Right from the first season of Game of Thrones, Sandor Clegane has been a fan favorite. Through several seasons of character development, however, the man they call the Hound has grown as both an individual and an object of viewer admiration. It might even be fair to call him an outright hero as of the series’ final season.
Clegane had a traumatic childhood—including a fiery assault from his brother that caused his facial deformity—and an even more violent adulthood. As a longtime Lannister guard and then a member of Joffrey Baratheon’s Kingsguard, Sandor has an awful lot of opportunity to do bad, but somehow he still manages to find himself on the side of good by the end of it all. One might even say that the Hound has been a hero at heart all this time. But you certainly won’t catch him saying it.
When: Season 1, episode 5, “The Wolf and the Lion”
Though Sandor Clegane does commit the occasional heroic act in his early Game of Thrones appearances, they’re not committed with the purest of intention. Whereas most of the fiercest warriors in Westeros are driven by higher concepts like justice and honor, the Hound is driven by his basest instincts: rage, fear, and resentment.
A good example here is when Sandor steps in to stop Loras Tyrell from being murdered by a vengeful opponent in a King’s Landing tourney—an opponent who happens to be Gregor Clegane, Sandor’s brother. But the Hound doesn’t engage in a swordfight with the Mountain because of a sense of justice or some desire to protect the innocent. He’s doing it partly because it’s his job, and partly because he wants to take a shot at his brother.
Hate is good as any to keep a person going, better than most.
When: Season 1, episode 8, “The Pointy End”
Sandor Clegane makes it clear early in his story arc exactly how useless he believes knighthood to be. The Hound’s opinion of knights and their vows is heavily informed by the fact that his brother Gregor—a violent maniac who burned Sandor’s face as a child—has been dubbed a knight, along with several other unworthy individuals.
Even when Sandor is granted a position on Joffrey Baratheon’s Kingsguard, he refuses to take any vows or add a “Ser” to the front of his name. The Hound’s disdain for knighthood is a consistent component of his character throughout his arc, and it greatly informs the sort of hero he eventually becomes.
When: Season 1, episode 10, “Fire and Blood”
One of Sandor’s earliest heroic acts is a subtle one, but it’s also one that undeniably changes the course of Westerosi history. After participating in the execution of Ned Stark, Clegane watches as Joffrey Baratheon taunts Sansa with her father’s head on a pike—and only he notices the moment when Sansa decides to push Joffrey over the battlements to his death.
The Hound steps in and stops Sansa from going through with it, and he does so quietly enough to not draw any attention. Protecting Joffrey is technically Sandor’s duty as a member of the Kingsguard, but the way he went about it suggests that he was more concerned for Sansa’s wellbeing and the horrible consequences she might face if she murdered a monarch.
When: Season 2, episode 4, “Garden of Bones”
At first, Clegane must stand idly by whenever Joffrey Baratheon has Sansa Stark beaten, a proclivity that continues to intensify after the execution of her father. He watches distressfully as Meryn Trant, another member of the Kingsguard, strikes Sansa on multiple occasions under Joffrey’s orders—at most offering her a handkerchief for her bloody mouth.
However, as Joffrey’s cruelty escalates, Sandor becomes more open about his protection of Sansa. After a particularly awful beating that includes the stripping of her clothes—one that is interrupted when Tyrion Lannister arrives and puts an end to it—Sandor covers Sansa up with his white cloak in a rather symbolic gesture.