, Dorne sort of sits around the edges of the interplay between the Five Kings, the Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen. References to it are made— racist jokes and talk of attempts at conquering. In the second book, Tyrion Lannister sends his royal niece Princess Myrcella off to marry the very young Trystane Martell— both children are around ten at the time. It is to secure an alliance with Dorne— or at the very least keep them from allying themselves with one of House Lannister’s enemies. Once Myrcella is carted off, however, little is said of the matter. Prince Oberyn Martell’s arrival in King’s Landing for the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon to Margaery Tyrell gives us the first— but certainly not the last— glimpse of the famous Dornish.
Meanwhile, as every other major House in Westeros plunges the kingdom into war, House Martell has secretly been plotting to overthrow them all.
We’ve discussed at length how the deletion of Arianne Martell makes no sense plotwise. But there is one major factor of her character that further messes up the Dornish plot which we haven’t touched upon yet. Namely, the plans her father has for her that go back decades and could completely uproot the entirety of Westeros.
, after Arianne Martell is taken prisoner for her botched plot to make Myrcella Baratheon queen and start a war, her father comes to see her.
Arianne’s actions in the books have a large variety of motivations. For one thing, Arianne sees her father as weak and unwilling to act despite all the awful crimes that have been committed against Dorne and House Martell by the Lannisters. The death of Oberyn is considered the tip of the iceberg. Decades earlier, Doran and Oberyn’s sister Elia Martell, the wife of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, was first abandoned by her husband for Lyanna Stark, then taken hostage (along with her two young children) inside the Red Keep. After that, Elia watched in horror as Lannister bannerman Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane killed her children, then was raped and murdered by the same man. It is the tragic death of Elia and her two children, Princess Rhaenys and Prince Aegon, that motivates her beloved brother Oberyn to engage in his ill-fated match with Clegane later and causes him to demand that Clegane name Tywin Lannister as the one who gave the order for Elia’s death (the mistake that ultimately cost Oberyn the fight and his life).
Doran, apparently, doesn’t want to do anything. He sits in the Water Gardens and watches children play as his nieces rail at him about justice for Oberyn, Elia, Rhaenys, and Aegon. This frustrates quite a few people.
Pictured: An actor who has never, ever been able to effectively pull off playing a brilliant and complex character, apparently.
As if that weren’t enough, growing up, Arianne always felt that she was looked over. Despite having been the legitimate heir to Sunspear and the rest of Dorne and having been of the age of majority for years— Arianne is twenty-three when we meet her— her father never brought her in on ruling his domains or grooming her for leadership, preferring to consult his bannermen and brother instead of his heir apparent. Instead of arranging a suitable match for her that might make her happy such as Edmure Tully or Willas Tyrell, he publicly entertains humiliating marriage proposals from much older, much lower-ranking lords like Walder Frey. On top of it all, when Arianne was younger, she uncovered a letter her father had written to her younger brother Quentyn (by Dornish law second in line behind her) indicating that Quentyn, not Arianne, might rule Dorne.
This is what drives the main Dornish plot— Not the Sand Snakes, not Ellaria Sand in a quest for vengeance that makes no sense, and certainly not any desire to hurt Myrcella—- but Arianne’s ambitions and desire for vengeance.
But, as it turns out, her “weak” father has been plotting a quiet vengeance for a very long time. There’s an explanation for everything— his apparent inaction on behalf of his siblings, his seeming dismissal of his daughter, everything.
Doran Martell intends a Targaryen restoration. And in fact, that is not only the driving force of everything that happens in Dorne, but also has huge, overarching implications for the fate of Westeros. The Dornish are not just some swarthy antagonists, they’re political masterminds who have calmly been planning to overthrow everything their vicious neighbors to the north have been building for decades.
“She was lost, confounded. Promised. I was promised. “Who is it? Who have I been betrothed to, all these years?”
That left her more baffled than ever. “The old ones are so frail. Was it a broken hip, a chill, the gout?”
“It was a pot of molten gold. We princes make our careful plans and the gods smash them all awry.” Prince Doran made a weary gesture with a chafed red hand. “Dorne will be yours. You have my word on that, if my word still has any meaning for you. Your brother Quentyn has a harder road to walk.”…..
“Her father plucked up a cyvasse piece. “I must know how you learned that Quentyn was abroad. Your brother went with Cletus Yronwood, Maester Kedry, and three of Lord Yronwood’s best young knights on a long and perilous voyage, with an uncertain welcome at its end. He has gone to bring us back our heart’s desire.”
“Vengeance.” His voice was soft, as if he were afraid that someone might be listening. “Justice.” Prince Doran pressed the onyx dragon into her palm with his swollen, gouty fingers, and whispered, “Fire and blood.”
For decades, Doran Martell was planning to marry his daughter Arianne to Viserys Targaryen, older brother of Daenerys Targaryen and usher in the return of the Targaryens. With Viserys dead, his plans changed. His elder son Quentyn sails for Meereen to court and marry Daenerys Targaryen and bring her back to the Iron Throne.
Yes, all this time, Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, was planning to take down the Lannisters in the worst way and bring back the family they betrayed. They planned on putting their own House on the Iron Throne.
, we follow Quentyn Martell as he journeys to marry the dragon queen. But the plots do not end there. You see, the Martells are not the only ones planning a return for the dragons. Across the Narrow Sea, there is a man called Young Griff who has dyed his white hair blue, who lives under the guidance of Jon Connington, one of Rhaegar Targaryen’s closest confidantes, and a team of specially trained tutors. A young man who is given the gold and means to hire armies and invade Westeros to assert a claim to the Iron Throne.
Young Griff is supposedly the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince Aegon. According to the Master of Whispers, Varys, who appears out of nowhere to drop exposition at the end of A Dance With Dragons, the corpse of a male child was produced to pass for Aegon so everyone would think him dead while the real prince was smuggled from King’s Landing, always meant to unite with his aunt and eventually reclaim the Seven Realms.
The Winds of Winter that George R.R. Martin posted on his website, one told from Arianne Martell’s point of view, the princess of Dorne is going to meet him. And marry him.
We actually are introduced to Young Griff not by Varys, but by Tyrion. During A Dance With Dragons, as Tyrion makes his way across the east to meet Daenerys and escape his sister’s wrath, he actually sails with Young Griff and his crew. He deduces Young Griff’s identity fairly quickly (all the attention, deference, education, and protection given to a young man who is supposed to be little more than a cabin boy is a pretty big tip-off), and it is made ultimately clear how far-reaching this plot goes.
The supposed Prince Aegon is completely missing Tyrion’s storyline in the show. Tyrion meets Young Griff prior to being captured by Jorah Mormont (Jon Connington is the one who contracts Greyscale).
Prince Quentyn, sailing to Meereen to meet Daenerys is missing.
Everything that links the Dornish to their master plan, to their genuine ties to the overall plotting and politics of Westeros, is missing.
And when I say master plan, I mean it. Contrary to all the derogatory statements thrown their way and their haphazard portrayal in the show, the Dornish are NOT to be fucked with. They are ready to take things over with a Targaryen monarch as their figurehead.
And that’s a big deal, something which overall would affect pretty much every major House and character in the books. The fall of the Targaryens came about not just because of one mad king. It was the result of a furious alliance between several major Houses. Robert’s Rebellion was the result of an alliance between Houses Baratheon, Stark, Tully, and Arryn— the rulers of several of the constituent realms who came together in an unprecedented alliance linked by several marriages, agreements, and family connections. On top of that, it happened thanks to a major betrayal by House Lannister—- not only the assassination of Aerys II that earned Jaime Lannister the moniker of “Kingslayer” and the killing of Elia Martell and her children, but the decisive sacking of King’s Landing (spearheaded by a deceitful Tywin Lannister) that helped to ultimately secure the throne for Robert Baratheon. The leaders of the Vale, the Stormlands, the North, the Riverlands, and the Westerlands—– all of the major Houses we’ve been following as an audience from book one—- could be potentially devastated were the remaining Targaryens to take back Westeros. Pretty much every main character you can think of—- the remaining Starks, the Lannisters, the Baratheons, even the Tyrells given how they’ve tied themselves to the current royals—- could and would be directly affected by this decisive alliance.
Daenerys Targaryen in the promotional materials has spoken about how she wishes to “break the wheel” and ultimately, she might do that. If she finds a way into Westeros. Dorne is a way in. They were harmed by the rebellion almost as much as the Targaryens were.
While a Targaryen restoration might not necessarily mean the utter annilhilation of all the major Houses, it would undoubtedly cause a major firestorm, unsettling the entire Game of Thrones as we know it thus far.
It’s not like the Dornish don’t have much to offer a future Targaryen monarch. They not only have prodigious wealth (Dorne is a major importer and manufacturer of luxury goods), they have major ports, a long and storied history of effectively beating the shit out of Westerosi armies, an experienced and battle-eager army of their own, and a direct route right into the most valuable territories of Westeros (The Reach). The kingdom of Dorne would be a monumentally powerful ally should they choose to truly through their military might behind a particular monarch. That knowledge is what drives Arianne’s plot to crown Myrcella in the first place. While the other armies of Westeros have been exhausted by the war of the Five Kings, the Dornish have more or less kept complacent, but damn are they ready to fight. Dorne, simply by waiting and planning, could ultimately be the deciding factor in the Game of Thrones, the force that truly brings the dragons back to power.
In place of that we have them antagonizing the Lannisters and trying to hurt a little girl because…
Instead of a group of people coming up with a complex webs of plots and intrigue on their own, who have ambitions that apply to the future of the Seven Realms in a major and influential sense, the Dornish are reduced to violent and/or incompetent monsters whose only role in the plot thus far seems to be “threaten Myrcella and Cersei and give Jaime something to do.” There is nothing about their plotline thus far that is not Lannister related— nothing beyond petty revenge plots that make no sense and actually victimize ultimate innocents rather than maybe determine the future of their country or pull the tyrants in charge of power. They’d rather bicker and butcher over a teenage girl than actually influence anything. Nothing there indicates their true importance (they have a pretty palace and their “deadly” Sand Snakes fight with all the grace and ferocity of William Shatner), or their overall links to the future of Westeros at all.
As a result, rather than being characters in their own right, the Dornish serve as little more than villainous, “exotic” caricatures who do nothing more than serve the story purposes of the (white, Aryan) main cast. They’re the brown threat ruled by a boring incompetent prince.
While the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could have taken the brilliant and recognizable actor they scored in Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir, you deserve better) by giving him the fully-fleshed-out, political mastermind Doran Martell is in the books, they gave him a lazy-wheelchair bound moron who can’t be bothered to take the ridiculous rant about cutting up little girls his pseudo-sister in law gives him as the red flag it is, and can’t seem to bother to protect the PRINCESS he has in his custody until AFTER several unwanted visitors have nearly kidnapped her. Doran has no ambitions. The only ambitions in Dorne are apparently “hurt innocent blond girl.” Despite the complex politics— and the history that fuels them— at play, despite the brilliant culture George R.R. Martin created, all of it is reduced. Reduced to a subplot that makes no sense.
We’ve got Tyene Sand’s breasts and a terrible fight scene that plays along perfectly to “Yakety Sax”, when we could have had the Dornish actually matter like they do in the books. We could have had something that tied into the overall plot. We could have had characters that are powerful and influential in their own right, who have a major part to play in the future of Westeros. Instead we get bad fight choreography and a subplot that is less “facet of a major all-encompassing and complex political sphere” and more “filler subplot.” With 80% of this season wrapped up, we have absolutely no indication of what anything any of these characters ultimately have to do with anything. Anything at all.
Dorne in the books clearly makes a good case for why it does (and will) matter. Can the same be said for the show?
Gifs courtesy of GoT Gifs and Musings, Images courtesy of HBO
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