There’s nothing quite like the wonderful smell of physical media. There’s the tactile pleasure of ripping off the plastic wrap, the feel of the material in your hands, the content of the DVDs or Blu-ray disks themselves, but the most noteworthy thing is the smell. There’s a wonderful ink and plastic smell that comes along with unboxing the Game of Thrones Season 3 BRD/DVD boxed set that’s hard to put into words, but it smells like adventures waiting to be relived.
Say what you want to about HBO or Game of Thrones, the two work together to put out top-notch physical media. The exterior is a great, glossy cardboard with fun details of swords on the front and Iron Throne on the back, made to look like weathered stone. The slip cover holding the whole kit together is see-through plastic with the image of a dragon’s shadow on it, so that when the box is on the shelf, it looks like a dragon flying over a stone monument. It’s a great touch.
The Blu-Ray disc is a gate fold affair decorated with some great photos of the cast in blue/orange lighting. Tyrion is on one side, and Cersei is on the opposite. Inside the gates as you unfold the case from those two, you get Jon snow and Daenerys, and inside of them you get Robb Stark and Jamie Lannister, two of the principal combatants of the War in the North. It’s a pretty cool way to lay out characters as they oppose one another in the series, and just a fun little touch that shows that the folks put a lot of thought into the packaging. (It also ties into the promotional material for season 3 if I remember correctly).
The selection menu is a bunch of cool montages featuring major characters and locations for the third season. You have Jon and the wildlings (with a Celtic design), Mormont and the brothers of the Night’s Watch with their flag, Olenna and Loras Tyrell and their flower banner, Bran Stark and the direwolf of House Stark, Robb and Talisa, Drogon and his fire attack melt into Daenerys, Joffrey slouches on his throne, and so far. Their montage in and of itself is pretty spectacular, set to the glorious sounds of “The Rains of Castamere”. It contains no real spoilers, though it does spoil some cool images in the manner of a trailer.
As for the episodes themselves, they’re spectacular. This is a show that’s both able to be doled out in hours as the weeks tick on, or binge-watched in an epic feast of gore, intrigue, and sexposition. That goes without saying. If you need someone to convince you of the greatness of Game of Thrones, try watching the first season and let’s see if you’re not hooked by episode 9.
I’ve watched Game of Thrones every possible way you can legally watch it. I watched the first season on DVD, I watched the second season on broadcast television on a standard television and via on-demand streaming from my former cable company in HD, and I’ve watched Season 3 via HBO on a high-definition television, and I can honestly say that the Season 3 Blu-ray of Game of Thrones is one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen. The show makes such good use of lights and darkness, with crepuscular rays illuminating characters, candles flickering on desks, and great contrasts between lighting, locations, and costumes. You can see individual wisps of smoke hanging in the air. The lines are clean, the blacks are as deep as your television can handle, and the amount of visual detail difference between this and the HD television transmission is noticeable, which is saying something. The scene beyond the wall in particular look sharp.
The audio is also very well done. The sound levels are well balanced. The city scenes are busy without being too noisy, and the dialogue is sharp. The louds are loud enough without overpowering the whispers. When Theon gets a foot screw applied during a torture sequence, or when he gets stabbed under the fingernail with a blade, the sound is dynamic and stomach-churning. HBO and company paid as much attention to sound as they did to picture quality.
All that is well and good, but the stand-out feature is the In-Episode guide. Basically it’s a little pip in the right-hand corner of your screen that you can either turn on or turn off depending on whether or not you want it. Having seen the episodes already, I left it on for my watch-through and really ended up enjoying what it contains. There are character guides (in case you forget who is who) and location guides with details about the various locations in the episode, but it’s the history lessons that proved to be the most interesting. Each animated history lesson is narrated in character by an actor (Charles Dance reads the history of the Westerlands as Tywin, Jack Gleeson reads the history of the Red Keep as Joffrey, and so on).
It’s an animated feature (like a moving storyboard) synced up to the voice over, and it helps add to the details of the rich world of Westeros and explores the massive history of George R.R. Martin’s world without overwhelming the less-educated viewer with a lot of facts about a lot of new kinds. It’s the nitty-gritty told in an engaging way, and waiting for the history bits to unlock is always worth it. If nothing else, it’s something that is worth watching if only for its entertainment value, if not its educational purpose. It’s brilliantly executed.
The phrase “brilliantly executed” can be used to sum up the whole Blu-ray experience as far as Game of Thrones is concerned. Top to bottom, this is one of the best boxed sets on my shelf, and HBO is to be commended for putting the money in to both make it worth owning and to making it a substantial upgrade over other ways of viewing the series. After you’ve seen it on Blu-ray, watching it on DVD just isn’t the same (even though it comes with a DVD copy, as well as various downloadable variables for iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and Flixster).
Game Of Thrones season 3 is available in the UK from Monday the 17th and in the US from Tuesday the 18th of February on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is thrilled by the knowledge that Game of Thrones is returning within the month. He could not recommend this Blu-ray set highly enough for fans of the series who want to see it in its full glory. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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