Posted March 04 2013 - 01:17 PM
Armies of new players are on the field in the second season of HBO’s acclaimed fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” and for the most part the show manages to give every character and storyline its due. As usual, HBO Home Entertainment provides a fantastic high definition presentation for the season, as well as a stellar set of supplemental material, making the release a no-brainer for fans of the show.
Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Running Time: 9 hours 5 minutes
| || THE FEATURE |
| SPECIAL FEATURES |
| Video |
| AVC: 1080p at 1.78:1 |
| High definition |
| Audio |
| DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / DTS: French 5.1, Spanish 2.0, Castellano 5.1, Polish 2.0 |
| Various |
| Subtitles |
| English SDH, French, Spanish, Castellano, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish |
| Various |
The Season: 4.5/5
The death of King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and the subsequent execution of his closest advisor Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) by Baratheon’s vicious son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), has divided the kingdom and brought war to Westeros once more.
Vying for the throne, after learning of the illegitimacy of Joffrey’s claim, are Robert’s brothers Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Renly (Gethin Anthony), but theirs is not a concerted effort. Eddard, prior to his death, identified the elder brother Stannis as the true heir to the throne, but Renly was favored by Robert and has a more powerful army to back his claim. Stannis, however, has allied himself with a mysterious and dangerous priestess named Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), who has foreseen his ascendancy to the Iron Throne.
Ned’s eldest son Robb (Richard Madden) is also deep in the fray, but his only desire is to avenge his father’s death and rescue his sisters Sansa and Arya (Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams) from King Joffrey and his calculating mother, the Queen Regent Cersei (Lena Headey). The capture of Cersei’s brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the formidable warrior dubbed “The Kingslayer,” certainly gives Robb the leverage he needs, if only he can manage to keep the man imprisoned, as well as control the smaller armies looking to take over Winterfell, the Stark’s native home in the north.
As the new King’s Hand, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Cersei’s youngest brother, looks to control some of his family’s more impulsive and dangerous schemes, but his position is only temporary as eventually his father Tywin (Charles Dance) will take over the role. When that day comes Tyrion will no doubt be relegated to his role as “The Imp,” but those around him would be wise not to underestimate the man who has proved just as shrewd as the Lannister patriarch, if not more noble.
Miles away in the northern territories, Eddard’s bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) continues his tour as a steward of the Night’s Watch. Venturing into the mountains beyond the Wall, a massive structure built to keep out the supposedly less civilized Wildlings, the band of warriors is looking to root out the former Night’s Watch ranger Mance Rayder, who has become the Free People’s latest warlord. Capturing a Wildling woman named Ygritte (Rose Leslie), Jon could meet up with Rayder face-to-face, if only he can survive the inhospitable frozen wasteland that holds more than it’s share of dangers, both natural and supernatural.
Meanwhile, in much warmer but no less desolate lands, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the sole surviving descendant of the family that once ruled Westeros, wanders the Red Waste desert looking for aid for her now fractured Dothraki clan, brought on by the untimely death of her husband Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). Though she has proved herself a true Targaryen, somehow facilitating the return of a dragon species long thought extinct and now looking to reclaim rule of Westeros, it does nothing to provide for the immediate needs of her subjects. Eventually the ragtag community will find refuge with the port city of Qarth, though their safety will not last long as powerful figures will look to harness the power of the dragons for their own ends.
In the second season of the celebrated HBO fantasy series, based on the equally celebrated George R.R. Martin fantasy novels, there’s an incredible expansion of both major and minor characters and story elements. With just 10 episodes in the season, it makes for some incredibly dense narratives per episode, and viewers are advised to pay attention. Fortunately the writing team makes that a welcome task as the characterization, political intrigue and dramatic tension remains just as compelling and addictive as the first season’s, if not more so. The only character arc seeming to get the short end of the stick is Daenerys’s as she continues to slog through the desert in search of her destiny. Granted, the Targaryen heiress needs to be properly established as a viable conqueror to make a legitimate return to Westeros, but the length of the season naturally limits the character growth, especially with a massive war across the sea taking priority. Groundwork for her return to Westeros does look properly established for the third season, however, promising we’ll soon see a shift in the kingdom’s power dynamics. The Night’s Watch and Wildlings story arc could produce this as well, though I wouldn’t expect to see anything significant along those lines until the fourth season. Though I was concerned about the series’ longevity given its obvious production expenses, the show has gathered such a following that it doesn’t seem so far fetched to consider it lasting that long. At least let’s keep our fingers crossed.
“Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season” on Blu-ray includes the 10 episodes that aired on HBO between April and June 2012:
- The North Remembers
- The Night Lands
- What Is Dead May Never Die
- Garden of Bones
- The Ghost of Harrenhal
- The Old Gods and the New
- A Man Without Honor
- The Prince of Winterfell
- Valar Morghulis
The set’s five DVDs are housed in a multi-panel DigiPack case with a cardstock slipcover.
The third season of “Game of Thrones” premieres on March 31, 2013 on HBO.
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer features inky black levels and a solid range of contrast, with only a few instances where the shadows look a bit too opened up. Color is incredibly rich, especially when garments like Melisandre’s red robe are set in contrast to the drab and earthy color palette that otherwise dominates the cast’s wardrobe. Detail is impeccable, though there are some hints of noise in more challenging images like the tightly concentrated, high contrast patterns in the snow covered mountain scenes with Jon Snow. Nevertheless, the picture is often quite breathtaking and no doubt superior to the broadcast high definition signal.
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Dialogue in the English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, detailed, and intelligible. Surround effects can be fairly aggressive, and the various pans and environmental effects are consistently balanced and seamless. By comparison, LFE does not have as much of a presence, except for a few choice battle sequences, but the track has a consistent pleasing depth and fullness throughout.
Special Features: 5/5
The highlights of the bonus material are the In-Episode Guide and War of the Five Kings interactive features, mainly because they provide impressive amounts of detail about the story and characters should anyone become lost or confused during the course of the season. The rest of the items – including 12 audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and alternate viewing formats – are just (some very thick) icing on the cake.
In-Episode Guide: The exhaustive compendium provides descriptions of the show’s characters, locations, and history in context with events of each episode. Most of the information is in text form, but the 19 histories come in video form and are unlocked as one progresses through the episodes (hint: if you don’t want to bother with the unlocking part all the videos can be accessed on Disc 5)
Previews and Recaps: Episodes include the "previously" and "next" on promos that originally aired with them.
Character Profiles: Cast members take a moment from filming to describe the characters they play.
- Jon Snow played by Kit Harington (2:02, HD)
- Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clark (2:02, HD)
- Robb Stark played by Richard Madden (2:22, HD)
- Joffrey Baratheon played by Jack Gleeson (1:57, HD)
- Renly Baratheon played by Gethin Anthony (2:28, HD)
- Stannis Baratheon played by Stephen Dillane (2:17, HD)
- Theon Greyjoy played by Alfie Allen (2:32, HD)
- Episode One: “The North Remembers” with Executive Producers/Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- Episode Two: “The Night Lands” with Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) and Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy)
- Episode Three: “What is Dead May Never Die” with Writer Bryan Cogman and Director Alik Sakharov; second commentary with Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark)
- Episode Four: “Garden of Bones” with Carice Van Houten (Melisandre) and Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth)
- Episode Six: “The Old Gods and the New” with Kit Harrington (Jon Snow), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Co-Executive Producer/Writer Vanessa Taylor
- Episode Seven: “A Man Without Honor” with Executive Producers/Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- Episode Eight: “The Prince of Winterfell” with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark)
- Episode Nine: “Blackwater” with Co-Executive Producer/Author George R.R. Martin; additional commentary with Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lanniser), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), and Director Neil Marshall
- Episode Ten: “Fire and Blood” with Visual Effects Artists Rainer Gambos and Steve Kullback; additional commentary with Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Co-Executive Producer/Director Alan Taylor
War of the Five Kings: The exhaustive interactive guide provides information on each of the parties vying for the Iron Throne, covering each kingdom’s characters, geography, history, religion, battle maneuvers, and more. For anyone who had trouble keeping track of what was going on during the season, or just needs some clarification of plot points or character history, it’s a great resource.
Histories and Lore: Illustrations with character voice overs recount tales from key events in Westeros history. The items are also incorporated in the In-Episode Guide, but obviously they’re more easily accessible here.
- Greyjoy Rebellion
- Robb Stark (3:37, HD)
- Theon Greyjoy (2:49, HD)
- Stannis Baratheon (3:20, HD)
- Robert’s Rebellion
- Stannis Baratheon (3:07, HD)
- Davos Seaworth (5:20, HD)
- Margaery Tyrell (3:50, HD)
- Catelyn Stark (4:13, HD)
- House Tyrell with Margaery Tyrell (4:06, HD)
- House Greyjoy with Theon and Yara Greyjoy (3:08, HD)
- House Clegane with Sandor Clegane (3:17, HD)
- The Free Folk with Ygritte (2:35, HD)
- The Night’s Watch with Ygritte (2:39, HD)
- Dragonstone with Stannis Baratheon (3:58, HD)
- Harrenhal with Catelyn Stark (3:56, HD)
- The Free Cities with Jorah Mormont (3:34, HD)
- Qarth with Xaro Xhoan Daxos (2:51, HD)
- The Drowned God with Yara Greyjoy (2:30, HD)
- The Alchemist Guild with Wisdom Hallyne (3:34, HD)
- The Warlocks with Xaro Xhoan Daxos (2:14, HD)
Creating the Battle of Blackwater (31:16, HD): The behind-the-scenes documentary covers the planning and preparation of the most expensive episode of the season, Episode Nine: “Blackwater,” focusing on the production design, visual effects, stunts, practical effects, props, and makeup.
Game of Thrones: Inner Circle (24:03, HD): Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, Michelle Fairley and Liam Cunningham, along with moderators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have a roundtable discussion about the various character and story developments of the second season.
The Religions of Westeros (7:34, HD): George R.R. Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss talk about the role of religion in Westeros and how it influences the characters’ decisions and fates.
Printed Episode Guide: Summaries of the season’s 10 episodes includes a map of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros on the reverse side.
White Walker Trading Card with 20% Discount on Game of Thrones Merchandise
DVDs: The season’s 10 episodes are spread across two double-sided DVDs.
- Video: 1.78:1 MPEG2, enhanced for widescreen
- Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai
Digital Copy: Available via iTunes or Ultraviolet, the offer expires on March 31, 2015.
Recap and Recommendation
The Season: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5
HBO Home Entertainment serves up another fantastic presentation and collection of bonus material for the second season of its enthralling fantasy series, “Game of Thrones.” Fans of the show shouldn’t hesitate to pick up the release, especially at some of the highly competitive (online) street prices.