Keith Bernstein/HBO
People TV Critic Tom Gliatto
June 09, 2013 11:50 PM

First, let me thank readers of the George R.R. Martin novels that serve as the source for HBO’s Game of Thrones, which concluded its third and (so far) best season Sunday night.

Thank you for keeping your traps shut.

If you had suffered from spoiler’s pride, you would have gone around boasting loudly about your foreknowledge of the calamity that struck in last week’s penultimate episode, “The Rains of Castamere,” more popularly known now simply as “Red Wedding.”

Thanks to your courtesy, viewers were able to let their jaws drop freely and spontaneously as Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), her son Robb (Richard Madden), his pregnant wife and a large royal retinue were slaughtered by the food-stained but grandly malevolent Walder Frey (David Bradley).

It was the most electric moment in dramatic television so far this year, and it’s very unlikely to be topped.

Viewers were probably relieved that nothing in Sunday’s finale came close, but fans of the series by now have come to expect that Martin’s big shocks are delivered before the closing episode. That happened in the first season, when Ned Stark lost his head. (Spoilers ahead)

The best scene was probably the kinkiest: the violent but deliriously romantic breakup between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his fur-wrapped, barbaric warrior lover Ygritte (Rose Leslie). As he rode off on his horse, she let her eyes fill with tears of resignation. She also sank one arrow after another into his retreating body. He survived, barely, but if he had the strength to talk, he would have explained that she was just showing him how much she cared.

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Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finally made it home, minus a hand and a lot of attitude, and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) ended the hour with a goosebumpy moment of messianic worship from the latest population to fall in with her cause. Look who’s living her best life!

And Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) remains in the hands of the most sadistic torturer since the Saw movies.

Overall, the show continues to draw on two major narrative strands – the coming invasion by the Army of the Dead, and the ongoing war to gain the Iron Throne – that are more important than any individual destiny. This is the show’s uncompromising reality, and the source of its power. The loss of Catelyn Stark was particularly painful, because of her maternal steel and her gaunt strength. But nothing stops because of her death and absence.

As a wise medieval poet once wrote, “Get thee over it.”

On to season 4.

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