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What the New ‘Game of Thrones’ Trailer Tells Us About Season 8’s Key Themes

We have a premiere date for the final season: April 14. But the short, Stark-centric clip that accompanied that reveal gave us much more than just a day to look forward to.

HBO/Ringer illustration

Season 8 is coming—and at last, we know when. HBO unveiled a teaser trailer Sunday night ahead of the True Detective premiere that finally gave us a premiere date for the final season of Game of Thrones: April 14.

In contrast to the tiny snippet of new footage in the last, HBO-wide teaser, this trailer doesn’t reveal any new clips from the show, as the shots here would have no place in an actual episode. Instead, this clip is much like the “Long Walk” promo from March 2017, ahead of Season 7. It’s designed to get viewers excited without revealing actual plot points—but it’s packed with thematic hints for the upcoming season.

So let’s take a quick look at the themes this trailer presents. First up is Jon walking by Lyanna’s tomb in the Winterfell crypts. At the end of Season 7, Jon did not yet know that Lyanna is actually his mother, and the inevitable reveal looms large heading into the final season; here, HBO chose to highlight her words to Ned Stark when, on her deathbed, she made her brother promise to keep her son safe: “You have to protect him.”

As Jon walks by, a feather falls from the statue. This is the feather that King Robert put there in the Season 1 pilot, when he visited the crypts during his stay in Winterfell. Robert would bring feathers to Lyanna before the rebellion as a symbol of his love, and Sansa finds that final feather still in the crypts in Season 5, lying at Lyanna’s feet, and returns it to the statue’s hand. A few seconds after the feather falls in this trailer, it freezes in the cold mist that’s slowly rolling into the crypts. That feels particularly symbolic: It’s Robert’s misplaced love being flushed away, as we now know the truth about Lyanna’s relationship with Rhaegar, Jon’s father.

When Sansa walks past Catelyn’s statue, meanwhile, we hear words from the Stark matriarch: “This horror that has come to my family … it’s all because I couldn’t love a motherless child.” This quote comes from a Season 3 scene in which Catelyn explains to Robb’s wife, Talisa, her guilt over Jon’s upbringing. Once, when Jon was a child, he fell very ill, and Cat prayed to the gods that she would raise him as her own if he got better. He did get better, of course, but Cat couldn’t keep her promise—she despised Jon, the child who (she thought) represented her husband’s adultery. Now, the same dilemma may fall to Sansa: Will she be able to accept Jon after learning his true parentage?

And the third and final quote we hear plays as Jon passes by Ned’s statue: “You are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.” This is from Season 1 (duh, it’s a quote from Ned), and its inclusion is interesting. Jon has Stark blood, but he technically isn’t a Stark—he’s a Targaryen. Ned of course couldn’t tell him that, but this quote, along with the other two, hammers home how Jon will have to deal with discovering, and embracing or rejecting, his identity this season. Is he a Targaryen, really? Is he a Stark? Is he a bastard? But remember the feather that froze just frames before—does Jon’s last name even matter when the White Walkers threaten every House, peasant, and bastard in Westeros?

When Jon, Sansa, and Arya—who is in the trailer but doesn’t really get one of those quotes directed at her—turn and see statues of themselves staring back at them, it’s another hint at Jon’s identity: Targaryens and bastards don’t get tombs in the crypts of Winterfell, but Starks do. Does this mean that Jon will ultimately choose to identify as a Stark? And that the Northmen will embrace him even after learning the truth of his parentage?

Bran isn’t in this trailer—a notable omission considering he is both at Winterfell and a true-born Stark. And the teaser leaves open other questions, too: With this clip being so Stark-heavy, will we get similar teasers for the Lannisters and Targaryens?

Because this is Thrones, there’s instant sleuthing going on, as some think that Jon’s likeness in his statue looks older than those of Arya or Sansa, indicating that he’ll outlive those two. But I think it’s just bad masonry. It’s a plot point that the mason who carved Ned’s tomb couldn’t capture Ned’s likeness, and none of the three statues are great representations of their subjects. But take a closer look at Jon’s and make up your own mind:


Either way, the Stark children don’t get much time to look over their faces, as the cold sweeps in, and Arya and Jon draw their swords before the screen cuts to black. We’ll have to wait three months for the season, but if this brief snippet is any indication, that season, when it arrives, will be full of many of the themes that have made Thrones so great over the past eight years: family, identity, love, openness, and being who you are.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.