The most recent Game of Thrones episode featured Ian McShane, a very famous and singular actor, as a guest star. In the span of roughly 40 minutes, “The Broken Man” introduced him, and brutally killed him. While that might seem like a waste of someone of McShane’s caliber, his brief time on the show made a hell of an impression. In short order, he established a world and a character entirely different from GoT’s usual faire — we don’t usually hear people say things like “Violence is a disease. You don’t cure a disease by spreading it to more people.” He also re-introduced a long-missing fan favorite character: Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound.
The Hound has been missing for two seasons and change. To re-introduce him with a new mellow attitude could have strained credulity, but Ian McShane managed to to it in a compelling way. As a defected warrior-turned-Septon, his character said,
Oh, there’s plenty of pious sons of bitches who think they know the word of god, or gods. I don’t. I don’t know their real names. Maybe it is the Seven. Or maybe it’s the Old Gods. Or maybe it’s the Lord of Light, or maybe they’re all the same fucking thing. I don’t know. What matters, I believe, is that there’s something greater than us. And whatever it is, it’s got plans for Sandor Clegane.
He is essentially operating as the voice of the writers, saying, “Hey, The Hound is back and will be important to the grand scheme of things, here he is in the tail end of Season 6! Surprise!” That’s an objectively clumsy thing to do. But Ian McShane delivers the explication with gravitas, grace and charisma, and his death gives The Hound a new direction.
His time might have been short — in part because he’s got to play the role he was made for, the enigmatic and devious Mr. Wednesday on American Gods — but Ian McShane shows us how to win the game of dominating a guest spot.