The teaser shows three of the four surviving Stark children - Jon being treated as one here - walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: the crypt under Winterfell where the family is traditionally interred. As they move through the dark, we see and hear whispers from the past. Ned Stark’s voice is heard saying to Jon that he may not have Ned’s name but he has his blood; this voice reminds us how deeply Jon is grounded in House Stark. It is the seat of his sense of self.
At the same time, we see the statue of his mother, Lyanna, and notice that a feather falls from its hand. I had to do some digging, but the feather was placed there all the way back in Season One, when King Robert Baratheon, who loved Lyanna dearly, visited the crypt and placed it there - a tropical bird feather, which he had evidently carried all the way from King’s Landing for the purpose. And with the statue, we hear Lyanna telling young Ned that he must protect her baby.
Sansa and Arya move through the crypt as well, returning to the very womb of House Stark. Clearly a major theme of this season is going to be how the destruction of House Stark achieved by its enemies in the first few seasons is resolved in the coming war. The message I take from it is that there will be justice for this noble and long-suffering Great House. However, the final moments remind us that not all of the family will necessarily survive.
Each of them sees their own death-likeness, as though receiving a vision that they have already died. (But is it also a sign of hope that somebody would have to have been left alive to commission, carve, and place the statues?)
As the chill wind blows out Jon’s torch - the death of Fire? - we are reminded in most ominous fashion that Ice is advancing from the broken Wall toward Winterfell, and will soon arrive like a mighty wind. Who can resist such a wind, and the Night King whose very face is Death?
Our answer comes in the calm and determined way that Jon draws Longclaw and Arya, Needle; while Sansa stands foursquare and solid between them, Lady Stark of Winterfell like a guiding angel protecting them with the mantle of Family.
House Stark faces the ghosts of their own past this coming season; and lest we forget, the entire North faces Death as well. The fate of the world may well be decided by the Starks of Winterfell, although the battle we may expect early in Season Eight will surely not decide the war.
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