Throughout the entirety of Game of Thrones’ tendentious final season, it felt like showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were repeatedly trolling the audience–there was the Starbucks cup, the plastic water bottles. And then there was Tyrion’s whole Song of Ice and Fire thing.
Towards the tail end of the series finale, after Tyrion Lannister–set in his new position as Hand of the King to Bran the Broken–spends about thirty seconds of precious, precious screen time rearranging chairs, he is presented with a large, leather-bound volume. The tome, written by Archmaester Ebros, documents the wars of Westeros after the death of King Robert Baratheon, aka the events of the show.
Its name? A Song of Ice and Fire. “I helped him with the title,” says a smug Samwell Tarly. Cue the winks to the audience!
A Song of Ice and Fire is of course the name of the series of novels on which Game of Thrones is based; the reference in the finale nods to author George R.R. Martin and the loyal armies of fans who read every book and tuned into every episode. The joke is glaringly, groaningly obvious, a shouted reminder that the dragon incest show is literary. Perhaps it was just intended to be a little tease, a wee tickle from the tip of Brienne of Tarth’s feather quill. But the allusion landed like rocks of the Red Keep: with a very loud thud. It is just so very cheesy!
Game of Thrones isn’t the only pop culture artifact to so embarrassingly break the fourth wall. Disappointed Twitter users were quick to compare GoT to the likes of Entourage and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Entourage ended with Vinny and the boys deciding to pitch a television show based on their sunny, beautifully empty lives (“We could call it Entourage!’), and The Great Gatsby concluded with Tobey Maguire’s sweaty Nick Carraway packing up his memoir, pausing to scrawl the words “The Great” over the title Gatsby. In Scream 2 the characters go to see a film called Stab, a hacky take on the events of Scream. Trainspotters 2 finishes with a newly sober Spud writing a book about his youthful junkie adventures–and it’s called Trainspotting. The final episode of Seinfeld, too, hinges around the idea of Jerry getting a pilot order from NBC for his sitcom Jerry.
These are easy gags from writers and auteurs who need to believe that their work has somehow attained great historical importance. To quote Tyrion, “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can defeat it.” That is not true, just as it is true that these motifs are hackneyed tricks, so obvious that analysis seems almost beside the point. They are jokes that belong to the young BoJack Horseman style of stand-up comedy, like shaking the audience and screaming “GET IT?” in their faces. They are not so much reveals as clunky taunts, a device that inspires more gripes than gasps.
And Tyrion isn’t even in the Game of Thrones take on A Song of Ice and Fire, the sort of show-within-the-show. This is supposed to be funny, because it is rude. It kind of is. Perhaps Brienne can blog about it.