Spoilers yada yada yada.
Back at the end of Season 4 of Game of Thrones, everybody’s favourite Clegane brother seemingly perished: the Hound was left for dead by Arya Stark after a deadly duel with Brienne of Tarth in the Vale. It was never explicitly confirmed that he died but he was heavily injured and covered in blood, so that was the general consenseus. Fortunately, we book readers could sit smugly once again with the knowledge that Sandor Clegane probably didn’t die.
His fate was a little different in the books; he never fought Brienne but rather sustained his injuries from the fight at the inn, featured in the premiere. However, there is a theory that he does end up meeting her on her travels in the next book. Rather than heading north Brienne instead travels the Riverlands and comes across ‘the gravedigger’. There’s a lot of rumours in the story about whether the Hound is really dead or not, but she finds out from a monk who found him and treated him that he most certainly is – Sandor Clegane, however, is “at peace”. This gravedigger matches Sandor’s physical description and injuries, he’s good with dogs, his face is never shown and his horse is also at the same place – the same horse that cannot be tamed or controlled by anyone besides Sandor. Basically, it’s pretty likely he’s not dead.
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have previously been wishy-washy about this fact too, and according to Watchers on the Wall that’s because the Hound really will be back for Season 6 of the hit show. Probably.
Their sources state that actor Rory McCann has been staying at a hotel in Belfast used by HBO and the other cast members regularly. He doesn’t have any reason to be in Ireland unless he’s just visiting the set or some family/friends thing, but if so then he probably wouldn’t be staying with the rest of the cast in a hotel. The question now remains: what will he be doing? He’s in the Vale where none of the action is taking place at the moment, although the actor who plays Yohn Royce (pretty much the only Vale lord with a speaking role) did confirm that he’ll be back for Season 6, so that should provide an easy path for Sandor’s return. Perhaps he was taken in by Royce and given a place in his army which could march on Winterfell, or other characters will be heading to the Mountains of the Moon and bump into him. There are a lot of possibilities, but he probably won’t be digging any graves on the show.
A return to Game of Thrones will be very welcome. He’s been a pretty important character in the show so far, not only in the plot but also in his wit, no-nonsense badassery, skewed moral compass and tragic backstory. Sandor Clegane is one of my favourite characters in this story for those reasons and plenty more. He’s the only one to break the different façades that the Westerosi people live in, and the ones we live under in our society. He’s not a liar and doesn’t hold back; that brutal honesty demands a certain level of respect. Anyone who can say “fuck the king” to Joffrey’s face deserves a ton of respect (or “bugger the king,” if we’re going by the books). Hopefully the writers will follow the idea that the Hound persona has died but Sandor Clegane lives on, which could lead to a wealth of interesting character and story opportunities with a semi-reformed Hound.
Or he could be back to his old ways and kill his newly-zombiefied brother.