved dire wolf trapped in a cage and shot full of arrows? Really, David? Did you have to kill the dire wolf too? Have. You. No. Soul!
Yes, I’m aware that Nutter’s just following what’s in George R. R. Martin’s books. But I’ve read the blogs, and in the original story, Robb Stark’s wife wasn’t even at the Red Wedding. You added that! Just so you could have an assassin repeatedly stab her in her pregnant womb in front of her husband, right before your archers use him for target practice. You bastard!! Why must you make our pain even worse? Sorry. I’m still a mess.
Of course, I kid David Nutter. He’s an incredible director. And all of these traumatizing details—especially the ones not in the books—were ultimately necessary to convey the horror of this episode. It made it more shocking and tragic. And it made us all realize that this is a world in which evil people do horrible things—and get rewarded for it. People like the Starks—who try to live by some code of ethics—get gleefully slaughtered while the glorified serial killers who occupy several of Westeros’ thrones sit back and laugh, knowing exactly what Theon’s sadistic captor revealed to him earlier this season: “If you think this has a happy ending, you’re not paying attention.”
But there’s hope, right? I mean, Daenerys’ dragons could eventually exact retribution on the entire Lannister clan—not to mention Roose Bolton, who betrayed the Starks and even made sure to twist the knife into Robb Stark while telling him that the Lannisters send their regards. Or perhaps Arya, who was so close to reuniting with her family before they were slaughtered, will someday exact brutal vengeance. Those of you who have read the books know the answers to these questions. But please keep them a secret.
In any event, while the Red Wedding scene itself was terrifyingly well done, the entire episode was a masterpiece of foreboding and misdirection. It cleverly set an uneasy tone early on but without telegraphing what was coming (At least not on initial viewing. But in retrospect, there were many signs. Read the blogs). We’re lulled into a false sense of security by the bread-and-salt ceremony. They’re safe within the walls of the Twins now, right? Nope. And the festive “bedding ceremony” right before the guards shut the doors to start the slaughter was just creepy enough to tell us—something isn’t right here. By the time the band starts playing the tell-tale song about Lannister revenge and Catelyn sees Roose Bolton’s chain mail under his shirt, well… it’s already too late. But then, just as it seems all is lost, we’re led to believe that maybe Catelyn’s fast talking (and knife to Walder Frey’s wife’s throat) will be enough to bargain for her and her son’s life. They have to live. They need to win the war. They need to set things right. They’ve spent the last few episodes telling us they would storm Casterly Rock. That has to happen. They have to escape. But noooooooo… she’s forced to watch Roose Bolton kill her son. And as she stands there hollow and heartbroken, knowing that she’s all alone and already dead, she senselessly slits the innocent wife’s throat. Has she become just as bad as the rest of them? We’re left to wonder.
This was a disturbing piece of filmmaking. I’ve since read that the kind of shock I felt Sunday night was similar to what readers felt when they reached the Red Wedding within the pages of “The Lands of Ice and Fire,” Martin’s series upon which GOT is based. Martin’s genius is that he paints a starkly realistic picture in which the battle between good and evil often favors evil. Because evil has no conscience. No honor. And without that, it’s capable of killing anyone at any time. I can only hope things eventually get set right in Westeros. But I’m not counting on it.