Game of Thrones Blu-ray disc set
The greatest fantasy TV show ever made?
Review Historically, TV generally doesn’t do ‘epic fantasy’ well: Merlin, Robin of Sherwood, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. All noble efforts, but ultimately flawed in vision and execution. Heck, outside of Jackson’s Rings trilogy, even the movies often fail to get the genre right.
Thrown in extras
But you don’t need to get far into this five disc Blu-ray set, to realise that HBO’s ambitious adaption of George RR Martin’s best-seller A Song of Ice and Fire is different. The fantastical may be played cautiously early on – if you have dragons it’s always best to keep them in reserve – but Thrones is epic from the outset.
And as the series progresses – and more of this astonishingly brutal world is revealed – the sheer scale of the drama quickly becomes apparent. Is it too early to call this the greatest fantasy TV show ever? You can slug that idea out in the comments.
Set design and attention to detail is lavish
Revisiting the show on Blu-ray, there’s no doubting the chutzpah of HBO’s endeavour. Episodes appear sharper and somehow deeper than when first broadcast on TV – the 1080p presentation throwing the often extraordinary production design into vivid relief.
Thrones just doesn’t look like regular telly. The lighting and framing is cinematic, sets have tangible weight and texture. There’s simply a massive amount of detail on screen, most obviously in all the fur. I doubt any other TV in history has used so much fur.
Fur, lots of fur
Atypically for a fantasy show, Thrones doesn’t trade heavily on visual effects. It’s dense, character-driven stuff, made memorable by inspired casting not flashy CGI, although green screen augmentation of sets and locations is skillful in the extreme.
Big audio dynamics
Sean Bean is magnetic as the brooding Lord Eddard Stark, while Mark Addy steals scenes as his corpulent King. In truth, pretty much the entire ensemble cast deserve kudos, with Peter Dinklage’s Emmy and Golden Globe winning turn a widely recognized standout. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters, they might not be around for long.
Only Jason Momoa can pull off this look
Not only does the show look terrific on Blu-ray, it also sounds excellent thanks to a rollicking DTS-HD master Audio 5.1 mix. Traditionally, soundtracks for TV content don’t enjoy quite the attention to detail lavished on movies, because time and budget preclude it.
But you’ll not notice any economy in the sound design here, thanks to pervasive atmospherics and immersive image placement. Dialogue also benefits from the improved dynamics, important for a show that’s so wordy. Of course, for Thrones fans (Thronies? Throners?), perhaps the most compelling reason to bag this set is the supplemental material, of which there’s plenty. The collection makes good use of Blu-ray’s inherent interactivity.
The Perilous Persuits of Mr. Bean
Seven of the ten episodes come with rambling, entertaining commentaries from an assortment of creators and stars, including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Bryan Cogman.
There are also copious features, including an excellent 30 minute making-of documentary that’s tightly cut and spoiler-packed, and an interactive guide to the show’s mythology. This digital crib sheet is useful for those that haven’t immersed themselves in Martin's written world, and goes some way to explaining the animosity between the Houses of Stark and Lannister.
Fast and furriest
You also get to learn more about the Night’s Watch, bone up on key characters, and get an insight into how the opening animation of Westeros – so wonderfully spoofed recently in The Simpsons – was created.
Overall, this lavish package comes heartily recommended. If you’re already a George RR Martin convert, you’ll need little encouragement to invest, but I’d also recommend this set to the HBO curious. If you’re more a fan of The Sopranos than swords and sorcery, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how involving the drama is. This is one box set well worth losing your head over. ®