Curtain Call: Rory McCann

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

Well, the good news is we finally got Cleganebowl, the showdown between the Hound and the Mountain that we had been waiting for ever since the two tussled during the Tourney of the Hand back in season 1. Unfortunately, that thrilling smackdown cost us the wonderful salty wit of Sandor Clegane, played with brutal nuance by Scottish actor Rory McCann. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that we only have to endure one episode of Game of Thrones without him. Let’s take a look back at McCann’s powerful performance!

First glimpsed in the series premiere, it wasn’t until the series’ second episode that we really got to meet the Hound. Initially presented as a ruthless killer in service to Joffrey Baratheon, we would quickly begin to question that assessment when the Hound saved Loras Tyrell from his older brother, Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane. That event would also bring to light the Hound and the Mountain’s tortured past: the Mountain shoved the Hound’s face into a fire when they were children, permanently scarring the Hound’s face.

Season 1 might have hinted at the conflicted nature of the Hound, but season 2 put it on display. When Joffrey began to have Sansa beaten, the Hound is the only member of Joffrey’s Kingsguard to openly disapprove, and comforts Sansa. The Hound also saves Sansa from an angry mob of would-be rapists, which allowed McCann to show off his brutal physicality. The Hound has no appetite for Sansa’s thanks, however, just like he has no appetite for the wildfire Tyrion employs to defend King’s Landing. And it was here we got our first legendary Hound quote:

Before departing King’s Landing though, the Hound appealed to Sansa Stark to come with him. And while Sansa declined, the Hound wouldn’t be long without a Stark daughter, as he collided with the Brotherhood Without Banners and their “guest” Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) soon after. The Hound’s trial by combat again showcased McCann’s talents as a physical actor. The Hound’s furious indignation over his supposed crimes was a standout moment during season 3.

Season 4 was perhaps McCann’s most impressive, especially because of the sheer amount of screen time he enjoyed. The Hound spent the entirety of the season traveling alongside Arya Stark, who quickly became as memorable an odd couple as any we’ve seen on screen. Where Sansa failed to change any of the Hound’s views on the world, Arya would succeed in at least making the Hound consider his choices. It might take a few more seasons for the Hound to actually change, but watching the gruff killer slowly come around to his tiny charge was a joy. Season 4 also treated us to perhaps the most brutal duel the show has ever produced.

McCann would sit out season 5, as we were led to believe he perished due to injuries sustained fighting Brienne of Tarth. Season 6 would bring back the biting wit we’d all been missing, as well as the brutal violence we’d come to expect any time someone crossed the Hound. And while his presence was minimal, McCann made the most of his time on screen, from his philosophical discussions with Septon Rey (Ian McShane) to his hunting down and killing of the rogue members of Brotherhood Without Banners, this was the Hound we knew and loved.

Season 7 saw an expanded role for the Hound, who had now joined with Beric and was heading north on a vague mission to fight the dead. The Hound’s best scene came early on, when he buried the farmer and daughter he had robbed and left to die back during his road trip with Arya. McCann’s achingly raw performance here was note perfect for a character who had always been shown the worst part of humanity, and yet was now learning to feel something for strangers.

In season 8, McCann got to work with Maisie Williams again, and their chemistry was just as electric. The Hound’s concern for Arya during the Battle of Winterfell again highlighted the duality of the character: hateful on the outside, but fiercely and completely loyal to those he loved.

And make no mistake, the Hound loved Arya more than anyone on the entire continent of Westeros. During the fight with the dead, the Hound was terrified by the Melisandre’s flames, but when he saw Arya in danger he sprung into action. Later, the duo infiltrated the Red Keep seeking revenge on those that had wronged them; Cersei for Arya and the Mountain for the Hound. As the Red Keep began to fall around them, the Hound once again showed his love for Arya, urging her to abandon revenge for life. Coming from any other character, Arya would likely had simply shrugged off the advice, but given their history, the Hound was able to reach her.

But season 8 wasn’t over for the Hound, as we’d finally get the throwdown we’d all been waiting for: CleganeBowl. The Hound and the Mountain pummeled one another nearly to death in a thrilling duel long in the making. Tragically realizing that he’d never be able to stop his brother, the Hound launched himself and the Mountain through a wall and into the flaming courtyard below, ending his pain in the same way it began: with fire.

Comparable to other foul-mouthed but lovable characters like Deadwood’s Al Swearengen, McCann brought the Hound to life while walking the delicate line between villain and hero, making him one of the more interesting characters throughout the run of Thrones. Fierce but vulnerable, brutal but loving, McCann was tasked with a role few others could have delivered. Never static, but always evolving, the Hound was the perfect example of the flawed but human characters that George R.R. Martin is known for, and McCann’s performance was never short of astonishing. For me, his work always stood apart from that of everyone else’s on the show. He never once faded into the background of a scene.


Philadelphia Phillies Phillie Phanatic Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead
Philadelphia Phillies Phillie Phanatic Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead /

Philadelphia Phillies Phillie Phanatic Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead

Buy Now!

Buy Now!

Normally, we’d love to tell you what projects the performer has upcoming, but in a case of art imitating life, McCann chooses to live a solitary life on a boat he built himself, and currently has no projects on deck. Not that we’ll stop watching for them.

To stay up to date on everything Game of Thrones, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Watch Game of Thrones for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels.