Prior to season six, the general consensus was that house Clegane had been wiped off the Westerosi grid. Both Sandor and Gregor Clegane appeared to have been killed off in season four: the former as the result of a fight with Brienne of Tarth, the latter as the result of a trial by combat with Oberyn Martell. Nevertheless, it became clear throughout season five that Qyburn was reanimating the body and incredible strength of Gregor Clegane in order to create the unbeatable ‘Robert Strong’: bodyguard and champion for Cersei Lannister. However, as this character is now little more than a zombie, we’ve decided that he doesn’t count as part of house Clegane.
In the case of Sandor Clegane, on the other hand, certain A Song of Ice and Fire theorists predicted his imminent return to the show due to a certain ‘gravedigger’ theory circulating the internet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hka-lhU-EWs). Lo and behold, in episode seven (aptly entitled ‘The Broken Man’) it is revealed that the Hound survived his wounds, having been nursed back to health by a refreshingly down-to-earth septon named Ray. Disappointingly, though, the character of the Hound seems relatively unchanged since we last saw him in season four. He still appears tormented by his demons, asking Ray why the gods have not yet punished him for all the terrible things he’s done – not realising that his suffering is perhaps punishment enough. He chops wood with a fury and isolates himself from the community of villagers around him.
In the episode’s conclusion, a trio of men from the Brotherhood without Banners slaughter the villagers and leave Ray hanged. Upon seeing this, the Hound storms off-screen, taking an axe with him: viewers are left to assume that he will return to his old ways and exact vengeance upon the Brotherhood – this being exactly what he does in the following episode. Initially, this incited hope for the ‘Cleganebowl’ theory to be realised, which predicts that the Hound and the reanimated corpse of the Mountain would fight in Cersei’s trial by combat (explained in the above link). Sadly, these hopes were promptly squashed when Tommen reveals that trials by combats are to be outlawed.
In killing the men from the Brotherhood without Banners, this shows that the Hound has undergone very little off-screen development in nearly two seasons worth of hiatus. More importantly, this highlights the message that Game of Thrones is sending; there is little prosperity in peace and brutality is the only way to survive in this world. Naturally, this has implications for the trajectory that the show is following in general; is there no hope of self-improvement for the more ‘villainous’ Game of Thrones characters? Will resolutions ever be reached without resorting to war and violence?
While the Hound was unable to lead a life of absolute peace, he isn’t exactly leading a life of absolute desolation. By joining the rest of the Brotherhood, he at least won’t have to serve under tyrannous rule or kill without necessity. Perhaps there is hope for him yet.
Words by Rose Wolfe-Emery