This post contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere episode, "Winterfell." Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers and explainers.
They say that after the universe stops expanding outward it'll contract again, growing smaller and smaller until converging in on itself in a kind of reverse Big Bang. Over the course of Game of Thrones, we've watched the world of Westeros and Essos expand almost exponentially beyond its bounds, with a gajillion new characters and place names introduced nearly weekly at the show's peak.
But, as the seasons began to shorten -- Season 8 only has six episodes, though a few will be as long as movies -- the world grew smaller, with Daenerys, her dragons, and her army crossing the Narrow Sea more than a season ago and leaving the arid eastern continent behind for good. In the show's final season, the show will mainly follow the action of only two places: Winterfell in the North, and King's Landing in the south, perhaps with a few detours to smaller cities along the way. The show's clockwork-inspired opening credits, which had long acted as an equivalent to the front cover maps from George R. R. Martin's book series, were used as a reference point and, at times, clever foreshadowing of events to come, as they flew the viewer from King's Landing to Oldtown to the Wall to the Twins to Meereen to Dorne to Braavos. Now that the action is taking place mainly in two locations, the show needed a credits sequence to reflect that.
Anyone who'd ever seen even one episode of the show was in for a shock on Sunday night, when, after a lengthy recap that reminded you of all the important stuff that had happened so far, we were treated to a wildly altered credits sequence.