I should state this out of the gate right now: I really don’t like shows that give flashes to future season episodes in the promo and title sequences. To me, it reeks of network series TV from the 80’s-90’s that never gave the audience credit for being as perceptive as they have always been when it comes to combing through their favorite shows. Because of these easy give-aways at the end and beginning of episodes, I feel as though my eye has been trained to notice what scenes to look for and take note of. Understandably, this is all part of the reason promos for future episodes exist; they just want to make sure I realize what I might miss if I don’t tune in next week.
Perhaps the case should be made - like in the recent instance of Game of Thrones Ep 508 ‘Hardhome,’ directed by Miguel Saphochnik - that some of the most highly dramatic moments in a series come when the audience attention hasn’t been curated to expect such. Especially considering this moment isn't even in the book.
In the case of ‘Hardhome’ what I am specifically referring to is the last quarter of the episode which delves into this fantastic, gory, and completely unexpected fight sequence between the wildlings and the white walker army. I say that such an event is unexpected because no where in the promo after episode 507 was there a hint of the destruction ahead; even though the series has been leading to such an all out assault since season one. Also, as a watcher since the first episode aired, I’ve been trained to expect the epic fight scenes that normally occur in the penultimate episode; i.e. 109 -Ned dies, 209 – battle of Blackwater, 309 – Red Wedding, 409 – Fight at the wall and Ygritte’s death.
But nowhere in the promo following last weeks ‘The Gift’ was there an indication of such a fight, and if anything the episode was leaning towards being more heavily focused on Cersei’s downfall in prison and a broadening of the Sansa/Reek dynamic. The suspense of the episode was really more of an anticipated fight between the Jon and the main Thenn opposition to Tormund.
Promo for ‘Hardhome’ below: apologies for it appearing stretched
Apart from the ending flash of a scene with a lot of what ~appears to be wildlings on a snowy bank, there was no indication of what was to come. This is what I want from my shows in both promos and title sequences in the future, in fact I’ve been begging for it for years! Whether watching the title sequence for Lost (which is literally just a close up of the word), The Leftovers (which is a horrifyingly beautiful moving animated fresco ), or even Sons of Anarchy (tattoos, guns, and bikes). It is such purposeful omissions of material that really brings me – as a series watcher - back for more, simply because I have no idea what I’ll be tuning into.
I can only speak for myself here, but I wonder if this reflects a trust in the sensibilities of the audience on behalf of creators and networks?
Promos always seem to be feeding me scraps to make me either more hungry or simply sedate me just enough. Do I even need a promo for next week's episode right after one has aired? Wouldn't it be more effective if it were released in the middle of the week on the show’s facebook page to be shared during the lull of the show’s run, instead of immediately following an episode only for me to forget about it moments later?
I know I have watched so much television that I have trained myself to look for clues in the crumbs I’m given off the table. But it is also nice to be appreciated by a show I love that finally realizes I am in fact smarter than they give me credit for.