Game of Thrones seems to dole out more fanservice than ever in Season 6, Sunday’s “The Broken Man” confirming another huge return readers have anticipated for years. Its reflection in the books remains to be seen, but said character “was always going to come back,” says writer-producer Bryan Cogman, with several different ideas considered.

You’re warned of full spoilers through the latest Game of Thrones from here on out, but if you hadn’t already heard months in advance, Rory McCann made his official return to the role of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, rescued from his Season 4 fate by Ian McShane’s “Brother Ray,” and attempting to embrace a more peaceful life. The return even got the honor of a cold open, something Cogman tells Entertainment Weekly served to avoid viewers seeing McCann’s name in the opening credits.

Naturally, Cogman was reticent to discuss the twist’s relationship to George R.R. Martin’s future writing, but at least offered that “He was always going to come back, it was just a matter of how.” In fact, a few options were considered:

Yeah, there were a few. Would a character we already know encounter him? It’s a little hard to talk about because the subplot is a riff on something that’s in the books, but it’s not totally in the books. In the books, Brienne meets these septon characters, not The Hound. We took that idea of the remote sept and weaved The Hound’s [story into it]. Rory is such an amazing actor and the audience has such an investment in him. We realized he could anchor his own return storyline. We could cut to him and have his own mini-episode and he’d be able to hold it.

That said, it remains to be seen if Game of Thrones will extend its fanservice to the infamous “Cleganebowl” theory, which suggests a reformed Sandor Clegane would end up in battle with his brother Gregor, currently looming over Cersei Lannister as her undead prospective champion in a trial-by-combat. It’s a long way from Sandor’s current quest to Kings’ Landing, something McShane himself suggested may not extend beyond simple revenge:

I don’t know what happens in the next episodes. But if they’re following the Western code, he’ll seek to avenge me, then continue his life in a different way. You have to have revenge, and expedient revenge.

We’ll see if what the final three hours of Season 6 bring, but what might Sandor’s return mean for Game of Thrones overall, whether on the show, or the written page?

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