This article contains spoilers for 'Game of Thrones' season 8, episode 1.
April 17 marked the eight-year anniversary of the first ever episode of 'Game of Thrones' airing on screen. That was 2011, and on this day, that year, the Lannisters first arrived at Winterfell bringing with them the thrilling saga of shrewd politics, gory battles, and lots and lots of sex, which became a phenomenon right from the get-go. But this year, when the show premiered, while the knowledge of this being the show's last and final season loomed largely, there was no overlooking the not so subtle but nuanced throwbacks the season 8 premiere offered from the season 1 pilot.
It starts right off with the new queen, Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) arrival at Winterfell. The rule is been divided now, and while Daenerys is the beacon of hope for those in the North and has been recognized as the true queen by more people than ever, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is still reigning on the Iron Throne as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, like she was in the season 1 pilot, when she arrived at Winterfell for the first time.
Both the season 8 premiere and the season 1 pilot had queens from a different land visiting Winterfell and both the queens made sure to compliment the North and Sansa Stark's (Sophie Turner) beauty. Cersei - who was the queen in season 1 as her husband, Robert Baratheon was the king then, had called the north a “beautiful country” and also said Sansa is a “beauty." When it's time for Daenerys this season, she tells Sansa, “The North is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you.”
But it's not just in their appreciation of the North and Sansa's beauty that this reminds us of. Daenerys feels the same kind of unwelcomed coldness in the North that Cersei did, which, coming from The North, is all kinds of understandable because the last time a queen came to visit them, their entire family was uprooted. But apart from the timing of their arrival, the season 8 premiere is also similar to the season 1 plot in terms of the dark and somber background score that it carries throughout the episodes, as fans have pointed out on social media.
Speaking of dark somber undertones, there's no denying to the classic throwback the season 8 premiere offered in terms of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) finding out about his identity. In the season 1 plot, we see Ned Stark (Sean Bean) tell Jon - who was then known as his bastard - that the next time they meet, they will talk more about Jon's mother. The next time never comes as soon Ned is murdered by the Lannisters and Jon goes off to the Night's Watch, but all the way in season 8, we see Jon visiting the Stark crypt and it is in front of Ned's statue that Samwell Tarly tells him about his real mother, and he finds out he is actually the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark, and the Targaryen prince, Rhaegar Targaryen.
But while Jon's romance with the new queen Daenerys might now seem inappropriate because she turns out to be his own aunt, in other aspects of the season 8 premiere, he gets fairly happy and wholesome throwbacks. His reunion with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in the season 8 premiere was one of the most highly anticipated reunions on the show, and it did not disappoint, especially since Arya ran to him and flung herself into his arms while he picked her off the ground in a tight embrace, just the way he had done in the season 1 pilot after gifting her the sole comrade, Needle - the pointy sword. They also discuss the sword in this season's premiere the same way the two had in the very first pilot episode, and it almost looks like things are coming to a full circle.
And of course, speaking of circles, there's no denying the haunting impact the White Walker's message left on fans in the season 8 premiere. The army of the dead might be dropping hints and messages through bloody, gory modern art that involved a small boy set on fire with human hands creating spiraling patterns around him. But this warning is a stark reminder to the iconic phrase from the pilot, "Brace yourselves, winter is coming," that Ned says after executing the deserter from the Night's Watch who claimed to have seen the White Walkers.
Half the Starks from the pilot are dead in the season 8 premiere and Bran Stark(Isaac H. Wright) is more of a three-eyed-raven than a Stark sibling anymore, but it was satisfying to see the episode conclude the way it did - focusing on him and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) - back in the season 1 pilot. The pilot had ended with Bran spotting Jaime and Cersei engage in some heated incest, after which Jaime had pushed him off the tower, rendering him a cripple for the rest of his life.
The season 8 premiere ends with Jaime reaching Winterfell and the first person his eyes meet is Bran. He is sitting on his wheelchair - solemn and pensive, while Jaime is shaken and stirred with the shock and horror of what he had done to the little boy - which could be a metaphor for all the vices he committed over the past.
With just five more episodes to go, it's always a good time to remind yourself of all the wholesome moments from the pilot, just to think about the happy times that the Starks - even though short-lived - still enjoyed. The climate is darker and drearier now. The dangers are bigger than anything ever known. Winter is here, and it will be over soon. But before that, catch Game of Thrones airing on every Sunday at 9 pm only on HBO.