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Jeff Garlin Goes Off On [SPOILER]‘s Fate in Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding: “It’s a Big Ball of Wrong”


In addition to being a comedian and an actor, Jeff Garlin is also the host of the podcast By The Way, In Conversation With Jeff Garlin. In an unexpected turn of events, a conversation with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan about TV production values morphed into Garlin going off on the Red Wedding, specifically how <cryptic>  the scene was altered from the book to do a certain thing to a certain female character </cryptic>.

It’s an interesting read. Unmarked spoilers for season three of Game of Thrones are behind the cut, as is some bleeped-out cursing, but if you watch Game of Thrones you should be able to handle that.

First, for a bit of context: Michelle MacLaren, who directed the two episodes preceding gore-fest “The Rains of Castamere,” was in the audience. Quote is bolded for emphasis.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna watch it anymore, though. I’m sorry. Don’t get me started. It pissed me off. I loved that show up until the second to the last episode. It made me angry … It’s an amazing production, but I’m still not gonna watch it.

I don’t trust them anymore. I don’t trust the Game of Thrones people. (To Gilligan:) By the way, kill Walter White. You’ve already done it maybe. Do what you want, but don’t stab a pregnant woman in the stomach. That’s all I ask of you. Am I wrong?! A character who doesn’t die in the books, not only she does she die, but brutally?

(To MacLaren:) You didn’t direct that episode, did you? (MacLaren: No, I didn’t.) Will you go back and tell them how upset I am that a character who didn’t die … ’cause I don’t mind the other characters dying — they died in the books. Why not? But a pregnant lady? Stabbed in the stomach? F*** you! That made me nuts. That was the most violent thing I’d ever seen … I saw Drive — that was way more violent than anything I saw in Drive. That made me nuts! F*** HBO.

… I love HBO. They’ve been great to me, and hopefully, there’ll be more Curb Your Enthusiasm. But … but … ahhhh! That’s all I’m saying. It’s a big ball of wrong.

(To Gilligan:) And I’m just telling you here, you could’ve done anything you want with those characters. You didn’t stab Skyler when she was pregnant. Were you tempted to? (Gilligan: No.) Exactly. Breaking Bad, a violent f***ing show, would have never stabbed a pregnant lady!”

The character in question is, of course, Robb Stark’s wife pregnant Talisa (Oona Chaplin). Her book counterpart Jeyne Westerling wasn’t even at the Red Wedding, so Talisa getting stabbed multiple times in the stomach came as a surprise even to book readers who knew what was about to happen to Robb and Catelyn.

Compare Garlin’s reaction to that of Robb Stark himself, Richard Madden, who really got a kick out of all those videos of fans freaking out when Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn met their maker:

“It made me laugh so much because there’s so many cameras that are just, like, shaking with someone laughing at how terribly everyone’s reacting to it.

It’s so good. It’s the same thing as when my dad read the books and he threw it across the room and didn’t read it for two weeks. I love it.”

I love it.” *shakes fist at the sky*

I know it’s been a few months since the episode in question aired, but whether you first experienced the Red Wedding in the show or the books, it’s not something you ever really recover from. So let me ask you: What did you think of Talisa being stabbed in the baby? Did HBO go too far in pursuit of traumatizing its viewers, or just far enough? Dredge those feels back up and let’s discuss, readers.

(via: blastr, Digital Spy)

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  • Ryan Colson

    I think it upped the stakes for future events pretty well by making them /even/ worse. Also since it wasn’t in the book it was a good SURPRISEANGER moment.

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    It horrified me, but I, well liked it is too far, but…appreciated it, maybe? I was one of the book people who went in knowing what was happening…and they still blindsided me. They still gave the book readers a shock, and it was also a warning to us- ‘you might have read the books, but don’t think you know everything. We’ll still break your heart’.
    Again, brutal, but I get it.

  • Ray Burns

    Whenever I hear it asked if something ‘went too far’, I always ask myself whether or not it makes sense in the context of the show and the characters. When watching the events unfold, you wonder is this something that Walder Frey would have done? And the answer is, of course this is something that Walder Frey would have done! This sick dangerous man would do anything to torture Robb Stark for the slight to his name, and murdering his pregnant wife by knifing her in the stomach in front of him would be exactly the sort of thing that Walder Frey would have commanded.

    Remember, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

  • Alicia

    Is it brutal to have a pregnant lady stabbed symbolically in the belly?
    Yep. Is it effective precisely *because* it’s brutal and symbolic?
    Obviously yes.

    I wasn’t a super huge fan of Talisa to begin with…I was actually expecting her to end up being a secret Lannister agent, so to me the surprise was that she died like a Stark.

    If anything, I’m relieved that she died, considering the change of having her go to the wedding…because she clearly never should have been there, and Rob having her come was a stupid, stupid decision (a judgment based on every single scrap of information anyone’s ever had about Frey). As soon as that decision was made, Talisa was dead. Of *course* the physical embodiment of the broken bond between them was going to die first. It couldn’t be otherwise.

    So to me, the only question is whether it was really necessary to make sure everyone knew she was pregnant before she died, which I think is a legitimate question, and one that I’d be more interested in if, again, I’d liked Talisa a bit more to begin with.

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    Out of all the stupid, stupid decisions Robb made, bringing Taslisa to that wedding was one of the stupidest.

  • Erin Treat

    I agree with him. It was in your face and disgusting. I’m still pissed.

  • Alicia

    100% agreed.

    Also, the fact that she thought that wedding would be a really good time to bring up her pregnancy and naming the baby…I mean, that’s like an African-American cop announcing he has one day left til retirement, or a redshirt ensign volunteering for an away team. Just keep a lid on it, Talisa. Have some respect for the incredibly awkward, stupid situation you’re in right now.

  • Anonymous

    Meh, it didn’t really bother me at all. It’s suffering, not death that gets me. Talisa died quickly and relatively cleanly. The various torture scenes and slow/painful deaths (even casual mentions of someone being “put to the question”) throughout the series (particularly in the books), however, still disturb me in a pretty profound way. I don’t think I could ever re-read the books because of the extensive torture stuff.

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    Yep. It was like the two of them thought ‘how can we make this insult even worse?’ and then went with it.

  • Alicia

    I MEAN WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WE’RE JUST AVENGING THE DEATH OF MY FATHER WHO WAS KILLED CAPRICIOUSLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY WHILE STAYING IN THE HOME OF A MAN I BETRAYED WAIT WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT KNIFE

    Duh-doy, guys.

  • R.O.U.S.

    If it had been canon I’d be ok with HBO dramatizing it, but to have that storyline created specifically to end up that way is a bit heavyhanded. I have a high tolerance for violence and it’s very difficult to offend me, but I do remember thinking ‘oh holy sh*t did that really just happen?’ when we watched the episode. That is full-on ballsy, and if fans want to call HBO on it, I’m behind it. Brutal murder of a pregnant lady really should remain in the ‘too horrible’ category of acceptable tv violence.

    That being said, I will watch this show always and forever.

  • R.O.U.S.

    Fully agree – it was very ‘nice’ to be surprised by something. Though there is something to be said for off-camera action having a stronger impact than an explicit view, perhaps this would have been the right place (maybe we just see her face as it’s happening?).

  • Thrasymachus

    I think it achieved exactly the effect that it needed to. As much as Game of Thrones is hailed as some ground-breaking deconstruction of high fantasy, it’s striking how closely Martin hews to the classic narrative arc of the genre: you introduce the characters, you push them into the worst, most desperate situation imaginable, and then through their own perseverance and intrepidity they get out of it. And what Luke getting his hand sliced off and getting emotionally floored by Vader’s admission, or Harry getting smashed by losing Dumbledore was to those respective universes, the Red Wedding was to the ASOIAF saga.

    What’s more, it did so in a way that hit all the necessary buttons for all the viewers. In the books, it’s shocking because Martin has carefully set up the norms of the universe, and in that universe, hospitality is the one rule that no one dares to break until Walder Frey does. It’s not just a violation of the law. It’s sacrilege against the gods themselves. Whether you pray to the Old Gods, the Seven, R’hhlor or the Drowned God, no one breaks hospitality because to do so is to invite every last one of them to strike you down in this life and the next, to say nothing of inviting the unremitting hostility of the other characters in universe and the everlasting hate of the audence.

    In the show, however, they have to contend with readers who won’t be surprised by a shot-by-shot recapture of the book and lay viewers who don’t know the norms of Westeros. Stabbing a pregnant woman in the babymaker? Whoo boy, ain’t no one going to see that and not shudder in horror. If you wanted to make Walder Frey and Roose Bolton viscerally, I-want-to-see-them-die-screaming hated, that’s a surefire way to do it. And that’s exactly what they got.

    In terms of achieving the kind of utter repellent loathing of a character, characters like Walder Frey or Joffrey might be beaten only by Jody from the Preacher comics. And when Jody got what was coming to him, it was positively orgasmic.

    *Waits for Arya to level up and take all those bastards down*

  • ampersands

    Honestly, that part wasn’t nearly as bad as the on screen sexual violence they’ve added to the show. All the scenes with Ros and then her very sexualized death (in part of a montage, because she didn’t even get a real moment for herself) were far more upsetting (and to me, not at all in keeping with the tone of the books regarding sexual violence).

    In ASOIAF Joffrey is not a sexual sadist. He is simply a regular sadist. And in a show that still cannot escape filming nude women for the male gaze, the sexual violence isn’t a good criticism of the deep misogyny of Westerosi culture; it’s simply another way to objectify women. Ros dies to make a point about Joffrey, rather than as a real end to her narrative arc (which is something Martin avoids). And they do the same with Talisa. In the episode before, they show both Robb and Talisa naked, but Robb gets to cover up immediately while the camera lingers over Talisa’s body, tracing up and down her naked back and ass. And then they stab her in the stomach, hoping we’ll care about this poorly characterized woman if they manage to insert some body horror to a body they sexualized the episode before.

    Honestly, they need more female directors (or at least male directors who understand the male gaze). It takes me out of the experience of the show every time, which is a huge flaw on their part.

  • frodobatmanvader

    I was bothered less by Talisa being stabbed than I was by Walder Frey’s poor wife getting her throat slit. First of all, in the book it was Frey’s grown-up, idiot grandson, which tied into Frey’s “I’d rather have had the son-in-law I was promised” mentality to the whole thing.

    But replacing that with “Oh, her? The one we were introduced to in season one in an extremely dehumanizing way? She’s disposable, I’ll just marry another.”

    Not cool, dudes. Not cool.

  • frodobatmanvader

    Which brings us back to this article: http://www.themarysue.com/hbo-should-show-dongs-collegehumor/

    Absolutely agree, though. It’s the objectifying of the women, and then afterward *denying them* character development, that’s the real horror of this show.

  • Fisty

    Jeff Garlin walks out on movies we like all the time. No surprises here.

  • ampersands

    Yeah, that was a good one.

    It’s interesting though–even when certain male directors think they’re inserting half-naked dudes for the sake of their dude-attracted audience, it’s still not filmed in the same way. I actually think that’s a much nicer way to film naked people: just present them, let the audience be attracted or not if they want, and move on. Instead we get naked dudes presented without cinematic commentary, but naked women presented as if the camera actually wants to fuck her. It’s really distracting.

  • frodobatmanvader

    Yeah, exactly. Unless, the camera is supposed to be a POV shot for a character who wants sex the lady up, DON’T film it like the camera wants to sex her up!

    Sigh, but then when we DO get an example of non-gazey gender-reversal, like Watchmen, everyone’s all “Oh, noes! Big blue penis! My EYEZ!!!”

  • TeaLights

    I have to be honest, out of all the violence against women in the show, that is one of the few scenes I actually did not cringe at. I actually did not find it over the top and grossly sexualized like so many of the other scenes in GoT where women are abused or in peril. It made sense in context, if Jeyne Westerling had been in attendance and had not had a family, the Freys would have murdered her as well. You could argue it was unnecessary to make her pregnant and I agree (though I mean unprotected sex logically leads there), and I wouldn’t argue against anyone being offended by the scene. BUT I do kind of feel like in this case it’s a dude screaming over the opinions of women; considering the director was RIGHT THERE.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. The violence at and death of Ros left a worse taste in my mouth than Talisa’s. Because as has been pointed out by others here, her killing is very consistent with how wronged noblemen have indeed acted in both Medieval and historical times, But Talisa got a death moment and her death was given a lot of empathy by the production, whereas Ros’ death was silent, off screen and left no repercussions at all among other characters in Westeros. I wish they had at least shown that she was missed and grieved among her own people at the brothel.

  • http://www.darkapocalypse.net Edwin Perello

    I disagree with Garlin on this.

    I think it was absolutely necessary for the writers/directors of the show to do something absolutely and positively heinous in the scene to drive how just how vile and terrible these people are.

    In the land of Westeros, causing harm to the people you welcome into your own home and share bread with is almost the most vile sin you can perform. It is almost as bad killing your own kin, arguably the worst sin ever under killing your king.

    Audiences who haven’t read the books would not really get that. They would know killing the people you were aligned with, even had an oath with, is a terrible thing to do but that by itself would not drive the vileness of the Red Wedding home.

    The shock of how it began, with the stabbing of a pregnant woman’s womb, cut to the chase.

  • Eisen

    I thik most of the viewers who didn’t read the books, didn’t get the immense significance of ‘sharing salt and bread’ together. Yes, Bran told the story of the rat cook, but in the books it is mentioned way more often.

    The people of Westeros do cruel things, but there are rules from the gods you do not break – the salt and bread thing is to me the most prominent in the books. And in the books it really comes as a shock to Catelyn – the man who ate bread and salt with them broke this holy rule. She never would have thought of that, and neither did Robb.

    But of course, in the books he takes his wife not to the wedding. Even if hbo-Robb didn’t expect the Freys to do this, he should have been aware of this insult. That Talisa wasn’t so aware of it could be just because she is not born Westerosi.

  • Eisen

    Yes, the viewers who didn’t read the books may don’t get the huge significance this bread-and-salt-sharing has. It’s only mentioned when Bran talked about it once in the story with the rat cook. But I ask myself if there couldn’t been another way of showing how evil Walder Frey and Tywin are.

  • http://www.darkapocalypse.net Edwin Perello

    I don’t think there could have been a more in your face way of doing it. You have to consider the setting of the story. That kind of stuff is extremely shocking to our modern sensitivities but it wouldn’t be as incredible in that time setting.

  • http://www.darkapocalypse.net Edwin Perello

    Not cool?

    It’s Walder Frey.

    What is it with people not understanding things like that? Sure, it’s not cool TO US, but that doesn’t jibe with the character.

    We would be horrified if a murder happened right in front of us, but shrug when someone gets their head cut off in a TV show by a murderous fiend. It totally makes sense a murderous fiend would kill someone… Why is it so surprising that Walder Frey, one of the most vile people in all of Westeros, wouldn’t do something vile and disgusting and treat people, including his own wife, like garbage?

  • Caitlin

    Yes – it makes sense in the narrative that she had to die. I do understand the arguments that it is problematic to kill her in the fashion they chose, because murder is a leading cause of death for pregnant women, but it absolutely makes sense that Walder Frey would ensure Robb’s heir would not survive.
    Like other commenters here, I was more upset about Ros’ death.

  • The Striped Sweater

    I think it’s a bad idea, because Jeyne’s child may end up being important later in the books, which will force even more divergence between the books and the TV series.

  • jytaqetizah

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kAgk

    I don’t think there could have
    been a more in your face way of doing it. You have to consider the
    setting of the story. That kind of stuff is extremely shocking to our
    modern sensitivities but it wouldn’t be as incredible in that time
    setting.

  • protoformX

    First let me say I haven’t read all the books, and so I didn’t see this coming. But I kinda don’t get the reaction some people had. The whole Fuck HBO thing. If this had been in the first season, then sure, you could say “Fuck this show!” If you’ve been watching it for three seasons and you are shocked to your core for any of the despicable things Joffrey, Tywin, Littlefinger, Balin Greyjoy, the Boltons, or Walder Frey might do in the next to last episode of the season…. Then WTF show are you watching? and how did you make it this far??? After season 1 with the death of Ned, and the season 2 opener with the killing of any of Robert’s illegitimate children… what were you expecting? The people in charge are vindictive, petty, and deranged… of course they are over the top evil on an HBO show set in a universe like this. Jesus imagine if the show had started while The Mad King was in power what would the reaction videos have been when Jamie killed him?

  • Anonymous

    If I remember correctly, it hasn’t been confirmed yet that Jeyne Westerling is in fact pregnant, and most of the text seems to indicate that she’s probably not. When they announced that Talisa was pregnant, I knew she had to die in the Red Wedding, because having that child live would’ve screwed up the story MORE. Frankly, I’m glad they changed Jeyne to Talisa, I always thought that Jeyne was rather boring, and the only interesting thing about her was the politics of her family being close to the Lannisters. Since it’s too difficult to include just how complex that marriage was in the short time the television show was, Talisa was the smarter choice.

  • Anonymous

    I was so not okay with the killing of Ros. I had come to really like her character, and though I realize that in the books Joffrey kills ones of the prostitutes, and that Ros had become a stand in for the various named prostitutes in the books, I wish that there was at least a little more pomp and circumstance than what we got. I adored her.

  • Anonymous

    See it, made sense to me to change it from Jeyne, besides the Red Wedding shocker. I mention this in another comment, but Jeyne as a Westerling comes with a complicated political background that the books cover in detail, and by removing that family from her and using Talisa, it means that the pages and pages of fallout involving the surviving Jeyne (is she/ isn’t she pregnant, whose side are the Westerlings on, etc.) can be avoided to steamline the plot of the television show.

  • Tegan Dumpleton

    Honestly, I had no idea that it didn’t happen in the books. Now that I know, I’m horrified. I loved the show, but it was already pushing my buttons with the unnecessary amounts of sex, nudity and violence that was not in the books.

  • Anonymous

    I was way less bothered by the baby-stabbing than by the continuously unnecessary naked scenes in episodes before, which incidentally I wouldn’t mind if Robb had been naked for anywhere near the same amount of time.
    And it does seem a tiny bit weird that its a guy who thinks that this is the most horrible violent thing on the show when she dies pretty quickly (is it because of the baby? because of the motherhood thing?), and when we have extended torture and sexualised torture such as what happened to Ros and what’s going on with Theon and his… extremities…

  • http://www.widdershinscomic.com/ Kate A

    Was it seriously worse than what’s been happening to Theon? I know we’re meant to care less since Theon is a shit, but all the same.

  • Anonymous

    The dagger-to-the-womb left a slightly bad taste in my mouth not because it’s so extra taboo to attack pregnancy but… I guess because it felt reductive of Talisa to a womb.

    I know the attackers (and the program makers ) were going for the message ‘we are not only killing Rob Stark, we are killing his whole line and future’.

    So like a lot of GOT violence against women, it makes sense in universe.

    But I do find myself questioning the producers interest in showing so much anti-woman violence, and the way it’s used in-story. Talisa is basically fridged – killed violently by the bad guys in order to effect the good guy. In this case Rob Stark doesn’t live long enough for a roaring rampage of revenge, so Talisa’s death is part of a wider tragedy. But the effect is the same: her own death isn’t even about her, it’s about the fetus in her womb and about how horrified it makes Rob Stark. I know she’s a minor character but GOT’s decision to objectify her in this way left me a bit upset, like quite a lot of what they do.

    (Plus the whole finding-out-the-woman-is-pregnant-two-minutes-before-her-death is totally hackneyed and in itself has a ring of misogyny to it. As if a woman dying on her own account wouldn’t be tragic enough, so put a baby in her).

  • http://www.youtube.com/cherubicwindigo Laura

    I was pretty shocked by the baby stabbing at the Red Wedding, I remember saying: “Well that was unnecessary.” The Red Wedding was brutal enough, the GoT world is misogynistic enough, HBO didn’t have to go that far to shock their audience just because the book series fans knew what was about to happen. I won’t boycott one of the few shows to have fleshed-out female characters with autonomy because of this specific act of violence (as if that was the first time I saw a woman stabbed in the womb on TV) but I will be watching the next season with a more critical eye.

  • BabeWoreRed

    This brings to mind a scene in HBO’s Rome where Mark Antony (James Purefoy) is just hanging out in a bath house (I think??) having a conversation with the main character and he seems totally comfortable and unashamed of his own nudity. There isn’t even a woman in the scene. It seemed to me one of the few times I’ve ever seen a man filmed that way, very similar to the millions of times we see Daenerys getting out of the tub for no other reason than she’s just bathing as an excuse to have her naked in the scene.
    At first the Rome scene seemed bizarre and gratuitous until I realized “they do this shit with women ALL THE TIME.”

  • Anonymous

    I hated Talisa and Jeyne Westerling so much that I kind of applauded just the fact that they had her killed in the episode. It was only later that the rational part of my brain understood what was wrong with the way she died, but I still didn’t find it that shocking, because I was still having a bookfan outrage at how much less amazing the Red Wedding was than in the books. I mean, in the books so many secondary characters I cared about died that it really was shocking, but none of those characters even appeared on the show, and the only one I cared about who died that episode was the wolf.

    Like others, I think the sexual violence and objectifying of women on the show is much worse than how Talisa dies. The violence against animals also affected me more than the RW.

  • frodobatmanvader

    Yeah. ALL THE TIME.

    I think that the undisputed King of “I’m just gonna show what I’ve got and be totally comfortable with it” would have to be Ewan McGregor… followed closely by Kevin Bacon.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure I read/saw an interview with Ewan McGregor a number of years ago where he said the reason he is happy to get naked so often on film is because we constantly see women like that and he’s attempting to redress the balance a tiny bit. Good for him!

  • frodobatmanvader

    I get that it shows us how evil Frey is, and that is a very legitimate story point. But his poor wife is a classic example of a Women in the Refrigerator: she *only* exists as a plot coupon to show how heartless Frey, nothing more. And now that she’s dead, we as an audience will be expected to simply forget about her.

    The reason this fails is that if you replaced her with a Sexy Lamp (or, in this case, a Homely Lamp) that Frey had once shown fondness for, the story WOULN’T BE ANY DIFFERENT.

  • Melynda

    It was obvious they were going to kill off Talisa and it was obvious that they were going to go for the baby. Do I like that she was stabbed in the stomach? Of course not. Was it expected? Yeah. Was it necessary? Probably not, but there have been much more “upsetting” things on that show, imo. They could’ve always let her escape and then we have Robb Stark’s heir in the wind somewhere but wouldn’t that change the dynamic of the show? And leave us having to deal with Talisa without Robb as a buffer? These sorts of things are always going to be a personal decision, but there have been worse things that have happened to women on that show to be upset about. Maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  • http://www.darkapocalypse.net Edwin Perello

    Your point would make sense if there were no powerful women in the show.

    Not every dead woman is a woman in a refrigerator. Not everyone who dies needs to have a backstory and great meaning to their death.

    Drudging out the women in refrigerator trope every time a nameless woman dies makes the trope lose its meaning.

    No one is crying about the endless number of men and children who have died for absolutely no reason in the show.

    She died. Doesn’t matter who it was or what sex or age.

    Whomever it was, that person was going to be a prop.

  • Trevor Patrick

    Did anyone feel like his comments were kind of a frail pregnant woman trope? As though they should be sheltered from violence in media, as though being pregnant (and not very far along makes a woman weak and defenseless? That’s how it read to me.

  • QuickQuoll

    The problem isn’t that a pregnant character was murdered, so much as the way the pregnancy was used to increase the shock value. Why was it necessary to stab her in the gut?

  • Trevor Patrick

    to ensure she dies? to be especially cruel to robb? to make an example to people, women especially who usurp a frey? Yes it maybe this was done just for shock value, but it was also perfectly in character for the freys and boltons. I’d argue that a less cruel death would have rung false for being planned by such cruel, petty and vindictive men.