[SPOILERS AHEAD: This post includes the most recent GoT episode- S4E8, “The Mountain and the Viper”]
Yesterday’s episode of Game of Thrones was packed with information but I, like many other readers of the books, was dreadfully waiting for what would happen in the final ten minutes of the show. When I read the books, I enjoyed reading about the character of Oberyn Martell. He was a cool guy and could verbally joust as well as Tyrion. I fell in love with him after watching Pedro Pascal’s performance of him this season. So much so, that I went back and reread those chapters again. First, let me point out that we are introduced to Oberyn in the books on page 431. He dies on page 802, and because the chapters are point of views, his appearances are limited to Tyrion’s chapters. The man only encompasses about 10% of the narrative of A Storm of Swords, if that, and yet his demise, for me at least watching it, was devastating. From our very first meeting we know that Oberyn harbored a deep love for his sister Elia who was brutally murdered during the sack of King’s Landing. It is this love which drives him to defend Tyrion during a trial by combat. He believes in Tyrion’s innocence but that is not what he fights for. He has come to King’s Landing seeking revenge on the Mountain, who killed Elia and her children. Oberyn refers to himself as a “bloodthirsty man” and indeed he longs to avenge his family…ironically the tragic loss of his sister is due to the commands of Tyrion’s own father and Oberyn’s fellow judge. On top of that, Dorne has never been friendly with House Tyrell, whose daughter Margaery was married to King Joffrey. By volunteering as Tyrion’s champion he also seeks to offend Mace Tyrell. Oberyn’s decisions may be to Tyrion’s benefit but they are all for the prince of Dorne’s idea of justice.
When I read these scenes in the books for the first time, I liked Oberyn Martell. He was an interesting character and he represented a part of Westeros we had not yet seen. Though Princess Myrcella had been shipped off to Dorne earlier to be married, we never actually met any Dornishmen. Enter Oberyn, a second son of a weaker brother from a world where bastards are not chastised and women are allowed to inherit lands and titles. But in the HBO series, something about Oberyn struck me. The scenes were the same and some of the dialogue was even verbatim from the original story, but this time Oberyn demanded my respect and affection. When the credits rolled last night I screamed like a banshee, and not because his head exploded. I screamed out of anguish for watching Ellaria Sand’s face and out of anger when I saw Cersei’s. So much happened in those quick few second as the Mountain literally squeezed the life out of the Prince of Dorne. Ellaria’s final words to Oberyn were “Do not leave me alone in this world.” That is exactly what happened. Worst of all was the look on Cersei’s face. All she has ever wanted was her brother’s death. At our first meeting with Oberyn we learned that. She hated him since the day he was born. Forget that Oberyn had a family, eight daughters, and a woman who loved him, watching him die. His death meant Tyrion’s death and that made her smile.
Oberyn Martell’s death was, unfortunately, a justified one since it made the actions of other characters not only possible but necessary. The final act of A Storm of Swords, which I suspect will take place during the season finale in two weeks, is the culmination of last night’s events. While George R.R. Martin has infamously slain yet another character, this one was necessary and as hard to watch as the Red Wedding. Something about that color I guess. The Red Wedding. The Red Viper. This series is coated in red. George Martin may have had me throwing death threats at him last night, but the man can create stunning characters and one such as Oberyn Martell, only present for a few short pages, is a remarkable example.
R.I.P. Oberyn of House Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne. I cannot wait to see your Sand Snakes take their revenge.