HBO’s Game of Thrones is a dense collection with an enormous weight of historical past behind its story. So in virtually each episode, one thing occurs that would use a bit rationalization. Every week, The Verge will dive right into a scene or occasion from the newest episode of the collection and clarify how we acquired right here. Whether you’re principally a Game of Thrones maester otherwise you want a bit reminder about earlier occasions, we’ll strive that will help you hold your historical past straight.
This episode of Game of Thrones was… so much. Bad selections had been made. People died. Seasons of buildup and character arcs got here to their fruits. But as a substitute of taking a look at that, let’s dive into what is perhaps the least impactful (from a bigger story perspective), however most anticipated (by sure followers) occasion: Cleganebowl.
Spoilers forward for Game of Thrones basically, however particularly season 8, episode 5, “The Bells.”
“Cleganebowl” was maybe the very best Game of Thrones concept, someplace on the intersection of believable books/present growth, web meme, and unbelievable catchphrase: GET HYPE! (Which appears to originate in this 2013 YouTube video, a minimum of according to Know Your Meme.)
The long-speculated-over fan concept postulated that two brothers, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and his older brother Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, would ultimately face off in a climactic duel. Fans dubbed this occasion Cleganebowl, a portmanteau of their shared surname and “bowl,” from the term used for many big football playoffs.
In tonight’s episode, “The Bells,” followers lastly acquired the showdown they’ve been ready for, with the Hound and the Mountain confronting one another for the ultimate time. This showdown has been a very long time coming. Here’s how we acquired right here.
To perceive why the Hound/Mountain face-off is essential to followers, if to not the bigger story, we’ve got to return to the start. Sandor and Gregor grew up collectively, and even in childhood, Gregor was merciless and inhuman. Gregor is infamously liable for the horrific scars on his brother’s face — he shoved Sandor into a hearth once they had been each younger, as a result of Sandor performed with one in all Gregor’s toys.
Sandor’s concern of fireplace stemming from that second by no means went away, and neither did his hatred. He despises his brother, realizing he’s a monster whilst he’s made a knight of the realm. Gregor is a assassin, rapist, and normal thug. And whereas the motives for his emotions about Sandor aren’t as clear, he clearly hates his brother simply as a lot.
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels not solely haven’t reached the purpose of protecting whether or not Cleganebowl occurs, they haven’t absolutely made it clear whether or not both brother continues to be alive. In the books, Cersei faces off in opposition to the humiliations of the ascendant High Sparrow, concluding with the now-infamous Walk of Shame by King’s Landing. She’s met on the steps by the ousted ex-Maester Qyburn and a towering, silent large — Ser Robert Strong, whom she names her champion for her upcoming trial by fight in opposition to the High Sparrow and the Faith of the Seven.
Fans theorized (and the present confirmed, a minimum of for its personal model of the story) that “Ser Robert” was the zombie-corpse of The Mountain, preserved and reanimated by Qyburn following Gregor’s poisoning by Oberyn Martell.
The different facet of Cleganebowl, nevertheless, was the place issues acquired difficult. As book-readers and show-watchers alike know, Arya Stark left The Hound to die after a battle. (The circumstances differ between Martin’s novel A Storm of Swords and the season 4 episode on the present.) On the present, Sandor turns up once more in season 6, revealed to have been saved by a septon performed by Ian McShane. Later, he’s murdered, and The Hound avenges him.
The story within the guide is much less clear, provided that it’s incomplete. But in A Feast For Crows, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne, whereas trying to find The Hound (who they believe has Sansa Stark in his custody), encounter a commune led by the Elder Brother, a priest who’s extraordinarily accustomed to The Hound’s exploits and mindset. He claims he encountered the dying Sandor, and cared for him till he died. The Hound’s horse can be on the commune. But readers latched onto sure nuances within the Elder Brother’s decisions of phrases (he refers to “The Hound” as dead, however says Sandor Clegane is “at rest”), in addition to an unnamed gravedigger on the commune, with accidents much like The Hound’s. It’s typically presumed that the gravedigger is Sandor, who’s put apart his violent previous and joined The Faith.
At thid level, occasions between the guide and present get muddier. The unique Cleganebowl concept was that the reformed Hound, representing the religion of the Seven, would face off in opposition to his sorta-undead brother for Cersei’s trial by fight, leading to her downfall. (That additionally gels with one other guide concept, revolving round a prophecy that Cersei could be killed by “the Valonqar,” which means “the little brother” — which might seek advice from Sandor, who’s Gregor’s youthful brother.) And who is aware of? That nonetheless may occur within the books, in the event that they’re ever completed.
The present sees issues play out in a different way. Cersei is unable to defend herself by trial by fight in any respect, after her son King Tommen outlaws the observe, as a result of High Sparrow’s machinations. The resurrected Mountain by no means fights for her in single fight — as a substitute, she solves the issue of the Faith Militant by nuking your complete High Sept with wildfire.
But there have been two Clegane brothers on the market, and even with out anybody else’s life driving on their face-off, followers had been holding out to see the 2 siblings settling issues as soon as and for all.
Which brings us to “The Bells,” episode 5 of the present’s last season. After eight years of hating one another so much, the Clegane brothers reached the top of their roads, dealing with off in opposition to one another. Both sides noticed callbacks to earlier duels: Sandor making an attempt to complete the job Oberyn Martell began by impaling the Mountain, and the Mountain attempting to crush Sandor’s head as he crushed Oberyn’s. But finally, the battle might solely have ever led to a technique: in fireplace, similar to it started once they had been younger.
The query stays, although: why did followers care about this battle a lot? The reply is twofold. Part of it’s how Cleganebowl theories got here collectively: followers picked up on the clues Martin scattered all through the books, filtered it by the present’s added lore, then blew it up into numerous memes. It’s Game of Thrones fandom writ in microcosm, with all of the ridiculous prophecies, backstories, revenge plots, and theories rolled right into a single, easy-to-shout catchphrase.
Cleganebowl additionally highlights the diverging paths that the tales have taken over time: The Hound within the books has seemingly achieved some measure of peace, for instance, whereas the present’s iteration continues down his path of vengeance till it actually kills him. At least he manages to impart to Arya that the trail she’s following doesn’t lead anyplace good.
The different motive? Because it was enjoyable to see two of the present’s most deadly characters attempt to destroy one another, after spending a lot time watching their separate paths: one in all homicide, bloodshed, and horror, and one in all a type of semi-redemption on the best way to getting the ending he apparently needed. Not each battle has to have the destiny of the world resting on it. Sometimes, you simply need to watch a very good old school long-destined smackdown.