Michelle Fairley plays Catelyn Stark, born Catelyn Tully. Her father is Lord of Riverrun, her husband Ned Stark was Lord of Winterfell, and her son Robb is King in the North. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
In the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess and last remaining heir in a long line of kings and queens of Westeros. Dany is the widow of horselord Khal Drogo and is often called "the mother of dragons," for her three flying beasts. (HBO; Victoria Will / Associated Press).Link
Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister, often called "the imp." The youngest and perhaps most cunning of Lord Tywin Lannister's brood, Tyrion is younger brother to Queen Cersei and kingsguard knight Jaime. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister, queen regent and the widow of King Robert Baratheon, who won the Iron Throne by conquest. Cersei's twin brother Jaime is the true father of her children -- a secret she has kept through murder and treachery. (HBO; Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)Link
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister, Lord Tywin's eldest son and twin to Queen Cersei. Jaime is a knight in the kingsguard, but is often called "kingslayer" for murdering the mad king Aerys Targaryen. Jaime was taken hostage by Robb Stark's Northmen, but Catelyn Stark freed him to ransom her daughters. (HBO; Kevin Winter / AFP / Getty Images)Link
Gwendoline Christie plays Brienne of Tarth, whose sword skills and unusual strength and size set her apart from other young maids. Brienne swore an oath to Lady Catelyn Stark to deliver hostage Jaime Lannister to King's Landing in exchange for the safe return of Catelyn's daughters, Sansa and Arya. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
Kit Harington plays Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell. Jon is a brother of the Night's Watch, sworn to protect the realm from the dangers that lie beyond the Wall. (HBO; Tim Whitby / Getty Images)Link
Rose Leslie plays Ygritte, a wildling woman from beyond the Wall who sets her eye on Jon Snow after he fails to kill her in an attack on a camp of wildling scouts. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
Ciaran Hinds plays Mance Rayder, the "king beyond the Wall." Rayder was once a brother of the Night's Watch, but he broke his oath and deserted. Now, he leads an army of wildlings and giants. (HBO; Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)Link
Richard Madden plays Robb Stark, the eldest trueborn son of Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell. After the death of his father, Robb was crowned King in the North. The "Young Wolf" and his bannermen are warring against the Lannisters. (HBO; Matt Sayles / Associated Press)Link
Oona Chaplin plays Talisa Maegyr, a healer from Volantis and Robb Stark's wife. In marrying Talisa, Robb broke his agreement with Lord Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters in exchange for his support in the war. (HBO; Jason Merritt / AFP/ Getty Images)Link
Sophie Turner plays Sansa Stark, the eldest of Ned and Catelyn Stark's daughters and a hostage at King's Landing. Sansa was betrothed to Prince Joffrey, but was put aside after the Battle of Blackwater Bay. (HBO; Jason Merritt / Getty Images)Link
Maisie Williams plays Arya Stark, Sansa's sword-wielding little sister. Arya escaped King's Landing after her father was killed, disguising herself as a boy. She's been on the run ever since. (HBO; Jason Merritt / Getty Images)Link
Isaac Hempstead Wright plays Bran Stark, who lost the ability to walk after Jaime Lannister pushed him from a tower in Winterfell. Bran, whose family presumes he is dead, is making his way North after Theon Greyjoy sacked Winterfell. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
Carice van Houten plays Melisandre, the "red priestess." Melisandre's god is R'hllor, the Lord of Light, and she believes Stannis Baratheon is the subject of an ancient prophecy as well as King Robert Baratheon's true heir. (HBO; Jason Merritt / Getty Images)Link
Natalie Dormer plays Margaery Tyrell, a young lady from Highgarden betrothed to marry King Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei's eldest son, after the Tyrells came to the Lannisters' aid in the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Margaery is the widow of the self-styled King Renley Baratheon (King Robert's youngest brother). (HBO; Jason Merritt / Getty Images)Link
Aidan Gillen plays Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, a childhood friend of Catelyn Tully and her sister. As the Master of Coin at King's Landing, scheming Littlefinger is on the king's small council. (HBO; Jason Merritt / Getty Images)Link
Alfie Allen plays Theon Greyjoy, the son of Lord Balon Greyjoy, who rules the Iron Islands. Theon grew up among Ned Stark's children as his ward, taken hostage after Balon's Rebellion was quelled. Though he was well treated by the Starks, he longed to rule the Iron Islands as his father's heir, and he ultimately betrayed Robb and sacked Winterfell to prove his mettle. (HBO; Jason Merritt / AFP/ Getty Images)Link
Sean Bean plays Eddard "Ned" Stark, the honest and honorable Lord of Winterfell. Ned left his Northern home for King's Landing after Robert Baratheon recruited him to be the Hand of the King. But after Robert died, Ned met an unfortunate end under the young King Joffrey. (HBO; Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)Link
Jason Momoa plays Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord and husband to Daenerys Targaryen. They grew to love each other, and Dany became pregnant with Drogo's son, prophesied to be a great leader. But Drogo and the unborn child died, and it was on Drogo's funeral pyre that Dany's dragons were hatched. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
Even before the third season of “Game of Thrones” debuted in March, D.B. Weiss, one of the showrunners of HBO’s lavish fantasy series, intimated that major characters would die.
“I think we’re heading into the negative population growth phase of the show,” he said in an interview with Hero Complex.
Sunday’s episode, written by Weiss and his creative partner David Benioff, delivered on that promise in a massive way — and anyone who missed the season’s penultimate installment, “The Rains of Castamere,” might want to stop reading right now. Major spoilers are ahead.
One of the most memorable events from all of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, the Red Wedding, unfolded on screen Sunday, claiming the lives of Robb Stark (Richard Madden), his pregnant wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), victims of a sinister ambush.
The Red Wedding was one of the moments that had Benioff excited for “Game of Thrones'” third season even before he and Weiss had pitched the project to HBO — “the traumatic and memorable events,” he said, could surely win over an audience forever. (It’s true that watching the scene play out was just as shocking as seeing Sean Bean’s Ned Stark beheaded in the show’s first season, even for fans who might already have known that tragedy was at hand.)
Speaking so far in advance of the unveiling of “The Rains of Castamere,” the showrunners kept mum about the details of staging the scene or the emotional nature of saying goodbye to a specific set of characters. They were more forthcoming about the challenges inherent in adapting Martin’s immensely rich and detailed saga, with its underpinnings of tragedy, destiny and romance.
Weiss and Benioff said they attempt to be quite faithful to Martin’s source material, bringing the author into their storytelling process — as is customary, Martin wrote one episode this season, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” But reproducing the novels exactly on screen cannot be their sole guiding principle, even when it comes to the narrative’s most indelible sequences.
Some deviations are just creatively necessary, they said.
“If there’s ever a fork in the road, and we have to choose between absolute fealty to the novels or what we think is best for the series, we’re always going to take the second turn and stick with the series,” Benioff said. “A lot of the challenge of the adaptation has been about making sure that you keep alive all these great characters who people have gotten to know so far while still introducing a certain amount of new blood to keep things moving along.”
“One of the beautiful things about the depth of George’s world, he’s laid out this map that’s so fully realized,” Weiss added.
And how far do they intend to follow the road map? With Season 3 nearly at a close, and Season 4 set to be drawn mostly from the same novel in the series — the third book, “A Storm of Swords” — how long can “Game of Thrones” continue on HBO? (And will Martin’s sixth “Ice and Fire” book, ‘The Winds of Winter,” be released before the show exhausts the portions of the story laid out in the existing novels?)
“The point going into it was that we wanted to start at the beginning and work our way through to the end, work our way through to the point beyond which there was no reason to keep telling the story because it was over,” Weiss said. “How long exactly that’s going to take and what form it’s going to take is obviously something that needs to be determined as we go.”
“The main thing is not wanting to outstay our welcome,” Benioff added. “There is a tendency, I think, to, if something goes well, you want to stick with it and just keep it going forever and ever. As much fun as we’re having with this — I certainly haven’t had more fun on anything — as Dan just said, part of the reason we love this story so much is because it’s a single story. This very much has a beginning and an end and we’re nearly halfway there.”
Feel free to leave your thoughts on Sunday’s episode in the comments below.
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