HBO released the first images of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones last week, sending enthusiasts of the hit fantasy series into a frenzy trying to deduce some meaning from the characters’ wardrobes, hand placements, and backdrops. It’s a stretch, given that the images are pointedly generic publicity stills for the show, which premieres in April. If there is one thing about them that stands out, it’s that all the characters look so very, very sad.
Together, the images look a bit like a collection of Rembrandt portraits—sullen, weathered faces ensconced by shadow, gazing off into the middle distance. Why are they so sad? And what can we glean about the show’s final season by gazing into all these frowny faces?
These are the new Game of Thrones photos, ranked in order from most to least sad:
1. Cersei Lannister
Expression: “What hath I wrought?”
Here, Cersei, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms (for the time being), appears to have tears welling up in her eyes. Perhaps she’s beginning to realize the full extent of misery created by her thirst for power. Some fans are speculating that she will suffer a miscarriage in the final season (in the seventh season, she revealed to her brother-lover Jaime Lannister that she was pregnant). In any case, Cersei is not having a good day.
2. Tyrion Lannister
Expression: Resting “gravely concerned” face
To be fair, Tyrion looks like this a lot of the time, but here he seems especially uneasy, his brow furrowed so tightly it might snap off his face. He’s probably pretty worried about the precarious Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen alliance/romance, and how Sansa Stark will receive it. And, of course, his sister, Cersei—one of the most powerful people in Westeros—has long wanted him dead.
3. Brienne of Tarth
Expression: Unwaveringly loyal to Sansa while also looking like she’s just seen a ghost
Brienne has seen some stuff. At times she looks like she’s the only character on the show who really understands what’s going on, even if she’s more or less powerless to change anything. She watches, silently, from afar, somehow looking simultaneously resolute and terrified.
4. Bran Stark
Expression: “I can no longer process emotion”
After becoming the “Three-Eyed Raven” (and receiving all the knowledge that comes with that), Bran pretty much looks just like, this no matter what’s going on around him. The Game of Thrones version of Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen, Bran cares not for the petty concerns of humanity. His mind is elsewhere, rendering his face a creepily nondescript husk of its former self—a portrait personified.
5. Davos Seaworth
Expression: “Hello darkness, my old friend”
If there’s anyone on this show who understands tragedy, it’s Davos, who has had to endure the death of a son as well as the heinous sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon, who was like a daughter to him. He’s rightfully cautious about the people with whom he associates, but trouble always seems to be right around the corner for the “Onion Knight.”
6. Jon Snow
Expression: “I really don’t want to die again”
Everyone’s favorite undead hero puts the woe in woebegone, the fallen in crestfallen. He is a profoundly sad young man, incessantly wrestling with his identity and his place in a world he never totally understood. That sadness has been compounded now that he’s King in the North and has the weight of a kingdom on his shoulders. Just don’t let this guy die for a second time, HBO. Our hearts can’t take it.
7. Sansa Stark
Expression: “Thank U, Next”
Sansa is just done with these dumb guys ruining everything. We wouldn’t necessarily call this look “sad”—it’s closer to “annoyed” or “weary.” Right as she was starting to take control of Winterfell (after orchestrating the execution of perennial trickster Littlefinger), Jon and Dany are going to waltz right in and try to take over the place.
8. Arya Stark
Expression: “Hi, yes, you there—interested in me killing you? No? I’m sorry to hear that.”
To be honest, we don’t want to look at this photo of Arya any longer than we have to, because it’s scary. She looks like she’s found her next target for assassination. We wouldn’t want to be whoever’s on the other end of that menacing stare.
Expression: “You know I’m scheming right now, but you can’t stop me”
This is the face of the man plotting dozens of chess moves in his head while he takes a leisurely stroll around the castle walls. But, maybe, just maybe, there’s a hint of anxiety on that smug face. The final season could pose a problem that even Varys can’t manipulate his way out of.
10. Daenerys Targaryen
Expression: “I think I’m scared of myself now?”
Daenerys’s expression looks like it’s in the middle of transforming from a smile into a panicked frown. Her mouth might be smiling, but her eyes tell a different story. Something is bothering the Mother of Dragons.
11. Samwell Tarly
Expression: “I’m finally relevant to the plot”
Poor Sam: He’s been through so much, only for him to still be a secondary character mostly operating away from the main action of the show. He spent a chunk of one season changing bedpans. But now Sam’s got juicy intel, baby! At the end of last season, Sam found out that Jon is in fact a Targaryen by blood and thus the true heir to the Iron Throne. And you best believe he’s going to do something with that information.
12. Jaime Lannister
Expression: “I would very much like to die now”
Jaime is one of the few characters on the show whose morality has actually improved over the course of the eight seasons. Once a self-satisfied, murderous douche, Jaime has transformed into, arguably, the moral compass of the show. But everywhere he turns, he’s surrounded by evil, most of all in the form of his sister and lover, Cersei. Jamie puts on a happy face, but we all know he’s dying a slow, miserable death inside.