Sansa Stark seeing dragons for the first time in the Game of Thrones Official Season 8 trailer

Game of Thrones and the Art of a Trailer

Liz Gallo
Liz Gallo
Mar 5, 2019 · 5 min read

The new Game of Thrones season 8 trailer is full of tension, fighting, epic scenery, inexplicable reactions, and dragons. Pretty standard for a Game of Thrones trailer. Nothing new here. Unless of course, you’re a super fan.

Trailers are in most cases purely a promotional tool. They want to showcase enough of a show or movie to get people excited but not give away too much. Game of Thrones is a little different. Super-fans pour over their trailers.

For the spoiler-adverse Thrones’ team trailers present an even greater challenge. These folks don’t want to give away anything! In interviews with EW, the showrunners even suggested they considered not doing a trailer at all because they didn’t want to risk spoilers leaking. Generally, I find being overly worried about spoilers hurts your storytelling. I’ve come across some reading and research (which I’m too lazy to find now…) that suggests people are more likely to read or watch something when they know the ending. That point may be debatable. All being said, the Game of Thrones falls in the camp of finding spoilers problematic when it comes to giving away the meat of the season. Because of this their trailers have become something entirely different.

Sure, the showrunners and HBO use them as first and foremost a promotional tool. Trailers are needed when actors make appearances of the night shows. But they have also become a tool in the giant game of misdirection, foreshadowing, and storytelling.

Part of this comes from how the audience engages with the content. Within minutes of a Game of Thrones trailer being uploaded, there are screenshots of various scenes on the internet with commentary. People make reaction videos. They slow down the action scenes to get a better look at who’s fighting who. Backgrounds are compared to past seasons to see where a character might be located. They even lighten images to get a better look at a dark image. These things are literally taken apart the moment the final version is released.

This image was lightened from a clip at minute 1:05 in the trailer

The above photo was lightened to try to discern who was standing in front of Cersei Lannister in the King’s Landing throne room. Other fans zoomed in an attempt to get a closer look.

Another fan zoomed in the on the image

Fans immediately began to speculate who the woman standing in front of Cersei is. Most think it is Sansa Stark while others claim it is Melisandre. Still others say it’s Euron Greyjoy. No doubt, this debate will rage until the final season answers the question. My vote is for Sansa, for those keeping tabs.

What does it mean for creators who know there work will be taken apart the minute it goes out into the world? That fans will speculate at times wrongly for weeks leading up to the season. One could find it horribly frustrating. Others could see it as an amazing opportunity to engage with the audience, to welcome that speculation as wrong or right as it may be.

On the surface, this trailer is a hype-machine for the upcoming season. It hints at things the audience already knows will happen or can assume to be highly likely. We know Jon Snow returns to Winterfell with Daenerys. We know they are all preparing to fight the Army of the Dead. We know Euron Greyjoy took his ships to get the Golden Company and bring them to Westeros. The show can show these events without spoiling much. Even with this knowledge, the details elude us.

Thrones is known for using trailers to misdirect the audience. Voice overs are often placed with the wrong scenes. We might see one character talking to another person but never see who that person is. This inevitably leads to the speculation that could be right or very wrong. It's this misdirection and speculation that leads to debates and discussion online. People start talking and don’t stop until the season answers the question. It’s pretty savvy marketing.

The trailers themselves tell a story, too. Yes, there is hype and misdirection. There also might be foreshadowing, clues about what’s to come. Are there clues in the order of the scenes? In the voiceovers? In what is shown verse what is not shown? I guarantee you fans will debate all of it.

I was a big fan of the season 7 trailer. It told it’s one story within the trailer. It had a great emotional arc. This recent one is telling a bit of a different story. The conflict with the dead is at the fore. The season 7 trailer placed the political conflicts between various parties front and center. These two trailers work together irrespective of being from different seasons cementing my thoughts that season 8 is more of a part two of season 7.

For reference you can check out the season 7 trailer here:

The process of creating these intricate trailers has become an art form in and of itself. Everything, story, foreshadowing, misdirection, must be dished out in the right amount. These trailers are much more than a necessary tool for promotion. It’s an art form.

For the casual viewer, the trailer is an exciting piece of content. Something to get you excited about the upcoming season. For super fans willing to do a bit of work, there are potential easter eggs all over the place. There are clues and questions to speculate and debate. Which is exactly what the good folks at HBO and Game of Thrones were hoping for.

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