The 'Game Of Thrones' TV Show Totally Messed Up The Feminist Dorne Plot From The Books, And I'm Still Not Over It
Look. I get it, HBO's Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin wrote a long series of books. You couldn't possibly be expected to include every single one of his minor characters, his complicated subplots, and his elaborate fantasy legal systems. I understand that. But... can we talk about Dorne? Because I am still not over the embarrassing travesty that was the Dorne storyline on the TV show.
I don't even mean how the TV show chose to awkwardly kill off the Sand Snakes and Myrcella Baratheon, or how the overall Dorne arc felt somehow simultaneously rushed and boring. The show has to truncate Martin's plots, because A Song of Ice and Fire is approximately seventy trillion times longer than an eight season television series could ever be. That's fine. But why did the TV show choose to give us a stilted buddy comedy between Jaime and Bronn (two great characters who deserved better) instead of a story about a young woman trying to subvert the Westeros patriarchy?
Arianne Martell is the the Princess of Dorne in the books and, according to Dornish law, the heir to her father's place as ruler of Dorne. In Dorne, you see, the oldest child always inherits, regardless of their gender.
However, despite this gender-neutral law, at age fourteen Arianne discovered that her father planned to pass his seat on to her little brother, awkward preteen Quentyn Martell.
When we meet her, Arianne has already put a plan into motion to get back at her father for playing sexist favorites with his kids. She's seduces the personal guard of lil' Myrcella Baratheon, and she's going to crown Myrcella as queen. After all, Myrcella's older brother, Joffrey, is now dead. Under Dornish law, that means that Myrcella, the next oldest, should inherit the Iron Throne. Myrcella is currently living in Dorne, so it only seems fair that she obey Dornish law. Tommen is the youngest of Cersei's children, and yet he's already been crowned as king of the Seven Kingdoms just because he's a boy.
Arianne's feminist plot to take over all of Westeros is cut short, though, when she gets caught and imprisoned, and Myrcella gets her face sliced up in the process. The Sand Snakes, who were trying to lead Dorne against the Red Keep in vengeance for their dad getting squished by the Mountain, are also arrested — except for Sarella, who's off at grad school pretending to be a boy (it's a whole thing).
Meanwhile, Arianne's awkward little brother Quentyn has been sent to Essos, to try and marry Daenerys Targaryen (no pressure, Quentyn). We discover that Quentyn was supposed to take over as ruler of Dorne—because Arianne was supposed to be Queen of Westeros. Their dad, Doran Martell, had a secret contract with Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys' big brother. Arianne was supposed to marry Viserys, Dany would marry Kahl Drogo, and then the Dornish and the Dothraki would team up and kill everyone, putting Arianne and Viserys on the throne and kicking the Lannisters permanently to the curb. Pretty sweet, right?
Unfortunately, Viserys was a little scumbag who died before any of that could happen. Doran Martell then sent Quentyn to marry Daenerys instead, trying to keep the contract alive. But Dany was all, "Uh...no, thanks," and then Quentyn got burned up by a dragon.
Got all that?
It's a lot of plot, I know. But really, more than just giving us more interesting, kickass Dornish ladies (plus dopey Quentyn and his terrible pick-up lines), Martin's Dornish plot makes us think about inheritance laws. And I know that doesn't sound terribly fascinating, but one of the great things about A Song of Ice and Fire is how much it subverts ordinary fantasy tropes. In Martin's world, there is magic and nobility and whatnot, but there is no divine right of kings.
The Dorne plot in the books calls into question whether anyone really has the right to inherit the throne. Surely, if laws can be inconsistent and sexist and generally unfair, we should maybe look into overhauling this whole monarchy thing? It's a plot that gives us action and swashbuckling Dornish adventure, but also a hearty dose of women using legal precedent to advocate for themselves.
So we'll have to wait another five to 10 years to catch up with Arianne and her plots in The Winds of Winter. But in the meantime, HBO show... just try not to do anymore damage to the good kingdom of Dorne, OK?