What does the Hound's prophecy in the Season 7 premiere mean for the future of Game of Thrones? The return of HBO's fantasy headliner is one of the most celebrated in popular culture, continuing the epic A Song of Ice and Fire story that is swiftly racing towards its conclusion and allowing fans to reconnect with some of their favorite characters. And although seeing the Jon/Dany/Cersei pieces move into place ahead of a continent-spanning showdown is certainly exciting, few would deny that a real highlight is The Hound, an always sly mix of bathos and pathos.
Sandor Clegane did not disappoint in "Dragonstone", picking up pretty much where we left off; after his surprise resurrection (or, rather, the reveal he never died) last year, he's travelling north with the Brotherhood Without Banners, offering up plenty of typical barbs - insulting Thoros of Myr's topknot and bemoaning being stuck with a bunch of "f*cking fire worshippers". But this episode wasn't just concerned with delivering classic Sandor lines.
The group wind up at a farmhouse, one that already causes a lot of introspection on the Hound's part due to his previous involvement with the family there. After showing distaste for the Lord of Light's followers, Thoros gives him a look into the flames, leading to a prophetic vision of the utmost importance to the entirety of Westeros. Here's what's said:
Thoros: What do you see?
Sandor: Ice. A wall of ice. The Wall.
Thoros: What else?
Sandor: It's where the Wall meets the sea. There's a castle there.
[Fire crackles high. The Hound looks shocked]
Sandor: There's a mountain. Looks like an arrowhead. The dead are marching past. Thousands of them.
The Hound's Vision Explained
Ostensibly what Sandor's seeing is the army of the dead led by the Night King and his White Walkers consisting of resurrected wights that has been slowly amassing and making its way towards the realm of men since the very start of the series. Post-opening credits, "Dragonstone" had a Bran vision with this army slowly ambling through camera, revealing the masses to us (and the young Stark) in a way similar to the Hound.
However, he's not just watching some recap fire - the Hound is looking into the future and seeing the White Walkers pass the Wall, something that is viewed by most in Westeros as impenetrable protection. How the Wall may fall or its Children of the Forest protection be undone is the subject of much speculation (a popular idea is that it's to do with Bran's mark from the Night King), but what Sandor's seeing is an alternative breach; the Others have passed Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the castle at the very edge of the mammoth construction.
Eastwatch was already mentioned earlier in the episode at the war briefing in Winterfell when Jon sent Tormund and the Wildlings to man the castle, correctly reasoning from the experience at Hardhome that this is where the Walkers are heading. Now, from what Sandor sees, that's an inevitability. With Thrones, we know that any mention of obscure mythology is important setup; that definitely seems to the be case with Eastwatch, which will likely become a key location later in the season.
Before going into the vision's validity, it's worth clearing up some debate over what the "Mountain" means. Obviously this word has some pretty serious connotations for Sandor - it's the nickname of his violent brother, currently serving as as a zombified member of Cersei's Queen's Guard - and thus has already been speculated to be a sly wink; there's no doubt some fan getting ready to again hype up the possibility of Cleganebowl, a long-theorized final clash between the pair. However, there's nothing to suggest that this vision isn't to be taken literally. Likewise, some have suggested it's linked to Dragonstone (the island) and its dragonglass reserves, which were mentioned explicitly twice in the episode, but there's again no real reason for that. It simply seems to be setting up the landscape around Eastwatch.
There is also a question of how accurate what we're seeing is. Prophecies have proven essential in both Game of Thrones and even more so George R. R. Martin's source novels, so this should be treated fairly seriously. That said, time and again it's been established that what the Lord of Light reveals to his followers is less the clear truth and more a leading suggestion. Melisandre had repeated fire visions that showed her Stannis' victory over the Baratheons and the Boltons, none of which came true. She's a priestess, so there's not even a power argument; the Lord of Light manipulates people with visions, getting them to act to unknowingly fulfil another plan. Thus, while the White Walker threat is pertinent, this exact outcome may not be what happens in the real world - and it could ultimately be influenced by the Brotherhood thinking otherwise.
What It Means For The Future
As for what that ultimate plan of the Lord of Light's is, given his name and the series' constant opposing of ice and fire, that it's a bid to stop the Night King is a fair bet, although a darker shift wouldn't be out of the question.
Stepping away from the magic, this is a major step forward for The Hound, an original antagonist who has become one of the show's strongest anti-heroes. It, of course, has him literally and metaphorically getting over his long-standing fear of fire (a result of his brother's burns), shedding more and more of what initially made him so callous. And, on more recent terms, we see an emerging understanding. After years associated with religious types and regarding them with angry dismissal, now he's finally beginning to grasp why they do the things they do. As Beric Dondarrian says to Sandor after the vision, "Do you believe me now Clegane? Do you believe we're here for a reason?" We immediately see the impact too, with the Hound burying the father and daughter whose deaths he had a hand in, and it's sure to see him on a more driven path going forward.
That path is further north, and if the trailers are anything to go by will see the trio from the Brotherhood along with some other beloved heroes going beyond the Wall to take on the Night King's army, a move clearly influenced by this latest vision. Not bad for Joffrey's lap dog.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Stormborn’ @9pm on HBO.