Seldom is there a TV show that needs so little introduction as Game of Thrones
Season Five Review
Any fool with a bit of luck can find himself born into power. But earning it for yourself, that takes work.Seldom is there a TV show that needs as little introduction as Game of Thrones. The HBO series is a global phenomenon that has taken the world by storm and holds the dubious record for most pirated show ever. And it's little wonder, with a host of fully rounded characters, realistic (if fantastical) story elements, multiple compelling, and not competing, story threads and lashings of bloody violence and nudity – this is an adult show through and through. The fifth season picks up on many of the threads of the forth, though not all (Bran Stark is notably absent), and, if it's possible, takes an even darker turn for many of the main characters! Since the literary roots of the show have not yet been completed it is little wonder that the TV scripts often veer away from the literary source forging their own path.This was very apparent at the end of season four with the death of characters that are still around in the books, but it is with this fifth season that the differences are becoming quite pronounced. This is in part due to the above, but also the makers are keen to explore new facets of characters in the developing story lines as they move further from the source material; meaning it is becoming its own entity and the survivability of anyone is ever more uncertain. Indeed the latter half of the season has some very hard scenes to watch and you find yourself begging the screen to not make it so – unfortunately in some cases the end result is heart-breaking. It is, of course, this kind of compelling viewing that makes the show such a success and, with each season building on the last, there is still no end in sight!
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer, using the AVC codec and are Region Free. Once again the picture is reference; detail is exquisite from the closest skin texture to the furthest snow covered terrain. The attention to detail is so apparent, the sheen to armour or swords, the grime in the filthy leathers, the wisp of flames, the reflection of the sun on the waves, sand grains, scrub, snow covered clothing – each and every bit is rendered in absolute clarity. Check out the landscape expanses, or the streets of Kings Landing as Cersei makes her horrific walk, or the gladitorial areana in Meereen for examples of deafening clarity.
Once again Game of Thrones delivers reference levels of picture quality.
Colours too are bold and bright, or subdued and dour when required; the warmth of Meereen, with is sandy pastel colours contrasting against the bleak whiteness of the Wall or the dank earth tones around Winterfell, while the blue of the sky and the crimson horror of blood red are defiant, never showing any signs of wash or bleed. Flesh tones are natural looking while the lusher green hues also hold sway.
Contrast and brightness are set to give wonderfully deep blacks with immersive shadow detailing when required that add depth and significant punch to the image. Interiors or night shots benefit well from the setting with no signs of crushing or clipping at the other end. Digitally there are no compression issues, or edge enhancement. There is no banding or jaggies. The original print is in pristine condition and is a reference picture through and through.
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray of Game of Thrones Season 5 includes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that can be listened to in 5.1, 7.1 or various Atmos configurations.
Simon Crust reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - Just as the image is reference so is the audio producing a wonderfully immersive surround envelope that places you in the centre of the action. Subtle ambience is taken care of by the surround speakers (check out Cersei’s walk with its echo, crowd calling, footfalls, bell ringing and garbage landing for examples), while the more bombastic elements , such as the White-Walkers attack on the village are given full reign to open up the bass and separation to add grunt and space to the warring massacre. The score too makes full use of the speakers adding another dimension. Dialogue is clear, precise and sounds very natural, dominated by the frontal array but given directionality when required. Check out Daenerys’s ambush and subsequent rescue for some incredible surround experience; right from the arena flyover, with the crowd roaring, to the gladiatorial fights and finally the all-out battle, the arrival of the dragon and the carnage it leaves behind - a top, top surround track.
Season five of Games of Thrones is the latest to boast a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - After the success of remixing seasons one and two into Dolby Atmos, we now get season five in all its immersive audio glory. Once again the sound designers have taken full advantage of the greater freedom afforded them to create a sound mix that completely immerses you in the world of Westeros. Naturally there are certain episodes where the sound designers really get a chance to show off and in the same way that Blackwater was the stand-out episode in season two, so Hardhome is equally as impressive this season. Whilst the sounds of battle are used to great effect, the mix also finds room to breathe, creating a real sense of environment in that cold wasteland north of The Wall. One particular touch that we really like is they way the entire mix fills with the sound of freezing ice when the White Walkers are on screen, it really adds to their menace and makes you feel cold all at the same time.
The bass effects are used sparingly for maximum impact and whenever a dragon is on screen you know you're in for a sonic treat. However dialogue always remains clear and centred in the mix, which is vitally important in a show where peoples' words are just as important as their actions. The rest of the mix uses all the available speakers to create an immersive surround experience, where the locations of Game of Thrones come to life. Whether its Cersei's walk through the streets of King's Landing or Arya at the port of Pentos, the sound mix places you right in the middle of the throng. The sound designers ability to place atmospheric effects into a three dimensional soundscape, really adds to the overall sense of realism, making each episode all the more compelling. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack on season five of Game of Thrones is an outstanding immersive mix and our only question is - what happened to the Dolby Atmos remixes of seasons three and four?
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – No less than twelve with the cast are crew including (but not limited to) David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Peter Dinklage, Lena Heady, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Natalie Dormer and Gwendoline Christie. Each commentary is filled with character anecdotes, story information, location shooting and background information.
Deleted Scenes – Four in total, lasting a few minutes each, with a few character beats but nothing that is really needed.
A Day in the Life – An inside look at the vast effort that goes into making a series that is filmed in three countries and has hundreds of cast and crew during a ‘typical’ day’s filming. There are interviews with plenty of behind-the-scenes staff who are happy to fill you in on the complexities needed to produce a show to such high standards.
The Real History Behind Game of Thrones - The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles fought in England from 1455 to 1485 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York; this two part series delves into the historical events that inspired the show with scholars, historians and George R.R. Martin.
Anatomy of an Episode: Mother’s Mercy – A sort of production diary that follows the development, writing, visual effects and more that went into the making this powerful episode with plenty of interviews with everyone involved, including cast and crew. It's epic viewing but even at 30 minutes still feels too short.
The Dance of Dragons – A telling, by ‘notable characters’ from past seasons, of the Targaryen civil war that led to the downfall of the dragons.
New Characters/New locations - Cast and crew discuss the locations and settings used to bring the new characters/locations in the show to life.
In Episode Guide – Interactive episode resource that provides background information of characters, locations and histories.
Histories and Lore – Mythology of Westeros and Essos told from the perspective of the characters involved.
Blu-ray VerdictThe global phenomenon that is Game of Thrones shows no signs of abating, with each season building on the last as it moves ever further from its literary source. Season five is the most radical departure so far and while its separate story threads at first appear to be meandering, there are shocking elements spread throughout with the latter half of the season ramping up the tension, shock value and overall gut-wrenching horror as character situations unfold with alarming consequences. Sometimes you beg the show not to do what it is doing to characters that you have come to love and it is this compulsion that keeps the show at its constant best.
The picture, sound and extras make this another superb Blu-ray release from HBO.
The Blu-ray set from HBO is once again an impressive release with reference material; the picture is stunning in clarity, detail, colour and black levels, while the audio creates a cohesive and absorbing surround field that sounds natural and bass rich. The extras are plentiful and explore areas behind-the-scenes, making for an entertaining and informative viewing experience. Highly recommended.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.