*The following contains spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire/A Storm of Swords*
“How can it be treason to kill Lannisters, when it is not treason to free them?” asked Karstark harshly. “Has your Grace forgotten that we are at war with Casterly Rock? In war you kill your enemies. Didn’t your father teach you that boy?”
Is all truly fair in love and war? How do we decide what is too far in war and what is fair game? War is humans at their worst, choosing to kill each other in sake of defending a name, a purpose, an idea. When do we go to far and where do we draw the line?
Robb is faced with an incredibly tough decision here after seeing one of his lords brutally murdering two of their captives, Tion Frey and Willem Lannister, both of whom are enemies. Lord Karstark took their in response to his children’s lives being taken from him. An eye for an eye seems maybe reasonable, but Robb argues that they died in honorably on the battlefield and that this was pure murder. This was treason and therefore the message needed to be sent that this was not allowed.
This is painful as Catelyn made the decision to release Jaime Lannister in order to on the off chance he maybe able to retrieve her daughters. This caused Karstark to do this and send out a hunting party for Jaime with the promise that whoever captured him would be given his daughter Alys; and with that a claim to Karhold. This was disobeying a direct order, and yet it in some sense feels slightly reasonable on both sides. Both Catelyn and Rickard are dealing with the death of their children in similar ways. Catelyn believes her sons to be dead causing her to act irrationally in order to retrieve her daughters. Rickard Karstark views this release as a horrible affront to his children’s legacy, and decides to take vengeance in a horrific way.
Is this treason or vengeance? I can understand the trap this put Robb in, and while I am not sure I would have had the guts to execute him, it is a brilliantly executed chapter dealing with the consequences of love and war. What makes this series terrific, is its ability to bring out the pain in seemingly heartless decisions, and this chapter is absolutely terrific showcase of conflict and pain.