Everyone’s banging on and on about what a colossal disappointment the season 4 finale of Game of Thrones was. Matt Saccaro wrote a screed on The Daily Dot, asking, “Has Game of Thrones sold its soul to the Hollywood devil?” while many took to Twitter to explain how they felt the finale was lackluster.
What I probably found the most lackluster was the marginalization of Ellaria Sand — a peripheral character played by the wonderfully talented Indira Varma. Kiran Hefa outlined what we had to look forward with this intriguing new character: “Look for Varma to play less the part of the alluring other-half and more the role of a royal’s formidable partner.”
Sadly, Sand becomes yet another beautiful, yet interchangeable and almost-anonymous woman roaming Westeros. Her character is objectified and damseled. She has no context outside her relationship to fan favorite Oberyn Martell.
It doesn’t help matters that Sand speaks with an ambiguously ethnic, if “exotic” accent (not unlike Martell) — probably to convey how truly different the culture of her people is from those of her hosts at King’s Landing. But couple that ambiguously accent with how her character is styled and the handful of scenes she receives, wherein she has no identity outside of another man’s piece of arm candy, and you could see how this is honestly a failure on the same series that has allowed us formidable women by way of Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, among others.
I get it. That’s all canon. However, in drafting of a talent like Varma to play this part suggests that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had (would it be too optimistic to change that to “have”?) grander plans in store for Ellaria Sand. As they’ve already deviated off-script when it comes to adapting the novels for television, this is one change that would’ve not only made Sand an incredible character in the Westerosi world, but would’ve also shown what a truly awesome addition Varma would be to one of television’s strongest ensemble casts.
(H/T to this place for the GIFs.)