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Why Game of Thrones' warrior heroes shout 'banana' when a fight goes too far

By Matthew Jackson
Game of Thrones Jon Snow Battle of the Bastards

Imagine you're standing beyond the Wall and you find yourself surrounded by a dozen half-rotted wights rushing at you from all sides. Or imagine you're at Casterly Rock and you've just been ambushed by the Unsullied with nowhere to go. Or, worse still, imagine you have to fight The Mountain, and he's feeling particularly sadistic that day. 

If you think you won't survive it, there's only one way out: Shout "Banana!" as loudly as you can. Or at least, that's what you do if you're on a set rather than in Westeros itself. 

As Game of Thrones prepares for its final round of episodes in just a couple of weeks, the show's cast and crew are giving more and more interviews about how they made it, and while they're not divulging anything about Season 8's plot, they are offering up plenty of amusing details from the set.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam discussed the various ways in which he tries to keep the actors and his stunt performers safe throughout the course of the series. That includes everything from practice runs to fireproof suits for dragon attacks to, apparently, a rather amusing safe word that anyone can shout if the fake fighting starts to feel a little too real.

“When we’re doing these battles and people are screaming and crying and dying, you might not know if anyone’s in trouble,” Irlam said. “So our safe word was always ‘banana.’ If someone started shouting ‘banana!’ at the top of their voice, you’d know they’re in trouble.”

Game of Thrones is an extremely visually effective show. Its fight scenes feel real, brutal, and chaotic. Some fans react to the violent deaths of beloved characters almost as if they were members of their own family. We know it's fiction, but we still feel it in our bones when the sword comes down. Now imagine an actor preparing to swing a fake sword at another actor, and the second guy yells "Banana!" in a strong British accent because the last sword-swing hit him a little too hard on the hand or something. 

It's a bit odd, and even funny, to think about, but it's all in the service of keeping the actors from actually being impaled or slashed or fractured by their weapons.

“It needs to look like a complete maniacal riot, but you have to make sure that no one gets so much as a chipped tooth or a sprained ankle,” Irlam said. “We’re trying to make it look as dangerous as possible, but we also try to keep it as safe as possible.”

Game of Thrones returns April 14 on HBO.