“Tell your father I’m here. And tell him, the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.” –Oberyn Martell
Before the fourth season began, pictures of the exciting new additions to the cast of Game of Thrones made the rounds of facebook fan pages. While one picture showed a gigantic man cast to play the role of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, another showed two people, Pedro Pascal and Indira Varma, who were meant to play the parts of the Prince of Dorne, the Red Viper Oberyn Nymerios Martell and his “paramour” Ellaria Sand, respectively. Having not read the books, I did not know who this Oberyn character was (which I think was great, because there were no expectations). Indira Varma rang a bell in my head because she’d starred in Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra. I rolled my eyes. The actor was relatively unknown, and the actress had starred in a raunchy art movie. Very appropriate, I thought. They were, maybe just eye candy for the new season. I was right and wrong.
As the first episode with them started, I realized that the character of Oberyn was, to put it simply, just plain. He refused a royal welcome on his arrival at King’s Landing; instead, he went straight to a brothel, inspected a few women with Ellaria, hit on a guy (yes, he swung both ways), stabbed a Lannister(the cheek!), openly threatened the Lannisters and made it clear that he was there for revenge. Then, he promptly went back to his prostitutes. I loved how he mixed business with pleasure.
Later, we came to know that he was not just a reckless, arrogant fool, picking fights and making enemies for fun. He was in King’s Landing for one reason – to avenge the rape and murder of his sister Elia Martell, and the killing of her children. And he would do this by killing the most feared warrior in Westeros- The Mountain.
When Tyrion was accused of murdering Joffrey, he got offered a position of power- a seat on the Small Council and to be one of the judges in Tyrion’s trial- by the Lannister patriarch, Tywin Lannister himself, the man Oberyn holds primarily responsible for the fate that befell his sister. And he accepted the offer. A very clever ploy – to gain a powerful position and then to wield it when necessary. And he made his powerful presence felt by being the most entertaining/entertained judge ever, asking questions just to fool around and tickle the crowds.
Then, as Tyrion demanded a trial by combat and Cersei chose The Mountain as her champion, Oberyn just had to capitalize. The opportunity to finish his work in King’s Landing had walked up to him, and he volunteered to become Tyrion’s champion, coming forth as a just and objective man who didn’t see anything wrong with the “Imp”.
In preparation for the fight, he put on the lightest armour, drank wine and passionately kissed his lover. As the combat began, we saw that he was far superior to The Mountain. What we did not see under the cloak of awesome fighting skills and a seemingly close victory, was overconfidence and the increasing lack of judgment he was showing borne of his desire for vengeance. He mortally wounded the Mountain but became too passionate, too fast and made the mistake of giving the fallen giant, time, to plan his next move. We all know how that weighed out.
Oberyn was a colourful character, almost at par with Tyrion’s characterization. He was just, loved his men and women alike, charming, forthright, honest, unassuming, proud and clever. Forums around the Internet were gushing with the praise for the character and how much they loved him. But there lies the catch. One does not simply get attached to a character on Game of thrones. Because George R R Martin kills them. We saw what happened to Ned in season one. He lost his head, and so did Oberyn (both literally and metaphorically).
George R R Martin is a criminal, who we’ll never prosecute. Yes, killing off Oberyn was probably the worst crime he’s committed till date, but we forgive him. We forgive him as long as there is more Game of Thrones. More epic characters, mind-blowing combats (pun intended) and the most incredible dialogue and screenplay ever.
For now, we bid you rest in peace, Oberyn. We miss you and will always remember you.