A TV show or movie wants to get you hyped for what you’re about to see, but the producers don’t actually want to give away any major plot points before you watch the finished product.
So every trailer features misdirects and visual trickery to make you believe you’re seeing one thing, when the end result will wind up showing you something else. It’s a marketing art form, and it’s one that has been perfected by Game of Thrones, which is proud of all the wicked ways in which it misleads us.
This is the show that made a point of convincing us that Sean Bean was going to be the star of the show throughout its run, thanks to his prominence in all the promotional materials. Take a look back at how the first trailer portrayed Ned:
Looks like typical hero’s journey stuff — which was what made his death in the ninth episode (not even the finale!) so shocking, effective, and groundbreaking.
But Game of Thrones seems to be created to subvert expectations of the fantasy genre (that was George R. R. Martin’s MO when he started writing the novels) so it should be no surprise that the show is as talented in the art of trickery as Littlefinger.
HBO has now released two trailers for Season 7, and while we’re desperately scouring them for clues about what might be in store in the next seven episodes, we also figured we’d take a look back at the Season 6 trailers, to see whether the things that were played up in the promos actually played out the way we assumed.
So remember last year’s trailers
The biggest misdirect in all of the Season 6 promotional material was that Jon Snow was permanently dead. They sure fooled us!
Well, not many of us actually believed he was gone forever, but since Season 6 marked the first year that the show had outpaced Martin’s novels, we had no way of knowing for sure — and HBO gleefully milked that uncertainty, first releasing a poster and teaser that focused on Jon’s death.
The two main trailers also played up the idea that Jon was gone for good, and obviously, all the Season 6 promo footage that was released before the premiere had to service the secrecy surrounding his resurrection in episode 2, with the cast members maintaining the party line in their pre-season interviews.
But what about everything else the trailers hinted at?
High Sparrow fake out
Both promos emphasized the conflict between the Lannisters and the Faith Militant, which did play a major role in the season, but that issue was definitely resolved in a way no one could’ve predicted (RIP, Tommen). We figured Jaime would just assassinate the High Sparrow, but Cersei, deciding to go big or go home, took it about ten steps further by assassinating a couple hundred extra people along with him.
Where my White Walker battle at?
Shots of the Night King and other White Walkers mounted on horses, juxtaposed with Davos’ warning that “the real war is between the living and the dead,” certainly made it seem like we’d get a proper fight between the White Walkers and our heroes in the north during Season 6, but after his resurrection, Jon found himself with more human concerns, and the season’s big action sequence turned out to be the Battle of the Bastards.
Bran ended up being the Stark who had the closest encounter with the Night King, which the first trailer did hint at, but we had no idea that the attack would cost poor Hodor his life.
So, about those Dothraki …
The trailers also focused on Daenerys’ capture by the Dothraki, and the power vacuum left in Meereen in her absence — but Tyrion actually ended up muddling on okay without her for a few episodes, while Dany showed the Dothraki who was boss in episode 4. And remember how much wild speculation there was about the trailer’s brief shot of a new Red Priestess, Kinvara, who was seen visiting Tyrion and Varys? She ended up appearing for only one scene in episode five, and then we kind of forgot about her.
To be fair
There were a couple of facets of the trailers that did play out pretty much as we suspected: Sansa did get revenge on Ramsay (and unexpectedly reunited with Jon, which still makes us a little misty), and Arya did spend most of the season training at the House of Black and White, before spectacularly abandoning the cause and returning to Westeros to kill Walder Frey and his sons in the most badass reveal ever committed to TV.
But where does that leave Season 7?
Thankfully, the Season 6 finale didn’t end with a lingering cliffhanger to protect, so there are some things in the new trailers that we can take at face value: Dany will definitely end up at Dragonstone (although we have no idea how long she’ll stay there, or whether she’ll try and attack King’s Landing this season); Jon’s heading north of the Wall again; Dany’s armies and the Lannister forces are going to have at least one big battle (but probably two); and Theon and Yara are in big trouble.
But the trailers — and a lot of Sophie Turner’s interviews — have played up the idea that Sansa is resentful of Jon’s newfound King in the North status and his reluctance to listen to her advice, and that she could be tempted towards betraying him by Littlefinger. Her ominous delivery in the second trailer that “the lone wolf dies but the pack survives” as Jon fights the wights alone certainly seems to signal that Jon’s in danger in Season 7.
But we call BS on that narrative — Jon has already been betrayed by his Night’s Watch brothers, and with half the Stark family murdered, these scrappy direwolves need to keep their pack together, no matter who tries to stand in their way.
We’re also not convinced, despite the fact that everyone seems to want her dead, that Cersei will be killed this season — at least not by her political enemies. There’s so much speculation that the prophecy delivered by Maggy the Frog in the books about a “little brother” killing her is about to come true (and that Jaime, not Tyrion, will be the one to do the deed), but her growing sense of paranoia and lust for power seem too similar to the arc that Joffrey already took. She’s definitely not going to end the series on the Iron Throne, but we suspect her send-off will be a little more bittersweet than her current actions might imply.
Although many (including us) have speculated that Jon is addressing Daenerys in the second trailer when he points out, “For centuries our families fought together against their common enemy, despite their differences,” it’s also possible that he’s addressing Cersei and Jaime. We know that the White Walkers are the most pressing threat as the show nears its end, and at a certain point, all the noble houses are going to have to unite against a new common enemy, just as the First Men and the Children of the Forest did during The Long Night when the White Walkers first emerged.
There’s no way to know just how honest the trailers are until Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on July 16, but we know just how sneaky the show has been in the past. So if the promos are implying that something is definitely going to happen, chances are we’re going to end up just as shocked as the Starks were at the Red Wedding (although hopefully less dead) when the show actually airs.
The secrecy might be frustrating for spoiler-seekers, but frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.