Game of Thrones season 7: From episodes 1 to 3, here are six of the major callbacks so far
In A Song of Ice and Fire, there is a mantra that Daenerys Targaryen repeats to herself constantly: "If I look back, I am lost."
It's a reminder to never second-guess herself, never to dwell on the past, on the choices made that haven't had the consequences she intended, on what she's lost or given up in order to reach her goals. It's a reminder to keep looking ahead, to the future.
Fortunately for us, it's not a mantra that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss believe in.
Over the three episodes of season seven so far — Dragonstone, Stormborn, The Queen's Justice — Weiss and Benioff have thrown in a several callbacks to earlier seasons, making it a bittersweet experience for fans. For those who've stayed with the show right from when it first aired in 2011, season 7 marks seven years of seeing these characters grow, see a change in their fortunes, triumph, be vanquished, or die. [For many fans, the GoT fascination goes even further back, considering the first book by George RR Martin was published in 1996, but we're sticking only to the TV series for the purpose of this column.]
This is the penultimate season for the HBO show, and as Weiss and Benioff bring the sweeping story to a conclusion, they're also tapping into fans' nostalgia by harking back to previous episodes, from years ago. They're reconnecting us with Game of Thrones' past to make us even more invested in the present.
From Game of Thrones' season 7, episodes 1 to 3, here are six of the major callbacks (in no particular order):
1. Ed Sheeran's song — Tyrion killing Shae
The Ed Sheeran cameo in the very first episode of season 7 may have divided fans, but it offered one of the rare moments in the show when Arya Stark could be a regular girl instead of an assassin on a mission. As she approaches a bunch of Lannister soldiers sitting by a campfire, eating roasted rabbit and drinking blackberry wine, she also hears one of them (Sheeran) sing these lines:
He rode through the streets of the city,
down from his hill on high, O’er the wynds and the steps and the cobbles,
he rode to a woman’s sigh.
For she was his secret treasure,
she was his shame and his bliss.
And a chain and a keep are nothing,
compared to a woman's kiss
For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm . . .
The soldier (Sheeran) informs Arya that the song is new, and while it — finally — gave the Lannisters another song (although we doubt they'll be replacing the 'Rains of Castamere' as their revenge soundtrack anytime soon), it also provided a throwback to Tyrion's love affair with Shae, and its sad and twisted end.
The song took us right back to the moment Tyrion (in jail on the false charge of poisoning Joffrey, and sprung free by Jaime) steals into his father's chamber — only to find Shae (who has already betrayed him with her testimony) in Tywin's bed, calling out for "my lion". After a brief scuffle, in which Shae grabs a knife, Tyrion strangles her to death, with the gold chain around her neck. In the show, he whispers, "I'm sorry" but in the books, he actually says the lines from the song: "For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm . . ."
2. Arya's brief reunion with Nymeria
After meeting with an old friend, Hot Pie, who still calls her 'Arry (another callback to those days when Arya was journeying with Yoren, Gendry, Lommy and Hot Pie), Arya finds out that Jon is at Winterfell and decides to make her way there. In the frozen woods, however, she is suddenly surrounded by a pack of wolves. At their head is Arya's own direwolf Nymeria. We last saw Nymeria in season 1, when Arya exhorts her to run away — else the wolf will be killed for snapping at Joffrey (ultimately, it is Sansa's direwolf, Lady, who is killed). Arya tries to get Nymeria to go home with her, but the direwolf walks away, followed by the rest of the wolf pack. Arya then says, "That's not you".
The quote is a direct callback to a scene from season 1 between Arya and Ned Stark. When her father tries to tell her about a future in which she'll be an important lady, married to a lord and wearing beautiful clothes, Arya replies: "That's not me".
When Arya says the same thing to Nymeria, it's based on her understanding that being domesticated is not for her wolf — just as it wasn't the future for her.
3. Jon, Ned — and Littlefinger
In season 1, when Littlefinger speaks of his love for Catelyn Stark, Ned pins him to a wall and nearly chokes the life out of him.
In episode 2 of season 7, Littlefinger thinks it's a good idea to tell Jon of his love for Sansa. Jon then proceeds to pin him against the wall, and choke him — just as Ned did.
We'd just like to point out that Ned's action against Littlefinger ended with the Stark patriarch losing his head.
There have also been other reminders of Ned Stark — notably in the scene (in episode 1) where Jon reminds Sansa of what their father used to say: "That everything before the word 'but' is horses**t." That was a nice callback to this season 1 exchange between Tyrion Lanister and Benjen Stark:
Tyrion Lannister: Listen, Benjen — may I call you Benjen?
Benjen Stark: Call me what you like.
Tyrion Lannister: I'm not sure what I've done to offend you. I have great admiration for the Night's Watch. I have great admiration for you as First Ranger...
Benjen Stark: You know, my brother once told me that nothing someone says before the word "but" really counts.
Tyrion Lannister: But... I don't believe that giants and ghouls and white walkers are lurking beyond the Wall. I believe that the only difference between us and the wildlings is that when that Wall went up, our ancestors happened to live on the right side of it.
4. Tyrion and Jon — and their season 1 meeting
"For all dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes..."
That is how Tyrion chooses to end his letter to Jon, inviting him to meet with Daenerys at Dragonstone. It does the trick — reminding Jon of the brief understanding Tyrion and he had once reached, on their way to the Wall. The line takes us all the way back to 2011, when Jon and Tyrion first met:
Jon: You're Tyrion Lannister? The Queen's brother?
Tyrion: My greatest accomplishment. And you, you're Ned Stark's bastard, aren't you?
[Jon walks away]
Tyrion: Did I offend you? Sorry. You are the bastard, though.
Jon: Lord Eddard Stark is my father.
Tyrion: And Lady Stark is not your mother, making you… the bastard. Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour, and it can never be used to hurt you.
Jon: What the hell do you know about being a bastard?
Tyrion: All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes.
When Tyrion and Jon meet on the shores of Dragonstone, they refer to the time they last saw each other — at the Wall, with Tyrion pissing off the edge, and later, Jon also reminds him of how he referred to the creatures beyond the Wall, as "grumkins and snarks".
5. Dany's speech to Varys — Magister Illyrio to Viserys
When we were introduced to Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen for the first time, they were in Pentos, at the home of Magister Illyrio Mopatis. Illyrio had brokered the marriage between Dany and Khal Drogo; the first of many steps that would lead Viserys back to the Iron Throne. As they wait for Drogo to make an appearance and 'approve' of Dany, Illyrio tells Viserys: "Soon you will cross the Narrow Sea and take back your father's throne. The people drink secret toasts to your health. They cry out for their true king."
Dany makes a sarcastic reference to that scene when she's upbraiding Lord Varys for (what she sees as ) his easily-shifting loyalties, in season 7 episode 2, Stormborn.
Varys: Cersei controls fewer than half the Seven Kingdoms. The lords of Westeros despise her. Even before your arrival, they plotted against her. And now —
Dany [cuts in]: They cry out for their true queen? They drink secret toasts to my health? People used to tell my brother that sort of thing, and he was stupid enough to believe them. If Viserys had three dragons and an army at his back, he'd have invaded King's Landing already.
Dany was always the sharper of the Targaryen siblings, but then we've known that a long time.
6. Cersei's revenge on Ellaria Sand for Myrcella's death — The Mad King's torture of Brandon and Rickard Stark
There was some pretty obvious mirroring when two of Cersei's enemies (and Dany's allies) — Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell — met their ends in episode 3, The Queen's Justice. Ellaria killed Cersei's daughter Myrcella by planting a poisoned kiss on her lips. So Cersei killed Ellaria's daughter Tyene by planting a poisoned kiss on her lips. Lady Olenna Tyrell was given a draft of poison by Jaime, after Highgarden was annexed by the Lannister army. While he doesn't know it when he gives her the poison, Lady Olenna informs him that it was she who had Joffrey poisoned.
Going back to Cersei's vengeance on Eallria, however, it's been pointed out that this is a direct throwback to how the Mad King Aerys tortured and killed Ned Stark's father and brother — Rickard and Brandon. Just as Ellaria and Tyene are chained opposite each other, with the mother being unable to reach out to comfort her poisoned daughter, Rickard and Brandon too are chained in view of each other: Rickard is hauled above a fire, slowly roasting in his suit of armour, while Brandon below him has a chance to cut his father free — if he only he can get to a sword just out of reach. The catch is that as Brandon moves from his position to reach the sword, he is slowly choked to death. The scene was meant to be shown as a flashback sequence in season 1, but wasn't — it survives only as a dialogue exchange between Jaime and Ned.
There have been a number of other callbacks: the way Dany responded when Melisandre told her about Jon ('sounds like quite the man'), which was exactly what Sam Tarly said about her when informing Maester Aemon of her exploits in Mereen; the Hound returning to the home of the farmer and his daughter he left to starve in season 4, and burying them — but these six are the ones that made it to our list.
What have been your favourite callbacks from Game of Thrones season 7?