Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Game of Thrones Season 2 "Shadow" Teaser Trailer Analysis

HBO aired a new teaser for Season 2 entitled Shadow immediately before the premier of Luck yesterday:

I thought I'd break down the shots we see and the voiceover we hear. Spoilers for season 2 and the book it is based upon, A Clash of Kings, herein. I posted a straight forward breakdown of the trailer without the commentary about the source material on the Game of Thrones Wiki so TV only viewers should think twice before reading on. The straight breakdown is here. That said the spoiler below are really quite mild and do not relate to anything not seen in the trailer or give away any of the endings to character arcs in the second book.

The music in the trailer is Vengeance by Zack Hemsey. The video below is the full version of the song. Its a great bit of music and I highly recommend putting it on in the background as you read onwards.

We open on a black screen with Varys giving a speech about power being a trick played on the masses in voiceover. This speech is adapted from the riddle that Varys tells Tyrion in A Clash of Kings chapter 4, Tyrion I, page 49. In the book the riddle goes:

"In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. 'Do it', says the king, 'for I am your lawful ruler.' 'Do it', says the priest, 'for I command you in the names of the gods.' 'Do it', says the rich man, 'and all this gold shall be yours.' So tell me - who lives and who dies?"

They discuss the riddle again in A Clash of Kings chapter 9, Tyrion II, page 97. In the book Varys says that the riddle means that:

Varys: "Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less."
Tyrion: "So power is a mummer's trick?"
Varys: "A shadow on the wall, yet shadows can kill. And oftimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

In the trailer Varys' speech in its entirety is:

"Three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? Power resides where men believe it resides; it's a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

I think its a great bit of dialogue well distilled from the source material. The writers have done a grand job with Varys and his talent for obfuscation and wordplay so far. I look forward to seeing more of him in season 2.

The first shot is of a group of men around a fire, beneath a coastal castle. I suspect that this coastal castle is Dragonstone. This is the onetime seat of House Targaryen and now the seat of Stannis Baratheon. Stannis is a new character for the second season and was mentioned but not seen on screen in the first season. He is the younger brother of Robert Baratheon and the next in line after Robert's children. He is one of the claimants on the Iron Throne due to his belief (shared by me) that Robert and Cersei Lannister had no children and that Jaime Lannister is the father of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. More on the reason for the fire on the beach when we see it again later.

In the second shot we see Stannis Baratheon walk past Melisandre as Varys mentions a king and a priest. It is night and they are lit by torch flames so it seems that this could be from the same scene as the opening shot. Stannis is the king here due to his claim on the throne. Melisandre is a priestess of R'hllor, an Eastern God. She had prophesied that Stannis is the second coming of a messianic figure of R'hllor prophecy called Azor Ahai. Stannis has warmed to this idea and allowed her to become a close advisor with influence over him.

In the third shot we see Tywin Lannister as Varys mentions a rich man in his voiceover. Tywin is the head of House Lannister and one of the richest men in the seven kingdoms. He is also growing ever more powerful with Robert's death and Joffrey's ascension to the Iron Throne. He is not a king himself but he is the power behind Joffrey's throne along with his children Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion. He replaces Ned as the Hand of the King following Robert's death but sends Tyrion to fulfill this role for him while he wages war on the army of the North.

The fourth shot is a close-up of Varys speaking establishing beyond a doubt that is him providing the opening voiceover.

The fifth shot is a pan past Sandor Clegane as Varys mentions the common sellsword. Clegane was featured throughout the first season and is a bodyguard to Joffrey. He is not a knight but has nevertheless been named a part of Joffrey's kingsguard.

The sixth shot is of Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger. He is one of those rich men Varys spoke of, as master of coin he controls the purse strings of the whole kingdom. In the foreground of this shot is a sleeved arm brandishing a knife.

A brief shot of Catelyn Stark threatening a man with the knife is seventh. Poor Cat is newly widowed and has two missing daughters; she is facing a difficult time. I can think of a few instances where she might wield a blade from the book and I'm not certain there is enough detail in this shot to know for sure who she is threatening. The edit and the fact that a knife is visible in the preceding shot certainly suggest that it could be Littlefinger. He and Cat do not meet in her chapters of the book and he is not a point of view character in the book so this suggests an added scene. We do know that Littlefinger leaves King's Landing to go to Bitterbridge to treat with House Tyrell on behalf of Joffrey. Likewise Cat goes East to treat with Renly Baratheon on behalf of Robb so they could meet while abroad in the Storm Lands. Both shots appear to be in a tent so perhaps their journeys have been moved so that they meet in Renly's camp.

Eighth is Jon Snow looking out over a snow covered landscape from behind. Ninth appears to be a reverse of the same set-up. He seems to be among the terrain rather than at the wall so I suppose this is during the great ranging. During A Clash of Kings Lord Commander of the Nights Watch Jeor Mormont decides to take a large party of men North of the wall to find out where his people (Benjen Stark, Waymar Royce etc.) have been disappearing to. Jon accompanies Mormont as his steward.

Tenth is Daenerys Targaryen looking out over barren ground. She is still in her Dothraki riding outfit so I guess this is before she makes her way further East. In A Clash of Kings Daenerys leads her people East into the desert and beyond to the city of Qarth, we know from behind the scenes videos that we will be seeing Qarth.

Eleventh is Joffrey Baratheon crowned, upon the iron throne. Twelfth is Joffrey stood in front of the throne, The Hound at the foot of the steps and Sansa kneeling facing the throne in the foreground. In the thirteenth shot Sansa Stark has her gown torn from her shoulders by a member of the kingsguard. Joffrey continues to shame, abuse and humiliate Sansa following the death of her father. Her growth as a character through trying times will be interesting to watch this year.

Fourteenth is a close-up of Cersei Lannister, seated, levelling a baleful stare at someone across from her. She appears to be behind a screen from them. Not sure where to place this one but probably somewhere in King's Landing given that she stays there for the entirety of the book.

Fifteenth is a wide shot of seven burning statues. Sixteenth is of onlookers carrying torches kneeling. Seventeenth is a wide shot of the onlookers before the burning effigies. I am fairly certain this trio of shots are all related to the burning of statues of the seven outside Dragonstone. The seven are the commonly worshiped Gods of Westeros and Stannis' growing allegiance with Melisandre and her red god leads to him allowing her to burn the statues. This offends some of his supporters but causes most to join him in adopting the new religion. They're indistinct but I think you catch a glimpse of Liam Cunningham as Davos and Oliver Ford Davies as Maester Cressen amongst the onlookers in the seventeenth image. Cressen is an adviser to Stannis who has known him since his childhood. Davos is a smuggler who helped Stannis when he was besieged during Robert's rebellion and was knighted as a reward. He is a loyal supporter of Stannis and the main new point of view character in the second book. This suggests some things have been moved around; Cressen is not present for the burning of the statues in the book.

Eighteenth is Arya Stark toying with needle. Arya's hair is cut short; she remains undercover as a boy with Yoren of the Night's Watch at this stage. Maisie Williams shone among the already strong group of young actors assembled for the first season. I'm expecting more good work from here as Arya travels North with the Night's Watch recruits. Also looking forward to seeing more of Joe Dempsey, as Gendry, her friend along the way.

Nineteenth is a long lense focus shift from a close-up of a horses eye, to a close-up of Robb Stark on the horse. It is night time and he is drenched in rain. Lovely camerawork but Robb does a fair amount of riding around so not easy to place. I fully expect to see more of Robb in the second series than we do in the book; he is not a point of view character in the book so his war against the Lannisters is usually described from afar by others. In the series we should see a few of the battles close up (budget limitations notwithstanding).

Twentieth is Jaime Lannister with his arms bound behind him, head bowed. Jaime ends the second series a captive of Robb Stark. He is likely still imprisoned by the army of the North here. The writers have spoken of their intention of bringing forward some of Jaime's story from A Sword of Storms, I'm interested to see how they handle that. The grassy ground here suggests that he is outside rather than in the dungeons of Riverrun as in the book.

Twenty first is Varys continuing his speech, drinking wine and twenty second is a close-up of Tyrion grinning, seemingly in response to Varys' line about little men and great shadows. Peter Dinklage is fantastic as Tyrion. Congratulations to him on his recent Golden Globe win for best actor in a television drama.

Next we get a title card "Based on the Best-Selling Novels". Indisputable, congratulations to George R. R. Martin on recently joining the million sellers club via kindle.

Twenty third is Robb walking through a battlefield, corpses strewn around him. There is a silent sister tending to one of the bodies; they are recognisable from their head dress and first appeared in the pilot around the body of Jon Arryn, the hand of the king before Ned Stark. I'm glad we'll be seeing the aftermath of one of his battles at least but I do hope they don't skip the action like they did with Tyrion at the Battle of the Green Fork in the first season.

Voiceover: "You're fighting to overthrow a king". I'm unsure who delivered this line. There are so many kings and so many fights in this part of the story that the suspects are numerous. Can anyone with a better ear enlighten me?

Twenty fourth is Joffrey aiming his crossbow at Sansa in the throne room. He says "killing you would send your brother a message". This is followed by a close-up of Sansa bowing her head. Next is a wide shot of Joffrey levelling the crossbow with Sandor in front of the steps and Sansa kneeling in the foreground facing Joffrey. This tells us little more than the earlier scene where Sansa's dress is torn but its source is later in the book. Joffrey points his crossbow at Sansa and talks of sending a message to Robb in Clash of Kings chapter 33 Sansa III page 356.

A title card "The Most Acclaimed Series of the Year". Now this one I take issue with. Which year? It is 2012 now but the series garnered most of its acclaim when it was last on the air in 2011. How do we measure the acclaim of a television series? This is the sort of unsupported (unsupportable?) hyperbole that does an advertising campaign no favours to my mind.

Twenty seventh is Tyrion eating as Cersei paces past him. He says "you might find it difficult to rule over millions who want you dead". Seeing Cersei and Tyrion's very different approaches to governing King's Landing was illuminating for both their characters in the book. I'm pleased to see they kept some of their clashes of ideology in the series. I found Tyrion saying millions slightly jarring; the armies are usually thousands or tens of thousands of men large which suggests populations in the hundreds of thousands; I suppose once all the warring factions are added together Westeros probably does have a population in the millions.

Twenty eighth is a shot of Cersei being harrassed in the streets of King's Landing and assisted by Lannister guardsmen. This seems to be from the riots at King's Landing where the populace rebel over the lack of food which takes place in A Clash of Kings chapter 42 Tyrion IX.

A title card reading "Returns".

Daenerys in voiceover: I am Daenerys Stormborn..." over a shot of spearmen with close cropped hair and golden shields walking before a group of bearded men in white robes. One black person at the back of the group who are otherwise all caucasian. Daenerys refers to herself as Stormborn only once in A Clash of Kings (chapter 49, Daenerys IV, page 514) when she is in the house of the undying in Qarth. Of course it is a title that she is known by (because she was born during a storm off Dragonstone) so it could be used elsewhere in the adaptation. I wonder if this party of dignitaries and armed men are those that greet her outside Qarth. The black man could be Nonso Anozie as Xaro Xhoan Daxos but he is too far back in the shot for me to be certain. The dignitaries are a mixed bunch. The majority are in white robes with their heads covered but three are not dressed the same. First is our mystery black man. Then there is the bald caucasian in muted red at the front of the group. Finally one bearded man to the left is also wearing a muted red jerkin.

Thirtieth is a close-up of Daenerys continuing her line "...and I will take what is mine..." She is wearing a costume we haven't seen before and the sun is shining brightly. I would guess that this is after she arrives in Qarth.

Daenerys in voiceover completing the line "with fire and blood" as we see the thirty first shot; a rider on barren ground, the sun low and bright in the sky above them. The terrain fits with the ground we saw Daenerys surveying in her riding gear earlier. I cannot identify the rider here given that we don't see their face. I'd guess at Rakharo.

A column of black clad men with weapons and horses walk along a trail in the snow. This struck me as being the men of the Nights Watch as they follow Mormont North of the wall.

Thirty third is Tywin bringing his horse to a stop. Good to see Charles Dance looking like a true general as Tywin.

Thirty fourth is a mother and babe being accosted by armoured men. I thought this was likely to be Allar Deem of the Goldcloaks being sent after Mhaegen and Barra. Barra is one of Robert's bastards and Mhaegen is her mother; we met both briefly when Ned was investigating Jon Arryn's death in the first season and uncovered several of Robert's bastards. Tyrion questions Deems' commander Janos Slynt about this in A Clash of Kings Chapter 9 Tyrion II page 91.

Thirty fifth is Arya in close-up saying "anyone can be killed". I can't find this quote in Arya's chapters of the books but it is certainly consistent with her painful experiences in the story.

Thirty sixth; the hound leads a charge of Lannister guardsmen against men with square shields next to a stone wall at night. This seemed likely to be the Battle of the Blackwater to me; a fight between Joffrey and Stannis for control of King's Landing. It would be odd for this to be in a trailer as the battle happens near the end of the book (chapter 59 Davos III page 599) and has been confirmed as being the focus of the ninth episode of the season entitled "Blackwater".

It is followed by a close-up as the hound strikes a foe's shield with a mace atop a castle wall and then a wide shot of the hound knocking an opponent from atop a castle wall. Both of these are in the day time and appear to be from the same scene. There appear to be a number of onlookers in the wide shot. I can't recall the hound being involved in fighting against armoured foes in the book before the Battle of the Blackwater; the rioters were civilians mostly and he does not participate in Joffrey's name day tourney. Perhaps this is a new scene or an addition to the tourney.

Thirty ninth is Renly Baratheon standing in his tent looking at a scantily clad woman. Renly is the youngest of the three Baratheon brothers and did appear in the first season. He is a closeted homosexual in the series and was shown having an intimate talk with Loras Tyrell in the first season about becoming king. In A Clash of Kings he is one of the claimants to the Iron Throne, much to Stannis' annoyance. He is engaged to Loras' sister Margaery Tyrell as she has married Renly by the time we see him in the book (A Clash of Kings chapter 23 Catelyn II page 250) so I would assume this is her. I wonder if we will meet the alliance between Renly and House Tyrell a little earlier in its formation in the series?

Fortieth; Theon Greyjoy kneels on rocky ground as a long haired man clad in a tattered robe pours water over his head. This seems likely to be his Uncle Aeron Damphair, a priest of the drowned god, greeting Theon as he returns to his home on Pyke to treat with his father Balon Greyjoy on Robb's behalf. The sea water baptism is straight from the book - A Clash of Kings chapter 12 Theon I page 129. However, no casting announcement has been made for Aeron to date.

Forty first: An unidenitfied person in armour backhands a helmeted foe in a tent. I would guess at this being Brienne of Tarth defending herself when she is accused of a crime she did not commit given that it is clearly in a tent (see A Clash of Kings chapter 34 Catelyn IV page 366). Brienne is a new character for the second season. She is a fierce warrior and loyal supporter of Renly who is often mocked for her masculinity.

Forty second: Melisandre tips her head back, mouth open. Given that her red choker is prominently featured I would guess that this is from the end of the prologue (A Clash of Kings chapter 1 Prologue page 20).

Forty third: Two armoured men fight in front of onlookers with ale tankards and green shields. I first guessed that this was one of the duels from Joffrey's name day tourney (A Clash of Kings chapter 3 Sansa I). I noticed the shields when going back to take the screenshot and they suggest that this could be one of the fights from Renly's grand melee at his camp.

Forty fouth: A black clad man swings a sword at a Lannister guardsman at night, another Lannister man and a torch are in the background. I think this could be Yoren defending his recruits against the Lannister forces under Ser Amory Lorch in A Clash of Kings chapter 15 Arya IV.

Title card: "Game of Thrones: Season 2" surrounded by a ring of flames

Fourty fifth: Close-up of Tyrion, hand against a door, "I understand the way...

Close-up of Varys, taken aback by Tyrion barring his way. Tyrion says "...this game is played."

Title card: "April 1" surrounded by a ring of flames.

Looking forward to that date. Please leave a comment if you disagree with any of my guesses.


  1. Awesome job!!!

    I think that the 42nd scene with Melisandre gasping may be *SPOILERS* the boat scene with Davos when she shows him the full range of her abilities!! What do you think?

    Wasn't she nude in that sequence???

  2. Thank you.

    You could well be right. She was naked and heavily pregnant:

    "Melisandre had thrown back her cowl and shrugged out of the smothering robe. Beneath, she was naked, and huge with child."

    From A Clash of Kings Davos II page 455