The Terrifying Spiral
Towards the end of the premiere, Dolorous Edd and the remaining members of the Night’s Watch encounter Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion inside a castle known as the Last Hearth. Speared on the wall is the body of the young Lord Umber surrounded by a spiral of limbs – a terrifying message from the White Walkers. Long-term fans of the drama were quick to point out that the symbol appeared in the first-ever episode of Game of Thrones, when a member of the Night’s Watch found a group of Wildling bodies arranged in a similar way. Meanwhile, when Jon Snow is captured by Mance Rayder in Season 3, he also comes across a nearly identical figure made from decapitated horses. Most tellingly though, the symbol’s origin can be seen as Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven go back in time to witness the creation of the White Walkers in Season 6: the Children of the Forest made a spiral of rocks around a Weirwood tree before stabbing one of the First Men with dragonglass, creating the Night King in the process. Similar figures painted by the Children also decorate the walls of the Dragonstone cave visited by Jon Snow and Daenerys last season. All of which begs the question: are the White Walkers trying to communicate something beyond the fact that everyone needs to be very, very afraid?
The Throwback Crossbow
In a nod to the fantasy drama’s more salacious beginnings, the premiere includes a scene featuring foul-mouthed sell-sword Bronn in a King’s Landing brothel – only for his hour to be interrupted by Qyburn, Hand of The Queen, with a dangerous proposition. Cersei, apparently now fully deranged, has requested that Bronn go north to murder her “traitorous” brothers. In exchange, he will receive the riches, castle and overall glory that Jaime promised him but never delivered. In a particularly cruel twist, Qyburn presents Bronn with a memorable weapon for doing the job: the exact crossbow that Tyrion used to murder his father Tywin at the end of Season 4. The bow also once belonged to King Joffrey, a further sign that Cersei’s cruelty has officially taken over every other aspect of her personality.
The Glass Of Wine
Ever since the conclusion of Season 7, the internet has been rife with theories about whether or not Cersei is actually pregnant or simply lying about it to manipulate those around her. In the last series’ finale, Tyrion guesses that she’s going to have a baby based on the fact that she turns down wine. In the premiere, however, she’s happily downing a glass of red after sleeping with Euron Greyjoy for the first time – leading many people to believe that she had either miscarried or falsified the pregnancy in the first place. This is also backed up by Maggie the Crow, the fortune telling witch Cersei visited as a girl who predicted that she would have three children, all of whom would die before her (“gold will be their crowns, and gold their shrouds”). Another key part of the prophecy? That a younger brother (valonqar) will eventually murder Cersei: “The valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale throat and choke the life from you.” Cersei has long believed that that little brother was Tyrion – but there’s also the distinct possibility that it could be Jaime, younger than Cersei by mere minutes, or even Euron.
The Dragon Side-Eye
In one of the few happy moments from the premiere, Daenerys and Jon Snow fly Drogon and Rhaegal over the frozen northern landscape together. (Happy, that is, as long as you can forget that the star-crossed lovers are in fact… aunt and nephew.) This is the first time that anyone besides Daenerys has ridden a dragon solo on Game of Thrones – and it’s particularly notable that Rhaegal is named after Jon Snow’s father, Rhaegar. The jury is still out on whether anyone other than a Targaryen has ever ridden a dragon in Westerosi history, but it seems likely that Rhaegal will be a key factor in proving to everyone that Jon Snow is in fact Aegon Targaryen rather than simply Ned Stark’s bastard. A particularly notable moment in the first episode? The way that Rhaegal stares Jon Snow down as he’s kissing Daenerys. In a nutshell: Jon Snow may know nothing at this point, but the dragons clearly do.
The Secret Weapon
Among the many awkward reunions in the premiere, one stood out: Gendry, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, sees Arya again for the first time since the Brotherhood traded him to Melisandre for a few bags of gold. After some awkward flirty banter, she presents the legendary blacksmith with a sketch. Her special request? A spear-like weapon with one end made of dragonglass, the other presumably of Valyrian steel. Tommy Dunne, the series’ weapon master (yes, seriously), revealed the importance of this design to Vanity Fair: “There is one creation in Season 8 that is absolutely phenomenal. It’ll be a showstopper. That was great to finish.” Given the fact that dragonglass and Valyrian steel are the only materials known to destroy White Walkers and wights, it’s likely that Arya already has plans to put her training to good use in the battle ahead. It also seems probable that this is the weapon she’s carrying in the series trailer.
Author: HAYLEY MAITLAND