Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Game of Thrones' season 7 premiere
Tonight's season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones saw the Hound's past came back to haunt him, as he was confronted with the skeletons of a family he left for dead back in season 4. Of course, given that the events of the show cover the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, and feature a dizzying array of characters, some viewers may have forgotten about this particular incident in Sandor Clegane's journey - so here's a quick refresher course on who the Hound was burying in "Dragonstone."
The season premiere was largely uneventful - setting the stage for the rest of the season, rather than opening it with a bang. We find Sandor Clegane still in the company of the Brotherhood Without Banners, who are led by the six-times resurrected Lord Beric Dondarrion and the red priest Thoros of Myr. Seeking shelter from the worsening climate (and hoping to find something to eat or drink), the Brotherhood duck into a farmhouse - one that the Hound recognizes all too well. Inside are the corpses of a man and a little girl, who apparently killed themselves in order to escape the suffering of starvation.
These characters last appeared in season 4, episode 3, "Breaker of Chains" (a clip from the episode was shown in this week's "Previously on Game of Thrones" recap). At this point in the show, Arya was traveling towards the Eyrie with the Hound, who hoped to hand her over to her aunt, Lysa Arryn, in exchange for a ransom. In "Breaker of Chains," the hungry and road-weary pair are offered shelter and food by a kindly farmer, who lives in the remote farmhouse with his daughter. The two of them very little means with which to survive the coming winter, save for some silver that the farmer confides he has hidden away.
In exchange for the farmer's kindness and trust, the Hound beat him and stole his silver - telling a horrified Arya that the small family wouldn't have survived the coming winter anyway. Whether that's true or not we'll never know, but the Hound's brutality sealed their fate, and in "Dragonstone" he is forced to witness the consequence of his actions.
Over the previous six seasons, the Hound has slowly (very slowly) been working through a redemption arc - starting out as a lapdog for the much-despised Joffrey Baratheon, then defiantly saying "f**k the King" in season 2 and setting out to make his own fortune. Being paired up with Arya made the Hound a somewhat more sympathetic character, as did Arya leaving him to die slowly after the Hound came off worse in a fight with Brienne. One of the most-anticipated potential events in the upcoming seasons is "Cleganebowl" - a showdown between the Hound and his more monstrous older brother Gregor Clegane, who is currently serving as Queen Cersei's zombie bodyguard. Standing up to the brother who mutilated him would certainly be a fitting conclusion for Sandor's character arc.
Whether because of his own brush with near-death, his time spent with the peace-loving former mercenary Brother Ray, the unnerving presence of Beric Dondarrion, or the vision he sees in the fire (probably a combination of all four), the Hound finds that he cannot look at his victims with the same callousness any more. In a gesture of apology and respect, he buries the bodies of the farmer and his daughter, and Thoros helps him.
If the premiere sets the tone for the season (as it so often does in Game of Thrones), "Dragonstone" seems to map out a future for the Hound that is, if not heroic, then at least more compassionate than we've ever seen him before. What exact role he has to play in the battle for the Iron Throne, however, remains to be seen.
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