We have been teased the return of a fan favourite this season (no not Jon Snow) and the show wasted no time in introducing Sandor Clegane (A.K.A. The Hound) with the unusual move of showing him before the opening credits. He was under the employ of a new character, Septon Ray, played by Ian McShane, who was aware of Clegane’s noble past and reminded him he is destined for greater things than manual labour.
We last saw him back in season four, when he was Arya Stark’s travelling companion. Back then, Sandor was badly injured in a brutal fight with Brienne of Tarth, and Arya apparently left him to die alone of his wounds.
The episode reveals that the once-violent Hound has surprisingly enough found some measure of religion. However, given the events at this episode’s conclusion, it’s apparently not going to last long.
Over in Kingslanding Margaery has performed a remarkable turn-around in the last few weeks. She was held by the High Sparrow as a prisoner until she repented for her sins, but last week Margaery appeared to have been broken. She and King Tommen stood side-by-side alongside the High Sparrow, but the young Queen appears to be playing the game.
After some sex advise from the High Sparrow (yes its weird), she accompanies Septa Unella to meet with her grandmother in an effort to make her “atone for her sins” on the High Sparrow’s request. The two went toe-to-toe for some time, but a secretive drawing of a flower proved to Olenna that it is part of a ruse. What the actual plan is has not be revealed, but Olenna’s later meeting with Cersei has shown that they have no intention on letting the Lannisters in on it. It is, much like most alliances on Game of Thrones, a means to an end, but to what end?
Jaime Lannister and the returning Bronn (the sellsword turned anointed knight turned sellsword?) are off to meet Brynden “Blackfish” Tully. Oh how we have missed Bronn and Jamie’s banter, honestly I would watch a spin off of the tow of them wandering Westeros. The Blackfish is certainly one of the toughest, most seasoned rulers in Westeros. He wasn’t intimidated by the Freys, who threatened to kill a captive Edmure Tully (“go ahead,” he said. They didn’t.), and told Jaime in no uncertain terms that they’d be fine – “Bargaining with oathbreakers is like building on quicksand”.
Jon, Sansa and Davos are off looking for recruits, and start with the Wildlings. After some over and back Thormund states, “He died for us. If we’re not willing to do the same for him, we’re cowards”. That is certainly one way to convince an army to back Jon Snow. The former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was literally killed for defending the wildlings, and it is that sacrifice that helped Snow acquire the wildlings’ support.
After he gained the Wildlings’ support, they moved on to House Mormont, where they were met by a tough-talking Lady Lyanna Mormont. She looks about 12-years-old but has the mouth of a well-seasoned diplomat used to jousting with Kings, Queens and other ruling parties. She shoots down Sansa by saying she was a “Lannister or Bolton” due to her forced marriages, and wasn’t persuaded to add her forces to Snow and Stark’s armies until Davos stepped in. To say they are surprised at her supply of only 62 fighters is an understatement but beggars can’t exactly be choosers.
The next stop, House Glover, didn’t receive #TeamSnow too well due to his wildling army but it was Sansa’s turn to step up this time. It didn’t work out too well as House Glover shut her down based on Robb Stark’s poor run. They are left with a rag tag army, ready to march on Winterfell, though we get a hint of Sansa sending word to Littlefinger to ask for help. Will this work out, or backfire spectacularly? Time will tell.
Across in Bravos we find the Greyjoys have stopped off for a bit of R&R, though Theon is still being miserable. His sister tries to snap him out of it before heading for some fun with a local whore. Also in Bravos, Arya is organising a return to Westeros when she is set upon by the Waif, using the faceless man tools to disguise herself as an old woman, Arya is badly injured and we leave her struggling the streets bleeding badly from her belly. You do wonder why we would be shown Theon in Bravos as a “stopover” unless he is to help Arya, and maybe use this to find some forgiveness for his sins?
Back with Septon Ray, we see how his appeal to his followers was about how it was never too late to atone for their wrongdoings. Three riders, who look like the Brotherhood Without Banners, appeared, warned for the group to be careful and rode off. The Hound goes off chopping wood on his own, when he ears noise. He returns to the Spet they were building to find Septon Ray and his followers were butchered in a field, with Ray left hanging. The final scene saw the Hound pick up an axe, presumably to avenge the Septon’s death.
So what next for The Hound? Cersei has already declared that she wants her trial to be a trial by combat, with his brother, The Mountain fighting for her. To say there is no love lost between the two is an understatement, and with the slaughter of his community at the episode’s close giving him motive for vengeance on the crown. Bring on Cleganebowl.