There are few actors who are as imposing on screen as Jason Momoa, a man who can only be described using adjectives that are some variation of “big.” It’s somehow on brand that, when profiled by Men’s Journal in 2018, Momoa participated in ax-throwing and bouldering on his property—of course he has his own climbing wall—when he wasn’t inhaling the Guinness he requested(!) for the shoot. Such is the vibe of this larger-than-life figure who has essentially been typecast off his Superman physique. Hollywood has turned Momoa into Aquaman, a Dothraki warlord, Conan the Barbarian 2.0, and a warrior from a dystopian future who’s so badass that you’d think twice about sneering over his ridiculous name.
Oftentimes, watching a movie or a TV show requires some suspension of disbelief, especially when death-defying action is involved—I love Dominic Toretto but acknowledge that he would have perished from repeated head trauma during the Obama administration. Momoa has the opposite problem: He’s so ridiculously large that it’s hard to find worthy or realistic opponents to match his characters against. (To wit: In Aquaman, his eponymous hero said “screw you” to a mythical leviathan voiced by Julie Andrews before riding the creature into battle, which is probably a typical Sunday for Momoa.) This recurring issue has perhaps reached its inflection point in the new Netflix action-thriller Sweet Girl, in which Momoa isn’t tackling a person or a monster, but rather Big Pharma. This is not a joke.
The prospect of an individual taking on a corrupt and far-reaching multibillion-dollar industry would be a losing battle for most, but if anyone can handle it, it might be the guy who successfully scored his breakout role in Game of Thrones by doing the Haka. Given what they’re up against, the pharmaceutical executives in Sweet Girl should start making their funeral arrangements. Still, you have to wonder: Is there any conceivable way to defeat a Momoa character on screen? Before Hollywood runs out of ideas and remakes Armageddon with Momoa putting the asteroid in a headlock (to be clear: would still watch), I’ve examined the actor’s biggest film and television credits for potential pathways that don’t involve being on the receiving end of a thorough ass-kicking—if such a thing even exists. This is the Jason Momoa Survival Index.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … ambushing him?
A clever (albeit dishonorable) way to get a leg up on an opponent is with the element of surprise. In theory, it would be easier to defeat a Jason Momoa character if he didn’t even know there was a fight to begin with. This is the initial hook of the 2018 action-thriller Braven, in which Momoa plays a burly lumberjack, Joe Braven, who discovers that a duffel bag full of cocaine has been stashed at his family’s remote cabin before a local drug lord and his goons try to take him out. The drug lord comes with several SUVs worth of armed men, which sounds like insurmountable odds against a lumberjack, and yet Braven and his father (played by Stephen Lang) do surprisingly well for themselves with a single rifle and a whole lot of intuition.
Ultimately, Braven unfolds like an unholy cross between Home Alone and a Bear Grylls special, highlighted by the title character intentionally catching his own foot in a bear trap while sending the Final Boss drug lord hurtling off a cliff. (Braven had already survived one fall off a cliff into the freezing ocean, but hypothermia is no match for one Lumberjack Momoa trying to protect his family.) Hopefully it goes without saying, but please don’t try this at home:
Verdict: Ambushing Jason Momoa is a bad idea.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … fighting a blind Jason Momoa?
When Apple TV+ launched in 2019, the closest thing the streamer had to a series with Game of Thrones–like ambitions was See, a sprawling postapocalyptic drama in which a mysterious virus nearly wipes out the human race, and all of the survivors and their descendants are left blind. The absurdity of the show’s premise is matched only by Momoa’s protagonist being named Baba Voss, which sounds like a tertiary Star Wars character or a specialized brand of mineral water (it is). But don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because Momoa’s character has a mockable name and lost one of his five senses that he’d make for an easy target.
While Baba Voss can’t see, his other senses are heightened, and in a dystopian future where universal blindness creates a more even playing field … well, you don’t need to see to know that it’s a bad idea to get in this dude’s way. I can’t in good conscience claim that See is a good show, but the Baba Voss fight scenes absolutely go hard. He’s turned blind fighting into a brutally efficient artform. Would a theoretical fight with a person who can see yield a different result? Perhaps, but when Baba Voss—sorry, it’s way more fun listing his full name every time—can successfully throw a weapon across a room and hit someone square in the head because of his heightened senses, I wouldn’t take my chances.
Verdict: Even when he’s blind, Jason Momoa will mess you up.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … utilizing monsters and miscellaneous fantasy creatures?
Although Khal Drogo wasn’t around long enough to witness the birth of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons on Game of Thrones, Momoa has nevertheless crossed paths with fantastical creatures in other projects, most notably the 2011 Conan the Barbarian remake. The film doesn’t hold a candle to the Arnold Schwarzenegger–led Conan films of the ’80s, and it bombed at the box office accordingly, but if nothing else, Momoa held up his end of the bargain by living up to the barbarian moniker. (At one point his character forces a key down a guard’s throat and tells a group of prisoners to take their freedom into their own hands; you’d admire the ingenuity if it wasn’t so disgusting.)
Anyway, when he isn’t racking up a large human body count, Momoa’s Conan finds himself taking on, and overcoming, magical soldiers made of sand and a tentacled sea monster that feels like an inadvertent preview of some of Aquaman’s more overt Lovecraftian imagery. And speaking of Aquaman: Momoa’s Arthur Curry not only rides the aforementioned mythical leviathan into battle, but also survives a horde of ravenous creatures located in the Marianas Trench that were so terrifying that Warner Bros. contemplated giving them a spinoff movie. (RIP, The Trench. Gone but not forgotten!)
All told, it doesn’t matter if monsters are land or sea creatures. Momoa conquers all.
Verdict: [Police Chief Brody voice.] You’re gonna need a bigger Trench.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … interviewing him for The New York Times?
It’s clear that Jason Momoa is an intimidating adversary in a physical confrontation, but what about the deceptively formidable battlefield that is entertainment journalism? In the lead-up to Sweet Girl’s release, Momoa chatted with The New York Times’ David Marchese, one of the best and most in-depth interviewers in the game. (If you haven’t checked out Marchese’s Vulture interview with Quincy Jones, do yourself a favor and read it right now.)
The conversation between Momoa and Marchese begins harmlessly enough, but when the actor is asked about his scenes in Game of Thrones depicting sexual assault and whether he regrets doing them, it reaches a point of no return. Even through the written word, you get the impression that Momoa is seething as the dialogue goes on:
At the abrupt end of the interview, Momoa finally airs out his grievances, arguing that it’s unfair to put the burden of Thrones’ sexual assault depictions on an actor when these decisions are made by writers, producers, and directors. (“As if an actor even had the choice to do that. We’re not really allowed to do anything.”) In Momoa’s defense, he was a relatively unknown actor when filming Thrones and his protestations probably wouldn’t have carried much weight—at the same time, he did make some controversial remarks about the show’s content that deserve scrutiny. Either way, it’s probably for the best that this surprisingly tense interview happened over the safety of a Zoom call.
Verdict: Protect David Marchese at all costs.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … dueling him in hand-to-hand combat?
If an ambush, giant monsters, blindness, and journalism don’t cut it, what chance does a single person have against a Jason Momoa character in hand-to-hand combat? Aquaman’s final battle against his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) is so one-sided that it’s basically an anticlimax, and if the Snyder Cut is more your speed, the hero impales Steppenwolf with his trident as part of the villain’s excessive, Mortal Kombat–esque overkill. And on the underwhelming historical drama Frontier, about the North American fur trade in the 18th century, Momoa occasionally livens up proceedings by, for instance, biting a bounty hunter’s face before ramming him into the blade that’s lodged in his own chest. (Watch at your own peril.)
But there is nothing more emblematic of the futility of challenging a Jason Momoa character than Khal Drogo’s single fight scene in Thrones. After one of the Khal’s finest warriors, Mago, protests Dany’s refusal to let him rape the women of a recently pillaged village—just one of the countless atrocities thrown into the show’s dense and brutal story lines—he questions Drogo’s leadership. The fight, if it can even be called one, doesn’t go well for Mago. Drogo takes him out with a single blow—from Mago’s own weapon, no less—and casually rips his tongue out of his throat like it’s something he does on the regular, which, knowing Drogo, is pretty likely. Personally, I’d have gone the route of not pissing off the person who recently poured a bunch of boiling gold onto his wife’s brother for being an asshole.
In short: Hand-to-hand combat is a bad idea when you’re going up against a person built like a professional wrestler. So maybe the best bet is to get on his swole playing field. When the second season of See premieres later this month, Momoa’s Baba Voss will be taking on his estranged brother Edo Voss, played by former WWE star and tiny glasses enthusiast Dave Bautista. (I’m assuming their rivalry started because Edo Voss was jealous that Baba Voss is a way more memorable name.) If anyone is going to give Momoa a handful, it might be one of the few actors working today who looks like he could actually take him in a fight.
Verdict: Jason Momoa wins, FATALITY!
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … employing witchcraft masquerading as first aid?
Of course, there’s a reason that Khal Drogo was around for only a single season of Thrones: He received the honor of being one of the first main characters in the ensemble to receive an early death—though he certainly wouldn’t be the last. While Drogo’s onscreen death differs somewhat from George R.R. Martin’s source material, both have a cruel sense of humor about them: a powerful warrior falling victim to a seemingly insignificant flesh wound.
The circumstances of this Jason Momoa character’s downfall, however, are pretty complicated. Let’s break it down step-by-step: First, you need Khal Drogo to be so unintimidated by an underling challenging him that he literally flexes his muscles into a blade—badass, but unnecessary. Then, after ripping out said underling’s tongue from his mouth, he has to take his well-meaning Khaleesi’s advice and get the minor wound treated by a woman everyone calls a witch whose village was just destroyed and not find it suspicious in the slightest, which can only be possible because Drogo has transformed into a full-on Wife Guy. (Can you imagine how insufferable his Instagram captions would’ve been?) Finally, with the witch’s curse in full effect, Drogo is left in a catatonic state that requires said wife to commit a mercy killing by smothering him with a pillow. Only then will a Jason Momoa character be defeated.
Those are a lot of variables in play that would be hard to replicate. Besides, Momoa was such a memorable presence from his brief appearance that he still made a cameo in Season 2 and would constantly pop up at Thrones filming locations getting shitfaced with the cast and crew, which doesn’t seem like a terrible outcome. Thrones costar Sean Bean might’ve made a career out of his characters dying, but Momoa used his biggest on-screen moment of defeat to turn into one of Hollywood’s most unexpected action stars. Even in death, it feels like he’s winning.
Verdict: Getting lit in the Night Lands.
Could you survive Jason Momoa by … being a shadowy Big Pharma exec?
You already know the verdict.