This week’s episode of Game of Thrones served up the season’s saddest moment yet — and for once it didn’t involve anyone dying (well, not yet, anyway). Fan-favourite Tyrion Lannister was finally broken at court by the senseless prejudice that has dogged his whole life. It was a heartbreaking moment thanks to both Peter Dinklage’s acting and Bryan Cogman’s stellar screenplay. Here are some tips from Cogman on how to craft the perfect tear-jerker.
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[Warning: Mild Season 4 spoilers ahead]
Bryan Cogman is an American screenwriter who has penned some of the strongest Game Of Thrones episodes to date. His latest submission, The Laws of Gods and Men, chiefly deals with the trial of Tyrion Lannister who has been falsely imprisoned for treason and regicide.
Despite a complete lack of physical action, the courtroom scenes packed the biggest emotional punch of the season thus far. If you felt nothing during Tyrion’s embittered speech about living life as a dwarf you’re probably an unusually tall sociopath who I have no time for. Don’t hit your head on the way out.
In a recent EW interview, Cogman explained what made the scene so successful. If you’re a budding screenwriter or simply interested in the craft of storytelling, his insights are well worth a read. Here are some choice excerpts:
On building false hope (both for the character and the audience):
He knew his head was gone. He knew it the minute the trial started. It’s a nice surprise when Jaime comes in and offers a glimmer of hope, then it all comes crashing down. Also, he loved a woman as a kid and that was screwed up by his family, and now it’s happening all over again. [Tryion’s mistress Shae testifies against him.]
On using extras as catalysts:
The background actors — who did a great job — were huge part of the momentum of that scene and are what help drive Tyrion to his breakdown.
On avoiding Law & Order tropes:
It was a tricky balance, and I know in my first draft I went too far — I never had the line, “Objection your honor!” but I might as well have. At one point, I had a stenographer in a corner with a quill and paper.
On Tyrion’s motives:
Finally after years of being laughed at and abused and beaten down by almost everybody in his life, Tyrion would rather go out armed with a sword and be brutally murdered than give into his father one more inch.
You can read the full interview here.