Warning: minor spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 follow.
In the first episode of Game of Thrones season 7, The Hound encounters two unrecognisable corpses in a derelict farmhouse, later burying them outside, in an unusually display of emotion for the character. It’s a subtle nod to a couple of minor characters we last saw years ago, and though you’d be forgiven for not remembering them, there’s a reason their death affects The Hound so much.
In last night’s ‘Inside the Episode’ segment, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff confirmed that we last met the late pair in a six-minute scene from 2014. Here, Arya and The Hound encounter a farmer and his daughter while trespassing on the farmer’s land; Arya claims that she and The Hound are a father and daughter fallen on hard times, and seeing himself in their shoes, the farmer takes them in. He will feed and shelter both them and their horses: “We don’t have much, but any man that bled for House Tully is welcome to it,” he says.
Later, at the table, the farmer prays grace to The New Gods, the Hound says: “Are you going to do all Seven of the fuckers?” later rudely slurping up the food he’s been offered. Despite his gracelessness, the farmer offers him work as a guard against bandits, and when the Hound finds out he’s managed to hide silver from the robbers in the region, his eyes light up. He beats the guy up, nabs his silver and tells Arya: “He’s a good man, his daughter makes a nice stew, and they’ll both be dead come winter. Dead men don’t need silver.”
Now, in season 7, The Hound is ashamed of his past. He’s travelling with Berric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, and as they come across the house he expresses reluctance to go inside, saying: “These people don’t want us here.” It’s unusual for The Hound to express concern about rejection – but what’s really putting him off going inside is shame. Inside, as he expects, he finds the corpses of the farmer and his daughter; the group surmises that, in the grim winter surroundings, they were starving to death, and the father had put them both out of their misery.
From the way he acts this time around, it’s clear how much he has changed in the past few seasons of the show. In the middle of the night he sneaks out to do the right thing and bury their corpses. When they’re in the ground, he attempts to do right by their faith, by praying to The Seven. “I’m sorry you’re dead,” he adds. “You deserve better. Both of you.”