First we got an onslaught of new photos from Game of Thrones, which, in all fairness, didn’t tell us much. Now we have a teaser (which was supposed to air tonight preceding the premiere of Vinyl, but leaked early) that reinforces one of the central concepts of this world — all men must die — and it’s throwing fans into a tizzy. Does the appearance of Tyrion mean his head is on the chopping block? Who are we going to lose this time?!
Perhaps no one. Perhaps everyone. But let’s take a closer look at what we can glean from this all-too-brief tease. We find ourselves in the House of Black and White, in their library of the dead, the Hall of Faces, the visages worn by the Faceless Men when they need to take on a new guise. First we see Ned Stark, as we hear his famous mantra about taking responsibility: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Then we come upon his late son, Robb Stark, who intones, “I’ve won every battle, but I’m losing this war.” (Perhaps reminding us that the war is not quite over, and the North might still rally to his cause). Catelyn Stark is next, speaking of revenge: “Show them how it feels, to lose what they love.” Joffrey, speaking of his cruelty: “Everyone is mine to torment.” Then — da da dun! — Jon Snow, fighting a lost cause, telling us that the wars between the kings mean little, when the true enemy is at the gates: “The Long Night is coming … and the dead come with it.”
Now, as astute viewers of the show, we know that some of these faces are not available to the Faceless Men. Ned’s head was displayed on a pike at the Red Keep, until it rotted. Joffrey had a funeral, where his mother and father mourned, in their own fashion. So we can hardly take it for granted that these faces are actually in the hall — this is more of a metaphor. And it follows that we can hardly assume that any of the folks beyond our Jon Snow pivot point — the line between life and death — are about to follow anyone to the grave. So even though we see Tyrion, Dany, Sansa, and more, it does not mean they are about to die. (Although they could. Anyone could.) Perhaps most worrisome to fans is that the order of the dead faces is also the order of shocking deaths on the show — Ned, Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, Jon Snow. But do you really think HBO would telegraph outright who the next shocking death would be?
Rather than worry about who might die, let’s figure out why we’re being reminded of so many dead Starks. First of all, Arya Stark is our main character who gained an all-access pass to the Faceless Men’s methods, so it fits that her family would be foremost on her mind, should this be a vision of hers. But Bran Stark — remember him? — is the one on a vision quest this season, and he’s going to be doing some serious digging into his family tree. With the help of the Weirwood network, and under the guidance of the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s going to learn a lot of almost-forgotten secrets, which will soon come to bear.
But it’s also key that we’re associating the Faceless Men with Jon Snow at this juncture. While fans have theorized about all the ways that Jon Snow could live again, the most popular ones have been via warging (Ghost?) or a Red Priestess intervention (Melisandre?). The problem with warging or skin-changing, of course, is that while we gain Jon Snow in a different form, we lose Kit Harington’s lovely face. But what if someone else is able to wear that face? That might be this teaser’s biggest tease yet.