[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season seven premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones, "Dragonstone."]
Heading into the season premiere, who could have predicted so much screen time for the Hound? After all, Rory McCann's cynical Sandor Clegane only very recently returned to Game of Thrones after more than a year away from the series. In season four, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) beat Clegane almost to death, and Arya (Maisie Williams) left him to rot on the side of a mountain (imagine that), all but finishing the job.
But the job wasn't finished: Clegane rose from the ashes in season six, having spent the past season-plus focusing on change. He was still the same man in terms of vulgar language and brute strength, but his days of hurting and killing all obstacles in his path were at an end … until a group of bandits came along and murdered all of the people in Clegane's new life, leading him back to his old one. Luckily, the regression didn't last long. Clegane meted out appropriate levels of justice alongside the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group he hadn't seen since he killed Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) in season three. Of course, that death didn't stick. Not only is Beric still alive, he offers the Hound a role within the Brotherhood, who are on their way north for a very important mission.
"Cold winds are rising in the north," says the Lightning Lord. "Good and bad, young and old. The things we're fighting will destroy them all alike. You can still help a lot more than you've harmed."
The Hound might have trouble buying into that last part, but thanks to the fires of prophecy, he knows all too well about the rising cold winds. Here's a closer look at the powerful prophecy scene, and what it might mean for the Hound, the Brotherhood and more as the season moves forward.
First of all, season seven isn't the Hound's first brush with prophecy. Back in season four, when he first encountered the farmhouse that the Brotherhood uses for shelter in season seven, Clegane got into a big fight with Arya over his brutal treatment of the farmer. He defended his actions by making a prediction about the farmer: "He's a good man, his daughter makes a nice stew, and they'll both be dead come winter." How's that for a guess? It doesn't actually mean the Hound is and always has been prophetic, but the sad irony of that long-ago prediction shouldn't be overlooked now.
Before digging in a little bit deeper, let's begin with some digging. The scene in which the Hound buries the farmer and his daughter is a powerful one, but it's also an Easter egg for fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels. In the fourth book, Brienne visits a place called the Quiet Isle, where she sees a large man digging a grave. Readers long suspected this man was the Hound, and the events of season six, while different from the events of the book, more or less confirmed the theory. The season seven premiere makes it official: Sandor Clegane is the gravedigger. "It was a wonderful moment," McCann previously told THR about the wink-and-nod.
There's added weight with the dead man and his daughter in how it echoes the Hound's own past. When he first visited this farm, he was traveling alongside Arya. As much as he would be reluctant to admit it, the Hound grew close with Arya over the course of their travels. In losing against Brienne and coming so close to death's door, the Hound felt he failed Arya, and when she abandoned him moments later, it must have felt like the final twist of the knife in an already painfully lonely existence. Of course, it wasn't the final twist of the knife, since the Hound is still very much alive. But in revisiting the farm, the Hound is somewhat metaphorically able to pay respects to how he failed his own daughter figure of sorts.
The Hound's vision of the future includes the sight of "a mountain," which is a very loaded term, given the nickname for the other Clegane brother. For years, fans have been hyping up a final showdown between the brothers, affectionately known as the Clegane Bowl. The fact that both characters are still alive (or alive-ish) on the show only further fuels the hype, as does any slight trace of foreshadowing. So while Sandor probably isn't seeing the Mountain in the flames, the mention of a mountain is at the very least A-level trolling of the audience, if not a wink and nod toward the battle we all want to see.
Speaking of battles, the Hound finally sees through the fires what Beric and Thoros (Paul Kaye) have been warning him about: cold winds rising in the North and a great battle right where the Wall meets the sea. The place he describes sounds an awful lot like Eastwatch by the Sea, the same unfortified castle that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) sent Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and the wildlings to take over. Previews for season seven have shown scenes of a deadly battle in the snow involving Jon, Tormund and at least Beric (and his flaming sword), if not the whole Brotherhood. The building blocks for that frosty fight are now firmly in place, thanks to Jon's orders to Tormund and the Hound's vision of the future.
"Clegane, we're here for a reason. The Lord of Light is keeping Beric alive for a reason. He gave a failed drunk priest the power to bring him back for a reason. We're part of something larger than ourselves."
Thoros spoke those words in season six, and they have only become more resonant since the Hound's look into his fiery future. There's no doubt that he crossed paths with the Brotherhood for a reason. Heck, there's little doubt that the Lord of Light gave the Hound the power to kill Beric once before for a reason. These three men are intertwined somehow. The only question is ... well, how?
As it regards Beric, we have a prediction for what's happening next: the Lightning Lord will sacrifice himself to save Jon Snow, whose instrumental role in the great war can't end until the whole song and dance of ice and fire is over. For Thoros and the Hound, are their purposes as simple as assuring Beric remains alive long enough to save Jon? Will they somehow give up their own lives in order to protect the King in the North, or to otherwise hold down the fort (if not the door) and stop the White Walkers from bypassing the Wall?
There's a fatalistic quality about the Brotherhood's journey. It feels like the final ride for Beric at the very least, if not also for Thoros and the Hound. But at least as far as Clegane goes, perhaps there's more life in him yet. Perhaps he's being driven north so he can one day make amends with Arya, not to mention Sansa (Sophie Turner), with whom he shares history as well. Is the Hound destined to give his life saving humanity from the White Walker threat, or is destiny pulling him north so he can find redemption in serving alongside House Stark for the rest of his days? If only we had a magical fire we could peer into for all the answers.
Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast's preview of season seven's battles.
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