All the ways the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere mirrors the very first episode

Courtesy of HBO (7).jpgfrom Alex Van Mecl (HBO). Acquired via HBO Press.
Courtesy of HBO (7).jpgfrom Alex Van Mecl (HBO). Acquired via HBO Press. /

The Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere gave several hearty nods to where it all began. Let’s count down all the callbacks – and what they could mean as we approach the endgame of the series.

After almost two full years of anticipation, the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere finally soared onto our television screens. And it did not disappoint. Including highly-anticipated reunions, spectacular dragon flight, a stunning new credit sequence, and shocking revelations galore, the episode was stuffed to the gills with fantastically satisfying scenes.

But why did it somehow seem so familiar?

Last month, Maisie Williams – aka: Arya Stark – stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that Season 8 of the show had some similarities to the first season. Interesting. She acts and she knows things, for sure. Because when the premiere unspooled earlier this evening, it seemed to be a mirror of the series opener.

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The structure itself seems to be an inversion of the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 1, with the arrival of a royal party to Winterfell taking place right up front (instead of approx halfway through), and concluding with a creepy White Walker coda that hearkened back to the very first cold open of the entire series.

So let’s follow along with the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere as we note all the callbacks back to the beginning.

Acquired via HBO Press.
Acquired via HBO Press. /

Anticipated Arrival

Right from the jump, Winterfell has always been a hotbed of political activity. This whole mess kicked off with Robert Baratheon traveling north to ask for Ned Stark’s support as Hand of the King. And we all know how that allegiance went. (Insert eye roll emoji here.)

My, how things have changed. In the seven years since Ned agreed to be Robert’s hand, the vast majority of major characters on the show have died, the Starks lost and regained their ancestral home of Winterfell, and dragons exist now. Also, there’s a new Queen in town. And she’s riding north with former King in the North, Jon Snow. The last political allegiance between North and South didn’t end well, and given the big revelation that Sam dropped on Jon at the conclusion of this episode (more on that later), things aren’t looking too great for this one, either.

It’s worth nothing here that the Hound is the only major character to feature prominently in both processionals. (Recall that Tyrion was at the brothel during Robert’s arrival.) Perhaps the Hound’s motives are similar to Varys’s? He serves the realm now.

Where’s Arya?

During both arrivals, Arya Stark was initially nowhere to be found. Instead, she was blending in with the crowd and trying to get a better look at the shiny new people invited into her home. She’s always been a curious little cat, intent on gathering as much information as possible before diving into an interaction with strangers. Clever girl.

Yet, now Arya is grown and she’s too old to weave and dart through throngs of observers. In the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere, that task falls to a small boy who is vibrating with excitement as he bobs through the dubious groups of Northerners waiting for a glimpse of the dragon queen. The boy also serves as a stand in for young Brandon Stark who once climbed towers and risked his adorbs little neck for a better look at the royal processional.

Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere
Acquired via HBO Press. /

Bran the Man

Speaking of Bran, let’s all just take a moment to remember that he was a-ok climbing those towers until Jaime Lannister came along and shook him loose. Back before the fated accident, Ned remarks to Catelyn, “he won’t be a boy forever, and winter is coming.” Sho ’nuff, Ned, but when Jon unknowingly circles back to Ned’s comment, stating, “you’re a man now” to his little brother, Bran corrects him. “Almost,” he says.

Now as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran can see everything, past, present, and future. Were Jaime’s actions seven years ago dictated by fate? Was that accident the thing that catapulted Bran to eventually travel beyond the Wall? Will the Three-Eyed Bran absolve Jaime of his guilt? Can we all agree that the reunion cliffhanger between those two characters was kind of the best? On that last one, the answer is a resounding yes.

Game of Thrones — photo: Helen Sloane/HBO — Acquired via HBO Media Relations
Game of Thrones — photo: Helen Sloane/HBO — Acquired via HBO Media Relations /

Tales From The Crypt

Upon arrival at Winterfell, two kings head down to the crypts below the castle. In the series premiere, Robert declares his intent to pay his respects even before he has a glass of wine. That’s how you know the dude was serious about his love for Lyanna. He and Ned stand at her statue, reminiscing about her beauty and her fate. But, in retrospect, we know that Ned was hiding a big secret. Huge.

That secret finally comes home to roost as Jon Snow broods in the crypts in the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere. He’s there to muse over his father’s (uncle’s) resting place, but Samwell Tarly has other plans for his old buddy. Some fans have long theorized that the crypts would play a pivotal role in the final season of the show, but here it serves as a vital backdrop to the biggest truth bomb that TV has ever seen. The biggest secret in the Seven Kingdoms comes to light in the darkest place possible. Fire plus ice equals the one true king. That won’t cause any problems at all, right?

Wherefore Art Thou, White Walkers?

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were so bold as to introduce the White Walkers in a cold open during the very first episode of the series. While we didn’t see much of the cold baddies for seasons after that – just an icy glimpse here and there – we knew they were there, lurking beyond the frozen shadows of the Wall.

During the first cold open, a cache of Night’s Watchmen stumble upon a creepy tableau of dead Wildlings, their bodies arranged in crude symbols that evoked the feel of the most deranged of serial killers. This scene would prompt one of the men to abandon his post as a man of the Night’s Watch and flee south, eventually resulting in a beheading by Ned Stark in the second episode of the series.

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In the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere, Night’s Watch once again discovers the handiwork of the White Walkers. Only this time the walkers have been hard at work at the Last Hearth, the first location in the lands of men that they’ve been able to hit after their spectacular Wall breach at the conclusion of Season 7. Poor little Ned Umber had been sent to collect his people and bring them back to Winterfell for protection, but instead he got a blast of reality in his tiny face.

Those symbols certainly mean something, and the White Walkers sure aren’t copycatting the Zodiac Killer. Eagle eyed fans will know that the patterns are similar to the symbols that the Children of the Forest left in the dragonglass caves at Dragonstone, so we’ll likely get an explanation for all of the cryptic symbology by the time the final frame of the series rolls.  Let’s just hope that the last few episodes are dark and full of answers.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.