Following a flood of reports that HBO will be developing an array of spinoff TV series extending the Game of Thrones universe, a trailer for a new show called Westeros dropped and subsequently went viral. Of course, Westeros is the name of the continent on which the majority of the Game of Thrones story takes place. Yet the Westeros that we’ve become accustomed to is not the Westeros in the trailer; winter has apparently come and gone and in that time cities have cropped up where castles once stood, cars have since replaced horseback, and soldiers have traded in their swords for guns. Indeed, this reimagined Westeros is of the 21st century. However, just as the show’s tagline states, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This trailer is rife with sex, violence, and political turmoil as well as all of the grit and intensity that enamoured audiences to the parent series. There is only one problem: the trailer is complete artifice.
This trailer is actually promotional material for a new season of a Dutch satire called Zondag met Lubach. The strategy here is as genius as it is simple: in the wake of the season 7 finale of Game of Thrones and amidst the anticipation for an official announcement regarding a spinoff, generate over 2.5 million views on an apparent trailer and then release a second video with a comical explanation that they were promoting the wrong show and that wrong show premieres September 10th. This level of scheming is typically reserved for the likes of Tywin Lannister. But how did this trailer pull off the ruse? By perfectly capturing the style of Game of Thrones through picture and sound.
The trailer opens with an Inception-like braaam sound, produced by a bowed cello and a percussive strike. A blonde man with a British accent who looks suspiciously like a Lannister says to a cheering audience, “Trust me, fear cuts deeper than swords.” The cello continues, outlining a more defined musical idea, one that is dramatic and severe. The screen cuts to a birdseye view of a busy city intersection and the narrator says, “Look at this prodigious world… it has changed.” The scene pans to a large decrepit statue, which Game of Thrones fans will recognize as the once mighty Titan of Braavos. The scene changes to an enormous wall of ice that runs parallel to a highway. The scene shifts again to the Iron Throne preserved in a glass enclosure. With each fleeting reference to the Game of Thrones universe, sharp snare drums accentuate the reveal.
At 0:29 the percussion begins to roll across the toms and a faint marimba teases a familiar theme. A girl’s voice whispers, “I’m scared” and a sign reads “Targaryen Square,” cuing another percussive strike. The British man reappears, this time over a broadcast with a caption that reads “Prime Minister Lannister,” confirming earlier inklings. He continues, “But I can assure you, there is nothing to fear.” The percussion continues to ramp up as high heels step out of a car, followed by Direwolf paws. At 0:46 an ominous voice says, “The long night is coming and the dead will come with it.” Prime Minister Lannister responds emphatically, “There is nothing behind the wall.” His voice echoes across the auditorium and the music cuts out.
At 0:54, the cello returns and finally plays the Game of Thrones theme we’ve all been waiting for. Heavily armed men, a wintery storm, and a sex scene flash across the screen before an elderly man asks a hooded figure, “Are you prepared to ignite?” A dragon casts a dark shadow overtop a cityscape and drums beat a steady rhythm before the title card appears on the screen.
The Game of Thrones spinoff that will never be.
– Andrew Sproule