Warning: Game of Thrones season eight spoilers follow.
Game of Thrones has returned for the last time. The show’s final season premiered with “Winterfell” last night, and as the epic series heads into its final stretch, it’s clear that things are truly being brought full circle. The season eight premiere was riddled with callbacks and references to earlier events, particularly those in the show’s pilot, “Winter Is Coming,” all the way back in 2011.
From some spooky White Walker signage to one of the most anticipated reunions in the show’s history, see below for all the references you might have missed in the premiere of Game of Thrones season eight.
Things kick off with a direct homage to the pilot episode, as a royal army once again enters the halls of Winterfell. The first time around it was reigning King Robert Baratheon heading north to request that Ned Stark serve as Hand of the King, but this time, the Northerners greeted the arrival of Daenerys Targaryen and her retinue of advisers, soldiers, and dragons.
We view their approach through the eyes of an excited young boy who scrambles through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the outsiders, eventually climbing a tree to grab a better view. Even if a repetition of musical cues didn’t clue you in, it is a clear reference to an excitable Arya Stark doing the very same thing years ago (Arya literally gives the lad a nod of approval), and also tips a hat to Arya’s brother Bran, who took an extremely fateful climb (and fall) in the first episode.
Stick ’em with the pointy end
The reunion of Arya and Jon has been among the most anticipated of the entire series. All the way back in episode two of the first season, Jon bade Arya farewell with the gift of her own sword, a sharp little thing she went on to name Needle. In the season eight premiere, their reunion mirrors their previous goodbye, with Jon shocked that Arya has managed to cling on to the blade all these years. If only he knew how many murderous rampages that steel has been engaged in…
The White Walkers have maintained an air of mystery, receiving relatively little airtime. So it’s easy to forget that they appear in the opening scene of Game of Thrones‘ first-ever episode, preying on a trio of Night’s Watchmen after they discover one of their ritual slayings. Said slaying involved scattering an array of dismembered body parts in a spiral shape, a shape we later learn is associated with their initial creation by the Children of the Forest in one of Bran’s warging moments.
This enigmatic spiral has continued to pop up in relation to the Walkers, even being depicted in ancient cave drawings peeped by Jon and Dany in season seven, but it was given a truly horrifying moment in the spotlight in last night’s premiere.
Beric Dondarrion, Tormund, and other stragglers from the recently destroyed Wall happen upon a spate of Walker carnage at the Last Hearth, the seat of Northern house Umber. Their discovery blesses us with the image of an undead Lord Umber zombie-shrieking while pinned to a wall of human arms arranged in a — you guessed it — spiral. Why they do this, no one knows, but with the Walkers en route to Winterfell, the answer should arrive as fast as it takes 100,000 corpses to travel a few leagues across frozen tundra.
You remember nothing, Jon Snow
Although the Army of the Dead is nigh, they’re not nigh enough to prevent Jon and Daenerys from having a little smoochy time. After a rollercoaster course in dragon riding, the (unknowingly related) couple stop by a secluded waterfall to lock lips. Dany indicates that the two should stay hidden away up there, embracing forever, a reference to Jon’s steamy cave time with his first love Ygritte in season three that’s about as subtle as the dragons leering at them.
Let’s hope that the fate of that earlier relationship (betrayal followed by lots of arrow-piercing) isn’t a preview of coming attractions. And speaking of foreshadowing…
The bubbling intrigue of Jon’s true parentage and identity has been building for the past two seasons, and it all comes to a very sudden head in the season eight premiere when Samwell Tarly blurts the full, unadulterated truth in a frenzy of plot-moving pique. That this reveal occurred in the subterranean crypts of Winterfell was no accident. Far from it; it was a subtle homage to a scene in the pilot in which the exact same people were discussed in the exact same place.
Sam broke the news that Jon is, in fact, Aegon Targaryen, the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark (and heir to the Iron Throne) while Jon looked upon the tomb of his dearly departed dad (er, uncle) Ned Stark. Just a few feet away was Lyanna’s tomb, where, back in season one, Ned joined King Robert in mourning her passing. Robert spoke ruefully of losing Lyanna to Rhaegar, making their scene an elaborate foreshadowing of Jon’s own reckoning seven seasons later. Damn.
Jaime and Bran — together at last
In a glorious callback to the infamous cliffhanger that ended the show’s pilot, season eight’s premiere ends with a reunion between Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark, last seen together when the former pushed the latter out of a tower window, setting a course of events in motion that would come to define both characters and, in some ways, the plot of the show itself. Keeping in line with that fateful fall, the show cuts to credits as soon as they lock eyes, so more to look forward to in next week’s installment!