“Kill the boy, and let the man be born.”
The good news is, that after about two years, I have finally finished reading the first book of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. The bad news is that I now have five or six books remaining. Yes its true, I really do love this series. This past February I even went to our local IMAX and watched two episodes in the format, even though I bought the blu ray.
Note: This review WILL contain some minor spoilers to previous seasons of Game of Thrones. There will be no spoilers for this current season.
There is no exaggeration when I say there are many storylines in the show. Instead of discussing every single one of them and talking about their pros and cons, I will instead discuss the season as a whole.
The Wall (Jon)
Kings Landing and the High Sparrow (Cerci)
The Spider and his Web (Sir Jorah)
The Lord of Light (Stannis)
The Man with No Face (Arya)
Each of these storylines are incredible and were highly engaging, personal favorite being the High Sparrow. The show is able to juggle these plots with expert precision while still leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat waiting to see what will happen next. The writing and dialogue is delicious as a medium rare steak that’s been marinating for days.
Production design is on another level of wonderful, with each episode getting around six to seven million each costume, set and location looks and feels lived in, giving it a realistic quality. The true highpoint of the show would be the Battle of Hardhome, with an incredible thirty-minute sequence culminating in one of the more cinematic battle sequences in television history. Hey Walking Dead fans, want to see what actual scary zombies look and act like? Take a few notes from Game of Thrones and get back to me.
If I had some complaints with the season, it would be only small things. Some of the visual effects range from good, to “there is no way that’s in 1080p”. Also, the show does not really flow and work as well in its “week to week” format when shown on HBO. While this has been a minor problem in years past, this season in particular works fantastically as binge watch (3-4 episodes) marathon format.
“In the name of Renly of House Baratheon, first of his name, rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. I, [SPOILER], sentence you to die. Do you have any last words?”
Presented in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio, the world of Westeros comes back to life with a wonderful transfer from HBO. I didn’t do a review of season 4 last year, but I found the video quality to be…lacking. That’s not to say it didn’t look good and to be technical I didn’t see any issues that usually come with blu ray, but something about it just looked off. It could possibly be from the source of the shoot, or that HBO created a new encode to put all ten episodes on four discs instead of five, with bonus features included that could have impacted the quality. I can’t definitively confirm it, but it was a nagging feeling in the back of my head. So how does this season look? Damn great. Details on clothing and faces are distractingly good with the show having lush colors, with harsh winter storms. I didn’t notice any crush, aliasing, or other such issues. HBO has continually put out grade A presentations, and this one is no exception.
“What will we find when we strip away your finery?”
Note: The audio defaults to a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It is highly recommended to choose the Dolby Atmos track in the main menu.
Oh yes, Game of Thrones is now the first show to be mixed using Dolby Atmos (7.1.4 with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core) encode, and how does it sound? Ear shattering. I currently have a 5.1 sound system that is great but Mad Max: Fury Road made me seriously consider upgrading to a 7.1, and now I’m fully convinced I need a 7.1 sound system. Swords clash with blistering highs and the thundering lows of giants stomping on the undead in a mix that will shake the ground. Its not just the loud moments that make this mix great, its also the quiet moments that fully enrapture the listener into the world of Westeros, with environmental sounds coming from all sides with dialogue never being drowned out and fully prioritized. LFE usage hits like a shield to the chest, with a full workout coming from your subwoofer. HBO really did step it up this year with a new mix, and in no way does it disappoint in the slightest.
Packaging and Bonus Features
“He was the blood of the dragon, but now his fire has gone out. And now his watch is ended.”
Game of Thrones always had quite stellar packaging from 5 discs sets to Packaging that has been a real showpiece on ones shelves. This years set is similar in line with Season 3’s set, with a plastic clear cover. While Season 3 had a white box, this year has a gold thick cardboard box that feels great and is scratched up making it feel great in the hand. It also stands out great against previous seasons sets.
Bonus Features on the other hand are stellar and are all in HD. Aside from commentaries, which are bountiful and add much to the season behind the scenes and what it was like for everyone on set, there are some multiple per episode. The bonus material, aside from commentaries and in episode guides, total just under three hours in length making it one of the lesser amounts compared to previous seasons, but all are great and worthwhile. Personal favorite are the Histories and Lore where actors from the show, while in character, tell stories from the past and huge details about previous battles, religion or cities. Fantastic stuff.
In Episode Guide
Audio Commentaries: Episode 1 The Wars to Come, Episode 2 The House of Black and White
In Episode Guides
Audio Commentaries: Episode 3 High Sparrow, Episode 4 Sons of the Harpy, Episode 5 Kill the Boy
· Disc Three
In Episode Guides
Audio Commentaries: Episode 6 Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Episode 7 has no commentary track unfortunately.
Episode 8 Hardhome features has three commentaries with:
Director Miguel Sapochnik, Stunt Coordinator Rowley Irlam, Kit Harington, and Kristofer Hivju
Visual Effects Producer Steve Kullback, Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Bauer, and Producer Chris Newman
Director of Photography Fabian Wagner and Camera Operators Sean Savage and David Morgan
In Episode Guides
Episode 9 The Dance of Dragons has two commentaries:
1. Director David Nutter, Peter Dinklage and Iain Glen
2. Executive producer Bernadette Caulfield, Director of Photography Rob McLachlan, and Camera Operators Ben Wilson and David Worley
Episode 10 Mother’s Mercy
A Day in the Life (26min)
New Characters/New Stories (8min)
Anatomy of an Episode: Mother’s Mercy (30min)
The Real History Behind Game of Thrones (40min total)
Histories and Lore (44 min total):
The Seven Pointed Star
The Faith Militant
The Faceless Men
The Lord Commanders
The Dance of Dragons
Deleted Scenes (8min)
Overall (not an average)
HBO continues its tradition of an incredible show and a great season to boot. This blu ray release is one of exceptional quality and really shows how to do a proper release with a fantastic boxset. Boasting a reference level video transfer and theatrical level audio mix, with nearly three hours of non-commentary bonus features, this is a set to proudly have on your shelf.