Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 2, “Stormborn.”
As Game of Thrones’ “Stormborn” episode came to an end, so did the road for two of the three Dornish women known as the Sand Snakes. Nymeria and Obara Sand, facing off against Hot Euron Greyjoy in an annoyingly blurry combat sequence, were murdered with their own weapons. It was a brutal end for two brutally boring characters.
Game of Thrones introduced the Sand Snakes along with a widely hated plot revolving around Dorne. In the books, Oberyn Martell has eight bastard daughters. The show pared them down into three characters who remained hopelessly one-dimensional throughout their entire run. Obara, Nym, and Tyene are a bloodthirsty trio who have no backstory or personal characteristics beyond “motivated by revenge.” Tyene’s mother, Ellaria Sand, is also drawn simply, but Ellaria is in mourning. Over the course of the show, her character has transformed from a happy woman in love to a bitter, vengeful widow with nothing to lose. Viewers understand exactly why she wants to pull the world down around her. Maybe they even sympathize.
The Sand Snakes, by comparison, are introduced after Oberyn’s death. Their love for their father is understandable, but their desire for murder really defines them. We don’t even know how deep their relationships with Oberyn went. Their commitment to their cause comes down to some laughably clichéd banter. “You must choose,” Ellaria says. “Doran’s way and peace. Or my way, and war.” (Ellaria’s way, of course, means murdering Myrcella, the innocent daughter of Cersei and Jamie Lannister. The sitting prince, Doran, is much less into the idea of slaughtering children.)
Tyene’s agreement is more out of devotion to her mother, while Nym decides she’s in with a nod as weak as the Dorne plotline. Obara shares an anecdote from her childhood, punctuated with a bull’s-eye spear-toss into a man’s bare skull. “I made my choice long ago,” she concludes, communicating that she… loves violence? I guess? It doesn’t help that Keisha Castle-Hughes, the actress who plays Obara, delivers the line with a flat affect that makes her unconvincing even at this simple, undeveloped role.
The Sand Snakes talk a big game, but whenever they actually jump into action, they’re incapacitated with embarrassing ease. When Jamie and Bronn sneak into Dorne to save Myrcella, the Sand Snakes show up to throw down. After a brief scuffle, Nym tries to haul Myrcella away, and the rest give chase, only for the entire group to be surrounded and stopped by Dornish guards. Tyene even saves Bronn’s life later by giving him the antidote to the poison coursing through his veins, effectively undoing the only possible moment of consequence from the fight.
In season 6, their murder of Dornish prince Trystane is equally unimpressive. While Trystane prepares to face off against Nym, Obara stabs him from behind. It’s a cheap move, made only momentarily worthwhile by Nym’s quip: “You’re a greedy bitch, you know that?”
And the trio’s best moment? It’s actually a scene-stealing moment by Olenna Tyrell. In under a minute, Olenna dresses down all three girls, dubbing Obara “Barbara,” then remarking that she looks like “an angry little boy.” Nym is shut down almost instantly with a solid “Do shut up.” Tyene never even gets a word out. They’re best used as punchlines. Put up against a rich presence like Olenna, a character we’ve seen scheming, lying, and losing, the Sand Snakes’ lack of any real rhyme or reason is painfully obvious. They’re never given the chance to develop beyond their preference for the signature weapons they wield. Their end-game is unknown, so it’s hard to be invested in their futures.
And so when the Sand Snakes face off against Euron, it’s clear that this is the end. Obara and Nym put up a decent fight before Euron slaughters them unceremoniously and mounts them on the ship’s mast. The last surviving Snake, Tyene, fails to defend Ellaria, and they’re carted off together. What awaits them? Cersei, no doubt. Given Ellaria’s murder of Myrcella, the pair are likely in for a long, torturous end.
Tyene’s death is inevitable, but perhaps she’ll finally achieve something her sisters never did: an on-screen role worthy of viewers’ time — even if it’s only to further Cersei’s far more fascinating story.