Game of Thrones Season 1 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Note: this part of the review is from the original Game of Thrones season 1 Blu-ray Review. It would be easy to get the misguided impression that HBO’s latest success, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a simple, geek-centric fantasy show. After all, whenever a TV show has kings, queens, knights and medieval themes (not to mention dragons and demons), most people assume it’s going to be hokey and cliché, unable to appeal to the general population that didn’t spend their high school years playing Dungeons and Dragons or reading fantasy books. But as HBO is so fond of reminding us, this is not TV, this is HBO and ‘Game of Thrones’ is not just a whimsical TV show about knights and dragons, it’s an incredible show with backstabbing politicians, complex characters, multiple storylines (all fascinating) and yes, dragons.
The show takes place in a world all of its own. A wall divides the land and on one side, there are seven kingdoms of Westeros that are ruled by a single king. But on the other side of the wall, there is nothing but mystery and rumors of zombie-like monsters. The crux of the show is the battle of wills between the Stark house and the Lannister house. The Starks rule the North and are more simple, country folk. The Lannisters live in the South and are the richest family in the realm. The show begins with Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) being asked to be the King’s hand (right hand man) and move from his home in the North to the capital in the South. The King is being manipulated by his Queen, Cersei Lannister, who is all kinds of evil. While in the capital, Eddard is constantly defending himself from the evil influences of the Lannisters. Everything starts to boil over when the King is killed on a hunting trip and the struggle for the throne ensues.
A simple rundown of a specific plotline doesn’t do the show much justice. Eddard has six children, each with their own storyline. The Lannisters consist of three siblings, their father and their son, again, each with their own development. Oh, and there’s a whole separate storyline involving Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who live on the other side of the river and are plotting to cross the river and conquer the entire realm.
But what makes the show so enjoyable is that it does such a great job of establishing situations and building characters that you care about. It doesn’t matter where the focus of the show is, every character is equally enjoyable and every plotline is equally fascinating. I was just as enthralled with Eddard’s investigation into the rightful heir to the throne as I was watching Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) drink and whore his way through the realm. Shows of this nature have a tendency to create empty characters that you don’t ever get to know, but ‘Game of Thrones’ manages to create numerous characters that each have their own complex back-story and complex character traits.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of ‘Game of Thrones’ and as much as I love the fantasy/medieval aspect of it, I got more wrapped up in the political drama. At times I felt like I was watching an episode of ‘The West Wing’ as each household was jockeying for position to take over the throne. HBO has a lot of great series under its belt, but ‘Game of Thrones’ has the potential to be its crowning achievement.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I’ll admit I was a little skeptical going into this 4K review of ‘Game of Thrones’ after watching the first season of ‘Westworld’ on 4K. For ‘Westworld’, there just wasn’t much of a difference and the improvements were marginal at best. ‘Game of Thrones’ offers a much better upgrade, but I might even hesitate to say this is night and day different from the Blu-ray. What it does well is clean up some of the banding and halo issues from the Blu-ray, giving the entire season a very crisp, clear and detailed look. Whether it’s fibers in clothing or pores in the skin, you’ll notice details that you wouldn’t otherwise see. The 4K gives ‘Game of Thrones’ a more natural look and is definitely an improvement over the previous Blu-ray releases. Upgrading is a no-brainer for fans of the show.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos tracks are the same from the first season reissue a few years ago.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does come with a Blu-ray of special features, which has almost all of the special features from the Blu-ray. What it doesn’t have are the In-episode Guides, which I enjoyed from the original Blu-ray set.