With most TV shows, the writers can’t really foreshadow events that far in advance. That’s because the majority of television is written on a season by season basis, and so aside from the occasional thing that’s planned well in advance, the writers can’t know all the nuances of where the story will be headed.
But that’s one of the luxuries of having a show that’s based on a book series. When David Benioff and Dan Weiss set out to adapt A Song of Ice and Fire into Game of Thrones, they had four (soon to be five) books at their disposal, and so they could essentially see five years into the future of the show.
By the time they put pen to paper on the pilot, they knew about the Red Wedding, about every major character’s death, and even the pretty minor details about where everyone would be by this season.
Because of that, the writers have been able to sneak in incredible bits of foreshadowing throughout and, with a few seasons left to go, there’s probably still some clever winks and nods snuck in there for future events that we aren’t even aware of yet.
Re-watching the series, it becomes clear how many of the biggest twists and turns were actually hinted at way earlier on. Here are 14 examples of subtle foreshadowing from the show so far.
Note: We’re only going to talk about foreshadowing for events that have happened on the show. So no book spoilers.
1. Ned’s Death Is Foreshadowed In The Pilot
In the very first episode of the series, Ned, Jon, Theon, Robb and Bran come upon a dead direwolf. We find out that this direwolf was killed by a stag, and it actually has a pair of antlers in its neck. This is kind of symbolism and foreshadowing wrapped up into one.
How? Well, the sigil of House Stark is a direwolf. The sigil of House Baratheon is a stag. At the end of this season, Ned Stark (the wolf) is killed by Joffrey Baratheon (the stag).
We can also interpret this as representing Robert Baratheon getting Ned killed by inviting him to King’s Landing, which might make more sense considering technically Joffrey isn’t a Baratheon. But regardless, Ned’s death was one of the absolute most shocking moments of the entire series, and it was laid out for us within the first 20 minutes.
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that we also see a dead stag moments before, so if we’re taking this as representing later events between the two families, both the wolf and the stag end up dead, just like both Joffrey/Robert and Ned end up dead.
2. Jaime Talks About Not Wanting To Be Crippled
In the second episode of the series, Tyrion is having a conversation with Jaime about the fact that Bran might actually live after falling from the tower. Yeah, remember that time Jaime literally tried to murder a child?
Jaime says to Tyrion, “Even if the boy lives, he’d be a cripple. Grotesque. Give me a good, clean death any day.”
Oh boy. Flash forward to Season 3 and beyond where Jaime has lost his hand and is now a cripple. Jaime was pretty depressed for a bit there in Season 3, and so based on this, we can imagine he was probably wishing for that good, clean death he mentioned.
Re-watching this conversation, it’s pretty ironic and sad, and it’s also quite obviously meant to foreshadow later events. But when this episode aired, it just seemed like a throwaway line.
3. Joffrey’s Death Is Completely Telegraphed A Season Early
In the episode Second Sons from Season 3, Melisandre performs a ritual where she throws three leeches into the flames, calling for the deaths of three kings: Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy.
The way this scene is cut brilliantly foreshadows Joffrey’s death, and we had absolutely no idea at the time. For one, Robb Stark dies the following week, so going back to this moment, it seems natural to then assume that Joffrey will also die.
But besides that, the scene ends with Stannis throwing the leech for Joffrey into the fire. We focus in on the leech, and then smash cut right from that to a scene of Joffrey at a feast drinking wine. How does Joffrey die again? Oh yeah, at a feast drinking wine.
4. Theon Predicts His Own Tragic Fate
In the Season 2 episode A Man Without Honor, Theon sends his men out looking for Bran, Rickon and Hodor, who have all escaped from Winterfell. Theon is desperately trying to find them, knowing that his people won’t take him seriously anymore if he can’t even keep track of these two young boys, one of whom is crippled.
At one point in the episode, Theon talks about those stakes with Maester Luwin, saying, “I’m looking at spending the rest of my life being treated as a fool and a eunuch by my own people!”
And where is Theon right now? He’s Ramsay Bolton’s fool, and he’s now literally a eunuch. Poor Theon. You had no idea how right you were.
5. Littlefinger Predicts Tywin’s Death
In The Mountain and the Viper, Littlefinger is having a conversation with Robin Arryn, who is afraid of leaving home following his mother’s death. He thinks it’s safer inside, but Littlefinger attempts to comfort him by saying that people can die anywhere. Very comforting, Peter.
He tells Robin, “People die at their dinner tables, people die in their beds, they die squatting over their chamber pots.” And how right he was. Just a few episodes later, Tywin Lannister dies squatting over his chamber pot, murdered at the hands of Tyrion.
6. Tyrion Talks About The Killing Of Fathers (Before He Kills His Father)
Later in that same episode, Tyrion and Jaime are having a conversation before the trial by combat. Tyrion’s on trial for regicide, the killing of a king. He notes that Joffrey is also his nephew, but there isn’t a word for the killing of a nephew. There’s a word for all other types of killings, though.
“Fratricide is brothers,” Tyrion says. “Filicide is sons…matricide, patricide…”
Tyrion’s on trial for regicide, which we know he didn’t do. But flash-forward a few episodes, and what did Tyrion actually do? He killed Tywin, a.k.a. patricide, just like he mentions there. Whoever wrote this episode was really into the foreshadowing, because Tywin’s death is heavily hinted at twice within a few minutes.
7. Bran’s Warging Abilities Are Heavily Foreshadowed!
We find out later on in the series that Bran is a Warg, the term for people who can enter the minds of animals and control them. In particular, we see Bran doing this with direwolves, but he even does it with Hodor at one point in the Season 4 finale.
But in Season 1, we got plenty of hints at this through Bran’s visions of running around as a wolf, though at the time it seemed like these were just dreams. There’s also the scene at the very end of the second episode of the series, The Kingsroad.
Ned has been forced to kill Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, and the episode ends with the wolf’s death. We cut straight from the wolf dying to Bran waking up, which we can now see as subtle way of implying a connection between Bran and the direwolves.
8. Daenerys Steps Into A Hot Bath
The very first time we see Daenerys, she gets into a bath after a really creepy conversation with her brother, Viserys. As she steps in, smoke is coming from the water because it’s so hot, but she slowly submerges into it.
This is a great bit of visual foreshadowing. While the first image we see of Daenerys is her stepping into smoke, seemingly unfazed by it, the last image we see of her of the season is her stepping out of smoke, again unfazed by it. Except this time with dragons.
As Daenerys gets into the bath, one of the handmaidens runs up surprised and says, “it’s too hot!” Given what we later learn about Daenerys and that she can survive a massive fire and step out unharmed, the fact that she steps into this scolding hot water and isn’t hurt at all makes a whole lot more sense.
9. Varys Always Hated Weddings
In the Season 2 episode Blackwater, Varys and Tyrion share an interesting conversation as Tyrion is getting ready to go into battle. The bells are ringing, and Varys says that he always hated that sound.
“I always hated the bells,” he says. “They ring for horror, a dead king, a city under siege…”
“Or a wedding,” Tyrion replies.
“Exactly,” Varys says.
This scene takes on a whole new, hilarious meaning now, with our knowledge of how weddings in Game of Thrones usually go down. But this was a full season before the Red Wedding, and two seasons before the Purple Wedding.
Now, a few years later, we can totally understand having a visceral negative reaction against weddings in Westeros, because it seems they always end poorly.
10. This Guy Tries To Tell Us Who Ramsay Is!
Throughout most of Season 3, Theon is being held prisoner and repeatedly tortured, and we have absolutely no idea who his captor is. It isn’t until the end of the season that we find out it’s Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton.
But we get some hints about the captor’s identity throughout the season, with this one being a particularly clever bit of foreshadowing. In this scene, Theon is being chased down by a bunch of Boltons, when suddenly a mysterious man approaches and kills them all. We’ll later find out that this man is Ramsay.
This Bolton in particular looks up at Ramsay and says “you little bastard” right before he dies. Not only does this comment imply that he knows Ramsay, but the phrase “little bastard” obviously has a double meaning here. Just from that, we could easily figure out that this is a Bolton and a bastard son, yet the line went over most of our heads at the time.
11. The Hound Sets Up Arya Becoming A Faceless Man
This one is so subtle that it might not actually be intentional, but if not, it’s a pretty awesome coincidence.
In this scene from The Rains of Castamere, Arya is observing the Twins from a distance and is super paranoid. She’s so close to making it back to Cat and Robb, and yet she’s afraid she’s not going to make it and something will go wrong. The Hound accuses her of being afraid, and she tries to claim she isn’t.
“There’s no point in trying to hide behind that face,” he says to her. “I know fear when I see it.” In Season 5, Arya’s whole plot has involved training to become a member of the Faceless Men, assassins who literally hide behind other people’s faces.
12. Mirri Foreshadows The Death Of Daenerys’ Child
Towards the end of Season 1, Dany is desperately trying to save the life of Khal Drogo. In this scene, she’s talking to Mirri Maz Duur, a healer who tells Dany that only death can pay for life.
Dany asks, “My death?” Mirri responds, “No. Not your death, Khaleesi.” Right after she says that, for just a second, Mirri’s eyes shift and she looks directly at Dany’s stomach. This hints at the fact that it’s Dany’s child who will die, which does indeed happen at the end of the season.
That’s how great and subtle the foreshadowing on this show can be. Nothing is even said, but re-watching this scene, just this simple eye movement tells us so much about where things are headed.
13. Oberyn Predicts Tyrion’s Headed To The Fighting Pits
In The Mountain and the Viper, just before Oberyn goes into battle, Tyrion is acting super paranoid about how Oberyn’s going to do. He tells Oberyn that he could at least wear a helmet, which as it turns out was pretty good advice. Oberyn takes a drink, and Tyrion says that he shouldn’t drink before a fight.
Oberyn, sarcastically remarking on how little Tyrion knows about fighting, responds with, “you learned this during your years in the fighting pits?" Later In Season 5, Tyrion heads for the fighting pits!
14. Foreshadowing The Red Wedding
The Red Wedding is one of the biggest shocks in the entire series, but it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Going back and re-watching the show, there’s quite a bit of foreshadowing that Walder Frey’s going to be pretty pissed at Robb Stark and might take vengeance against him.
In just one example, there’s this scene in the Season 1 episode The Pointy End where Walder Frey is brought up for the first time. This is in the context of Robb realizing that they’ll have to cross the Twins to get to where they need to go.
Catelyn tells us about Lord Frey, who is called “The Late Lord Frey” because at the Battle of the Trident, he didn’t show up until the battle was over.
“Some men take their oaths more seriously than others,” Catelyn says.
And why does the Red Wedding happen? Because Robb Stark agreed to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters and then married Talisa instead. Some men (the Freys) took the oath more seriously than others (Robb Stark).
Bonus! Sam predicts Jon Snows Return!
One that may or not may not be true, so it's in its own category. After the ending of Season 5, fans have looked desperately to find out any clues at Jon Snows return in Season 6, and apart from Melisandre returning to Castle Black, this may be another big clue.
In the Hardhome episode, Olly approaches Sam about Jons plans to save the wildlings, and there is back and forth between the two talking about why Jon has gone, just before Olly leaves Sam, Sam says "Try not to worry Olly, I've been worrying about Jon for years, he always comes back!"
This would directly mean Jon coming back from Hardhome, but it could also mean Jon coming back from the dead in Season 6!
What do you think? Have you spotted any more? Comment below and let me know!!