‘Game of Thrones’: Release The Hound

Game of Thrones
“The Broken Man”
June 5, 2016

The season of Big Character Returns continues afoot! And alimp!

In the Riverlands:

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Hey! Look who’s alive and hanging out in some small village, helping Septon Ian McShane build a sept somewhere in the same valley in Scotland where Drogon left Daenerys Riverlands, but Sandor “The Hound” Clegane! Because on this show, unless you actually see someone die — and sometimes even if you do — they shouldn’t be considered dead. (Although, I say that, but you should probably sit down, Team Stannis, I think it’s safe to take Brienne’s word that she beheaded him. Brienne’s a lot of things, but she’s not much of a liar.)

Septon Ian McShane exposits on how he found The Hound very near death, and bone poking out of his leg and he nursed him back to health — so much so that The Hound is strong enough to carry a log all by himself, even with a terrible limp. When Septon Ian McShane wonders what kept him alive, The Hound offers “hate.” But Septon Ian McShane tells The Hound he thinks the Gods — the Seven, the Old Gods, The Lord of Light, maybe all of them are one in the same — whoever, whatever, they are, have a plan for The Hound Sandor Clegane. The Hound notes that Septon Ian McShane didn’t know him back in “his time.” But The Hound is kind of a celebrity in Westeros, and Ian McShane notes that he’s heard stories. The Hound doesn’t know that he believes in the Gods: after all, they haven’t punished him yet, but Septon Ian McShane assures him he’s been punished plenty.

Later, Septon Ian McShane preaches to the village about his past as a soldier and how he did what he was told, even kill children, because he was a coward. He can’t take back what he did, but he can try to make up for it by bringing goodness into the world. It’s never too late to stop killing and start helping. ~cough~THE HOUND~cough~

As Septon Ian McShane is finishing up his very pointed speech intended for one particular audience, three Brotherhood Without Banners riders mosey up and explain that they’ve had a long hard day “protecting the people,” and wonder if Septon Ian McShane’s people have any horses they could borrow for a minute. Septon Ian McShane explains that they don’t have any horses or gold or steel or food, but they’re welcome to hang out if they’re looking someplace to eat their lunches they’ve brought from home. Instead, the Brothers urge the villagers to stay safe, because “the night is dark and full of terrors.”

The Hound later warns Septon Ian McShane that the Brotherhood are a dangerous lot, and they need to be prepared to fight to protect themselves, but Septon Ian McShane’s like, “Eh, what’s the worst that could happen?”

And the answer to that question is: The Brotherhood returns to the village while The Hound is out in the forest chopping wood and kills every single man, woman and child, including Septon Ian McShane, whom they hang. The Hound discovers this horrific scene, grabs his axe and heads out for parts unknown.

Well, now you done did it, Brotherhood Without Banners.

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Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Jaime Lannister, Bronn and 8,000 Lannister troops arrive at Riverrun where the idiot Freys are making a complete hash of their siege of the Tully castle. Jaime and Bronn slog their way through the grounds at Free Press Summer Fest on Sunday evening shortly before the EDM set goes on, just in time to see Walder Rivers and Lothar Frey threaten to hang Edmure Tully if the Blackfish doesn’t hand over the castle RIGHT NOW. THEY MEAN IT. THEY ARE VERY SERIOUS. THEY MEAN VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS.

In response, the Blackfish tells them their mother was a hamster and their father smells of elderberries, and heads back inside the castle.

At this, Jaime calls the Freys incompetent idiots, announces he’ll be taking over the siege from here on out, and orders the Freys to feed and bathe Edmure — whom they did not actually kill because of course they did not kill the only leverage they had. When the Freys protest that this is THEIR SIEGE, Jaime explains that only a fool makes threats he’s not prepared to carry out, which he illustrates by punching Walder in his dumb face. Jaime then instructs Bronn to get word to the Blackfish that he’d like to possibly talk terms.

So, Jaime rides his horse through Summer Fest to the drawbridge where Blackfish comes out and is like, “Do you have my nieces whom you promised to return?” Jaime’s all, “Nope. So, how’s about you give me the castle already, and on my honor I won’t kill any of your men?” But the Blackfish laughs that an oathbreaker’s honor is built on quicksand, Kingslayer, and anyway, no. The Blackfish was born in this castle and he’s willing to die in it. Jaime’s free to try to take it or starve them out, but he should know the Tullys have two years worth of provisions stocked up, and in conclusion, the Blackfish farts in Jaime’s general direction.

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In King’s Landing:

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Margaery is busy memorizing verses from the Book of the Mother when the High Sparrow pays her a visit. Margaery is all, “I have to be honest, I used to pretend that I liked poor people, but they totally freaked me out, and because I made this confession to you, you should totally believe that I am not merely pretending to like you to try to manipulate you or anything.” The High Sparrow is all, “Great, great. Look, I hear from King Tommen that you’re not making the sexytimes with him and I really need you to get on that, literally, and make an heir. Just lie back and think of Westeros. Also, too, tell your Grandmother of Thorns I said, ‘hey.'”

Later, while chaperoned by Septa Sternface, Margaery meets with an irritated Queen of Thorns who WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO HER GRANDDAUGHTER ALONE ALREADY. But Margaery assures her that Septa Sternface is a wise and true counselor, and anything they have to say to one another can be done in front of her. Queen of Thorns complains about Loras still being in the Faith Militants’ clutches, but Margaery insists that once he repents and renounces his name and his title to Highgarden and begins his life as a penitent, it’ll all be cool.

The Queen of Thorns is not impressed with this plan.

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Margaery kneels before her grandmother and, slipping a note into her hand, urges her to return to Highgarden. Now. RIGHT NOW. They say their goodbyes, and as soon as the Queen of Thorns is alone, she opens Margaery’s note which turns out to read “TEAM TYRELL 4LYFE” be a sketch of a rose. This pleases the Queen of Thorns.

Later, as the Queen of Thorns is busy making plans to get out of Dodge, Cersei swings by and is like, “And where do you think you’re going? Isn’t Loras still in prison?” And the Queen of Thorns is like:

lafayette-earrings

“FIRST OF ALL, it’s your fault he’s in prison. SECOND OF ALL, both of our houses are in danger of collapsing because you’re an idiot who makes bad choices. SO I AM NOT INTERESTED.” Cersei admits that she made a tactical error in having the Tyrells arrested, but now the families must fight the High Sparrow together. In response, the Queen of Thorns, after calling Cersei one of the worst people she’s ever met, tells her, in Real Housewives of New Jersey-ese, to “go scratch.”

In the North:

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Jon and Sansa are having a little trouble drumming up enthusiasm for their war against Ramsay Bolton. First the Wildlings are like, “Ugh, do we have to?” But then Tormund reminds them that 1. Jon DIED for them, LITERALLY DIED BECAUSE HE SAVED THEM, 2. what are they, a bunch of cowards? and 3. HE DIED. FOR THEM. So Wun-Wun the Giant is like, “(After much deliberation and careful thought over the merits of both arguments, my vote is for) SNOW.” The rest of the Wildling are like, “Ugh, fine.”

Next up: Bear Island to woo your new favorite character, Lady Lyanna Mormont, 10-year-old badass. When Sansa tries to warm her up with a compliment: “Hey, you’re named after my aunt Lyanna who was a great beauty, and I’m sure you’ll be one, too,” Lady Mormont is all, “DOUBT IT.” She then reminds everyone that her mother was actually a great warrior who died serving Robb, so get to the point already, girl’s got better things to do with her time.

Sansa asks for her support in ousting Ramsay from Winterfell, and sassy here is like, “Wait, aren’t you a Bolton? Or are you a Lannister? I can’t keep up, Kim Kardashian. And in any event, we aren’t willing to spare any more Mormonts for someone else’s war. BYEEEEEEE.”

So Davos steps up and is like, “Look, I get it. But I’m telling you, zombies are coming, and if the North is divided, we all die. Sooooo…” When Lady Mormont’s maester tries to whisper some advice she’s like, BISH, PLEASE, HE’S TALKING ABOUT ICE ZOMBIES, before telling the assembled that the Mormonts have kept faith to the Starks for 1,000 years, and they aren’t going to break their faith today. They can have all 62 of Bear Island’s fighting men!

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Next up: the Glovers. Lord Glover is like, “Nope!” But Jon is all, “Wait, hear us out! We’ve got a bunch of Wildlings fighting with us!” Lord Glover is like, “Nope!” And then Sansa is like, “But you’re sworn to us?” And Lord Glover is like, “How many times must I say, ‘Nope!’?”

At their camp — in the same place Stannis put his camp when he tried to take Winterfell, and we all know how well that went — Jon, Sansa and Davos consider their forces and find them anemic at best. 2,000 Wildlings plus a few hundred soldiers from minor North houses does not much of an army make. But it’s the army they’ve got, and Jon is ready to make do before the Boltons can rally more troops of their own, or the weather turns on them. Sansa, she’s not so sure, so she secretly writes a letter.

“Dear Littlefinger….”

In Volantis:

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TheonReek and Yara make a quick beer/whore stop in Volantis, where TheonReek worries that Uncle Euron will be coming after them. “Uh, duh,” says Yara before making him play a fun drinking game where he has to drink every time she says, “DRINK.” While they play this game, Yara demands that TheonReek pull himself together, because she is going to need the old Theon if they are going to go to Meereen, strike a deal with the Dragon Queen and take back the Iron Islands from Uncle Kinslayer.

So, I guessed that one wrong… DRINK.

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In Braavos:

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Arya plans her escape from Braavos by offering a Westerosi trader a bunch of money in exchange for a cabin on his boat. He tells her they’ll be leaving in two days, and so she wanders off to go admire the Colossus one last time. As she’s standing on the bridge, taking in the view, an old woman approaches and begins stabbing Arya in the gut. Except it’s not an old woman, of course, it’s The Waif. STAB! STAB! STAB! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! and Arya jumps over the bridge. Arya surfaces further down the river and stumbles down the streets of Braavos, profoundly wounded and just bleeding all over the place while the Braavosi stand around gawping at her.

Oh dear.

So I don’t have as much to BLAH BLAH BLAH about with this episode, in part because it was a something of a chess set — we are three episodes away from the end of the season, and we have to get our characters into position for whatever comes next. We have to build our armies for the coming Battle of the Bastards; we have to abandon our two queens in King’s Landing so that they are in imminent danger from the Faith Militant; we have to get Jaime down to the Riverlands so that he can have a showdown with Brienne; we have to send some ships over to Essos so as to give Daenerys a ride back to Westeros; and we have to bring back the Hound so that he can finally kill his dead brother. This was all about moving our pieces around the board, so there’s not much to dissect or contemplate, frankly. That said, there are a few things to point out here:

Let’s begin with Arya. There is a theory out there that is gaining popularity known as the “Arya Fight Club” theory. In this, the Waif doesn’t actually exist, she is actually a part of Arya who is trying to kill off “Arya Stark,” the identity, so that Arya can fully become No One. The evidence is that Arya and the Waif have these fights out in public that no one else seems to notice; and Jaqen always separates the girls when he wants to talk to one or the other.

It’s a fun theory, but I’m not inclined to embrace it. First of all, I think this is way too much of a psychological shell game for this particular show. It creates more questions than it answers and it’s a little too GOTCHA! with the audience. Additionally, this theory takes the theme of identity and makes it entirely too literal. Identity is an ENORMOUS theme in this show and in the books — and is the prevailing theme of this episode — but making an entire character a shard of one character’s personality is cheating, just feels cheap and is not in keeping with how this story has been told so far.

I don’t have a flashy theory for what happens to Arya to offer in exchange, but I do see an interesting way out of her current predicament. Wounded and alone in Braavos, Arya doesn’t have many options. She can’t go back to the House of Black and White, obviously, and it’s not like she has any other friends in town. However, there is one person who might be willing to lend “Mercy” a hand: Lady Crane, the actress whom Arya chose not to kill. I could see Arya going to the theater troupe for help, and then staying on with them as an actress — what better a place for Arya to complete her kill list than from a traveling theater troupe? Additionally, Lady Crane saw something in Arya, recognized a fellow face-changer, and presumably the troupe is going to need another young actress, the previous one having tried to kill their female star. And just think how amazing would it be for Arya to return to Westeros while playing Sansa. Or even herself. Just think!

As I said, the question of identity is the paramount theme of this episode. In addition to Arya running from the Faceless Men because she wasn’t able or willing to fully shed her identity and values, we also have the scene with Margaery and the Queen of Thorns. The purpose of the King’s Landing scenes was to show the High Sparrow has manipulated both Tommen and now Margaery into isolating themselves from their most effective defenders. Jaime has been stripped of his Kingsguard duties and shuttled off to the Riverlands; and now by hinting that he was going to come after her grandmother, the High Sparrow managed to convince Margaery that it’s her idea to send the Queen of Thorns packing. But underlying this plot development was the note confirming that Margaery is just play-acting at being a convert: first and foremost she is and always will be a Tyrell. That is her true self.

The scenes in Riverrun play on the identity theme in minor notes: Jaime has been stripped of his one identity for years — Kingsguard, and is now the commander of the Lannister army. What I found interesting was the dynamic between himself and the Blackfish, and how the Blackfish reminds Jaime of his nickname, “The Kingslayer.” All of the nicknames, The Blackfish, The Kingslayer, The Imp, The Hound, Littlefinger, all of them serve to label the characters, to reduce their entire identity and who they are as complicated human beings, down to one defining, suffocating trait.

Identity issues are also played out in only minor notes in the North scenes: how these houses identify themselves, what it means to align one’s family to another, even what it means to be a Northerner versus any other of the seven kingdoms. And then there is the ongoing question of Jon Snow’s true loyalties, whether they can simultaneously be to both the houses of the North and to the Wildlings. And Sansa’s loyalties and identity are questioned by your new favorite character, Lady Lyanna Mormont.

As for who this Lady Mormont is: she is the daughter of Maege, the former head of Bear Island known as the “She-Bear.” Maege became the head of House Mormont after her nephew, the former head of the House (and now Daenerys’ buddy), Jorah, fled to Essos to avoid being executed for being a slave trader. He became head of Bear Island when his father and Maege’s brother, Jeor, abdicated his seat to join the Night’s Watch shortly before Robert’s Rebellion took place. (Put a pin in that, because I wonder if the two events are connected in some way…. HMMMM…) Jeor, as Jon mentions in this scene, was the Lord Commander who served as Jon’s mentor and friend before dying during the mutiny at Craster’s Keep.

And this has nothing to do with identity, but, yes, that letter Sansa was writing was to Littlefinger, in case you needed hard proof:

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ahellbornlady@reddit.com

Then there is the brief scene with Theon and Yara. It’s a short scene whose most important purpose was to let the audience in on Yara’s plan to fetch Daenerys and her dragons. (And to give us Theon and Yara’s whereabouts. In this scene, they are in Volantis, which is in southwestern Essos and nearly 5,000 miles from the Iron Islands. Later in the episode, the ship captain whom Arya bribes tells his companion that the Iron Fleet has been seen in Slaver’s Bay which is relatively close to Volantis but still nowhere near the Iron Islands. How’d they get there so fast?)

But there was a little more to this scene. While most people were freaking out about Yara finally, explicitly being shown to be a lesbian (and let’s hope she doesn’t fall victim to TV’s recent gross trend of killing off lesbian characters), or freaking out because ERMAHGERD BEWBS, the scene was also about TheonReek needing to shed the “Reek” identity and become his true Theony self again. 

In the books, Reek has his own chapters and we are privy to his internal monologue about himself as both Theon and Reek, making his psychological struggle perfectly clear. And the show and Alfie Allen both do a great job of revealing TheonReek as this tortured human being who was broken by Bolton. But I don’t think I appreciated until this scene that it wasn’t just that Reek was created through Ramsay’s horrific torture, but that he was something of a willing participant in this abuse out of his tremendous guilt for betraying the Starks and murdering the miller’s children. When Yara implores her brother to be Theon again so that they can seek “justice,” he replies that he if he “got justice [his] burned body would be hanging over Winterfell.” Embracing the identity of Reek is Theon’s own way of punishing himself for his past crimes.

Speaking of… our buddy The Hound is doing a lot of soul-searching right about now, and feeling pretty guilty for his share of boys he might have murdered in the past.

So, it’s interesting, last we officially see of The Hound, he was wounded in a fight, and Arya refuses him mercy when he begs her to kill him. (It happens very similarly in the books as it does in the show, the only real difference being that Brienne is the one to wound him on the show as opposed to the Mountain’s men he and Arya come across in the books.)

In the books, Brienne hears reports that The Hound is still alive, people have seen someone wearing his distinctive dog helm at a horrific raid on the Saltpans. On her search for confirmation of this story, Brienne stops off at the Quiet Isle, where she passes a gravedigger:

On the upper slopes they saw three boys driving sheep, and higher still they passed a lichyard where a brother bigger than Brienne was struggling to dig a grave. From the way he moved, it was plain to see that he was lame. As he flung a spadeful of the stony soil over one shoulder, some chanced to spatter against their feet. “Be more watchful there,” chided Brother Narbert. “Septon Meribald might have gotten a mouthful of dirt.” The gravedigger lowered his head. When Dog went to sniff him he dropped his spade and scratched his ear.

Later, Brienne and Pod meet the septon on the Quiet Isle, Elder Brother, whom they ask if he’s seen The Hound. He tells them that The Hound is dead:

“There is one thing I do know, however. The man you hunt is dead.”
That was another shock. “How did he die?”
“By the sword, as he had lived.”
“You know this for a certainty?”
“I buried him myself. I can tell you where his grave lies, if you wish. I covered him with stones to keep the carrion eaters from digging up his flesh, and set his helm atop the cairn to mark his final resting place. That was a grievous error. Some other wayfarer found my marker and claimed it for himself. The man who raped and killed at Saltpans was not Sandor Clegane, though he may be as dangerous. The riverlands are full of such scavengers. I will not call them wolves. Wolves are nobler than that … and so are dogs, I think.
“I know a little of this man, Sandor Clegane. He was Prince Joffrey’s sworn shield for many a year, and even here we would hear tell of his deeds, both good and ill. If even half of what we heard was true, this was a bitter, tormented soul, a sinner who mocked both gods and men. He served, but found no pride in service. He fought, but took no joy in victory. He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine. He did not love, nor was he loved himself. It was hate that drove him. Though he committed many sins, he never sought forgiveness. Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was, the hope of seeing his brother’s blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for … and even that was taken from him, when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.”
“You sound as if you pity him,” said Brienne.
“I did. You would have pitied him as well, if you had seen him at the end. I came upon him by the Trident, drawn by his cries of pain. He begged me for the gift of mercy, but I am sworn not to kill again. Instead, I bathed his fevered brow with river water, and gave him wine to drink and a poultice for his wound, but my efforts were too little and too late. The Hound died there, in my arms. You may have seen a big black stallion in our stables. That was his warhorse, Stranger. A blasphemous name. We prefer to call him Driftwood, as he was found beside the river. I fear he has his former master’s nature.”
The horse. She had seen the stallion, had heard it kicking, but she had not understood. Destriers were trained to kick and bite. In war they were a weapon, like the men who rode them. Like the Hound. “It is true, then,” she said dully. “Sandor Clegane is dead.”
“He is at rest.”

Excerpt From: George R. R. Martin. “A Feast for Crows.” Bantam Books, 2005-11-08.

You see that clever bit of writing? “The Hound” is dead, the Elder Brother buried him himself; but Sandor Clegane is “at rest.”

Anyway, the point is in the books, Rorge and Biter (who were freed by Arya along with Jaqen when they were all on their way to the Wall) are the ones who stole The Hound’s helm from his grave and raid the Saltpans. Later, Brienne runs into them at the Crossroads, and she kills Rorge. However, Biter attacks her, and she is saved by Gendry only to taken captive by him and the other Brotherhood Without Banners. Amongst the Brotherhood is Lem Lemoncloak, who takes The Hound’s helm from Rorge’s corpse and begins wearing it himself.

We’ve now seen this Lem Lemoncloak character on the show, he’s the guy in the middle with the vaguely yellow cloak:

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Now, what has book readers all worked up about this particular character is that in A Feast for Crows, Lem serves as the right-hand man to everyone’s favorite reanimated 3-day-old corpse, Lady Stoneheart. And the actor who plays Lem isn’t necessarily squelching speculation on twitter:

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(I had to remove some emojis to be able to embed that last tweet, FYI; emojis make WordPress go all wonky. They were just a crying emoji, a lemon and a dress.)

For those of you who don’t read the books, what happens is Gendry, takes Brienne and Pod to the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners where Thoros is like, “Hey, great to meet you. Shame we’re going to have to hang your friend, Pod, here.” Brienne is then taken before Lady Stoneheart who she doesn’t recognize at first. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood is pulling out all this evidence that Brienne and Jaime are besties, including the sword, Oathkeeper, that Jaime gave her (which, incidentally, Tywin made out of Ned Stark’s sword, Ice, just to be a jerkface), and the documents proving that she’s on a king’s mission. Lady Stoneheart is NOT IMPRESSED, reveals herself to be Catelyn Stark to whom Brienne swore an oath to, and demands that Brienne kill Jaime. Brienne is like, “But he’s actually a kinda nice guy who helped me out!” Again, Lady Stoneheart doesn’t have time for that, and she orders Brienne to either kill Jaime or hang. Brienne chooses hanging, only to choose against it when she sees Pod hanging and dying. And so, to save Pod, Brienne agrees to Lady Stoneheart’s demands.

So, there is a scenario where The Hound plays the Brienne role here, where he goes after the Brotherhood, and gets himself caught and Lady Stoneheart orders him to kill Cersei, putting him on a collision course with his own brother, FrankenMountain. There are problems with this idea though, namely that unlike Brienne, The Hound doesn’t have any torn allegiances between the Brotherhood/Lady Stoneheart and the Lannisters, and he doesn’t have the equivalent of a Pod to motivate him to do anything.

And this is why I remain skeptical that Lady Stoneheart will return. What purpose does she serve? Now that Brienne has sworn an oath to Sansa and is on her own collision course with Jaime at Riverrun, Lady Stoneheart’s primary reason for being around (other than to kill a bunch of Freys and to be a cool zombie) is pretty much negated.

But the Brotherhood Without Banners were reintroduced for a reason, and I admittedly have no idea what it is. The only thing I can think is that The Hound must pass through them on his way to his inevitable confrontation with FrankenMountain.

So, notice anything missing?

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Where’s Septon Ian McShane’s septon star? Exactly.

So, what I think will end up happening is The Hound will hunt down the Brotherhood Without Banners, and kill him some bandits, taking back his buddy’s septon star from them. Wearing the star, The Hound, for one reason or another, will make his way down to King’s Landing presenting himself as a member of the faith and will volunteer to represent The Faith Militant in Cersei’s trial by combat against his brother FrankenMountain. The Hound, having come so close to renouncing a life of violence thanks to Septon Ian McShane, will, ironically enough, return to a life of violence because of Septon Ian McShane.

Which brings us back around to this issue of identity. The Hound found a little peace when he was with Septon Ian McShane, he had within his grasp the potential for redemption and a way out of the violence. He wasn’t spiritually reborn the way his character was in the books, but there was a glimmer, he had a chance. However, in this brutal world, violence finds you even when you try to hide from it, even when you try to change for the better. The violence comes and it rips everything away, the pretense, the artifice … the hope. It ripped it all away and The Hound was left with nothing but himself.

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Status of Jon Snow: STILL ALIVE! And just being dissed left and right.

Game of Thrones airs on HBO and will return in the summer of 2017.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site chron.com.

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