A Murder of Crows: Westerosi immersion

Now that we’ve settled into our new accommodations at Watchers on the Wall, and have welcomed many a face, both familiar and new, it’s time to get to one of the bigger issues at hand. One of the most undeniably alluring aspects of Game of Thrones – and, undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons for the show’s immense success – has been its ability to so vividly depict a whole swath of environments, from the intimate to the epic.

King's Landing

So, naturally, the question must be asked: which is the most effective in transporting you to another time and place?

Grab a slab of beef, a mug of ale, and a chair to join us at the giant round table, why don’t you?

Marc N. Kleinhenz

Marc N. Kleinhenz:

Which is your favorite geographical spot as realized on the show? Which set/location do you think is the most immersive or detailed? Which environment most conveys the “other-worldliness” of Westeros?

Dame Pasty

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Dame Pasty:

Oh, for me, that’s easy: the Wall. All the other places seem like there is an equivalent place on Earth, but not that 700-foot magical monstrosity.



I think the most immersive/detailed is King’s Landing for me, especially after that video from the set a couple seasons back.



I think beyond the Wall, the wintery Icelandic stuff. It looked bloody cold. I felt cold watching ice slowly crawl across John Bradley’s face.



The Essos places have done that for me, particularly the Slaver’s Bay cities. The look of Meereen, with its pyramids and its costuming, has transported it to something really different than the rest of Westeros.

Also, dragons.

Dame Pasty

Dame Pasty:

Ya know, now that Shylah mentions, I do remember thinking when we first got to see Meereen with the gates, the pyramids, aerial shots… that they’d done an excellent job of creating that culture.


But I just didn’t feel “immersed” in it the way I did with the Wall and Wildling stuff (I’m lumping the far north all together for my choice, it all being colder than a witch’s teat).



Mine would have to be King’s Landing, and I didn’t even realise it until recently (paying such close attention to set pics, etc.).

The city has such a lived-in look and feel; it’s equal parts cramped and claustrophobic, vast and extensive. We can look at the lush gardens that held season four’s royal wedding, and the filthy Flea Bottom alleys in which Arya begged during “Baelor” (episode 109). These are clearly two unique and contrasting locales, yet they still feel part of the greater whole.

Admittedly, a lot of this is due to the pre-existing and incredible city of Dubrovnik (and Mdina), but the crew deserve their share of praise for drawing the viewer into this city – somewhat alluring, somewhat revolting, all King’s Landing.

Shit, I started and just went on and on. Sorry!

Hear Marko Roar

Hear Marko Roar:

In picking my favourite location as realized on the show, I actually prefer environments that do not convey too much other-worldliness. Feel free to disagree all you want, but I like my fantasy grounded in reality; anything else actually breaks my immersion easily.


Qarth is a case in point – that setting felt too “faux oriental” and fantastical to my taste (although it’s hard to put my finger on it, as the elements of the story depicted there didn’t help, either). The cities of Slaver’s Bay stand in contrast to that, and I am actually very pleased with Astapor, the landscape seen on Dany’s journey via Yunkai (Morocco was a good choice!), and, of course, Meereen, with its pyramids and the throne room. It feels as different from Westeros as it should be, and remains organic.

Another, completely different locale I also like is the Iron Islands (despite me having some issues with the costuming). The harbour, the coast, Pyke, including the interiors … all windy, salty, and cold. It’s well executed, though one could argue that’s not too hard to create when filming on the Irish coast, admittedly.

Previous Murders

The best – and worst – season of Game of Thrones


  1. I think the shots of the Wall are the most immediately immersive.

    King’s Landing does look great, and I’m fond of the bridges connecting the towers of Pyke. The ziggurats at Meereen are pretty boss, I admit, but there’s something about the impossibly tall and thin, massive and immobile unnatural glacier that separates the Seven Kingdom from the Beyond that really strikes a chord with me.

  2. The moment I saw the Titan of Braavos, I was immediately transported. On the one hand it is so fantastical, yet on the other it hearkens back to the Colossus of Rhodes. Since we’ll be seeing much more of Braavos, this season, that may change, but I hope not. I love the marriage of the fantasy element and an identifiable reality.

  3. Weirdly, for me it’s the opening credits. They’re just so magical to me. Everything from the smoking ruins of Winterfell, the bridge at Pyke, the Wall, the weirwood And its Red leaves, The harpy, all of it is so cool. Especially with the theme song.

  4. WeirwoodTreeHugger,

    Oh yes – definitely! And I love noticing when a new location is added!

    The city has such a lived-in look and feel; it’s equal parts cramped and claustrophobic, vast and extensive. We can look at the lush gardens that held season four’s royal wedding, and the filthy Flea Bottom alleys in which Arya begged during “Baelor” (episode 109). These are clearly two unique and contrasting locales, yet they still feel part of the greater whole.

    What Cian said – there is so much to choose from in KL. Of course much has to do with the city of Dubrovnik itself (not for nothing was it considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site – tho lots of good it did them when the Serbs started using it for target practice). The variety of sites in that city make KL.

    Looking in the future, I suspect Dorne and Braavos may be my choices as well after this year’s show.

  5. Good to read you again, MNK. As a lifelong mountain and snow person, the first few pages of the AGoT prologue (read in 2001), which was wonderfully adapted by HBO’s GoT in 2011, transfixed me immediately. The beautiful facade of falling snow, rolling landscapes, rustling, wary trees, night noises, with the Wall in the background….GRRM’s prose worked well for me.

    Royce paused a moment, staring off into the distance, his face reflective. A cold wind whispered through the trees. His great sable cloak stirred behind like something half-alive.

    “There’s something wrong here,” Gared muttered.

    Cold shivers shoot through me every time I read that, and especially during those first few minutes of GoT S1. Just amazing entertainment. Totally and immediately immersive. Cheers!

  6. Nymeria Warrior Queen

    I have to agree with you. That titan, as described in the books seemed almost a description of a distant wonder, something impossible huge and functional that left its gigantic remnants on this planet. And the way it has been depicted in the opening credits and in the CGI are just freakin’ magical!
    I loved Braavos with its canals and specific neighborhoods for Cat to roam. I am so pleased that we will be seeing more of it this coming season. The peeks at the filming show a distinct culture with its own look and feel.
    Arya’s adventures have always been the big draw for me in this mighty saga.
    Good question!

  7. I think it is KL because of the interior sets. Actually every exterior location seems to have been ‘cgi-ed’ up in amazing detail , landscapes are one of the best things about the show. KL has the throne room and the sept. Dragonstone has it’s ‘throne-room’ but that’s all, it’s kinda the same from Pyke (tho in that case there is not much to elaborate)… The Wall is great, but with the success of the show Castle Black needs to be larger, missing some structures from the book.
    In Essos , first season did not need much in the way of interiors.
    I thought Qarth’s ‘oriental’ exterior was fine, same was true of Astapor. The interiors of Qarth were ‘dressed’ well, but the ‘street’ scenes seemed a bit underwhelming. In Astapor I don’t think there was a single interior, was there?
    I felt Dany’s tent-throne was kind of scrawny considering the loot they had taken.
    Biggest disappointment was Meereen, after a knock your socks off exterior and city gates (they even seemed bigger than the books!)…. gee Dany’s throne room was really small and spartan. From the books I got the impression that Dany’s Meereen ‘throne-room’ was about 10 times the size of the throne room in KL. Other rooms in the Great Pyramid were opulent.
    Some of this has to do with the framing on the TV screen and the budget, but I would have loved to have seen the LTOR style of expansive wasted space.
    This gets to be to the point that the settings for GOT now seem to demand the ‘big screen’.

  8. Its got to be Kings Landing for me, having visited Dubrovnik 4 times (the last time a month ago, just missing the filming) and Mdina once I really feel like I know the locations. I have climbed the Jesuit Staircase a number of times and cannot wait to see it in Season 5, I have been trying to match the photos from the set with ones I took during my visits.

  9. Kaz of the Canals,

    I agree completely! I only visited Dubrovnik once but it made a huge impression on me. The show is really lucky to shoot in such a fantastic location. And now that I have been it’s so cool to see these locations I walked through (like the Jesuit staircase) being featured! I was really impressed by how they used the city for the show, but the city in itself is the most amazing thing! I also agree with what others have said about the Iceland shots, nothing says north of the wall like seeing that landscape!

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  11. Arya Dunyett,

    The only thing I don’t like about the show Titan is the shield. It almost suspends disbelief, since the thing is absolutely huge- where would they find the appropriate stones to balance it out like that? Other than that it looks amazing, well done to the CGI guys.

    I think the most immerssive location in the show has to be King’s Landing, after Blackwater and Baelor and the riot and just walking down the streets throughout the seasons, you really get the feel that you know the city. I’m hoping Braavos and the House of Black and White or Dorne will dethrone King’s Landing, though that would be admittedly hard.

  12. jentario: The only thing I don’t like about the show Titan is the shield. It almost suspends disbelief, since the thing is absolutely huge- where would they find the appropriate stones to balance it out like that?

    Are we sure that the titan is even made out of stone? Looked more like some kind of metal to me. If thats the case, the titan could be hollow as well, which makes the whole thing a lot more plausible.

  13. I love the Godswood at Winterfell, that first scene of it with Ned and his sword and Cat coming to tell him the fateful news was exactly how I pictured it from the books. Then maester Luwin’s death scene was another powerful moment there, I hope we see it in the next season!

  14. Oh that’s great news jentario!
    We didn’t see much of Riverrun but I thought the Hoster Tully funeral scene was very well done with the jetty, the fish sculptures and Riverrun in the background.

  15. Very difficult to choose from all the amazing locations that GoT has brought to life especially since the detail in almost all of them has been so gooooooood. But I have to go with the Beyond the Wall locations from season 2. The shots of all that vast icy emptiness made me feel as though I was Beyond the Wall, made me feel cold. And the fact that all of those beautiful shots had no CGI(or at least very little) in them made it that much more brilliant to watch. I have wanted to visit Iceland during the winter ever since.

  16. Dubrovnik has definitely become a place I would like to visit and Iceland has a rugged sort of beauty and still seems to retain open spaces (the UK is so overcrowded now and getting very closed in – sorry I’m letting real life and the way the countryside is disappearing encroach on my comments).

    Talk about fantasy becoming mainstream, Simplicity pattern 1347 has a definite Katniss/Khaleesi look about it. Don’t think I’ll be making it. Hallowe’en is not such a big deal (parties etc) in the UK. I’m not saying it’s totally ignored but Nov 5th is probably the bigger celebration.

  17. The Wall, north of the Wall, the Wildings, The Others aka The White Walkers , the Night’s Watch, Castle Black, Winterfell, hell anything with the North does it for me!

    As are my two favourite sayings “Winter Is Coming” and “The North Remembers”!

    Also direwolves!

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