Game Of Thrones Season 1 (Blu-ray)

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.

Sean Bean in Game of Thrones

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.

Game of Thrones

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.

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones

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.

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

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.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video:  Anytime you sit down to watch an HBO show on Blu-ray, you know you’re in for the best in audio and video quality.  The HD transfer is beautiful and each scene comes through wonderfully.

Audio: Same can be said for the audio, with equal care given to the dialogue as well as the impressive surround mix.

Commentary on seven episodes:  After I was done watching the first season of ‘Game of Thrones’, I was craving more, so these commentaries are a nice way to revisit the first season and learn a little more about the show.  Each commentary is a mix of actors and creators, but the one I’ll draw attention to ‘The Pointy End’ from George R.R. Martin, who wrote the series of books (‘Song of Fire and Ice’) the show is based on.

In-episode guide/The Complete Guide to Westeros: Each episode has a feature that allows you to select an interactive gudie/map that offers more details about each episode.  This ranges from maps to full on featurettes exploring the overall themes of the show.  And the featurettes are narrated by the actors in character, so it’s a nice little addition.  Honestly, this is an incredible use of the technology and capabilities of Blu-ray and allows you to dive deeper into a show than ever before.  Fans of the show will want to block off a couple of days to go through all of this footage.

George R.R. Martin on the set of Game of Thrones

Character Profiles (30:57): 15 different actors show up to profile their different characters.  It’s an interesting featurette, but at just over 2 minutes a pop, might not be worth the effort.

Anatomy of an Episode: A Golden Crown: The sixth episode gets a very detailed deep dive, including a picture-in-picture track with interviews and making-of featurettes.  After this, you’ll know everything there is to know about what went into making this specific episode.

Making of Game of Thrones (29:57): For those that don’t want to sift through The Complete Guide to Westeros and just want a quick summary, this is for you.  It’s a nice rundown of what the other featurettes cover, but it’s surprisingly informative for being 30 minutes long.

From Book to the Screen (5:03): I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, but I’m pretty sure everything here is straight from the featurette above.

The Night’s Watch (7:47): We get to tour the wall and get a closer look at the soldiers of the Night’s Watch.  I think this would have been better served as part of a larger documentary, but it was nice to explore this storyline further.

Creating the Show Open (4:57): I don’t think I’ve seen a featurette about opening title sequences, but that’s exactly what this is.

Creating the Dotharki Language (5:03): I had flashbacks to the Elf language from Lord of the Rings, but this looks closer at the creating of the Dotharki language.

There are also a number of Easter Eggs for those that like to search

OVERALL 4.5
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