When it was first announced, I had very high hopes for HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s love-it-or-hate-it epic A Song of Ice and Fire series – wisely sticking with the title of the first book, Game of Thrones. While I respect the issues dislikers have with the books (namely Martin’s prose), I think Martin’s strengths (character and operatic storylines) are tailor made for television. Especially HBO.

My hopes continued to be very high when the early creative decisions started rolling in this year. While I’m conceptually not sold on Mark Addy as King Robert, the rest of the casting news – in particular Peter Dinklage in the role of a lifetime – all seems spot on. Actor/sometimes director Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent) was a strange choice to direct the pilot, but I liked what that said about the creative direction of the show. Those who find the books tedious often complain that all the action happens “off screen,” which is largely true. There is a lot of talking in the books. Hiring McCarthy seems to indicate that the show will indeed be focusing heavily on the dialogue and character interplay. Deadwood in the dark ages, if you will.

But my hopes have been ebbing over the past few months as images from the series have slowly been trickling in. The show looked a little cheap and staid. The teasers also did not do a lot to fire up people’s anticipation; awareness of the series (which still doesn’t have an actual release date) is incredibly low outside of the nerd circles.

In the past week or so Game of Thrones has been popping up in more high profile places, like Entertainment Weekly. Now there are some new stills out there, such as these two showing Addy as King Robert, and what I believe is Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark. They look a little more promising.

More stills available here.

There is also a new teaser trailer, which finally attempts to paint a bit of a picture of the series, detailing some of the series’ thematic overtones of honor and accountability. Watching Black Death really got me jazzed to see Sean Bean back in chain mail and swinging a sword, so I’m happy this trailer showcased him heavily. The grim, cold look of the show comes off better here than it did previously, although the shots we see of Daenerys’ storyline (any shot that is sunny, for those unfamiliar with the books) look like something from a direct to syndication adventure series (Jason Momoa’s presence probably doesn’t help).

I still remain hopeful for the series. It has the potential to be one of the HBO greats.