maisie williams/VINE

“Red Wedding” Got You Down?

Stand your ground, but stay the course with ‘Game of Thrones’ (Psst: If you’re not caught up, don’t read this)

The effects of the “unscheduled wedding activities” in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones have lingered with loyal viewers well past Sunday night’s insta-rage and Monday morning’s workplace therapy sessions. On Wednesday, my thoughtful cubicle neighbor said, “I just don’t know if I have the heart to watch anymore.”

As a loyal reader of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, I know I have an unfair advantage. I feel it every Sunday as I sit next to my husband on the couch and watch the latest episode with a frozen face that would make Dr. Botox proud.

Like many other reader-viewers, I feel a solemn responsibility not to mess with the enjoyment/despair of our collective newbies. I have so far resisted the urge to make cryptic statements about future events, or even shrug with suggestive intent. But when you’ve been with someone for ten years — someone who can read your tells like a poker shark — that’s no easy task.

As the wedding between the lesser Stark and shy Frey moved from chapel to banquet hall, my husband snuck a glance at me, trying to read tea leaves, the memory of season one’s chopping-block shocker bubbling up in his psyche:

Matt: “I don’t know, it feels like this is all going too well.”
Jennie: “Oh, yeah. Totally” (inserts large sandwich into mouth).

Needless to say, when the “Red Wedding” came to its red conclusion, there was some serious post-mortem, up to and including my successful ability to lie through the sandwich in my teeth.

So for husband Matt, my thoughtful colleague, and all of those others still nursing rage and/or broken hearts, I say:

Don’t let “The Rains of Castamere” get you down. And whatever you do, don’t let it keep you from the season finale.

In honor of the musical nature of the episode, here are my reasons why:

“Don’t Give Up” (You Still Have Friends)

Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush

Even as Stark after Stark gets their noble, moral selves sliced and diced, their influence lives on in those they have encountered. A Wilding woman cares for Bran and Rickon in payment for the Stark family’s kindness, and a scarred soul like Sandor Clegane tries to do some version of the right thing by Arya after he fails to convince Sansa of his mostly helpful intentions. Tyrion Lannister’s visit to Winterfell at the start of the series awoke something in him that he hasn’t been able to drink or screw away since, and his brother Jaime, set free by a Stark, turned back to rescue a woman who was Catelyn Stark’s last hope and mirror moral image.

Perhaps Eddard, Catelyn, and Robb were too honest to win the Game of Thrones in life, but in the words of another knight, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” The memory of these fine Starks are powerful weapons against the coming winter — don’t leave them to fight alone.

(Also: You should totally listen to Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush sing “Don’t Give Up” — it feels like they had a copy of ‘A Storm of Swords’ in their hands, or George R.R. Martin had “So” on repeat while writing.)

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes/Simply Red

George R. R. Martin has said repeatedly to readers and viewers that he tries to take a more realistic view of life. He told you in Season One, and he just said it again, with great eloquence, to ew.com:

What do you say to readers who are upset about the scene?
It depends on what they say. What can you say to someone who says they’ll never read your book again? People read books for different reasons. I respect that. Some read for comfort. And some of my former readers have said their life is hard, their mother is sick, their dog died, and they read fiction to escape. They don’t want to get hit in the mouth with something horrible. And you read that certain kind of fiction where the guy will always get the girl and the good guys win and it reaffirms to you that life is fair. We all want that at times. There’s a certain vicarious release to that. So I’m not dismissive of people who want that. But that’s not the kind of fiction I write, in most cases. It’s certainly not what Ice and Fire is. It tries to be more realistic about what life is. It has joy, but it also had pain and fear. I think the best fiction captures life in all its light and darkness.

So don’t say you weren’t warned. And if it’s all too much for you, that’s OK; sometimes I need Once Upon A Time and Castle, too.

“Don’t Stop Believing”

Journey

This song has been on heavy pop culture rotation since Glee brought it back from the bargain rack, so why not here, at the end of all things.

If you think that the “Young and the Westerosi” has nothing left to offer you in the way of retribution and righteous justice, consider this:

Somewhere in the East, there is a princess Ned Stark wouldn’t kill, who was once shy and scared and is now freeing slaves by the thousands. Her ultimate destiny remains unknown, but viewers who give up on the show now — because they killed all the “nice people” — will never know.

Speaking of nice people, there are still a fair number of Starks roaming the scarred countryside. They need your support and belief, and they are not without their magic. Count them out now, and — as another long ago, far away knight might have said — you underestimate the power of the Stark side.