Valar morghulis. All men must die, and after a rare deathless episode last week, Game Of Thrones returns by slaughtering a peaceful community and its leader, a charismatic sellsword turned septon. While the deaths in this week’s episode aren’t a bloodbath by Game Of Thrones standards, it sets in motion a potentially powerful arc for The Hound and reintroduces the Brotherhood Without Banners. It’s also a glimpse into what must be a rare cranny of what Westeros looked like before war ravaged its lands and people, and a forcible reminder that peace is always a temporary respite; the gods (or god: George R.R. Martin) always have more in store for their players in Game Of Thrones, no matter where they go or how dead they seem.
Who died? Septon Ray, a former sellsword who turned to the Faith Of The Seven to cope with his guilt after he cut a young child’s throat while the boy’s mother watched. After renouncing his violent ways and becoming a septon, Ray retreated to a secluded rural area of Westeros with his small band of followers, where they lived a peaceful pastoral existence until the violent excesses of Westerosi society intruded on their idyllic refuge. One of those lost souls was Sandor Clegane, who was saved by Septon Ray after the holy man discovered the dying warrior by the side of the road.
How did they die? Hung by the neck until dead, presumably by the three members of the Brotherhood Without Banners who approached Ray and his followers in the middle of their daily meeting. (“Presumably” because the death took place off camera, but who else could it have been?)
How shocking was it? We weren’t expecting Ian McShane’s highly publicized trip to Westeros to end so quickly, so that was a bit shocking. On the other hand, no one on Game Of Thrones is allowed to live in peace for more than about half an episode, so that tempers the surprise quite a bit. On a scale of “died peacefully in their sleep” (zero) to “eyes squished like grapes inside their skull” (5), this rates a cynically average 2.
How awesome was it? The shot of Septon Ray hanging from the ramshackle sept he and his followers were building had a bit of a Sergio Leone vibe to it, and that’s awesome.
How much do we care? Does this mean no more quotes about tits and dragons? Because we care about losing Ian McShane. And Sandor’s return confirms that that fan theory about the CleganeBowl might not be too far off, so that’s exciting. On a scale of “nameless mercenary” (zero) to “Jon Snow” (5), our new friend Septon Ray gets a 2.5.
What does this mean for the show? The Hound is back, and now he’s motivated to use that ax for more than just chopping wood. Oh, and hope is a lie and death the only certainty.
Septon Ray’s followers
Who died? The nameless—but no less valuable for that—commoners who followed Septon Ray in a verdant paradise straight out of Middle-earth. Their brief time on the show might contain Game Of Thrones’ brightest, most harmonious scenes, as if this little pocket of Westeros was unaffected by the wars that have ravaged so much of the land and destroyed so many families.
How did they die? Although it happened off camera, it’s apparent that the three men who rode to the camp on horseback—presumably members of the Brotherhood Without Banners—returned when The Hound was away chopping wood. Whoever it was, it looks like they easily slaughtered the entire utopian community.
How shocking was it? It wasn’t exactly a big surprise that those three super-shady guys returned or went for reinforcements. This is a classic revenge trope: The Hound now has a crusade to embark on that’s both personal and moralistic. A peaceful community isn’t long for George R.R. Martin’s world, making these people’s death a big ol’ goose egg in terms of shock value.
How awesome was it? Whatever the opposite of awesome is—sad, off-screen, and not altogether unexpected.
How much do we care? Poor Sandor Clegane. We care because he cares; with these simple folk he had found some semblance of peace. It was brief, it was beautiful, and it ended in the most ugly way possible. Out of sympathy for The Hound, these folks’ passing gets a 2.
What does this mean for the show? It means The Hound has a new adversary to strike down, presumably with the ax he yanks up in the episode’s closing shot.