It's not just the Game of Thrones characters keeping score anymore…
Trust me, I get it. Game of Thrones can be a little confusing. It seems that every week a new character is added to the mix. Sometimes a new city or land. And in the case of Season 4's premiere, a whole new major family. I love that I can gather ten friends and we can all have different favorite characters. There’s no wholly-good, nor wholly-evil person in this world, and that allows viewers and readers to turn it into a modern choose-your-own-adventure game (see what I did there?) by investing passion in the characters they love.
After talking with fans of the show who'd never read the series of books, it became clear that certain important details were not obvious to the average viewer. My goal is to clear up the blurs (okay, as well as to interject my opinions on various characters and situations).
In the Weekly Red Ladder, we'll discuss whose fortunes rose and fell (see that icon in the image above), add more juicy backstory (Baggage icon), and covet the episode's Object of Power (Dragon/Shield icon). Sometimes, we'll also discuss how the adaptation varies from the novel (Axed Book icon). These posts will contain spoilers only for the episode under discussion, not future episodes. Like the Eyrie, you’re safe here.
Riser of the Week: Oberyn Martell
I was tempted to go with Tywin or Arya here for the Riser of the Week on the Red Ladder, but I was so excited to finally see Oberyn Martell on screen that I couldn’t justify anyone else. Oberyn, who wields a deadly spear, as well as the badass nickname “The Red Viper,” came out of the gate hot—anyone who bloodies up a Lannister is okay in my book. Even during his debut brothel scene, I wasn’t planning on labeling him my Riser, but he cemented himself with his last line of the episode while speaking to Tyrion:
Tell your father I’m here. And tell him that the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.
It’s about time someone makes the Lannisters pay! Welcome to the show, Oberyn Martell.
Faller of the Week: Dontos Hollard
One goes up, and another must go down. This episode’s Faller of the Week goes to none other than Ser Dontos Hollard. You may have remembered Dontos from the premiere of Season 2, where he showed up drunk during a tourney to celebrate King Joffrey’s nameday. Joffrey, being the sadistic bastard that he is, planned to drown Dontos in a cask of wine. Sansa stepped in, not wanting to see another man die (Dad Ned had just recently been shortened by a head), and saved his life, thus convincing Joffrey to make him a court fool. Now, fast-forwarding two seasons, Dontos is back and looking to thank Sansa for saving his life. He gives her a necklace—the last remaining artifact from his once-noble family. Dontos, who started the series as a knight, has been turned into a drunken clown who must dance and juggle on command for, of all people, Joffrey. I cannot think of how someone could fall much further than that.
Extra Baggage: House Martell
For this week's supplemental backstory, let's discuss the Martells as a whole and why Oberyn has such utter hatred of all things Lannister, something covered briefly in the dialog, but not in detail. The Martells are one of the seven major families in Westeros (Martells of Dorne, Starks of Winterfell, Tyrells of Highgarden, Lannisters of Casterly Rock, Greyjoys of Pike, Baratheons of Storms End, and Arryns of the Eyrie). Every other family mentioned in the series reports to one of these seven houses. The Martells reside in Dorne, which is the southernmost area of Westeros. The Dornish prefer to stay out of the constant meddling that the rest of the kingdom seems to love.
Back when the Targaryens conquered Westeros atop their dragons, the other six major houses chose to bend the knee and serve the new rulers rather than die fiery deaths. Dorne did not bend the knee. They chose to fight and did successfully for two centuries, until the Martells and the Targaryens united through marriage. The Martells pride themselves on this, as seen in their house motto: “Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken.”
But then Robert Baratheon usurped the throne. Elia Martell, Oberyn’s sister, married Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s brother). By most accounts, Rhaegar Targaryen was a noble man who could have served well as king. But during a tourney at Harrenhal, upon winning, Rhaegar named Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna, “the queen of love and beauty,” blatantly spurning his wife Elia. One year later, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna, thus sparking Robert Baratheon’s Rebellion. The Martells were forced to side with the Targaryens, because Elia had been taken captive in King’s Landing. When King’s Landing fell, Elia was raped and brutally murdered by Gregor Clegane (known as The Mountain, brother to The Hound). Her two young children were also murdered. Tywin Lannister then presented the three bodies, wrapped in Lannister crimson, to Robert Baratheon to signal the war was won.
This is why Oberyn hates the Lannisters. They murdered his sister and her two kids. Oberyn demands reparations for the brutal acts. He wants The Mountain put to the sword for his murders. But Tywin has refused him time after time. Tension may finally boil over this season now that Oberyn is in King’s Landing.
Object of Power: Needle
The most triumphant part of the episode was Arya avenging Lommy’s death from Season 2. And even though The Hound didn’t know what a Lommy was, Arya did not forget. Nor did she forget to use the pointy end.
Until next week…
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.