With the epic final season of Game of Thrones just months away, I have begun the tedious task of rewatching all the seasons to make sure I not only can tell the difference between the Tyrells and the Martells, but also to relive the amazing sequence of events that led us to what is surely going to be a fabled finish.
While watching the very first episode, I noticed a ton of foreshadowing events that would play out in future seasons and as major overarching themes in the show. I can’t take credit for all of these, but here are eight huge hints in the pilot that would ultimately play out on a much larger scale.
A Child Pinned To The Trees
In the very first scene of the pilot, a ranger in the Night’s Watch stumbles upon a hoard of people that have just been murdered by wights and assembled into a prophetic layout. As the ranger looks out among the massacre, he notices a pale, lifeless child pinned to the trees. This hints at the role the children of the forest will later play in the show. We eventually learn in later seasons that the children of the forest created the White Walkers, a move that would come back to haunt them and everyone else in the realm.
Not only do we see the White Walkers and their army of wights kill men, but we also see them kill scores of children of the forest and the old three-eyed raven in season six, episode five when they breach the cave, and we discover the tragic, but incredible meaning behind Hodor and why he can only say the word “Hodor.” Does the girl pinned against the tree in the very first episode mean the children of the forest will be completely wiped out by the White Walkers? Hard to say because in the most recent season, Jon Snow, while at Dragonstone, shows Daenerys carvings of the children and first men banding together against the White Walkers. But in thrones, never say never.
Ned Stark Kills A Deserter From The Night’s Watch
After the ranger escaped the wights, he is eventually captured near Winterfell and sentenced by Lord Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark to death because he ran from the Night’s Watch. We, the audience, know that the ranger is not lying and the show portrays him with sincerity. The ranger insists up until his death that he saw the wights and as his last wish, asks someone to tell his family of his demise.
But despite his candor, Ned chops his head off because that is the law of the land and he is an honorable man. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” he tells his son Bran. The little lord, however, is not fooled. “Is it true that he saw White Walkers,” Bran asks Ned. “So he was lying?” Honor led to this man’s wrongful death and ironically, it is honor that leads to Ned’s death. Sure, no one could have predicted King Joffrey’s rash actions later in the season, but Ned had multiple chances to avoid this outcome.
He could have taken Lord Renly Baratheon’s protection in return for backing him as the next king, but he chose to stick by who he deemed to be the rightful heir, Stannis Baratheon. Ned also didn’t have to tell Cersei about his intentions to out her and Jaime’s incestual affair. Alas, Ned was too honorable for his own good and it would ultimately lead to his demise in the exact same manner in which he killed the ranger — getting his head chopped off.
Theon Grabs The Dire Wolf
While Ned and his sons and Theon Greyjoy are out, they stumble upon a pack of dire wolves, a sigil of the Stark family and animal that is rarely seen south of the wall. When Ned says it’s best for a quick death because the pack is without their mother, Theon is quick to grab who I believe ends up being Summer, Bran’s dire wolf, and quickly points his knife at him, ready to strike. He is quickly reined in by the Stark children. But the scene shows just how willing and capable Theon is of hurting the Starks. He is controlled when under their watch, but he will always technically be a prisoner from when the Starks crushed his father’s rebellion, and a Greyjoy, a family known for its brash and aggressive behavior. This is obviously seen in season two when Rob Stark allows Theon to return to Pyke and he quickly betrays the Starks.
Jon Snow’s Dire Wolf
The dire wolves the Starks find are filled with hints and linked closely to each of their owners. Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s bastard, is the first to spot the dire wolves and finds five, one for each of the Stark children. But before he leaves, he spots a sixth, one that is much different than the others and which Theon calls the “runt of the family.” The wolf, who is eventually named Ghost, is intensely white with fierce red eyes. We don’t learn who Jon really is until season seven, but Ghost is the first — albeit early — clue. As we eventually learn, Jon is the son of Leanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. All of the Targaryens have blondish, almost white colored hair. The fact that Ghost is white is an early hint at Jon’s true identity.
Daenerys Targaryen’s Bath
It becomes more obvious as the season progresses, but the first sign that Daenerys could survive fire is in her very first scene of the show. She has just had one of those unpleasantly awkward conversations with her brother, Viserys, and is preparing to take a bath. One of her servants at the time warns her that the water is too hot, but she steps in anyway and is unfazed by the extremely warm temperature. Being unaffected by fire and heat is one of the traits she inherits from being a Targaryen and the eventual mother of dragons. The full effect of her power is realized in the season one finale when she walks into the flames with her dragon eggs and escapes unharmed and with three new baby dragons.
Viserys: “You don’t Want To Wake The Dragon, Do You?”
Viserys mutters this to Daenerys after she tells him that she does not want to wed the formidable Khal Drogo. The line is meant to frighten her at the time and keep her in check. But waking the dragon is exactly what Daenerys wants and needs to do in a literal and figurative sense to survive and claim her rightful place in the realm. Figuratively, we begin to see signs of Daenerys waking the dragon, or the intensity inside of her, as season one progresses. She stops being the pushover sister to Viserys and finds her voice and strength as Khaleesi of the Dothraki, Drogo’s army and people. She stops taking orders and starts giving them. Then, during the finale of season one, we literally see Daenerys wake the dragon when she successfully carries out the plan to hatch her dragon eggs. The birth of her dragons makes Daenerys an instant force and threat in Westeros. It turns out that doing the opposite of what Viserys warned is exactly what the mother of dragons needed.
Tyrion’s Advice To Jon Snow At Winterfell
At the first and maybe only feast between the Starks and Lannisters, Tyrion Lannister, known as the imp, meets Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell, for the first time and gives him some advice: “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt,” he tells Jon. It may sound harsh, but it proves to be true. It is tempting for Jon to want to ignore his bastard identity and follow the Starks wherever they go. But Stark men — mighty as they are — do not have the best track record. Ned dies tragically like his father and uncle before him. Rob meets a similar fate; Benjen Stark lasts all of a few episodes and Rickon disappears for nearly the entire show, and shows up again only to be killed by the one and only Ramsay Bolton. I think the only reason Bran is still alive is because he essentially gives up his Stark identity when he becomes the three-eyed raven. Meanwhile, Jon Snow plays one of, if not the biggest, roles in Game of Thrones. He dies and comes back to life again and later we learn that behind the bastard is a Targaryen.
Catelyn Stark’s Warning To Ned
Before Ned is set to leave Winterfell and become the hand of the king, he and Catelyn receive a raven from Catelyn’s sister, Lysa Arryn. Lysa warns Catelyn that her husband, Jon Arryn, the late former hand of the king, did not die of natural causes, but instead was murdered by the Lannisters. Hearing that, Catelyn goes into a nervous frenzy and warns Ned not to go. “Your brother and father rode south once,” she tells him, referring to when the two were tricked and eventually murdered by the mad king, Aeres II Targaryen. Maester Luwin tries to quell Catelyn’s concerns, telling Ned that it was “a different time, a different king.” But his words are not said with the same conviction as Catelyn’s, a suggestion that timing and the king at power have very little to do with how Stark men fare when they ride south.