With most of my favorite shows painfully absent from my weekly TV viewing, it could have been difficult for me to make my pick for the best moment of the week. The Bachelorette‘s premiere left me with no strong impressions about any of the guys—or at least no strong positive impressions. (I definitely felt strongly about “hashtag guy” and “fantasy suite guy,” but those feelings were decidedly unkind ones.) So You Think You Can Dance is still in the audition stage. And it’s usually impossible to classify anything from the Real Housewives franchise as the “best” thing on TV.
But thankfully not every high-quality TV show is on hiatus yet. In fact, one of the best shows on television aired perhaps its most anticipated episode this week.
It was time for another wedding on Game of Thrones, and this time it was a red one. I’ve been waiting for this episode with an odd mixture of excitement and dread since I finished that horrible chapter in A Storm of Swords late last year. I’d never read anything like that before—a scene that literally turned the whole story on its head from both a plot perspective and a thematic one. The Red Wedding took the common heroic myths and stories we’re used to and stabbed them in the chest. It broke my heart, but it made for some of the most compelling literature I’ve ever read.
I also knew it would also make for some incredibly compelling television. And I was right.
Warning: If you don’t know what you’re about to watch, this is EXTREMELY violent and disturbing.
The way this scene built from revelry to dread was utterly perfect—a masterpiece in creating tension that is almost as powerful as it was on the page. Each death was horrific to watch, and you got a real sense that this wasn’t a battle; it was a massacre, which needed to be established in order for this event to carry the weight it needs to carry as the series goes on. But no mention of this scene could ever be complete without acknowledging the absolute brilliance of Michelle Fairley’s performance. The way her voice and her face completely transformed when she’s pleading for Robb’s life gave me chills, and I’ve never heard a scream as purely guttural and agonizing as hers after Robb was killed. And then in those horrifyingly quiet moments after she slit the throat of Walder Frey’s wife, you can see that she is already dead; everything but her body died with her son. I’ve never seen acting like that—so visceral, so utterly destroyed and broken. It was even more haunting for me than the final image of Catelyn in the books—because we can actually see the moment when she’s no longer a human being; she’s simply a body existing despite everything in her soul being dead.
I know this is a horribly depressing pick for the best of TV this past week, but sometimes the best is better than anything else because it makes us feel more deeply—even if those feelings are heartbreak and horror. This scene is what great media is all about—it makes us feel; it makes us care; it makes us react.
Heather has a great post over at TVexamined about why Sunday’s Game of Thrones is an example of how great television is as a medium, and I agree with every word. The reactions to this scene are part of the reason why it was so good. If something can make you feel that strongly about people and events you know are fictional, then it must have done something right. The best fiction makes us think, but it also makes us feel. And the Red Wedding certainly made everyone watching feel something—and feel it intensely.
What was your reaction to the Red Wedding (either onscreen or on the page)? Do you think it was the best thing on TV this week?