Warning: Spoilers for Season 6, Episode 7 "The Broken Man" ahead. You know the drill.
Game of Thrones knows how to do a reveal. It also knows how to do a fight scene. Tonight it did one of those things and teased the prospect of the other in such a way that had me begging Bran Stark to do some time meddle-y shit and make the Season 6 finale happen tomorrow. You might wanna stock up on popcorn.
There aren't many golden rules when it comes to TV, but one is that characters who die should remain dead. Another is: If a character is brought back from the grave, it can only happen once. So how is it that Game of Thrones can get away with bringing The Hound back so soon after the inevitable resurrection of Jon Snow?
The answer is that he's back for a very good reason, and that reason is Cleganebowl.
What The Hell Is Cleganebowl?
If you don't know this theory by now you clearly haven't devoted enough hours of your life to predicting what will happen in Game of Thrones, but let's take a super-quick refresher course anyway.
The Cleganebowl theory imagines that Cersei will be championed in her trial-by-combat by the Mountain, her fearsome, mute, voodoo-modified bodyguard. The Mountain's opposition in the arena will be the Hound. That's a big deal because the two brothers have seriously bad blood, leading back to when they were kids and Gregor (the elder brother) burned half of Sandor's face, imbuing in him a lifelong fear of fire and a deep-rooted desire for vengeance.
Game of Thrones' greatest fight scene to date was the trial-by-combat of Tyrion Lannister, where a pre-modified Mountain escaped with a narrow victory over Oberyn Martell, so it's fitting that the next one should have such a sense of déjà vu — a Lannister's life on the line, an animal-like warrior in the ring — albeit with even higher stakes this time around.
A win for the Hound would see Cersei most likely sentenced to death and allow Sandor to let go of the rage that's been bubbling up inside him for almost an entire lifetime.
A win for the Mountain, on the other hand, would probably be the trigger for Cersei to assemble the Lannister forces, remove the stain of the High Sparrow and his fanatical followers from King's Landing, and take back control of the city she once exercised total control over. It would also end any prospect of a reunion between Sandor and Arya, which I believe has to happen at some point.
A Wildfire Theory
It's never smart to second-guess this show too much, because writers Benioff and Weiss (not to mention George R.R. Martin, whose input has helped shade Season 6 even as the books are left behind) are basically much, much smarter than mere mortals like you or I. What I'm getting at is that even though all the signs point to Cleganebowl being an absolute no-brainer, there'll likely still be some kind of twist in the tale that we didn't see coming.
Let's double back for a moment to last week's episode with Bran's vision, which contained what appeared to be a flash-forward. In the dungeons of King's Landing we saw the maesters of the Alchemists' Guild unleashing wildfire:
Could it be that this event occurs simultaneously to Cersei's trial-by-combat in the season finale? With the citizens of King's Landing gathered in the arena to watch the Clegane brothers determine Cersei's fate, nobody would know the wildfire was loose until it had already spread and become impossible to contain. The chaos that would result might allow Cersei to slip away just as her champion had been defeated by the Hound.
Of course, I may be wildly off the mark there; like I said, second-guessing Game of Thrones isn't easy. But one thing's for sure: One of the show's greatest characters is back, and he's filled with fury. And for that reason, Cleganebowl has every chance of being the most epic fight scene this series has ever seen.
Season 6 continues next Sunday on HBO. Check out the preview for Episode 8 above.