HBO dropped a 15-minute preview for the upcoming fourth season of Game of Thrones on Sunday night, a mix of new clips and behind-the-scenes interviews with the actors. In case you don't have 15 minutes to spare, here's a breakdown of the best of the new clips, along with a preview of the coming season and some book-reader semi-spoilery context along the way.
Tyrion Is in Danger
Preview: Played by Peter Dinklage, fan-favorite Tyrion has a big target on his back as Season 4 begins. "I've talked myself out of a thousand dark corners, Podrick," Tyrion says to his younger, chubbier companion in one of the new clips. "I don't think I'm talking my way out of this one." In another new clip, he spits word venom at his captor, his sneering face contorted in the image to the right. In terms of allies, he has far fewer than his peak as the Hand of the King in season two. Cersei remains his personal tormenter, and Jaime looks to be his only friend now, as his brother duly reminds him.
Context: Poor Tyrion gets himself into some trouble at the wedding, and he even starts to separate a bit from his trusted buddy Bronn. It's a long road to the bottom, even for our height-challenged hero.
The New Guy, Oberyn Martell
Preview: Meet the new major player this season, Oberyn Martell, who hails from the sandy lands of Dorne down in the south. The Martells are the long-time enemies of the Tyrell and Lannister families, and so when Oberyn shows up to celebrate Joffrey and Margaery's wedding, questions arise as to his motivations. "The Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts," he tells Tyrion in one clip. Ah, revenge! He also brings along his baby mama to the celebration.
Context: Though the show hasn't touched on it much, the Martell-Lannister feud stems from the Lannisters' sack of King's Landing years before. Then, rebel forces under Tywin Lannister stormed the city and brutally killed part of the royal family in Princess Elia—Oberyn's sister—and her two baby children. It may be years later, but Oberyn is clearly not over those slayings. Paying back that debt is a big focus of the coming season.
Joffrey Is Still a Shit
Preview: It is known. The clip shows a few other Thrones actors ripping on Joffrey, including Maisie Williams (Arya) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), even though their characters haven't actually interacted much or at all in the show. Hatred of Joffrey's punchable face apparently doesn't stop at the edges of Westeros. "It's nice to make people hate you," Joffrey actor Jack Gleeson says. His wedding is the big focus of the season, which takes up about half of an entire episode, according to the show's creators.
Context: "Purple Reign," the clip teases before launching into clips of the wedding. The huge scale of the royal wedding appears to have been replicated by HBO, which is pretty astonishing given most TV show budgets. None of the clips show any jousting dwarves, but... hey, doesn't that piece of food look a bit like a ceremonial bird-filled pie?
Daenerys Tries to Hold the Fort
Preview: When we last left the Khaleesi, she was crowdsurfing atop the freed slaves of Yunkai, the second city she had sacked. She's got a new intimidating throne room now, but in the new season, she's having trouble controlling the citizens. "How can I rule seven kingdoms if I can't control a single city?" she says about the Yunkai people who resist her leadership. Similarly, she's losing control of her dragons, who are growing larger and larger. "They're dragons, Khaleesi," Jorah intones, "They can never be tamed." I mean, just look at that beast.
Context: The problems Daenerys has in lording over her Eastern conquests look to be a major point for her coming story, as book readers know all-too-well. The new clip of Drogon, buried 14 minutes into the video, does give a preview of how the Yunkai people are handling their new Queen. In honesty, the books didn't do a great job with keeping the Daenerys storylines interesting at this point. Here's hoping throwing dragons on camera makes a big difference.
Jon Snow Fights in the Snow
Preview: Earlier clips of Jon showed him waging battle in the snowy North this coming season, but HBO's new clips here deal more with his relationships. Ygritte is out of the picture, and Sam is back in, apparently. "You've done nothing wrong," Sam says, a line that harkens to Ygritte's classic "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Jon has not done or learned anything in the first three seasons, so maybe he'll finally get it together?
Context: A preview of wildlings racing to climb a wall gives a good look at the big battle coming for the boys at Castle Black that will be the focus of the season. The red-bearded Tormund Giantsbane is leading the way (Harr!), a shift from the books' plot, so it's hard to say exactly what will happen with the warring party. Nothing wrong with throwing off book readers a little bit.
Off-Screen Fun with the Actors
Preview: Okay, so not everything in HBO's clip was a preview for the season. Some of it was just good old fashioned fun among the actors and show-makers. For one, Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Tyrion and Jaime, talked about a little dance number they did with Tyrion in chains. Just look at that knowing, smug Tyrion image; no handcuffs can keep him down. Sadly, the overworked crew was not as entertained.
Context: A Jaime-Tyrion dance number only happened in our imagination, and not in the books.
(All screenshots from Game of Thrones via Youtube)