All men must fight for their lives on Game of Thrones. It's the hard reality of living in a world plagued with unhinged warriors and egotistical royals. Luckily for those of us at home, experiencing the great duels of Westeros from the comfort of our couches, danger has never looked so awesome. Whether we're relishing the efficacy of a no-nonsense killer or the showmanship of a brazen warrior, we know that when it comes to fight scenes, Game of Thrones is king.
As if we weren't already convinced, Sunday's night episode delivered one of the most astonishing, disgusting duels in series history. See where it ranks in our Top 10 below!
#10 Daario vs. The Champion of Meereen
What was at stake: The city of Meereen (and for Daario, Dany's haughty affection)
What we learned: Horses may be faster than men, but men are way smarter. Also, if you're the sort of person who thinks animals are fair game in battle, then a well-thrown dagger at your enemy's mount can end a fight before it even begins.
#9 Jaime Lannister vs. Brienne of Tarth
What was at stake: Jaime's freedom and Brienne's oath to Catelyn
What we learned: Shackles can really cramp a legendary fighter's style. Jaime may have been one of the best (if not the best) swordsman in Westeros, but the metal manacles proved too much of a handicap in this duel. Of course, credit where credit's due, Brienne is a beast, and she likely could've held her own against the notorious Kingslayer even without the shackles.
#8 Syrio Forel vs. Ser Meryn Trant and Lannister Guards
What was at stake: Syrio's life and Arya's freedom
What we learned: The first sword of Braavos stands by his pithy Braavosi sayings. He did not run from a fight, even when equipped with only a sad wooden sword, and he might continue to say "not today" to the God of Death — if certain fan theories are to be believed anyway.
Winner: Lannister guards (Probably. We don't see the end of the fight, but since Ser Meryn survived and never sounded the alarm, it's very, very unlikely Syrio won.)
#7 Bronn vs. Ser Vardis Egen
What was at stake: Tyrion's life (in the grand Westerosi tradition of trial by combat)
What we learned: Fight dirty and live to fight another day. While others may have scoffed at Bronn's decidedly un-knightly behavior, he ended up with the last laugh — and the worth-its-weight-in-gold gratitude of a Lannister.
#6 Brienne vs. Bear
What was at stake: Brienne's life
What we learned: Bears beat humans, especially humans equipped with nothing but a wooden sword. The devious Locke thought it would be amusing to pit a barely armed Brienne against a moody bear, but he forgot to factor in one moody lion. Jaime Lannister returned, and together the two fled the bear pit with not a second to spare.
#5 The Hound vs. The Mountain
What was at stake: Loras Tyrell's life
What we learned: Don't rile up Gregor "The Mountain That Rides" Clegane and his horse during a duel. (Loras purposefully rode a mare in heat to distract The Mountain's stallion.) After The Mountain decapitated his stallion, he turned on Loras. Luckily, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane stepped in, sparking a violent display of sibling rivalry only halted by King Robert himself.
#4 The Hound vs. Beric Dondarrion
What was at stake: Sandor "The Hound" Clegane's life
What we learned: Fire swords are all burn and no bite. The Lord of Light may have favored Beric Dondarrion, but he turned his mercy on The Hound during this trial by combat. And seriously, everyone in Westeros can't get enough of trials by combat. Why even have a traditional justice system when duking it out for justice is an option?
Winner: The Hound!
#3 Khal Drogo vs. Mago
What was at stake: Khal Drogo's leadership skills and the Dothraki's policy on POWs
What we learned: Don't ever mess with Drogo — on the battlefield, at least. Drogo proved his long hair was no fluke when he took on this rebellious rider in a decidedly one-sided fight. The true pity, of course, is that the wound Drogo let Mago inflict actually festered and led to Drogo's death.
#2 The Battle of Blackwater Bay
What was at stake: The Iron Throne
What we learned: War can be beautiful — green wildfire bursting into brilliance above a mirror-like bay — and it can also be hopelessly grim — bodies split in two and guts spilling out onto the ground. Game of Thrones' biggest battle scene yet was a smörgåsbord of grisly delights, featuring a sweetly heroic Tyrion, a fed-up Hound, and the surprise rescue party of Lord Tywin and Loras Tyrell.
Winner: King Joffrey — through no doing of his own, of course.
#1 The Mountain vs. The Red Viper
What was at stake: Tyrion's life
What we learned: Never, ever, ever taunt your enemies in the middle of a fight. Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, was actually besting the Mountain before he let vengeance for his murdered sister cloud his judgement. Right when Oberyn's victory against the giant Clegane warrior seemed assured — so much so that even Tyrion and Jaime couldn't hide their relief — the Mountain overcame his multiple stab wounds to smash Oberyn's face, sending the man's teeth flying. What followed was unbelievably gross, even by Game of Thrones' standards. The Mountain's fingers pushed into the Red Viper's eyes and... popped his face open like a balloon? Pulverized his head?! Whatever it was, it was ridiculous — and it left a pile of skin, blood and bones. Not to mention a thoroughly worried Tyrion.
Winner: The Mountain
Honorable Mentions: Brienne vs. Loras Tyrell, Brienne vs. three Northern soldiers, The Nights' Watch vs. The Night's Watch rebels, Ned Stark vs Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow vs. Qhorin Halfhand
Did we miss any of your favorite fights? Do you think another duel bested the Mountain's sickening kill? Let us know in the comments!