TV-MA Dir: Various | HBO | 9h 21min
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?
Watching this first season in Ultra HD really reminded me of how beautifully-shot this series actually is. The increased resolution and color depth really give a new dimension to the show, thanks to the high dynamic range in this 4K offering. And 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 Dolby Atmos soundtrack has everything you’d expect and more. There was a Blu-ray set that offered an Atmos mix, so that’s been carried over to this 4K release. 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?
- Audio Commentaries – Eight episodes across three discs feature an audio commentary by various members of the cast and crew.
The rest of the supplements can all be found on Disc Four (Blu-ray):
- Character Profiles – Profiles for most, if not all, of the main characters are shown in this legacy supplement. One thing I’ve learned – don’t get too attached to any one character.
- Anatomy of an Episode – Episode six, “A Golden Crown” is dissected.
- Making of Game of Thrones – We get a nice, thirty minute overview of the first season of the show.
- From the Book to the Screen – Author George R.R. Martin offers some insight into this brief featurette.
- 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..
- The Night’s Watch – We meet the Night Watch soldiers, we get a tour of the Wall and so on.
- Histories and Lore – Some insight as to the show’s mythology is explored.
- Cast Auditions – Four total: Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo), Sophie Trner (Sansa Stark),
The Bottom Line
The first season of Game of Thrones set the bar pretty high and, as of this writing, it’s a standard that’s been maintained through the duration of the series. While there’s not necessarily a need for this set in 4K (especially with the series yet to end), I can’t fault HBO for bringing it out. It looks and sounds amazing and features a wealth of supplements.