So, as you know, last Sunday was the premiere of the very first episode of Game of Thrones on HBO, titled appropriately: "Winter Is Coming." Now, beforehand much ado had been made about the opening credits sequence. Apparently it got a huge thumbs up from the rabid fan community, with some praising its innovative design cues while others applauding the main theme music. Well, here it is below for you to judge yourselves:
Now I for one don't see what the big deal is. It's nice, don't get me wrong. But I was told that the theme would be so memorable you wouldn't be able to forget it. And then I promptly forgot about it. Ironically enough, whenever I try to call it up in my head, I instead get the theme from the new show on Starz, Camelot. Hmm, that's not such a good thing in my book.
However, I do love all the inside clues and imagery that only true fans can pick up on. I know many of you are not walking, talking encyclopedias of all things related to the A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) series, but I thought I'd list two of the more intriguing aspects of this intro that might go without notice.
1) Scene locations. Each book in the ASoIaF series has a detailed map of the lands of this intricate world on the inside flap. Running with that theme, I thought it was rather apropos to use a moving map as the basis for the show's opening credits sequence. What's even more interesting is the fact that this portion of the opener will change from episode to episode depending on the locations being used for that night. So, because 4 specific locales were used in the premiere episode, we get to see those 4 cities highlighted here in the opener.
The map starts us off at the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms--King's Landing--which is dominated by the King's castle and seat of the Iron Throne, the Red Keep.
From there we travel far up the King's Road to the Kingdom in the North, and its central seat of power: the citadel of Winterfell. This is Lord Eddard Stark's residence, and the focus for much of this first episode. Note the giant white Weirwood tree with a face engraved on its trunk. Known as a "heart tree," this represents the religion of the Old Gods, which is only still practiced in the North.
Next the camera zooms a bit farther north to the Wall, where the Night's Watch man the frozen barrier to keep constant vigil for possible threats from the mysterious Far North. Note the special elevator which transports the men too and from the various battlements along the Wall. Nice!
Lastly, the camera returns south all the way back to King's Landing again, before suddenly turning east and dashing across the Narrow Sea toward Pentos. Here the exiled Targaryen children reside, with Viserys scheming a plan to gather a nomadic army to his cause in order to win back his rightful place on the Iron Throne.
2) Sigils. Along with the locales, interspersed throughout this sequence are brief flashes of Westeros' history, using engraven sigils to paint in broad strokes the political landscape as it exists in this opening episode. Before I explain further, however, you must first know what each sigil means.
In ASoIaF, each major House has its own sigil. This icon is used to identify not just the Lord of the House, but his seat of power and the bannermen under his protection as well. For the purpose of this first episode, 4 sigils in particular are important to bear:
The Dragon. -- The sigil of the three-headed Dragon belongs to the Targaryens, who were invaders from Valyria across the sea and whom used three dragons to conquer Westeros.
The Stag. -- This is the sigil of House Baratheon and, thus, the sigil of the current king of Westeros, Robert. Robert Baratheon led the rebellion which ultimately broke the nearly uninterrupted rule of the Targaryen Dynasty sixteen years earlier. The Stag, therefore, is now the patron sigil of King's Landing.
The Direwolf. -- This sigil belongs to House Stark, who's motto is "Winter is Coming!" For the sake of the show, it represents Eddard Stark and Winterfell. The direwolf is a fierce, dangerous predator larger and more powerful than a normal wolf. They can only be found in the Far North, beyond the Wall, at the start of the series.
The Lion. -- House Lannister's sigil. Tywin Lannister was Hand to the former Targaryen King, Aerys II, when Robert Baratheon's rebellion broke out. But by playing his cards right at the most key moment toward the end of the uprising, he made himself an invaluable ally to the rebels led by Robert and Eddard. After the war, the Lannisters became the richest House in all of Westeros and Tywin's daughter, Cersei, became Robert's Queen. The Lion is the banner which flies over the Lannisters' seat at Casterly Rock.
So there you have it. The 4 most important sigils you need to know for the sake, at least, of this first episode of the series. Now in the opening credits sequence, you see three events unfold with use of these sigils:
The very first one shows the Dragon sigil screaming in anguish as a volcano erupts. This represents the "Doom of Valyria," when the homeland of the Targaryens was destroyed and they fled across the sea to Westeros, conquering the Seven Kingdoms and ruling there for the next 300 years.
The second event displays the Stag, Lion, and Direwolf sigils locked in combat against the three-headed Dragon, representing the uprising known in Westeros' history as "Robert's Rebellion," which would eventually remove the corrupt Targaryens from the Iron Throne.
The last event shown in this sequence is the peace after the rebellion, with the Lion and the Direwolf paying fealty before the triumphant Stag. Houses Baratheon, Lannister, and Stark become the most powerful in the Seven Kingdoms.
If you note, all 4 sigils are situated around the emblazoned lettering "GAME OF THRONES" at the very end of the opening sequence. I can't confirm it, but I wonder if this will change in later episodes as more sigils and their Houses are introduced into the mix? I would think so.
All in all, while it might not be HBO's best series opening sequence, it does in fact share the same gravitas and grandeur as, say, the openers for Rome or maybe even Carnivale. So in other words, not bad at all.