TV on Blu-ray: “Game of Thrones:The Complete First Season”

Written by Television, TV on Blu-ray

Winter is coming. Until then, check out “Game of Thrones:The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray.

For almost a year I’ve heard people raving about how awesome HBO’s Game of Thrones is and why I should be watching it. I’m always leery of this kind of praise simply because the hype is too huge to live up too. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of medieval fantasy stories. Aside from the Lord of the Rings films, my interest in this genre is practically nil. Well damned if I wasn’t an idiot for waiting so long to watch Game of Thrones. This series, based on the bestselling series of books by George R. Martin, is phenomenal and it’s the best drama that HBO is producing at this time. That’s saying a lot considering that the network also airs the exceptional Boardwalk Empire and the overlooked Treme.

I didn’t just get sucked into watching Game of Thrones, I was consumed by it. After just ten minutes into the first episode I knew it was exceptional.  I had to watch another and another. The last time I got so caught up in a series that I had to force myself to bed so I wouldn’t be a frickin’ zombie in the morning was the first season of Downton Abbey. It took me just four days to get through the 10 episodes that make up season one, and that includes exploring most of the bonus features! I will reiterate: this is a top notch drama, one that takes its subject matter seriously, but is not so over the top that only fanboys can appreciate it. It’s cinematic, it’s grand, the acting is some of the best you’ll see all year, it’s bloody and it is full of as much nudity and scandalous sexual behavior than your average skinemax flick.

Most importantly, it is patient in its storytelling. As this is an epic tale that will be told over the course of four or five seasons, the writers and producers allow Game of Thrones to play more like a character drama than a sword swinging action adventure. You become so involved with the heroes of the Stark house, the swine of the Lannister house, the mysterious, tragic souls of the Night Watch, and the rise in power of Daenerys Targaryen, that as you progress through each episode, not only are you waiting in anticipation for the next hour, you’re also dreading that the season is drawing to a close and that you’ll have to wait for new episodes (which premiere in April). David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators, have made a believer out of me and I’m sure they’ll make a believer out of you, too, if you haven’t already started watching Game of Thrones.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite performance amongst the great actors. Peter Dinklage has deservedly received awards for his role of Tyrion Lannister. As the ridiculed brother of the Queen of the realm (played by an ice cold Lena Headey), Dinklage brings humor, cunning and pathos to a character I had a hard time not rooting for, despite the fact that he’s a member of the most despised family in the series. Another standout is Sean Bean as Ned Stark, the noble and moral Lord who’s called upon to be the king’s right hand. Bean has made a career out of portraying villains, so it’s great to see him be the hero and play it so well. My favorite character has become Arya, Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. A tomboy more at home with a sword and a bow than curtsies and royal courting, Arya challenges the male dominated beliefs and displays a real feminist attitude. She reminds me of a young Queen Elizabeth (the Cate Blanchett/Helen Mirren version), and something has me believing that she’s going to rise to become a real warrior princess by the end of the series.

Actually, the entire series has a deep feminist streak to it. Time and again, the most powerful characters on the show are women: Queen Sersei (Headey), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarek), who tames the rugged Drogo, and Lady Stark (Michelle Fairley). For all the machismo of swords and rugged living, these women, as well as Arya, hold all of the power.

Game of Thrones has just about something for everyone. Those used to the exceptional character dramas on HBO will be delighted; those interested in swordplay, lobbed off heads and scantily clad men and women will be thrilled, and those who enjoy just a taste of the supernatural, but not too much, will be elated. So much happens in just these ten episodes- drama, tragedy and intrigue – that I’m champing at the bit for season 2… and I don’t subscribe to HBO! AH!

HBO has an excellent track record with ther recent Blu-ray collections and Game of Thrones is no exception. Here are the highlights:

Complete Guide to Westeros – an interactive compendium of the noble houses and lands featured in season one, PLUS 24 exclusive histories of the Seven Kingdoms as told by the characters themselves done with animated illustrations that provide more information on the background of Game of Thrones. This feature is fucking cool.

In-Episode Guide – in-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters, locations, and relevant histories while each episode plays.

Anatomy of an Episode – an in-episode experience that explores the creative minds and colossal efforts behind episode six, “A Golden Crown.”

Making Game of Thrones an exclusive 30-minute feature including never-before-seen footage from the set and interviews from the cast and crew.

From the Book to the Screen – executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss along with author George R.R. Martin talk about the challenges of bringing Martin’s epic fantasy novel to life on HBO.

Hidden Dragon Eggs – find the hidden dragon eggs to uncover even more never-before-seen content.  – I have to admit, I wasn’t able to find the dragon eggs… yet.

Audio Commentaries – Seven audio commentaries with cast and crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Mark Addy, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Bryan Cogman, Harry Lloyd, Daniel Minahan and Alan Taylor.

Word of caution: If you’re new to the series I would hold off on listening to any commentaries until you’ve seen every episode. The cast and crew discuss the entire series in the commentaries, leading to the possibility of spoilers.