Warning: This post contains spoilers about “The Spoils of War,” the fourth episode in Game of Thrones’s seventh season. If you’re not caught up, stop reading now.
Game of Thrones is an immaculately detailed television series, but the latest episode, “The Spoils of War,” really outdid itself with its subtle callbacks to earlier episodes. Here are seven references to past episodes you might have missed while yelling at your screen during the dragon-filled battle of the loot train.
1. WHERE HAVE I SEEN THOSE SPIRAL PATTERNS BEFORE?
Oh, that’s right: In a collection of mutilated corpses half-buried in snow in the show’s first-ever scene. The cave drawings Jon Snow shows Daenerys were etched by the Children of the Forest and culminate in a picture of humans and humanoid forest creatures uniting to fight the White Walkers. But they were also a reminder that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers in the first place as a weapon to unleash on the First Men—and apparently, they imparted their mystical love of swirls on their monstrous offspring.
2. “CHAOS IS A LADDER”
Early on in “The Spoils of War,” Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish goes to work trying to weasel his way into Bran Stark’s confidence. But Bran, who is now the all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven, sees right through Littlefinger’s schemes. He cuts him off with four short words that rattle Baelish: “Chaos is a ladder.” What was it about that seemingly innocuous phrase that took Littlefinger aback? They reference a speech Littlefinger gave to Varys in season three, while laying out his plans to sow chaos throughout Westeros and use it to amass power (and presumably pursue his creepy obsession with Stark women).
3. THE GOLDEN COMPANY
While Cersei and Tycho Nestoris were chatting last night, the iron banker namedropped the Golden Company, a legendary mercenary army only ever mentioned twice before on the show. In Season 4, Davos suggests to Stannis that they hire 10,000 Golden Company soldiers to bolster their forces, but Stannis balks at the idea of using sellswords to take the Iron Throne. Later in the season, Jorah Mormont reveals that he spent some time with the Golden Company before pledging himself to Daenerys’s brother, Viserys. In the books they are one of the largest and most skilled mercenary bands in the Free Cities.
4. ANOTHER LANNISTER AMBIGUOUSLY FELL INTO SOME WATER
Last night’s big cliffhanger surrounded the fate of Jaime Lannister, last seen sinking to the bottom of a river wearing heavy plate armor. Things don’t look great for him, until you remember a similar cliffhanger in season 5, when Tyrion was left sinking through the water with his hands tied after Jorah fended off an attacker infected with greyscale. Things turned out ok for Tyrion and it’s likely that they probably will for Jaime, too.
5. JON SNOW STUMBLED OVER HIS OWN GUILT TRIP
In season 5, when Mance Rayder refused to bend the knee to Stannis Baratheon to avoid being burned at the stake, Jon Snow tried to reason with him. Mance said his people would never accept a ruler who knelt to a southern king—to which Jon replied, “Isn’t their survival more important than your pride?” Last night, Jon and Daenerys had an almost identical exchange, with Jon arguing that his people can’t accept a southern queen and Daenerys throwing his line back in his face.
6. THE GUARDS WOULDN’T LET ARYA THROUGH THE GATES (AGAIN)
Last night wasn’t the first time a pair of bumbling guards refused to let Arya through a gate. In the first season, when the Starks were in King’s Landing and Ned’s head was still attached to his body, Arya wandered out of the Red Keep chasing cats. When she came back, a pair of skeptical guards refused to let her pass. She was a little sassier in the first season, but gave the same reply she used last night when the Winterfell guards asked what she was doing there: “I live here.”
7. DAVOS LEARNED—AND TAUGHT—A GRAMMAR LESSON
You can be forgiven for not remembering this obscure running joke stretching back to Season 2. One of Stannis Baratheon’s pet peeves was when people incorrectly used the word “less” instead of “fewer.” In the second season, Ser Davos says he didn’t mind that Stannis had chopped off most of his hand. “It’s four less fingernails to clean,” he quipped. “Fewer,” Stannis retorted. Then in Season 5, in a Night’s Watch meeting about letting the Wildlings south of the wall, one man says they should let them die because it would be “less enemies for us.” Stannis mutters under his breath, “Fewer.” Davos has apparently learned his lesson, and last night corrected Jon for asking how many fighting men he has in the North—“10,000? Less?”
For the record, when you’re talking about a quantity you can count—like the number of missing fingernails, Northern enemies, or men ready to square off against the Night King—the word you want is “fewer.” In every other situation, you should say “less.”