‘Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding: The Empire Strikes Back

'Game of Thrones' Red Wedding: The Empire Strikes Back

"Thanks #GOT for making me love things and then slaughtering them before my eyes."

(Spoiler warning: Don't read this if you don't want to know what happened on Sunday's "Game of Thrones")

Remember when you first saw "The Empire Strikes Back" and Han Solo took everyone to meet his old friend Lando Calrissian, who seemed a little… off? A little too… forward? And then it turned out he had turned his city over to the Empire to trap Han and his friends?

Sunday's "Game of Thrones" was like that times a thousand.

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"Empire" ended with Han frozen in carbonite to thaw and fight another day. But Sunday's episode, "The Rains of Castamere," ended with House Frey showing its hospitality by wiping out Robb Stark and his mother – two characters we've rooted for since the first episode of the show – as well as Robb's pregnant wife, their key lieutenants, and, just for good measure, Robb's direwolf.

The show got exactly the reaction it was looking for. #GOT trended on Twitter like a direwolf howls.

"My outlook on life is bleak," wrote Troian Bellisario, star of "Pretty Little Liars." "But I've never been this low. Thanks #GOT for making me love things and then slaughtering them before my eyes."

Her grim sentiment was retweeted more than a thousand times.

And the episode had started so well. Robb Stark needed House Frey's army to continue his bold campaign against the Lannisters, the nasty ruling family that beheaded his beloved father, Ned. But he had offended Lord Walder Frey by backing off on a promise to marry one of his daughters. In a cruelly funny early scene Sunday, we got to meet all the potential partners Robb missed out on, as Lord Walder leeringly agreed that Robb's wife was much better looking.

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Robb had found a suitable replacement to marry one of Walder's daughters in his place, and seemed on his way to mending fences with House Frey – which you could call House Calrissian, except that it out-Calrissianed the original Calrissian by a long stretch.

In "Empire," Lando turned out to be a good guy. Walder Frey, not so much.

But like Lando, he didn't seem to be the ultimate engineer of the trap. Said the gentleman who fatally stabbed Robb: "The Lannisters send their regards."

Ah, the Lannisters. Technically it was a Baratheon, Joffrey, who ordered Ned Stark beheaded. (Robb and his wife had just been talking about naming their baby after Ned, just before the slaughter began.) But since Jofrrey's the product of incest, he's a Lannister through and through.

Ned Stark's beheading, in the first season, was the first major signal that "Game of Thrones" was a show willing to brutally kill off our favorite characters. Sunday's episode made good on that promise by killing several at once.

Not all of House Stark is dead: Robb's sister Arya just missed the bloody festivities. Another sister, Sansa, is under the protective cloak of a Lannister, Tyrion. The youngest Stark, Richon, is on the run. So is the crippled Bran, who discovered Sunday that he has the power to briefly possess animals – and at least one giant. And Jon Snow, the bastard, remains at large.

"Game of Thrones" also followed a fun new television tradition of taking care of big deaths the week before the season finale. "Breaking Bad" killed a major character before its midseason finale last year, and "Game of Thrones" similarly killed Ned before Season 1's finale.

A big death – or dozens – before the season finale is a brilliant trick, because it leaves stunned viewers to wonder: What can they possibly do for an encore?

We find out next week.