Like many of you, I purchased my copy of Game of Thrones Season One on Blu-ray when they were released. However, trying to be a good husband and avoid spoilers for my wife who hasn’t finished the first book yet proved to make it difficult for me to sit down and watch them. Tonight, I finished.
A little background on my experience with George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire before I jump into this review. I discovered him in my Junior year of high school (2002-2003) and have read and re-read the series numerous times (in fact, I am due for a re-read again soon). So I was ecstatic when the show was announced. But lacking easy access to HBO, I was forced to the sidelines for a lot of it, and this viewing of the Blu-ray discs was my first time watching episodes 5-10.
Let me say this – being familiar with what happens in the series in no way prepares you for what’s about to happen on the screen. In fact, I think it makes it worse. I was in tears at the end of episode 9 and the beginning of episode 10. (I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in this review. You’ll thank me later.) It was absolutely heart-wrenching to watch. Two hours after viewing that scene, I still feel like I was punched in the gut.
But this isn’t going to be a review of the first season. There are plenty of other places you can get that, and I’m sure you don’t want to read another nerds gushing review of it. Instead, this will be a review of the special features included on the Blu-rays themselves, minus the disc exclusive to those who purchased it at Wal-Mart because I haven’t gotten through that one myself.
First off, these things are frakking gorgeous. From the outside of the box to the individual discs, to how they look on my TV, Blu-ray is definitely how this show was meant to be viewed. The title screens were easy to navigate once I got used to the small delay between hitting the button and getting a response on screen.
I’ve never been one to enjoy commentary while watching a show or a movie, beyond the Zombie commentary on River City Rumble (though that is a completely different story), so I have yet to touch these. But if they are anywhere near as well put together as the rest of the show, they might in fact be worth it.
Coming from a background in the books, I found the in-episode guide more of a distraction than anything else, but I can absolutely see where those coming into the series for the first time would be able to benefit from it highly. There are lots of names and places, both familiar and exotic, as well as events happening at such a rapid pace that one could easily find themselves a little bit overwhelmed at times. The feature is well designed, and hides itself when not being used.
Where the bonus features really shined for this particular nerd was “The Complete Guide to Westeros,” an interactive history of the setting and major players and noble families. Each selection provides you an animation of the events in question as well as a full narration from the show’s cast. I love, love, love this feature, and it is perfect for anyone looking to brush up on their knowledge of the setting or as an entry point for someone wanting to learn a little bit more before jumping in to the books.
I have to say though, that the best part of the Blu-rays for me wasn’t anything that was included as bonus content. Instead, it was the price tag that they carried. I picked mine up for $35 at Wal Mart while waiting for our car to get an oil change one day. I have paid more for complete seasons of shows on DVD that didn’t have half of the care put into them as this particular series did.
That factor alone makes them worth picking up for anyone, from the most hardcore fan to the most casual of watchers. Even if you can’t find them at the store, you can still pick them up at Amazon for major savings. Pick them up and give them a watch. You will not be disappointed. But do it quickly.
Because after all, Winter is Coming.