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All the Callbacks in the Game of Thrones Series Finale

How many of these did you catch?

Sadie Gennis

Game of Thrones ended its eight-season run on Sunday with a series finale that neatly wrapped up the biggest storylines in the sprawling fantasy saga (although there are still a few questions left unanswered). The extended episode was also packed with callbacks and Easter eggs paying tribute to past moments from the series, including finally paying off a major prophecy, bringing some character arcs full circle, and even squeezing in a few last recurring jokes.

We rounded up 14 of the best callbacks in Game of Thrones' series finale, titled "The Iron Throne," because regardless of what you thought of the final season, no one does Easter eggs better than this HBO juggernaut.

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1. The House of the Undying prophecy. When Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) visited the House of the Undying in Season 2, she was presented with a series of visions. The first of these visions was the ruins of the throne room in King's Landing where she first laid eyes on the Iron Throne, but Dany walked away before touching it. In the series finale, Daenerys finally fulfills that portion of the prophecy, entering the throne room as ash falls around her like snow and laying hands on the Iron Throne for the first -- and last -- time. It's also notable that after that vision, the next thing Daenerys sees in the House of the Undying is Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and their infant son Rhaego, both of whom were dead. One could interpret this to mean that she was always destined to die shortly after making it to the Iron Throne and she has now been reunited with her family in the afterlife.


2. The real Iron Throne. When Jon (Kit Harington) confronts Dany in the ruins of the throne room, she recalls how the Iron Throne compares to what she had pictured as a child. "I imagined a mountain of swords too high to climb, so many fallen enemies you could only see the soles of Aegon's feet," she said. While the Iron Throne as portrayed in the Game of Thrones series has become iconic, Dany's description is actually a nice nod to George R.R. Martin's vision for the Iron Throne. Made from a thousand swords surrendered by Aegon's enemies, the Iron Throne in the books is a massive monstrosity, providing the ruler with a high seat from which they can look down on all their subjects -- much more like the one Daenerys imagined growing up.


3. "Love is the death of duty." When Jon visits Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in his cell, the former Hand explains that he, too, loves Daenerys and so he understands why it would be so hard for Jon to turn on his Queen. To this, Jon tells Tyrion that "love is the death of duty."

"Sometimes, duty is the death of love," Tyrion responds.

When Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) originally shared those words of wisdom with Jon, it was to explain why the men of the Night's Watch were forbidden from marrying or procreating, because they'd always choose their loved ones over their duty to the Night's Watch. And if you look back at everything that's happened in the series, the truth of Aemon's words have been proven time and time again. It was Rhaegar's decision to prioritize love over duty in marrying Lyanna Stark that begat Robert's rebellion, and Robb Stark's (Richard Madden) decision to marry Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead of Walder Frey's (David Bradley) daughter that led to the Red Wedding. But it seems that for once, someone learned from the past and decided to break that cycle by choosing duty over love, as Jon did when he killed Daenerys.


4. Pissing off the edge of the world. Once Tyrion is freed by the newly crowned King Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) he goes to visit Jon in his cell, providing a nice mirror to their earlier scene together. Tyrion explains that Jon has been sentenced to the Night's Watch, prompting Jon to note that this will likely be the last time the two see each other. "I wouldn't be so sure," Tyrion responds. "A few years as Hand of the King would make anyone want to piss off the edge of the world." This was a cute callback to the memorable Season 1 episode in which Tyrion urinated off the edge of the Wall before leaving Castle Black, something that had seemingly been on his bucket list for quite some time.


5. The return of some MIA characters. During the meeting between the lords and ladies of Westeros, Game of Thrones managed to squeeze in the return of several characters fans had been wondering about, most notably Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) and Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), who had undergone a major glow up since we'd last seen him. Fans also speculated that one of the unnamed Northerners in the Great Council scene might actually be the never-before-seen Howland Reed, who fought alongside Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy and knows Jon's true parentage.


6. Davos, Master of Grammar. Game of Thrones is famous for the way it weaves in foreshadowing to the future and callbacks to the past, particularly when it comes to laying the groundwork for shocking twists. But the show also excels at this when it comes to comedic wisecracks as well. The best example of this is the recurring gag that Davos is a grammar nerd who is constantly correcting people. And the series finale gifted us with one final example of this when the new Master of Ships was arguing with Master of Coin Bronn (Jerome Flynn) during the first meeting of the new Small Council. When Bronn explains that he needs to think over whether rebuilding the port and ships are worth spending so much money on out of concern that "soon there won't be no more coin," Davos (Liam Cunningham) points out he should have said "any more coin" instead.

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"Are you Master of Grammar now, too?" Bronn wonders. To which we answer with a resounding yes, Davos is and always will be just that. And that's why we love him.


7. A Song of Ice and Fire. Whether or not you think it's corny that Sam (John Bradley) presented Tyrion with a book titled A Song of Ice and Fire, the title of George R.R. Martin's book series that the show is based on, we all should have seen this coming. In Season 7's second episode, Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) revealed to Sam that he was writing a book about recent Westeros history titled A Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I. Sam expressed doubt over the title of the book in the moment, and so at least the Gilmore Girls-esque reveal of the book's new title was foreshadowed to give fans ample time to prepare for such a predictable reveal.


8. History forgetting Tyrion. When Tyrion is presented with A Song of Ice and Fire, he muses that the book likely has some harsh words for him and the role he played in the spate of recent wars. However, Sam reveals that Tyrion is never mentioned in the entire tome, giving Varys (Conleth Hill) yet another posthumous "I told you so" moment. Way back in Season 2, following the Battle of Blackwater, Varys warned Tyrion: "The king won't give you any honors, the histories won't mention you, but we will not forget." RIP Varys, you were pretty much always right.


9. "What's west of Westeros?" When the Stark siblings say their goodbyes, Jon tells Arya (Maisie Williams) not to hesitate about visiting him at the Wall. That's when she reveals that her plan isn't to return to the North but to set sail to discover what's west of Westeros. Arya's decision was foreshadowed in Season 6, when she was talking with Lady Crane (Essie Davis) after the actress patched up her wound. When discussing where Arya should go now that she was leaving Braavos, she pondering what was west of Westeros and expressed interest in finding out.


10. Brienne writing Jaime's legacy. Despite Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) abandoning her to return to Cersei (Lena Headey), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) clearly maintains fond feelings for her late friend and one-time lover. Now the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Brienne acts on her duty to fill out the blank pages in The White Book, something Jaime had discussed with her in Season 4. During this conversation, Jaime pointed out there was "still plenty of room" in his entry, which at that point focused largely on him killing the Mad King Aerys. And so when Brienne tearfully fills out the rest of Jaime's entry, it was a touching callback that gave Jaime what he had always craved: a legacy as more than just the Kingslayer.


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11. Dany's role reversal. Watching Jon struggle to accept the inevitability of Daenerys turning on him, it was hard not to think about Daenerys' own struggles in the first two seasons. Although Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) had let her live in relative peace for years (albeit all the while keeping tabs on her), the second Daenerys got pregnant and could have produced a rightful (read: male) heir to the Iron Throne was when he put a price on her head. Losing her son Rhaego as a result of this was one of the most traumatic and painful experiences Dany had to endure, and yet once she becomes Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, the show makes it clear that she will eventually do the same thing as Robert Baratheon and take out anyone who may threaten her rule due to a better claim to the throne. That's why both Arya and Tyrion warn Jon that he needs to take action before Daenerys assassinates Jon the way Robert once tried to assassinate her.


12. A Targaryen in the Night's Watch. Although many things that went down in Game of Thrones' final season felt rushed, Jon Snow returning to the Night's Watch was heavily foreshadowed. It also created a nice symmetry between Jon and his former mentor at the Night's Watch, Maester Aemon, who gave up any royal claims or rights that he had as a Targaryen prince and refused the throne. Although it was not Jon's choice to rejoin the Night's Watch, just like Maester Aemon, he has no desire to be used as a political tool and likely is a bit relieved to be living outside the reach of the wheel's crushing force.


13. Tyrion's final line. If you don't count people chanting "Queen in the North" at Sansa (Sophie Turner), then the last line of Game of Thrones is Tyrion starting to tell a very dirty joke -- one that he initially first told in Season 1's sixth episode and again brought up in Season 6's eighth episode. During both instances, Tyrion was cut off before he could reveal what happened when he brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel, first by Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) and then again by the slave masters attacking Meereen. And once again, Game of Thrones' series finale interrupts Tyrion before we can ever hear the punchline, perhaps giving us the only real cliffhanger of the series finale.


14. The final shot. After a few fakeout endings, Game of Thrones concluded with a shot of Jon, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), and the Free Folk leaving Westeros behind to head north of the Wall. For a show that is so largely based on the idea that history repeats itself, this is quite the fitting ending given that the very first scene of Game of Thrones was a group of Night's Watchmen doing the exact same thing.


Game of Thrones is available to stream on HBO.

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