Watching to see how characters change and grow season-by-season is part of what makes Game of Thrones such a joy to watch.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season.]
While traveling north with Thoros and Beric, the Hound is forced to seek refuge from the cold winds in the same house that he had visited once before with Arya Stark. The house, for those who might not remember, is where the Hound viciously beat a father, leaving him and his daughter to fend for themselves or starve to death.
Now, however, the Hound is dealing with an emotion he hasn’t had to contend with before: guilt. In the middle of the night, Thoros is woken up by the sounds of the Hound digging a grave for the skeletal remains of the father and the daughter he essentially killed. When asked by Thoros if he knew the two people and that’s why he was digging the grave, the Hound shrugged nonchalantly, replying, “not really.”
It may not seem like much, but according to Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, it’s a sign of change. In a post-episode interview on HBO, the showrunners said this is a big moment for the Hound. Not only is he taking responsibility for his actions, but he’s also learning to deal with emotions that he hasn’t had to in the past.
“He shows you changes that he’s undergone as a human being,” Weiss said. “Four seasons ago, he wouldn’t have cared about burying the bodies of people he killed.”
Benioff added that “he’s experiencing this feeling of guilt, which is something that he’s not really accustomed to,” claiming that the Hound will have to learn how to exist amongst Thoros and Beric while dealing with the realization that there might be some truth to the religion he’s believed isn’t real his entire life.
This isn’t the only sign we got that the Hound is trying to change. In the episode, Thoros gets the Hound to stare directly into a fire, asking whether or not the Hound sees anything. After replying with a gruff, “burning logs,” the Hound does end up seeing the Wall and a castle near the sea.
That certainly sounds like a vision of what’s to come, but unfortunately, we can’t be sure. Just getting the Hound to stare into the fire, however, is a pretty big step for the Hound.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.