HBO rolls a 20-sided dice and scores yet another killing blow with its acclaimed fantasy series
The battle for the throne of Westeros continues to heat up in this adaptation of the second novel in George R.R. Martin's series.
As the stakes are raised, and even more players enter the story, it becomes clearer that what we're witnessing is one of the most epic undertakings ever attempted on TV – a series that manages to bypass the likes of I, Claudius and The Wire in the unflinching demands it places on its audience. So make no mistake about it, Game of Thrones is no 'mere' genre show – it is serious storytelling on a remarkable scale that just happens to include giant wolves, ice zombies and baby dragons. Unmissable!
Picture: As with its predecessor, this latest Blu-ray boxset delivers ten absolutely spectacular AVC 1.78:1 encodes. As usual, by limiting the number of episodes on each of the five BD50 platters (three at most), HBO has managed to ensure that there's nary a chink to be found in the show's hi-def armour. Detailing is magnificent, colours are immaculate and edge delineation is impeccably resolved. In other words, it's pretty much perfect – good news for a show that is frequently so visually opulent.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: The quality of this set's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks make it clear just how much of the show's success rests on the shoulders of its sound designers, and while this season has seen a bit of a lift in the scope and scale of the series, it still has to produce an entire fantasy world on a TV budget. So, while the CG effects and exotic locations do a good job of selling the world to the audience, it's the scope and power of the 5.1 mixes that lend it an epic, cinematic feel. Currently the best-sounding TV series on Blu-ray.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: While there's no picture-in-picture breakdown of one of the episodes this time around, HBO's five-disc BD package still serves up a regal assortment of bonus features, headlined by a parade of cast and crew commentaries for nine out of the ten episodes (only Episode 5 misses out, while Episodes 9 and 10 get two commentaries each).
Each episode also features an interactive In-Episode Guide, allowing viewers to access more info about characters, locations and the history of Westeros. War of the Five Kings is another interactive guide, this one specifically dealing with the people and places linked to the five claimants to the throne.
Video-based extras include profiles for seven of the major characters from the actors who play them, 19 animated vignettes that expand on various histories and mythologies from the programme, a 31-minute featurette about how the producers created the epic Battle of Blackwater Bay on a network TV budget and an eight-minute featurette about the various religions depicted in the series. There's also a 24-minute roundtable with actors Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, Michelle Fairley and Liam Cunningham, moderated by the show's producers.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: Brilliant TV series. Brilliant Blu-ray boxset. What's not to love?
HBO Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £45 Approx, On sale March 4
HCC VERDICT: 5/5
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