Another great episode!
Here is an observation about this project overall, though. Michael points out that as a comedian you do not want to hear that "rightly looked at, there is no laughable thing under the sun." Michael then says that he supposes that the "corollary" to this would be, "Everything is laughable, under the sun, when put in the right light." Okay, I am not trying to be jerk, but I think Michael misused the term corollary; I think he meant "opposite," as he said "on the other hand." But here is my bigger point. Hardy is not a comedian, and I think we have to take him at his word as he looks to engender sympathy and understanding for his characters and their plights (and the social institutions and rules that affect them).
My concern all along with Michael's reading is that he would fall into irony or humor as a way to shy away from the earnestness and tragedy in the book. I still see him fighting it off in this episode, but we see here Michael's desire to find humor in the text or in life. That is not a bad thing, but it points to a sort of nihilism or absurdity that I don't think Hardy would agree with (and that I don't think Michael would ultimately agree with). What I find fascinating, maybe because I sense it in myself, too, is the push and pull between caring for the characters and having genuine emotional and philosophical responses to them versus the desire to find distance from them through humor because of how painful those responses can be. And yes, there are some very melodramatic things going on, so some shocked laughter seems normal.
Again, not trying to suggest Michael is doing anything wrong--just find it interesting to see how a 21st century sensibility talks about and relates to a 19th century sensibility.