Fans of HBO's Game of Thrones love the show's compelling political intrigue and vast web of character storylines, but the Medieval fantasy series - based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels written by George R.R. Martin - really comes alive on the small screen thanks to its tangible sets and backdrops realized through real-life geographical regions.
A previously-released featurette for Thrones' upcoming fourth season highlights the Iceland-based portion of the shooting process, but in a newly-unveiled preview it becomes Belfast's turn to get its time in the spotlight. Indeed, a healthy chunk of Game of Thrones - the majority in previous seasons - is filmed around that city/region of Northern Ireland, including scenes that unfold atop (or beneath) The Wall in Westeros; hence the appearance of Rose Leslie (Ygritte) in the behind-the-scenes footage teasing the Wildlings' mass assault.
As Leslie points out, the harsher weather conditions in Ireland really do make it all the easier to get into character. Similarly, location manager Robert Boake's interview here - about how the show's production team built ramshackle sets and filmed amidst the unspoiled foliage of Belfast - calls attention to just how much time, money, and effort is poured into this series. For good, too, since that approach imbues the show's universe with a sense of realism that, frankly, would be impossible to capture otherwise.
Games of Thrones may be more expensive than ever to produce, but HBO's investment should payoff handsomely, both financially and (more importantly for our purposes) from an artistic perspective. Not only will Season 4 deal with some major developments in the series' overarching narrative - not least of all ripple-wave effects from the (no pun) game-changing event that concluded season 3 - but it will set the stage for what is being planned as the second half of the entire show (i.e. the final 3-4 seasons).
Indeed, by the time season 4 draws to a close, the playing field will be even smaller, based on the promise that this season will see some major trimming of the ranks - quite the boast, considering how death-happy this show's been in the past. And even those who have read Martin's hefty source material might not foresee all the twists and turns that lie ahead this season.
Game of Thrones season 4 begins airing on HBO on April 6th, 2014.