Game of Thrones is known for two things: fan theories and references. This week's episode sometimes felt like it was one long call back to earlier seasons, including the Hot Pie and Nymeria cameos, which recalled the early days of the show.
So where have you seen that image before? Or why *does* that line seem so familiar? Let's run down all the callbacks and easter eggs tucked away in Game Of Thrones second episode of Season 7.
Brandon Stark's Death By Mad King Aerys
First up: A triple whammy of a reference, when Sansa warns Jon that he shouldn't go see Daenerys, due to what happened when their grandfather Rickard and Uncle Brandon went back in the day.
This a reference to a formative moment in the story's history. Catelyn was supposed to marry Brandon, and when he was killed, she was reassigned to Ned. The books also say when Mad King Aerys burned them he sat on the Iron Throne and laughed and laughed -- something Bran saw in the Three-Eyed Raven download.
But most of all, this is a scene that was in the original Game of Thrones pilot. This scene was part of the reason for the scrapping too -- apparently, it made no sense to the viewers.
Arya: “That's Not You”
This line, at the end of Arya's scene with Nymeria, was a heart wrencher. She finally finds her beloved pup, all these years later -- and Nymeria won't come home with her. Talk about rejection! But as Arya pulls back she realizes that what she's asking the direwolf to do is come along and be something she's not.
The line, according to the Inside the Episode, is meant to recall Arya saying the same thing to her father back in Season 1. Ned is fantasizing how Arya will group up to be a lady in fine dresses and run and house. "That's not me," says Arya. Arya shows she remembers the lesson she had to teach her father: never try and make a wolf something they are not.
“They Drink Secret Toasts In My Honor”
When Dany snapped at Olenna "They cry out for their true queen, they drink secret toasts in my honor," I nearly screamed. That is a direct requoting of the lines Illyrio feeds her fool brother Viserys Targaryen back in Season 1, when manipulating the boy to sell Daenerys to Khal Drogo. In the books, it's an obvious lie and ploy to soothe the otherwise unstable boy into submission, and one that Daenerys sees through pretty quickly.
In the TV show, it takes Dany slightly longer to recognize what a moron her brother was to believe that. But she knows it to be a foolish idea in her bones, and the way she tosses it out here reminds us of this lesson she's never forgotten.
“Queen Of The Ashes”
Another line Dany had brought back memories of earlier seasons: "I will not be Queen of the Ashes." Though this time, it didn't recall a specific scene, but an argument of fan theories past.
Back in Season 2, when we saw Dany's visions in the House of The Undying, there was the above image of her walking into a topless Red Keep, with the Iron Throne covered in something white. Most fans assumed it was snow, but not all. Some asked if this was ash falling instead, proof that her dragons had burnt King's Landing to a crisp. At the time I dismissed this theory as bunk. Obviously, it's snow, and winter had come. Right?
Maybe we shouldn't be so sure.
“There Must Always Be A Stark In Winterfell”
Jon Snow decided this week that he would ride south, to meet with Dany and try and secure her dragonglass stores. But before he left, he turned to Sansa and told her she would run the joint while he was away. "You are the only Stark in Winterfell," he tells her.
How many times have we heard there must always be a Stark in Winterfell?
In the books? More times than we can count. In the show, only since the very first season, when Catelyn says it to Robb. And then Robb says it to Bran. And then Littlefinger says something of the same to Sansa to convince her to go home and marry Bolton. Heck, some people thought last season that the Umbers were actually on the side of the Starks when they brought Rickon to Bolton in Winterfell, because they were making sure there was a Stark on the premises once Sansa escaped.
Is there something mystical about Starks being in Winterfell, that's a talisman against the Night King? We don't know yet. But clearly, Sansa was pleased to be called as such.
The “Prince That Was Promised” Translation
Getting to "The Prince That Was Promised"-is-Dany theory was one of the more circular routes the TV show has taken in order to hit a book plot point. But this week they finally got there.
For those who don't know, this theory actually came up much earlier in the novels. (One of the few times the books beat the show to the punch.) There, it's Maester Aemon who suddenly realizes the phrase, in High Valyrian, has been mistranslated all these years, and it's really a genderless title that could apply to a man or woman. He then leaves Castle Black to go find Dany, but upon warming up, discovers the only reason he lives so long was the cold at the Wall was preserving him, and dies.
Personally, I find having this revealed to Dany in Dragonstone, in the same room where Stannis was once told by the same woman that the prophecy meant him, was an interesting choice. Especially since she was obviously flattered, but not so much so that she let it go to her head. Stannis could take lessons.
Jon Throwing Littlefinger Against The Wall
Like father. (Err, uncle.)
Like son. (Err, nephew.)
Littlefinger needs to stop poking these Stark wolves. They bite.
Is Archmaester Ebrose Writing “A Song of Ice And Fire”?
Last but not least, Sam's boss, the Archmaester Ebrose and his history book. What the heck that godawful title? Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert the First. Lord have mercy, that's a forgettable mouthful. But you know, funny he should be writing that, since it sounds an awful lot like...well, the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Now, hey, THERE'S a more poetic title for you. Sam should suggest that. Or maybe Ebrose can be killed off, Sam can take the manuscript and notes, finish the whole thing off, and turn out to be George R.R. Martin's Mary Sue figure the whole time.