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Game of Thrones brought in Ian McShane to kick off a cycle of vengeance

This season of Game of Thrones has had a lot of returns. From people-back-to-life, to old characters returning to the show after long absences, seemingly abandoned book plots from A Song of Ice and Fire returning to the show and old sins returning. Yara tells Theon in a brothel in Braavos that if they can’t get (or don’t want) justice, they can at least seek vengeance and the show is pointing a few different characters in that direction.

Spoilers for season six, episode seven, “The Broken Man” follow.

Obviously the place to start is with the reveal in the scene before the opening credits: Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) lives on somewhere in the Riverlands where he’s helping build a church for a character played by Ian McShane. We don’t get a name for the Ian McShane character or much about his greater purpose beyond motivating the Hound to action, which obscures his identity even more.

In the fourth A Song of Ice and Fire book, A Feast For Crows, there’s a character named Septon Meribald that Brienne and Pod happen across in the Riverlands who delivers an anti-war monologue framing it around “broken men.” When it was revealed this would be Ian McShane’s cameo week, many assumed that he would end up playing Septon Meribald. Instead, the character on the show is credited as “Brother Ray.”

In A Feast For Crows, Meribald leads Brienne and Pod to a place called the Quiet Isle where they all meet a character called Elder Brother who has news for them about Arya Stark killing Sandor Clegane. Also at Quiet Isle is a novice monk called “the gravedigger” in the text. He is masked like the monks of the Seven that populate the Isle, but Brienne notices him because walks with a limp and is larger than her. Book readers have theorized this is The Hound in disguise, having survived his encounter with Arya (which went similarly in the books and on the show) and found faith.

This theory has more credibility now that the show has decided to bring back The Hound without any sort of secret identity. Instead of him being a religious convert, Game of Thrones looks like it is setting up Sandor to go on a revenging murder spree. Even Ian McShane sees what’s coming, telling Entertainment Weekly in a post-show interview: “I don’t know what happens in the next episodes. But if they’re following the Western code, he’ll seek to avenge me, then continue his life in a different way. You have to have revenge, and expedient revenge.”

That means the three dudes we saw from the Brotherhood Without Banners this week are about to get AXED some questions next week.

If you forgot about the Brotherhood Without Banners, don’t worry, it has been several years so you’re not alone. On the show, we first saw Beric Dondarrion as played by another actor while Ned Stark was still acting as hand of the King. Dondarrion was sent by Ned to the Riverlands, which were being terrorized by Gregor Clegane (now the Zombie Mountain). We next catch up with Beric as he’s leading the Brotherhood Without Banners, and learn that the Mountain fought Beric’s forces and killed many, including Dondarrion himself. He was resurrected with Lord of Light powers by a character named Thoros of Myr and formed the Brotherhood without Banners to protect the smallfolk from Lannister harassment after the War of the Five Kings began.

It’s season three when we saw Beric on the show again and he had been recast and looked worse for wear (since he’d been resurrected a few times). The Brotherhood captured Arya, Gendry, and The Hound and forced The Hound to fight in trial by combat for murder (surely you remember the burning sword fight!). The Hound beat Beric, he was resurrected but released the Hound, Melissandre showed up and took Gendry and that’s what landed Beric and Melisandre on Arya’s kill list during season four.

If what Brother Ray tells Sandor Clegane in this episode is true and the gods (or a single god, whatever) have punished The Hound already, then the comeuppance for the Brotherhood looks to be at hand. It could end up bringing The Hound full circle to fight with the Brotherhood once again and this time Beric could die for good. There would be poetic justice in The Hound cutting Beric Dondarrion’s head off, since Arya asked him about resurrecting a headless man in season three. She was talking about her father, but we’ve also established beheading as a way of ultimate death, right?

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