'Game of Thrones': Why the Hound's Return Gives New Life to the "Cleganebowl" Theory

GameofThrones RoryMcCann H 2016
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode seven, season six of HBO's Game of Thrones.]

It’s been a season of reunions for Game of Thrones fans, who have seen a slew of long-lost familiar faces crop up in the past few episodes. One of the most gratifying returns happened during Sunday's “The Broken Man,” when viewers learned that Sandor Clegane, also known as The Hound (Rory McCann), did not die after his duel with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) but was saved by peaceful commune leader Elder Brother Ray (guest star Ian McShane).

The Hound’s newfound life of hippie love and harmony was, sadly, not meant to be. After Brother Ray and the rest of the commune are slain following a Brotherhood Without Banners visit, The Hound grabs his ax and heads off to presumably make some heads roll. This bloodthirst signals trouble for anyone who has wronged him in the past, including Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who denied him a merciful death when he supposedly had sustained mortal wounds.

The Hound’s return also adds fuel to the fire that’s been heating up a fan theory. Known as Cleganebowl, the theory suggests that a face-off of epically bloody proportions will take place between The Hound and his older brother, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Hafthor Bjornsson).

Viewers will recall from season one that there’s no love lost between the Cleganes. When they were children, older brother Gregor had a sadistic side and shoved Sandor’s face into hot coals, giving him his signature facial scars. Four years after that vicious attack, Gregor was knighted, which gave Sandor a lifelong disdain and mistrust of all knights.

Bringing back The Hound now has given Cleganebowl fans all the evidence they need that it’s coming in the form of a trial by combat. By now, we’ve become familiar with Game of Thrones characters choosing someone to represent them in a trial by combat: Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) both fought on behalf of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), with mixed results.

In this case, Cersei (Lena Headey) has yet to stand trial for her crimes, and Gregor would be the obvious choice to represent her in the ring. Earlier this season she even said that he doesn’t need to kill all of the Faith Militant accusing her but just one person, presumably a combatant of their choosing. Who better to kill The Mountain than his hate-filled brother?

Also, in an intriguing twist, The Mountain technically died courtesy of a poisoned spear after his match with Oberyn, but thanks to Qyburn (Anton Lesser)'s creepy experiments, a zombified Gregor has been silently been walking around, intimidating and sometimes killing Cersei’s critics. FrankenMountain vs. The Hound, anyone?

The results of the match would naturally have huge repercussions for the battle going on in King’s Landing between the Faith Militant and the Crown. Only recently with Margaery (Natalie Dormer) faking her faith has there been a measure of peace between the two leading factions in the city. If Gregor wins, the ruling class prevails, but if the Faith wins, Cersei will finally, completely have lost her grip on power in the capital.

While most fans seem hyped up for the sibling smackdown, a small faction isn’t thrilled with the idea of The Hound going back to his killing ways. Through his interactions with both of the Stark sisters, we’ve seen a more complex and human side to him. It’s a shame that his life with Brother Ray’s commune ended so abruptly, but even if he does end up back in the fray, it would be nice if he at some point found some peace. Then again, Game of Thrones isn’t known for how nicely it treats its characters.

What do you think of the Cleganebowl theory? How do you think it will play out?

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