In the dreamlike clip, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), find Us-like statues of themselves in the Winterfell crypts, foretelling their imminent demise. Remaining Stark sibling Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), is nowhere to be seen, somehow increasing those Night King rumors. The voices of Starks gone by like Ned (Sean Bean) and Lyanna (Aisling Franciosi) can be heard in voiceover. In the final seconds, HBO confirms Thrones will return on Sunday 14th April.
With all of this going on, it’s likely fans missed the trailer’s greatest detail of all: a single, eventually frozen feather. That is the biggest nod to Game Of Thrones past and future since it ties into Jon Snow’s true parentage, Westeros' most explosive secret.
In the trailer, the feather in question falls while Jon walks past the remains of his late mother, Lyanna (Jon doesn’t know Lyanna is his mom, but we do). The feather flies out of Statue Lyanna’s hand as we hear her say in voiceover, “You have to protect him.” The audio is originally from season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter,” and serves as Lyanna’s last words to brother Ned (played as a young man by Robert Aramayo). “Him” is baby Jon — born Aegon Targaryen — who is the true heir to the Iron Throne. Remember, Lyanna married crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding) in a secret ceremony after the pair fell in love. Jon isn’t a bastard.
In the same way the trailer’s season 6 quote is a throwback to Game Of Thrones' past, so is the video’s falling feather itself. It appeared in the very first episode of the drama, “Winter Is Coming,” when Adult Ned and longtime best friend Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) reminisce about the horrors of the past while touring Winterfell's crypts. Robert stops at Lyanna’s statue to pay his respects, effectively explaining to viewers he loved her as a teen, was engaged to her, and resents Rhaegar for “kidnapping” her (a narrative everyone except for Ned believes to be true at the time).
This is when Robert places the exotic feather into Lyanna’s statue hand, making it a key visual in our original understanding of Lyanna and Rhaegar’s relationship.
We don’t see the feather again for years, until season 5’s “Sons of the Harpy.” During the midseason episode, Sansa, newly returned to Winterfell after multiple hellish personal eras, walks through the crypts to pay her respects to many different late family members. While at Lyanna’s statue, Sansa finds the feather on the floor. It is covered with dust, a possible metaphor for how Thrones has forgotten about the mysteries of of Lyanna, Rhaegar, and Robert’s love triangle for quite a while. After all, the crypt had been neglected due to the War Of The Five Kings in much the same way R+L=J had been.
As co-creator David Benioff said in a production diary at the time of “Harpy’s” debut, “As we were preparing the scene [with Sansa], we thought: That feather’s probably still there. People haven't been going down there and cleaning up much. Certainly after Ramsay [Bolton, played by Iwan Rheon] destroyed Winterfell, there hasn’t been a janitorial crew going down and vacuuming.”
However, this time around, the conversation around Lyanna shifts. With Ned and Robert, the Rhaegar The Kidnapper And Monster narrative is taken as fact. When Sansa finds the feather, things are no longer so cut and dry. She parrots the accepted Rhaegar-Lyanna story to Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), and he responds with a quiet, telling smile. He then immediately changes the subject. Clearly, Littlefinger knows something. It’s one of the first moments in Game Of Thrones where it’s suggested the version of history we’ve heard for years may not be the whole truth. Just one season later, that suspicion is confirmed with the “Winds” flashback to Lyanna’s birthing bed.
All together, the feather is now inextricably linked to Lyanna and how loved ones spin the skewed tale of her alleged assault at Rhaegar’s hands. A story, we now know is mostly false. As the trailer shows, the approach of the Night King ruins the feather by freezing into a sheet of ice.
That just might mean the imminent arrival of Winter will also shatter any misconceptions about Jon Snow’s parents — and therefore his own history — forever.