‘Game of Thrones’ DVD Offers a King’s Ransom of Extras
When you’re creating a whole new world on camera, there’s no point in not loosening the purse strings as much as you can. In that same spirit of expenditure, it only makes good financial sense to shell out the cash for the DVD and Blu-ray release of Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season.
In the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the struggle among nobility has gone on for years and years. With every family looking out for their best interests when it comes to the Iron Throne, few can be trusted. When the current Hand of the King passes away unexpectedly, King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) summons old friend Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) of Winterfell to serve in the position. With little love for the king’s overly privileged queen (Lena Headey) and her brothers (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage), Stark and his wife (Michelle Fairley) are hesitant to realign their clan with the crown, but duty calls. Even with an honorable man as the Hand, there are still many factors working against the king both from within his sovereignty and across the sea, as the scion (Harry Lloyd) of a former ruling family prepares to take back his title by marrying off his sister (Emilia Clarke) to a prominent chieftain (Jason Momoa) with an army at his beck and call. Meanwhile, as winter approaches, a threat from the north looms ever closer…
In a land that has the look of Azeroth, Narnia or Middle-earth; it only makes sense to cast someone who’s been to one of them. Bean, the man formerly known as Boromir, looks spot-on as the wizened, wise soldier called into service while his spouse and eldest sons, both legitimate (Richard Madden) and illegitimate (Kit Harington) take up other responsibilities. The Lord of the Rings star can still rock a tunic and blade, but his less physical attributes are what count here as he tries to talk some sense into his comrade of the past, who’s spent decades making questionable decisions. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and even heavier is his beer belly, with robust Addy a joy to watch as the warrior turned king whose days of conquest are limited to bedchambers outside his marriage. Don’t feel too bad for his neglected wife, though.
Headey is wicked good as the scheming shrew Queen Cersei, preparing her snotty son (Jack Gleeson) for the day when he takes over the operation. It could be sooner than anyone thinks given her husband’s lifestyle, but not soon enough according to her twin brother, with Coster-Waldau fine as the conniving Jaime Lannister. Dwarf actor Dinklage is the most fun part of the cast as their diminutive sibling Tyrion, known unaffectionately by nicknames like “Halfman” or “The Imp,” who adopts a laissez-faire attitude to his family’s grasp for power in favor of whores and drink. As for what’s happening on the other side of the world, Clarke is worth watching as the season progresses as the princess who starts to get a sense of her own ambition for what could be, surpassing even that of her own arrogant brother, who loudly claims to anyone who’ll listen that he deserves to rule the land.
With all the bastard children and complicated lineages and histories, you need a genealogical chart to keep track of all the important families in this saga, whether their sigil — coat of arms — be a wolf, stag, lion, dragon or otherwise. As if the little cheat sheet included in the box set weren’t enough, multiple special features give layer upon layer of insight into the world created by George R.R. Martin in the literary A Song of Fire and Ice. There’s not a hint of artifice in the show that combines the anachronistic cursing of HBO’s own Deadwood with the bed-hopping habits of lords and ladies in Showtime’s The Tudors and the underrated Starz series Camelot. But, did any of those shows offer a beheading, a race of undead creatures and a 10-year-old thrown out a window, all within their pilot episode?
The DVD offers “Making of” tidbits about the creation of the show, as well as audio commentaries, character profiles, the linguistics of the Dothraki people and a look into The Wall, the colossal barrier between civilized men and the wildlings who live in darkness. It’s well worth the extra price to go in for the Blu-ray, if not for the visual components enhancing the aesthetic wonderland HBO has constructed, then for the encyclopedia available for every detail of the series, matched by the episode-by-episode guide and the many dragon eggs — a medieval twist on Easter eggs — you can seek out for even more entertainment. And, what better time than now to brush up on the facts, with a new season on the horizon, picking up where the first in Martin’s series left off with book two, A Clash of Kings.
If you’re not interested in an intense, unapologetically gory take on the fantasy genre, Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season is definitely not for you. While it is certainly one of those shows which takes time and effort to invest, the pay-off is undoubtedly worth as much as a dragon egg. Just be sure to start at the beginning and don’t take on the second season too soon, or you’ll be spouting Robert’s favorite interjection: “Seven hells!”
Catch season two of “Game of Thrones” premiering on April 1 on HBO. For more information visit http://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones
Season rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
DVD rating: 4 out of 4 stars