It’s hard to believe, but only four short months ago we were looking forward to season four of Game of Thrones and wondering what fair cities would pop up on its opening credits world map this year. As any fan knows, the best thing about the show’s opening credits (apart from the soaring music) is that the locations on the map change to reflect the show’s widening scope; this year, we added four new places. In the interest of being thorough, here they are:
The only new location on the map that stuck around for all ten episodes, and boy, who knows when we’ll be rid of Meereen. The first half of the season saw Daenerys staging a siege of the largest slave city and invading from the inside out; the second half saw her deciding to settle in and rule her empire of Slaver’s Bay from Meereen’s Great Pyramid. It’s not the most exciting turn of events, but Meereen is still more interesting than Qarth, so it has that going for it. And it’s a very cool spot on the map, with its giant pyramid popping into the sky as we zoom in.
One under-discussed and totally awesome thing about the Game of Thrones map: the sigils! King’s Landing has the Baratheon stag, Winterfell the Stark wolf, the Twins have the two-towered bridge, and so on. The Dreadfort is the gloomy and aptly-named home of Roose Bolton, and it’s honestly a little surprising that it got so much play on the map considering how it was barely featured in the show this year. But when we see the flayed red man of House Bolton pop up in the north, we understand how the landscape has changed. The Starks have been deposed, and there’s a new sheriff in town. And that sheriff likes to cut people’s skin off.
Yeah! This is the coolest location on the map has only been visited once this season, by Stannis and Davos as they went to the Iron Bank to try and get some cash for soldiers. But we got a nice look at the free city across the narrow sea, which one enters through the legs of a colossus holding a broken sword in the air. In the opening credits, there’s also some business with a big coin zipping down an aqueduct, Sonic the Hedgehog style, which is probably supposed to represent the Iron Bank, but it’s very impressionistic. Why is Braavos still on the map since Stannis isn’t there anymore, you ask? Well, let’s watch Sunday’s finale and see what happens!
The most welcome surprise of the season was Moat Cailin popping up, and it’s beautifully represented—a large, shifting clockwork beast surrounded by swamps and spears. The castle sits atop the treacherous marshlands that separate the North from the rest of Westeros, and serves as a bulwark against invaders from the south. Of course, it was taken from the north, by the Iron Islanders, hence Ramsay Bolton’s bit of trickery to reclaim it using his pet Theon. Who knows if Moat Cailin will ever be back, but it was definitely a nice guest appearance.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Where the hell was the Eyrie on this map all season? Passing fancies like Dreadford and Moat Cailin got their due attention, not to mention crashing bores like Mereen, yet the Eyrie never once made it back to the map (it was last seen in season one). Not only is the Eyrie a cool looking location, all nestled impenetrably into the side of a mountain, but how much cool shit happened there this season? Lysa admitted to basically starting this whole gory story at Littlefinger's behest! Then Littlefinger married her! And threw her out the moon door! This was the location of the Great Sansa Stark Makeover! Shameful, the lack of respect it got from the map. Go think about what you've done, map.
Who knows what will come in season five? Casting lists have called for many Dornish characters, so we may well find ourselves in Sunspear, the region’s capital, at the southern end of Westeros. Perhaps more of the free cities or further Eastern adventures for Daenerys await? We’ve also never seen some of the biggest cities of Westeros: the Lannister home-base Casterly Rock, the Tyrell headquarters of Highgarden, the maester training grounds of Oldtown, any location beyond the Wall, and other big northern settlements that may play a part in future storylines. Who knows? Maybe things will change as early as this Sunday. That’s the best thing about the map—it’s never set in stone.