Want to write fic, but not totally clear on the New York details? Fear not, my friends; here’s the relevant 411.
New York City consists of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn (hi Steve!), the Bronx, Queens (hi Peter!), and Staten Island.
Manhattan is the long skinny island between New Jersey and Brooklyn. It’s the heart of NYC and in fact was all of NYC until 1898 - the others were separate cities until then. People in the outer boroughs still sometimes refer to Manhattan as “the city.” But you don’t really have to worry about the other boroughs at all for fic purposes, because everything on the show takes place in Manhattan.
Hell’s Kitchen is a neighborhood in Manhattan. It is not a separate borough, or city, or suburb. It’s not even a very big neighborhood. It’s located on the west side of the island, in Midtown, and stretches north-south from either 59th or 55th Street (depending on who you ask) to 34th Street and east-west from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. (See the red rectangle on the map below.). That’s about one square mile. It’s small.
Columbia University is also in Manhattan, in a neighborhood called Morningside Heights. It’s also on the west side, about three miles from Hell’s Kitchen (the avocado on the map), just south of Harlem. It’s about a 30 minute trip by subway.
So, although I said I wasn’t going to watch this season - and I still haven’t watched the first ep - a friend of mine (show-only person, FWIW) decided to recap episode 1 for me. Well, he got to the moment Doran was murdered by Ellaria/the Sand Snakes … and I honestly thought he was joking. It sounded so, incredibly, obnoxiously stupid that I couldn’t believe this was a real recap. Even people who liked Season 5 were, at best, tepid about the Sand Snakes, and most everyone I saw praised Alexander Siddig in his (admittedly brief) portrayal of Doran. Why would eliminating one of the few largely uncontestably good parts of Season 5’s Dorne subplot and increasing the role of characters hardly well-received by fans make any sense? Why bring Doran back at all?
Here’s the real problem I have. Dorne in the show is pointless. It doesn’t simply have a bad story; it lacks any cohesive narrative. Doran is reduced from a thoughtful, tragic, overly cautious prince into a barely noteworthy side character without purpose or drive. The Sand Snakes and Ellaria’s motivations are wildly unclear: what do they gain from killing the Prince of Dorne and his heir? The bastard daughters of Oberyn can’t inherit even in permissive Dorne, and nothing demonstrated in the show suggests they represent a larger movement of Dornish restlessness and anti-crown nationalism. They represent only personal vengeance - but, for some reason, decided to wait the entirety of Season 5 to claim that vengeance against Doran (whose antagonism toward them was limited to briefly jailing them for attempting to kidnap and/or kill the princess betrothed to his son - a justified reaction, I think). I’m not saying the Sand Snakes in the book are great characters - but at least they are characters whose motivations are rational, if simple.
I think the show made a gross error in focusing on these three Sand Snakes and Ellaria over Arianne. With Arianne, you get both the sensuality that, let’s face it, people in part expect from GoT, while at the same time having a politically active, politically meaningful character. Arianne is the heiress of Dorne; she will inherit when Doran dies. Arianne is a real means of change: Doran knows that she will be a more aggressive Princess of Dorne than he has been a Prince, and Dornishmen can reasonably rally and look to her as someone who could fulfill their nationalist desires and feelings of vengeance.
So I’m suggesting what I think would have made a more sensible Season 5 plot for Dorne - making something that works for show-watchers while accurately (or at least more accurately) conveying the spirit of Dorne in AFFC/ADWD.
Scene 1: Arianne seduces Arys Oakheart - introduces Arianne as the heiress of Dorne, gets Dornish history exposition, shows Arianne as both sexual and politically ambitious, sets up eventual Queenmaker plot.
Scene 2: Doran watches Trystane teach Myrcella how to play cyvasse. Nice appeal to book readers, demonstrates that Myrcella is both keenly intelligent and a potential player, shows Doran as someone who watches politics rather than engages in it. It would be cute if, at the end of the scene, Myrcella surprisingly beats Trystane - makes her eventual willingness to be crowned Queen a little more sensible if she’s shown to have ambitions of her own.
Scene 3: Jaime, the envoy from the Iron Throne (taking the Balon Swann role), brings the skull of Gregor Clegane (or, if that’s confusing, Oberyn’s bones). Arianne takes the Tyene/Nymeria role - saying he didn’t die hard enough, seeking vengeance for Oberyn. Doran is more cautious, says this will bring a lasting peace.
Scene 4: Doran and Arianne. Arianne airs her concerns that Jaime will attempt to break the Trystane-Myrcella betrothal and that the Iron Throne will turn antagonistic toward them in the wake of Oberyn’s death. Doran chides her for being too eager to start war. Arianne reminds him that all Dorne is eager for war since they’ve kept out of the War of the Five Kings. No real resolution here, but shows the tugging political divide: Doran knows that Dorne doesn’t have the strength to stand against the weight of the Seven Kingdoms, but Arianne represents the bloodthirsty vengeance made so popular in Oberyn.
Scene 5: Myrcella is brought by Arys Oakheart to Arianne, somewhere not the Water Gardens/Sunspear. Myrcella asks what’s happening. Arianne tells her that her rights are being usurped by Tommen - that in Dorne, the eldest rules whether male or female, and that as the middle child of Robert and Cersei she should now be queen. She, Arianne, offers to make her the queen she is by rights and wed her to Trystane. Myrcella agrees, and the season ends with Arianne placing a crown on her head.
This isn’t perfect, obviously, but it is better, IMO, than what we got. Then you could have a real war of the queens: Sansa in the North, Cersei and Margaery in King’s Landing, and Myrcella and Arianne in Dorne. And wouldn’t it be amusing for Cersei that, teased as she was by the “younger more beautiful queen”, she now faces her own daughter usurping her?