Warning: This story contains revelations about Game of Thrones season 6, episode 7, “The Broken Man”…
The Hound is back! War-weary Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) made his return to HBO’s Game of Thrones on Sunday night’s “The Broken Man.” Yet his appearance was nothing like what the show’s fans might have expected. The Hound was revealed to have been convalescing — physically and spiritually — with a remote sept led by a philosophical ex-warrior, Brother Ray (Ian McShane). “Violence is a disease; you don’t cure a disease by spreading it to more people,” Ray tells The Hound, who counters: “You don’t cure it by dying either.” Below, Game of Thrones co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, who wrote the episode, answered some of our questions about the return of this fan-favorite character.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: For the return of The Hound, it’s a unique story in this show. You’ve done stand-alone action pieces, but this is more like a little self-contained drama…
BRYAN COGMAN: It was my favorite week on Game of Thrones because it’s a beautiful little three-act play. Very much on purpose it tonally doesn’t really feel like Game of Thrones until the end when everyone gets slaughtered. Ian McShane is a New Age ex-warrior with a painful history of violence, and he’s found his own flock trying to rebuild their lives. He sees Sandor as a candidate. He recognizes in Sandor a bit of himself. The Hound, apart from being grateful, starts to open up to him. He’s the first and only friend he’s ever had in his life. And that was an interesting relationship to explore. The scenes have a light touch and gentleness and humanity and humor that you don’t find on the show — then the raiders ride in. The Hound is few miles away chopping wood and they come back and slaughter everybody, pushing him back into the cycle of violence.
Did the you and the showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, ever consider leaving The Hound dead?
He was always going to come back, it was just a matter of how.
Were other ideas than this explored for his return?
Yeah, there were a few. Would a character we already know encounter him? It’s a little hard to talk about because the subplot is a riff on something that’s in the books, but it’s not totally in the books. In the books, Brienne meets these septon characters, not The Hound. We took that idea of the remote sept and weaved The Hound’s [story into it]. Rory is such an amazing actor and the audience has such an investment in him. We realized he could anchor his own return storyline. We could cut to him and have his own mini-episode and he’d be able to hold it.
The title has its roots in the books too, correct?
[The character of Ray] is a combination of a couple characters in the books — with additional characteristics we added. One of those characters gives a speech in the fourth book referred to as “The Broken Man” speech by A Song of Ice and Fire fans. The speech itself didn’t make it into the episode, but it inspired the character and some of his dialogue. So the title of the episode is a nod to that speech — kind of like when we called episode 205 “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” even though that term wasn’t spoken out loud in the show.
It’s an interesting move for a series where characters are typically focused on urgent problems.
Ray has this wonderful philosophy that I wish more characters had — “I don’t know if my god is the real god but I just know we need to believe in something greater than ourselves.” There’s wonderful philosophical discussions that happen.
In a way, this seems a bit like what’s going on with Arya meeting Lady Crane — a person who is committed to violence meeting somebody who shows her that a different kind of life is possible.
Yeah, they sort of mirror each other. Both are exposed to a different world and then each come to their own conclusions.
Speaking of which, Arya is now in real trouble, it looks like.
Yes. She defied the Faceless Men once, and now she does it twice. She’s been well trained, but she’s up against [professional killers]. This is ongoing arc that Arya is battling her own humanity and her reasons for being part of this guild. She feels like the Faceless Men stand for one thing, but things aren’t quite as black and white, if you pardon the pun, as all that. It was also an opportunity this season to make her story into slam bang thriller.
The episode also started with a cold open, which is obviously very unusual, particularly for midseason. What prompted that?
We figured it would make his reveal more impactful if the audience hadn’t seen [McCann’s] name in the opening credits first.
Well that makes sense! Another time-related question: It feels like we’re jumping between storylines that have very vastly different lengths of time passing between each scene?
The timelines between the various storylines don’t necessarily line up within a given episode. For instance, the “Northern Tour” Jon and Sansa embark on would probably take a couple weeks, but Arya’s storyline over the past few episodes only spans a few days. We realized a while ago that if we tied ourselves in knots trying to make all the “story days” line up between all the characters the momentum would suffer.
More “The Broken Man” coverage: Read our interview with Ian McShane about his role in this week’s episode. Also, Cogman gives a bit of insight into that scene with instant breakout Lyanna Mormont. Read our deep-dive recap of the episode, and don’t forget to subscribe to our Game of Thrones Weekly podcast (New episode posted below).