At the conclusion of Sunday’s new episode of Game of Thrones, I was struck by an uncontrollable laughing fit that woke my sleeping wife in the next room. If you watched “The Mountain and the Viper” then you may be disturbed by the knowledge that the waning moments of the episode left me laughing. If you still haven’t watched the episode…it’s time to stop reading. You’ve been warned.
After the laughter subsided, I immediately asked myself whether or not I was some kind of sociopath. I mean…I had just watched Ser Gregor “I lift things up and put them down” Clegane shatter the Red Viper’s skull like a New Year’s Eve popper full of gory confetti.
Luckily, it didn’t take much reflection to realize that my reaction was exactly what the show-makers were going for. This episode was not an exercise in suspense or high drama…it was a walk to the gallows rife with black humor.
Here are some highlights from Sunday’s exercise in dark humor:
Killing Joffrey with a Chicken Bone
Arya is the one who got the laughter started in this episode by telling the Hound that she would have killed Joffrey with a chicken bone if she had to. It was a great line, and I chuckled, but in the context of the episode this line has greater implications…like…will Arya’s quest for vengeance yield better results than Oberyn’s?
We also can’t overlook the fact that Arya suffered from a laughing fit not unlike my own. Upon hearing the news of her aunt’s death, Arya laughed at the death of yet another family member, laughed at another failed bartering attempt by The Hound, and laughed at the fact that, once again, the world proved to her that life is all about survival of the fittest – not the skills and manners they tried to teach her back in Winterfell.
Smash the Beetles!
Jaime and Tyrion exchanged some last words about their “simple” cousin Orson. As the brothers impishly mocked and mimed the day to day drudgery of their cousin’s quest to smash all beetles…we both laughed at the silliness of the exchange and processed the sincerity with which Tyrion sought a meaningful explanation for his cousin’s behavior. Sadly, there was no explanation to be found. Later, a very big man (who slaughtered helpless prisoners for fun a couple of weeks ago as if they were as insignificant as beetles) crushed a much smaller man’s skull as if it were a household pest.
Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I Smell the Blood of a Dornishman
I have not been reading the Song of Ice and Fire books, so perhaps “The Mountain” is developed more fully outside of the HBO series…but this recent recasting/rebranding of the character was nothing short of hilarious. From the perspective of someone watching the series, The Mountain has always been a brutal character…but one that was still expected to show some level of decorum. Previously…the part has been played by big and tall actors who looked a bit more aged and vulnerable than the heavyweight behemoth who strapped on Ser Gregor Clegane’s armor in season four…his change in stature and presence was so startling to me, that it seems appropriate to connect him with the infamous brutal giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. That being said, it is always fascinating to see how raw things get in Westeros when the politics go out the window.
I know that my laughter in reaction to the death of yet another GOT hero at the end of the episode was based in the same sense of desperation that Arya felt at the bloody gate. To see the proud, thoughtful, and well-spoken Red Viper reduced to mindless screams and inexplicable pain was SUCH a heavy-handed reminder of a lesson that Thrones fans have already learned so well (justice and fairness do not exist in Westeros) that I was already laughing at the absurdity of this reminder and wondering what extreme they will have to go to the next time that they want to remind us of this fact……when Oberyn’s head then detonated like a jack-o-lantern at the hands of a hormonal teen with an aluminum baseball bat…I knew that they had taken this brutal and obvious reminder to an even heavier-handed place. I couldn’t be surprised….I couldn’t be sad….I couldn’t even be grossed out…all that was left was laughter.
“The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.” Sigmund Freud
Like Stansa Stark, I finally realize that there is no more room for my Romantic vision of the inspiration and pleasure that storytelling should bring to me. I now realize that to survive as a GOT fan, I will have to look toward every episode in terms of what it has to offer me…because I’m never going to get the fairy-tale ending that I hoped for.
Before I go…here is a list of some other notable humor from the episode:
- “The pillar and the stones” -Dany
- Mole’s Town belching competition
- Ramsay mocking the Kraken sigil of House Greyjoy
- Sansa going all “Professor Chaos” and creating an evil alter-ego (complete with costume and new makeup)