Warning: this feature contains numerous spoilers for Game of Thrones’ third season and beyond. If you haven’t read the books, leave well alone.
After three footage-less promos, the first real trailer for Game of Thrones‘ third season debuted in the US on Friday evening. For the benefit of those who’ve read ahead in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, we’ve attempted to unpack what the new trailer tells us. Plenty of spoilers lay ahead…
Our last glimpse of Westeros in the chilling final moments of season two left us with Samwell hiding terrified from a passing army of wights Beyond the Wall, so it’s only fitting that that’s where the first season three trailer begins. The White Walkers are nowhere to be seen in the opening time-lapsed shot of the hostile land in which Jon Snow, now feigning desertion from the Night’s Watch and on his way to meet Mance Rayder, is stranded.
“It’s been a long time, my old friend”
The sun and clouds dash across the bleak Northern landscape accompanied by the voice of Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), who ushers fans into the trailer with the words “It’s been a long time, my old friend”. He’s not wrong. By the time the season three US premiere comes around on the 31st of March, we’ll have spent precisely three-hundred-and-one days apart from HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) is the first face we see, and his toned-down post-battle scar will come as no surprise to those who’ve kept up with the season three promo images. Despite the scar being described in A Clash of Kings as “long and crooked, starting a hair under his left eye and ending on the right side of his jaw. Three quarters of his nose was gone, and a chunk of his lip”, The Halfman is looking mostly intact here.
Then it’s back Beyond the Wall, as Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and a raiding party scale the icy edifice towards Queenscrown and eventually, Castle Black. It’s possible here that Tormund’s role has been altered to encompass that of Styr, the Magnar of Thenn and leader of the wildling group sent by Mance to go over the wall.
“Dig up her bones but leave the soul alone”
As the opening lines of New York chillwave duo Ms Mr’s Bones kick in, we’re presented with our first daylight look at Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon’s island castle and the original seat of the Targaryens. The castle is identifiable as that seen in silhouette in season two opener, The North Remembers, glimpsed in the backdrop to the beach shot of Melisandre and Stannis burning the Seven.
A rowing boat bearing two unidentifiable figures can be seen in the foreground, moving away from shore. One is dark, and one fair, but it’s anyone’s best guess as to who they are. Davos Seaworth and Edric Storm perhaps? The pair could, of course, be extras in an establishing shot (though where’s the fun in that?).
“Death is coming for everyone and everything”
After Tywin Lannister strides into the Red Keep’s Great Hall, to see Joffrey in characteristic Lannister garb upon the Iron Throne, we’re whisked away to what looks very much like Harrenhal. If the cursed castle is where Robb and Catelyn Stark survey this stack of corpses as the ominous words “death is coming for everyone and everything” echo behind them, it indicates another detour from George R.R. Martin’s novels. The mother and son could, of course, have happened upon the carnage en route to Riverrun, at their stopover at Oldstones, or on their journey back to The Twins, but creating distinctive and instantly recognisable environments for each of the saga’s many locations is a particular skill of the Game of Thrones team, and those stone arch exteriors say Harrenhal to us.
Then comes a brief look at Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) being followed by – we think – disgraced former maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser), which would presumably place him and Brienne in the custody of The Brave Companions.
Bran, looking as if he’s stood upright thus possibly in a dream, then looses an arrow at an unseen target, while Arya, now a prisoner of the Brotherhood Without Banners, watches Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) light his sword afire. Look closely and you can see it’s definitely Dondarrion lighting the flame, not Paul Kaye as Thyros of Myr.
“A darkness that will swallow the dawn”
We’d hazard that the Northern twang to the portentous words heard as a solitary White Walker is seen advancing through a wood puts them in the mouth of Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Further darkness comes with a shot of a hooded topless figure bound and strung up by his arms. Eagle-eyed viewers will remember that the last time we saw a certain former ward of Ned Stark, he was mutinied against by his Ironborn companions and in the process of having a hood placed over his head…
After a brief look at a pack of wildlings running South of The Wall, we’re finally taken across the Narrow Sea to Astapor, where Dany, having retrieved her dragons from the House of the Undying in the season two finale, now commands an army of Unsullied.
“Show them how it feels to lose what they love”
Despite dominating the Red Keep in season two, Lena Headey’s Cersei isn’t given much screen time in this trailer, save a short glimpse by candlelight here, a silent moment between her and Sansa, and a shot amongst the ‘revenge’ montage at the end.
Paid more attention, and for very good reason, is Catelyn Stark, seen here urging son Robb, King in the North, to show his enemies how it feels to lose what they love.
“I’m going to light the biggest fire the North has ever seen”
Back behind the Wall, the trailer returns to Jon Snow’s progress amongst Mance Rayder’s freemen. A shot of Mackenzie Crook as Orell the skinchanger gaining a birds-eye-view of the surroundings by warging into his eagle is followed by Jon looking at him askance, while Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) threatens to the light the biggest fire the North has ever seen.
Back at the Red Keep comes a moment that can only have been taken from the wedding of Tyrion and Sansa. In A Storm of Swords, Tyrion refuses to subject Sansa to the bedding ritual, and – in his cups – threatens to castrate Joffrey for attempting to force the issue, “The Imp slammed his dagger down in the table, where it stood quivering. ‘Then you’ll service your own bride with a wooden prick. I’ll geld you, I swear it’”. Is it as satisfying an uncle/nephew moment as that slap in The Old Gods and the New? Better, we’d say.
Next comes an out-of-sequence Ygritte shooting an arrow in the rain. The only significant arrow Jon’s wildling lover releases in the saga is the one that finds its way into Jon’s leg after his defection at Queenscrown, which is what we can suppose we’re seeing here.
Following on from Beric Donarrion’s sword-lighting earlier comes a tantalising excerpt of his trial-by-combat fight with Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann).
“Everyone is mine to torment”
Tyrion’s kind treatment of Sansa, in comparison with his deranged nephew’s abuse of her, is one of the qualities that makes him, as Master Aemon said at the Wall, “a giant amongst men”. Joffrey’s line here, delivered in what looks like a small council meeting in the presence of his grandfather and uncle, must be a comeback to Tyrion’s “Sansa is no longer yours to torment. Understand that, monster” after Joffrey reveals a sick plan for his former betrothed.
One of the few deaths by natural causes in George R.R. Martin’s saga is that of Lady Catelyn’s father, Lord Hoster Tully. It’s his funeral boat we see aflame drifting along the waters of Riverrun.
“There’s a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand”
Some clever editing is done here, pairing the words of Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) with shots of what, judging by the locale and presence of a bloody Rast (Luke McEwan), is presumably the Night’s Watch mutiny at Craster’s Keep. (Putting swords in the hands of select members of the Night’s Watch proved to awaken their beast when faced with the horrors Beyond the Wall).
The last of Jorah’s words accompany an image that has to be of Jaime’s famous amputation, described by Martin with the succinct line, “And Jaime screamed.”
The closing montage takes in plenty of action, beginning with a look at Arya, and then a group of Dothraki riders. Returning to what must be Queenscrown by the looks of the tower in the background, Tormund Giantsbane and Orell appear to have captured the old man Jon is asked to slaughter as a test of his loyalty, followed by what must be the counter-shot to the earlier appearance of Ygritte and her bow, as Jon Snow looks pained. A few seconds later, the clock is turned back as Jon and Ygritte are shown during happier times in their cave. If only they’d stayed there…
Cersei and Sansa, both of whom we’re yet to hear speak in season three, also appear in the Red Keep, with what looks like a wedding trousseau open on the bed between them.
Back across the Narrow Sea comes possibly the trailer’s most tantalising shot, that of Drogon flying alongside one of Dany’s ships. It could be perspective that’s making him appear to have grown at a rate of knots since we last saw him and his siblings, or DB Weiss and David Benioff may have fast-tracked their growth to escalate events. Presumably the sea voyage is that taken by Dany and co. from Qarth to Astapor, from where this shot of Emilia Clarke backed by a wall of fire must be taken.
Nearing the end now, comes an identified rider, possibly Arya, or even Bran in an able-bodied dream, and what appears to be a chess-like game, but looking at the Wolf-shaped pieces, is more likely to be a battle plan.
“The revenge you want will be yours in time”
The trailer’s final words belong to (we think) the man who uttered its first, Lord Varys. The theme of revenge is raised as shots in turn of Robb and Arya Stark, followed by Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister appear momentarily on screen. Attempting to list the various revenges sought by that little lot is likely to become so tangled, you may well be better off listing characters between whom there isn’t any bad blood.
A treat though the trailer was, it leaves us considering what and who, wasn’t featured. Despite their growing importance in the narrative, the Tyrells and the Freys were conspicuous by their absence. Understandably, a certain bloody event didn’t get a look-in aside from oblique allusion. Though we met new faces Mance Rayder, Tormund Giantsbane and Orell, there was little sign of fellow season three newcomers the Reed siblings, Thyros of Myr, Selyse Baratheon, Ser Brynden Tully, or the clouded-in-secrecy role of Ramsay Bolton. Familiar characters Brienne, Osha, Hodor, Littlefinger, Melisandre and more were also kept out of the way. With any luck, that could mean another, longer trailer is on its way in the next thirty-five days…
Game of Thrones returns to HBO on Sunday the 31st of March, and to Sky Atlantic on Monday the 1st of April.
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