WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
After over a year of anticipation, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones has premiered on HBO bring fans back to Westeros for the final battle against the Night King and if anyone will survive to take the Iron Throne. While much of the season premiere was focused on reintroducing the familiar characters from episodes past and establishing their dynamics before the war against the White Walkers and the army of the dead commences in earnest, the episode ends with a particularly memorable warning from the Night King.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
While the White Walkers, including the Night King, aren't actually seen over the course of the episode, their presence are acutely felt in the most tense sequence of the premiere. Tormund and Beric Dondarrion, both last seen barely surviving the destruction of the Wall by the undead dragon Viserion in the Season 7 finale, lead a ragtag ensemble of fellow survivors where they find Last Hearth, the castle that once belonged to the House of Umber, a clan loyal to the Stark family.
After leaving Winterfell due to their dissatisfaction with Jon Snow swearing fealty to Daenerys Targaryen and giving up his position as King of the North, the Umbers, led by the young Ned Umber return to their ancestral home. Tormund and Beric find Last Hearth abandoned and already frozen over, nearly coming to blow with remnants of the Night's Watch led by Eddison Tollett who are also taking refuge in the deserted castle. Once together, however, the two groups quickly discover what exactly became of the castle's inhabitants.
Ned has been pinned to a wall inside the castle with a bloody display of severed arms around the boy's corpse forming a spiral pattern. The mysterious symbol has been a recurring one for the series, seen at the very beginning of the series in a pattern of Wildling corpses arranged by the White Walkers in a similar pattern. From then on, whenever the White Walkers leave a bloody scene behind them, limbs or bodies are seen arranged in the familiar spiral for reasons unknown.
A flashback to the creation of the White Walkers by the Children of the Forest revealed that the tree where a victim transformed into the Night King similarly had stones arranged in the pattern around it. The symbol has long had a mystical significance to the Children of the Forest and cave markings under Dragonstone, housing vast stores of dragon glass, depicted the Children of the Forest teaming up with humanity to defeat the first rise of White Walkers centuries ago with the pattern also appearing in the cave's walls.
Before Tormund and company can further contemplate the meaning behind the Night King's pattern, Ned rises from the grave loudly shrieking as an undead wight. This leads Beric to use his flaming sword to set the undead boy and pinned limbs on fire as the assembled survivors stare at the horrors they've just witnessed go up in flames.
As the White Walkers continue their march south deeper into Westeros, the remains of the House of Umber are likely not the last time this season the ominous display will be seen by the characters and audience. While it's still not clear what the significance of the symbol is, beyond its connection to the creation of the Night King, it certainly speaks volumes for the show's silent icy antagonists.
Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres Sunday. The HBO drama stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.