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[WARNING: Copious spoilers below.]
“Game of Thrones'” latest episode has received some particularly scathing responses with its depiction of Sansa Stark's rape at the hands of her new husband — but that's not the only element fans have issue with.
Indeed, Film School Rejects founder Neil Miller has cited another reason to be angry with “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” not to mention the season overall: the way it has “failed its Dornish storyline.”
As both readers of George R.R. Martin's books and viewers of the HBO series know, Dorne is a sovereign kingdom in Westeros where women enjoy a greater degree of equality than they do anywhere else on the continent. Miller's issue lies with the show's depiction of Ellaria Sand, the lover of slain Dornian Prince Oberyn Martell, who along with three of her “bastard” daughters (“The Sand Snakes”) plots revenge on the Lannister clan by kidnapping Lannister descendant Myrcella — now Princess of Dorne through an arranged marriage to Oberyn's brother Trystane.
Miller points out that while in the book the Myrcella kidnapping plot is masterminded by Trystane's daughter Arianne Martell as part of a larger plan to have Myrcella installed as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms — effectively a feminist statement on a continent where women are seen as unfit to rule — in the show Arianne is completely absent and instead Ellaria plots the kidnapping, albeit with the sole intent to harm Myrcella.
“Show Ellaria devises a plan that goes against the Dornish moral code. It”s basically, 'Let”s hurt the little girl [Myrcella] and start a war.' This turns the entire dynamic upside down. The Sand Snakes have become villains of the story, hellbent on doing harm to Myrcella in their blind quest for vengeance, rather than dangerous, yet heroic and relatable characters,” Miller gripes. “It has made them one dimensional characters…They are caricatures, whereas Oberyn was a dynamic and fully fleshed-out character. One could argue that there simply isn”t enough time to flesh out all three and add in Arianne, but if the show really had an interest in making Dorne a worthwhile storyline, they would find the time and the various devices to make it work.
“Instead we”ve been given a story that makes Dorne out to be an evil from which Jaime Lannister must save his daughter-niece [Myrcella]. The show has taken a very interesting, alternate view of power and gender in a world that is overwhelmed with male privilege and patriarchy, and made it a story about a heroic man stealing back his daughter from the island of blood-thirsty women.”
After going on at length, Miller concludes that the change represents a larger problem with the show's treatment of its female characters: “It”s another example of the show taking a strong female storyline and marginalizing it as part of a man”s story. In a feudal world that”s already so patriarchy-heavy, this feels not only redundant, but also lazy. Especially when the opportunity was there to do something interesting and unique with the Kingdom of Dorne.”
And Miller isn't the only one who feels this way, as evidenced by commenters on Twitter:
Definitely agree with this take on Game of Thrones' Dorne issues: http://t.co/LZmvnnL0M4
– Dennis Bakke (@dwbakke) May 20, 2015
Game of Thrones' failings in Dorne, further evidence of its problematic relationship with the agency of its women: http://t.co/Ry21TWxndT
– The Rejected Warboy (@rejects) May 20, 2015
watching Game of Thrones yesterday I died inside at the Dorne plot line and choreography. Oberyn -> Sand Snakes is the biggest downgrade
– Nadagast (@Nadagast) May 19, 2015
@Nadagast biggest let down of the show so far.
– Katie Kay (@katarszina) May 19, 2015
#GameOfThrones did a surprisingly terrible… and I mean awful… job with the Sand Snakes. The whole Dorne storyline is a bad comic book.
– Jamal (@Jamalisms) May 18, 2015