- May 9, 2002
- Real Name
- Cameron Yee
HBO’s first epic fantasy series, based on George R.R. Martin’s novel “A Game of Thrones,” maintains the same quality of storytelling and filmmaking as the cable network’s past properties, historical dramas “Deadwood” and “Rome.” Though the first season DVD won’t appeal to the majority on HTF, the strength of the presentation (standard definition though it may be) and collection of extras make it a worthwhile gift for our less HD-inclined friends and family members.
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Running Time: 9:20:53
1.78:1 standard definition, 16:9 enhanced
Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
The Season: 4.5/5
For decades, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean) has ruled over the northern region of Westeros in service to his king, Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). When the King’s Hand, Baratheon’s closest advisor and the Seven Kingdoms’ practical governor, suddenly falls ill and dies, Stark is asked to take his place. While no doubt a position of high honor, Stark and his family have heretofore been left alone in the harsh wilderness of the North, giving them a measure of freedom, if not autonomy. Moving to the capital in the South puts Stark in the heart of the kingdom’s political scheming, intrigue and backstabbing, as well as under the contemptuous eye of Baratheon’s wife, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The proposed marriage of Stark’s impressionable daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) to Baratheon’s psychotic son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) promises to further bind the families together, a prospect Stark looks at with diminishing enthusiasm the longer he stays on.
Back in the North, Stark’s wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and eldest son Robb (Richard Madden) carry on the governance of Winterfell and its lands, and strive against another member of the Lannister family, the dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), brother to the Queen. Though the man known as “The Imp” has shown a notable kindness to one of the Stark children after a life-threatening incident, the Lady believes Tyrion responsible for the injury, and intends to have justice. Meanwhile, Stark’s bastard son Jon (Kit Harington) has joined up with the Night’s Watch, a special army tasked to defend the northernmost region from encroachment by less civilized “wildlings.” The barbaric people live outside of a massive retaining wall built of ice and rock, but reports of other beings thought long extinct have Northerners trembling from more than just the cold.
In warmer climes, across the narrow sea in Erros, the son of the deposed king Aerys Targaryen schemes to take back the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Arranging the marriage between his sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), leader of a fierce warrior tribe named the Dothraki, Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) envisions marching into the Seven Kingdoms’ capital with a Dothraki army at his command. But his once subservient sister turns out to be no mere bride to the Khal, instead embracing her new life and becoming a full blown khaleesi, or queen, to her people. The Targaryens may indeed take back rule of the Seven Kingdoms, but not in the way Viserys – nor the people of Westeros – ever imagined.
Based on the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, “Game of Thrones” is another feather in HBO’s TV-producing cap, diversifying the network’s already impressive stable of historical and family dramas with its first epic fantasy. The casting of Bean as the show’s honorable protagonist is an obvious “get” given his past role as Boromir in the “The Lord of the Rings,” but the involvement of seasoned British character actors, some impressive newcomers like Merchant, and consistent talents like Dinklage and Headey give the show the legs it needs to make Martin’s dense narrative convincing (unfortunately I can’t help thinking of plastic wrap every time I see Addy’s King Robert). High production values in the cinematography, production design and costuming also give the show a cinematic credibility normally lacking in TV fare. The lingering question is whether such an endeavor is sustainable, as the series wouldn’t be the first HBO property to meet an untimely end due to rising production costs (as it was for “Deadwood” and “Rome”). So far the show’s critical and commercial success has granted it a second season (which starts on April 1st), but as time goes on I can only imagine it will become more difficult to keep pace with costs, not to mention the ever-complicated tale Martin has woven across his novels.
“Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season” on DVD includes the 10 episodes that aired on HBO between April and June 2011:
Winter is Coming
Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things
The Wolf and the Lion
A Golden Crown
You Win Or You Die
The Pointy End
Fire and Blood
The set’s five DVDs are housed in a multi-panel DigiPack case with a cardboard slipcase and embossed cardstock slipcover.
Video Quality: 4/5
Presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen displays, the standard definition, MPEG2 transfer features solid black levels and contrast, decent color rendering, and minimal compression artifacts. Not surprisingly, where the image suffers most is in its overall sharpness and detail – panoramic landscapes and wide angle establishing shots look especially mushy given the limited capabilities of the DVD format. Considering the show has a concurrent Blu-ray release, I can’t think of a reason not to buy it over this version if one has a Blu-ray player. Those who haven’t taken that step (Anyone? Anyone?) or a want to give the set as a gift to those who haven’t (e.g. most of my friends and family) should be satisfied though. The show looks as good as it can given the standard definition format it’s presented on.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the English language 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is consistently crisp, clear, and intelligible. Surround effects are mostly environmental in nature - crowd noises, sounds of the city and howling winds are all nicely balanced and seamless. LFE is minimal, showing up mostly for the limited battle sequences, but the track has a consistent depth and fullness throughout.
Special Features: 4/5
The collection of extras includes some solid behind-the-scenes material, found in the short-but-interesting “making of” documentary and seven audio commentaries. Some of the shorter video featurettes re-use the content from the longer piece, making them more repetitive than they should be. Still, fans of the show should be pleased by the extras’ overall depth and scope.
Previews and Recaps: Each episode includes the "previously" and "next" on promos that were originally attached to it.
Character Profiles (30:38): Originally produced for the Web, the actors take a moment from filming to describe the characters they play.
- Arya Stark played by Maisie Williams
- Bran Stark played by Isaac Hempstead Wright
- Catelyn Stark played by Michelle Fairley
- Cersei Lannister played by Lena Headey
- Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clark
- Jamie Lannister played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
- Jon Snow played by Kit Harington
- Khal Drogo played by Jason Momoa
- Ned Stark played by Sean Bean
- Petyr Baelish played by Aidan Gillen
- Robb Stark played by Richard Madden
- King Robert Baratheon played by Mark Addy
- Sansa Stark played by Sophie Turner
- Tyrion Lannister played by Peter Dinklage
- Viserys Targaryen played by Harry Lloyd
Audio Commentaries: The number and variety of commentaries are bound to appeal to some, if not all fans. Most intriguing on its surface is the track from the “Game” author himself, who penned the script for the eighth episode. He can be a little too complimentary at times (and who wouldn’t be given how well his work has been adapted), but he offers some decent comparisons between the novel, his original script and what was ultimately filmed.
- Episode One: “Winter Is Coming” with Executive Producers/Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- Episode Two: “The Kingsroad” with Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
- Episode Three: “Lord Snow” with Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark)
- Episode Four: “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things” with Writer Bryan Cogman and Kit Harington (Jon Snow)
- Episode Six: “A Golden Crown” with Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen), and Director Daniel Minahan
- Episode Eight: “The Pointy End” with Co-Executive Producer / Author George R.R. Martin.
- Episode Ten: “Fire and Blood” with Producers / Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and Director Alan Taylor
Complete Guide to Westeros: Repeated on each disc, the exhaustive compendium provides descriptions of the show’s numerous characters and locations, organized by noble houses and Westeros regions.
- Houses: Stark, Baratheon, Arryn, Lannister, Targaryen, Night’s Watch
- Lands: The North, The Riverlands, The Vale, King’s Landing, The Southern Kingdoms, Essos
Making Game of Thrones (30:00): Describes the genesis and development of the show, from the optioning of the novel, casting, location scouting, scoring, production design, special effects, stunts, costuming and more. The piece is brief considering the number of topics it covers, but it’s well made and ultimately interesting to anyone who enjoys the show.
From the Book to the Screen (5:14): Executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and author George R.R. Martin talk about adapting the source material into a TV series. Unfortunately, the material is just a re-hash of the early parts of the “Making” documentary.
Creating the Show Open (5:07): The creators describe the inspiration and challenges of the impressive (and evolving) CGI title sequence.
Creating the Dothraki Language (5:27): Language creator David Peterson explains how he developed the language, the process of incorporating it into the scripts, and coaching the actors to speak it naturally.
The Night’s Watch (8:06): Describes the history of the Wall, and the mission and history of the Night’s Watch Order.
Printed Booklet: Includes an episode index, family trees for the noble houses, and a map of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros printed on the reverse side.
Preview (3:33): Pre-menu-loading promo for HBO programming highlights shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Tremé,” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
The Features: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
HBO Home Entertainment turns in a solid DVD presentation for its first – and hopefully ongoing – epic fantasy series, “Game of Thrones.” The special features package includes some interesting behind-the-scenes material, though some of it can be a little repetitive given an apparently limited pool of content for its video pieces. Considering the first season has a concurrent Blu-ray edition, there’s not much reason for high definition enthusiasts to go for this set, but it does make for a solid release for giving to friends and family who have yet to take the Blu-ray plunge.