These are interesting times for HBO's epic fantasy. With author George R.R. Martin still holed up somewhere beavering away on the sixth novel in the series (The Winds of Winter, release date TBC), the TV adaptation hasn't just caught up with the books, but in its sixth season is having to chart its own course. So how is the show faring without the luxury of one of Martin's novels to draw upon?
As it happens, it appears to be in fine shape. Without getting into too many specifics – because there's nothing Game of Thrones fans hate more than spoilers – this new run finds the pace quickening now that the end is in sight (HBO has confirmed that only two more seasons are planned). Suddenly, storylines that had seemed to be stuck in place spinning their wheels are being brought to a close.
This feeling is compounded by the decision to bring back characters who have been absent from the last few seasons. Wondering what Bran Stark has been up to North of the Wall, or what's been happening on the Iron Islands since our last back visit all those years ago? Well, now you'll get to find out.
The escalation in momentum is balanced out by the quality of the storytelling. While there's no guarantee that Martin's final novels will follow the same path, the choices the show's producers make feel entirely in keeping with what has gone before.
Once again, it all leads up to a spectacular finale. Here, there's an epic battle between two armies that wouldn't look out of place in a bigscreen blockbuster and, once again, sees Game of Thrones redefining the notion of what can be achieved in a television series.
Picture: As with the earlier releases, this latest season of looks outstanding presented at 1.78:1 in hi-def. Colours are frequently rather subdued, but still appear faithful, while detailing is absolutely immaculate and contrast is excellent. Limiting the release to just two or three episodes to a disc once again helps negate potential compression issues.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: For the most part, the set's Dolby Atmos tracks are content to use the additional height layer for discrete atmospheric effects. However, this all changes with episode nine's mega battle, where aggressive and impactful sound design employs every trick in the book (and every speaker in your setup) to ground you in the heart of the action. Just be aware that the discs default to lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 for some retro reason.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: The pricey Blu-ray boxset features chat-tracks and interactive In-Episode Guides for every episode, three behind-the-scenes documentaries, deleted scenes and 18 new Histories & Lore vignettes. No real surprises then, but still top-notch stuff.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: At the risk of repeating ourselves again, this is another brilliant Blu-ray boxset for HBO's crown jewel.
Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season, HBO Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £50
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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