FEATHER, FEATHER, FOIL AND LEATHER
DIRE TURN IN CHILLY WEATHER
It’s not that I was SURPRISED by the release of the first Game of Thrones Season Eight promo trailer, but I was annoyed at myself for not being more on the ball and better prepared.
January 14 - April 14… that’s three months. It makes perfect sense to drop a steaming hot pile of chilly crypt action exactly twelve weeks out from The Beginning of The End.
I blame the long summer between winters; and the last season was delayed until July 2017, making it three years since Game of Thrones started at its traditional time of April.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of preparations for my new Game of Thrones-inspired show - Raven On - debuting at Perth Fringe World from 28 January to 10 February, before coming to the Brisbane Comedy Festival from 12-17 March.
So this is not the hottest and freshest of takes. But it WILL be the MOST OGLIEST.
Now obviously this teaser, like The Long Walk one that came out ahead of Series 7, is not a realistic depiction of scenes from the show. It’s all metaphor and symbolism. It’s The Christmas Carol of Winterfell - showing the past, the present and the future in glorious audio AND visual detail.
I’m so pleased HBO went with the Starks (slash Snow slash Targaryen) for this first promo. Honestly, they’re the three main characters I’m most desperate to catch up with - sure, I’m interested in Dany’s movements, but only as they pertain to not being in close situ with Jon Snow and/or a boat. I’m most definitely keen to find out how Tormund and Beric survived the collapse of The Wall at Eastwatch, and if there’s no Mormont-age of Lyanna Stark learning the two-handed sword I WILL BE CRANKY.
But it’s my beloved Jon, Sansa and Arya whom I most want to see - and here they are, reunited!
Set in the Crypts of Winterfell, with its thermostat set firmly to “OMINOUS”, we see Jon striding through the catacomb, holding a flaming torch.
HE IS LITERALLY THE LIGHTBRINGER.
Lightbringer is the sword Azor Ahai is said to have wielded against the White Walkers last time around. You remember, Melisandre reckoned Stannis Baratheon was Azor Ahai reborn, and chucked him a flaming sword that very quickly went out when he stuck it into the sand on Dragonstone way back in Season Two. Lightbringer didn’t quite work out to be Stannis’ bag; by season 7 Kate Bush had it sussed, for realsies this time, that Azor Ahai seemed to be either Dany, or Jon, or some combination of both (NOT THE TAR-BABY-EN?!?!)
I’m not one for deep-diving into ASOIAF conspiracy theories and plot forecasting, but I think it’s very deliberate that Jon is the only one of the three holding light (and heat, for that matter, although I would argue he radiates that from his buried-under-Ikea-fur-rug #abs and #junkmound, but I’ll get carried away if I think too much about that).
As Jon passes Lyanna Stark’s statue, the motion causes a beautiful black, white and red bird feather to float out of her hand to the ground. This feather is, somewhat aptly, an Easter egg from the very first episode, when Robert Baratheon placed it there to pay his respects virtually 20 seconds after arriving in Winterfell. In Season 5 we saw Sansa pick it up off the floor and put it back in Lyanna’s hand, just before Littlefinger took off and left her in the merciless hands of the BOO HISS BOLTONS.
I mean, that is ONE. DURABLE. FEATHER. The chilly conditions of the crypts are clearly much better at preserving organic matter than trackside at Flemington on Cup Day.
We also hear Lyanna’s voice echo softly “You must protect him”, and Jon turns his head, as if hearing the call of his as-yet-unknown-to-him mother.
He carries on, as we move to Sansa pacing down another corridor, past Catelyn’s statue. Quick aside - is this the first time we’ve seen that Catelyn has a statue? I thought perhaps as a Tully by birth she might not wind up down there - that it was more for born Starks, that sort of thing.
But we hear Catelyn’s long-ago lament - spoken at the time to Talisa - that the horror inflicted on her family might all be because of her inability to love “a motherless child” - the bastard Jon Snow. Catelyn famously never got over Ned’s supposed infidelity, and her spurning more than any other’s at Winterfell carved that giant chip on younger Jon’s shoulder. He’s chilled a bit on that now, what with losing his cherry, being hailed King in the North and finally being believed about that whole impending icepocalypse business, but still, we have Catelyn to thank for a core part of Jon’s identity.
Catelyn’s words echo as both Sansa and Arya approach their destination; meanwhile Jon stops in front of the statue of Ned Stark, whose voice reminds him that he is a Stark - “You may not have my name, but you have my blood”. That was the last thing Ned ever said to Jon, along with “the next time we meet, I’ll tell you about your mother”. Does it count as “meeting” when one of you is a statue? At the very least, we can expect Jon to learn about his parentage from Bran and Sam Tarly, and boy, that’s going to be fun/awkward.
Jon then teams up with his sisters, and this is possibly my favourite bit of the sequence. Jon has the torch, and strides up between the two women - but DOESN’T just keep heading for the middle, the man-flanked-by-the-chicks type of deal. Instead, he moves smoothly to Sansa’s left - letting her take the central position.
While I understand this is for dramatic reasons, because of the forthcoming statue reveals, I still liked that Sansa - as the eldest legitimate Stark heir, Lady of Winterfell and let’s face it, the tallest - took that central spot.
The trio then peer into a nook at the end of the main tunnel through the crypt. By Jon’s torch light, Arya sees herself in stone, then Sansa, then Jon.
The interesting thing for me was that Jon’s statue appears to be himself at an older age. I understand that the colour of the stone can make any statue look weathered and ancient, but by comparison Arya and Sansa have very contemporary likenesses.
So, the conspiracy theory I must draw is that Sansa and Arya may not have much longer to live, while Jon carries on to a ripe older age (or at least into middle age, Westeros being what it is).
Now I dearly hope Season 8 will let both Sansa and Arya survive. Sure, they’ll get tossed around in the White Walker maelstrom, but everyone will. Arya is the trained assassin, Sansa is now the political strategist and stateswoman. Both are excellent judges of character; both, in my mind, should rule over a restored Winterfell once the White Walkers are reduced to shatters by a giant collective dragonglass enema.
I’m obviously very OK with Jon surviving and thriving, even if I’m somewhat alarmed by the concept of an “Old Jon Snow”. I mean, I guess his statue looked a little bit silver direwolf, but can you imagine keeping that infernal man bun into your fifth decade and beyond? Yes, I know Ned pinned his hair back, and Jon’s been aping his Dad/Uncle for years now, but still. Let the locks free once you beat the White Walkers, Jonny boy. Let’s see those luscious curls. Also, take your pants off. Did I say that out loud?
Most of all, I want to draw the connection between the three dead, and the three living. There’s no doubt that Arya resembles Lyanna in temperament and lack of princess-i-ness; while Sansa has most inherited the stubbornness and authority of her mother. And who better to inherit the nobility, honesty and reluctant leadership characteristics of Ned Stark than his bastard son/legitimate nephew?
I think the trailer wants us to examine that circular nature of history and prophecy - that the sons and daughters follow in the footsteps of their mothers and fathers. Will they end up gone before their time, or can they break that cycle?
I also think that explains why Bran isn’t in this teaser. Bran’s whole existence is on a circular plane now; he doesn’t resemble anyone else because he is just Bran. He’s also the Three-Eyed Raven, which ties back in with that feather (albeit a different type of bird), and gives that argument that this teaser is actually a symbolic “vision” Bran could have in one of his super moody 90s Goth astral projections.
Finally, a gust of air blows out Jon’s torch. My gods, if only I could have been that gust of air, I would have blown out that… ahem, sorry.
The trio turn around, with Jon and Arya drawing their weapons (Arya pulls Needle, but has the Catspaw dagger on her person, hopefully still dripping with the throat blood of Littlefinger, drool).
A cloud of mist closes in on the crypt, freezing over the DURABLE FEATHER.
Jon, Sansa and Arya are left staring at whatever it is that’s approaching them - given the metaphoric nature of the enterprise I’m going to go with the White Walkers as a nebulous threat, but hey, maybe my lack of official film school training in visual semantics has led me down a too-obvious garden path.
All in all, a super fun teaser, enough to get the blood pumping in the heart and parts beyond.
Once again, please check out my show dates if you’re in Perth, Adelaide or Brisbane, and I’ll see you for the next teaser!
To all faithful recap readers - I will be firing up the Patreon again for this final season. Again, support via Patreon really helps me out, now more than ever. As there are only six episodes this coming season, and the recaps are going to be massive, I’m going to request that people consider upping their minimum contribution from $1 per recap to $2 per recap. That’s $12 for the season. Once again, Patreon is voluntary - I understand the financial constraints on many. Today’s post is totally free, but if you’d like to throw me a dollar or two, you can do so via Paypal here. Thank you!