'Game of Thrones' battle for Tyrion's life leads to most gruesome scene of season

Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones.HBO

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

"Game of Thrones" took a while to get around to its climactic battle Sunday night, but as expected, the show made it worth your wait. And possibly broke your heart. (Spoilers for Sunday night's episode follow.)

The much-awaited battle for Tyrion's life held surprises, and a gruesome ending.Today

The episode was no one-plot pony. Daenerys confronted and exiled Jorah Mormont, Sansa told some truths and some lies for Littlefinger, Arya and the Hound learned of Lysa's death, and horrific Ramsay sharpened his flaying skills yet again. But the episode title was "The Mountain and The Viper" for a reason, and the show delivered.

Before The Mountain and The Viper could fight, Peter Dinklage provided more footage for his Emmy reel with a fascinating back-and-forth with brother Jaime as they recall brain-damaged cousin Orson the beetle-smasher. 

"The Mountain" is played by Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson.Today

And for once, Tyrion wasn't on the bottom branch of the family tree. "Laughing at another person's misery was the only thing that made me feel like everyone else," he tells Jaime. And he relates his intense desire to give the bug brutality a logical framework. "I was the smartest person I knew, certainly I had the wherewithal to unravel the mysteries that lay at the heart of a moron."

But did he? The conversation falls unfinished as it's time for the battle for Tyrion's life. And at first, his defender, Prince Oberyn the Red Viper (Pedro Pascal), proves every bit as deadly as his name, whirling and dancing as the enormous Mountain (played by 6-foot-9-inch Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) seems about to be bested.

Poor Prince Oberyn is so determined to revenge his murdered sister Elia and her children that he lets his guard up at the worst possible moment, and it turns out the Mountain can come to Mohammed after all. And then the scene. First, a massive hit makes Oberyn's teeth fly across the arena like a dropped box of Chiclets, and then, as his opponent finally admits to Elia's brutal murder, he pushes the prince's eyes all the way through his head, which then explodes in a horrific visual audiences haven't seen outside of "Scanners."   Oberyn, he of the witty one-liners and the "you-killed-my-sister, prepare-to-die" mantra, lies as smashed and broken on the sand as one of Cousin Orson's beetles.

Tyrion's own father, Tywin, wastes no time in announcing his son's champion has lost, and that means Tyrion has been sentenced to death. The show on which no one is ever safe (Ned! Robb! Khal Drogo!) has now moved to put its most universally beloved star in danger. "Valar morghulis" indeed.

Actor Pedro Pascal only needed one word on Twitter to sum up the death of his character.



And on Instagram, Pascal even offered up some love for the man who defeated him in battle, with a photo captioned "Buds."

Follow Gael Fashingbauer Cooper on Google+.