Among the many delights of the “Game of Thrones” viewing experience is seeing which locations appear on the opening credits map in any given week. But sometimes, I wind up wondering what the logic is for certain decisions about the map, like some weeks we see locations that don’t actually appear in that episode, while locales where several characters are present (and that have appeared on the map before) aren’t featured.
For instance, tonight’s episode, “Sons of the Harpy” (I reviewed it here) featured our first new map location of season 5, the southern Westeros kingdom of Dorne, even though Dorne had first appeared on the show two episodes early. And the Eyrie appeared in the credits of several early episodes, even though no characters have been there this season, while it didn’t appear at all late last year when Sansa and Littlefinger were living there.
Earlier this week, I got on the phone with “GoT” producer Greg Spence to talk about the various logistical and creative reasons for why some locations appear in some weeks, and some don’t. Here’s what you need to know:
It took the show a while to settle on a map style.
“Early on, before we had ever shown anything to HBO, we were concerned about having so many characters and having so many locations, and looking for ways to clarify and connect with where we were,” Spence says. “We played around with a lot of ideas.”
One would have been “an Indiana Jones-style traveling camera kind of thing,” while another would have followed the style of the interstitals on “Wild Wild West” – not with commercial breaks, since HBO doesn’t have them, but to mark the transition from one location to the next – that presented that little piece of the larger puzzle that is George R.R. Martin’s world.
Eventually, Angus Wall at Elastic, the company that makes the titles, had, according to Spence, “a vision of a mad monk, in a tower somewhere,” who was somehow keeping track of all this action, “and creating as he went. He would then fashion little automatons out of the materials that would be available in his world. They would be stone, or tin, or wood, and everything would feel very hand-crafted.”
Some locations are constant.
Every episode’s map features King’s Landing, Winterfell, the Wall and wherever Daenerys is at the moment. That doesn’t change even if the episode doesn’t feature a single scene in one of those places, or if there aren’t any significant characters there at the moment.
The map is meant to be symbolic, rather than literal.
Winterfell has remained constant even though it didn’t appear at all in season 3, and for most of season 4, because “Because it’s the seat of the Stark power and the Stark family, and those are one of our primary groups of powers, we wanted to keep it in.”