More Game of Thrones Afterthoughts

Yesterday Holly gave some thoughts after the end of Game of Thrones Season 4. Like her, I have read the books and watched the show and wanted to share something I loved, and something I didn’t, from the season. It’s interesting to think about, because it’s a book that has been split into two seasons – and it’s working its way towards two books that split up and became two books simultaneously. At this point, the show really has a life of its own and a pacing of its own… which can be good and bad.

For one thing, it’s good because it gives us characters like Oberyn Martell. On the other hand, it’s bad because to avoid introducing too many new characters, it left out a scene I think is important. To say more would be spoilers, so let’s head on to spoiler-land below!

The Red Viper – Oberyn Martell

Now here’s a character who, in the book, serves an important purpose, but from whose perspective we never get to see. Oberyn Martell, our introduction to the Martell family and to the nation of Dorne. In the show, as well, he is our introduction to the people of this southern desert, as well as to the last of the noble houses running the seven kingdoms.

In the book, he is clouded in whispers and rumors and opinions and stereotypes and all the bad expectations – but he is not given much of a space to show whether they are true or not, or to really give much depth to it. In the end, I don’t remember much about him as a character, other than the important role he plays, which Holly mentioned yesterday – as Tyrion’s champion in the trial by combat.

In the show, meanwhile, he became an instant fan favorite, and the Internet has been abuzz with him. Attractive, charismatic, bisexual – people loved him. I have seen some great stuff on Tumblr, but it’s harder to share here, so I’ll give some links.

He presented us with the rage of a kingdom, at the brutal murder of his sister, the previous princess of the Seven Kingdoms. And, in combat, he shows us one of the best fighters in those Seven Kingdoms. It’s certainly my favorite fight of the show so far… he’s a good gifset of some of it:

That all just makes it the more heartbreaking when, at the heart of the battle, Oberyn is caught off-guard by the Mountain, and brutally murdered himself. I think all three of these are great reactions:

I think this death might be the one that is most reminiscent of last year and the Red Wedding reactions. It’s just so sad. But what’s great is that the actor seems to still be reacting to it, too. I think he has a solid future full of fans who love him, so hopefully he has an agent looking out for him. Check this little clip out:

Overall, they made us care far more about this death in the show than in the book. They made the character matter, they brought him to life. Sure, he’s kind of the same character you hear about in the book, but we got to really see it, not just be told about it hearsay like in the book. It makes the fight more awesome, and the death more meaningful.

The Usurper – Balon Greyjoy

Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve done much with the Greyjoys, other than a useless assault on the Dreadfort, and more scenes of Theon/Reek that were not in the book – only implied. However, lest we forget, one of the kings in that whole War of the Five Kings that Joffrey was laughing about right up until he bit it was Balon Greyjoy.

When Stannis, with Melisandre, get the blood of a king (in the form of leaches from Gendry) and throw them in the fire, which I am now thinking was last season (but same book, A Storm of Swords), he named the three usurpers left, with Renly dead – Robb Stark, now dead, Joffrey Baratheon, now dead, and Balon Greyjoy… seemingly forgotten?

In the books, it’s even a small thing, not really seen, but talked about later. Balon falls to his death from the bridges on Pike. Not at a wedding, so he doesn’t quite fit the theme… but still, he dies, and it matters.

It matters for the Ironborn, of course, because then they need a new king. It brings in new characters, Balon’s brothers, since his son is lost to them. It leads to unresolved plotlines about where these brothers are off to at sea in the later books. I can see not wanting to dive into all of that just yet, and leaving that for next season.

The other place where it matters, however, is with Melisandre. There’s some question, both for the audience and for Davos and Stannis, about how much power Melisandre actually has. About whether she actually is channelling divine power, or whether happenstance is leading to the death of all of these kings. The death of Balon Greyjoy helps to muddy this question, makes you wonder if all of these things – even the very-human-caused deaths at the Red Wedding and Purple Wedding – are the result of Melisandre’s spells, of Stannis’s prayers.

I also feel like the timing matters. That all the other kings end up dead, but in the end, it does not help get Stannis any closer. It does not get him the Iron Thrones. Or really much closer to it at all. And that realization helps turn them all to a new frame of thought – let’s go North, to the Wall, where the real fight is happening. Because the Game of Thrones going on in the South is pointless and never-ending in comparison.

Maybe it’s nit-picky, but I was really expecting the death of Balon Greyjoy this season, and it didn’t happen. What do you think? Does it matter? Let me know in the comments below! Or weigh in on Oberyn – and share any great finds from the Internet about him!

8 responses to “More Game of Thrones Afterthoughts

  1. Content Catnip

    I loved this post it was very detailed. As I haven’t read the books I can’t really comment on that. Did you find that this season was a lot more slower in pace. I thought it was done deliberately to drag the show out longer. It seemed that the previous seasons were a lot more densely packed with complexity in my opinion


    • I think this should definitely be the case. Season 1 was based on all of book 1, and season 2 based on all of book 2. Seasons 3 and 4 were book 3. I predict that seasons 5 and 6 will be books 4 and 5… But maybe it’ll stretch into season 7 too?

      Book 5 came out the same year as season 1, with no new books since. I think there is enough fan support and community interest and buzz for this show to go until the end… the problem is, will the books be done before the show hits the point where they would need to be? Especially since there are rumors that George R.R. Martin might stretch this to 8 books. And, at some point, our child actors are going to be adults…

      I don’t envy them the challenge of trying to adapt this series without all the books finished, that’s for sure!


  2. The only thing I could think is if next season is more North-heavy (I don’t know if it will be), then we will get more of Asha, and as a byproduct of that, see her reacting to her father’s death and power struggles. That could play into the other stories with the Boltons and Freys and Theon.


  3. Pingback: Catching Up on our Big List of Things | Comparative Geeks

  4. Hey, thanks for the spotlight on the Red Viper. The show did a great job jump-starting him as an awesome character.

    When I read the books, Oberyn was a character among many, so he didn’t make a real impact until he volunteered to be Tyrion’s champion, and it was like I had been hit by a lightning bolt. That was great. And his failure in the trial was crushing.

    On my second read through of the books, Oberyn was crazy awesome. I couldn’t get enough of the references to him, his brief appearances. Because I knew that it would be brief and glorious and tragic.

    So when the show introduced him and his paramour as sexy and dangerous, and oh so cool, I was very happy. (And full of the proper amount of dread.)


    Totally agree about Balon. I’ve been waiting for him to die before the Red Wedding. Next season, I hope, is going to be heavily Ironborn, so my guess is that’s why they’ve been waiting to show us.

    My question has been if we are going to see Balon die. In Book Two, Arya is present when the Brotherhood without Banners talks to the old witchy-woman who does a lot of prophetic announcements, She predicts Balon’s death (he’s unnamed) on a swaying bridge, and there’s someone else there, a man without a face, and a crow. (I might be remembering this wrong, but I always assumed it was an assassin sent by Euron Crow’s Eye.)

    Anyway, thanks for the recap and observations on this season.


    • They’ve definitely done too much with the Ironborn to leave out Balon dying, so I think maybe they want to play it up instead, and give us Victarion, and Euron, and the rest. And to kick start them heading to see Dany – a plot line still dangling in the books.

      As for Oberyn, he’s one of the reasons the show is so good – the ability to focus in a bit more, to breathe life into the characters, to show new perspectives. He was so well done, and the actor so well cast!

      Thinking of questions they could have answered though, with visuals: I was sad to not see Coldhands… Actually seeing him could have answered the question, “is he Benjen Stark???”


  5. Reblogged this on I Can't Possibly Be Wrong All the Time and commented:
    Yesterday, David reblogged a link to my Game of Thrones Season 4 recap. Today’s my birthday, and I consider the blogging relationship I have with Dave and his wife Holly a gift, so I wanted to return the favor (and shamelessly announce my birthday, yo) and reblog his excellent thoughts on the recent season. (Although you should just check out their blog for *ALL* of their content.)


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