Beyond The Wall

'Game of Thrones' Finally Delivers on the Hype of the Cleganebowl

game of thrones
HBO
This post contains spoilers up through Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5. Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

With so little time left on the clock in the final season of Game of Thrones, it's time to either put up or shut up. If a much-theorized event or an eagerly anticipated confrontation between two characters doesn't happen by the end of next week's series finale, it will never happen. Few potential storylines have generated as much over-the-top, pro-wrestling-style hype as the Cleganebowl, a showdown between Sandor "The Hound" Clegane and his fearsome brother Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, and tonight's episode briefly delivered on years of speculation.

After cruelly beheading the captured Missandei at the close of last week's episode, The Mountain was set up to have an eventful night. Ever since he was revived by Qyburn in his metal-clad Frankenstein form, The Mountain has been one of the most reviled, ruthless villains in the series, an almost cartoon-like embodiment of pure evil and physical strength. At the same time, his brother The Hound is one of the show's most complicated creations, an ethically challenged brute with a well-hidden gentle side, and he spent last episode heading to King's Landing to presumably hunt down his sibling.

Well, we finally got what we were asking for. As the city burned around him, The Hound climbed the stairs and headed for what he assured Arya Stark would inevitably be his death. "Hello big brother," he said when he finally came face to face with The Mountain, who was fleeing the confines of the Red Keep with Queen Cersei and Qyburn. Both Cersei and Qyburn tried to stop The Mountain from responding to The Hound's taunts, but The Mountain clearly knew that this was the second-to-last episode and the fight needed to happen now. There's no more time and the city was toast! The Mountain tossed Qyburn to the side like a rag doll, snapping his neck and killing him in the process, and the Cleganebowl was on.

game of thrones
HBO

With orange dragon fire blazing in the background and gray ashes falling on the ground, it's hard to imagine a more epic staging for the rumble. Some images from the fight, like the one above, look like they were ripped straight from the cover of a paperback novel.

But the fight itself wasn't always so beautiful. Quickly, the giant helmet came off and we got our first close-up glimpse at Gregor's nasty, undead mug. "Yeah, that's you," quipped The Hound during the reveal. "That's what you've always been." Iron swords clashed. Punches were thrown. Eyes were gouged out.

Toward the end of the fight, the blinded and wounded Hound stabbed his brother in the head with a knife. Even that blow didn't end the brawl, so The Hound made one last daring move: He launched himself at his brother and tackled him against a brick wall, which crumbled and sent the two brothers soaring down into the roaring fire below -- a fitting end for The Hound, who's been afraid of fire ever since his brother burned his face on one when they were kids.

With both Cleganes falling into the abyss below, does that mean that the fight was a draw? Or does The Hound win for going down fighting? Or are they still fighting somewhere in the rubble?

That last one doesn't seem possible. But this was about as big and ridiculous of a fight as the Cleganebowl faithful could have hoped for: It had twists, thrills, and even a few laughs. For wrestling fans watching, the moment likely recalled various conflicts between feuding brothers the Undertaker and Kane in the WWE. In an episode packed with madness, suffering, and misery, it was an absurd reminder that you're watching a show where guys fight in crumbling castles while a dragon soars around in the background. It was a Cleganebowl to remember.  

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.