This weekend, we knew some new Game of Thrones footage would be shown at the special Imax screenings of the final two episodes of last season, but we weren't sure what. It appears to have been a full trailer, and this afternoon, HBO dropped it online! Here are ten things we learn (mild spoiler alert):
1. One major plot thread is almost definitely cut.
Without spoiling too much, George R.R. Martin's book A Dance With Dragons introduces one new claimant to the Iron Throne, with repercussions that could possibly last until the end of the series. Many readers thought it was a bit late in the game to be introducing new players, and it appears the Game of Thrones producers agreed. There's been no casting information for this new character, and judging from one of the lines in the trailer, it appears that in the interests of expediency, their plot has been removed completely.
2. Female claimants to the throne will take center stage this season.
Instead of the much-contested claimant mentioned above, Varys is backing a new horse. He tells Tyrion, "The Seven Kingdoms needs a ruler loved by millions, with a powerful army, and the right family name." Tyrion quips, "Good luck finding him." "Who said anything about him?" is Varys's retort.
Of course there is more than one potential queen, but based on Varys and Tyrion's new Essos-based locale, and Varys's previous conspiring with Illyrio (overheard by Arya in season one), their road might lead to a certain Targaryen who could benefit from the services of the once (and future?) Hand of the King. "I believe men of talent have a part to play in the war to come," Varys tells Tyrion as part of his recruitment pitch. (And remember, George R.R. Martin gave us a hint in this direction once before.)
Don't count out Dark Sansa, though. Our new Lady of the Vale looks awfully cozy with Lord Baelish, who appears to be urging her on a course of revenge. "There's no justice in this world, not unless we make it," he tells her. "Avenge them." Meanwhile, we get glimpses of an army — her army? — marching through the Vale. We are now officially at the point where the show is moving faster than Sansa's story line in the books — anything can happen now.
Then again, Myrcella should not be forgotten, even if we haven't seen her in a while. Cersei's reminded that her only daughter is still a ward of Dorne when she receives an unusual gift: Myrcella's lion pendant in the mouth of a dead viper. Is this a threat that the princess could come to harm? Or a message that Myrcella is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, by Dornish law? Perhaps both.
3. We now know what Dorne looks like.
Previously, the only information we had about the newest and most southern kingdom in Westeros came during the erotic reveries of Oberyn Martell. Now, in the trailer, we get to see what it looks like for the first time! As it turns out, it looks like Spain, which is where it was filmed. We also get a glimpse of what looks like one of the Sand Snakes doing cool party tricks with a whip. Side note — is Ellaria stepping into Arianne's story line?
4. The Queen of Thorns gets prickly.
"They'll never even find what's left of you," she threatens someone — but who? The High Sparrow, for instructing the Faith Militant to destroy the barrels and waste all that good wine? Cersei, for her escalating fight with Margaery? The latter is what would make the most sense here, since the two come to a head over the impending nuptials of Margaery and Tommen, which we see in the trailer. And whom do we see there? Cersei, Pycelle, Loras, Mace Tyrell ... but no Kevan Lannister?
5. Who doesn't like a little blood magic?
We finally get some flashbacks — one of young Cersei traipsing off in the woods back in the days when she still had female friends, and the other of her cutting her finger and dripping the blood in the fire. The latter is presumably at the behest of Maggy the Frog, who will give her some disturbing predictions about her future. Not that this helps her make better decisions.
6. There's going to be another big fight involving Wildlings.
After the giant battle at the Wall, Jon Snow's plotline in the books settles down into a lot of tense discussions in very cold rooms. That might happen on TV, but not on HBO. Just as they did last year, it seems the producers have invented some more battles in the snow for the Wall story line; the trailer shows an angry army of Wildlings doing something violent. Our best guess is that this is the Hardhome story line. After Mance Rayder is defeated by Stannis, thousands of the free folk/Wildlings flee to this town, which is believed to be cursed — at the very least, they become easy pickings for slavers and wights alike. Instead of sending a proxy to save them, this trailer indicates that Snow leads the charge himself.
7. Jorah will be back and fighting.
Last time we saw Jorah the Andal, he was riding off into the sunset after being banished from Daenerys's court. Now it appears that he won't be gone for long. In one brief scene, we see a fully armored Jorah locked in combat with a mysterious foe.
8. Gold masks: not just a fashion trend.
With their "Kill the masters" graffiti on the walls of Meereen, the masked menace known as Sons of the Harpy are starting to give Dany and her Unsullied some trouble. In one climactic scene, the spectators at the newly reopened fighting pit look like they're desperately trying to escape a slaughter, as Dany and a few of her supporters are surrounded in the siege. Jorah, Daario, and a dozen Unsullied try to defend the Khaleesi, but it may not be enough. Elsewhere, the Harpy statue atop the Great Pyramid comes tumbling down, crashing into the ground for the final shot of the trailer. Does this do any damage to the site where a couple of pissed-off dragons are being kept?
9. Check mate.
Remember how both Robb Stark and Stannis Baratheon liked to map out their war games on a table, with various chesslike pieces representing the different houses? Someone is doing that here, with a flayed-man crosspiece to represent House Bolton. No wonder Theon looks worried. (It's either that, or he's missing all his uncles that we've yet to meet on the show — and probably won't this season, from the looks of this.)
10. Tyrion grows a great big bushy beard! Not a huge spoiler, but it looks good!