Saturday, April 13, 2019

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Martells

Bad Writing Destroys House Martell
Dorne was, depending on who you talk to and how you understand the story, a way to bring in some storylines, settings and themes that weren't 100% based on Northern European patriarchal norms. In the books Dorne was a fantasy meld of Iberian, Welsh, Italian, and North African settings with minor Palestinian or even West African cultural signifiers tossed in for flavor. Dorne was not conquered by the Targaryens but voluntarily joined the realm via marriage. The biggest difference between Dorne and everywhere else in Westeros was that Dorne practiced equal inheritance between male and female. Dorne as a nation was founded one thousand years ago by Queen Nymeria. Nymeria led refugees to Dorne, burned her ships so no one could flee, married a Martell, and proceeded to curb stomp all of the squabbling states and regions of Dorne into one realm which she and her husband ruled as equal partners. 

In Robert's Rebellion, Lannister thug Gregor Clegane (and in books also Amory Lorch) raped Princess Elia Martell and murdered her and her children. The Dornish Prince Doran and his younger brother Prince Oberyn did not forgive or forget the atrocities committed against their blood. Doran played the long game, letting people believe that he forswore vengeance while building up House Martell. Oberyn took a different path. Oberyn went to King's Landing and made it clear to all that he was out for vengeance against Lannisters in general and Gregor Clegane and Tywin Lannister in particular. 

Oberyn had a chance for revenge when he defended Tyrion Lannister in a trial by combat against the fearsome Gregor Clegane. Oberyn showed that speed and poison kills. Unfortunately for Oberyn he forgot that Gregor Clegane, even mortally wounded, is wicked strong and freakishly fast. Don't taunt Gregor until after he's dead. Otherwise THIS happens.

Sadly for House Martell (and the show) this is where everything started to go off the rails. Oberyn's primary (female) lover and the (unmarried) mother of most of his children Ellaria Sand, wanted vengeance. This was 180 degrees opposite from her character in the books. 

Ellaria was undeterred by threats from her (putative) in-law, and head of state Prince Doran. Ellaria and her incredibly irritating children-the Sand Snakes- led a revolt against Doran. They murdered Prince Doran, his loyalists, his son and heir Trystane, and Cersei's daughter Myrcella. Ellaria sneered that "Weak men will never rule Dorne again". I thought this was bad writing designed to pander to mouth breathers who think that violent women are automatically good characters. It's even worse because in the books Doran's heir and favorite is not his son but his daughter!!! 

After some disagreements between the two Book!Doran explains a lot of his plans to his daughter. It involved among other things a Targaryen alliance and planned Lannister takedown. But the show dropped all of this for a heavy handed feminist fury fantasy that made no sense even in its own internal universe. 

You're (Ellaria) upset that your lover died or you're (Sand Snakes) upset that your father died so you're going to murder your own kin in response? You honor Oberyn's memory by killing his brother and nephew? Dorne is more than Doran's garden. The other Houses and power centers in Dorne are going to accept someone's jumpoff and her bastard children taking over? What sort of sense does that make? Worse, what sort of precedent does that set?

In the last season we saw the Sand Snakes narrative seemingly draw to a close in another poor piece of writing. Euron Greyjoy rebuilt his fleet in days and apparently recruited skilled sailors to crew his ships. 

Euron evidently had radar, sonar, satellite tracking, stealth technology, and/or night vision which allowed him to locate and sneak up on Yara Greyjoy's fleet at night.

While Ellaria flirted with Yara and tried to shame/bully Theon into having an incestuous threesome (it's unclear if Ellaria knew of Theon's castration) old Uncle Euron put in work. Euron personally killed two of Ellaria's daughters and defeated his niece Yara in single combat. Euron turned over Ellaria and her remaining daughter to the tender mercies of Queen Cersei. Cersei wanted a word with Ellaria about Ellaria's murder of Cersei's daughter Myrcella. Cersei poisoned Ellaria's last daughter. 

Cersei promised Ellaria that she will keep Ellaria alive to watch her daughter's slow painful death and resulting decomposition. Thus ends House Martell. Good riddance. Unlike the deaths of the Starks or even the Tyrells I felt nothing when the Sand Snakes died or when Ellaria was forced to watch. The characters were always cartoons. The great actor Alexander Siddig was wasted in his role as Prince Doran, almost certainly because his part required subtlety, something the showrunners tossed overboard with the Dorne story.
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