Dragons, dismemberment. Swords, skulduggery. Bastards, backstabbery… ♫ These are a few of my favorite things. ♫ After an unbearably-lengthy wait, the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones is only a day away. If HBO’s latest teaser is any indication, it’s going to be filled with more warfare, more political intrigue, and much more blood.
While the premiere is expected to impress and HBO has confirmed that the show will be back for a seventh season, this list is designed to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Here are the fiercest, most brutal brawls from the fiercest, most brutal show on television: Game of Thrones.
*SPOILERS for Season 5 lie ahead*
13. Chicken Cutlets (Arya & The Hound vs Lannisters)
In the season 4 opener, The Hound (Sandor Clegane) hopes to ransom Arya Stark to her aunt, Lysa Arryn of the Vale. Eventually, the two stop at a tavern occupied by Lannister soldiers. Now a blooded and bloodthirsty young she-devil, Arya suggests killing them all; counting a total of five men, Clegane shuts the idea down. That is, until Arya spots Polliver, the Lannister man-at-arms who stole her sword, Needle.
Inside the tavern, Polliver recognizes Clegane and invites him to join their raiding party. He brags of their immunity to punishment, as they sport King Joffrey’s colors. The Hound is not impressed, saying something that sounds a lot like “Duck the King,” and tells Polliver to get him some chickens.
Polliver is incredulous, asking Clegane if he would really “die for a couple of chickens?” Sandor responds that “someone will” and all hell breaks loose. The Hound single-handedly slays four Lannister soldiers with ruthless efficiency, even taking extra time to stab one in the noggin (repeatedly) with his own knife.
12. Gift Horse (Daario Naharis vs The Champion of Meereen)
Horses are faster than men. That’s just a fact. Horses with daggers in their eyeballs… considerably slower.
After a big buildup, it takes Daario Naharis (fighting on behalf of Daenerys) all of about six seconds to defeat Mereen’s legendary champion. Naharis threads the needle, drilling the mounted man’s horse right in the eye-hole from 20 paces out. The armored giant goes down hard in a cloud of dust, rolls to a stop in front of Daeny’s lover, and finds himself sans head in the blink of an eye.
This fight ended in record time; we’re hoping the same can’t be said for season four episode seven, when Daario uses his other sword to attend to a more pressing matter.
11. Winter is Coming (Ned Stark vs Jaime Lannister)
This long-awaited showdown between the Lord of Winterfell (Eddard “Ned” Stark) and the Kingslayer (Jaime Lannister) was inevitable. The two were never very fond of one another, and blood seemed to boil any time they were stuck within 50 feet of each other. Where Ned was honorable and respectful, Jaime was smarmy and smug. Oil and water, these two.
In the wake of Tyrion Lannister’s arrest, Jaime and a company of heavily armed guards confront Ned and his trusted friend, Jory Cassel, outside a brothel. While the numbers slightly favor the Lannisters (read: 15 vs 3) in this brawl, Jory and Ned even the odds, cutting their way through 5 enemy soldiers. Jaime makes quick work of Jory, parrying his blow and driving a dagger through the man’s skull.
Ned is (understandably) pissed, and the Lion and the Wolf go toe-to-toe. It’s an amazing display of swordsmanship; Jaime and Ned thrust and parry with unrivaled skill, flashing deadly steel and trading blows at warp speed. It appears that Jaime may have underestimated Ned, and it feels like Stark could best the Kingslayer… until some idiot guard sneaks in and buries his spear in Ned’s leg.
10. Extra Crispy (Drogon vs Sons of the Harpy)
Not much of a fight, but this list wouldn’t be complete without Drogon and his firey fire breath. Just as Daenerys and her allies find themselves surrounded by the masked assassins, her cuddly pet dragon comes to the rescue. Hope you like your steak well-done.
9. Moon of my Life (Khal Drogo vs Mago)
Per the rules of Guy Code, there are some things you just don’t do. You don’t tell a man that his beard looks patchy, you don’t steal his leftovers, and you definitely don’t spit in the general direction of the Moon of his Life. Ever. It appears that Mago never read the Bro Bible, as he does just that in the eighth episode of season 1.
Understandably, Drogo is not pleased. He shows everyone why he’s head honcho, taking on Mago without any weapons. He effortlessly ducks under Mago’s sword again and again, dropping sweet lines like “The worms will crawl through your lungs!” and “The rain will fall on your rotting skin!” Once he’s done toying with his opponent, Drogo uses the guy’s own sword to give him the ol’ Columbian Necktie.
8. The Maiden Fair (Brienne of Tarth vs Jaime Lannister)
Have you ever been on a road trip? You know how that one friend keeps taking control of the aux cord and bumping Jason Derulo? Well in this Westerosi road trip, that one friend is Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth doesn’t want to hear “Ridin’ Solo” for the fifteenth time.
Even with his hands shackled, the Kingslayer is a dangerous adversary. The two put on a clinic in the middle of a cramped bridge, adjusting their tactics and pressing for an opening. Brienne proves to be the better fighter of the two (or maybe Jaime just needed a Snickers?) and forces her prisoner to his knees. Game, set, match.
It should also be noted that Brienne exercised an amazing amount of self-control here; Jaime Lannister (one of the most skilled swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms) isn’t playing around. He’s trying to hack her into little pieces, and she’s been tasked with keeping him alive. Her victory is even more impressive when you look at it that way.
7. Not Today (Syrio Forel vs The King’s Guard)
The First Sword of Braavos was a great character. He was full of worldly knowledge and loaded with quippy one liners. Most importantly, Arya’s Dancing Master had one of television’s great afro/goatee combos. When the Lannisters forcefully remove the Stark regime and try to round up Ned’s daughters, Syrio Forel says, “not today.”
There are plenty of theories floating around on the interwebs regarding the Syrio’s “death.” As a franchise, Game of Thrones has never been shy about killing off beloved characters in graphic fashion. So why not simply show Forel’s death instead of implying it? And why is this exchange between Cersie and Tyrion the only evidence that we have of his death?
“I sent Meryn Trant to take her [Arya] in hand when Robert died, but her wretched dancing master interfered and the girl fled.” (A Clash of Kings, pg 58)
Is Forel actually Jaqen H’gar? Azor Ahai? Or maybe Darth Vader? Will The Braavosi Water Dancer sit the Iron Throne? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
6. Hot Hot Heat (The Hound vs Beric Dondarrion)
The Hound (Sandor Clegane) faces off with The Unkillable Man (Beric Dondarrion) in season 3 episode 5, on trial for murder and numerous war crimes. Beric, calling upon the Lord of Light, ignites his sword with magical flames (or lighter fluid) and advances on the Hound. He’s got the advantage – Clegane is terrified of fire (you’ve seen his face) and barely manages to defend himself.
As the duel continues, Dondarrion’s advantage wanes. Clegane uses superior size and strength to wear down his one-eyed opponent; he lands a vicious downward blow, chopping deep into Dondarrion’s shoulder and almost taking off his entire arm. It’s the kind of wound most people don’t get up from. Obviously Beric isn’t most people. His priest says a few magic words and POOF, Beric’s all better.
Seriously, is anyone the entire Game of Thrones universe more resilient than this guy? He’s died like, three or four times, but just keeeeeps coming back. Take off his arm, his leg, his nose, whatever, he’ll just get a new one. Maybe Jon Snow should’ve converted..
5. The One With the Sword in the Mouth (Jon Snow vs Karl Tanner)
Jon Snow finds himself in a lot of sticky situations. At times, he seems to be a square peg trying to fit in a round hole – bastard born, relegated to the Wall, sworn to die without ever loving a woman. Things start to fall into place for Jon as he spends more time with the men of the Night’s Watch, and this is definitely one of his most defining moments.
Karl – also known as Clubfoot Karl – is a sadistic killer with roughly negative one ounce of remorse. In the middle of a mutiny beyond The Wall, Karl sets about doing the types of devious things that devious men do. Jon Snow doesn’t approve, and intervenes. Lots and lots of stabbing, slicing, and face-spitting in this mix-up at Craster’s Keep. It’s feels right when one of Craster’s daughters sticks Karl with a knife; the guy was a real dingus, and Jon Snow needed a little bit of help.
4. Noble No More (Bronn vs Ser Vardis Egen)
In the sixth episode of season 1, we learn that fancy armor doesn’t make the man. Tyrion Lannister has been detained by Lysa Arryn and Catelyn Stark, accused of sending an assassin after Bran Stark and acting as a co-conspirator in the murder the former Hand of the King, Jon Arryn. Knowing that he will not receive a fair trial in the Vale (Lysa is a bit of a nutter, TBH), Tyrion demands a trial by combat. Why aren’t these still a thing?
Ser Vardis Egen, Knight of the Vale and Captain of the Guard, stands as Lysa’s champion. Bronn, Drinker of Ale and Captain of Nothing at All, represents Tyrion. (For money, of course. Lots and lots of Lannister gold.) Bronn chooses to take on the fully-armored knight without any armor of his own. Or a shield. He’s pretty much wearing leather pajamas. Ser Egen presses the attack, chasing Bronn all over the throne room but never managing to land a blow. The honorable knight begins to tire, and the not-so-honorable Bronn slips past his guard. An armpit-stab and hamstring-slice later, the duel is all but over. Bronn disarms Ser Egen and stands ready to deliver the death blow to the Vale’s champion.
He looks to Lady Arryn, giving her a chance to stop the fight and spare Egen’s life. Strangely enough, the crazy old bat doesn’t intervene. Bronn impales the knight with his own sword, nudging Ser Egen’s body out the Moon Door.
3. All Bark, No Bite (The Hound vs Brienne)
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Clash of the titans? Sugar Ray vs Muhammad Ali? However you slice it, the standoff between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth is one of the most brilliant fights to date. There is no give in either warrior, and as the action builds something becomes quite clear: one will win, one will die.
Until this moment, no one had been able to match the Hound’s strength and fury. Armed with righteous purpose and a pretty new sword (Thanks, Jaime!), Brienne of Tarth shows us that it’s her world – we’re just living in it. The vicious sword fight devolves, leading to skull-bashing, groin-kicking, and Tyson-ing (ear biting). Brienne finally bests the King’s dog, knocking him off a cliff and mortally wounding him.
2. White on Rice (Jon Snow & Friends vs The Undead Army)
The Battle at Hardhome is arguably the series’ best large-scale battle to date. Not only does it feature an army of weapon-wielding reanimated corpses and terrifying White Walkers, it’s also got Wun Wun, the not-so-jolly giant, stomping around and crushing everything in his path. Which is awesome. There really hasn’t been anything like it on television.
Jon Snow leads the Wildling resistance as the undead bash their way into Hardhome, slaying multiple wights generally kicking tons of ass. That is, until the White Walkers enter the fray. Snow – the clever Crow that he is – makes his way to the Dragonglass cache tucked away in the burning town hall. He and Lobada, the fierce Thenn Warrior, go toe to toe with a White Walker. Loboda get’s killed real dead, Jon can’t reach the Dragonglass, and stuff is starting to look bad. Snow gets tossed around quite a bit by Mr. Frosty. He manages to snatch up Longclaw, parrying the White Walkers killing blow. Wait… what?
PLOT TWIST! Longclaw, Snow’s Valyrian steel sword, doesn’t shatter under the Walker’s Ice Blade. Awkward pause. Snow Carpes the Diem and cleaves through the White Walker, turning him into a nice pile of Park City powder. Looks like there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Or a White Walker. You get it.)
1. Moving Mountains (The Viper vs The Mountain)
There are memorable moments, and there is this moment. The most epic duel in Game of Thrones history takes place during season 4, episode 8, and it’s an absolute barn burner. Oberyn Martell agrees to stand as Tyrion’s champion, seeking to prove his innocence in a ‘trial by combat’ against the Mountain, Gregor Clegane.
The Viper impresses the crowd with his slick ninja moves. He dodges, ducks, dips, dives and dodges around The Mountain’s attacks, reveling in his own awesomeness before going on the offensive. Oberyn’s got some serious pent-up fury; he accuses Gregor Clegane of raping and murdering his sister, Elia, and killing her children in cold blood.
He continues to press Clegane and dance away from his attacks, slowly wearing down the massive man. Oberyn eventually slides past the Mountain’s guard, stabbing him in the chest, cleaving through his hamstring, and burying his spear in Clegane’s stomach.
Game, set, match – right? Well kids, let this be a lesson: victory monologues are for chumps. It only takes a split second, but the Mountain gets his hands on Oberyn mid-speech, knocks out several teeth with one punch, and splits his skull open like a Halloween pumpkin.
Ser Barristan Selmy’s Last Stand
Imagine if Westeros had a Santa Claus. Now imagine that Santa Claus had a really big sword. That Westerosi Santa would, obviously, be Ser Barristan Selmy.
That’ll do, Selmy. That’ll do.
The Battle of the Blackwater
Just one unforgettable moment in a series full of unforgettable moments, the battle for Blackwater Bay puts the horrors of war on full display. From the treacherous Wildfire explosion to the sheer amount of limbs lopped off during Stannis Baratheon’s attempted invasion of King’s Landing, the whole episode is just unreal.
Are there any other battles from Game of Thrones that deserve to be mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!
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