I can hear you, all the way across the vast chasm between one screen and another. You are thinking, but wait, they did adapt Dorne, didn’t they? And to that I answer, no, they really did not. They wrote a story of their own, where some characters happened to share names with those from aSoIaF. Why? Well, that is the question I’ll attempt to answer here…in a way.
Some time ago, I saw an ask on tumblr claiming that the Dorne storyline from the books wasn’t cinematic, and that was why we got the terrible mess of Porne instead. The last Fanwankers also mentions how that seems to be the official excuse of the showrunners. Because I’m a very reasonable person, I tried to think about this claim objectively. Yes, a legitimately strong woman, no trademark, who struggles to assert herself and her rights and not to be infantilized might seem like the most interesting story in the world to us, but I suspect D&D were snoring by the fifth word of this sentence. Everyone has their own preferences, and they are the showrunners, after all. It’s their gig.
So I tried to ask myself, are there things D&D like in that storyline? So that they could move the emphasis to them, from those boring people and their inane struggles it actually concentrates on in the books?
Of course I can’t see into their heads, so I don’t actually know what they like, but from the way GoT is going and the changes they make to Martin’s story, I’d say it’s: boobs, revenge, sex, cardboards instead of characters, orientalism, and feeling they are being socially progressive. Oh and whitewashing their faves, and rape and abuse of women. Out of these, we got boobs, revenge and cardboard characters in Porne, along with female animosity and some slutshaming – and maybe social progressivism, if being okay with incest counts. So with that in mind, let’s see if there was anything that could have been done with Dorne…
By their use of Jamie, I’m assuming they thought a buy-in was needed for the viewers to be interested in this weird foreign land at all. I really wanted to give them an alternative for that – just think of Loras in Dorne, it’s brilliant – but there are a few problems. I don’t know how enamoured of their King’s Landing plot they were. I’d assume that removing Loras from there and thus making room for what actually happened with Cersei and Margaery would be a good thing, but perhaps religious strawmen and homophobia were crucial to their interpretation of the story. Or perhaps it was just that they really needed to join two storylines into one, because they didn’t have enough space, and this seemed like the best choice for some reason. So in the end, I decided to limit myself to changes that would have no effect on the other storylines in this season whatsoever.
I also provide script-like tidbits through this article. They are not meant as actual, serious script ideas of better lines than those that were on the show (although in some cases…), merely as a rough suggestion of what could be said and done in which scene to make it as D&D-ey as possible and, at the same time, as close to the books as anything D&D-ey can be.
In that scene between Jamie and Cersei, she didn’t get a threat from Dorne. She is just worried because she knows what those Dornish are like, and Oberyn was popular. They’ll be out to get Myrcella. They’re asking for Ser Gregor’s head for now, so she says to Jaime: “Would you take it there and bring Myrcella home? But they might not want to let you, so take a really good fighter with you in case you had to extract her by force. Some crafty, not a proper knight.”
Over in Dorne, instead of Ellaria’s bizarre talk with Doran, we have a Martell/Sand family meal, including Myrcella and Trystane, where everyone is mourning Oberyn. Myrcella feels awkward there because the Sand Snakes are kind of low-key badmouthing her mother and leaves, and Trysatne goes with her because he is her boyfriend. The moment they are gone, the Sand Snakes are calling for action, but Doran says its complicated and dangerous and Arianne tries to oppose him but he just mostly ignores her and patronizes her a little (‘you don’t understand’). She is pissed off and the Snakes laugh at him and Ellaria tries to calm the waters but it doesn’t work and the Snakes walk away, angry.
(Myrcella and Arianne walk together, laughing, a younger sister/older sister kind of dynamic. They approach a table where the Snakes, Doran, Ellaria and Trystane sit, clearly continuing a previous conversation.)
Tyene: Should we mourn Lord Tywin? Did he mourn Prince Oberyn of Dorne?
Nym: I do not think Lord Tywin had a heart, so how could he mourn anyone?
Tyene: And what about his daughter, do you think she mourns him? Does she have a heart?
Nym: Do you think his death can pain her at least half as much as our father’s pains us?
Obara: Never. All Lannisters are heartless.
(Myrcella angrily leaves, Trystane follows)
Doran: Try to mind your manners. Myrcella is a nice girl, though a Lannister, and Lord Tywin was her grandfather.
Obara: Our father was murdered and you worry about manners?
Doran: Oberyn was slain during a trial by combat by a lord. That is no murder.
Obara: He is still dead. What do you intend to do about it?
Doran: I will bury him. I will mourn for him.
Obara: And then?
Doran: You would have me go to war?
Obara: He was your brother! The whole Dorne would have you go to war!
Ellaria: And what would that gain us? How would that return Oberyn to us? Will not just more end up dead?
Obara: If you loved our father-
Arianne: Obara, stop. We all know she did. And we cannot afford to attack…but surely we must do something.
Nym: There are other ways of revenge than just war. Other ways to hurt the Lannisters.
Doran: I’ll have to think about it carefully. It’s more complicated than you think. You don’t understand. (in a super-patronizing tone)
Arianne: (irritated) Then explain it to me.
Doran: There are secret matters of state involved.
Arianne: I am your heir!
Doran: Yes, child, of course you are. (patronizing once more)
(Tense silence, Tyene gives Arianne a sympathetic look)
Ellaria: (trying to change the topic) The guests from King’s landing will arrive soon enough, with Clegane’s head.
Doran: Of course. Arianne, will you see to the guest arrangements? I have some political matters I have to discuss with my advisors…
Arianne: (frostily) Of course, father.
Nym: (to Doran) Do you think a head of a man killed for a previous crime will be enough to satisfy us?
Tyene: Calm yourself, Nymeria, dearest sister. I believe uncle needs to be left alone with his…thinking.
(Another look exchanged with Arianne, the Sand Snakes leave. Ellaria goes with them, seems to talk to them in a calming manner.)
Arianne: Nymeria’s and Obara’s blood is hot, but the storm will blow over. Ellaria and Tyene will calm it.
Doran: Will they?
Trystane: Forgive my aunts, they’re grieving.
Myrcella: Won’t they want to call off the wedding now?
Trystane: I won’t allow it, I’ll ask father to let us marry tomorrow. I love you.
Myrcella: I love you
(They kiss. Nym watches them with show!Ellaria’s evil look.)
So, as you can see, it’s a talking scene for a talking scene, and romancing teenagers for romancing teenagers, and revenge for revenge. No loss from Porne even from the D&D perspective, as far as I can see. Moving on.
The scene with Jaime and Bronn on the ship of course needs to change a little to reflect that their mission is semi-official now, but not much.
The Sand Snakes, meanwhile, gather in the desert and talk about revenge for Oberyn, since Doran’s clearly not going to help them. Ellaria violently opposes the idea of harming Myrcella, so Obara accuses her of never really loving Oberyn and calls her a whore. The question, then, is how to go about Myrcella-harming when Doran is on to them now…but don’t worry, Tyene has a potential ally in mind, if things are played right. Right on cue, Arianne arrives.
(The Sand Snakes and Ellaria are gathered in the desert. Tyene is milking snakes for poison as they talk.)
Nym: Doran will do nothing. We have to arrange for revenge ourselves.
Obara: (bitterly) Without Doran, we have no army to march against the Lannister’s.
Nym: We don’t need one. After all, that would spill Dornish blood as well. There is a cleaner way to harm them. We have one Lannister close at hand…
Ellaria: Harming children? Is that how low we’ve sunk? I’ll have no part in this!
Obara: Then don’t. I always knew your love for our father was just lies. You are only a whore.
(Obara slaps her, then her sisters restrain her. Ellaria angrily leaves)
Tyene: (turning to Nym as if nothing strange happened) We told Doran what we want, and now Ellaria knows as well. We have to go carefully.
Obara: You sound like our uncle.
Tyene: Oh no, dear sister, I certainly didn’t mean „do nothing,“ just work slowly and carefully. He will never let us near Myrcella after what you two said. I suspect he won’t even let us move around the palace unsupervised, now the Lannister is about to arrive. He knows about my skill with poisons… But there is someone he trusts, though not respects, and she just happens to be my close friend…
(they all smirk knowingly)
(Arianne is seen passing Ellaria on horseback, in the opposite direction. Ellaria turn and gives her an intense look as she passes. Arianne arrives and greets the Snakes. Tyene waves Obara and Nym away as Arianne sits down next to her.)
Arianne: I’m sorry about Father’s weakness. There must be some way to get revenge for Oberyn.
Tyene (as she examines one of the snakes carefully with a small smile): Do you truly want to find one?
Arianne: I do. You know I loved him, even though sometimes I was a little jealous of the trust my father gave him. I feel sorry about that now.
Tyene: Don’t. Your father treated you unfairly – still does. It is as if he forgot that in Dorne, the law is fair to women, and that by rights you would rule here one day.
Arianne: He wishes to forget, I think. He’s adapting the customs of King’s Landing.
Tyene: Are you really certain that he means for Trystane to inherit?
Arianne: Yes. I told you, I heard him say so. It’s all that royal influence…if Myrcella had inherited the throne, no one would doubt my right. And she would be a good queen, too! But you wouldn’t support my plan to crown her.
Tyene: I’m sorry. I thought your father could still be reasoned with, but after what he said when last we talked… You are right. The Dornish customs have to be protected, and the people love you and support you. They will proclaim her their queen if you tell them to. And what better way to hurt the Lannisters than turning them on each other! How elegant! We get our revenge without spilling even a drop of blood! Yes, if you decide to do this, to take her away and crown her, I will stand with you, and I’ll convince my sisters to do the same.
Arianne: Now you decide this? Your sisters put my father on his guard, and now he always has someone keep an eye on her, and never lets her out of the palace. And he won’t let you in, not now.
Tyene: I thought so. That is a problem, then. We can escort you and fight for you as soon as you leave its walls, but in there, you have to find a way. I trust you will. You are a Princess of Dorne, and it’s a fight for your rights, and for the rights of women in all of Dorne.
Once again, a talking scene for a talking scene. We did lose killing the ship captain (God, what an idiotic moment), but we gained some slut-shaming and slapping and female antagonism, so I think we can call it even. There is even a bit of anachronistic progressivism. And I want a bonus point for Arianne not hesitating about turning on her father at all, because she is StrongTM. It’s only lack of allies that was holding her back.
Jamie and Bronn arrive to Dorne. They should probably have that fight, because no one wants to lose a fight scene, so let’s say they’re attacked by Lannister haters as they disembark. The attackers scream the Snakes’ names and ‘for Oberyn’ as they fight. Some of the Lannister escort dies in terrible pain, some survive, but are left with scratches.
Now we get a little rearrangement of scenes. Instead of the Snakes and Bronn in prison together bit of idiocy from episode 7, we see Doran welcome Jaime to Dorne, a little surprised that he came in person. Jaime explains he’s to take Myrcella away. Myrcella is upset, at which point her talk with Jamie from the show happens. Arianne, meanwhile, seduces Bronn and persuades him to ally with her.
Doran: Welcome, Ser Jaime, Ser Bronn. We thank you for this gift (points to the head), and are honoured by your presence, though surprised…?
Jaime: The Queen wishes for Princess Myrcella to return to King’s Landing. I am to escort her back.
Arianne: (alarmed) Oh no, I will be very sorry to lose her company. I came to love her.
Myrcella: (awakens from shock) No! Uncle, I don’t want to go home…I don’t, you can’t do this… (runs from the room)
(Trystane and Jamie both rise to go after her, exchange a look, Doran pulls Trystane back, Jamie goes. Doran quietly talks to Trystane.)
(Ellaria is watching through the window how, outside in the gardens, Jamie and Myrcella are talking. He is trying to console her. What follows is show!dialogue almost verbatim.)
Jamie: Dorne’s too dangerous for you. It’ll be better for you at home.
Myrcella: This is my home. This has been my home for years. I didn’t want to come here, but Mother told me to. I did what she said. I did my duty and now she’s forcing me to go back?
Jamie: It’s for your own good. These are complicated matters.
Myrcella: No, it’s not complicated at all. It’s simple. I love Trystane, I’m going to marry him, and we’re staying right here.
Jamie: I don’t understand.
Myrcella: Of course you don’t. You don’t know me.
(Back inside, Arianne is in full flirting mode with Bronn, while Doran and Trystane talk together. Ellaria watches Arianne carefully while pretending not to.)
Arianne: You must be a really good knight if Ser Jaime took you as an escort.
Bronn: Not so much of a knight, but fighter, yes.
Arianne: I’d like to see you fight with my cousins one day. Who would be better, what do you think?
Bronn: I’d beat them all at once.
Arianne: Don’t be so sure. Obara is strong, Nym is cunning, and Tyene has her daggers coated with two poisons. One will have you die in terrible pain, and the other will leave you thinking you are fine for a few days, until you drop dead. (She somehow manages to say all of this very sexily, because, as we know, poisons are hot. She might even caress him suggestively as she describes Tyene’s poisons.)
Bronn: Then I would never let her touch me.
Arianne: Tyene is my friend, you know. She taught me a thing or two, as she does all her friends. Would you let me touch you?
(She gives him a steamy look. Cut to them having sex, naked, in her bed. Bronn is on top and as he moves, she digs her nails into his back enough to draw blood.)
Bronn (still moving): Well, now, I hope there was none of that mysterious poison on your nails…
Arianne: Are you in terrible pain?
Bronn: No, but there is that other one you mentioned too…
Arianne: The one you don’t know about until you die? Well…(she smirks and flips them over so that she’s now on the top and we have a plain view of her breasts) You’ll just have to find out, won’t you?
Bronn (gasps as she moves): It would be…too late by then. (he tries to take initiative again, but she stops him)
Arianne: Careful…if you are poisoned…well, the more you move around, the quicker it acts. But if you’re a good boy, I’ll give you an antidote.
Bronn: Does good boy mean more of this?
Arianne: That, yes, but something else as well. (dramatic pause) I want you to help me bring the rightful ruler to the Iron Throne.
So here we exchange awkward creepy flirting for awkward creepy flirting, boobs for boobs, and in this case they’re even boobs AND sex, so surely that counts as a bonus? There’s a made-up poison, too, but it’s not boner-activated, so maybe it equals out…I’m sorry about that flaw. I really tried, but I might not have enough imagination for this.
Instead of the episode 6 gem of a scene in Water Gardens, we see Myrcella being allowed to go somewhere with Arianne as long as Bronn accompanies her, so Arianne takes her away to crown her…but then! A twist! The Snakes were always planning to kill her, not to crown her, so they fight with Bronn using Snake-Fu, and then Jamie runs to the rescue, and soon after him, Doran’s guards, because Ellaria told.
(Myrcella’s room, her maids are packing, Jamie and Bronn are there overseeing. Arianne enters.)
Arianne: My princess, let us have a walk. I’d like to say goodbye.
Jamie: (frowns) I don’t want to let her out of my sight.
Bronn: I’ll accompany them.
Arianne: (looks displeased) If you insist.
Jaime: I do.
(The ladies and Bronn leave and go through the gardens. Ellaria sees them and rushes away.)
Arianne: I’ll miss you a lot.
Myrcella: And I you, I loved it here. I love Trystane.
Arianne: You really wish you could stay with him? Do what you truly want to?
Myrcella: More than anything…
Arianne: Then let me show you something.
(She leads her to a side door in a wall. There is one guard, but he steps aside when eh sees Arianne. Myrcella looks unsure, but when she sees Bronn nodding, she follows. The Sand Snakes are waiting on the other side.)
Myrcella: What are they doing here?
Arianne: They’re here to help you.
Nym: No, my dear princess…we’re here for revenge.
Obara: For Oberyn!
(They try to attack Myrcella, the Bronn/Snakes fight starts. Arianne is being held immobile by Nym’s sword/whip/whatever. Jamie runs in and joins, with the rest of the Lannister escort, but those members of the escort whom we’ve previously seen with scratches just start dropping down dead. Then Doran’s guards with Hotah arrive and stop it, take the Snakes very forcefully away. Myrcella is hurt by Tyene, and one of Doran’s guards dies in terrible pain after Tyene touches him with her dagger – the other one than the one she used on Myrcella…)
Fight for a fight, Snake-Fu for Snake-Fu. The death in terrible pain is in exchange for the ship captain. We lose Bronn’s singing maybe? But I guess that he could sing as he accompanies Arianne and Myrcella on their walk.
Instead of that bunch of scenes from this episode, Arianne is imprisoned and tries to get out. Once she does, we have a bastard version of the book conversation, where Doran says fire and blood, and means Dorne intends to join Daenerys once she makes it to Westeros. Reveals he had intended for her to marry Viserys, but that now he’d like to break Trys’ engagement so that he could marry Dany instead.
(Arianne is in a room with bars on the window, desperately trying to open the door with a hairpin, when it’s opened from the outside. You might recognize most lines in the following dialogue from somewhere.)
Hotah: Your father wishes to speak to you. (Doran is wheeled in.)
Doran: Arianne… (long silence) Why?
Arianne: For the honor of our House. Your meekness shames all Dorne, Father. Your brother went to King’s Landing in your place, and they killed him!
Doran: Do you think I do not know that? Oberyn is with me every time I close my eyes.
Arianne: Telling you to open them, no doubt.
Doran: You make it difficult for a man to swallow his anger.
Arianne: Best stop swallowing, you’re like to choke on it.
Doran: Are you like your cousins? Do you simply want war?
Arianne: I want my rights.
Doran: Your rights?
Doran: You will have Dorne after I am dead. Are you so anxious to be rid of me?
Arianne: I should turn that question back on you, Father. You have been wishing to be rid of me for years.
Doran: That is not true.
Arianne: No? Shall we ask my brother? You favor him and always have, and you mean to give him Dorne, don’t trouble to deny it. I heard you say it to him once. ‘One day you will sit where I sit and rule all Dorne.’ (There are certainly no tears in Arianne’s eyes as she says this, because, once again, she is a Strong WomanTM.)
Doran: (looks pained) Arianne, you do not understand.
Arianne: Of course, I never do. Do you deny you said those words?
Doran: No. I did intend for Trystane to follow me. I had other plans for you. You were promised, Arianne.
Arianne: (shocked) Promised?
Doran: The pact was sealed in secret.
Arianne: Who is it? Who have I been betrothed to?
Doran: It makes no matter. He is dead, killed by a pot of molten gold. Dorne will be yours. (he sounds resigned) Your brother has a harder road to walk.
Arianne: What road? Seven save me, but I am sick of secrets. Tell me the rest, Father … or else name Trystane your heir and let me die beside my cousins, though they have betrayed me.
Doran: Do you truly believe I would harm my brother’s children? Obara, Nym, and Tyene lack for nothing but their freedom.
Arianne: And Trystane?
Doran: Your brother will lose the girl he fell in love with. The engagement must be broken in time, for Trystane is to bring us our heart’s desire.
Arianne: And what is our heart’s desire?
Doran: Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood.
(Cut to a scene with Daenerys/dragons)
Here we lose quite a bit of course. No endorsement of incest by Ellaria, and no slapping game and slut-shaming. The latter have been moved episode 4, and there is out-of-context book dialogue here at least, but still, I can’t help but feel this bit would be kind of boring. Maybe Arianne could at least be naked before Doran enters, so that it wasn’t completely pointless?
The Snakes look out of a prison cell at Myrcella departing Dorne, saying goodbye amicably to Arianne. Doran assures Jamie that the maester told him Myrcella would be fine, despite the small cut she got from Tyene. Arianne tells Jamie to take care of his daughter, and at his alarmed look, assures him she doesn’t mind the incest. Then she gives a hot goodbye to Bronn. She might even mention a bad pussy (though, please, no). The scene with Jaime and Myrcella follows as on the show. Myrcella dies of the poison in her wound from the fight, so the last view is probably of Tyene caressing her dagger or whatever. I’d have much rather avoided this, truth be told, but I gather D&D might consider this important. Once again, we don’t lose anything they like by this interpretation – unless they really needed the kill to be done by a kiss?
And that’s it. That could have been the Dornish storyline with all of the things we love Game of Thrones for. I leave it up to you whether you now feel sorry that you missed out on that, or very grateful that your favourite characters stayed untouched.
But just for the record, I wrote all those bits of pseudo-scripts mainly to be able to do a word count. It’s actually shorter like this than the show script related to Dorne, by hundreds of words. There’s plenty of room to expand, and no reason to cut. There’s exactly one new character needed for this plotline compared to the show, and that’s Arianne. We could cut Lady Nym and distribute her lines between Obara and Tyene if they had some sort of budget limit or something.
So why the hell did they film Porne instead? It doesn’t necessarily have more of anything they like, and it has a similar amount of plotholes. Do they just love writing fanfic that much? If so, well, I can relate, but seriously guys, you will have the entire three following seasons for that…