'Game of Thrones': Ian McShane All But Confirms Dead Character's Return

Ian McShane - H 2015
Jon Furniss/Invision/AP

Ian McShane just let a big cat out of the bag for Game of Thrones season six — or a dog, as it were.

The Deadwood veteran, who just booked the lead role of Mr. Wednesday on Starz's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, was previously confirmed for a small but important role on the coming season of HBO's Thrones. Although the part has been considered top secret, McShane has dropped a few not-so-subtle hints about who he's playing, and he all but spelled it out during a Thursday morning interview on BBC Breakfast.

"My character is an ex-warrior who has become a peacenik," McShane said. "So I have this group of peaceful … sort of a cult, a peaceful tribe. I bring back a much loved character who everyone thinks is dead."

The final sentence lines up with what McShane has said in the past, but it was a loose enough statement that could be applied to numerous characters. Was he talking about a mysterious newcomer responsible for Jon Snow's resurrection or perhaps a long dead character who returns via flashback — like the Mad King Aerys, perhaps?

Now the guessing game ends, based on how McShane's new comments align with information from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels that provide the basis for Thrones. In the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, Brienne of Tarth encounters a man called the Elder Brother, the figurehead of a peaceful community called the Quiet Isle, where warriors seek penitence for their violent ways of the past. 

The Elder Brother is a fascinating character, albeit one who appears very briefly, but it's the company he keeps that will catch the attention of Thrones. Many readers of the books have studied between the lines of the Quite Isle chapters and concluded that one of the island's residents is Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, last seen left for dead by Arya Stark. It's believed that the Hound has rejected his murderous past and is seeking atonement on the Quiet Isle, but the books have not confirmed this theory — at least not yet. Add all of McShane's observations up, however, and the result becomes obvious: Rory McCann's Hound will ride again when Thrones returns.

The Hound's probable return is huge news for fans who believe in an inevitable final battle between the Clegane brothers — one of whom is now a repentant former soldier who is mute by choice, while the other is a bloodthirsty former human who is mute by Frankenstein-like design. This fantasy matchup is most commonly known as "The Cleganebowl." Search for the NSFW "hype" videos at your own peril, but based on McShane's inadvertent revelation, perhaps the hype is real.

Listen to McShane's comments in the interview below:

Game of Thrones returns April 24 on HBO.