Plot: What’s it about?
While King Baratheon (Mark Addy) sits on the Iron Throne, the realm of Westeros is in a constant struggle for power. The land is rich with families who believe their line deserves to rule, even if it means generations of conflict to do so. Baratheon’s closest ally, known as the King’s Hand, has recently died and rumors abound of foul play. Knowing that enemies lurk throughout the land, perhaps even in his own castle, Baratheon reaches out to the one man he knows he can trust. That man is Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), who fought at his side to secure the Iron Throne and now is tasked to help protect it. Stark wishes to remain at home with his family, but he knows if he doesn’t stand by Baratheon, he is certain to fall. As forces align to assault the Iron Throne and claim it as their own, the stakes rise and the bloodshed is immense. With multiple usurpers plotting to pounce on the seat of the power, will Barentheon hold his throne, or will a new faction rise to power?
Based on the popular book series A Song of Fire and Ice, Game of Thrones was an instant smash success and gained massive acclaim from viewers and critics alike. Game of Thrones deserves the praise, as it offers up the kind of fantasy world that grownups have longed to experience. Unlike most fantasy productions, this one is aimed at an adult audience, with graphic content, a focus on characters, and rich storytelling elements. And while many fantasy projects tend to lean on the more fantastic elements, Game of Thrones is rooted in the brutal nature of survival. You’ll see some mystical elements at work, but this is not all about dragons and magic, it is about people and their motivations. As the title suggests, the realm of politics is a prime ingredient and in a world like this one, the struggle for power isn’t based on mere words. There is a lot going on in Game of Thrones, but we’re brought up to speed in a concise, entertaining fashion.
Author George R.R. Martin refused to allow anyone but HBO to adapt his work and his choice was a wise one. The series is just incredible in terms of scope and attention to detail. The production design is spectacular, from the costumes to the locations, with a remarkable sense of depth in every scene. One downfall for some fantasy productions is that the world doesn’t seem alive and lived in, but that is never an issue here. The cast is also impressive, with Sean Bean in the lead role and a deep, talented supporting cast to back him up. Bean’s performance is powerful and provides the engine that drives the series, but the cast around him also rises to the call here. Peter Dinklage in specific stands out, with some scene stealing moments that earned him immense praise and a haul of critical awards. Game of Thrones is populated with countless memorable characters, all brought to life in dynamic fashion by one of the deepest casts in a long while. If you have even a casual interest in fantasy or just flat out great television, Game of Thrones is simply not to be missed.
Video: How does it look?
Though I’ve only caught one episode on air, Game of Thrones looks simply stunning on Blu-ray. I think we’re at the point now where HD programming is so mainstream both on digital cable and via Blu-ray that we can say what truly looks good and what is akin to taking one’s breath away. Suffice it to say, this is the latter. The world of Westeros looks amazing with the entire spectrum being so adequately represented that it’s nearly beyond words. Black levels are rock solid, contrast is amazing (though it varies, but this isn’t a fault of the transfer). Details and textures look so amazingly lifelike that felt I could reach through the screen and touch what was on the other side. I could go on, but if you’re looking for, literally, a perfect-looking transfer you need look no further.
Audio: How does it sound?
With the show looking so amazing, it might be hard to top that with the sound. Nope. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has everything you’d expect and more. There are big, bold examples of sound but what most interested me were the little nuances throughout. I’m speaking of things like the wind rustling through the leaves, the sound of the ocean, the sound the sword makes and so forth. Of course dialogue is rich and robust, though some of it is hard to understand. Surrounds come into play often immersing the viewer in the experience. There’s a very active 360 degree sound field that’s particularly engaging. Again, this is as good as it gets.
Supplements: What are the extras?
HBO might be hit and miss with some of their other releases, but certainly they know where their bread is buttered with Game of Thrones. This set features seven audio commentaries and true fans will love the attention to detail on every one. The one worth mentioning is George R.R. Martin’s individual endeavor as he certainly gives fans what they’re after. Each episode also has an “In Episode Guide” that gives a few facts and tidbits about the episode being watched. There’s a link to the “Complete Guide” which links to “The Complete Guide to Westeros” and that gives a wealth of information. Speaking of which…we get pretty much what we’d expect from something with this title including all the biographical information on the characters, locales and even the histories. Two dozen mini-featurettes are also featured that go into some further detail on anything and everything that we’d want or need. We follow that up with some Character Profiles that gives us the low down on fifteen of the major characters as described by the actors who portrayed them. “Anatomy of an Episode: A Golden Crown” is like Warner’s “Maximum Movie Mode” in which we get a picture-in-picture feature with some cast and crew interviews, some behind the scenes footage and more. I’m sure die-hard fans would love each of the dozen episodes to contain this, but alas…”From Book to Screen” features producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as they explain the challenges of bringing the novel to the screen and adapting the book. “The Night’s Watch” is just that, we meet the Night Watch soldiers, we get a tour of the Wild and so on. “Creating the Show Open” contains an overview of the development of the series’ title sequence. “Creating the Dothraki Language” is just that – creating a language that doesn’t exist in our world. Finally you embark on a quest to find some hidden dragon eggs, which lead to more content. As of this writing, I still haven’t found them all.