Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane: The ‘Game of Thrones’ anti-hero

Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, one of the most controversial characters of “Game of Thrones.” 

Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, one of the most controversial characters of “Game of Thrones.” 

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

*This article is full of spoilers, please do not continue if you are not caught up with the show!*

What makes a character likable? In any story, a character appeals to us if we want them to achieve their goals, overcome their obstacles and come out strong. Strangely, this description perfectly fits “Game of Thrones'" Sandor Clegane, the fierce warrior better known as “the Hound.” Clegane has had a tough journey throughout his years in Westeros — spanning the course of the show’s seven seasons — we’ve seen a brutal fighter turn into the most complex, engaging character in the entire series.

Before we dig into the Hound’s character arc, let's look back at his journey. When we first meet Sandor Clegane in the first season, we saw him as King Joffrey’s guard dog, a massive and daunting warrior who never smiles. Clegane first gains attention from Arya Stark when he’s ordered to hunt and kill her young friend Mycha for a scuffle with King Joffrey on their way back to King’s Landing from Winterfell. This act causes Clegane to gain a spot on Arya’s kill list. Once at King’s Landing, we learn his backstory from Littlefinger, who describes it to Sansa Stark. We learn that Sandor was brutally injured by his older brother Gregor (The Mountain), his face still bearing vivid scars after being pushed into a fire. This scarring injury has given the Hound a fear of fire and a hatred for his older monster of a brother. Towards the end of the season, we see a softer side of Sandor when he gives Sansa advice on how to avoid being tormented by Joffrey. Clegane empathizes with the young Stark due to her kindness to him, something Clegane has never experienced.

In Season Two, Clegane continues his gruff cursing and fighting, but this is when we begin to understand this character. Not only does he save Sansa from a gang of rapists, but during the Battle of Blackwater, we see him disturbed by the violence and fire, abandoning King Joffrey and stating: “Fuck the King.” Moments after, we see him offer to take Sansa back home to Winterfell and away from the evils of Joffrey. 

In Season Three, Arya Stark reunites with her enemy due to the capture of Clegane by the Brotherhood Without Banners. After a trial by combat where he defeats Beric Dondarrion, Sandor kidnaps Arya to sell her to her family for ransom. Unfortunately for Arya and the Hound, her family is murdered by Walder Frey at the Twins during the Red Wedding, causing the Hound to take Arya elsewhere.

Season Four is when the Hound truly shines. At the beginning of the season, he and Arya become a dynamic duo, most notably when they take down a group of despicable Lannister soldiers in a tavern. These two enemies form an unlikely bond throughout the season, realizing they have more in common than in difference with one other. Despite their bitter arguing and Clegane stealing from a poor family to Arya’s disgust, the two learn to like each other as she realizes that Clegane is a product of society. In what is arguably the most moving scene in the show, the Hound lashes out and explains to Arya how he got his scars, leading the Stark girl to see another side to him. After everything, Arya still leaves him to die after a brutal battle with Brienne of Tarth due to her grudge over the murder of Mycah. 

Just when we thought we lost this brilliant character, Sandor Clegane makes an epic comeback towards the end of Season Six. We learn that he was rescued by Brother Ray after his brutal fight with Brienne. Ray tries to teach Clegane about redemption, giving the Hound a second chance at life as a peaceful villager in the quiet countryside. Unsurprisingly, the Hound is forced back to his old ways of violence when his village is slaughtered, resulting in him hunting down and brutally killing the savages that were to blame. The Hound reunites with the Brotherhood Without Banners who offer Clegane the chance to continue his redemption arc and head beyond the wall to fight the Army of the Dead. 

In Season Seven, the Hound skeptically follows the Brotherhood, having a vision in flames of what lies beyond the wall. Shortly after, he buries the family from which he stole from in the fourth season, giving us another chance to see who he is at heart. Clegane follows the Brotherhood beyond the wall with Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont, the Brotherhood, Tormund and Gendry. They set out to capture an undead wight to prove to Queen Cersei that this threat exists, in which they engage in an intense fight against the dead before being rescued by Daenerys' dragons. The last we see of Clegane is after exposing the undead weight to nearly every major character that's still alive at King's Landing.  Clegane reunites with his evil brother, in which he warns, “You know who’s coming for you ... you’ve always known.” 

In a show that has several complex and dynamic characters who captivate our hearts, Sandor Clegane stands out. Few characters are as round and likable despite what they’ve done. It takes excellent writing for us to care about a character who killed a child and make us hope for him to succeed. The ability to mess with the audience and make us gravitate towards the Hound reveals the moral ambiguity of this brutal world. It proves that people are more complex than they appear to be. 

Rory McCann’s portrayal of Sandor Clegane is one of the best on the show. McCann gives the character so many layers, making us love the Hound for his unfiltered dialogue, his epic fighting and his tender heart that we get to see in subtle glimpses. Clegane’s character arc is not forced upon us like in other stories. So many times we get preached about how a character is more than they seem from storytellers, but with the Hound it feels natural. We aren’t drowned by this warrior’s growth but reminded of who he is at heart based on his various interactions and experiences.

Not only is Sandor Clegane a rich portrayal of dynamic growth and redemption, but he’s also someone we can always count on to make us smile. Whether it be his classic lines: “What the fuck’s a Lommy?” when referring to Arya’s deceased friend or, “I understand that if any more words come pouring out you’re c**t mouth, I’m going to have to eat every fucking chicken in this room,” the Hound has an effortless way of pleasing us due to his raw, witty dialogue. 

The Hound is a character who took time to understand and empathize with, his journey one of violence, sorrow, isolation, and grief. As he heads to Winterfell with our remaining heroes to fight the Army of the Dead in the final season, we can expect him to reunite with Arya and Sansa — the girls he has always protected — and fight for the survival of humanity. He survived getting his face burned, falling off a cliff, endless battles and arguing with Arya. We can only hope he survives the final battles in the final season. Whether he survives or dies is not the key takeaway from this character's story. Clegane’s story isn’t only built on survival, but rather on overcoming his loneliness, depression and violent trauma to find a purpose that he believes in while living in a brutal world. We can only hope the Hound gets the uplifting ending he deserves in Season Eight. Despite this, we can expect him to fight the dead and end the show’s most remarkable transformation and character arc. 

Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.

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