Looking back at this blog, I realise that I switched from posting here to posting to Observations partway into last season of Game of Thrones. I probably had a good reason for it at the time. For this season, I haven’t had time to post anything so far, but there are several reasons for why I do want to write a bit about the Red Wedding, in the books and on the screen. And, since it will be talking more about the books, I guess I am putting it here.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I had not actually read the Red Wedding chapter in A Storm of Swords. In fact, I had not read most of the latter half of A Storm of Swords. When the book was first published, Elio and I started reading it together, passing it back and forth between us. I read ahead on Daenerys’s storyline, given that it was separate from anything else, and that led to Elio reading ahead of me in all the other storylines. As a result, he got to the Red Wedding a bit ahead of me. He didn’t precisely tell me what happened but I was sitting in the same room as he read the chapter and his reactions were…intense. No thrown books (we do not throw books around here ;P), but plenty of gasps.
It rattled me, a lot. I scare really easily and I have a wonderfully vivid imagination for horrible things. So, when I got the book back from Elio, that feeling that something is terribly wrong that the chapters before the actual wedding build up just got to be too much for me. I knew that a horrible car crash was coming up and I knew that if I got to that point, I wouldn’t be able to look away. And I really, really didn’t want those images in my head; there’s a reason why I don’t generally read or watch horror. It didn’t matter that the character’s being killed weren’t any favourites of mine; I probably mourned Grey Wind the most since Robb was something of non-entity for me and unlike Elio I wasn’t a big Catelyn fan, though my recent re-reads have given me a better understanding of her even if I still don’t really like her as a person.
Why didn’t I just skip that chapter and kept reading the rest of the book? At first, I figured I would be able to get back reading soon enough. I did finish all the Daenerys chapters and, I think, the Jaime chapters. But then there was the other big event of A Storm of Swords—the duel, that is. We had already been spoiled before we started reading about how the duel would end. Elio got to that one ahead of me as well—I think he pretty much finished the whole book in one day, staying up until early in the morning—and I got enough of an impression from him to know that I did not want to read that chapter either. In fact, that one made me a lot angrier than the Red Wedding, because GRRM managed to hype Oberyn in just the right way before the book came out that I was sure I had a new favourite character coming on stage. In fact, once he was introduced, he turned out to be even more interesting than we had thought he would be.
And then GRRM killed him. We knew it was coming, but that didn’t help. In fact, overall that upset me more than the Red Wedding (which didn’t really make me sad or angry, just sick to the stomach with the horror of it) because it actually removed a character that I wanted to read more about, a character that I had an emotional (and, alright, hormonal ;P) attachment to. One reason that I was so relieved that GRRM skipped the planned 5-year-gap after A Storm of Swords was that I was really sad that the gap meant that we would not get any immediate reactions to Oberyn’s death. It made it feel more pointless, somehow. That is probably also why “The Captain of the Guards” is my favourite chapter of A Feast for Crows, closely followed by the other Dornish chapters.
So, the Red Wedding stopped me in my tracks as I was reading, but there was more in the second half of the book that I didn’t want to get too involved with. Now I am past the halfway mark, I am in the middle of the next wedding, but I will probably save the rest of the book for closer to the next season, to have it all fresh in my mind. I am not sure if I am hoping that they do a good or a bad job with casting and writing Oberyn; I might not want to get attached to the character on the show, all considered, so perhaps it is better if they botch it. After all, and that’s a long and roundabout way of connecting back to the Red Wedding episode, watching the Red Wedding on TV was actually a lot easier than reading it because they didn’t manage to adapt it as well as they could have. If they had created the same tension on the show that GRRM did in the book, I might have found it hard to sit through the whole episode. But they didn’t, and I watched it without any stronger reaction at all.
This, my completely different reactions to the book and the show—and bear in mind that I was coming to that chapter fully spoiled, so that isn’t where the difference lies— is why I think that it was such a mistake to go for a shock instead of creating that sick feeling in your stomach throughout the whole episode; the true horror of the Red Wedding is as much about the atmosphere as it is about what actually happens. GRRM shifts from fantasy to horror without telling you and starts creating the sort of dread that a horror story would create, the sort of dread that makes you wish for a release, even though you know that the release will be bloody. Here, you start wishing for that release, without realising that you are in for a true horror story ending. That is masterful storytelling and that is damned effective.
Of course, if it had that effective on the show—because, admittedly, the episode has clearly been very effective for a lot of people as it is—it might have broken the Internet.