The art of the opening credits sequence is one that is largely being preserved on premium cable these days, and most every HBO show has a memorable one. But the Game of Thrones map is something else entirely. An ever-changing overview of the show's vast, fictional world, the map was created to give new viewers an idea of the scope of that world and where everything is in relation to each other. When we zip over the ocean from King's Landing to Qarth or Yunkai, we get just how far away Daenerys is from her ultimate goal.
The best thing about the opening titles, though, is that they are constantly adding new locations as the show goes on. I've watched the show in a room full of people and seen them cheer the name of some new place. For those who have read the books, it's cool to see the visual impression of whatever castle we're visiting this week; for those who haven't, it's exciting and mysterious. What will happen in Pyke, we wonder? It sure looks crazy. This will be the biggest question facing the show for its fourth season premiere. What's gonna be on the map? After our four-part catch-up with the characters (find parts one, two, three and four here), let's look back at every location we've visited so far and see how they're doing.
Every episode always begins with King's Landing, the capital of Westeros, dominated by the Red Keep over by the water. It's the spot where Aegon Targaryen landed with his dragon when he conquered the continent hundreds of years ago, and it's where the King hangs out now. Right now that's Joffrey, who has been cooped up in the capital since civil war broke out in the first season, and has made it a generally unpleasant place to live, full of starvation and rioting and the like. King's Landing has always seemed kinda stinky and hot, and it's almost been set on fire on more than one occasion. Best to avoid as a place to settle down, I'd say. (Featured in every episode)
In the early seasons of Game of Thrones, Winterfell was what's up. Sure, it's cold, but it's pretty, it's dramatic, it's the capital of the North, and the Starks live there. It seems very warm and familial in those early scenes, before King Robert shows up and everything goes down the drain. Unfortunately, then Theon came back with a raiding party and burnt the castle down. Now, even though it remains on the ground, it's surrounded by pillars of black smoke, which is very cool and upsetting. Winterfell almost doesn't belong on the map at all, it's been that long since we've seen it in the show, though it seems like a permanent fixture. (Featured in every episode)
The final perennial location on this list is the coolest, literally and figuratively. Even someone who doesn't know anything about Game of Thrones thinks it's amazing that there's a giant magic wall of ice in it. Ain't no setting this thing on fire. What's new with The Wall? Oh, I dunno, it's doing the same thing it's been doing since time immemorial, standing there as a bulwark against horrifying and unimaginable evil. The Night's Watch hangs out here, and they've been short-staffed recently, which isn't great since the Wildlings beyond The Wall are looking to invade southwards. (Featured in every episode)
This fun volcanic island off the coast of King's Landing was once the ancestral homestead of the Targaryens, but since they were deposed, it's been occupied by Stannis Baratheon, and perhaps contributed to his rather gloomy demeanor, because it has never seemed like a fun place. It's a jagged, dark fortress atop an empty, rocky beach. Stannis has been licking his wounds there since losing the Battle of the Blackwater. It must be hard to conquer, or else you'd figure Tywin Lannister would have turfed him out and seized it by now. (Featured in episodes 11-13, 21-22, 29-30)
We haven't seen this kooky mountain castle since the first season, which is too bad, cause it's one of the best sets in the Game of Thrones universe. It's vaulted into the sky and has three-walled prisons that silently beg their inhabitants to jump out; and there's a central chamber with a trapdoor that serves as an epic means of execution. No one likes to go there because you have to walk a narrow mountain road and it's ruled by the legit bonkers Lysa Arryn, who still breastfeeds her eight-year-old Robin and is convinced everyone is out to get her. Littlefinger is angling to marry her, so maybe we'll get back there this season. (Featured in episodes 5-8)
These two identical castles, which cross a river called the Trident, are a strategically vital location for any Northern army looking to move south, which is why Robb Stark promised to marry a daughter of the Lord of The Twins, Walder Frey, to gain access. When he married someone else, they murdered him, his new wife, his mother and a lot of his men there in the Red Wedding. May we never see The Twins again, unless it's being burnt to the ground by vengeful Starks. Walder Frey sucks. (Featured in episodes 9, 29-30)
The capital of the Iron Islands. Pyke is rarely featured on the show outside of its main castle, where Lord Balon Greyjoy sits on a throne framed by a giant kraken. The Iron Islands are a windswept, bitter, treacherous place and the castle is pretty weird and dangerous-looking. It has a bunch of towers connected by rope bridges. Everyone from the Iron Islands is mean, so this is clearly not the best place to live. Balon is still there making trouble for the North, and his daughter Yara is trying to rescue his son Theon from the Boltons right now. (Featured in episodes 12-20)
Sure, Dragonstone is gloomy, Pyke is bleak and the Eyrie is vertigo-inducing, but all of those places are Caribbean resorts compared to Harrenhal. A colossal fortress built before the Targaryen conquest by a now-extinct noble family, it was scorched to smithereens by dragonfire and now stands a smoky ruin that curses whatever family it belongs to. Arya was stuck there for a long while in the second season, a prisoner of Gregor Clegane and Tywin Lannister. She witnessed all sorts of horrible torture and death before escaping. Everyone who didn't make it out got massacred. Nothing good ever happens in Harrenhal. (Featured in episodes 14-28)
Catelyn Stark's ancestral home seems like a very pleasant place. It's surrounded by rivers (shocking, I know) and it's the capital of the Riverlands, and the seat of House Tully. But it's been through a lot since the show began, trading between the Lannisters and Starks during the civil war. Catelyn's dad Hoster Tully died, and Catelyn herself was murdered, with her brother Edmure married to a Frey and presumably kept prisoner at the Twins. Catelyn's uncle Brynden is still kicking around though. Maybe he can get back there? Or is it in the hands of the enemy now? Also, doesn't one of the towers look like a big lampshade? (Featured in episodes 23-28)
This is the first location on the eastern continent that we visit, one of the nine free cities across the narrow sea, where Daenerys and Viserys lived in exile before her marriage to the Dothraki Khal Drogo. It seemed very nice and opulent, but we only really saw Illyrio's manse, so who knows really. I wonder if we'll ever get back to Pentos. What happens in Pentos, apart from marriage arrangements? According to the Wiki of Ice and Fire, there's lots of spice trade and square brick towers. Sounds exciting! (Featured in episode 1)
This was on the map for most of the first season and some of the second. A giant expanse of hutches, it's big enough to hold every single member of the Dothraki race and their horses. It functions as a kind of "safe zone" for the warlike people, who are not allowed to wield weapons within its borders. We actually spent a relatively brief amount of time here (the most memorable moment was when Khal Drogo poured molten gold all over Viserys' head to kill him) but it served to represent the vast Dothraki Sea, the largely empty plains controlled by those horse-centric folks. It's hard to imagine Daenerys returning to Vaes Dothrak anytime soon. Bad memories of losing the ol' husband. (Featured in episodes 2-13)
Ugh, Qarth sucked. Nobody misses Qarth. That was a lot of sitting around in finely-arranged rooms while nothing happened, even though it was an epic place to look at. Go away, Qarth. (Featured in episodes 14-20)
Stop one on Daenerys' free the slaves tour, Astapor was the site of her setting an evil slaver on fire and marching out of there with a giant army. "Bricks and blood built Astapor," the old saying goes. Excuse me while I leave and never come back, thanks. (Featured in episodes 21-24)
Stop two for Daenerys, a city that trains prostitutes and is guarded by mercenaries. Daenerys bought out the mercenaries, took down the city fast, and opened its gates, with most of the imprisoned people marching out to join her cause. Later, Yunkai. (Featured in episodes 25-30)
There are so many places in the world of Game of Thrones we haven't seen on the map yet. For sure there'll be Meereen, the third stop on Daenerys' tour of the east. Quite possibly we'll get a sight of the Dreadfort, where Roose Bolton lays his head, or Highgarden, the headquarters of House Tyrell. There's also the Southern region of Dorne (capital: Sunspear), the Lannister capital Casterly Rock, the many locations beyond the Wall (which we will probably never glimpse, since we haven't up to now), and the ancient capital of Oldtown, which is where the Maesters get trained. The location I'm excited to see the most, though, is the free city of Braavos, where Arya's badass sword trainer Syrio Forel was from. Why's that? Because it features a landmark called the "Titan of Braavos," a colossal statue of a warrior holding up a sword. And we're definitely going there this year, per this image from the trailer:
Picture THAT thing on the world map, and then get even more excited for this season.