I really hated this scene. In the book, there are rumors he’s bisexual, and I wouldn’t want them to erase a character’s sexuality. But HBO used a highly sexualized scene to introduce two characters
- from a desert kingdom not based on the medieval European fantasy model
- whose citizens dress in a mix of costume pieces from various Asian and Middle Eastern cultures
- who aren’t white people
- who speak with indeterminate accents an English speaking audience is meant to recognize as vaguely “foreign.”
Sure, the sex and violence in the scene was in keeping with the show’s reputation for titillation, but in A Storm of Swords, Oberyn arrives in King’s Landing in a large procession, with banners and knights in an intimidating retinue. On Game of Thrones, he and his paramour Ellaria are introduced while they’re casually selecting whores in the pleasure house. Later, Oberyn stabs a man in the hand for insulting him. This is a far cry from riding up in an intimidating procession, with his reputation as an elegant and deadly fighter, as a prince of Dorne, The producers chose instead to sensationalize the sexuality of both Oberyn and Ellaria, an element that wasn’t present in the source material, in an attempt to show the audience how “exotic” they are.
And that’s gross as fuck.
As a huge fan of the books and specifically Oberyn Martell, I have to disagree. His introductory scene shows him to be a man who does what he wants and doesn’t care what people think about him. He doesn’t stab a man in the hand for insulting him, but when he calls his paramour, Ellaria Sand, a whore. Oberyn genuinely loves Ellaria but can’t marry her because of her low status as a bastard. He is naturally very protective of her and doesn’t like anyone insulting her honor. Not to mention that he follows the hand stabbing by out-talking Tyrion. Tyrion. A man who has spent the entire show wielding words with the same deadly precision as other characters wield swords. Oberyn Martell is on-screen for about 5 minutes and the audience knows that he is smart, capable, and has a sense of honor and justice that rivals Ned Stark.
So yes, the Martells are introduced as “vaguely foreign” and “from a a desert kingdom not based on the medieval European fantasy model” (which of course is right in line with the books) but it is far from the most important thing about them in this scene. As for the fact that they are introduced in a brothel, we’re talking about a show that coined the term “sexposition.” Their sexuality is not important. I liked Oberyn Martell when I read the books. I liked Oberyn Martell even more after this scene.