(Spoiler alert: Do not read unless you’ve seen the latest “Game of Thrones” episode)
As “Game of Thrones” fans know, this season is set to end with a dramatic showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton, with the future of the North at stake. But for many other fans, there’s another big clash that is far more personal that they believe is soon on the horizon.
Go onto any “GoT” fan site, and you will see dozens of threads about a popular fan theory known as the “CleganeBowl.” The CleganeBowl is the term fans are using for what they expect will be a big battle to the death between The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, and his younger brother, The Hound, Sandor Clegane. Both brothers harbor nothing but hatred towards each other, and after fateful brushes with death, it’s expected that the two will settle their differences once and for all.
The Hound was last seen in season 4, having suffered seemingly fatal wounds from a battle against Brienne. Arya, hoping that he would bleed out in the wilderness, refused his pleas for a mercy kill and left him to die. As it turns out, hounds are hardy creatures. Sandor’s return has been predicted for years by fans who have read the books, with the main evidence being a scene from “A Feast For Crows” in which Brienne encounters a group led by septons from the Faith of the Seven. In that group was an enormous gravedigger with a noticeable limp, whom many fans believe is the Hound nursed back to health.
Now we have seen his return in the TV series, as he joined a peaceful group of settlers who were violently slaughtered by what appeared to be remnants of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Sandor gave peace a chance, but the war in Westeros won’t let him be, and now the Hound is back with axe in hand to punish those responsible.
So now that the Hound has returned from what seemed to be certain death, how is he supposed to encounter his psychotic older brother who burned him when he was a child? Gregor Clegane has been turned into the monstrous, silent soldier Robert Strong, who serves Cersei without question and is going to be loosed upon the Faith Militant in next week’s episode.
Cersei has said that when the High Sparrow has her stand trial, she will demand a trial by combat with The Mountain as her champion. Some fans expect that when this happens, the Faith Militant will call upon Sandor to both get revenge on his hated brother and to punish Cersei, whose house the Hound once served.
In this episode, the group Sandor was a part of was led by the Elder Brother, a member of the Faith who preached nonviolence. Clearly, that did him no good, but before he met a tragic end, he showed the Hound something that no one else had shown him: compassion.
He told Sandor that it’s never too late to try to redeem oneself, and Sandor showed some fondness for the man. That fondness may lead Sandor to pledge his services to the Faith and result in him returning to King’s Landing to punish the Lannisters for putting him through so much pain. Many people consider the trial by combat between The Mountain and Oberyn Martell to be the best one-on-one fight in the series. A match between these bloodstained brothers might be able to top it.
Not all “Game of Thrones” theories are as solid as “CleganeBowl” and “R + L = J.” Check out some of the more ludicrous and disproven theories below.