Rory McCann (Sandor “The Hound” Clegane in Game of Thrones) as a young lad in Monarch of the Glen.
I’m posting this in honor of The Hound’s epic exit the other night during “Blackwater” (best illustrated by the inimitable Bohemea).
I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Game of Thrones recaps this season, but none so much as Andy Greenwald’s over at Grantland. (Made especially more enjoyable because he’s a newbie to the books — a non-Bookwalker!)
Sandor Clegane wears his brutal past on his face like a mask, a terrible Tyson tattoo of violence and regret. The Hound began the hour playing the part of the dutiful soldier, a doubt-free killing machine, less interested in defending the honor of his fraudulent king or the walls of his fetid city than in doling out the ferocious punishment that is his stock-in-trade. As Stannis — himself a bad actor, pursuing the crown out of childish spite and witchy infatuation — storms the walls, Clegane’s giant sword splits Baratheon bannermen like so much kindling before a long winter. Yet it’s the Hound himself who breaks. “Look at me,” he fumes to Sansa through wine-stained lips after retreating from the battlefield. “Stannis is a killer. The Lannisters are killers. Your father was a killer. Your brother is a killer. Your sons will be killers someday. The world was built by killers. So you’d better get used to looking at them.”
Of all the impressive feats accomplished by this remarkable episode, this may have been the greatest of them all, revealing the palpable sadness at the root of the Hound’s sadism. Despite his burned and battered visage, he’s no monster, merely a man sickened by all the hypocritical, monstrous things he’s seen other, supposedly better men do to one another. There are no great heroes in Westeros, only murderers and survivors. So what good are Bronn’s “beautiful women and brown ale”? There are plenty of beautiful women in the ground and the brown ale is only temporary relief — soon it will be flowing into Tyrion’s beloved cisterns or choked up into a floating bucket of sick. With the water on fire and his life on the line, Sandor Clegane used his one good eye to take a clear-eyed look at the real cost of other people’s games and did the most reasonable thing of all: He walked away.
The Hound is one of my favorite characters because he’s one of the strongest voices George R.R. Martin wields in the over-arching conversation about honor in the books — a conversation that obviously also includes Ned Stark (have honor? get killed for it), Jaime Lannister (define your own honor? get hated for it), and Barristan Selmy (have ALL THE HONOR AND ARE A BADASS BECAUSE OF IT).
(I’m not including all my ladies in this conversation — Arya, Sansa, Cersei, Dany, Asha, Catelyn, Brienne, etc etc etc etc could go on because all of GRRM’s ladies are awesome — because there’s an entirely different conversation they’re having about strength, which will be worth having in the future.)
The Hound — terrible facial scar to the contrary — is not Omar Little. I don’t know if the Hound has a code. He’s got a breaking point, for sure (flames in his face, mostly) — and yes, he told Joffrey to fuck himself. But WHO WOULDN’T EVEN IF IT MEANT TREASON. (Willa Paskin has written my favorite article so far this season about Joffrey’s carthartic villainy!)
Despite his attendance on Sansa (and also all the AWESOMENESS THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT SEASON), The Hound doesn’t care about killing innocent things. Not yet, anyway.
P.S. OBVIOUSLY ALSO I wanted to post this because Rory McCann can GET IT.