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 dodgy covert 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.
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?
If so, it means Obyern had an unfair advantage during 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 TV version of the Red Viper also using poison, albeit in a more subtle manner.
Plus, Arya had a big conversation with the Hound about whether poison is a worthy weapon in the very same episode. If that's not foreshadowing, I don't know what is.
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.)
This post originally appeared on Kotaku Australia