[SPOILERS ahead for those not caught up on Game of Thrones.]
It looks like we have waved goodbye to another famous face on HBO's Game of Thrones, as Indira Varma has confirmed that she will not return to the show for the rest of season 7 (and beyond).
The third episode of the current run, "The Queen's Justice", saw the venomous Queen Cersei Lannister strike down two of her greatest enemies in one fell swoop. We memorably said goodbye to House Tyrell and Dame Diana Rigg's Olenna Tyrell, but it now looks like was also waved off Varma with the remains of House Martell. As the illegitimate lover of Oberyn Martell, Sand arrived in King's Landing during season 4, so it seems only apt that she end her days there too.
"The Queen's Justice" had Cersei poison Sand's daughter Tyene Sand and promise a chained Ellaria that she would spend the rest of her days watching her daughter rot before her eyes. Speaking to EW, Varma said that there just isn't enough room for so many characters as the show winds to an end and that Ellaria's time on the show is definitely over:
"[Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] called me, but I kind of knew already. Obviously there’s lots of trimming going on. It’s all coming to a head and you have to get rid of less important characters that the audience hasn’t had the chance to invest in as much. So I was expecting it. I wasn’t heartbroken. And I was like, “As long as I die on screen…” and they were like “Yeah!” But of course I don’t die on screen. I stay alive, I’m just not going to reappear. I think it’s really clever."
While Sand may indeed live for many months or years in her new home at the Red Keep, fans of the "Ice and Fire" epic will never get to see Ellaria take her last breath. In a show that is so quick to give us a grisly goodbye, Sand's fate is altogether more harrowing. Varma herself sees Sand's demise as a more poignant way to go, especially if you compare it to the dramatic way in which Oberyn bowed out during "The Viper and the Mountain" back in season 4:
"It’s really dark. What I love about this scene is you’re reading it and from one sentence to the next you don’t know what’s going to happen — how Cersei is going to treat her victim. I just thought the delivery of that information was so clever. Especially since the kiss comes before the information."
While Ellaria Sand is still alive in George R.R. Martin's books, expect a similar fate to befall the character at some point. Although Ellaria is only briefly featured in two of Martin's novels, she is shown as a caring mother who is dead against taking revenge on the Lannisters. Benioff and Weiss reinvented the character for TV and turned Varma's version into a full-blown antagonist. Sand's misfortune is just another reason why "The Queen's Justice" was one of the best Game of Thrones episodes ever, arguably.
Game of Thrones continues with ‘The Spoils of War’ next Sunday @9pm on HBO.