While not quite as much of a hot-button topic among Game of Thrones viewers as Jon Snow’s parentage, the prospect of Jon/Daenerys romance, or what exactly might happen when the White Walkers reached The Wall, there was one more thing that fans of the series were expecting to see in last week’s finale: CleganeBowl.
CleganeBowl refers to the fan theory that the characters of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane - who are both extremely large and also brothers - will have a fight, probably to the death, and possibly in a trial by combat. The word "CleganeBowl" have never been spoken or written in the show or books - but it's a surprisingly durable one that has only gained more interest over time.
CleganeBowl was kept from happening for several years, for many reasons. Both Clegane brothers, at various points, were assumed dead, with the Hound disappearing from the series for two seasons and the Mountain at one point literally dying, before he was brought back in zombified form by ex-Maester-turned-mad scientist Qyburn. Once both were confirmed alive (or undead, in the Mountain's case), they were always in separate geographic locations, with the Mountain sticking around Kings Landing, and the Hound traveling to various places with the Brotherhood Without Banners, including the Riverlands and eventually beyond the Wall.
We did not get CleganeBowl in the season finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” but we did get the first Mountain/Hound face-to-face confrontation in several years, as Gregor confronted his brother prior to the big summit in King’s Landing. The Mountain, having held to a vow of silence since Season 5, did not speak, but the Hound did - and he said something very cryptic:
“Remember me? Yeah, you do. You’re even f***ing uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? It doesn’t matter. That’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
What’s the Hound talking about? It’s worth going into some background on the brothers’ story.
The Cleganes come from a house in the Westerlands, one long loyal to House Lannister. The two brothers had a not-so-pleasant relationship as children, with Gregor once holding his brother’s face in a fire, giving the future Hound the scars that he still has to this day. Both men grew into large and violent adults, serving various kings and queens in King's Landing.
Before last week, the only time the Hound and Mountain had shared the screen was in the fifth episode of Season 1, “The Wolf and the Lion.” That’s the scene in the Mountain, after losing a jousting match, slaughters his own horse and attacks Ser Loras Tyrell, at which point the Hound interferes and the two Cleganes have a protracted swordfight, until it’s halted by King Robert Baratheon. The Mountain at the time was played by Conan Stevens, and is currently portrayed by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson.
The two brothers went their separate ways in the following seasons, but the fans’ wishes for a CleganeBowl have only gone stronger, especially after the two actually met face to face this week.
So what did the Hound mean? It could mean any number of things. The most likely is that Sandor will one day gain his revenge against Gregor for his childhood mutilation, and that Gregor has “always known” this.
What else could it mean? He may know that his own former captive/traveling companion, Arya Stark, wishes to kill the Mountain. The Mountain, of course, has killed so many people over the years that he’s likely left a whole lot of other people throughout Westeros who want him dead; perhaps his brother knows of someone specifically. So little has been explained about the history of House Clegane that perhaps another, previously unseen family member or enemy will resurface.
While traveling with the Brotherhood Without Banners, Sandor has become adept at seeing things “in the flames,” so perhaps he learned of Gregor’s future fate in this way. The entire reason for the Brotherhood's formation was to battle Gregor, so maybe he's talking about them, now that they're his allies. It’s also possible that he’s referring more generally to the White Walker threat, which Sandor has now seen firsthand.
Chances are very good (especially given how long fans have been clamoring for it) that we'll see Cleganebowl in season 8. The season 7 confrontation could be read as setting up an actual fight-to-the-death, especially with the two brothers’ respective sides (the Daenerys Targaryen/Jon Snow alliance, and the Lannisters) likely to spend much of the coming season in open conflict with one another.
On the other hand, perhaps the Hound/Mountain confrontation in the finale was meant to wrap up the arc of the two brothers, and to foreshadow The Mountain’s fate - whatever it may be.