Winter is, at long last, here.
It’s been 19 months since we last saw HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in the Season 7 finale, and it’s a long time to wait. Save for a few photos and a sliver of new footage in a commercial for HBO, fans had no clue about what is going to happen in Season 8. Until now. On Tuesday HBO released a trailer for the final season of the fantasy drama, and it looks monumental, terrifying and beautiful.
The trailer is well-crafted, with a cinematic vibe not unlike the final “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” films. Prominently featured is footage from what many fans have expected for years: A final battle between the living and the dead that looks fittingly epic and harrowing. Fan-favorite characters Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) appear, appropriately grim and battle-ready.
A close look at the trailer reveals details. An opening shot of a frantic and scared Arya suggests something monstrous is coming, because what could possibly scare Arya? Her voiceover, from another, calmer scene, mentions the many faces of death. It’s a reference to the Many-Faced God Arya learned about during her time with the Faceless Men, and her original swordmaster, Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) from all the way back in Season 1, who memorably told her that Death was the only god. And what do we say to Death? “Not today.”
The trailer glimpses a fleet of ships bearing Kraken masts, the Greyjoy sigil, indicating that Euron (Pilou Asbaek) is still around, still making trouble, and probably not helping much in the fight against the White Walkers. Since the final battle will likely take place in the second-to-last episode of the season (a popular storytelling pattern for this series over the years), it seems like Euron will be the proverbial roadblock that keeps our heroes busy for the first few.
Speaking of roadblocks, down in King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) appears untroubled by the undead army, confident on the Iron Throne, with Qyburn (Anton Lesser) still whispering in her ear. Cersei is even still drinking wine, a likely throwback to Season 2’s Battle of the Blackwater, where Cersei got drunk with Sansa (Sophie Turner) during Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane) attack on King’s Landing, spawning thousands of memes.
Her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is not amused by her blase attitude. “I promised to fight for the living,” he tells her in one sequence. “I intend to keep that promise.” He’s also seen in a fiery battle, suggesting that he abandoned his sister and lover to take up arms in the North.
But perhaps the most telling moment from the trailer is Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) walking toward the two remaining dragons as if to mount and ride them. This is significant because, in the story of the Targaryens conquering Westeros the first time around, three Targaryens rode three dragons. Dany has special abilities related to fire and her dragons, including the moment in the Season 1 finale when she walked into a fire with their eggs and came out unscathed. No one has been able to ride the dragons thus far besides her.
Book fans have long theorized that Dany, Jon and a third Targaryen (there are many theories about who that might be) would ride the three dragons in the final battle. In the series, one of the dragons was killed last season and resurrected as an ice dragon by the White Walkers, so the two remaining Targaryens will seemingly ride the two remaining dragons.
This, plus flashes of Dany and Jon looking meaningfully at each other – and one of Sam (John Bradley) looking concerned – also raises questions about whether the couple, who had sex last season, knows that they are aunt and nephew, or whether they care.
But the romances, political squabbles, and dragons mean nothing once the White Walkers come. The monsters don’t appear in the trailer, save for creepy dead horse legs in the final shot, but they loom large over every second. If we know one thing for sure about Season 8, it’s that the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) is not going to mess around.