We Still Don't Love the Hound, but Here's How Arya Stark Changed Him For the Better
Warning: Game of Thrones season eight spoilers ahead!
Like most characters on Game of Thrones, Sandor Clegane (better known as the Hound) is pretty complex once you manage to peel back the layers. Beneath his rough exterior and outwardly gruff personality, he actually has a few personal morals he likes to stick to that make him a little easier to understand. While his character is undeniably brutal and harsh, he does have his moments where another side of him peeks through. Most of these moments involve Arya Stark, and it's decidedly not a coincidence.
Take a trip with me back to season four when Arya finds herself captured by the Hound on a long trip toward the Eyrie, where he plans to sell her. Arya, not yet the experienced assassin we all know and love, proves her worth to the Hound throughout their travels as she fights alongside him against anyone who stands in their way. During the course of the trip, Arya also learns that Clegane is capable of mercy as she watches him stab a dying man through the chest to spare him any further pain.
After an encounter with Brienne of Tarth, in which Arya hides to avoid being taken back to Winterfell, the Hound is gravely injured and begs Arya to kill him, even trying to goad her into doing so by laughing about killing her friend Mycah and saying he should have forced himself on Sansa when he had the chance. Instead of giving in, Arya takes his money and leaves him for dead. That's when his character arc becomes a little more complicated.
The next time Arya sees the Hound is in season eight, when he arrives in Winterfell with Daenerys's army to take on the Night King. When the Hound is waiting for Gendry to make him a dragonglass axe, he speaks to Arya briefly and realizes she's become even more ruthless and well-trained than when they'd last seen each other. As impressed as he seems to be with Arya's personal growth, the Hound continues to do little more than stomp around and keep to himself as he awaits the great battle.
Once the Battle of Winterfell is in full swing and the White Walkers are swarming, the Hound almost seems to give up, cowering behind a wall of flames and succumbing to his greatest fear since childhood. Due to an incident where his brother Gregor held his face down over a burning oil lamp, the Hound has been deathly afraid of fire and wants vengeance against his brother.
But when the Hound sees Arya being attacked by White Walkers, he snaps out of his fire-induced panic and jumps in to save her, demonstrating that his character isn't completely out for himself. This seems to be proof that the younger Clegane brother respects Arya's past decision to leave him for dead and that he's capable of having a soft spot for someone, after all.
So, what does this mean for his character now? While his decision to save Arya gives him some brownie points, it's difficult to ignore the Hound's callous nature and thirst for revenge. These traits are something he and Arya actually have in common, though, which might be why they make such a good team as they ride off together toward King's Landing. Arya even gets a smile out of him!
Why we still don't love him, it seems like the Hound has learned how to be a little more compassionate thanks to his respect for Arya, and his willingness to fight for her during the Battle of Winterfell is proof that something in his heart has shifted. So, no, the Hound isn't a great guy or even a secret softy or some sort of lovable teddy bear. He's capable of making selfless decisions, but Arya might just be an exception. At his core, he's a cutthroat killing machine, and we can't wait to see where that thirst for blood takes him in the final episodes.