got s4e8 - ellaria - 2

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)



Game of Thrones: Great “IMP”lications



Oh Tyrion Lannister….thank you for this:

“Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores!

My initial reaction to this line was born of pure, unadulterated escapism. It was a simple but satisfying formula:

Bad guy is publicly called-out for his evil ways by a clever and relatable hero. Audience applauds and feels that the scales of moral justice have been properly balanced. 

Works every time.

Tyrion’s trial consists of melodrama, grand statements, and twisted grins: the stuff Emmy awards are made of. Despite some clever, silent awkwardness amongst the Lannister clan – the scene is somewhat lacking in subtlety. I mean…come on…the writer even confessed that he couldn’t resist adding a stenographer with a quill in one of his earliest drafts of the scene. Fortunately…this is Game of Thrones…when the drama gets heavy and obvious – it is always based in some bloody and serious history – and we have always been waiting very patiently for the emotional payoff. Tyrion’s trial is no exception. In the end, his moment of emotional collapse and release actually contains quite a bit of that existential nectar I am always so desperate to feed upon.

I believe that Tyrion’s situation is one that all of us are avoiding in our own little ways every day. We may not be heirs to the greatest fortune in Westeros, we may not have power-hungry fathers willing to trade and wager our lives and emotions like currency – but we are all forced to turn a blind eye to the less desirable elements of our lives from time to time. As unwise as Tyrion’s outburst was, I think that we should all look at it as an affirmation of the idea that sometimes existing silently within a flawed system can be just as harmful as being the perpetrator of its evil. We love Tyrion because he sees the fundamental flaws in his family and respects those who have to fight for status and power in the world. Unfortunately…we also let him get away with a lot of hypocrisy. He fights for what is right…but only quietly behind the scenes…he rarely takes a public stand. Only one character on the show has ever really called him out for his quiet hypocrisy: Shae.

In last night’s episode, I  found Shae’s testimony just as heroic as it was troubling. In fact, I have been sad to discover that Shae’s role in the episode has only been discussed by reviewers as if she were a powerless pawn or some stereotype of a stinted lover. I can’t accept that. Shae is smart – and has always served as a bit of a guardian angel to Tyrion; a kinky guardian angel, maybe…but a guardian angel nevertheless. Did the Lannisters put pressure on her to condemn Tyrion….yea, probably. Were her demeaning jabs at Tyrion meant to hurt him…HECK yes…but that is how she set Tyrion free.

Before Shae took the stand, Tyrion was ready to, once again, serve as a willing pawn in one of his father’s obnoxiously-clever political maneuverings. He was going to supplicate at his father’s feet and take the long walk of shame to The Wall. So…yes, Shae chose to break him…. but I believe she also wanted to shake that Lannister sand from his eyes.

I believe there was something oddly angelic in that heart-decimating testimony. Shae’s painful words forced Tyrion to accept that he had sent her packing selfishly, just so he could exist as a piece in that never-ending game of thrones. When Tyrion lost it and started spewing-forth violent and vindictive truths – I felt like I was watching a warrior bust out of his cage.

Sometimes difficult truths need to be spoken if we are going to stand up as individuals and take control of our lives.

The morals of this story? Don’t forget to look for angels in strange places, and never be afraid to bust out of your own cage.

Thank you, Tyrion…and good luck with your trial by combat.