They finally did it. With less than six weeks until Game of Thrones returns, HBO released a trailer for the eighth and final season:
Let’s break down every frame of this trailer in excruciating detail. Here are the biggest questions and takeaways:
What is Arya running from?
We open with Arya, blood running down the right side of her face, seemingly running for her life.
(I brightened most of these screenshots. HBO likes to set the brightness to, like, 5 percent.)
Though this scene is used as the opener, chronologically speaking it could be some of the latest footage we see in the trailer, as Arya is also shown later without any kind of head injury. Her facial expression is haunting—Arya doesn’t get scared like this anymore—and the stone corridors and torches here indicate that she’s in Winterfell, perhaps even in the crypts. Is she running from White Walkers who have penetrated the castle walls? Or—perhaps worse—have some of her friends or ancestors been turned into wights?
Whatever the answer is, if it has Westeros’s foremost assassin looking like that, it must be very bad.
Arya gets some dragonglass.
“I know death,” Arya says in a voice-over, as the camera cuts to shots of Davos and Varys. “He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”
As the Stark assassin delivers that final line, the camera cuts to her holding what appears to be a piece of dragonglass:
Arya already has the Valyrian steel dagger that was used in the assassination attempt on Bran in Season 1, so she doesn’t have much use for a dagger-sized piece of dragonglass. She may simply be looking at this weapon, examining it as some other character gives her the rundown on the White Walkers and the threat coming down from the north.
Some other character … could that character be Jon?! The Jon-Arya reunion has to be the most anticipated reunion of any two characters in Thrones history, as the close half-siblings (who will soon find out they’re actually cousins) have not seen each other since the second episode of the series. Jon was just a naive kid then, and Arya an inexperienced tomboy. Now Jon is King in the North, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and the true heir to the Iron Throne, while Arya is an accomplished assassin, a Faceless Man, and, thankfully, definitely not No One. They can finally trade war stories—until, of course, Jon starts droning on about the White Walkers like he always does. Which might explain why Arya is holding a piece of dragonglass in this scene.
Varys has seen some shit.
As Arya is giving her voice-over, the screen shows Varys and a crew of people in the Winterfell crypts. And, well, he doesn’t look thrilled about whatever is being discussed:
That appears to be Gilly and Baby Sam all the way back to the left, but the rest of the folks in attendance aren’t recognizable. This scene already gives a Helm’s Deep vibe—they may be holed up as the battle of Winterfell rages above them. But given the way everyone is turned in the same direction, it also seems like someone could be speaking to the group. What news could that possible speaker be relaying to make everyone look like this?
The Golden Company sure is golden.
Last season, Cersei called in help from Essos, secretly enlisting the mercenary soldiers of the Golden Company to help her fight off Jon and Daenerys. Euron Greyjoy told the group of people at the Season 7 parley in the dragonpit that he was going back to Pyke, but he was actually heading east to ferry the Golden Company over to Westeros—which is why they are on Greyjoy ships:
This is a reminder that, whether the heroes know it or not, they are fighting a two-front war. Cersei seems to have no intention of aligning with Jon and Dany to battle the White Walkers, and is bringing in reinforcements to help her maintain her grip on Westeros—even if she soon rules over nothing but a frozen wasteland.
Who is that on the deck of the ship? In October 2017, it was reported that Marc Rissmann was cast as the Golden Company’s leader, Harry Strickland. That’s likely who is seen here, since it certainly isn’t Euron or (as some have theorized) Daario.
Beric and Tormund are Alive.
We were already pretty sure they survived the Night King’s assault on the Wall, but now it’s confirmed. Here the two are with Dolorous Edd:
Who is Bran talking to?
“Everything you did brought you where you are now,” Bran says in the next voice-over. “Where you belong. Home.”
Given that he’s in Winterfell, he’s likely talking to one of the Starks—people who are literally home. But he would have had plenty of time to tell this to Arya or Sansa last season, so he could be talking to the last Stark (or, uh, Stark-adjacent person) he hasn’t yet been reunited with: Jon Snow.
That means this could also be the beginning of Bran relaying the incredibly awkward update about Jon’s parentage to the King in the North. All offseason, I’ve wondered who would tell Jon that he’s actually the true-born son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen: Bran, Sam, or (highly unlikely) Howland Reed. Sam always felt like the most likely candidate, given that he is Jon’s best friend, but these lines indicate that it could be Bran.
What’s the deal with Cersei?
Next, we get Cersei in King’s Landing (as if she’d be anywhere else).
Based on the rolling hills behind Cersei, Qyburn, and the Mountain here, they appear to be at King’s Landing’s docks, presumably welcoming the Golden Company to Westeros. But look at Qyburn—Cersei’s most loyal companion looks absolutely terrified and perplexed. Is it possible that the mad scientist of the Citadel has a change of heart in Season 8?
Or perhaps something else is going on here. We never see Cersei with the Golden Company or Euron in this trailer. It’s possible that instead of bringing an army to the queen’s aid, Euron has brought one to seize power for himself.
(Side note: This appears to be a season in which everyone will be taking fashion notes from the Night’s Watch.)
Who is the boy in the tree?
As Bran says “home,” the trailer cuts back to Winterfell and the Unsullied army’s arrival:
This shot recalls a scene from the very first episode of the series, when Bran saw Robert arrive at Winterfell from atop the castle’s battlements. Yet this character obviously can’t be Bran. Is it just some anonymous local boy who won’t reappear? Or the first hint at someone of greater importance?
The Unsullied don’t stick around forever.
In the very next shot, Jon and Dany appear to be leading the army away from Winterfell.
There are plenty of scenes from the impending battle of Winterfell in this trailer, but Dany isn’t in any of them, and Jon is only briefly shown. It also looks like the battle will take place at night, so what are Jon and Dany doing here? Where are they going? We’ll get to that soon …
There’s nothing like watching someone see a dragon for the first time.
Here’s what appears to be Sansa’s first look at one:
Jon and Dany have a rendezvous in the crypts.
The promotional material for this season just keeps hammering home Winterfell’s crypts—it’s obvious that they’re of symbolic importance, but they may be important to the actual plot, too. Will Starks rise from the dead and fight for the Night King?
At any rate, it’s not clear whose tomb Jon is in front of here, but it would make sense if it were Lyanna’s—once learning of his parentage, Jon will probably want to go visit his mother’s resting site and look upon her stone likeness. And seeing as Dany is coming to join him, this also could be where Jon breaks the news to the Mother of Dragons. This will be a huge bombshell for both of them: Jon will learn that he was never a bastard, and that he actually is the rightful king of the continent. Jon has never sought out the leadership roles he’s been thrust into, but he has always wanted the acceptance that he can’t get as a bastard. Now he’ll have it, but not as a Stark—as a Targaryen. A war with the dead awaits, but first, Jon’s entire world will come crashing down.
Meanwhile, how Dany will react to learning that her near series-long claim to being the rightful heir to the throne is incorrect will be fascinating. But there is also some joy to be had here, too: Daenerys isn’t the only Targaryen left in the world. She’s not alone.
Also … they’re both about to find out that they’re doing the incest. Major yikes.
Jon looks sad and reflective here, lending credence to the theory that he’s thinking about the questions of family, identity, and inheritance. Then again, he always looks pretty moody.
The heroes are getting ready for battle.
Jon, Dany, and their army don’t have what they need to fight the White Walkers. I’ve posited before though that some combination of Bran, Sam, and Gendry could crack the code to Valyrian steel and craft more of it, and after this trailer I am in a frenzy. There’s a shot of someone forging something—likely a weapon—here:
It’s hard to tell in the screenshot, but that’s Gendry in the background. He’s shown in the next shot:
Is new Valyrian steel on the way? I am beyond hyped.
The Battle at Winterfell will feature damn near everyone.
We haven’t had this many main characters in one place since the beginning of the show, and it looks like almost all of them will play a role in the battle of Winterfell, which Entertainment Weekly recently reported would be the longest consecutive battle sequence ever put on film. Here’s Davos:
Grey Worm and Missandei:
Jaime is ready:
The Hound, who is very unfortunately surrounded by fire:
Arya, in her first-ever battle, fighting with a spear:
And Brienne and Pod on the front lines:
Plus: Is Ghost here? Our Mother of Dragons, Mallory Rubin, swears this is his tail/paw between the 1:21 and 1:23 marks, but you can decide for yourself:
The empty throne room is ominous.
Again: If Cersei is supposed to welcome the Golden Company to Westeros … where are they?
And who is that greeting her? Enhance!
Cersei’s on the throne, with likely Qyburn to her left, the Mountain to her right, and two more Lannister guards flanking either side. But the two facing her are a mystery—the person in the middle could be the leader of the Golden Company seen earlier, as his tan clothes seem to roughly match that scene. Could the figure draped in black be Euron then? I’m not sure those long robes fit his rockstar-pirate swagger.
And even if this is the Golden Company’s arrival, it’s curious that none of the soldiers make it onto the floor of the Throne Room, which could easily host a robust group. At least some of the ranking officers should be present, right?
Did Cersei lose her baby?
In Cersei’s next shot, she looks sad and defeated. This is the face of a woman for whom something is terribly wrong:
Lena Headey is incredible—just this short clip conveys untold layers of emotion that this season will spend unpacking.
But more importantly: In Season 7, Cersei refused to drink wine with Tyrion, and Tyrion immediately realized that Cersei must be pregnant—because why else would she ever refuse wine? I guess that confirms that Westeros is aware of fetal alcohol syndrome, and in this scene Cersei is shown with a glass of some sort of vintage. That fact, combined with the sadness on Cersei’s face, hints at one possibility: This scene could be taking place after a miscarriage.
Will Jon and Dany head north?
This certainly doesn’t look like the type of terrain that is found south of the Wall:
Later in the trailer, we see Jon and Dany with the two dragons:
There are no visible landmarks in either direction, lending credence to the idea that Jon and Dany are north of the Wall, beyond the reaches of civilization. Based on the bones scattered at the feet of Drogon and Rhaegal, they may have been away from Winterfell for some time—days, or even a week.
Why head north of the Wall? The two could be looking for the Children of the Forest, if there are any left, seeking answers for how to fight the White Walkers. Or perhaps Sam found something in his books that Jon and Dany needed to venture to retrieve. Or maybe Bran just forgot something at the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven and asked Jon for a quick favor. The possibilities are endless!
At any rate: How did Jon and Dany get here? Dany surely rode Drogon, but did Jon hop on behind her or did he ride the dragon that is named for his father?
Will Jaime be tested?
When Jaime arrives in the North, he’ll have to answer for the whole pushing-Bran-out-a-window thing from the series premiere. Brienne and Tyrion can probably vouch for him, but he’ll still have to convince many of the Northerners that he isn’t there just to betray them. Hence his lines in this trailer: “I promised to fight for the living. I intend to keep that promise.”
Given that the trailer showed Jaime fighting in what looked to be the battle of Winterfell earlier, it’s safe to say that he at least won’t be executed on-sight. But at some point, his change in loyalty will put him opposite Cersei, the only woman he’s ever loved. What will happen then?
Are there no dragons at the battle of Winterfell?
There is plenty of fire, sure, but there are no indications that there are dragons in the fight. Jon, though, is. It’s a brief, dark shot, but Jon can be seen in the thick of the battle:
So while Jon is back in time to be involved in the battle of Winterfell, Dany is never seen. Where is she? Where is the Night King and his dragon, Viserion? Is it possible that Dany and the Night King are off fighting elsewhere? Could one or both of them be heading south?
Whatever happens at the battle of Winterfell, bet on the heroes losing.
This battle likely happens in Episode 3, as EW reported that it is directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the third and fifth episodes of this season. HBO would never show us this much footage from the penultimate episode, so by process of elimination, the battle of Winterfell must happen in the third episode.
The heroes can’t win the great war in the first half of the season! And indeed, here they are appearing to retreat back into Winterfell:
You can also probably bet on some tragic deaths happening within this.
Where is Tyrion?
Here’s the only shot of our favorite dwarf:
There is no snow on the ground, so this can’t be Winterfell or any location near the North. Is Tyrion on a mission somewhere else? What could he be doing?
Why are the White Walkers arriving on horseback?
The horse hooves in the snow make for a pretty chilling final shot to the trailer, but the Night King has a dragon. You’d think he’d want to use Viserion when he sacks Winterfell, but instead we get this horse:
This is another indication that the dragons may not be present at Winterfell, which just leads to more questions about where the Night King might really be while this is all going down.
Who isn’t in this trailer?
HBO packed a lot into these 90 seconds or so of footage, but not everyone could fit. Here are some notable omissions:
All the Greyjoys: Theon, Euron, and Yara are all absent (unless that’s Euron in that one brief glimpse of the Throne Room). Theon and Euron were featured prominently in EW’s promotional photos, so they definitely have a role to play this season. And given that Theon wants to save Yara, she’ll probably be back too. But their position in the plot at the outset of the season is less urgent than what’s happening in Winterfell, so they got sidelined from this trailer.
Melisandre: The Red Woman was also in the promotional photos for the season, and she promised Varys in Season 7 that they both had to die in Westeros. She’ll return, but it’s still unclear what role she’ll play.
Bronn: He’s still supposedly on Cersei’s side, but those two actors evidently can’t share scenes together, and he wasn’t seen in this trailer. The most promising route to Bronn gaining the castle he wants would be by making sure the realm still exists at the end of this whole thing, so maybe he’ll eventually switch sides and join his old pals Tyrion and Jaime.
The Night King and Viserion: The thought of the White Walkers attacking Westeros in multiple places at once is chilling.
Meera Reed: I’m still holding out hope that she and her father will show up.
Hot Pie: Where is he? I demand answers!