Features and Columns · TV

The Sand Snake: A ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Spoilers Discussion

By  · Published on July 14th, 2014

Obara Sand by Erik Wilkerson

I need my fix. Periodically throughout the Game of Thrones offseason, should you be interested in indulging me, I’m going to check in with a spoiler-intense look at some of the goings on behind the scenes of the show. Between casting, new locations added to the shoots and all kinds of rumors about what future books will contain (and heaven forbid another book get released), there seems to be plenty to talk about. Consider it a chance for all of us to keep the conversation going while I use it as therapy to help quell the sadness of not being on a weekly GoT podcast with Joanna and Dave. It’s something for everyone.

Well, not exactly everyone. If you’re not a reader of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, you may want to stop here. Passing beyond the next seal (a fortress held by Walter White Walker: Lord of Spoilers) puts you in grave danger of being spoiled. Everything is on the table: book spoilers, insider info, wild speculation and crackpot conspiracy theories. Consider yourself thoroughly warned.

Lord of Spoilers

The Sand Snake?

Did an Oscar nominee just land the role of your new favorite badass? Excellent question, Joanna Robinson. Over at Vanity Fair, one of my podcasting partners in crime has taken some rumor milling (that Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes is in talks to join the season 5 cast) and expanded with the help of her knowledge of the books. The most likely candidate for Castle-Hughes is one of The Sand Snakes, Prince Oberyn’s badass warrior daughters. They were listed in a leaked casting document that confirmed at least three of Oberyn’s eight daughters will appear in season five alongside Oberyn’s brother Prince Doran, Doran’s son Trystane and his bodyguard Areo Hotah.

Logical speculation is that Castle-Hughes, age 24, would fit as Obara Sand, the eldest and most terrifying daughter. However, the book often talks about Obara being the least fair of Oberyn’s brood. With Castle-Hughes having grown into a lovely young woman, it’s easy to see where she might not fit as the more brutish of the Snakes. However, the show has done a wonderful job of making the otherwise gorgeous Gwendoline Christie look like a hardened warrior for Brienne of Tarth. It’s not hard to imagine the excellent costume and make-up teams making Castle-Hughes look tough.

The other interesting part of the rumored casting is that Obara Sand, per the leaked casting doc, is set to have a major fight scene with a current regular on the show, one with whom she doesn’t cross paths in the books. We’ve talked about this on A Storm of Spoilers in the past: it’s likely that the show will be sending Jaime Lannister away from King’s Landing, just as he does in the books. But instead of calming the Riverlands, Jaime may instead go to Dorne with a companion (likely Bronn, who otherwise disappears in the books and isn’t likely to do the same in the show). The prevailing logic is that since Jaime and Cersei are on somewhat better terms at the end of season four as they were at the end of the third book (they had basically severed ties after Tywin’s death), Cersei will send Jaime to Dorne to retrieve their daughter Marcella. As a book reader, I often feel bound to the notion that the show must be faithful in order to be great. That’s not the case as we move forward. Let’s not pretend as if books four and five don’t have their share of problems. Sending Jaime to Dorne gives the show a wealth of interesting subplots and character dynamics. It’s basically taking the story that happens in the book – Arys Oakheart going to get Marcella, falling in love with Arianne Martell (Doran’s daughter – who isn’t listed yet, but will hopefully be cast) and it all ending with some blood – and raising the stakes. Plus, if they can keep the Arianne Martell seduction element, it adds a lot to the Jaime/Cersei thing. It feels like there has to be a way to separate the two so that Jaime isn’t interested in helping his sister when she really needs it later.

This all sounds fun to me. Far more fun than a Kingsmoot or a bunch of tin can-kicking in Meereen.

The other fun aside of the Keisha Castle-Hughes story. Per Joanna, Castle-Hughes changed her Twitter name to include the name “Stark” before promptly deleting it. It could all be silliness, but one wonders if Castle-Hughes might play Lyanna Stark in a flashback. We know that season five might include flashbacks for young Cersei, but those scenes don’t include any Lyanna Stark (at least not that I can reconcile). This part feels like conspiracy theorists wanting the “Jon Snow is the Lost Targaryen” theory to pan out. As we learned with the absence of Lady Stoneheart, Coldhands and Strong Belwas, the key is to not get your hopes up. Sometimes you think something from the books is a big deal, only to later be shown by the show that it didn’t really matter all that much.

Freeform Adaptation and Game of Thrones: The Movie

George R.R. Martin keeps talking about the potential of ending Game of Thrones with a movie (or two). According to the author, “the books continue to get bigger and bigger, and the show really can’t get much bigger.” He cites things like rising action, particularly at The Wall, as reasons why a blockbuster budget might be required. “I happen to know, someone has told me,” he explained recently. “Some source that I won’t name, that there will be some major battles coming up, and some dragon action, and some stuff with The Wall and White Walkers that looks to be kind of expensive. How are we gonna do that, I don’t know. But I’m not saying that they’re gonna happen, please don’t misquote me here. It’s not my idea, it’s just an idea that I’ve endorsed, let us say.”

At the recent TCA Summer Press Tour, HBO President of programming Michael Lombardo addressed the idea of a movie and talked about the notion that the show is almost caught up to Martin’s books: “We’re not off on our own in respect to at least next season. Obviously George is an integral part of the creative team, so next season every move is being choreographed very closely with him. Certainly after next year we’ll have to figure it out with George. The book’s not finished at this point, but we’re in conversations with him. We’re not concerned about it.”

It’s an almost unprecedented position to be in, whereas the source material is unfinished and an adaptation is steamrolling through the story. Not all of the Harry Potter books were finished by the time the first movie was out, but they were each released before their corresponding movie(s). It puts showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in an interesting position, one in which they seem to be pretty comfortable. Book readers might cringe at the thought of the unknown (and the modified), but the show is at a point where it will have to stand on its own. As I mentioned above, I’m of the opinion that they’ve already covered the best of the books (one through three) and they’ve done a bang-up job with the stuff that required the most faithful adaptation. Now they have a big sandbox in which they can play a little bit. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

As to the idea of a Game of Thrones movie, that sounds like an interesting idea. And it would give the writers much more of a budget to work with if HBO partnered with a large studio (most likely Warner Brothers, with whom they partnered on Sex and the City’s two films). It all feels too far off to be real, though. Let’s give the show another season or two and see how these last two books shake out before we start getting too hopeful about Jon Snow’s befuddled scowl at your local cineplex.

A Tale of Two T-Shirts

Via Twitter, my other podcasting partner in crime Dave Gonzales provided a sneak peek at our offseason t-shirt release, called “Everyone You Love Is On a Boat.” Having seen the entire design, I can’t stress enough how awesome this is going to be. Prepare yourself and your wallets, T-Shirt Is Coming:

On a boat! Psyched. pic.twitter.com/ripiKrsu1o

— Da7e Gonzales (@Da7e) July 3, 2014

And now, a request: I need every one of you to go buy this “Oberyn Martell is My Champion” t-shirt. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing mine around town and even though Austin projects itself as a “nerdy” town, I’m not getting the reaction I’d like. If I wear my Lost themed milk carton t-shirt from Glennz, I get baristas and cashiers around town saying, “Hey, nice t-shirt.” My amazing Oberyn tee: nothing. We need to fix this by flooding the market. Not just with this t-shirt, but with Game of Thrones. Have a friend who hasn’t seen the show? Let them borrow season one or your HBO Go login. Have a friend who likes words? Lend them the books.

Seriously, let’s get this shirt out there. I’m even wearing it right now, as I write this article:

Those Effects, Though

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s a visual effects breakdown for season four from Maclevision, showing off how wonderfully (and digitally) crafted this past season was:

And from Scanline VFX, a breakdown of the sequence in which Wights attack Meera and Jojen Reed. It’s very cool:

Have something to add? Lay it on me in the comments below. All season five (and beyond) speculation is welcome.

Illustration by Erik Wilkerson.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)