I recently finished playing What Remains Of Edith Finch and it was a beautiful, wondrous, extremely memorable experience. I cried a little at the end and was truly moved by the overall arc and narrative themes. I will go back to this game repeatedly the way one would return to a favorite book or movie, to bask in what one remembers and be pleasantly surprised by new details that I hadn’t noticed earlier. If you hadn’t tried it yet, I could not recommend it enough.

My daughter Haruna had already played through the game and was watching me play when a particular moment came up that made me laugh out loud. My laughter was appalling to Haruna, but I stand by it being the funniest moment in the game, bar none.

And that moment? Well…

Sam Finch’s death. I was at first afraid it would be a shotgun going off in Sam’s face or something similarly gruesome, but this was even better and was incredibly hilarious once you set aside the fact that poor Dawn lost her father and may feel somewhat responsible for it. (This is a good time to assure oneself that this is a work of fiction – I would stifle my laughter and not even write about it if this was an incident in real life.)

For those unfamiliar with the scene, Sam Finch takes his daughter Dawn to the woods for a photography and hunting trip – the whole sequence is seen through the lens of the camera, actually. Dawn sees a stag on a nearby promontory and takes a photo of it. Sam then tells her to shoot the stag with a rifle as well because it’s a hunting trip and that’s the whole point. She does so, nails the deer, and next thing we know she is sitting over its body, crying at what she’s done, while Sam is trying to set up the camera timer so he can take a photo of the two of them with their slaughtered prize. At this point in game, I myself struggled a little because it took me a while to figure out what to do, then actually do it properly. (Not the most frustrating moment in the game for me, either – it took me forever to drown a baby.) Anyway, I finally get it correct, Sam runs to join Dawn at the promontory, Dawn notices the stag is moving and may not be dead… And just as they pose for the photo and the timer goes off, the stag tries to sit up and in doing so knocks poor Sam off the cliff. Click.

There’s a Kodak moment you’re not going to forget anytime soon.

Was it wrong for me to laugh about this? I would argue not, and I have four reasons.

One, the use of the camera timer is a classic joke set-up seen in many sitcoms and movies. Going to a lot of trouble to set up a desired photo and getting unwanted – even horrific – results is always funny. The fact that the scene is not only frozen in time by the camera but then segues to the moment of Edie holding the photo in a reverie of family history only made it funnier for some reason. Why develop that picture? Why keep it? Oh, I can understand, sure, but that morbidity cuts both ways, right? It can be a source of fascination and commemoration but also of ironic amusement?

Two, the “Ignore A Child’s Warning” trope is also in effect, where a parent is busy trying to get something accomplished and the child is more observant of what’s really going on. The child warns something bad will happen, the parent ignores the warning, and the parent pays the price for not heeding the child. Again, you see it as a joke setup quite often in TV and film.

Three, and this may be a bit more controversial, but Sam’s glee at the kill contrasted against Dawn’s deep-felt sorrow made me want him to have a come-uppance of some sort. I mean, if he was more sensitive about asking Dawn to do this in the first place, maybe he’d have lived a few years longer until the Finch curse hits him at another opportune moment. This is not to say I’m anti-hunting; if he had done the same thing with a child who was really into hunting and took pride in his kill, I’d say go for it. But forcing a child to do something like this? I dunno, it’s asking for trouble on so many levels.

And finally, four: this specific situation is what I can only call a Reverse Bambi. As in, Bambi lost his mother to a hunter; the hunter Dawn lost her father to a stag. On a cosmic meta level, the irony is hard to ignore. The parallels are strong enough that I have to wonder if it was actually planned by Giant Sparrow.

This was not the only death that made me laugh, by the way – Molly’s story had a stunningly wonderful punchline that still leaves me in awe, and Calvin’s death… Well, the moment the scene started, I knew what was going to happen and said something to Haruna about how this entire game is about the Finch family being world champions for the Darwin Awards. Walter’s weirdly Elmer Fudd-esque death on the railroad tracks only reinforced that notion to me – it didn’t make me laugh out loud, though, just made me shake my head and snort.

I should also add that the first moment that made me teary-eyed was watching the end of Milton’s flipbook – and this only further confounded Haruna. Why would I laugh at Sam’s death and be touched by Milton’s disappearance? I had to think about it for a moment and realized it was the poeticism of the flipbook’s story – Milton disappearing through a door in his flipbook, only to do something similar in real life. The resonance of that struck me, just as the absurdity of Sam’s death also struck me – albeit in a vastly different manner.’

And I think both show why What Remains Of Edith Finch is such a triumph – the range of emotions it evokes speaks to the richness of the story, yes, but also of the human experience. And can one ask for anything more in a work of art? To quote a wise man, “You’ll see it’s all a show / Keep ’em laughing as you go / Just remember that the last laugh is on you”. Indeed!