Game of Thrones returned to restore drama in our lives tonight and the show didn't disappoint. While the Season 8 premiere, "Winterfell," failed to deliver a major character death or glimpse of the vaunted Night King, it did plenty to move the show's narrative forward. The Great War will come, but showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know they have 1001 loose ends to tie up as well.
"Winterfell" is devoted mainly to the arc of Jon Snow. He learns his true lineage, rides a dragon, and reunites with Bran and Arya. He also must face the masses of Northerners who saw him leave a king in Season 7 and return home as maybe "nothing at all," as truth-teller Lyanna Mormont wonders aloud. Episode 8.1 gets a lot accomplished in little time and sets up possible future conflicts. Here's a look at all the callbacks, secrets, and references included in the episode. Game of Thrones leaves no stone unturned. Everything means something as the series draws to a close.
1. Opening Sequence - The first scene of "Winterfell" follows a little boy as he scrambles for a seat to watch the Targaryen Army arrive at Winterfell. It's a callback to the pilot episode which sees Bran doing the same as the Baratheon Army arrives at the Northern stronghold in Season 1. The music is the same also, and an overhead shot of Winterfell mirrors the opening credits.
2. Tyrion's Eunch Jokes - Tyrion and Varys travel together to Winterfell and the Imp's first words of Season 8 are a joke at the eunuch's expense. It's not the first time they've jousted.
3. "It Had Its Moments." Sansa speaks about the Purple Wedding for the first time with Tyrion and she murders him with words when he calls the proceedings a miserable affair. She's referring, of course, to the gruesome death of her evil ex, Joffrey.
4. "You've Still Got It." Arya surprises Jon at the Godswood thanks to her Faceless Man skills, and he typically underestimates her. He also seems surprised to find she's still carrying his gift to her — Needle. The two haven't seen one another since the second episode when Jon gives Arya her sword.
5. Where Are the Elephants? Cersei is first seen in the season premiere watching the arrival of the Golden Company at King's Landing. When she meets their captain, Harry Strickland, the Queen is miffed at the absence of elephants in his army. She's so miffed, in fact, she mentions it again later on after bedding Euron. Cersei, apparently, really wanted those pachyderms. The elephants are mentioned in Season 7 when Cersei tells Jaime, "Highgarden bought us the most powerful army in Essos, the Golden Company — 20,000 men, horses, elephants, I believe..." So she's been hoping for them for a while.
6. The Crossbow. We learn what Bronn will be up to in Season 8 in the premiere, as well. Instead of accompanying Jaime north at the end of Season 7, the sellsword stayed behind in the capital. We find him (where else?) in a brothel covered in prostitutes when Qyburn makes him an offer from the Queen: Kill her brothers for gold. And she has a weapon for him as well — Joffrey's old crossbow, which Tyrion used to murder their father.
7. No One to Talk To. Euron tells Yara he likes keeping her around instead of killing her so he has someone to talk to. This is a reference to Euron's habit of cutting out his crew members' tongues, so he can think, while aboard his ship — aptly dubbed "Silence."
8. Theon Rescues Yara. Thrones wastes little time reuniting the Greyjoy siblings as Theon makes short work of Euron's men while rescuing his big sister. She was taken, if you recall, when Theon dove into the water instead of challenging Euron last season. She headbutts him when they reunite so he doesn't forget it.
9. "Beats an Onion Anyway." Tyrion praises the Karstark sigil as one of the better ones when they arrive at Winterfell. And he gets in a dig at Davos as well. The Onion Knight has explained he embraced his smuggler past by putting the onion on his house sigil.
10. Jon Snow, Always Taking Girls to Hot Springs. Daenerys tempts Jon Snow with disappearing into the north when they fly dragons together. The romantic scene is set at some hot springs, maybe the same ones where Jon and Ygritte also dreamed of staying together forever.
11. "You Left Me to Die." The Hound is typically grumpy when he reunites with Arya. What did you expect? A hug? He remembers her leaving after Brienne pummels him at the end of Season 4. But Arya also saved him. By not euthanizing him, as he wanted, he ended up surviving.
12. "As You Wish, Milady." Arya has a more friendly reunion with her old traveling buddy, Gendry. He jokes with her, calling her "Milady" like he does in Season 3 because he knows she hates it.
13. The Tarly Deaths. Daenerys has an awkward moment with Sam when she realizes she put his father and brother to death by dragonfire. But she doesn't shy away from telling him, something Sam will hopefully appreciate. She only wanted to thank him for saving Jorah's life.
14. "You’ve never been a bastard." Sam tells Jon about his true lineage in a power-packed moment in the crypts towards the end of the premiere. It's the culmination of many Game of Thrones moments over the years, from Jon asking Ned Stark about his real mother to Bran's Tower of Joy flashbacks. The R + L = J revelation is the show's greatest secret and here is Jon finally learning the truth. The moment is years in the making.
15. "Stay Back He’s Got Blue Eyes!" Dolorous Edd thinks Tormund is a blue-eyed wight when he runs into the wildling and Beric Dondarrion at Last Hearth. Tormund tells him, "I've always had blue eyes!" And the two recognize one another in time. It's one of the premiere's best light moments.
16. "Always the Artists." Little Ned Umber provides a horrific moment at the end of the premiere when his body is found nailed to the wall at the center of another grisly White Walker art show. It's not the first time the Walkers have done this, or the second.
17. Jaime and Bran Reunite. "Winterfell" ends with a staredown between Bran Stark and a newly arrived Jaime Lannister in the courtyard. Their history, one could argue, is the catalyst for everything that happens on the show. Jaime pushes Bran out a window in the pilot, crippling him, while essentially starting the War of the Five Kings.