Amid the carnage of Game of Thrones’ Last War, there was a tender moment between two brothers who absolutely loathe one another. The #CleganeBowl, a fan theory that the Clegane brothers Gregor and Sandor would one day face off, has been hinted at for years. In Thrones’ penultimate episode — full of fire, blood and more fire — the two finally clashed swords.
Ladies and gentleman, it delivered.
Deepest, dark spoilers ahead!
During their youth, Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane burned his brother Sandor’s face because Sandor had taken one of Gregor’s toys, without asking. This left Sandor — later known as the Hound — looking like Two-Face, with burnt skin scarring his skull. It also left him with a crippling phobia of fire for the rest of his life. In later life, Gregor became a knight, but he was a villainous, merciless monster. He did some terrible things in the time before Game of Thrones and this caused Sandor to really, really hate him.
Over the past eight seasons, the two have had wildly different paths. Gregor ended up being killed after blasting Oberyn Martell’s eyes through his skull and then brought back to life by Queen Cersei’s Dr. Frankenstein, Qyburn. For the past 3 seasons the Mountain has stumbled around like a zombie, purple of face and mute of sound. On the other hand, you have Sandor who formed a wonderful relationship with Arya Stark, ended up being felled by Brienne of Tarth and then just hung out in the woods for a while.
All that time, Sandor’s goal has been vengeance.
High upon the staircase in Maegor’s Holdfast, the two brothers finally met as the Red Keep crumbled around them. The Hound stumbles upon his brother escorting Cersei and Qyburn to safety and does not even cast a side-eye at Cersei. After The Mountain dispatches Qyburn with a brutal throw, Cersei… uh… just wants to get out of there.
She shuffles awkwardly past the Hound, and Twitter loved it.
With that out of the way, you could practically hear Bruce Buffer shout ‘IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-IT’S TIME!’ as a million fan theories screamed out in pure joy. The scene was set.
For all the grievances people have had over the last month Cleganebowl stood out as a real Game of Thrones moment. The story had been leading here for a long time. The Hound had been craving vengeance since he returned in season 6. And the scenes themselves were wonderfully shot by episode director, Miguel Sapochnik, on a staircase in the Red Keep.
However, The Mountain clearly had the high ground, an advantage that Star Wars fans will recall is a pretty big key to victory. It’s something that I will never forget about this episode and it seems like a lot of people were in the same boat.
By the end of the night, there was no real victor. The Hound had put a sword through The Mountain’s gut and he didn’t flinch. He put a knife through The Mountain’s skull and the zombified behemoth did not even blink. There was only one way it really could end: a nil-all draw.
We all won. The cinematic experience of the Cleganebowl stood out in an episode of despair. This was a duel between two evenly matched fighters at the end of their respective worlds. Most importantly, it was true to the show’s version of The Hound and everything he stood for. We are all better for seeing this wonderful bout.
Not everybody was impressed, however. The Bowl is considered a bit of a joke between fans of the Ice and Fire book series because in that narrative, Sandor has either a) died completely or b) given up his old, violent ways (like we see happen in the TV show’s season 6). Then there’s Gregor, who is as dead as dead can be and has no real desire to fight (or head, perhaps). In the book world, Cleganebowl is just wild, speculative fan fiction that got out of control.
But if you ask me, Cleganebowl delivered on a promise to have two brute giants swing shiny steel swords at each other. It was the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. It was Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3. It was Thrones’ Ali versus Frazier.
And it ended in a reverse of the infamous Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell match. This time, the dead man got thrown off the top of the cage. Cue Jim Ross screaming ‘as god as my witness, he is broken in half!!’
What a fight.
Though the demise of one of Thrones’ most beloved characters hurts, the Hound went out like we hoped he would. No word on the status of the Mountain though. He is, after all, already dead and are we really sure fire kills him?