If you watched this past Sunday’s season premiere of Game of Thrones, you were treated with a brief return to Dorne, that south-most region of Westeros where last season’s most boring storyline took place. And then, after seeing one of the show’s greatest deviations from the books, you started wondering what the hell is happening here.
On a surface level, Ellaria Sand and the daughters of the late Oberyn Martell assassinated Prince Doran, tired of waiting for him to get around to taking revenge on the Lannisters for the many, many Martells killed at their commands. It’s almost as if the Sand Snakes had watched season five themselves, and got bored waiting for something interesting to happen in Dorne. Certainly now that Doran is dead, things are about to move a lot faster.
But where, exactly, is this story moving faster towards? There’s no coup in George R.R. Martin’s books, and while the Sand Snakes are very much trying to pick a fight with King’s Landing, it seems extremely unlikely that this is how events will unfold in the book. How this new Dornish status quo affects the TV’s show’s endgame is anyone’s guess.
Actually, what is the new Dornish status quo? Doran is dead, but that does not mean Ellaria Sand is suddenly in control of Dorne. We don’t know exactly why Ellaria assassinated Doran—it could be because he was seemingly too weak to avenge his brother, but it also could be to get Doran out of her way so she can enact her real plan.
But what is her plan? Has Ellaria taken the throne of Dorne for herself? Does she have enough support from the people to do that? Heck, does she have any support from the people? Are they going to be outraged their beloved Prince Doran has been murdered, or will they praise her courage in the streets? Or will Ellaria put one of the Sand Snakes in charge, and then rule through her? Has Ellaria accounted for the fact that the Sand Snakes are all murderous nitwits?
And if she has taken power, what the hell is she going to do with it? Is she planning on leading the armies of Dorne to get payback on everyone who ever shook hands with a Lannister? Is Ellaria even savvy enough to join forces with any of the other Lannister-hating Houses of Westeros, like the Starks, the Tullys, the Tyrells—and maybe even a certain Khaleesi, if she ever manages to cross the Narrow Sea?
And if Ellaria has no intention (or possibility) of controlling Dorne’s forces, what the hell is she doing? Is she going to lead a secret strike team of Sand Snakes into King’s Landing to take out the last of the Lannister line? Because that seems like a pretty dumb idea, and one that actually didn’t require her murdering the Prince of Dorne to accomplish.
I know Dorne hasn’t been everyone’s—or anyone’s—favorite Game of Thrones storyline, and I know many people feel like Doran’s murder makes season five’s Dornish vacation seem like an even bigger waste of time. But I like it. I like that Ellaria is about to get some major shit done, or try to get some major shit done. I like that she’s not going to wait around—and people better get out of her way or get a chest full of knife-blade.
And I like that I have no clue where the Dornish storyline is going. Is Ellaria’s brutal coup part of Game of Thrones’ endgame, the way that Dorne truly gets pulled into the final act? Will they be the ones to take out the King Tommen and the Lannisters once and for all, plunging Westeros into total chaos? Will they be accidentally helping to roll out the welcome mat for the White Walkers, or will they actually fight alongside the people of the other kingdoms to save all of the living? (Minus the Lannisters, of course.)
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but suddenly I’m very interested in finding out. Ellaria Sand may have completely screwed Dorne as a country, but she may have saved Dorne as a storyline.