After an impossibly long wait, Game of Thrones has returned with what promises to be the wildest and most extravagant season of television ever produced. Somehow, everything is going to be wrapped up in six more episodes … five now, if you count Sunday’s season premiere that spent most of its time reminding us where everyone is and setting all the pieces down on the chess board. There aren’t many left at this point, and most of the important people are in Winterfell or King’s Landing. Not to ignore the giant army of the undead staggering south at an impressive pace, of course … even though most of the living are doing just that. Come on, humanity! We’re better than this!
As always with this series, there were a number of interesting details and references scattered through episode that’s aptly named Winterfell. Some were obvious, others not so much. If you’ve only had the time to watch the show once, there’s a good chance you missed at least a few of the Easter eggs and hidden surprises tucked into the background. We tracked them down for you.
The start of season eight featured a number of callbacks to the very first episode when Robert Baratheon arrived at Winterfell. There’s the peasant boy running to see the entourage as it enters the castle, echoing Arya’s similar arrival in season one. He ends up climbing a tree in a clear reference to Bran. And Sansa repeats the words to Daenerys that were spoken by her father to Robert: “Winterfell is yours, your grace.” Even the musical score used for the scene is a recycle of The King’s Arrival theme from season one, episode one.
When Euron Greyjoy is taunting his captured niece, Yara, he justifies keeping her alive by saying “If I kill you, who can I talk to? I’ve got a crew full of mutes.” As advertised, Euron’s flagship Silence is crewed entirely by foes captured in battle and he cuts off their tongues, so they can’t plot against him. This isn’t the first time his rather unique employment strategy has come up. His brother Balon mentions it at the start of season six, right before Euron throws him off a bridge to his death. In season seven, they actually show captured sailors getting their tongues cut out. So, there’s a chance his ship full of silent slaves may become relevant in the near future.
Game of Thrones is well known for its gratuitous sexposition, but did you notice that this episode’s installment with Bronn was pretty grim and unsexy? He’s definitely taken a hit in wealth and status without Tyrion and Jaime around. Gone are the beautiful vaulted brothels and exotic women focused only on his pleasure. Now he’s in a small drab room with distracted (and diseased) camp followers, who barely put any effort or attention into him. That’s supposed to tell us something important about his current position in the world. Not down in the gutter, but definitely no longer rising up or enjoying the finer things in life without his friends in high places. It’s no wonder that when Qyburn turns up with some chests full of gold, Bronn’s left seriously considering Cersei’s proposal.
One more note about Bronn’s less-than-sexy sex scene. While halfheartedly working on Bronn, the camp followers keep talking about previous Lannister army customers burnt up by Dany’s dragons in season seven. They mention “That boy Eddie the ginger,” who “came back with his face burnt right off. He’s got no eyelids now.” This seems to be a sly reference to musician Ed Sheeran, who had a cameo in the first episode of season seven as a Lannister soldier. With Sheeran being an mainstream heartthrob superstar, there was a lot of negative reaction to his inclusion in the show … especially after he survived. Perhaps this is the showrunners giving us a little satisfaction in knowing poor “Eddie” had his face melted off by dragons after all?
This next one is less of a fine detail and more of an obvious moment, but just in case you missed it, the weapon Cersei gave Bronn to kill both her brothers with is none other than Joffrey’s crossbow. Yes, the same crossbow that Tyrion used to kill his father, Tywin, on the privy at the end of season four.
Game of Thrones is pretty stingy when it comes to cameos, probably another reason so many people wanted Ed Sheeran’s face melted off. Most of them have involved musicians or cult comedians, and you can check out the current crop up to season seven here. Season eight adds two new names to the list. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘s Rob McElhenney (Mac) and Silicon Valley‘s Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) both got to be brutally murdered when Theon helped Yara escape from Euron’s clutches. They last just a few dark frames, so keep your eyes peeled!
In another not so subtle callback, Daenerys and Jon end up by a beautiful waterfall where she says “We could stay a thousand years, no one would find us.” This mirrors Jon and Ygritte’s romantic, season 3 cave encounter when the Wildling tells him “Let’s not go back. I don’t ever want to leave this cave, Jon Snow. Not ever.”
When Sam reveals Jon Snow’s true parentage to him and explains Lyanna made her brother Ned promise to keep Jon safe, the camera pans to a shot of Lyanna’s statue. It’s a nice and subtle bit of cinematography, and it makes us wonder whether there are more secrets to be revealed down in those crypts. But while some fans have noted a certain poetry to Jon learning about his mother in the crypts considering Ned Stark told him “The next time we meet, we’ll talk about your mother,” it doesn’t quite work. Jon already went down to the crypts near the end of season seven to visit Ned’s tomb.
The end of the episode went full-on horror show when Tormund and his gang of Wall survivors discover a grisly bit of undead performance art set up in Last Hearth by White Walkers. For now we’re going to ignore how disturbing the entire display is and instead hone in on the fact that this spiral shape keeps showing up.
The White Walkers have arranged other corpse piles in similar fashion, and this mirrors a rock arrangement made by the Children of the Forest in a vision Bran has. More specifically, it’s the vision where he watches them create the White Walkers … so that doesn’t seem like it could be a coincidence. The spirals show up again in caves on Dragonstone once occupied by the Children. What could this mean?