Besides maybe castles, weaponry seems like the one thing in the Game of Thrones world that sticks around the longest. Long after your favorite characters are brutally butchered (or much less likely, die of old age), their descendants will wield their swords and daggers. It helps that this world's technology doesn't seem to progress much at all.
The show takes great pains to show the long-term relationship the people of Westeros have with their armaments. Above you can see Ned Stark wielding his trusty longsword (not to be mistaken for Ice, the greatsword that got melted down) in both the first season and in a flashback to his young self, the latter of which which aired years afterwards.
That might go unnoticed by most casual viewers, but Game of Thrones' meticulous attention to detail simultaneously enriches and grounds the huge world it's been building over seven seasons. Most of the time, these callbacks and throughlines are never explicitly mentioned. Like how Craster keeps the same axe from season to season.
On a certain level you might be able to attribute this to a well-organized wardrobe department that keeps everyone's outfits and accessories in line from year to year. But as we'll see, there's a little more to it than just proper planning.
More recently we've seen the Catspaw Dagger make a reappearance in season seven. You know, the same curvy blade that Littlefinger offered to Bran in Winterfell. It last had significance back in the first season, when an assassin used it to try to finish off Bran after his fall. Ever since Sam came across the dagger in a book during his maester training, it's become a sort of Chekov's Shiv -- you just know it's gonna be used to murder someone soon, especially since it's now strapped to Arya's waist.
But weapons in the Game of Thrones universe are often vital to the identity and continued existence of houses, great and small, and the show has taken great pains to reflect that. Take House Umber, for instance. At the end of season one, Greatjon Umber celebrated the crowning of Robb Stark as King in the North while holding his house's unique sword:
Greatjon dies offscreen somewhere between season three and season six, and his son Smalljon (yes, this show is silly sometimes) takes over the mantle of Lord Umber. After the Smalljon betrays House Stark and sides with Ramsay Bolton, he can be seen charging the field with that same sword. Note the loops on either side of the hilt.
Now, if you remember, Smalljon died when Tormund tore out his throat with his teeth and then stabbed him in the face (yes, this show is badass sometimes) towards the end of season six. The following season, we see the surviving Umber heir, Ned Umber, repledge loyalty to Jon Snow and House Stark. When little Ned does bend the knee, you can see he's using that same sword.
You get the feeling that this sword was with the Umbers long before the events of the show, and ice zombies permitting, will stay in the house for generations to come. That kind of careful continuity not only makes the universe more credible and believable, but at the same time reinforces the importance of legacy and family duty, themes that are core to the show and the books.
Speaking of family legacy...
We don't see much of Lyanna Stark in Game of Thrones, but she might be one of the most important people in all of Westeros. Besides belonging to an important house, Lyanna's infamous runaway romance with Rhaegar Targaryen is more or less what started the events that lead to several wars, including the one raging in season seven. Well, the White Walkers would probably still be making cold blue baby slaves, but other than that.
So many people talk about Lyanna with a kind of awe and hushed reverence. We see in the first season that Robert Baratheon is still holding a candle for her, long after her death and his marriage to Cersei Lannister. While the late king was visiting Westeros in the premiere episode of the series, he paid tribute to Lyanna in the crypts under Winterfell. Placing a feather in the hand of Lyanna's statue, Robert honors her memory and the love that could never be.
After that pilot episode, we don't see Lyanna's statue again until season five, when Sansa returns to Winterfell. Sure enough, Sansa approaches her aunt's grave only to find a dusty old feather.
Though it was notably out of place, Sansa probably had no idea of its true significance. At the same time, she was down in the crypts for the same reason as Robert: To rekindle a comfortable connection to the past during a confusing time.
That being said, moms everywhere will agree that you should never touch strange feathers you see on the ground -- you never know what kind of diseases they might be carrying.
When it comes down to it, most of Game of Thrones is a series of gravely serious conversations held by people in silly costumes while standing in stuffy rooms. The show has gotten pretty damn good at that, in part because the characters have a way of remarking or reflecting on one another without realizing it.
Case in point: Above we see Jon Snow attempting to talk some sense into Mance Rayder, who was at the time facing death for refusing to bend the knee to Stannis Baratheon.
It's a stinging indictment, one made a bit more painful when Daenerys unknowingly bats those same words back at Jon Snow when it's his turn to bend the knee to Khaleesi.
Just when you thought Jon Snow knew something for once.
A lot of people suddenly took notice of Cersei's handmaiden for the first time with the third episode of season seven -- after all, her suddenly appearing at Cersei's door, mimicking her pixie cut and tight black high-necked militaristic-dress was pretty hard to miss (also hard to miss: her casual dismissal of Cersei twincestin' it up). But the more impressive thing about the handmaiden (Bernadette, in case you'd forgotten) is how long she's actually been on the show -- five years.
Sara Dylan has portrayed Bernadette ever since Season 2's "A Man Without Honor" - and even in her brief appearances since has created an interesting character. This is someone completely devouted to Cersei, to the degree that she stood by her throughout all of Cersei's trials and tribulations and even adopted her new signature look out of admiration. In a show that has had multiple actors play the Mountain and like 30 different dudes play Daario, it's strangely satisfying to see a small role carry through for so long.
Seeing Hot Pie again in season seven, even for a brief moment, was a real delight. It brought you back to a time when Arya was just masquerading as a boy across the Westerosi countryside. His exchanges with other characters gave a welcome bit of levity to otherwise dour proceedings. There was that time (pictured above) when Hot Pie argued with Gendry about whether he saw a battle (it was just a bar room brawl). If two knights are fighting, it's a battle, and if someone is wearing armor, they're a knight, so ipso facto -- wait, where was he going with this?
Flash forward five seasons later, and Hot Pie reasons that his encounter with an armored woman counts as crossing paths with a knight (it was Brienne).
Thankfully, Hot Pie is sticking with baking instead of going for his maester chains.
One of the smallest, funniest subplots in Game of Thrones centers on Podrick Payne and his apparently magnificent lovemaking abilities. Back in the third season, Tyrion rewarded Pod for his bravery at the Battle of the Blackwater with a four-way romp with some of King's Landing's uh, ladies of the evening.
Tyrion makes sure that Pod knows he handpicked these ladies for their exceptional talents. Kayla in particular is so flexible her bones might as well be made of gummi worms.
The subplot resolves itself after it is revealed that ye olde escorts refused to take payment from Podrick, supposedly due to his unsurpassed prowess in the bedroom. You could speculate that Tyrion paid the sex workers ahead of time, instructing them not to take the "dummy money" and make Pod feel great about himself while simultaneously building a mystique and magnetism around King's Landing that will make him more attractive in the future. But really it's more fun to think of Podrick as a humble sexual dynamo.
Long after this escapade faded from memory, Pod has an odd reminder at Joffrey's wedding in season four.
Yep, that's Kayla, once again played by professional contortionist Pixie Le Knot. Even if you forgot her, by the look of his extended double-take, Pod sure didn't.
Ned Stark has the distinction of being one of the most admirable and honorable people on Game of Thrones, so it's no wonder so many characters take his advice to heart. Granted, it was that naive faith in law and justice that ended up separating Ned's head from his shoulders, but there's still some value in his crusty Northern wisdom. In the first season, Benjen Stark recalls that his brother claimed that sentences don't really start until afte the word "but."
This adage was evidently passed along to Jon Snow at some point as well, who mentions the advice with slightly different phrasing in season seven.
Jon may have been inspired by his sister, who had repurposed her father's words in Winterfell in the previous episode:
Ned is speaking to Arya in this scene in the first season, but you can tell this is the sort of thing he made sure to get across to all his kids. Dads have a tendency to repeat themselves, after all.
It does make you wonder whether Ned picked up these phrases from his own father. In a one of season six's flashback episodes, we see a young Ned constructively threaten baby Benjen during sparring practice -- just like Jon Snow had taught Olly a season before.
Ned Stark has been dead for the vast majority of Game of Thrones, but moments like these offer tangible proof that his family will always feel his influence. Hopefully none of the Stark kids go so far as to follow Ned's lead and tell Cersei every details about their plans to defeat her.
Up until the moment that Euron's teleporting speedboats ruined everything, Tyrion's plan to take Casterly Rock was pretty brilliant. Though the Unsullied are a formidable force on their own, Tyrion's secret passage blew the once-impregnable fortress wide open. As he explains over a battle montage, Tyrion had a tunnel installed back when his father demanded that he design the sewers (though at the time he was smuggling women, not armed men into the compound). Yet again, Tyrion turned something that was supposed to be a detriment to his advantage.
It does seem a little too convienent, looking back. Need your character to triumph over impossible odds? Have them recount the tale of the time they installed a convienent plot loophole that has definitely always been there.
Except in this case, Game of Thrones already laid the groundwork, so to speak. Here's Tyrion back in the second season, during his infamous "God of Tits and Wine" conversation with Varys.
This is something that was mentioned in the books as well, so it seems like part of an intentionally-crafted long game. Or in George R. R. Martin's case, a long, long looong game.
This was pointed out in the making-of featurette after a recent episode, but it's still a neat callback that says a lot about where Arya is headed as a character. In the first season, Ned reassures Arya by telling her that she'll soon become the lady of a house whose job is mostly to hang out in a castle and bear (male) children for her husband -- because apparently Ned doesn't know his daughter at all. Arya insists the kind of life he just laid out isn't one she's looking forward to. "That's not me."
When Arya finally reunites with Nymeria, she urges her now fully-grown direwolf to come along with her to Winterfell. But much like her former master, Nymeria has been living in the wild for some time -- she doesn't have it in her to go home and be a domesticated house doggie. When Arya says "That's not you," it's because she realizes that her old pup is now untamable. But in a way, she's also saying it to herself.
Not every continuity nod has to be some deep character reveal. A good example of a quick-and-dirty one-two callback came during Jon Snow's storyline in season four. Specifically in the fifth episode that year, Jon crossed swords with Karl Tanner, the mutinous former member of the Night's Watch. During their fight, Karl manages to temporarily gain the upper hand by straight-up spitting in Jon's face.
Of course, the good guys eventually triumph and everyone sort of forgot Karl existed -- except for Jon. He remembered how close he came to death and how a man fighting dishonorably nearly got the best of him. So four episodes later, when Jon was down and out, he used Karl's dirty trick to save his own life.
Now if only Ygritte could have spit in Olly's face before he loosed that arrow, we'd be a lot happier.
While visiting the crypts of Winterfell, Jon Snow (now the Main Dude at Winterfell and King in the North) is joined by Westeros' official Creepy Uncle mascot, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish. After a few untoward comments about Catelyn Stark and Jon's sister Sansa, Snow grabs Littlefinger by the neck and slams him up against the wall...a move Littlefinger is all too familiar with, since that was Ned Stark's go-to move back in season 1 (well, except when Ned did it to him, he didn't actually deserve it - Littlefinger was trying to tell Ned that his wife Catelyn was in King's Landing and Ned thought Littlefinger was messing with him).
Littlefinger, I've got some advice for you - there is no good time to tell a dude you want to bang his sister (who you sold to a sadistic rapist, like, a couple months ago), but ESPECIALLY not when he's visiting a bunch of family graves.
We were so concerned with the long-awaited meeting of Jon Snow and Daenerys Stormborn this episode, we forgot about the TRUE character pairing we should have been demanding for years: Lady Olenna Tyrell and Sandor Clegane. The two are both sharp-tongued, suffer-no-fools types who have seen their fair share of tragedy and are not ones to mince words. And they both know people who go around naming their weapons are, uh, a very naughty word.
As usual, Olenna Tyrell says it better than we ever could.