The new “Game of Thrones” trailer dropped last Tuesday — and, as expected, it broke the Internet. Fantasy-loving twenty-somethings screeched with joy in their basements. Thousands of devoted fans shook off the uneasy feeling one gets after realizing they are romantically and sexually rooting for two people who are aunt and nephew to get together. Innumerable one-off pieces dissecting each frame of the two-minute trailer popped up across the blogosphere.
But looming over this fervor is an obvious yet unspoken problem: Is anyone going to admit that they cannot see a single thing? Or did showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss initiate a global syndicate that brainwashed the masses into perceiving their failing computer screens as incandescent IMAX displays?
The new trailer is so dark that it is literally impossible to know what is going on, and anyone who says otherwise is flat-out lying. The only plausible explanation is that all information has been collectively gleaned from those cultural super-consumers on Buzzfeed and Reddit who pause on every frame and enhance the brightness before explaining its cryptic contents. “Game of Thrones” trailers have been consistently dark, but qualitatively speaking, this one reaches new levels of unviewable.
Take, for example, just the first 30 seconds. Is that Arya running in the tombs? No, it’s just Winterfell at night. No, there’s Tormund, maybe he’s pacing those quirky little tunnels inside the Wall. But is he indoors or is it nighttime? Ah, now some daylight. But is it early morning? Late dusk? Where is the sun?
Yes, I get it: Winter is Coming. Sunlight and humanity are being stamped out by the snowy fury of the White Walkers. Life in Westeros is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, or whatever. But seriously, there are other ways to indicate both metaphysical and meteorological impending doom than shooting an entire blockbuster series through the least dilated aperture ever witnessed by humankind. With a budget of over $90 million for the season, HBO couldn’t afford a few extra studio lights?
There are maybe three or four well-lit shots in the two-minute teaser. All of them involve dragons, Sansa Stark’s luminous face (what skincare voodoo are they on in the North?), or some combination of the two. Even in a drama awash with garish good/evil, dark/light symbolism, this editing is almost egregiously heavy-handed. Moral dichotomies can be conveyed in many variations of grayscale, not just third-grade shades of black and white. The simplicity of darkness as a signaling device for dramatic legitimacy is infuriating to the point of that it depreciates the show itself.
Plus, lots of Serious Dramas use gorgeous color to great effect. Vulture picked up on this unnecessary darkness of serious shows way back in 2016, citing “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” as dramas that actually plumbed the inky depths of the color wheel and still, magically, garnered critical acclaim.
But the epidemic of dimness has only worsened in the last few years, and “Game of Thrones” was always a major part of the problem. Based on this trailer, all hope is lost that the show has some brighter tricks up its sleeve in its final season.
—Staff writer Amelia Roth-Dishy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.