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The Red Viper vs. The Mountain: A 'Game of Thrones' Pre-Fight Breakdown

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Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones.

It's a fight that could go down as one of the great OMG moments of Game of Thrones along with Ned Stark's beheading and the Battle of Blackwater. This Sunday, unstoppable force, The Red Viper, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) faces off with immovable object, The Mountain, Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson).

We've already had one of those OMG moments this season with the Purple Wedding, and we might even see another one when the Wildlings attack the wall in the following Sunday's episode, so it'll have to be spectacular to please a jaded Thrones audience.

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According to one of the showrunners, David Weiss, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "It's one of those fights that from the very beginning of the process of planning the show before Season 1 we knew would be a high point if done properly."

 

The Matchup

In the books, Oberyn's height isn't mentioned, so it's probably about average; the actor Pascal is 5-foot-11. Gregor is said to be nearly 8 feet tall and around 420 pounds; the actor Björnsson actually is 420 pounds, though only 6-foot-9.

Björnsson is probably as close as you can come to a real-life version of that character. Not only did he take third in last year's World's Strongest Man competition, he was also on the Icelandic national basketball team, so he moves much faster than you'd expect. Compare that with a recent Ask Me Anything on Reddit that Pascal did in which he said, "I actually get out of breath really easily," and confessed to a weakness for microwave pizza.

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In the books, the match is slightly less one-sided. Oberyn is known as The Red Viper because he fought a duel at the age of 16, and his opponent's wound — a single scratch — festered and he died. People suspected Oberyn had poisoned his blade. As punishment, he was sent to study with the Maesters, where, ironically, he learned even more about poisons.

While Gregor is huge, clad in thick plate mail, and wields a two-handed sword like a dagger (Oberyn's weapon of choice is a spear), there is a precedent for Tyrion's champions being faster and smarter than their well-armored adversaries. If it weren't for the fact that Oberyn is already a prince, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) might have to be worried that he was coming to take his place.

 

The Reasons

Gregor Clegane fights because he's insane and always has been. The Hound's (Rory McCann) facial scars are from when Gregor pushed his face into a brazier when he was a child. Gregor may have killed his father, sister, and two of his wives.

There are actually hints in the books that Gregor's rage is a result of a physical malady. He has constant headaches, which might be a sign of a glandular disorder (like Andre the Giant), a brain tumor, or even just some old head trauma.

Oberyn Martell volunteered to be Tyrion's champion in the trial by combat fight for vengeance. During the rebellion that put King Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne, Gregor killed the infant Prince Aegon and raped, then murdered, Princess Elia — Oberyn's nephew and sister.

Though it's common knowledge (the details in the books are especially gruesome, so whatever the Westeros version of TMZ is, of course it would spread those rumors to the public), the Lannisters have never admitted to the crimes. Oberyn is looking for payback and a confession.

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Who Will Win?

As part of his training for the scene, Pascal said, "I was put into some classes with a master of Wushu, an acrobatic martial art [...]. And this was a guy who actually did Shaolin movies with Jet Li very early in Jet Li's career and fought alongside him as his sidekick, so he was the real deal."

And Weiss said of Björnsson, "To see somebody who is 6-9 and moving the way he does in person is a surreal sight to behold."

So who wins? Game of Thrones fans.

Game of Thrones returns from its one-week break Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.