Have Your Say: Was The Red Wedding The Most Shocking Fiction Moment Ever On Television?

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Was The Red Wedding The Most Shocking Fiction Moment Ever On Television?
As a longtime reader of George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire books, an adaptation of which is currently being broadcast as Game Of Thrones, last Monday was one of the most satisfying moments I've ever encountered since I started using social media.

At first I was highly skeptical about the whole adaptation of this series, until I actually started watching it. And while the television series is no match for the complexity and depth in the books, it does get the mood and about 95% of its casting right. A far better accomplishment than the recent Tolkien adaptations, I dare to argue.

But the very reason that I started watching it at all, was that I heard rumors that the ruthless plot of the first book had survived the adaptation process intact, leaving television audiences stunned at the end of season one. And I thought: damn, would they actually dare do that in season three too?

Well, as everyone probably knows by now, they dared. The series' creators went there and they made it as gut-wrenching as possible. Astonishingly, with the plot available on Wikipedia for years already, NOBODY spoiled it for the masses! The readers kept their traps shut at large, so as not to spoil the fun of having the viewers royally shocked.

Of course I didn't know exactly when it would happen: I have read the books, not the upcoming scripts. But when Twitter and Facebook started derailing a few nights ago, there could be no doubt about it: the Red Wedding had been broadcast. I haven't watched it yet myself, but just following the social media was entertaining beyond belief.
The outrage! The grief! The utter misery!

It isn't just "schadenfreude" why I love what happened, I am actually not that evil. When I read the books, I was as shocked by that particular plot twist as the viewers are now, and just as hurt.
But I love that this moment apparently translated so well to television! That it worked. That nobody tried to lessen its impact. That it managed to trump the shocks of seasons one and two.

The Red Wedding was a great success. And, as great successes do, it now becomes a hype, a legend. Multitudes of people are calling this a momentous ehm... moment in television history. Some say this was the most shocking fictional event on television ever.

Maybe, maybe not. I am old enough to remember Captain Kirk kissing a "black woman!!", and that the Star Trek episode in which that happened was banned in several states (and even some countries) because of it. I remember an earthquake in Shogun, and ninjas killing someone I was very fond of. I remember Holocaust, and Roots, being the talk of the day. And I remember JR being shot by someone in Dallas.

So here is my question: was the Red Wedding the most shocking fictional moment ever on television? And if not, what was? HAVE YOUR SAY!!

[Editor's note: Ard may have read the books BUT I HAVE NOT and all comments posted are automatically emailed to me. Please be kind and try to avoid spoilers.]
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More about Game Of Thrones

Johan HermanssonJune 5, 2013 1:43 PM

Unexpected? Yes. Shocking? No.

I'm more interested in where they will go next with the story, some plots have moved forward really slow, which is fine but it's nice to see some changes :)

Jason SeasJune 5, 2013 1:45 PM

It was before my time, but even in seeing the show on repeats the death of Col. Blake on M*A*S*H was one that came out of left field.

Todd BrownJune 5, 2013 1:55 PM

GOOD CALL. The Blake episode of MASH is one of the all time great moments of television history.

Sean KellyJune 5, 2013 2:27 PM

Personally, the final reveal of Dexter season 4 was a bit more shocking for me, since it happened after the story of the season supposedly wrapped and I didn't expect much more than the darkly humorous "happy" ending of the previous three seasons. Unless something big happens during this year's final season, it will probably remain the top moment of the series.

That said, the Red Wedding was still quite shocking.

Joe FalionJune 5, 2013 2:32 PM

Television continues to push the boundaries. The Red Wedding might currently be the chart topper for most shocking fictional moment ever but that will be a short lived title as the other networks and shows up the ante.

I foresee these type of events becoming so commonplace in the world of TV that most likely within a few years the Red Wedding will be all but forgotten (or at the very least, just another blip on the radar).

yrabadiJune 5, 2013 3:02 PM

I too, wouldn't necessarily call it shocking. If you're paying attention, you see it coming - whether or not you have read the books. There's a sense of tension throughout the episode, and when it happens - it is tragic and graphic - but not really all that shocking... At least to me.

I will say that it was very memorable in its execution - a job well done by all parties. The first time I watched it, it left it's mark... Thinking on it a few days later though, I find it less as disturbing... And having watched it again last night, the impact has softened...

I question whether the lasting effects of such an event should be taken under consideration when talking about where it ranks among tv moments.

Jason GorberJune 5, 2013 3:08 PM

I've still never been more shocked than the first episode of Oz, where the guy I had setup to be the lead (John Seda) is, well, spoilered.

Ditto with GoT as a non-Book reader - I watched the show as a Sean Bean vehicle, so the guy being dusted I thought wouldn't happen. Again, the signs are there, not just from the show, but from the fact that Bean always gets killed, in everything he does. Still, that was more shocking.

This for me was impressive, and gave me hope for the future narrative. It does make some of what they were doing feel like treading water, however, and gives a sense that if anyone can be killed, why bother? I'm still left wondering why the hell we're to care about the guy being tortured, other than some sense that he'll play a role later on. The more protracted that story line becomes, the more obvious it is that he won't be killed, thus taking out some of the zing from the torture.

But, yeah, killing off Blake in M*A*S*H. That was a shocker, for sure.

LarsJune 5, 2013 3:10 PM

It was shocking but for me the most shocking moment would have to be the death of Opie on Sons of Anarchy.

Mario BJune 5, 2013 3:41 PM

This is close, but the murder of Maddy and revelation of the killer in Twin Peaks is still the most shocking moment. Even more so that it aired on prime time network TV.

Silent RoccoJune 5, 2013 4:10 PM

It was the strongest emotional impact thingy in TV history, for me, yes.

MarcJune 5, 2013 6:02 PM

Definitely. Traumatic, tragic, and well-handled on the show, especially since it's about war, after all. The silence that continues in the operating theater after the announcement is a stunner.

Ard VijnJune 5, 2013 6:47 PM

Ooooh, how could I forget MASH? Yes, definitely one for the list.

Ard VijnJune 5, 2013 6:53 PM

"...all comments posted are automatically emailed to me."

Wait, what?

So you've seen all the "Todd is a pussy" remarks I made when you were away on honeymoon? EEK!

Ard VijnJune 5, 2013 6:57 PM

My most devastating television moment was one mentioned in the article above, when one of the female leads in SHOGUN got killed. I had just become that age when I started noticing actresses for, you know, being beautiful, and I had a major crush on the character she played.
Was depressed for days after that...

tman418June 5, 2013 7:19 PM

As far as "Game of Thrones" goes, I don't think any viewers who didn't read the books (myself included) can truthfully say that they saw this coming. I don't think anyone could have truthfully predicted that Walder Frey would so something so underhanded, or that Robb's rebellion would have come to such a quick, brutal ending, to the point where his entire rebellion became futile, like Winston's in "1984."

Everyone loves to be Captain Hindsight after this episode. And yes, in HINDSIGHT, Robb and Catelyn made horrible decisions: letting Jamie Lannister go, cutting off the head off that old guy who killed the Lannister children (which itself stemmed from Catelyn releasing Jamie), and Robb not marrying the Frey girl. Robb and Catelyn each went out of their way to piss off their reluctant, wishy-washy allies.

andrewzJune 5, 2013 8:48 PM

Doesn't compare to my surprise at seeing Vic Mackey shoot a fellow cop at the end of the first episode of The Shield.

harumphJune 5, 2013 10:32 PM

"I haven't watched it yet myself..."

"But I love that this moment translated so well to television! That it worked. That nobody tried to lessen its impact. That it managed to trump the shocks of seasons one and two."

You're not wrong, but you should probably see it before making those kind of judgments.

argusJune 6, 2013 4:19 AM

Yes the Dexter finale was the most shocking moment for me too

Ard VijnJune 6, 2013 11:31 AM

You're right, I should have put an "apparently" in there.

In fact, I'll go change that now.

harumphJune 6, 2013 1:14 PM

And you definitely should see it, because it actually goes a little further than the book in at least one respect. It really is pretty stunning, even for those of us who knew what was coming. I haven't read any negative viewpoints from Martin readers, but it would be interesting to get your take on it as far as your opinion on the book vs. the show.

harumphJune 6, 2013 1:19 PM

I can definitely see other shows attempting to up the ante as far as the violence goes, but the narrative shock value is something that's far more difficult to top. Violence alone won't top it. For me, I think the final scene in the Sopranos is still one of the most shocking moments in television, and there's not a drop of blood to be seen.

Sebo McPowersJune 6, 2013 2:07 PM

I wasn't really that shocked. They killed of the most boring characters, who didn't actually do that much in season three. If they had killed of Daenaris or Tyrion, that would have been something completey different. But with theses characters it was more like "ok, one boring plot line cut off - good.".

OnceJune 6, 2013 3:15 PM

More then the SFU final?

Silent RoccoJune 6, 2013 3:56 PM

Haven't watched that one yet.

Ben PJune 6, 2013 5:07 PM

The most shocking fictional moment is definitely when Luke Spencer rapes Laura Webber on General Hospital. GoT meet daytime programming circa 1979. Though the writers/producers would soften this act in the following years to appease the fans of the beloved couple, to those not in denial, it was always this deplorable act. This is further evidenced almost twenty years later when their teenage son finds out the dark family secret and confronts his parents. Luke finally comes clean about what he did by telling his son that he raped his mother.

mapklmfgdbsJune 7, 2013 7:56 PM

Omar death, the wire

pylgrimJune 9, 2013 12:45 PM

For us, anime watchers, this kind of shock and trauma are the bread and butter of our media experience. Death Note Ep. 25, Monster Ep 01, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Ep 03 or 10, Attack on Titan Ep 01 or 05, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Ep 08, Fullmetal Alchemist, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Evangelion... I could keep going for hours.

Ard VijnJune 9, 2013 1:50 PM

Hahaha, so true!
Evangelion ALONE must have caused more trauma already than any other series will ever manage to achieve.

marllJune 10, 2013 3:19 PM

i have never read the books so just enjoying the show for what it is.
and i felt that , yes, that episode left me feeling more than a little
shaken. thinking about it afterward, the one thing that was traumatic
was the murder of the unborn baby. very overpowering and ony HBO can seem to get away with that kind of thing... and yes, the last episode was utter pants : (

marllJune 10, 2013 3:24 PM

btw, some of my own favorite moments i didn't see coming ( not necessarily shocking visually) the soprano's when tony kills Ralph Cifaretto. Nate's death in 6 feet under... to many to count in Oz and the wire : )

KBJune 29, 2013 8:53 PM

I don't like to think of it from the perspective of Robb or the Starks, while I still disagree and think that Catelyn's role was slightly unique. It was more of where the Stark lineage goes from there, they killed off all these characters people hoped to succeed because of the demise that Ned Stark suffered and it makes it look like the Starks are finished but were finished in such a cold massacre. I'd be shocked in a bad way if Danny and Tyrion were killed because they still have a drive in their character to go through, to end that would be stupid.

GoT is one of those shows which can cut off a plot line while linking it to a new one so it's actually worth watching.