Beyond the Wall: Oberyn Martell and great character introductions
Since ‘Game of Thrones’ kills of so many people each week, they’ve had a lot of practice at introducing replacements. “Two Swords” introduction of Oberyn “The Red Viper” Martell is another chance for the show to demonstrate just how good they are at it.
Game of Thrones is back, and back with a bang. Social Media references? Check. Record setting ratings? Check? Fifth AND sixth season pickup? Check and check. “Two Swords” was one hell of a premiere. In the past, seasons premieres have been a hodgepodge of catchup and world-building.
We’re getting to the point where there isn’t a great deal of world left to build. However, as George R. R. Martin has been trying to teach us through each of his novels, there will always be new, major characters to kill introduce. In the first three seasons, the show has proven itself particularly adept at bringing these new characters into the mix, both narratively and procedurally. The fourth season premiere’s introduction of Oberyn Martell is just the latest example of that ability.
Bob: One thing that has continually impressed me about Game of Thrones is how consistently they are able to get the characters from the novels perfectly right on the show. Sometimes this is through an impeccably cast actor who looks exactly like the character from the books, and sometimes it’s just the writing on the show (as well as the acting) that captures the essence of a character and translates it on the screen.
I was amazed watching the premiere this week to see how well the writers were able to introduce Oberyn to the viewers. In just a few short scenes, we were able to see into the heart of the man, learn about his past (as well as some more history of King’s Landing and Robert’s Rebellion), gain some insight into his motivations, and learn what he likes in the bedroom. It was truly a great introduction to a character that is certain to be a fan favorite (if he isn’t already after the first episode of the new season).
Game of Thrones has always done a wonderful job at introducing characters. From Ned Stark to Littlefinger to the Blackfish, it only takes a scene or two to truly establish who the character is and what motivates them. They actually did a pretty good job of introducing Oberyn before we even saw him on screen. It wasn’t even what was said about him as much as Tyrion’s reaction to Doran Martell’s skipping the wedding, and him sending Oberyn in his stead.
Bob: That is where I think the production of Game of Thrones excels over other shows. It’s so easy to be lazy and fall back to exposition as a crutch. Game of Thrones has a very difficult task of taking thousands of pages of exposition and making them interesting for a TV viewer. That’s no small task, and the writers continue to do it extremely well. They’ve become so good at it, in fact, that they don’t have to rely on naked ladies to make it interesting. Ok, so there was a bit of naked lady this week when Oberyn was introduced … but only a little!
Game of Thrones has a very difficult task of taking thousands of pages of exposition and making them interesting for a TV viewer.A lot of the character introductions (or at the very least character development) in the first season were centered around “sexpositon,” but it’s hard to argue that it didn’t work. It coined a term, got the show plenty of attention, and did the most important thing: introduced us to some characters in an interesting way.
To your point, the expert acting and writing is able to take a scene like Tyrion waiting for Doran and add nuance to it so that we learn something about the Dornish and Oberyn without even meeting the character yet.
Bob: Unfortunately, there aren’t all that many important characters left to introduce. Who knows if the likes of the Greyjoys, Arianne, or Jon Connington will be on the show at all. I certainly hope we get to see them, or the likes of them, as new characters are always a fun bit of excitement when they show up.
Ivey: Considering how the producers have talked about wrapping up the show after the seventh or eighth season, I think that the last “half” of the show will be an exercise of “What was cut” vs. “what was introduced.” We might get one new or two major characters out of Dorne (Doran in particular) and Young Griff/Connington, but that’s about it. But the show has also done a pretty good job at killing even more people than GRRM, so who knows?