Did The Red Viper Cheat In His Duel With The Mountain On Game Of Thrones?

Did The Red Viper Cheat In His Duel With The Mountain On Game Of Thrones?

By now you’ve all seen this week’s Game Of Thrones episode and squealed your way through the climactic trial by combat. In one corner was Oberyn “Red Viper” Martell; the vengeance-seeking prince of Dorne and Westeros’ leading Inigo Montoya impersonator. In the other, Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane; a horse-bothering maniac of Hodor-dwarfing proportions. We all know how the battle went down (most of us are still trying to recover) — but how fair of a fight was it? Evidence suggests that one combatant had a secretive and extremely dodgy advantage…

[Warning: Book 3/Season 4 spoilers follow!]

The horrendously gruesome dispatching of Oberyn Martell at the meaty hands of Ser Gregor has thrown many fans into a traumatised, vegetative heap. Not since the Red Wedding has the show been this relentlessly cruel. Oberyn was likeable, heroic, progressive and had the human right of vengeance on his side. It’s little wonder that so many fans have taken to Twitter to vent their outrage.

And yet, a closer look at the lead-up to the battle paints a darker picture of the prince. In gamer terms, he was totally using an exploit to steal an undeserved victory; namely poison. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Throughout Season 4, the show has repeatedly alluded to Oberyn’s proficiency with the “woman’s weapon”. He was quizzed at Tyrion’s trial over his extensive knowledge of poisons and has the rather unsubtle nickname of ‘Red Viper’.

Then, there was this suspicious cutaway to Oberyn’s squire “polishing” his spear before the trial by combat:

It seems extremely likely that Oberyn smeared his blade with poison, unbeknownst to his enemy. Which just ain’t cricket.

If you recall, the Mountain was getting the better of Oberyn in the initial stages of the fight, knocking him down several times and even breaking one of his spears. Then, the rage kind of went out of him. Could the poison have slowed Gregor down after that initial superficial scratch? The answer is “totes”.

In other words, the Red Viper had an unfair advantage in a formal duel, which makes him a bit of a dick in my opinion. You could almost say he got his just desserts. (Smashed cantaloupe with strawberry sauce, perhaps?)

If you’re a book reader, you already know the answer to all this conjecture, but keep in mind that the show often deviates from the source material. (Jorah and Daenerys never even got to share a kiss, for instance.) That said, I think the above clues clearly point towards the Red Viper still using poison on the show, albeit in a more subtle manner.

If you’re still not convinced, there’s also this choice quote from the episode’s director Alex Graves:

You’ve been hearing throughout the season that Oberyn is a good fighter. So the first thing you’ve got to establish — especially if he’s fighting The Mountain, who has killed anyone he’s ever fought — is “Oh, I’ve never seen anything like this guy on the show.” On Game of Thrones it’s usually “Draw my sword, cut him in half, blood, guts and its over.” This was artistry — with poison.

So that settles it then. The Mountain done got nerfed! Whether he survived the duel or not, there are some extremely painful times ahead. As for Oberyn, well, the outcome proves that cheaters never prosper.

(Also, I promise to stop doing these self-indulgent GoT posts as soon as the season ends. Probably.)


  • He may or may not have used poison, but in any case he didn’t go into it as a duel, he went to kill The Mountain, the fact that it was a duel was completely irrelevant to him. So in my mind it really doesn’t matter.

    • That, and I’m pretty sure Dornish consider poison a weapon, not a cheat. Really, if it was a matter of “the gods decide”, which is the whole point of the duel, ‘cheating’ shouldn’t even be a concept that applies. If the gods want to allow someone to get poisoned, totally their call. =p

  • Really the poison isn’t what would have affected Oberyn’s victory since it wasn’t fast-acting, the poison was just to ensure the Mountain died regardless.

    Besides, poison is still a weapon even if the Westerosi consider it a woman’s. The Dornish don’t conform to these outmoded gender role perceptions.

  • Does it even matter? Guy’s head got smashed into the ground….

    Whatever his motivations to act as the combatant, it’s irrelevant whether poison isn’t a legitimate weapon because he died anyway.

    • Would you give Lance Armstrong a pass is he only came second at all those Tour de France races?

      • Far fewer people are mad at Jan Ullrich, although I never asked any Germans what they thought of him and they’d probably be the maddest about it.

      • hahaha…”if he only came second” – yeah, so if you didn’t win the whole race, you must be a a loser!?!

        Anyway, Oberyn’s fighting for revenge, not personal glory. so yeah, I’d give Oberyn a pass (even though he came second…)

    • It matters because if oberyn hadn’t The Mountain would still be alive and thatis pretty important don’t you think. I hate oberyn because of this. And the poison itself was horrible. I always wished the red viper had died of manticore venom himself(and Ser Gregor Clegane hadn’t of coure. [email protected] the most important thing). Im glad someone agrees oberyn wasnt ok doing this as everyone accept me seems to like the red snake.

        • You don’t find out Gregor was the other champion until the same episode that Oberyn became Tyrion’s. All it states that Oberyn and Gregor fought which was going to happen from the start of the season.

          • Because Oberyn said it was going to. Constantly. He was extremely open about his reasons for being there.

          • Sure he did. He wants to kill his sisters killer but knowing the battle is a spoiler as it is the end of the season. Its like I tell you what happen in breaking bad when you are watching it halfway. Sure it is somehow expected but it is spoiler regardless.

          • But it was expected to happen. It doesn’t matter what part or the season it is lol not to mention this is the 3rd last episode haha not the final one. You knew they would fight. It was a given. Just by hearing him talk. You would just expect it to be at the end. Yet it wasnt even at the end lol

        • That scene was in the very first trailer, Oberyn made his intention of Vengeance against Gregor clear in his very first scene, becoming champion happened two weeks ago, and the outcome is still kept hidden.

  • Whether he did or he didn’t, it doesn’t matter. He was known for using poisons in battle so why wouldn’t anyone expect it? Also he was at a clear disadvantage not wearing any armour.

    • Not wearing armour when dueling on behalf of Tyrion seems to be a common theme. As are knights from Westeros valuing armour while others do not.

    • What good would armour have done? The Mountain was using a sword bigger than Oberyn was and was freakishly strong, armour wouldn’t have offered much protection but would have slowed him down and foiled his winning strategy (more than gloating whilst in grab distance).

    • Oberyn did wear armor, but it was light armor, which made him faster and more dextrous. Gregor, being as much of a brute as he was, wore heavy armor.

      If Oberyn hadn’t been so caught up in his revenge against the Mountain, he would’ve won easily. All it would’ve taken was a spear to the face. BOOM. He gets his revenge, and Tyrion is saved.

      But what do we take from all of this? Even in death, the Red Viper’s bite is just as potent as in life.

  • It’s not cheating, Oberyn still had to wield the poisoned spear against The Mountain. Also the Mad King’s champion against Rickard Stark was wildfire that sets a pretty low bar.

  • Smashing a spear doesn’t slow someone down. Stabbing them with a spear tip invariably does. One thing that really irks me about many medieval shows, fantasy or not, is that the sword is presented as a superior weapon. Yet it’s like modern action and it’s obsession with handguns. Swords were almost always a sidearm. Something easy to carry alongside a bigger and more powerful weapon. Spears were for most of human history, until well after the advent of gunpowder the most common in this category.

    The assumption a lot of people make is that they’re weak because they only have a little blade, and that they are slow, but a thick shafted spear is nearly impossible to break, and is much faster AND longer than a sword. It’s more capable of penetrating armour and better for use in formation tactics … plus it can be effectively thrown in a pinch. Most times that true spears were replaced on the battlefield, it was with pikes, or lances … or other forms of sticks with sharp ends.

    I took the battle in this light. It wasn’t cheating, it was realistic. Use a principle weapon against a side arm in a skilled manner and you will more often than not prevail … go on a monologue before your victory and you will not.

    Also; you say that the Mountain never lost in combat … but didn’t he lose a duel at the start of the series, against a lance?

    A historical note; spears were often the domain of bigger and more skilled men. They allowed them to keep opponents at a distance. Allow someone to get close and grapple you, particularly in a fight involving multiple people and you lose your size advantage.

    • Well that was a Joust, not really “combat” Also, it’s a fictional universe, so for all we know swords in Westeros could be more popular, effective or useful depending on cultural, material or constructive reasons. I don’t think GoT ever puts sword as a ‘more effective weapon’ In fact the Unsullied are supposed to be amongst the greatest warriors in the land and they all use spears in combat. More to the point, who cares, it’s just fun to watch, it wouldn’t have the same effect if they both had spears.

    • I disagree, especially on the speed of a spear. It’s situational. A spear gives you range, but if you don’t stab somebody, how do you kill them with a spear? If you swing a spear vs somebody with a sword, there’s a very good chance that they could 1) Smash the spear with their sword, or 2) Parry/dodge/grab(you can’t typically grab a sword since it’s sharp from tip to hilt) the spear since the more durable you make the spear(metal/thickness), the slower and more unwieldy it becomes( 1) vs 2) )… making the attacks more telegraphed. Also, the dangerous part of a spear is at its end… what happens if the person you are fighting charges you? If you don’t stab them, there’s a very big deadzone inside of the pointy bit of a spear.

      This is assuming 1v1. And of course either weapon could still be effective… skill of fighters and chance. In a battlefield scenario you have multiple spears so the range aspect is great… you can’t exactly pay attention to 5 spears at once. But then again, there’s the charge(with a shield?) and deadzone aspect. The Roman empire conquered how many lands with their 1h sword & boards?

      Also monologuing is fine, that only gets ppl killed in fiction. Being a stupid fighter is not. Oberyn should have incapacitated him(arms/legs/maybe mouth) but he didn’t.

      • With all due respect, your comment about the Roman empire actually scores one for the opposition. Roman soldiers used a heavy spear usually called a footman’s lance as their primary weapon and a gladius for a side arm. They would advance with the front two ranks of spears held forward and the third angled up. This is called the phalanx formation, and won battles for the Roman empire for a good long time.

        Spears are far superior for defending against a charge. Historically, defense against charges was with spears or pikes (hence why in strategy games pikemen win against cavalry). In the case of pikes which were often greater than 2 meters in length, 2-3 ranks of pikemen would set the butt of the pike against the inner arch of their foot, angling the pike towards the enemy, and they would basically impale themselves on the pikes or spears.

        Smashing a spear with a sword is easier said than done. Spears were often made from hardwood, which is almost as hard as steel, while being lighter and thicker in the case of a spear haft. Telegraphing moves… it’s actually the other way around. A broadsword relies on weight as much as edge for dealing damage. And a sword the size of Clegane’s requires a lot of momentum to get moving. Which means a lot of telegraphing. As for the dangerous end of a spear being the end. You obviously have never been smacked with a wooden stick before. It hurts. Enough to stun someone to bring the pointy end to bear.

      • Breaking spear shafts with edged weapons and grabbing weapons are both largely Hollywood inventions or an exaggeration of historic texts. Grabbing a spear is extremely difficult when it’s being handled by a competent wielder. It’s just super difficult, and anyone who disagrees should give it a try.

    • Gregor’s jousting loss was also the result of underhanded tactics. Sir Lauris had ridden a mare that was in heat for his tilts, which is why the Mountain chopped his horse’s head off after being dismounted – Gregor’s horse was unwieldy to keep control of as a result of smelling the female horse coming at him pumping out her “Put your babies inside me, nature demands it” pheromones, giving the Knight of Flowers a substantial advantage. It was only barely conveyed in the show, whereas the book went into it a bit more.

  • There is no way people could have gotten the poisoned bit by a half second clip of a cleaning of the weapon. There is nothing in the fight to indicate the Mountain was poisoned plus the first spear is broken and never penetrates the mountain. Plus it is completely not needed to the plot given the damage the Viper dished out. The only way people got this was from the book.

    • There were other hints. Arya had a big conversation with the Hound about whether poison is a worthy weapon in the very same episode. Foreshadowing perhaps?

  • How can you speculate about events (though fictitious) that have already been explained in other media? Reading the books can’t be considered spoiler country, if anything it’s finding a more detailed and accurate account of events (though fictitious) than you would otherwise be exposed to through ‘mainstream’ media (things other stupid people have decided you will like).

    I’m sick of people that watch the show and complain about ‘spoilers’ from people that have read the novels. They are not spoilers, they are commonly known material that has only recently been translated onto film for people, who for some reason are happy to watch the TV show knowing there is much more to be had, but refuse to indulge in the written material for whatever mind boggling reason.

    Oberyn is the Red Viper. He is a master of poisons and uses them. There is no cheating when the whole system is rigged. The Mountain deserves worse, and gets it.

    • I speculate for two reasons:

      1. Not everyone has read the books, which is totally fine. This article points out something interesting that they may have missed.

      2. The show has changed and/or omitted book content on numerous occasions. So here’s an article pointing out the subtle clues which indicate the poison plot is intact.

      Whether you’re a book reader or TV viewer, there’s plenty of reason to speculate about the episode.

    • This! I’m sick of not being able to discuss events in the books because of spoilers. For god sakes, the books have been put for many years now and should be considered public knowledge. Majority of people already knew about the major plot points of the harry potter Movies before they were released because of the books but nobody classed them as spoilers. It really upsets me that people can’t even read a god damn book these days and instead need the information fed directly into their heads via tv.

      • Agreed. The books have been out for what, 15 years or so? Ok fine – they made a show about it and some people are experiencing it for the first time – that’s fine, but don’t cry if people that have read it previously many MANY years ago want to talk about what happens next. May as well have a cry if i mention that the stay puft man becomes possessed in ghost-busters and gets exploded… sorry! spoiled that….
        I am, however, going to be upset when the book becomes spoiled by the content of the show!

        Its a sad day when a show based on an award wining book halfway through becomes the book based on the award wining show 😐 Madness…
        Anyone know if this has happened before?

        • If the books have been out for 15 years, then there’s been plenty of time to talk about ‘what happens next’ without spoiling it for the masses that are only just experiencing it by way of the show.

  • As an avid reader of fantasy in all its various and wondrous forms, I tried the first book in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones sequence, I didn’t enjoy it and could only barely finish it. The TV series is not the books, it’s a different medium that flows differently and should be treated as such.

    “This! I’m sick of not being able to discuss events in the books because of spoilers. For god sakes, the books have been put for many years now and should be considered public knowledge. Majority of people already knew about the major plot points of the harry potter Movies before they were released because of the books but nobody classed them as spoilers. It really upsets me that people can’t even read a god damn book these days and instead need the information fed directly into their heads via tv.”

    Pretentious much. Not everyone reads fantasy but can still like fantasy shows. I’m damn sick of hearing people say, “Hey just read the books they’re better”. If people wanted to read the books they bloody well would. Martin’s style of writing is not for everyone.

    This was a good article and Chris, thank you for your insights, I figured poison would have been used somewhere in the fight after all the talk of poison so far in the series leading up to the duel. If only Oberyn could have had his head in the moment, he would have had his sister’s killer defeated and could have got on with his life.

    • As an avid reader of fantasy in all its various and wondrous forms, I tried the first book in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones sequence, I didn’t enjoy it and could only barely finish it.

      What fantasy novels have you read, because A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most accessible modern sagas. It’s not impenetrable like certain works of Tolkien, Eddison or Alexander. If you couldn’t finish A Game of Thrones, I’m not sure what you’d be able to tolerate.

  • I’m sorry, but the Mountain. Had. To. Die. He raped and murdered Ellia and murdered her child. He and his men brutally raped a 13 year old girl at an inn. He made servants disappear in his keep. He was even shown on the tv show to be mercilessly executing prisoners.

    Oberyn was going to get justice/revenge no matter what. Gregore was an abomination. Good riddance.

    • I’m sorry, but the Mountain. Had. To. Die.

      Westeros isn’t a just universe. The scumbags more often than not, win which is why Robb Stark was brutally murdered while Roose Bolton and Walder Frey are toasting margaritas.

  • “Which just ain’t cricket.”

    Of course not. This, unlike cricket, was exciting and worth watching.

  • The poison didn`t bring him any advantage, cause it worked so slow that the mountain suffered from it a long time after the fight. Oberyn used it to make sure, that Gregor wouldn`t survive at all…no matter if he wins or not!
    I call it justice and morality!

  • I know this posting I’m doing is well after the fact, but I just acquired “The World of Ice & Fire – The Untold History of Westeros & The Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin and I was reading about the Dornish and did a search today and came upon your blog. I concur with aphillios’ comment that it’s pretty irrelevant that Oberyn used poison or that he’s a cheater. First off, it’s a fight to the death, so who wouldn’t take an extra advantage by using the so called woman’s weapon and by now, we all know that he did use poison. Second off, it’s not like The Mountain was fighting fair. As we view fair fights today, you can say the use of poison evened the scales of combat between the two since The Mountain out weighed Prince Oberyn by more than 100 pounds. If this was fair and in today’s world, this fight would have never happened because these two men are clearly in two different weight classes. My point is this, if you say using poison is a dick move, so is fighting someone well out of one’s weight class, right? So if anything, The Mountain was a dick in every fight that he out weighed the other combatant. You do what you got to do if you want to survive. After all, didn’t the Europeans that migrated to America use poison in the form of small pox infected blankets to get rid of the Native American populations to steal more land? Now that’s a real dick move because it’s reality. Just saying.

    • I thought he was called Viper because of his fighting style – death by many cuts, quick.

      He absolutely should have killed The Mountain and it would have been one of the most one-sided fights I have ever seen lol. The Mountain is a big sack..

      And at no point was The Mountain getting the upper hand. Did The Viper look anything other than extremely comfortable and smiley up until his death?

      The fans of the show seem to all think big is better but sometimes big is too big. The Mountain is TOO big, too slow, nowhere near fit or skilled enough…Breinne and The Hound and especially Oberyn would win in any fight where they have room to move about and evade.

  • I thought he was called Viper because of his fighting style – death by many cuts, quick.

    He absolutely should have killed The Mountain and it would have been one of the most one-sided fights I have ever seen lol. The Mountain is a big, slow bag of shit.

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