Entertainment

How Samwell Tarly's Book in the 'Game of Thrones' Finale Nodded to the Series Creator

HBO
This post contains spoilers for all seasons of Game of Thrones. Proceed with caution. And visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

It's been a grim couple of weeks on Game of Thrones, but in its denouement some humor -- in the form of a very meta reference -- returned. Turns out A Song of Ice and Fire isn't just the collective name of the novels that George R.R. Martin wrote to inspire this pop culture phenomenon; it's also the name of a tome within the TV show. And, yes, this show has destroyed everyone's brain.

Tyrion Lannister -- now the hand of King Bran the Broken -- gathers his council to discuss how to proceed with the whole ruling the Six Kingdoms thing. The entire crew comes in, messing up the carefully arranged chairs Tyrion had straightened beforehand. Bronn plops down, as do Davos and Brienne. However, before Samwell Tarly takes a seat, he sets a book in front of Tyrion.

Tyrion is confused, asking what the hell is this big-ass book of extracurricular reading he just got assigned. "A Song of Ice and Fire," Sam responds. Hey, wait a second, isn't that the name of, well, this whole thing? Sure is! While Game of Thrones became the name of the television adaptation of Martin's series, that's actually just the title of the first book. (Actually, it's A Game of Thrones, but who cares about articles.) The whole thing is called A Song of Ice and Fire.

Thus, Sam's proclamation is a giant, slightly obnoxious wink to the audience. It's the equivalent of someone pointing at the screen during a movie when a character in the movie says the title of said movie.

samwell tarly a song of ice and fire
HBO

OK, back to the context. Sam explains to Tyrion that this book is Archmaester Ebrose's "history of the wars following the death of King Robert." Basically it's the collected wiki summaries of Seasons 2 through 8, only written by Jim Broadbent. (Yes, the Oscar winner played Ebrose in the seventh season, if you'll recall.) Sam proudly announces that he helped come up with the title.

Frankly, the onscreen version of A Song of Ice and Fire looks pretty short given how long Martin's books are. Well, that's probably because it, uh, skips all the Tyrion parts. Tyrion's eager to figure out how Ebrose portrayed him, but Sam informs him, "I don't believe you're mentioned."

Tyrion's clearly disappointed, but luckily writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss thought more highly of him than the fictional archmaester. He ends up not only alive, but in a place of power, having figured out that a solution to everyone's fighting is just to put a creepy, all-seeing dude on the hypothetical Iron Throne. The only thing the showrunners didn't let Tyrion do was finish his joke about bringing a honeycomb and a jackass into a brothel. He starts to tell it before the camera cuts away.

All said, it's almost charming that Game of Thrones managed to have a little fun as it came to a close while paying tribute to the man who started it all. On the other hand, it also debunks a long-running theory that Sam Tarly was a stand-in for George R.R. Martin on the show -- though he still delivered the book, which is perhaps close enough. Now if only Martin could, uh, finish the rest of those books, that'd be sort of nice. It will be interesting to see how he thinks this saga ends. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.