- Warning: Spoilers ahead for all aired episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” season eight.
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After nearly 10 years and eight complete seasons of HBO’s biggest series in history, “Game of Thrones” has come to an end. The final six episodes contain many references and layers of meaning, from callbacks to the pilot or scenes inspired by George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books.
Keep reading for a look at the most significant details on “Game of Thrones” season eight.
Season eight’s opening credits sequence was changed to tell a new story.
Previously the astrolabe device had bands of artwork showing Robert’s Rebellion and other historic tales known far and wide in Westeros.
Now it starts with the most recent cataclysmic event on the continent: The Night King bringing down the Wall at Eastwatch by the Sea.
You can see a row of the Army of the Dead in the lower right corner and birds flying off from the top left side which represent both the Night’s Watch fleeing and the ravens which Bran skinchanges into.
Now three dramatic events are shown on the astrolabe: The Wall’s breach, the Red Wedding, and the birth of Daenerys’ dragons.
On this band, a dead wolf (Lady Catelyn) hangs from the towers of the Twins (House Frey’s castle) while a Flayed Man (House Bolton) holds up another wolf’s head (King Robb Stark).
To the left, a lion (Tywin Lannister) holds a fish in its jaws (House Tully).
The last motif shows Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons being hatched from their fossilized eggs.
The birth of three dragons was the closest thing to a miracle most people in the world had seen in a long while. Unfortunately now the Night King has used one of those dragons to attack the realm of men, but Daenerys and Jon Snow won’t go down without a fight.
Which brings us to the premiere episode’s actual opening, showing Daenerys and Jon arriving to Winterfell.
This introductory scene was a callback to the pilot episode of “Game of Thrones,” when King Robert and the royal party visited Winterfell.
The young boy climbing up the tree was a direct reference to Bran Stark scaling the castle walls for a better look at the coming guests.
Most important of all, the “Game of Thrones” composer Ramin Djawadi wrote a new iteration of a soundtrack piece we haven’t heard since that first pilot episode, called “The King’s Arrival.” That musical cue added to the familiarity of the opening sequence.
Arya also repeated parts of her experience with royal arrivals in Winterfell.
Back on the pilot, Arya also stood outside the walls of the castle and watched the royal party trot into town.
She specifically noticed Sandor “The Hound” Clegane back then.
On the season eight premiere, Arya looked rightfully less excited at the sight of Sandor Clegane among Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s retinue.
The Winterfell welcome party is also drastically different all these years later.
Just as King Robert presented Cersei Lannister to the Starks on season one, Jon Snow introduced Daenerys Targaryen to the lords and ladies in Winterfell.
This time Sansa and Bran Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Podrick Payne, Maester Wolkan, Lyanna Mormont, and Lord Yohn Royce made up the greeting crew.
Here’s how House Stark welcomed their last royal visitor:
Bran and Sansa Stark, Theon Greyjoy, and Jon Snow are the only four people in this photo who survived past season three. Jory, Robb Stark, Ned Stark, Maester Luwin, Catelyn Stark, Ser Rodrik, and Rickon were all murdered or executed.
Let’s hope the welcome party from season eight has better survival odds.
Jon greeted Bran with a kiss on top of his head — mirroring the exact way he said goodbye to him back on season one.
On season one, episode two, “The Kingsroad,” Jon said goodbye to Bran before heading to the Wall. Though Bran was in a coma and couldn’t hear him, Jon made his younger brother (well, cousin) some promises.
“We can go out walking beyond the Wall if you’re not afraid,” Jon said.
This goodbye scene was one of the first times an iconic piece of “Game of Thrones” music was played. The track, titled “Goodbye Brother,” is the basis for what you’ll recognise on the show as the general House Stark theme music that plays during any significant scenes with Arya, Sansa, Bran, and Jon.
When Jon and Arya finally reunited, their hug mirrored the way they last parted ways.
They embraced as Jon picked Arya up off her feet, in the same way he hugged her after gifting her with Needle on season one, episode two, “The Kingsroad.”
These over-the-shoulder shots were pitch perfect.
Arya named her sword Needle during her hug with Jon on season one. But this time when they embraced, Arya was warning Jon not to forget that she and Sansa are his family.
Jon Snow rode his first dragon, and the one he hopped on was named after his father.
Daenerys named her dragons after three important men in her life: Khal Drogo > Drogon, Viserys > Viserion, and Rhaegar > Rhaegal.
Viserion was killed last season and belonged to the Night King, and Daenerys has always had a strong preference for Drogon. So that left Rhaegal, the greenish beast named after Jon Snow’s father (though Jon had no idea at the time), as Jon’s ride for the afternoon.
Jon and Daenerys had a semi-romantic moment by a cave and waterfall.
Though Drogon was doing his best to interrupt, Daenerys tried to set an intimate mood with Jon.
“We could stay a thousand years. No one would find us,” Daenerys said to the former King in the North.
This was a reference back to Jon’s first romantic experience.
“Let’s not go back. Let’s stay here a while longer,” Ygritte told Jon. “I don’t ever want to leave this cave, Jon Snow.”
On the fourth season, as she died in Jon’s arms, Ygritte mentioned the cave once more. It’s become a symbol of the rare peace and romance found on “Game of Thrones,” and so the invocation of it for Jon and Daenerys’ scene was contentious.
Could they really have a happy ending? If their love story is anything like Jon and Ygritte’s was, the answer is a sad “no.”
Toward the end of the episode, we saw Beric and Tormund enter Last Hearth — the castle of House Umber.
One way to tell it was Last Hearth was by the crossed chain sigil of House Umber on the courtyard’s banners.
And inside, of course, was the young Lord Umber, killed and pinned to the wall.
Little Ned Umber had been turned into a wight, and woke up shrieking and writhing until Beric set him on fire.
The flame spread to severed arms that were nailed onto the wall in a familiar spiral pattern.
This pattern is one of the symbols the White Walkers often leave behind.
The rock formation where the Night King was first created was in this spiral shape, so it’s likely just a pattern the Night King has chosen to use as his marker.
The opening credits changed slightly again at the start of episode two, this time showing the war preparations at Winterfell.
While the premiere episode’s credits were entirely new, for the second episode there were simple additions.
First, Last Hearth was shown enveloped in the icy-blue tiles that represent the Night King and his Army of the Dead. Then, as seen above, Winterfell was shown battle-ready with the deep trenches built around its border.
Daenerys referred to Tyrion as Jaime’s “little brother,” nodding to one of the more popular fan theories for the Lannister siblings.
“Perhaps he trusts his little brother to defend him,” Daenerys said when Tyrion tried to come to Jaime’s defence. “Right up until the moment he slits my throat.”
In George R.R. Martin’s books, the prophecy told to Cersei as a young girl has a third and important part. The woods witch told Cersei, “The valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
Valonqar means “little brother” in Valyrian, and Cersei interpreted that to mean Tyrion would eventually kill her.
But many fans have come around to the idea that Jaime is the real valonqar – he’s also her little brother, after all, just by mere minutes.
But the show removed this part of the prophecy back on season five when we were given the flashback of Young Cersei hearing the predictions, so we can’t be certain this theory will manifest at all on “Game of Thrones.”
Regardless, this episode appeared to make a clear reference to it, if only to stoke the fires of speculation once more.
Jaime repeated Brienne’s argument from the season seven finale when Daenerys asked him to explain his desertion of Cersei.
When Queen Daenerys still seems doubtful of Jaime’s intentions, he turns and looks at Brienne before answering.
“Because this goes beyond loyalty,” Jaime said. “This is about survival.”
That’s very close to what Brienne told Jaime in the dragonpit when she was trying to persuade him to fight with the North.
“Oh f— loyalty,” Brienne said, much to Jaime’s shock. “This goes beyond houses and honour and oaths. Talk to the queen.”
It was Jaime’s invocation of this sentiment that finally pushed her to stand up and defend Jaime in front of all the Northern lords, Lady Sansa, and Queen Daenerys.
With Jaime and Brienne together, this marked the first time the pieces of Ned Stark’s sword had been back in Winterfell since his death.
The ancestral blade of House Stark was a greatsword named Ice. The blade was Valyrian steel, making the metal precious (and one of the rare substances that can kill White Walkers).
The sword was taken by the Lannister when Ned was arrested and later melted into two new blades.
At the start of season two, Tywin Lannister had Ice melted down and forged two new swords from it.
He gave one of these swords to Jaime, who in turn gifted it to Brienne. She named it Oathkeeper. The second sword was given to King Joffrey, who named it Widow’s Wail. After Joffrey’s death, Jaime took the blade for himself.
Now, for the first time since Ned left Winterfell on season one, episode two, Ice was back in its rightful place of House Stark.
Tyrion repeated a joke we’ve heard before about how he’d prefer to die.
“I always pictured myself dying in my bed, at the age of 80 with a belly full of wine and girl’s mouth around my c—,” Tyrion told Jaime.
Clearly Tyrion loves this little jest, because Jaime finished his sentence for him.
We heard it the first time back on the first season, when Tyrion was surrounded by the mountain clans in the Vale.
“How would you like to die, Tyrion son of Tywin?” said Shagga, son of Dolf. And Tyrion answered with his typical wit, saying the “belly full of wine” joke again.
The scene on season eight ended on a potentially more terrifying note, when Tyrion said perhaps he’d “march to King’s Landing and rip [Cersei] apart” after he was killed. Could this be yet another nod to the “Valonqar” prophecy? Fans would have to wait and see.
Arya and Gendry’s flirtatious forge scene was a shot-by-shot recreation of a season two moment between them.
When Arya walked up to the forge just as Gendry was starting to work on a weapon, the framing of the shots was identical to a scene from the end of season two, episode five, “The Ghost of Harrenhal.”
Here’s Gendry, now and then, in the same shot.
The actors Joe Dempsie (Gendry) and Maisie Williams (Arya) have aged along with their characters as the series has filmed over the past decade.
When they first began shooting, Williams was 12 years old. Now, she’s 22. Dempsie was about 23 by the time season two rolled around, and now he’s 31. Their characters are meant to be much closer in age (about 18 and 23, respectively).
Both Davos and Gilly were visibly moved by the sight of a young girl who reminded them of Princess Shireen Baratheon.
The young girl had burn marks on her face, in the same place where Shireen’s greyscale covered her cheek.
Davos thought of Shireen as a daughter and was devastated to learn not only of her death but to hear she was executed by Stannis and Melisandre. Shireen helped both Davos and Gilly learn how to read. We saw the young princess bond with Gilly on season five, when they were both at Castle Black.
The scene was given added emotional weight with an instrumental version of the song Shireen once sang playing in the background.
During a season three scene with Shireen, she was heard singing an eerie ballad called “It’s Always Summer Under the Sea.”
The melody of that song is the same music heard on the season eight scene when Davos has a visceral reaction to seeing the young Winterfell girl in front of him.
When Arya found out Gendry was a Baratheon, the weight of that revelation added fuel to a fun fan theory.
Back on the pilot episode of “Game of Thrones,” Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark spoke in the crypts of Winterfell about their families.
“I have a son – you have a daughter,” Robert said. “We’ll join our houses.”
King Robert was referring to Joffrey and Sansa but, as we soon learned, Joffrey wasn’t Robert’s son at all but the bastard of Cersei and Jaime.
Fans have spent years hoping that line might foreshadow a romance between Gendry and Arya, the real son and daughter of Robert and Ned. And tonight they got their wish (just sans the arranged betrothal part).
Tyrion and Jaime mention the Siege of Pyke and Whispering Wood, two battles with loaded significance.
Tyrion calls Jaime the “fabled hero of the Siege of Pyke.” That fight happened decades before the contemporary events of “Game of Thrones,” but Jaime had a meaningful conversation with one of the Stark household soldiers about it on the first season.
On season one, Jaime was standing guard duty when Jory — one of Ned Stark’s most trusted men — came to him with a message.
The two exchanged pleasantries, and talk turned to the battle at the Siege of Pyke, where they had fought side by side. Jory mentioned how he nearly lost an eye fighting one of the Greyjoy men.
The next time Jaime and Jory saw each other was when Jaime and the Lannister men attacked Ned in the streets of King’s Landing.
Jory tried to take Jaime on single-handedly, but Jaime shoved his dagger through Jory’s eye, killing him instantly and bringing their earlier conversation around full circle.
Back on our season eight episode, Jaime calls himself the “fabled loser of the battle of Whispering Wood.”
This was the first major battle Robb Stark won. He surprised the Lannister forces and captured Jaime, which eventually led to Jaime’s release with Brienne and the loss of his hand.
Given how Jaime-centric Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones” was, it’s fitting for us to be reminded of these two monumental character moments for Jaime. The first is an example of his previous cutthroat loyalty to his family, and the latter shows how far the relationship between House Stark and Lannister has come.
Meanwhile, that emotional knighting ceremony was a deep reference to George R.R. Martin’s books.
In addition to the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, Martin wrote three novellas set in Westeros about 100 years prior to the events of “Game of Thrones.”
Each novella follows the tales of a knight called Ser Duncan the Tall and a young Targaryen prince known simply as Egg. Ser Duncan even got name-dropped on the fourth season of “Game of Thrones,” when King Joffrey was reading through the White Book of the Kingsguard.
Ser Duncan the Tall is Brienne of Tarth’s ancestor.
After years of fans speculating that the unusually tall Ser Duncan might be one of Brienne’s ancestors, Martin seemed to confirmed the theory at a convention in 2016. The three “Dunk and Egg” novellas were packaged into a single book called “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
Knowing Brienne’s potential shared heritage with the chivalrous Ser Duncan made that incredible knighting ceremony all the more powerful when Jaime said, “Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
The song Podrick sang was pulled straight from the books, and it’s known as “Jenny’s Song.”
For now, here are the full lyrics to Podrick’s version:
“High in the halls of the kings who are gone Jenny would dance with her ghosts The ones she had lost and the ones she had found And the ones who had loved her the most The ones who’d been gone for so very long She couldn’t remember their names
“They spun her around on the damp old stones Spun away all her sorrow and pain And she never wanted to leave Never wanted to leave (x5)”
The version that played as the credits on the episode ran was by Florence and the Machine.
Just after Jon Snow dropped the bombshell news of his parentage on Daenerys, the Night King’s army arrived and the episode faded on an ominous note. Watch the lyric video for the Florence and the Machine version of “Jenny of Oldstones” here.
At the start of episode three, yet more small changes were made to the opening credits.
At the start of episode three, the Army of the Dead was right outside of Winterfell.
Just as predicted, the blue tiles crept all the way up to the grounds of House Stark’s beloved castle by the beginning of the third episode, “The Long Night.”
The Winterfell crypts were also changed slightly for episode three’s opening.
For the first two episodes, the sweeping shot of the crypts showed flickering torches lining the hallway.
On episode three’s shot, the torches start going out at the end of the hallway. This was an early signal that the Army of the Dead would inflict its horror on the people inside the crypts, too.
Alys Karstark was with Bran and Theon Greyjoy at the start of the battle, which means she’s most likely dead.
We can pretty confidently add Lady Alys Karstark to the list of characters who were killed during the battle, since Theon was left standing alone in front of Bran by the time the Night King showed up.
Alys didn’t have any speaking lines this season but was shown on the first two episodes.
She and little Ned Umber were the two young highborns whom Jon Snow pardoned after the Battle of the Bastards (their fathers each fought for the Boltons). Ned was killed by the Night King on the eighth season premiere.
The deaths of both Alys and Ned mark the end of two great Northern houses. Though Winterfell survived the battle, the North has clearly been weakened in the fight.
The spell Melisandre used to light the Dothraki’s arakhs on fire is similar to the one used by Beric Dondarrion.
Melisandre showed up just before the war against the Army of the Dead got started, and she used a Valyrian spell to ignite the blades of all the Dothraki horseriders.
Part of her spell included the phrase “āeksiō ōños,” which means “lord’s light” (as in the Red God or Lord of Light himself: R’hllor).
We know this thanks to Richard Dormer, the actor who plays Beric.
Dormer has said Beric uses that same Valyrian spell to ignite his sword, but he doesn’t even have to say the words.
The language creator David J. Peterson, who crafted the Valyrian and Dothraki phrases for the series, shared a translation of the incantation used by Melisandre on his website.
Here’s what she was saying in Valyrian: “Āeksios Ōño, aōhos ōñoso ilōn jehikās! Āeksios Ōño, ilōn misās! Kesrio syt bantis zābrie issa se ossȳngnoti lēdys!”
And the English translation: “Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!”
Some of the last words Edd Tollett said to Sam Tarly was an echo of their season-three encounter with the Army of the Dead.
Just before he was killed by a wight, Edd told Sam he needed to get up from the ground.
Early on season three, Sam, Edd, and the rest of the Night’s Watch were fleeing from a White Walker attack when Sam collapsed to his knees, unable to go on anymore.
Edd and Grenn stopped and encouraged Sam to get up because he’d die if he didn’t move.
Edd survived the Fist of the First Men, the battle of Castle Black (where Grenn met his death at the hands of a giant), Hardhome, and the Night King’s attack on the Wall.
Unfortunately Edd’s watch ended at the Battle of Winterfell.
Wights threw themselves off the castle walls, harking back to the season five battle episode, “Hardhome.”
Sunday’s episode, “The Long Night,” was directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
Sapochnik made his mark on “Game of Thrones” back on the fifth season when he helmed Jon Snow’s showdown versus the Night King at Hardhome.
On “Hardhome,” one of the most striking moments was when the Night King had thousands of wights fling themselves off a cliff.
They all crashed at the foot of the mountain but then immediately cracked their heads up and continued running. That was the moment when Jon Snow (and Edd) decided to bail on any effort of fighting, which led to his iconic first staredown with the Night King.
Arya passed along Jon Snow’s fighting advice to Sansa (even though her sister didn’t appear to learn the lesson).
When Sansa told Arya she didn’t know how to use the dragonglass dagger, Arya simply said: “Stick ’em with the pointy end.”
This was precisely what Jon Snow told her back on season one, episode two, when he gifted Needle to her before they said goodbye.
“First lesson,” Jon told Arya. “Stick ’em with the pointy end.”
This line is particularly iconic in George R.R. Martin’s book series, because Arya thinks back to it at several points. The show even named a season-one episode after this line, in which Arya kills her first person (a young stable boy).
Martin also used this line back in 2010 as the title of a blog post announcing Maisie Williams had been cast in the role of Arya Stark.
Unfortunately Sansa didn’t put the advice into practice down in the crypts.
Arya’s first encounter with the wight army led to a throwback fight move she used on the sixth season with the Waif.
When Arya first fought a group of wights on the ramparts of Winterfell, she was using her new dragonglass-tipped spear in fight choreography that mimicked her season-six training with the Faceless Men.
Back when she was training, Arya had a triumphant moment when she stopped the Waif’s staff in this same position.
To highlight this callback on Sunday’s episode, a variant of Arya’s theme music (a track called “Needle”) by Ramin Djawadi played as she used the same move on a wight.
The little girl who promised to protect Gilly and the others was briefly seen inside the crypt, though she didn’t do any fighting.
This young girl was part of an important scene on last week’s episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” when she reminded both Ser Davos and Gilly of the now-dead Princess Shireen.
As with Sansa, it was a bit strange to know there was a person down in the crypts prepared to fight but never took the chance. Once the tombs broke open and the dead emerged, all heck broke loose and we didn’t catch sight of the young girl again.
When the Night King resurrected all the corpses, a familiar Dothraki man named Qhono was among their ranks.
Qhono, Edd, and Lady Lyanna Mormont were all shown reopening their eyes when the Night King used his powers to raise the dead.
Qhono was one of the Dothraki who took Daenerys prisoner at very end of the sixth season, but he went on to serve as her guard.
He was present when Jon Snow first arrived to Dragonstone and at the “Spoils of War” battle on season seven.
Theon’s final moments in the godswood had a poignant connection to a key chapter in the book series.
Martin has so far published only five of his planned seven books in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. In the last published chapters told from Theon’s perspective, he’s only just barely breaking out of his tormented “Reek” persona.
Theon ponders death as “the sweetest deliverance he could hope for” and also thinks about Winterfell as his home. “Not a true home, but the best I ever knew,” he says to himself.
Theon wanders around Winterfell and finds himself in the godswood, where he speaks with the weirwood tree there.
“Please. A sword, that’s all I ask,” he says. “Let me die as Theon, not as Reek.”
In the books at this same time, Bran is still beyond the Wall and learning to use his powers.
Theon in the books thinks he sees Bran’s face in the weirwood tree and hears whispers on the wind. This was most likely Bran using his greensight powers through the weirwood tree.
Though the events that lead Theon to the godswood are very different from his arc in Martin’s book, the moment when Bran tells Theon that Winterfell is his “home” too had extra meaning for people familiar with the book series.
Theon’s manner of death is a callback to the rousing speech he once gave at Winterfell.
After seeing how outnumbered he was, Theon opted for a hero’s death as he charged at the Night King with a spear.
The Night King easily deflected the blow and in turn stabbed Theon right through the belly.
Back on the second season finale, Theon delivered a rallying speech to the Iron Born about the “Battle of Winterfell.”
After Theon took Winterfell from Bran, the Boltons came to reclaim the castle in the name of Robb Stark. Seeing he was surrounded, Theon thought they’d make a stand against the army outside Winterfell’s walls.
“We die today brothers,” Theon said to his men. “We die bleeding from a hundred wounds, with arrows in our necks and spears in our guts. But our war cries will echo through eternity. They will sing about the Battle of Winterfell until the Iron Islands have slipped beneath the waves. Every man, woman, and child will know who we were and how long we stood.”
Theon was promptly knocked out and betrayed by those men, but his speech takes on more weight now that we know how Theon will be a legendary part of the real Battle of Winterfell.
Arya’s surprise dagger-flip move was similar to one she pulled on Brienne last season, as well as a nod to Maisie Williams being right-handed.
In what was one of the biggest surprises “Game of Thrones” has delivered in a while, Arya leaped at the Night King and was almost thwarted. He turned, grabbed her by the arm and neck, and seemed close to squeezing the life out of her.
But then Arya dropped her Valyrian steel dagger from her left hand, and caught it in her right hand. She stabbed the blade into his chest, instantly killing him and therefore the entire Army of the Dead.
Back on season seven, Arya trained with Brienne and the two came to a draw after Arya flipped her dagger from one hand into the other.
In addition to Arya and Brienne’s training, we think the left-to-right switcheroo is a fun nod to Maisie Williams’ experience of playing Arya Stark left-handed.
Arya is a lefty in George R.R. Martin’s books, and when 12-year-old Williams got the part she wanted to fully commit to the character.
“I’m right-handed, and when Mum was reading the first book, she told me about Arya being left-handed,” Williams told TV Guide in 2011. “From then on, I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to try to do everything left-handed.'”
And she did indeed learn most of the fight choreography left-handed, which makes her big final heroic Arya act all the more fun because she was able to show off her acquired ambidextrous skills.
Arya stabbed the Night King in the exact spot where dragonglass was shoved into his chest by the Children of the Forest.
Arya was fast on the draw and found weakness in the Night King’s armour right where it mattered the most.
The showrunners said only Valyrian steel stabbed in that exact spot could have killed the Night King.
“We knew it had to be Valyrian steel, to the exact spot where the Child of the Forest put the blade to create the Night King,” David Benioff said in HBO’s “Inside the Episode” segment. “And he’s uncreated by the Valyrian steel.”
Arya’s Valyrian steel dagger was given to her by Bran in that same godswood location last season. That scene itself was loaded with foreshadowing of Arya’s fated Night King encounter.
Davos was drawing a dagger so he could kill Melisandre before she allowed herself to die.
When they last saw each other, Davos had just discovered the truth about Melisandre burning Princess Shireen alive. Jon Snow banished her from the North with the caveat that she would be “hanged as murderer” if she ever returned, and Davos promised to carry out the sentence himself.
He allowed her to stay and help their army, but by the time dawn was breaking Davos was clearly ready to kill Melisandre before he saw what she was doing.
She walked into the rising sun, removed her magical necklace (which concealed her real, hundreds-year-old body), and succumbed to her fated death.
Last but not least, the episode title “The Long Night” is linked to an early season-one scene and the developing “Game of Thrones” prequel series.
When Old Nan was telling Bran his favourite “scary story,” she mentioned “the Long Night” and how the White Walkers had first come to terrorize Westeros.
HBO has four “Game of Thrones” spin-off series in the works, with the first of these in the pilot stage. That prequel would take place around the Age of Heroes, which just so happens to be the lead-in point to the legendary Long Night.
For the fourth episode of the season, “The Last of the Starks,” we start with another credits change.
The opening credits changed yet again following the destruction of Winterfell.
The week before, the Army of the Dead was shown right outside the walls of Winterfell, but now a collection of funeral pyres was stationed in that spot. The main keep of the castle was also shown in disarray, with the interior all smashed up as part of the battle’s aftermath.
Daenerys had a brand new Targaryen-red costume for the feast scene, and it’s the first time she’s worn this much of her House colour.
For Winterfell’s celebratory feast scene, Daenerys was dressed in a fully red dress/coat with a black panel running down its front.
The House Targaryen colours of red and black have had a presence in her costumes, though never before was it this pronounced.
The costumes are carefully crafted to reflect characters’ journeys, so this was a major hint about Daenerys’ future actions.
Costume designer Michele Clapton told INSIDER last season that each “little bit” of clothing or jewellery worn “says something about the character.”
At the start of the seventh season, as seen above, Daenerys was only just starting to wear hints of red.
“With Dany in particular, finally we’re getting the [Targaryen] red,” Clapton said. “She was a confused woman, she was wandering… trying to seek something. And now she’s finally got her armour, she’s finally got everything, and she can finally echo the style of her brother with the extended shoulders and the red and the symbolism.”
The red dress Daenerys wore for Sunday’s episode is the most extreme version of this we’ve seen yet, and we doubt it’s coincidental she was in full-Targaryen mode when she was pressuring Jon to never speak a word about his claim to the Iron Throne.
“Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss appeared on the episode as two wildlings.
You can spot them smiling and saluting Jon Snow as Tormund brags about the former-King in the North’s accomplishments.
Podrick Payne swooped in after Sandor Clegane yelled at one of the Winterfell gals, and left the feast with two women.
Maintaining his reputation as a master in the arts of seduction, Podrick was shown in the background wooing not one but two women at the feast. They leave the room together just as Sandor and Sansa begin to talk.
Arya repeated a line from the first season when she turned down Gendry’s proposal.
Gendry asked Arya to marry him after he was made Lord of Storm’s End, but the youngest Stark girl wasn’t interested.
“I’m not a lady,” Arya said. “I never have been. That’s not me.”
Back on the first season, Arya told Ned the same thing when he tried telling her about her future.
When Ned told Arya that Bran would grow up to be the lord of a castle, Arya asked if she could be a lord, too.
“You will marry a high lord and rule his castle,” Ned said. “And your sons shall be knights and princes and lords.”
“No,” Arya replied. “That’s not me.”
When Tyrion was trying to reason with Bronn, he started to say one of the show’s most iconic adages.
This was the pearl of wisdom Varys gave to Tyrion back on the second season.
While Tyrion was exercising his power as acting Hand of the King, Varys came to him with a riddle. If a sellsword found himself in front of a king, a priest, and a rich man, which person would the sellsword obey?
This, of course, was a trick question.
“Power resides where men believe it resides,” Varys told Tyrion. “It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
Then came the fifth episode, “The Bells.” Like clockwork, the credits shifted ever so slightly.
The gates of King’s Landing got a small upgrade for the start of “The Bells.” Two small scorpions (those massive, dragon-slaying crossbows) popped up on either side of the main gate.
Those didn’t appear on last week’s episode, “The Last of the Starks.” Now that Daenerys destroyed them all, we’re sure the credits will change yet again for the finale.
Even before the episode began, the “previously on” segment had a series of important context clues.
The pieces of dialogue were all centered on the tormented Targaryen legacy.
Here’s every line and the episode it was pulled from:
- “Every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin.”– Cersei Lannister (season two, episode seven)
- “The Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved.”– Barristan Selmy (season five, episode two)
- “Children are not their fathers.”– Tyrion Lannister (season seven, episode three)
- “Be a dragon.”– Olenna Tyrell (season seven, episode two)
- “You have a gentle heart.”– Jorah Mormont (season two, episode five)
- “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.”– Aemon Targaryen (season five, episode five)
- “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?”– Viserys Targaryen (season one, episode one)
The episode formally started with Varys writing a letter about Jon Snow’s real identity.
As revealed on last week’s episode, Varys had every intention of killing Daenerys and placing Jon Snow on the Iron Throne in her stead.
His letter is reminiscent of the correspondence Ned Stark sent to Stannis Baratheon back on the first season. That letter, detailing how King Joffrey was Jaime and Cersei’s bastard born of incest, was part of the inciting incident for the War of the Five Kings.
Here’s part of what Varys’s letter said: “…is not the only Targaryen left. Rhaegar and Lyanna […] their son lives still – hidden by Eddard Stark. His name […] and he is the true heir to the Iron Throne.”
The “little bird” Varys was using to try to poison Daenerys was a familiar face.
Martha was next to Varys in the crypts during the Battle of Winterfell.
When the Night King reanimated the dead Starks buried in the crypts, Tyrion and Sansa ran past Varys hiding in a corner with a group of children. Martha was among them, though at the time we didn’t know she was one of his “little birds.”
When Varys was outed by Tyrion and burned alive for his betrayal, the scene mirrored another Dragonstone execution.
Daenerys used Drogon to kill Varys, as she promised him she would back on the second episode of season seven.
“And I swear this,” Daenerys had told Varys. “If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.”
Varys was killed in the same place where Stannis and Melisandre once burned people alive for not believing the Lord of Light.
Like Daenerys, Stannis Baratheon believed that he was destined to rule the Seven Kingdoms and that the Iron Throne was his by birthright. He turned out to be woefully mistaken and died after losing everything he loved.
Will Daenerys meet the same fate? Or are their chosen paths different enough for her to avoid this parallel?
This shot of Drogon’s shadow passing over King’s Landing came straight from Bran Stark’s vision on the fourth season.
Fans had been hoping to see this moment of a dragon flying over King’s Landing come to fruition ever since it was foreshadowed back on season four.
Here’s what that shadowy scene looked like when Bran saw it:
On season four, episode two, “The Lion and the Rose,” Bran Stark touched a weirwood tree and had a series of important visions. Not only did he see this future moment, but that was the first time we saw the Night King and another key motif.
Bran also saw this scene of snow falling in the throne room.
Some fans previously wondered whether this scene showed ash, and not snow, since the roof of the Red Keep appeared blackened and destroyed.
It could have been both, but part of it is most certainly snow based on the texture and the way the material is falling in the scene. Plus Emilia Clarke herself referred to it as snow on the season-two DVD-commentary version of the episode.
We long believed this was foreshadowing of Jon Snow’s Targaryen parentage and claim to the Iron Throne.
Daenerys had the same snowy vision on the second season finale.
When Daenerys entered the House of the Undying, she saw a vision of the Iron Throne for the first time in her life. She reached for the throne’s snow-covered armrest but pulled away when she heard her dragons crying.
Though we certainly saw ash falling in King’s Landing after Daenerys’ attack, the weather forecast for the finale looks snowy to us, so we might see actual snow inside the Red Keep next Sunday.
Daenerys was in a new costume for her attack on King’s Landing, and it fully embraced her dragon-like side.
The upper sleeves of her metallic blackish-purple gown have a scale pattern. Combined with her deep-red sash, this is one of the most Targaryen-themed looks she’s ever worn on the show.
Seems as if Daenerys finally took Olenna’s advice (which we heard in the opening segment) to “be a dragon.”
After Daenerys heard the bells of surrender and opted to continue attacking the city, we never saw her again — only Drogon.
The episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik, said in HBO’s “The Game Revealed” segment that Daenerys pushed forward with the slaughter in part because the surrender felt too easy. She and Grey Worm came for blood, wanting to avenge Missandei and her other fallen followers.
“She feels empty,” he said. “It wasn’t what she thought it was. It’s not enough.”
Once Daenerys decided to continue punishing the city, she vanishes from the episode’s perspective. We only see the dragon and destruction – never our Mother of Dragons herself.
Jaime got his death wish.
While some (us included) may have hoped this really meant Brienne, in the end, Jaime died holding his twin sister, Cersei.
Their fates seem intertwined in the book series, too.
“I cannot die while Cersei lives,” Jaime thinks to himself in the third book. “We will die together as we were born together.”
Their deaths also seem tied to a prophecy revealed in only the books called “The Valonqar,” one that was omitted from the show. You can read all about that particular twist here.
Arya barely survived all the destruction wrought by Daenerys, and at the end of the episode she found a white horse.
White horses are often associated with triumph and heroics in mythology, like Gandalf’s Shadowfax in “The Lord of the Rings” movies or Pegasus in Greek mythology.
But the New Testament’s Book of Revelation also tells of a coming apocalypse heralded by a “pale horse, whose rider is Death.”
The horse has yet another meaning. The little girl Arya failed to save was holding a small white horse.
Arya was saved by this mother during the chaos, and she later tried and failed to return the favour. When Arya saw the young girl’s blackened white horse still clutched in her incinerated hand, she cried. The white horse Arya rides away on is a symbol of her new motivations.
The opening credits changed for a final time, and they included the tiny detail of the cracked map floor in the Red Keep.
As expected, King’s Landing was shown in ruins for the finale’s opening credits following the previous week’s massive battle. The gates were crumbled, and the entire castle was in tatters, with the Lannister Lion sigil removed from above the Iron Throne.
But our favourite little detail was the crack shown on Cersei’s map floor during the overview shot of the Red Keep.
The crack splits the map right around where the North begins.
Since we hadn’t seen the state of the Red Keep on the actual episode yet, it was fun to see how this cracked floor was actually part of the set design.
Plus, it foreshadowed the way Sansa would reclaim the North’s independence by the end of the episode.
Jon recalled Aemon Targaryen’s lessons to him from season one, and they connect to virtually every main storyline on the show.
“Love is the death of duty,” Jon told Tyrion.
The last living Lannister flipped that, saying that sometimes “duty is the death of love.” Jon Snow killed Daenerys minutes later – but before we get to that important scene, it’s worth revisiting Aemon’s full speech to Jon Snow.
“We all do our duty, when there is no cost to it,” Aemon said.
When Jon Snow first joined the Night’s Watch, his vows were tested when he heard about Ned Stark’s capture and how Robb had called the banners to march south. Aemon summoned Jon and spoke to him about the tragedy of love and honour.
“What is honour compared to a woman’s love?” Aemon asked.
This question frames many of the series’ most consequential relationships. Jon Snow’s own parents, Rhaegar and Lyanna, forsake their families for their secret love. Jon himself found his first great love in the wildling Ygritte and broke his vows. Robb Stark cast aside his oath to Walder Frey to marry Talisa.
Some of those choices had a costly effect on not just the love-stricken couple but the entire realm of Westeros.
“What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms?” Aemon asked next.
Ned Stark knows the answer to this question. He held baby Jon Snow for the first time and promised his dying sister he would protect him, even if it meant bringing dishonor on his wife, Catelyn, and his own reputation as Lord of Winterfell.
“Or the memory of a brother’s smile?” Aemon said.
This final example of the cost of honour is perhaps the most poignant for Jon Snow. He and Robb said goodbye in the courtyard of Winterfell on the second episode of the series, and their final smile would be the last time they saw one another alive.
Arya Stark also thinks about Jon Snow’s smile when she’s struggling to cast aside her sword, Needle, in Braavos.
“Needle was Jon Snow’s smile,” Arya thinks in the book version of this scene. “He used to mess my hair and call me ‘little sister,’ she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.”
Jon’s love for Arya and Sansa is a core reason he kills Daenerys.
Jon resigns himself to serving Queen Daenerys and watching as Tyrion is executed. But before he can leave the room, Tyrion asks Jon about Sansa and Arya.
“And your sisters? Do you see them bending the knee?” Tyrion said.
Jon says they won’t have a choice, but Tyrion persists in making Jon believe Daenerys would kill them.
“You have to choose now,” Tyrion said.
This is a close parallel to the proposition Varys gave Ned just before his death.
Ned was ready to accept his fate and die with his honour intact, saying his life was no precious thing to him.
“And what of your daughter’s life, my lord?” Varys asked. “Is that a precious thing to you?”
Just as Ned had traded his honour to protect Jon Snow, he once again allowed the realm to believe in a lie to save his child. After Varys brought up Sansa, Ned made the choice to falsely confess to treason.
All these years later, Jon Snow wrestled with the same choice: the safety of his family, or a commitment to honour. Just like the man who raised him, Jon chose his family in this time of crisis.
When Daenerys enters the throne room for the first time, the scene is framed precisely like her vision from season two.
Back on the second season finale, Daenerys went to the House of the Undying to find her dragons.
When she entered the building, the Red Keep of King’s Landing manifested before her.
The version of the Red Keep she saw was in ruins. The ceiling was caved in, and snow was falling gently from the sky into the room.
This was the first time her life Daenerys ever saw the Iron Throne. But it wasn’t real.
She reached for the throne in her vision, but before she could touch it, she heard the sound of her dragons crying and turned away.
When Daenerys saw the throne in person for the first time, she was able to touch it.
Before Daenerys could sit on the same seat of power from which her father once ruled, Jon Snow walked in. (It was also his first time in the throne room of King’s Landing.)
This was a meta scene about how George R.R. Martin’s description of the throne doesn’t match the show’s set piece.
Daenerys talked to Jon about how the Iron Throne looked different from what she imagined, and she echoed the sentiment in a 2013 LiveJournal post by Martin.
Martin’s post described a difference between the Iron Throne in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” books and the throne created by HBO’s team.
“The way the throne is described in the books … HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court,” Martin wrote. “My throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and asymmetric … The HBO throne is none of those things.”
Jon Snow’s murder of Daenerys was an imperfect fulfillment of a major prophecy known as Azor Ahai.
The death of Daenerys at the hands of her lover, Jon Snow, was a long-running fan theory thanks to a specific legend about a hero, Azor Ahai, who plunges a blade into his love’s chest to help combat a coming darkness.
The show’s scene didn’t quite match all the features of this legend, but we believe that in its own tragic way, this was always Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s fate.
Jon held Daenerys Targaryen’s body in the same way he once held Ygritte as she died.
The repetition of this tableau gave the scene in the throne room an added weight.
The gathering of lords and ladies at the Dragonpit included a few familiar faces.
Robin Arryn, Yohn Royce, Yara Greyjoy, and Edmure Tully were all present and accounted for. There was also an unnamed Dornish prince and several other unidentified lords.
We were most curious about the man seated next to Sam Tarly, since he was wearing a costume similar to the one we saw on Howland Reed (Meera’s father) in a flashback on season six. But so far there’s no confirmation this was Ned Stark’s best friend.
The gathering of lords and ladies at the Dragonpit included a few familiar faces.
When parting ways with Jon Snow, Arya told her remaining family she wasn’t going to return to the North.
“What’s west of Westeros?” Arya asked.
This is the same thing she told Lady Crane.
When the Braavosi actress was helping Arya heal from her stab wounds, she asked where Arya would go next.
“Essos is east, and Westeros is west,” Arya said. “But what’s west of Westeros?”
“I don’t know,” Lady Crane replied.
“Nobody does,” Arya said. “It’s where all the maps stop.”
As the final montage of Stark children revealed, Arya will be the first Stark explorer to fill in those pesky maps.
Ser Brienne of Tarth is the new Lord Commander of Bran Stark’s Kingsguard, and her armour bore his new raven sigil.
We saw Brienne wearing new golden armour with a raven sigil embossed on its front. Is this King Bran’s new sigil? It seems as if he abandoned the Stark name and embraced his Three-Eyed Raven identity of Bran the Broken.
Brienne filled out Jaime Lannister’s pages, as is the duty of every new Lord Commander.
The Kingsguard’s Lord Commander is in charge of updating each knight’s page, which is why Brienne sat down to finish telegraphing Ser Jaime’s deeds.
She referred to the “Battle of the Goldroad,” the epic clash we saw on season seven’s “Spoils of War” episode when Daenerys attacked the Lannister army. Previously, the “Game of Thrones” crew called this skirmish the “Loot Train Battle.”
We much prefer the Battle of Goldroad and thank Brienne for not putting “loot train” in ink.
Brienne and Jaime stood in this very room on season four and talked about how he still had room left for great deeds.
“It’s the duty of the Lord Commander to fill those pages,” Jaime told Brienne when he gifted her armour and a sword and tasked her with finding the Stark girls. “There’s still room left on mine.”
The sword Jaime gave her in that scene, Oathkeeper, is sitting next to the White Book in the above shot, in the lower right-hand corner.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Widow’s Wail (the twin blade to Oathkeeper that came from Ned Stark’s greatsword, Ice). But seeing Ser Brienne, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, with Oathkeeper in this room was a deeply moving moment.
Samwell Tarly presented Tyrion with “A Song of Ice and Fire,” a new book about the War of the Five Kings.
This brought one fan theory partially to life. Readers of Martin’s novels know that the author likens himself to Samwell Tarly. It was predicted that we might see Sam, at the end of the story, writing down a version of the events in a book.
Instead, it was Archmaester Ebrose who wrote “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
The title change was a reference to this season-six scene in the Citadel.
“I’m not writing ‘A Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I’ so it can sit on the shelf unread,” Ebrose told Sam.
When Sam made an unimpressed face, Ebrose asked what he’d name the book instead.
“Possibly something a bit more poetic?” Sam replied.
As the “Game of Thrones” series finale revealed, Sam’s penchant for poetry won out.
During that same Small Council meeting, the topic of Drogon was broached.
Drogon had flown away from the Red Keep with his mother’s body clutched in one claw. So where did he go?
Sam starts to say he was “last spotted flying east, towards -” and then Bronn cuts him off. But it sounds to us like Sam starts to say “Volantis.”
On a map, Volantis is right on the eastern path from King’s Landing to Valyria.
We believe Drogon might have flown Daenerys’ body from King’s Landing (top left) to Valyria (bottom right). Drogon has been to Valyria before – we saw him flying there on the fifth season when Tyrion and Jorah sailed through the Doom.
Plus, Daenerys’ bloodline comes from Valyria, the ancestral home of House Targaryen. It would be a fitting place for the Mother of Dragons to be buried.
For a third and final time, Tyrion started his brothel joke.
“I once walked into a brothel with a honeycomb and a jacka–,” Tyrion said before the scene cut away.
Tyrion last mentioned this joke on the sixth season when talking with Grey Worm and Missandei, and before that he tried it in front of the court in the Vale. We never heard the punchline and never will.
The scene of Arya setting sail was a direct mirror to the fourth season finale, down to the music.
As we watched Jon, Arya, and Sansa heading toward their respective destinies, the composer Ramin Djawadi cued a rework of the song “The Children,” from the season four finale episode of the same name.
Back then, Arya was escaping from the horrors of a war-ravaged Westeros.
This was a rare “Game of Thrones” season finale that ended with a scene of Arya instead of Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen.
Seeing Arya, now a grown woman on the brink a new life, at the prow of a ship was a fittingly adventurous end for the youngest Stark daughter.
Meanwhile, Sansa was crowned Queen in the North.
First seen from behind, the delicate silver tiara placed on Sansa’s head was reminiscent of another crown seen on the show.
The band of Sansa’s new crown is similar to the one Cersei wore for two seasons.
This styling similarity shows how Sansa took on the best of Cersei’s queenly qualities, just as she learned valuable lessons from other cruel adults when she was younger.
Sansa’s coronation gown was Tully blue, for her mother, Catelyn, but with red weirwood leaves.
The leaves of the weirwood tree, a sacred symbol of the North, were a beautiful touch for Sansa’s new Queen in the North gown.
The front of the crown shows two direwolves, and her cape has a wolf’s head.
The detail of her double-headed crown matches the collar decorations she wore for the last two seasons. And her lavish cape has a beaded direwolf head embroidered in the fur on the right-hand side.
Jon Snow’s final moments showed many parallels to an iconic “Lord of the Rings” character: Frodo Baggins.
As Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson wrote ahead of the series finale, “Game of Thrones” has many narrative parallels to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” series. One of these is the role of Frodo Baggins, a hero who saves his world but finds he has no place there in the end and chooses to sail away to the Undying Lands.
In this case, Jon Snow is our Frodo, and the Stark children are his hobbit friends who must live on without him.
Jon Snow has seemingly left the Seven Kingdoms behind and exiled himself to the lands beyond the Wall.
Tyrion told Jon Snow he was to take the Black, but then we saw him depart from the Wall with Tormund and the other Free Folk. The Night’s Watch doesn’t even have a true purpose anymore, but we still view this as a permanent choice for Jon.
The Free Folk respect and admire Jon, even thinking of him as a god in some cases (at least those who saw him return from the dead do).
Jon was at his happiest beyond the Wall and with his wildling love, Ygritte. He never wanted power, only peace.
Jon’s departure from Castle Black brought the entire series full circle.
This shot of Jon and Tormund waiting for the gate to rise is the same opening shot the pilot episode began with nearly 10 years ago.
The cold open of the “Game of Thrones” pilot showed three rangers heading out to track a band of Free Folk.
They were set upon by White Walkers, but the mission began as a search for wildlings.
Back then, the men of the Night’s Watch set forth into the cold and met their doom.
Our first introduction to the Night’s Watch was that of a noble but road-weary group of rangers. They had long forgotten the true purpose of the Night’s Watch or the threat of the White Walkers.
This final scene shows Jon Snow and a new tribe of Free Folk starting a new life in the safety beyond the Wall.
With the Night King and his army destroyed, and the southern realm of Westeros at peace (for now), Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane will lead the Free Folk to a new settlement, away from the complications of kingdoms.
Jon Snow’s watch has ended, again and again. He fought. He nearly lost. Now he rests.
- Read more:
- 19 fiery hot (and ice cold) takes about the ending of ‘Game of Thrones’
- 31 questions the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale left unanswered
- Every character who survived the entirety of ‘Game of Thrones,’ including 11 you might have forgotten about
- Daenerys Targaryen’s downfall aligns brilliantly with George R.R. Martin’s beliefs about the troubling morals of war