As if Game of Thrones devotees don't have enough to keep up with between fan theories, celebrity recaps, and prequel news, it's now come to our attention that the opening credits foreshadow events on the show . . . and they're constantly shifting.
Elastic, the production studio behind the breathtaking sequence (as well as other memorable openers for Westworld and True Detective), gave an in-depth interview to BuzzFeed News. According to Kirk Shintani, the art director for the season eight credits, we should stay glued to our televisions during those introductory moments. "I'll say that there are differences in every single episode. From episode to episode, pay attention, because there's lots of hints scattered around."
While the series has traditionally added minor tweaks from week to week, the season eight credits have a surprising new element. The point-of-view camera that flies through destinations on the clockwork map of Essos and Westeros now has the ability to move inside the structures depicted at each locale. Past intros have started in Westeros and ended in the far-flung locations visited by Daenerys during that episode, but season eight only highlights those places that play a significant role in the Great War and the Last War. "You're not getting this overarching view anymore," Shintani said. "You're getting this down-low, really specific micro view of what's going on."
For example, the Winterfell crypts act as a mainstay for the title sequence as this is the place where Jon Snow learns the truth of his birthright and shares that information with Daenerys as well as where the innocents hide from and are attacked by the undead. The weirwood tree in the Starks' godswood is where Jon and Arya reunite and where he tells the Starks the truth about his bloodline — all before the site becomes synonymous with the death of the Night King. Not to mention, the Scorpion weapon under King's Landing that has been there since the first episode foreshadows the death of Dany's dragon Rhaegal.
Another significant change to the season eight intro involves the images on the bands of the astrolabe. Previous versions display Westerosi history that predates the events of the show such as Robert Baratheon's rebellion, but these new images portray scenes from the series proper, like Viserion blasting through the Wall. These updated vignettes don't change from week to week, but the use of contemporary images implies that these current events may outstrip the cultural impact of the old ones and lead to a shift in power as a result.
If you've been avoiding the openers, here is a quick explanation of each and how they differ. The changes are subtle, so you must have an eagle eye and a sound understanding of the basic setup to notice the differences.
Episode 1: "Winterfell"
The first episode swoops through the Wall and follows as an icy collection of tiles unfold toward the Last Hearth. Next, we visit Winterfell, where the camera enters the godswood, passes through the Great Hall, and dives into the crypts. From there, we move to King's Landing, where we view Qyburn's dungeon lab (home of the Scorpion device) and the throne room with its Lannister sigil. The events depicted on the astrolabe include the fall of the Wall, the Red Wedding, and the birth of Daenerys's dragons.
Episode 2: "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms"
In the second episode, the astrolabe and locations remain the same, but the tiles moving between the Wall and the Last Hearth are gone, replaced with a stagnant ice-blue path. The icy tiles resume once we pass the Umber homestead and stop halfway toward Winterfell. We can assume that's because the Army of the Undead have wreaked their havoc upon the Umbers and now move south toward the Starks. Winterfell also changes slightly with tents and trenches lining the perimeter, presumably to represent the Dothraki, Unsullied, Free Folk, and Northmen uniting to fight the dead.
Episode 3: "The Long Night"
The most notable change in the third episode is that the blue tiles, instead of stopping short, flow all the way from the Last Hearth to the border of Winterfell. Plus, the lights in the crypt go out before we can pass through the space, both of which are signs that the Night King has made his approach.
Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks"
In episode four, the most obvious alterations are that the icy titles are completely gone and a stationary ice path runs through the wall, past the Last Hearth, and up to the border of Winterfell. Also, the tents and trenches along the perimeter of the Stark homestead burn with red fire, and the Great Hall is in shambles, representing the aftermath of war.
Episode 5: "The Bells"
As of the fifth episode, the only significant update occurs at King's Landing, where two Scorpion weapons loom large on the outer wall. Even though Daenerys lost her second dragon in the previous episode while approaching Euron's fleet, this is definitely a nod to that moment as well as an indication of Cersei's reliance on the weapon during the war to come.
Based on the changes made to the title sequence thus far, we would venture to guess that the final opener should give some indication of the tragedy at King's Landing either by showing the city in shambles or by entering the throne room with the sigil torn down. If we're lucky, maybe the final title sequence will hint at who survives the show's endgame before it actually happens.