A new Game of Thrones season means heaps of new characters, so I can't blame people for getting excited when new cast members are revealed—even with season five almost a year out. One very important book character was conspicuously absent from the announcement, however, and I'm worried. It's not just me, either.
Before we go any further, let it be known that this post will contain SPOILERS. I've tried to denote where the worst of them are, but if you want to stay completely untainted—pure as the driven Stark snow—I'd recommend steering clear. You've been warned.
So What's Going On?
As ever, the new crop of characters harvested from author George R.R. Martin's none-too-sunny killing field is quite large, especially with next season set to introduce the ongoing struggles of Dorne, home country of season four fan favorite Oberyn Martell. Many of his relatives and countrymen were among the new cast members listed during Game of Thrones' big Comic-Con bash. So basically, that storyline is a lock for season five.
Strangely, however, one of the most pivotal characters in that whole plotline (at least, as the books tell it), Arianne Martell, was nowhere to be found.
For the uninitiated/SPOILER immune, Arianne is the daughter of Dorne's ruling prince, Doran Martell, who also happens to be Oberyn's brother. So as not to lose our boots in the massively political morass of this thing, I'll cut to the quick: Arianne is the rightful heiress of Dorne. She is, in the books, set to take her father's place after he passes.
Plot, drama, scheming, and—of course—grim, shocking twists arise from this connection, as they do from Arianne's relation to other announced show characters like Obara Sand, Nymeria Sand, and Tyene Sand—aka "The Sand Snakes," Oberyn's bastard daughters.
She's not some side character, in other words. In fact, it's arguable that for a time she's the main character of the whole Dorne plot in book four. However, in the casting announcements for the show her brother, Trystane (to be played by actor Toby Sebastian), was listed as "the heir to Dorne," among other things. Huh. Moreover, Arianne's main love interest (and a character who really only exists to fill out her plot), Aerys Oakheart, also missed the announcement train. Huh again.
Is There Still Hope, Though?
Yes, I think there is. Most importantly I must note that Game of Thrones' showrunners have yet to outright say that Arianne has been written out of the season. And who knows? Even if she's six feet under, dead as a Dorne nail for all intents and purposes right now, no one has said she can't appear in a later season.
A few other tremendously important characters in the Greyjoy family and a certain Lady Stoneheart also didn't show up in the casting, so maybe they'll all appear in a later season. Given that season five will be jumping between a million-billion different storylines from books four and five (they take place in roughly the same timespan, just with different characters), it's possible that these plots will progress sooooo slowly that the non-cast characters simply won't show up.
I'm worried, though. It doesn't really make sense to announce Arianne's co-stars and supporting cast without her name up in lights as well.
OK, But Why Does She Matter? (BIGGEST SPOILERS)
Assuming she's out, we lose a really interesting character, another tough, intelligent woman in an inherently sexist (on purpose, mind you) fantasy world. Yet she's vulnerable too, and she's forced to learn a lot over time. She is, in other words, a well-rounded, smartly written character.
While I'll admit her chapters weren't always my favorites, they did drive the plot and offer great insight into the social norms of Dorne, a land and people very far removed from King's Landing and the surrounding locations that we're all so familiar with. Arianne acts as the fiery, change-hungry contrast to her seemingly meek, methodical ruler of a father. But she's also immature in a very real, believable way. She feels coddled and lied to by Doran, so she's coiled and ready to lash out at his every word and deed.
Oberyn's influence is powerful in her plot, too. She thinks to herself about how everybody's favorite Red Viper raised his daughters, openly empowered them to make their own life choices and fight back when they didn't work out. Arianne is still her own person with her own goals, drives, loves, and lusts, but she doesn't feel as liberated.
It's all just... interesting. And pretty good! Her chapters do hit some pretty languid lulls, though, with a lot of her progression happening entirely through internal monologues. Maybe that's a reason for the show to leave her out? I hope not. I feel like it's still very possible to present that character development in other ways.
And Other People Feel The Same Way?
Oh yes. I'm fretting a bit, but I'm still holding out hope for something good. Other people, however, are flat-out upset. Enraged even. Have a look for yourself:
Game of Thrones' Facebook page hasn't fared much better.
Meanwhile, this particular piece of information doesn't bode well for the whole "but maybe they'll reveal the rest later" theory.
So yeah, worrisome. In addition to digging Arianne, I'm also a pretty big fan of the Greyjoys (even if they are royal greyjerks; they're still fun to read), so I'm really hoping the show just won't get around to them or Arianne or any of these conspicuously absent characters until next- next season. It's entirely possible. Probable, even.
That said, declaring Arianne's brother the heir to Dorne is a pretty big red flag. Who knows, though? Maybe she'll get a dramatic reveal later on. "The true heir!" or something. It'd be a big change from the books, but like 'em or not we've seen a lot of those lately, and I imagine plenty more are on the way.