In 30 days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Thrones will end. In less time than it seemingly takes Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?
Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These are Thrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but has yet to satisfyingly wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down the days to Thrones’ long-awaited conclusion.
The Loose End
Let’s rewind to the first season of Game of Thrones—what an innocent time it was. Robert Baratheon was king; Ned Stark was just appointed to be his new Hand; Jon Snow was struggling to grow facial hair, having just joined the Night’s Watch; Theon Greyjoy had a penis. The first season also introduced us to the brothers Clegane and a sibling rivalry that has spawned Monster Truck–meets-WWE hype videos, memes, and years of fan fervor over a theorized confrontation known as Cleganebowl.
During Season 1’s tournament of the Hand, Littlefinger tells then-naive Sansa Stark about the bitter backstory between Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and his older brother, Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. When the two were children, the Mountain caught the Hound playing with one of his toys, and instead of squabbling about it like most siblings would, the Mountain shoved his little brother’s face into a burning fireplace, leaving him with a gnarly scar (and a lifetime of fire-related trauma). While both brothers are swole servants to the crown—and Lannister bannermen, with the Hound serving as Joffrey Baratheon’s sworn shield—it’s also evident that they harbor a ton of resentment for one another. They even trade blows when the Hound protects Ser Loras Tyrell from his brother’s temper tantrum before King Robert intervenes.
A lot has changed for the Cleganes since that first season. The Hound left the employ of Joffrey and the Lannisters during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, toured Westeros with Arya Stark before being left for dead after a skirmish with Brienne of Tarth, befriended Ian McShane, headed north with the Brotherhood Without Banners to fight against the Night King’s undead army, and helped Jon Snow venture beyond the Wall and present a wight to Cersei Lannister as evidence of the White Walkers’ existence. (And, if the Season 8 trailer is anything to go by, he’ll be fighting alongside our heroes against the White Walkers at Winterfell.)
As for the Mountain? Well, aside from the fact that the character’s now being played by a third actor—strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson—he’s gone through some serious physiological changes. For all intents and purposes, the cuts from Oberyn Martell’s poison-tipped spear killed the Mountain after Tyrion Lannister’s trial by combat—though not before Gregor crushed the Dornish prince’s skull with his bare hands. But then Qyburn worked some necromancy and revived the Mountain as a quasi-zombie knight. If his post-Oberyn tussles are any indication, the Mountain hasn’t lost any of his superhuman strength in his new form.
For the proponents of Cleganebowl, this potential confrontation is basically Chekhov’s sibling enmity, slowly simmering ever since Littlefinger told Sansa about their history. The Clegane brothers hate each other, are two of the strongest fighters in Westeros, and are now fighting on opposing sides. It seems like they’ve both survived this long for a reason—and that reason is to, quite simply, throw down.
In the Season 7 finale, the brothers briefly reunited in King’s Landing, and the Hound offered a nice bit of foreshadowing. “What did they do to you? It doesn’t matter,” he tells the Mountain. “It’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” Thrones is just Cleganebowl-trolling at this point: Entertainment Weekly even has a Season 8 cover of the Clegane brothers side by side, for reasons.
Why This Loose End Matters
Some of the best moments throughout Game of Thrones have been the large-scale battles (the Battle of the Blackwater, the Battle of Castle Black, Hardhome, and the horribly named yet exceptionally dope Loot Train Attack, among others) and epic individual duels (the Mountain vs. the Viper, the Hound vs. Brienne). The show’s final season is shaping up to offer one of the biggest battles ever filmed at Winterfell: a clash that required 55 nights to complete. If the fight pitting the living against the dead is the apex of the show’s great battle sequences, it also stands to reason that Clegane-on-Clegane would be the most exciting single combat showdown Thrones can produce.
Granted, Cleganebowl isn’t inevitable, and it looks like a bit of a long shot in the book series. At the end of A Dance With Dragons, Cersei is still waiting to announce her plans for a trial by combat against the High Sparrow, and the Hound is thought to be dead, though his reemergence has been hinted at quite heavily in A Feast for Crows. George R.R. Martin could still offer some kind of subversive twist on their sibling rivalry—provided he actually finishes writing the books—but Thrones and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss appear willing to satiate viewers’ Clegane-themed bloodlust.
Letting two giant dudes duke it out in the final season would definitely be shameless fan service, but it would also underline the important evolution Sandor Clegane has undergone. He went from being a cruel and thoughtless killer (RIP, Mycah, a kind butcher’s boy), to a Stark girl’s surprisingly empathetic travel companion, to a reformed man of peace, to someone seeking a mix of revenge and redemption. While there are some ambitious fan theories out there positing that the Hound is Azor Ahai reborn—and it does seem like the character’s fear of fire will also play into the show’s endgame—defeating his brother, one of the most singularly evil men in Westeros, would put a neat bow on his character arc. (That is, assuming his brother doesn’t kill him instead; this series doesn’t always offer happy endings.)
But with all the Hound-Mountain foreshadowing the show has offered, it might be a matter of when, not if, Cleganebowl happens during the final season. Get hype.
How Season 8 Could Address This
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