The Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere did plenty of good and necessary table setting for the coming season, but it also did a solid job of being chock-full of callbacks to earlier Game of Thrones seasons, specifically the Season 1 pilot.
Season 8, Episode 1 focused on reuniting lots of key characters, including the remaining Stark family members as well as other pairings like Sansa and Tyrion, and also Gendry and Arya. It also focused on laying the groundwork for narrative arcs that will unfold in the final season’s remaining five episodes, including the coming battle between humans and White Walkers; the brutal truth about Jon’s parents and what it means for Daenerys’ reign as queen; and the uncertainties around who will live and who will die.
In light of all of the information dropped in our laps during the Season 8 premiere, let’s take a look at eight callbacks to past seasons, especially because they could be important in the coming episodes.
8. The Royal Arrival at Winterfell: Then and Now
Winterfell is a major location for the Season 8 premiere, and because of this, there’s plenty of references made back to the Season 1 pilot, which focused on King Robert Baratheon’s arrival at Winterfell. If you recall, it wasn’t just Robert who came to Winterfell but also his family (aka the Lannister brood).
In Season 8, it’s Daenerys and Jon Snow who return with the Dothraki, the Unsullied, and her two living dragons: Drogon and Rhaegal. Much like Robert, Daenerys and Jon have also brought their real and surrogate family members with them since Daenerys treats both the armies and the dragons like her extended family.
7. The Young Boy in Season 8 Mirrors Young Arya and Bran in Season 1
The Season 8 opening sequence focuses on a young boy running through a northern village on the outskirts of Winterfell. As he races to get to a prime vantage point in order to take in the breathtaking amount of newcomers, he passes Arya, who also waits in the streets, to see who is coming home to Winterfell.
The young boy’s race to get to a high vantage point recalls both young Arya and young Bran in the Season 1 premiere. At different points in the pilot episode, both Stark children found themselves trying to get to a high spot so they could look down at Robert’s traveling caravan.
6. Sansa and Daenerys’ First Meeting Echoes 2 Important Season 1 Exchanges
Sansa and Daenerys have a chilly first meeting during the Season 8 premiere, and it’s easy to think that it’s based on everything each woman has gone through over the course of the past seven seasons. While that may be true, this first meeting between the rulers also features callbacks to two key exchanges Sansa was involved in during the Season 1 pilot.
When Daenerys arrives at Winterfell, the first thing she says to Sansa is, “Thank you for inviting us into your home, Lady Stark. The North is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you.” Sansa is pretty nonplussed by Daenerys’ compliment, but that may be because she is jaded about compliments from potentially untrustworthy queens, a lesson she learned beginning in Season 1, when Cersei called her over during a royal feast, referred to her as “little dove,” and remarked that she “is a beauty” (watch around the 2:30 mark).
The second callback during their exchange happens when Sansa replies to Daenerys’ compliment with “Winterfell is yours, Your Grace.” Sansa’s comment recalls the similar sentiment her father, Ned Stark, told to Robert Baratheon when he first arrived at Winterfell in the pilot episode. During their exchange, Ned also notes that “Winterfell is yours” while speaking to Robert, though Ned seemed a little less reluctant than his daughter Sansa does.
5. Royal Weddings Are Still on Everyone’s Mind
In the earlier Season 1 episodes, marriage was on the brain, just as it becomes a pressing issue in the Season 8 premiere. In the Season 8 opener, Davos, Varys, and Tyrion all discuss the benefits of Jon and Daenerys marrying. It would be good for them to marry not only because they’re clearly in love but also because marriage would fortify their alliance and ensure that if one of them died in battle, a ruler would still be in place.
This marriage talk, which takes place as the men walk through the grounds of Winterfell, recalls two key conversations in Season 1. Cersei and Catelyn have a quick exchange during the first feast for Robert at Winterfell about their families aligning, with Cersei telling Catelyn, “I hear we might share a grandchild someday.” In a separate exchange, Robert tells Ned in the Winterfell crypt, “I have a son, you have a daughter. We’ll join our houses.”
Sure, Cersei and Robert were likely referring to the possibility of Sansa and Joffrey marrying (that didn’t really go according to plan) but these callbacks are a reminder that Winterfell has a way of getting folks to think about the future and what’s best for their families.
4. Bran’s First Words of Warning Mirror the Night’s Watch Deserter’s Warning in the Season 1 Cold Open
Warnings about the arrival of the Night King and the White Walkers were everywhere in the Season 8 premiere, just as they were in Season 1.
In the Season 8 opener, Bran’s first words cut through the formalities of Daenerys and Jon’s arrival and update everyone of the coming threat of the White Walkers. Those harsh words, which include the very casual revelation that Viserion is now a zombie dragon, recall the first scenes of the Season 1 pilot. In those scenes, a few men from the Night’s Watch go north of the Wall to do recon on the Wildlings but instead discover that White Walkers have massacred a small group of Wildlings. The White Walkers proceed to kill all but one man, who manages to escape to Winterfell after seeing the undead and is heard muttering about seeing them before Ned executes him for being a deserter.
3. Signs of the White Walkers Arrival From Season 1 Reappear in Season 8
Although we’ve known the White Walkers are coming, it was made clear in Season 8 that they’re getting closer. The ominous spiral symbol first seen in the early scenes of the pilot episode, which was made of the limbs of massacred Wildlings arranged to look like spiraling lines, reappeared at the Last Hearth, home of House Umber and the site of the first casualties of the White Walkers who made it south of the Wall in the Season 8 premiere. In that specific reappearance scene, Tormund discovers that same spiral, made of human limbs, with young Ned Umber now turned into a Wight before being killed with fire.
2. Tyrion’s Crossbow Returns
A fun Easter egg came in the form of the crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin Lannister. It resurfaced in the Season 8 premiere, when Qyburn offered Bronn the opportunity to earn more riches than he ever thought possible if he were able to kill Jaime and Tyrion with that same crossbow, something he mentions Cersei specifically wants.
1. Jon Still Likes Romancing Women Near Waterfalls
On a more romantic note, Jon Snow keeps getting lucky whenever he brings his love interest to a nearby waterfall or secluded cave. Hearkening back to his hook-up with Ygritte in a hot spring after she tells him she just wants to stay with him there forever, Daenerys makes a similar comment to Jon when he takes her to the waterfalls near his favorite hunting spot after their dragon ride. In that scene, Daenerys quips that they could just hide away at the waterfalls for 1,000 years, which Jon doesn’t necessarily say no to, but he chose to just kiss her instead.
This callback helps to quickly establish that Jon and Daenerys are definitely falling in love, and the moment itself acts as a window into the kind of couple Jon and Daenerys could be if they decided to marry and rule together.
We have no doubt that Game of Thrones will continue to push the Easter eggs and callbacks to earlier seasons as Season 8 progresses, so keep tuning in to HBO every Sunday to see what else comes up.