Tale of the Tape: The Red Viper vs. The Mountain
Standing for the Accused: Prince Oberyn Nymeros “The Red Viper” of House Martell
Hometown: Sunspear, Dorne
Family Motto: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Weight: 170 pounds (estimated)
Biography: The Red Viper is the younger brother of the Lord of Sunspear and Prince of Dorne, Doran Martell, and the late crown princess Elia Targaryen. He fostered at Sandstone in Dorne and later studied at the Citadel, where he forged six links of his maester’s chain at U of Citadel before, like many a trust-fund kid before him, dropping out several credits shy of graduation to find himself. He has traveled extensively in the Free Cities of the East, campaigning with Dirtbag Daario’s Second Sons before putting together his own sellsword company and pursuing his interest in poisons, eventually becoming one of Westeros’s foremost non-maester experts on the subject of lethal substances. He is an exceptionally libidinous pansexual man whose bastard daughters, collectively known as the “Sand Snakes,” are nearly as notorious as he is.
Personal Murder Highlight: Prince Oberyn gained the sobriquet “The Red Viper” at the tender age of 16 after a duel with Lord Edgar Yronwood. Oberyn was caught in flagrante delicto with Lord Edgar’s ladyfriend, and Lord Edgar demanded that his honor be satisfied with a duel. Oberyn’s young age and status as a member of the Dorne’s ruling family meant that the duel would be to first blood only. You know, like paintball. Both belligerents took cuts, the duel ended, and everything seemed fine until Lord Edgar dropped dead after his wound festered. The rumor that went around was that Oberyn applied a poison to his blade, which, considering that he then went on to become a known expert in poisons, is probably true.
Best Line From the Show: “Hello! Not you.” The “Hello” was Oberyn’s reaction upon encountering a young woman doing a split, except with her legs folded over her head, at Joffrey’s wedding, standard Westerosi wedding entertainment, really. The “Not you” was to Tyrion Lannister, who thought Oberyn was talking to him.
Standing for the Crown: Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane
Hometown: Clegane’s Keep, Westerlands
Family Motto: Unknown
Weight: 420 pounds (estimated)
Biography: Known as “The Mountain That Rides” for his immense size, Ser Gregor comes from a family of landed knights in the service of Lannisters of Casterly Rock. He is the older brother of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, whose face he roasted over a brazier at the age of 12 for playing with one of his toys without permission. He is basically an impersonal murder-machine plot device, a deus ex Mountain-a.
Personal Murder Highlight: Hard to choose! It would probably be easier to list people he hasn’t killed. He is rumored to have murdered his two wives, his younger sister, his father, and the numerous servants from Clegane’s Keep who disappear, never to be seen again. He killed his own horse during the Tourney of the Hand, this after killing Ser Hugh of the Vale with a lance through the neck. And, of course, Princess Elia and the Targaryen babes. He once killed one of his own men for snoring. You ride with Gregor Clegane, you best bring your nasal strips!
Best Line From the Show: “SWOOOORD!” —Moments before beheading his horse after losing a joust to Loras Tyrell.
Andy Greenwald: I don’t know much about the fight game, but I do know that you can’t have the main event without an undercard. Herewith, I present the fights scheduled ahead of Sunday’s Rumble in the Red Keep.
Hot Pie vs. Carbs
Can one pudgy baker’s assistant make it through 12 rounds of combat with his own willpower? Forget wolf biscuits; the only thing that’ll be cooking is excitement as this portly pugilist faces off against an enormous pile of freshly baked bread. Can he avoid eating all of the loaves before the bell rings? Crumbs will fly like ravens. Blood will run like gravy. But only a proper gravy, mind. Whatever you do, you cannot give up on the gravy.
Theon vs. Boredom
Thrill to the sight of Westeros’s least appealing human groveling in the corner of the ring, begging for mercy! When the crowd roars, will Theon shiver with fear or shake with terror? Regardless of how this match turns out, one thing is guaranteed: You will spend the length of it wishing another, better fight would hurry up and begin. (Note: This warrior is now fighting under the name “Reek.” Previously issued tickets will be honored.)
Jorah Mormont vs. Every Man in Essos
Seriously, what is up with every man in Essos? Is it the facial jewelry? All the turquoise? Because Jorah can work with that! Instead he has to stand there, day after day, while a certain someone makes eyes at every Tal, Diqq, and Hazak. I swear she was flirting with half the guys she crucified. It’s just not fair!
Cersei vs. The Empty Goblet
The fearsome Queen Regent has faced off against noblemen, knights, and even her own brother. But how will she fare when her closest companion appears before her, empty as a pocket in Flea Bottom? Expect at least five rounds of desperate, thirsty action — one for every stage of grief. First denial (“I’m not even thirsty!”), anger (“How could there not be any wine in you!”), bargaining (“Surely there’s a drop hidden in your stem?”), depression (“Nobody ever brings me wine”), and acceptance (“Clearly, Tyrion drank all the wine”). Then, in the sixth round, Cersei will send Jaime out to the package store for a couple of magnums and have everyone involved with this entire charade beheaded.
Superfan Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: High-Stakes Faceoffs!
The Fab Five
Stick ’em with the pointy end … because someone’s going to die if you don’t! And that someone might be you! Not eligible: giant battles, beheadings, or one-sided slaughter. Rules are rules, people. Even the rules I just made up.
If it feels like the future of the free world (both real and imagined) depends on the impending battle between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell … that’s because it sort of does! While Game of Thrones has delivered a surplus of epic battles, the stakes have never been higher than they’ll be this Sunday. For starters, the participants won’t be the only ones facing death: Tyrion’s life will also be on the line, and while demanding trial by combat may seem like his perpetual trump card, that’ll only actually be true if his champion prevails. And in addition to life and limb, plenty of less tangible things will hang in the balance, including: justice for the king (we know Tyrion didn’t kill that git Joffrey, but someone has to pay for that hilarious heinous bit of regicide, and our hero is the only current suspect); vengeance for House Martell (Oberyn is in King’s Landing for more than the orgies, you know); vindication for dumb, dead Ned (who hated the Mountain and wanted him dead); vindication for the Hound (who hates the Mountain and wants him dead); Dorne’s place on the Small Council (if Oberyn goes down, Tywin’s probably not handing that post over to Ellaria “I Know You Hate Whores, But I’m a Paramour, and That’s Way Classier” Sand); the most fucked-up episode of Family Feud this side of the Narrow Sea (Cersei, baby, breathe); and, most important of all, the claim to Coolest Nickname (I vow to rename the Grantland fantasy baseball league “The Red Vipers” or “The Mountains That Ride” to honor the winner).
The book reader in me is crying out in protest over propping up this bit of whole-cloth bullshit in any way, but I’ll gladly sacrifice my self-respect for these power rankings (obviously) and concede that this battle carried serious consequences in the universe the showrunners have created. Can you imagine if Jon Snow had lost to Karl? His blood brother would have remained a captive instead of escaping to continue his magical mystery tour, and worse, his sworn brothers would likely have met their demise, leaving Castle Black cripplingly short-handed and incapable of defending the Wall against Mance Rayder’s impending giant-ass fire and assault. And most alarmingly of all, Ghost and Summer would have been prisoners, used for god knows what nefarious means. What good is protecting the realm if the direwolves can’t roam free in it?
It feels like only yesterday that Jaime was accosting Ned outside Littlefinger’s brothel, ordering Ned’s men’s executions, and then killing his own Lannister soldier after that dummy’s rogue spear-thrust through Ned’s thigh. But it wasn’t yesterday! It was 30-plus episodes ago! And so very much of what’s happened since has stemmed from that impromptu confrontation. In the moment, this faceoff was about loyalty, honor, and family pride; ultimately, it altered these characters’ paths irrevocably. Ned’s injury clouded his judgment (Pycelle has the good shit), leaving him more susceptible to Littlefinger’s trickery than his usual naïveté would have. Meanwhile, Jaime’s city escape led him to battle Robb, be freed by Cat, link up with Brienne, and bear the brunt of more “Hand of the Kingslayer” puns than even the most foul twincest practitioner should have to suffer. And, worst of all, to cut his hair. Truly tragic.
Way back in Season 1, it briefly felt like Syrio’s Grade A sound bites were the most important thing on the line when Meryn Trant and the Kingsguard came for Arya during her dancing lesson. We quickly realized that this showdown would also serve as a verdict on the worth of the seemingly worthless Kingsguard in particular and water-dancing versus Westerosi swordplay in general. Now we know the true stakes, because a story without Arya, or with Arya in chains, would be no story at all. What do we say to the god of death, people? “Not today … ”
Don’t remember who Qotho is? Wondering, in turn, how a dude you’re failing to recall could possibly have participated in a fight that carried top-five stakes? I’m here to help, dear reader. When Jorah stopped Qotho, one of Khal Drogo’s three bloodriders, from storming into the tent to interrupt Mirri Maz Duur’s blood magic, he set the course for everything that followed, including the funeral pyre on which Dany cooked Mirri, Drogo, and … her three dragon eggs. He also proved the worth of those “metal dresses” the Dothraki like to mock. And boy did he look good doing it.
Far too many to list. Have you noticed people are constantly fighting on this show?
BONUS! Borderline Weird Mallory Rubin Game of Thrones Memorabilia of the Week:
Wedding Planning for Dummies, by Walder Frey
Counterpoint: Trial by Combat
John Lopez: From the New Westeros Times op-ed page:
In Trial by Combat, a Barbaric Perversion of Justice
The trial of Tyrion Lannister has enthralled all of Westeros under the wise guidance of King’s Hand Tywin Lannister. And although we’ve previously applauded in these vellum pages the disciplined objectivity Lord Tywin has brought to the endeavor — no mean feat considering the accused is his very own blood son — things took a turn for the ridiculous two weeks ago when Lord Tyrion invoked the archaic and, frankly, preposterous article of Trial by Combat.
Lord Tyrion certainly didn’t help his cause by going off on his pathos-laden rant; if anything, it revealed the elaborate web of self-delusion into which this deeply disturbed mind has wrapped itself. (Tyrion apparently believed that a self-acknowledged prostitute had actually fallen in love with him. Please.) And reports have it that this isn’t the first time Lord Tyrion has invoked Trial by Combat. So it would be easy to write this off as just another abuse of the system by a deranged dwarf, but this is not merely a dwarf-centric issue. For every regicidal megalomaniac who melodramatically rolls his eyes and spews venom in a court of law, there are many more well-adjusted little people who entertain us with their antics in King’s Landing’s highly acclaimed imp burlesque shows.
No, the real issue here is the Trial by Combat. It’s high time the King’s Hand seriously considered doing away with this outdated relic of Westerosi law. Perhaps it served its purpose when Westeros was a land divided along sectarian lines. There was no single, unified authority to appeal to, and jurisprudence by force of arms made a certain instinctive sense. But if we are ever to be one Westeros, united by our love of and loyalty to the Lannister/Baratheon dynasty, Westeros needs to start accepting proper procedure. And if one of Tyrion’s judges, Lord Oberyn Martell, has taken up the cause of his champion, then that just makes even more a mockery of our justice system.
Some may defend Trial by Combat by invoking the false specter of corruption in our legal system. Granted, those individuals have an odd habit of disappearing altogether. Nonetheless, we say to them: At least it’s a legal system. And what some label “bribery” we simply call “the free market of justice.” While we don’t deny the entertainment of watching two men battle each other to the death, there is a time and place for that: coronation days, victory celebrations, Thursday matinees. The courtroom, however, must not be a sandpit. We should count ourselves gifted to have magistrates in the vein of the wise, impartial Lord Tywin. We should trust ourselves to their hands, even if it means occasionally sacrificing the indisputable joys of blood sport.
Bros Till the End
“So … ”
” … Yeah.”
“Bros before death blows, Bronndog?”
“You crazy? That guy’s hooooge!”
“I could pay you?”
“Nah, I’m good! Check out my doeskin gloves.”
“Pay you a lot?”
“Dude, he’ll kill me! You see that sword? What do you want me to do, die?”
“But he’s gonna kill me with it! So dead!”
“I know! It sucks!”
“It super sucks.”
“Good luck with everything. I mean that.”
“Pay you a lot a lot?
“Doeskin, though. I’m good.”
“I don’t want to die. Real talk.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
“The doeskin’s pretty nice. Respect.”