Cleganebowl will be Game of Thrones’ most cathartic fight of season 8


HBO

Season 7 of Game of Thrones was ripe with reunions. Perhaps the most dramatic of these centered on the long-awaited encounter between Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and his brother, Ser Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain. The last time the two brothers clashed was back in season 1, when The Mountain slaughtered his own horse after being out-jousted by Ser Loras Tyrell. The Hound took up arms against his brother, and the two brandished steel in front of an uproarious crowd, before being commanded to stand down by King Robert Baratheon.


The season 7 face-off features a reanimated version of The Mountain reanointed as Ser Robert Strong, the zombified giant acting as Cersei’s shadow ever since he was reincarnated at the hands of Qyburn, the infamously disgraced Maester-cum-Hand of the Queen. When Jon Snow and company alighted at King’s Landing to plead with Cersei for a truce until Winter had been dealt with, The Hound approached his revenant brother, saying:


“Remember me? Yeah, you do. You’re even fucking uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? It doesn’t matter. That’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”


As we know from the inaugural A Song of Ice and Fire novel, “A Game Of Thrones,” The Mountain scorched the side of The Hound’s face with a burning brazier when they were children, marring his face with grisly scars and marking him as a monster across all of Westeros. This was something that the younger brother never forgot, and while House Clegane served as bannermen to the Lannisters for eons, Sandor famously left the scene of the Battle of Blackwater Bay uttering the words “Fuck the King.”


This act of dissidence set the scene for a fan theory that has come to be known as “Cleganebowl.” This refers to the hypothetical situation during which Sandor and Gregor will take up arms against each other for the first time since their swords clashed in season 1. For many fans, Cleganebowl will offer one of the most rewarding payoffs in all of Game of Thrones. In a story teeming with dynastic deception and visceral violence, what could be better than witnessing The Hound’s cathartic revenge, brimming ever since he was gratuitously maimed by his older brother? A history of bloodshed may have caused Sandor to fall into a perpetual cycle of barbaric brutality, but as the elusive prospect of redemption brightens on the horizon, it seems The Hound will finally be awarded his long overdue catharsis.


After The Mountain was killed by Oberyn Martell’s poison in “The Mountain and The Viper,” Qyburn used experimental science to bring a Frankensteinesque Gregor back to life, who subsequently swore fealty to Cersei Lannister. However, this resurrection was ironic — at least in relation to the fate of Joffrey’s former “dog.”


While The Mountain was literally reincarnated, The Hound experienced a more spiritual revival. After being bested in combat by Brienne of Tarth, he was left to die by Arya. Mortally wounded, the soldier pleaded with the youngest of the Stark daughters to put him out of his misery. She refused, leaving him there to bleed out against a rock in the middle of the Westerosi wilderness.


The thing is, Arya did offer to cauterize his wound. The Hound, famously afraid of fire since the burning incident with his older brother, declined, choosing imminent death over healing by fire. Still, it seems likely that Arya trusted in her companion. Despite being on her list of people to kill, it seems the Faceless Woman had grown fond of The Hound over the course of their Westerosi odyssey, slowly coming to terms with the fact that this was an innately good man who unleashed destruction on the world around him as a means of cathartic revenge.


Fans all over the world suspected The Hound never died ever since a character appeared in the Game of Thrones books, cryptically known as “The Gravedigger.” His imposing height and canine companion seemed to symbolically allude to the infamous Hound, and since his fate was never revealed, many people retained faith in the fact that he survived.


In the seventh episode of season 6, The Hound’s continued existence was confirmed when he appeared alongside critically-acclaimed actor Ian McShane, who saved the bleeding warrior by propping him up against a boulder. Shortly after Sandor regained consciousness, his saviors were massacred by a dissident faction of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Picking up an axe, he left the scene a new man, leading to a resurrection that directly contrasted his brother’s. The Mountain, the revered and feared pride of House Clegane, was reborn as an undead monster, alive solely to kill for his Queen. The Hound, on the other hand, was given the chance of redemption he always deserved. Fortunately, he made good on that opportunity, joining Jon Snow on his quest to fight in the name of the living.


HBO

And so, the monstrous Hound was reborn in a way that absolved him of his past crimes, whereas The Mountain was reincarnated as an ostensible monster, too far gone to even acknowledge his history of atrocity, The monster became a hero, whereas the villain finally descended into monstrosity, And when the two brothers inevitably meet on the battlefield and Cleganebowl plays out -- something that has been teased ever since the two shared the screen in season 1 -- Sandor will have a chance to become the hero he was always meant to be. In contrast, the villainous Mountain, renowned for his brutality as a pawn of Tywin Lannister, could finally meet his prophesied, karmic fate at the hands of his first ever victim: his own brother, Sandor Clegane.


It’s often remarked that House Clegane was a house founded upon blood and broken bones. While this may be true, Sandor is a good person at heart. He offered to take Sansa from The Red Keep in season 2 (“A Clash Of Kings” in the book series) and looked after Arya throughout their adventures, despite his initial desire to ransom her off to Robb Stark. When Cleganebowl goes down, the fight will provide The Hound with his own catharsis, while simultaneously redeeming the house itself of its crimes throughout history.


Like many of Game of Thrones’ complex “good guys,” Sandor is not an ostensibly benevolent person. However, he is a cynic aware of his cynicism. If he is fated to die at the hands of the Army of the Dead, he’ll make sure that his brother goes before him. His catharsis will be ours as viewers, and when The Hound eventually falls, he will be immortalized in history as a hero who found his heroism late in the day, yet found it nonetheless.

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