HBO invites you to remember the gaping hole in your life.
That classic saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words” often seems hyperbolic. However, a thousand words (or, you know, two thousand) for fifteen pictures, especially when those fifteen pictures happen to be our first real, official look at the new series of Game of Thrones, seems a lot more reasonable. There was that trailer released a little while back, but it felt like more of a “look at this promotional thing we filmed” stunt rather than bonafide glimpse at future episodes. As such, it really did nothing for me. However, the fifteen images released by HBO last Thursday have set my fannish heart all aflutter. In these fifteen images, HBO has laid out pretty much 90% of the reasons why we love Game of Thrones, which is actually pretty damn impressive (note the absence of any Dorne-affiliated places or persons). Though on the whole the images seem like they belong in the pages of the Westerosi edition of Vogue—heavy on style, less so on content — there is still some information to be be wrung out of them. To boot, the style itself is worth dissecting, because Westerosi fashion seems to have taken some very distinct turns.
Style: The fashion accessory of the Winter season, as you can see here, is the statement collar. Cersei’s look may seem a little un-Lannister-ly, but you’ll notice she’s still got a lion emblem on her shoulder. Also, I’m not sure what sort of material that’s supposed to be, but I like to imagine that it’s some sort of dragonhide (or at least, intended to look like it), because that would be an incredibly Cersei thing to do.
Substance: The more you look, the more you’ll notice how coordinated Cersei and Jaime are. Using wardrobe cues to indicate personality traits and alignment of fashion choices to demonstrate alignment of characters’ thoughts/feelings/goals/etc. is a relatively common practice, so what we see here is a real bummer for those who were hoping that Jaime would realize that he is a 500% better person when he is as far away as possible from non-Tyrion family members. Oh well. There’s still a chance that he might finally break free from Cersei once and for all (though it’s looking more and more like “redemption” isn’t the path down which his character is traveling), but clearly he’s still got a ways to go.
Style: No nonsense and practical, just like the wearer.
Substance: There are multiple exciting things in this picture, but front and center is the person front and center: Lyanna Mormont, the adolescent single-handedly making “badass” and “little girl” seem like natural companions. Her face here is quite hard to read — as per usual — but it’s enough to give the sense that if she was the one with three dragons and an army, Game of Thrones would be a miniseries instead.
There’s also Petyr Baelish, who is demonstrating that he can be both in the background and out of focus and yet still manage to look shady as hell.
Style: Refined but minimal; nothing that would distract from the look of grandfatherly disappointment on his face.
Substance: You will notice here that there is just Davos Seaworth. This is because he is Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight of our hearts, saddest and most majestic of badgers, and he deserves his own damn picture. Over the seasons he has risen from an illiterate smuggler from Flea Bottom to prospective Hand of the King. Technically we don’t know yet what role he will play to Jon Snow’s “King of the North,” but if it’s not Hand of the King then Jon Snow truly knows nothing. Davos has developed a particular skill for successfully navigating tricky diplomatic situations while remaining allergic to bullshit. Here, he is giving a demonstration of his impressive eyebrow dexterity.
Something you will also notice, if you glance back over both of these last two pictures, is that Northerners seem to have something against lighting all the candles in a candelabra.
Style: There are really only so many ways to wear the leather-fur-metal combo of cloak and armor with gloves and carcass scarf. That said, they’re really trying to really push the “resemblance” — Kit Harrington does not naturally resemble Sean Bean in any way, after all — between Jon and his “father” Ned here.
Substance: For those of you worried that Kit Harrington might have forgotten how to pull off Jon Snow’s iconic confused kicked puppy look, this photo should provide sufficient reassurance. As to what’s actually happening in this picture, between the lighting and the archway… I’m just going to call it, he’s totally in the crypts of Winterfell. Not just that, but if we do a little math, Kicked Puppy Look + Ned Stark Aesthetic + Winterfell Crypts = …Jon Finally Knows(?). After all, Game of Thrones loves itself some meaningful shot composition. Having an angst-ridden Jon, styled to resemble Ned as much as physically possible, contemplate Ned’s statue in the midst of an identity crisis sounds just like the sort of thing the show would do. The show has been dancing around R+L =J for years now in one of television’s longest courtship rituals. While I could see it dragging on until the end, if the show instead decides to fully pull back the curtain on its biggest non-surprise early on in Season 7, it would certainly be a welcome turn of events.
Style: Sansa seems to be sticking with the Dark!Sansa aesthetic for the long haul.
Substance: The Season 6 finale left the Petyr/Sansa/Jon dynamic in a weird place. As the Northern lords loudly proclaimed Jon their king, a series of looks were exchanged that left a lot up in the air. Is she jealous of Jon? Does she feel that she should be their leader? Or was she just looking at Baelish like that because he creeps her out and she’s kind of in his debt now? How their dynamic will evolve from here should prove interesting, but as to what that evolution will be, there’s no telling yet. However, this picture demonstrates that though she has Jon back and the Stark banner flies over Winterfell once more, she’s not going to be rid of Baelish any time soon.
Style: Tormund’s layers of furs and skins in combination with the lovestruck look on his face remind us that while he might be a fearsome warrior, he is also squishy on the inside. Meanwhile Brienne’s steel armor and even steelier stance suggest that even Tormund’s best might not be good enough. And gods help him if he attempts that Wildling wife-stealing thing.
Substance: May the Old Gods and the New bless Tormund Giantsbane for giving us literally the only smile anywhere in this lineup, and likewise the writer who decided to make him Brienne’s #1 Fan. The look he’s giving her here is not so much “I want to get in your pants” (see: any time Petyr looks at Sansa) as “I can imagine the giant ass-kicking ear-biting children we’d have together and they would be perfect (also, I want to get in your pants).” It’s totally adorable, but Brienne’s made of tougher stuff than I am — that she’s clearly conveying a look of cool reproach when we can basically only see her back is a testament to both Gwendoline Christie’s acting and the almost certain futility of Tormund’s quest. That said, anything is possible on Game of Thrones, and honestly it has the potential to be one of the most healthy and endearing relationships on the show, considering the lack of incest, questionable power dynamics, or dubious consent. Also, if they do end up getting together, it would be a great addition to Jon’s Westerosi/Wildling unity PR campaign.
Style: Lazy afternoon in with the family.
Substance: Gilly’s reading certainly seems to be coming along. Also, if you’re wondering what the page says, the internet has got you covered (tl;dr, it’s about the legend of Azor Ahai).
Style: There is no style for these two, only suffering.
Substance: In case you had forgotten that Meera Reed has more or less the shittiest job of anyone, anywhere, on either side of the Wall, this picture is here to remind you. Bran might be trying to save the world with his mind, but while he gets to have adventures in his head, Meera’s stuck physically dragging him across frozen enemy territory. She doesn’t even have so much as scenery to distract her from how miserable her life is. If you take a good look at Meera’s face, you will notice it is the expression of a person who just realized that the series of heroic sacrifices leading up to this point was actually a round of “nose goes” that she has definitively lost.
Style: Daenerys, Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm are providing us with fashion #squadgoals (if that is even something the kids still say), looking like they stepped off the exact same Fashion Week runway. And then there’s Varys. Because he’s Varys, it’s not that he didn’t get the memo, it’s that he’s really not one for the whole team uniform thing. Or any team thing in general, for that matter.
Substance: Clearly, someone is paying a visit. From the nature of their expressions, I would guess it’s a first meeting, but beyond that, we will have to wait and see. As to where Daenerys and company have set up shop, I don’t think any official statement has been made, but my money would be on Dragonstone. The aesthetic we’ve seen in various previews thus far fits the bill, and the location is ideal: off of mainland Westeros, Dragonstone is the ancestral Targaryen family seat and completely lordless following the utter decimation of not just Stannis but the entire Baratheon line (as far as we know, Robert’s bastard Gendry, who is set to return this season, is the only one left alive). As such, one would imagine Daenerys, with her army and dragons wouldn’t really have to conquer the island so much as just show up.
Okay, so this one feels like a cheat. I mean, it’s pretty much the exact same shot as the last one, cropped, except the photographer took ten steps to the right.
Style: You would think at first glance that this image belongs in the same scene as the previous two, but the presence of the cape with a large, silver dragon clasp suggests otherwise.
Substance: You’ll notice that this three dragon clasp is the same as Grey Worm’s in the earlier shot. So either Daenerys had them made to identify her advisors and it just took a little while longer to get around to giving Missandei hers, or Missandei’s clasp is Grey Worm’s, which opens up two possibilities:
- They’ve gone public with their relationship.
- He’s dead and she now wears it in his memory.
I mean, it’s Game of Thrones, we’ve got to leave that option open.
Style: Though we can only see from just above the elbow up, the cut of Varys’ robe here appears to be much in keeping with his usual style, though with a darker and more muted pattern. With the particular fabrics this time round, he actually almost looks like he could belong in the above group line up. Maybe Varys truly is joining the game this time around and playing for Team Daenerys…
Substance: Varys might be the one person in all of Westeros who genuinely has zero desire for a crown of any kind. That said, this photo demonstrates that he remains the undisputed King of the Side-Eye.
Style: Daenerys demonstrates that a change of seasons and the need for higher necklines isn’t going to impede her love of statement jewelry.
Substance: Another glimpse of what is likely Daenerys’ new throne room. Though it’s entirely possible they’re unrelated, it’s also easy to imagine this and the previous belong to the same scene (because they certainly seem to be in this same room). In which case, it’s also easy to imagine the possibility that Daenerys might be on the receiving end of that side-eye. Daenerys’ flair for the dramatic might have helped her more than hurt her thus far, but its hard to imagine Varys being too crazy about reckless tactics at this point in the game. That said, Daenerys does look somewhat unusually serene and contemplative here, so maybe we’ll see her revising her approach a little in the upcoming season.
Style: We can’t really get a good look at her clothes, but Arya’s never been one for fashion anyway. She’s certainly got style, but it has nothing to do with apparel.
Substance: Arya’s back in Westeros! The House of Black and White and its reluctance to be lit by any more than three candles at a time are now firmly in the past. Having crossed Walder Frey off her list, one can hope that Arya’s now headed home. She appears to be at an inn here, and you’ll notice that the two men in the background are also either looking at the same thing Arya is, or at Arya herself — so either someone very attention-grabbing just walked in, or someone said or did something to warrant the attention. My money is on Arya being recognized by somebody that she used to know. I mean, Game of Thrones has practically established it as a rule that you can’t stop at an inn without some significant crossover occurring, because inns are the place where plot lines meet (see: Catelyn Stark and Tyrion, Arya and Sandor, etc.).
However, I would also go so far as to say that the particular inn Arya’s at appears to be the Crossroads Inn — last seen in Season 4, when Brienne and Podrick stop there for a meal and are served by Arya’s old friend Hot Pie, who works there as a chef — for three reasons:
- It’s in the right place — in the Riverlands, not far from the Twins, where we last saw Arya. Besides, the show thus far has treated the Crossroads Inn more or less as the inn of Westeros; why would it change now?
2. The decor is right. As you can see in the shots below from two previous encounters at the Crossroads Inn, there’s this sort of half-wall thing with wooden bars at the top (almost cage-like) that serves as a partition and seems to also be visible in the background of the promo pic of Arya.
3. The tray in front of Arya appears to be full of bread, a foodstuff which has been heavily associated with Hot Pie’s character; when he tells Arya and Gendry that he will be staying behind at the inn, he tells them that the innkeep wanted to keep him on because his bread was the best they had ever tasted.
Style: It may have seen better days, but Sandor is wearing the deceased Lem Lemoncloak’s cloak. Waste not, want not.
Substance: Last time we saw Sandor, he had decided to head up North with the remnants of the Brotherhood Without Banners to fight the White Walkers. This photo assures us that he is very much following through with that promise. Though we were briefly introduced to the reformed Sandor last season, it will be interesting to see how much he’s really changed, especially in light of the abrupt and violent end to his peaceful would-be retirement. Considering the sheer number of people either headed North (e.g. Arya) or headed elsewhere from the North (e.g. Melisandre), it will be exciting to who runs into whom first.
Photo Credits: HBO/Helen Sloan