Winter is finally almost here as HBO releases the first full-length trailer for Game of Thrones season eight. With the fantasy saga coming to what is sure to be an epic conclusion when it returns on April 14, the two minute promo will whet the appetites of fans eager for the trip back to Westeros.
But what does the new footage reveal about the looming conflict between Jon Snow and his allies and the Night King (with Mad Queen Cersei sneakily plotting to undermine both)? Given that show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss were reportedly against even releasing a trailer in the first place, the expectation was that the preview would give away little about the season eight story line.
But in fact there is plenty to ponder as Snow and his lover/aunt Daenerys gather their troops at Winterfell and the White Walkers sweep south, bringing a deathly chill with them. Here’s a breakdown.
1: Arya running…from the White Walkers?
Bruised, breathless and terrified, Arya pegs it through dimly lit-stone corridors. She is clearly fleeing someone – or something? Given all that she has endured, it would take a foe of unusual ferocity to rattle the youngest Stark princess. One possibility is she’s on the hoof from the Walkers – perhaps the Night King himself.
But where is the drama unfolding? Given the gloom, it’s almost certainly in the north. So Winterfell is a possibility. But might we be back within the ruins of the recently demolished Wall? Or a new location entirely?
“I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one,” says Arya over footage of Ser Davos and Master of Whisperers Varys pulling serious faces. She holds what looks like a Wildling spear-tip. Is ‘death” a reference to the Night King – merely the latest iteration of an old friend which, as a trained assassin, she has already encountered on many occasions? Could she be about embark on a do-or-die mission to take down the White Walker leader?
2: The Golden Company is bound for Westeros
Sneaky Cersei has feigned allegiance to Jon Snow and Daenerys as they head north to fight the Walkers. But she’s hired her own private army of mercenary sell-swords: the famed Golden Company from the Free Cities of Essos. We see them traversing the Narrow Sea, presumably bound for King’s Landing to help Cersei maintain her grip on power and eliminate her enemies – whether human or wight. German actor Marc Rissmann (Last Kingdom) has been confirmed as playing Golden Company commander Harry Strickland. Might that be him, with his back to the camera as if about to address his men?
3: Beric Dondarrion and Thormund Giantsbane live! For now! Unless it’s a flashback...
Game Of Thrones didn’t really end on a cliff-hanger in 2017, as it was clear that the final conflict between the Night King and the Seven Kingdoms was imminent. The one question mark was that hanging over the fates of Beric Dondarrion, of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and Thormund Giantsbane, of Brienne-fancying Wildling fame.
They had the rotten luck to be manning the Wall when it came down – but their deaths were not confirmed. It appears they survived as the new trailer has footage of Beric, with flaming sword, and Thormund walking down a corridor looking ve-ry peeved. Judging by their expressions it’s not going to be all right for the wights on the night. The next shot is of Samwell Tarley and Bran Stark (aka the Three-Eyed Raven) in Winterfell, though it’s unclear if this is the same scene.
4: Cersei is still at full Mad Queen tilt
Having lost her children – the closest she had to a moral compass – Cersei has essentially turned into a one-woman tribute act of Mad King Aerys II (aka Daenerys's dad). She looks chillingly sociopathic atop the battlements of King’s Landing, where her dark magic advisor Qyburn is – some things never change, even in Westeros – enthusiastically buttering her up.
“Everything you did brought you where you are now,” he says. “Where you belong. Home.”
Over their shoulder stands the King’s Guard in their natty new black armour, the resurrected Mountain looming tallest of all.
5: Daenerys and the Unsullied march from Winterfell
Having largely faffed around the margins of Westeros last season, now Daenerys and her Unsullied legions have getting to know the continent in earnest. The Mother of Dragons, with Jon Snow at her side, leads her crack army of eunuchs out of Winterfell, their armour glinting in an unfamiliar fashion under the brooding northern skies. This is obviously setting the scene for the battle between the forces of the Seven Kingdom and the Walkers – a fight to the end said to be the longest and most expensive ever filmed.
6.Is the transition of Jaime complete?
He started off as the biggest villain on the series – as signalled by the causal manner in which he pushed Bran out that tower window. But Jaime’s slow journey from flash cad to misunderstood broken soul looks complete as he reaches Winterfell and draws steel. Having stayed loyal to his twin lover Cersei here he is fighting for the forces she ultimately wishes to destroy. Flames roar, smoke blackens his face and he cries out. Is Winterfell burning? Did dragonfire start the blaze? So many questions – and no answers in this clip.
7: Gendry… has had a haircut
Ace blacksmith and last living heir of King Old Tubby himself, Robert Baratheon, Gendry was missing in action for several consecutive seasons. But he reappeared in series seven and now here he is again, doing his bit for the cause in a smithy (presumably in Winterfell). The biggest change – his close-cropped scalp. Gendry was never the most interesting GoT character – evidently this won’t change in season eight. Next we welcome back Ser Jorah Mormont, who flashes into view on the back of a horse.
8: Greyworm and Missandei kiss passionately
The romance between the eunuch Unsullied and Daenerys’s slaved-turned-advisor has simmered throughout recent Game of Thrones history. They finally shared a bed last season – and now here they are in a feverish clench as the troops gather at Winterfell and prepare to march into action (by which we mean mass slaughter at the claws of ravaging undead).
9: Sansa gasps at the Dragons
It’s been ages since we had a decent shot of someone looking awe-struck by Daenerys’s dragons. There are echoes of Tyrion gawping at Drogon in season five as the fire-breather and his sibling Rhaegal swoop over Winterfell. “They’re coming,” says Jon Snow in voiceover as we cut to the crypts where he and Daenerys are looking glum. Has he gone there to steal a moment with the statue of his mother Lyanna Stark? If so, does that mean the secret of his parentage has finally been revealed? (to him – Brand and Samwell have known about it for ages now).
10: The mother of Flagons is in the House
Some of us could spend all night watching footage of Lena Headey smirkingly quaffing from a wine cup. She puts in one of her practiced Evil Grimaces here as she sips malevolently in what looks to be a darkened chamber at King’s Landing. Her mouth twitches, words form… and then we cut.
11: Drogon and Rhaegal soar about Winterfell
Each of Game of Thrones's final six episodes cost a rumoured $15 million to produce and you can see all that cash on the screen in the gorgeous shot of Daenerys’s two remaining zombified dragons twirling against grey northern skies. There is also a brief cut of the Hound, battered and grumpy. So we’ve had both the Mountain and the Hound in the same two-minute trailer. Could Cleganebowl – the fight to the death between the sworn enemy Celgane brothers – finally be upon us?
12: Jon prays at the Godswood
The former Bastard of Winterfell kneels in the sacred enclosure at the family seat, just as his ancestors prayed before him. Bran enjoys hanging out at the Godswood since returning as the Three-Eyed Raven. Might Jon’s presence here have something to do with him?
13: Ooh.. more Jaime
“I promised to fight for the living. I intend to keep that promise,” says the Kingslayer, underscoring his commitment to helping Jon and Daenerys even if it means betraying Cersei. But should the forces of good prevail, might Jaime shuffle back to the side of his queen/lover/twin? This is Game of Thrones so…possibly.
14: It looks like Jon is getting on a dragon
Daenerys and Jon approach Drogon and Rhaegel. We know what Daenerys is up to – she’s about to climb on the back of Drogon and take to the skies. Given Jon’s Targaryen blood – he and Daenerys are nephew and aunt – it is not beyond the bounds that he is about take Rhaegel for a test-flight. Then comes footage of a long-haired figure fighting amid the flames. Obviously some manner of conflagration will sweep across Winterfell. Could the ancient seat of House Stark be a casualty of the War To Come?
15: Tyrion looks concerned and the Walkers arrive
The Lannister imp has been conspicuously absent from the trailer but, hurrah, here he is and looking worried too. As well he might, as the world is very possibly about to end. Just how imminent that might be is confirmed as we see Brienne of Tarth, faithful Podrick, Ser Jorah and sundry Unsullied and Stark troops holding the line. And then an undead hoof clops into view. The Night King has arrived.
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