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(Spoilers for the seventh episode of Game of Thrones Season Four are below).
The comedy returns in this episode of Game of Thrones. Mockingbird has a larger than average number of sarcastic and ironic moments by Game of Thrones’ standards, as humor and comedy are used as motifs to helps this transitional episode set up the climactic events for the season’s conclusion.
The Cruelty of Humor
The last time humor was used to drive a whole Game of Thrones episode was in the third episode of Season Three, which focused on using contrasts between comedic black humor and extensive amounts of suffering. In Mockingbird two types of humor dominate the episode: satire and irony. These two types of humor are used in contrasting ways. Satire is used to condemn the morals of certain characters, and the values of society in Westeros. Irony is used to create scenes that solve problems for characters or even feature a little character redemption.
Satire and Condemning The Values of People
Tyrion has lost his trial and he must now undergo a trial by combat. He wouldn’t be in this situation if his father had recognized Tyrion’s innocence. The tragic part is Tywin knows Tyrion is innocent, but is glad to send him to the Wall so that he can bring Jaime back into the family. Tywin values power and the power brought by the name Lannister. By demanding a trial by combat Tyrion has denied Tywin from getting what he always wants … the first time this has happened on the show.
Jaime and Tyrion then discuss having Jaime fight for Tyrion. Jaime would lose and die, and Tywin’s plans would be ruined. It takes Jaime potentially dieing in a fight with Gregor Clegane to get both of the brothers to start laughing with each other again. It’s a bittersweet moment as we learn Jaime won’t fight for Tyrion because he can’t fight left-handed, yet if he did (in his current state), the brothers would finally succeed in one-upping their father.
Satire and Condemning The Morals of People
Ser Gregore Clegane returns to Kings Landing to be Cersei’s champion. Viewers see him viciously murdering or disemboweling a number of people. When Clegane asks Cersei who he’s fighting, she responds, “Does it really matter?” A short scene, with some humor gives everyone the set up that’s needed for reminding everyone just how dangerous a fighter Gregor Clegane is.
One might of argued Bronn had morals before this episode: loyalty to Tyrion being one of them. However, their partnership comes to an end, when Bronn refuses to fight Clegane. Bronn also reveals he is marrying a retarded noble woman named Lollys Stokeworth. Furthermore he casually mentions he plans on murdering Lollys’ older sister so that he can inherit the Stokeworth castle. In a very cynical way this is quite amusing, yet this horribly humorous situation utterly condemns Bronn’s morals.
A conversation between Sansa and Robin later in the episode has some darkly humorous moments as well. While Sansa builds Winterfell in the snow, Robin talks about adding a moon door to the castle so that they can throw people out together when they get married. Robin’s naivete doesn’t seem to grasp that this is a cruel and inhumane punishment, nor does he register Sansa’s discomfort when he mentions throwing her out the moon door either. Through humor we learn Robin still has no morals. When Sansa finally slaps him after he destroys Snow Winterfell, it feels righteous. It still feels righteous even after the morally lacking Littlefinger agrees with Sansa’s actions.
Irony and Redeeming The Morals of People
The entire relationship between the Hound and Arya has been nothing but lies, insults, and violent aggression. While these two may not be short on violent aggression in Mockingbird, at least this week they were defending themselves rather than provoking a fight. The relationship between the Hound and Arya resembles something found in a dysfunctional buddy cop comedy. This week’s episode these two stop the laughs and get real with each other.
The Hound and Arya first meet a dieing man and give him the truth about their identities and what their current agenda is – this is the first time this pairing has done this. Later in the episode the Hound tells Arya about his scars and admits how much it hurt him that it was his own brother that did that to him. His family covering up the situation didn’t help either. In response, Arya tries to help the Hound take care of the wound he received from Biter. It’s ironic seeing these two characters who have hated each other up until this point treating each other with respect and compassion. As the morals of the Hound and Arya continue to digress this season, viewers get to see some redemption for their characters via irony in the way they treat each other.
Irony and Pragmatically Solving Problems
Ever since Daenerys’ Sun and Stars died in the first season, she hasn’t been able to get laid. Well, that finally changes when she orders Daario Naharis to do what he does best. It’s an ironic scene because Daario initially thinks Daenerys is going to order him to assassinate some people, and because Daenerys has spurned all of his attempts at romance. She even begins their conversation by spurning him for sneaking in through window and for picking more flowers. Nevertheless Daenerys solves her carnal needs with Daario, and then sends him to retake Yunkai, which well help solve her strategic needs. A win for win for her.
Bronn’s desertion of Tyrion may not solve Tyrion’s needs, but they’ve certainly done a lot to advance Bronn’s position in Westeros. What’s ironic about Bronn is he now works for Tyrion’s arch enemy, Cersei. Bought off with Castle Stokeworth, Bronn is now preparing to take his inheritance via assassinating Falyse Stokeworth by having her fall from a horse. One can only assume that Falyse Stokeworth, is not on good terms with Cersei.
Being upfront and honest usually gets a person killed in Game of Thrones. At an inn, Brienne asks their server and cook if he knows Sansa Stark. She then continues to tell him about her oath and how important it is that she find them. The viewer alongside Pod rightfully gets worried about Brienne being so forward. Fortunately, the server is Hot Pie, and while he doesn’t know where Sansa is, he does confirm that Arya’s still alive and likely traveling with the Hound. This fortunate turn of events is ironic, and it prevails in helping Brienne’s quest move forward.
Oberyn vows to fight as Tyrion’s champion. Needless to say, there’s a lot of irony in this new partnership. Oberyn has sworn to take vengeance on the Lannister family, and here he is fighting to protect one of them, while Tyrion wishes Oberyn luck in bringing down his own flesh and blood. Pragmatically speaking, Oberyn’s decision to help Tyrion is due to Cersei using the Mountain as her champion. Oberyn will finally get the chance for vengeance against the man who murdered Oberyn’s sister, nephew, and niece.
In To Kill A Mockingbird, the mockingbird symbolizes the loss of innocence. Fast-forward forty years, in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the mockingbird is the made up sigil used by Petyr Baelish. Much like the real-life mockingbird mimics the cries of sounds of other animals, Littlefinger pretends to be everyone’s friend … only to stab them in the back at opportune moments. It’s interesting to note that both symbolic instances of the mockingbird take place in the Eyrie. Petyr molests Sansa for the first, destroying a part of her innocence. Later in the episode, he murders his wife whom he swore he loved until he pushed her out the moon door.
Lysa’s death is a pragmatic and ironic moment. She has done so much to win the trust and love of Petyr, and not only is it never returned, it leads directly to her death. Lysa looked to Petyr to keep her and her son safe. Now her son is more danger than ever and she’s dead. Pragmatically speaking, Lysa’s death now means Sansa is safe from her aunt, and the likely problems she would have caused Petyr due to her jealous insanity will no longer be an issue.
It’s ironic that humor is used to drive entire episode of a series that is known for its tragic portrayal of drama. It creates a unity in the storytelling, but it feels incredibly awkward to the viewer. Nevertheless its very effective, and it creates an atypical cathartic release when watching. Irony itself is not always specifically used for comedic purposes, and humor may not always be funny, but in this episode it effectively criticizes values and morals, and it also shows it can be redemptive for some people.