Game of Thrones Season 1 (Blu-ray)

“He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”

Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones introduces us to the world of Westeros, a land engulfed in political tumult with powerful forces vying for a shot at sitting on the legendary Iron Throne. Caught in the middle is Ned Stark (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) a reluctant politician, but world-class deliverer of decapitations and sarcastic retorts. While he navigates the back-stabbings and betrayals in the capital, his bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) heads to the fabled Night’s Watch, an enclave of knights who have dedicated their lives to protecting Westeros from the terrors of the lands far to the north. And across the Narrow Sea, an exiled princess and her barbarian stud of a betrothed hatch their own schemes.

This tinderbox is set to blow.

I can’t get too deep into the story, since it would be a disservice to anyone unfamiliar with the narrative. As someone who never read the books, I went into the show as a full-on noob and emerged enthralled with the storyline. Or rather storylines; very few hourlong dramas pack this much storytelling into their runtime. Game of Thrones truly is epic fantasy and, to the credit of HBO and the series’ showrunners, the execution lives up to the weighty content.

This is television after all, so budget limitations exist, but I defy you to find a more cinematic series now or maybe ever. Rome (another complex HBO undertaking) comes close, but on geography alone Game of Thrones has it beat. The action shifts from snow-blasted wastelands and arid deserts to ornate halls, all within the span of one hour! Thankfully, there is high-quality personnel attached to the geography, making the second unit’s job infinitely more enjoyable; no matter where the cameras are rolling, terrific stuff is going down.

Game of Thrones sports a fantastic ensemble of actors, all with delectable characters to chomp into. This is critical to the show’s success, as the plot is so serpentine anyone flubbing their duties will get exposed. From the legendary Sean Bean and Golden Globe award-wining Peter Dinklage (Elf) to a bevy of newcomers, this is television’s greatest cast.

It wasn’t long after the slow-moving, exposition-heavy first episode that I connected with these characters and their stories. Not soon after that, I realized nobody is safe in this world. Nobody. If I have one complaint, it’s that the audience should be way of emotional investment in these people, since their shocking deaths are most likely assured.

Look, I know I’ve been coy with plot elements, but believe me: if this kind of stuff interests you — sweeping fantasy, sporadic sword, shield violence, and full-sail imagination — then Game of Thrones is the best…well, game in town. I am hopelessly entangled with the goings-on of Westeros’ inhabitants and breathlessly anticipate the upcoming second season. What better way to prepare than re-watching the first?

HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) is yet another point in the win column. The visual and audio specifications are perfect, providing reference quality all around. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded high definition transfer delights, generating stunning imagery and transmitting the majesty and grandeur of this world with precision. There is much to staple your eyeballs to, from the costumes and set design to Peter Dinklage’s hair, and this sterling treatment serves them all well. Perfect score for a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that pounds the memorable series score and disperses the sound effects appropriately to create an encompassing aural experience.

A hefty number of extras, although a few demerits for the fact that many of these could have previously been viewed as part of HBO’s electronic press kits: audio commentaries on seven episodes by cast and crew; featurettes on the Night’s Watch, the adaptation process, the creation of the remarkable show open and the Dothraki language; 15 brief character profiles; anatomy-of-an-episode (Blu-ray exclusive); an in-episode text-only guide offering more info on the mythology (Blu-ray exclusive); and, finally, the humongous Blu-exclusive “Complete Guide to Westeros,” which you can spend a weekend with boning up on the source material.

Okay, I have one other small complaint. Similar to Rome, the large-scale battle sequences are completely side-stepped. Yes, I know, budget constraints and all, but I sure hope we get some more action in Season 2, considering the tagline is “War is Coming.”

The Verdict

Me oge oqet oskikh (Dothraki for “He slaughtered a sheep yesterday.”) I couldn’t find the equivalent for “Not Guilty.”


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