game of thrones

Breaking Down the Very Dark, Very Dragon-y Game of Thrones Season 8 Trailer

Daenerys and Jon, sitting in a castle, S-T-R-A-T-E-G-I-Z-I-N-G. Photo: HBO

It’s been over 18 months since we last saw Game of Thrones, and now, astoundingly, the final season is barely a month away. Tuesday saw the release of the first trailer for GOT season eight, and now, for the final time, we find ourselves trying to read whatever we can into the grim voice-overs, split-second shots of armies marching, and way-too-dark cinematography.

Brush up on all 122 action-packed seconds below, before you get into the breakdown:

Got it? Here we go:

We open on a terrified Arya Stark running through some tunnels, trying desperately to evade whatever’s chasing her. This looks like the closest thing GOT has had to an out-and-out horror sequence in some time.

Where are we? Probably the Winterfell crypts, where Varys and a bunch of other non-sword-swinging characters are hiding out from whatever sort of trouble’s going on aboveground. The shades of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings seem very much intentional.

In previous seasons, we might have wondered whether these snowy battlements upon which Davos strolls belonged to Winterfell or the Wall, but now that the Wall has met its ice-dragon-y end, it’s almost certainly Winterfell.

“I know death,” says Arya, while brandishing dragonglass. “He has many faces. I look forward to meeting this one.” Arya’s spent a lot of time in the company of those who worship death; how will she react to an army of the literal dead?

Euron Greyjoy’s magical teleporting fleet makes another surprising appearance.

Who are these troops? They look like the Golden Company, a band of Essosi mercenaries famous for never breaking a contract. (Cersei instructed Euron to hire them late in season seven.) In the books, the Golden Company has a long lineage born out of the Blackfyre Rebellion, a Targaryen civil war that took place about 100 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, but the show probably won’t get into any of that. We’ve only got six episodes left, time is precious!

Our two beardiest zaddies, Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion, were last seen witnessing the fall of the Wall firsthand. They escaped, I guess, and here they are lighting it up in the Winterfell crypts.

Sam’s in Winterfell, remember? (I didn’t.) Here he looks appropriately terrified by something Bran just told him.

After seven seasons that spanned the better part of two continents, it’s looking like the final season will be mostly confined to the North and King’s Landing. King’s Landing looks … still pretty nice, actually? The glories of a Mediterranean climate.

It’s Cersei, giving a mirthless smile at the fact that all the other characters have to deal with the White Walkers, while she just gets to chill out in the B-plot of every episode. She’s joined by Qyburn, who has astonishingly survived this long.

Arya watches the Unsullied march in lockstep out of the Winter Town. I’m sure their thousand-mile march to the North will be treated with all the screentime it deserves.

And look who’s at the head: Jon and Dany, seemingly equal in precedence. The dragon must have … two heads?

Dragons!!! Sansa looks up at Dany’s children with equal parts wonder and dismay. What use are finely crafted political instincts when there are flying nuclear warheads roaming around?

This is what I love to see. An aunt supporting her young nephew in a time of crisis. Someone give her the relative of the year award. Bravo.

Our heroes need to outfit their entire army with new dragonglass weapons, and it just so happens we’ve got a minor character who trained as a blacksmith his whole life. Here’s Gendry, looking like the founding member of a Glaswegian industrial band.

Now comes a big montage set before the big night battle that gave everybody lung problems. Here Grey Worm and Missandei share a last kiss while Jon Snow’s voice-over proclaims that the enemy “doesn’t feel.” I wonder if that will prove to be their undoing.

A swordsman fights against a backdrop of flame. (Hence the lung problems.)

Hey, it’s Jaime Lannister! How did he get up there?

A really magnificent example of wine-glass acting from Lena Headey, who cradles that Chemex like it’s the only thing keeping her from a complete breakdown. (Possibly because, as the wine may imply, she lost the pregnancy.)

Dragons, baby!

In case you are not feeling the wonder and majesty of these dragons, have an Arya close-up to sell it for you.

Jon Snow prays in Winterfell’s godswood, in a shot that feels like it was directed by Tarsem.

Most of this footage seems to come from the big battle episode, which is fine. Here’s confirmation that the Hound is still alive and kicking for what’s presumably the series’ penultimate installment. But is he in the torches-in-the-crypts part of the battle, or the fire-on-the-battlements part?

“I promised to fight for the living,” says a shaggy-looking Jaime Lannister in Winterfell. “I intend to keep that promise.” Book readers have long predicted Jaime to be the one who ultimately kills Cersei, but based on the limited footage in this trailer, their paths seem to be going in opposite directions.

Now we get the trailer’s big money shot: Jon and Dany approaching the two remaining dragons, swaggering in like Westeros’s hottest power couple.

The editing in this trailer is trying hard to set up a dichotomy between Jon, Dany, and the dragons on one hand, and Sansa on the other.

They’re not wasting Jon Snow’s first dragon ride in a trailer, but this is about as close as you can get without actually showing it.

Don’t forget, Tyrion’s in this show, too. This shot is the only screentime Peter Dinklage gets in the trailer, so either he’s been majorly phased out of the action, or they’re keeping his season-eight plot tightly under wraps.

We close with some quick shots of some supporting characters you might have expected to die before the final battle, but apparently did not. Here are Brienne and Pod!

Here’s Jorah!

And here’s the Night King’s zombie-horse. April 14. HBO. Don’t miss it!

Breaking Down the Dark, Dragon-y GOT Season 8 Trailer