Television's finest ten hours
“Hold the door!”Game of Thrones – no introduction is really necessary to the biggest TV series in the world. Season five, as successful as it was, veered away from its literary source and held very dark times for many characters; indeed the latter half was extremely hard watching with beloved characters having to deal with horrific situations and shocking events. It was, without a doubt, the darkest season so far, by a long way. Season six, by contrast, while maintaining comparable shock elements is nowhere near as dark; indeed there are resolutions to character arcs, plenty of hated characters get their comeuppance (oh how we cheered!) and many of the story threads start to come to their natural end in what is an optimistic, of sorts, outlook. Perhaps not hope, as such, but at least some sense of a winnable end-game.There are some extremely strong episodes this season; as always the penultimate episode contained a huge battle, the biggest by far, in what is an absolute triumph of TV, but throughout, there are emotional involvements that drive the story along. For my money the fifth episode with its origin story to Hodor is as powerful, heart-breaking and sombre a climax as any feature film. Unfortunately with all this good it makes the odd duff script convenience stand out - this season had more ‘last minute rescues’ than ever before, and sometimes from characters that were previously written out! It also had the seamless re-introduction of a character thought to be dead, though that was enigmatic so I have no issue. And the finale closes off and opens up new story threads for this remarkable series.
Picture QualityThe discs present Game of Thrones in its broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and are Region free. Detail is first class, skin has clear texture, clothing has definite weaves (from scarred leather to frayed cloth) while shields have battle damage and swords keen edges. Looking outwards, the landscapes are quite excellent: greener pastures have sharp tree lines, while desert terrains are rocky, barren and crisp. Wood grain on tables, wine glasses, books: all have discernible edges and are tangible.
Superb blacks lend themselves to plenty of depth of frame
Colours are bold and strong with all the primaries being well represented; greens are suitably lush, check out the forests, or the sweeping mountains sides; reds are bold and strong, blood is the obvious candidate, though in this case is more a darker maroon, while the various banners showcase the bright variety, as does Dorne, though we don’t spend much time there, while blues are cool and collected.
Brightness and contrast are set to give superb blacks which lend themselves to plenty of depth of frame and added punch to the picture. Check out when Tyrion unchains the dragons for some deep inky blacks with wonderful shadowing when the dragons come into view. There are far fewer day for night shots this season which is also excellent.
Digitally there are no compression issues or any edge enhancement, neither are there any banding issues; indeed the source is pristine and this is carried over to the disc which is stunning.
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray of Game of Thrones Season 6 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 – Once again the discs are blessed with a wonderful sonic experience that never passes up an opportunity to place you in the centre of the action. Whether you are in the maelstrom of episode 9’s epic battle with sword and shield clashes, shouting, thumping (the mix when John is ‘drowning’ is superb) or just sitting quietly at a small council meeting with distance creaks, echo or flame crackles, the surround speakers are there to fill out the ambience as well as bolster the stereo effects. Dialogue is clean, clear and natural sounding, well layered into the mix, so that you do not miss a thing, and sounds very natural. Effects come thick and fast and from all around the room, while more sombre elements are skilfully handled to keep the ambience high. The score is well layered and makes use of all the speakers, while bass is tight and deep adding some chest thumping hits during the battle scenes. In all a stunning track.
The soundtrack is a marvellous example of the creative use of immersive audio
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup – Game of Thrones has been a pioneering TV series for a number of reasons but not least because of the way it has embraced object-based audio. All six seasons have a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, using immersive audio to deliver a more visceral sound design. In this season the sound mixers have even more scenes with which to add surround effects that envelop the viewer. The stand out episode is 'Battle of the Bastards', possibly the finest hour of television ever made. The soundtrack includes the sounds of dragons flying overhead, their roars taking full advantage of the LFE track as they fill the room. There's the sounds of arrows raining down all around you, the object-based mix giving each arrow a distinctive characteristic. There's the clash of swords and shields as armies meet and an incredible scene where a character is literally drowning in bodies, with the engulfing sound adding to the claustrophobia. Of course the sound design enhances just about every other scene too, from the Dothraki plains to the bustling streets of King's Landing or Mereen. Within this active and energetic surround mix the dialogue remains clear and focused, whilst the bass is used to add impact and the score weaves in and out for maximum effect. Just like the rest of the series, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is quite simply superb.
ExtasAudio Commentaries – There are 13 separate audio commentaries; each episode gets their own specific track while episodes 5, 9 and 10 get two. Commentators range from actors to directors to producers to art directors and more, each giving their own take on that episode in a chatty, concise and informative manner.
Recreating the Dothraki World – A 20 minute feature that looks at the sets, design, clothing, language and expansion of the Dothraki mythos, not seen since the first season; explanations of the sets, the destruction of the temple, stunts and Daenerys’s leadership are also discussed.
Battle of the Bastards – Becoming something of a staple, this 30 minute feature takes a close behind the scenes look at episode 9 (usual huge battle sequence episode) with customary attention to detail on planning, stunts, CG and more; with contributions from all involved and how this was the battle that everyone wanted to make.
18 Hours at the Paint Hall – GoT is a huge production, normally taking 2 units to film, on season 6 that went up to 3. Paint Hall is the base studio in Ireland and never have 2 units been filming there at the same time; this changed when, for one day, all 3 units were scheduled to film; this 30 minute feature is a recording of that day and it shows just how hectic and controlled the chaos of such a huge production can be, and how everyone pulls together to make the best damn TV show there is.
Deleted Scenes – Three in total, first two are character beats, the third is an extended view of the play Arya watches, telling the story (as seen by the players) so far; play all for 11 minutes.
In Episode Guides - 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.
Watch this exclusive bonus clip:
Blu-ray VerdictSeason six of Game of Thrones shows no signs of slowing down. Moving on from the darkest ever season there is a new sense of optimism in the show with regards to the characters and their outcomes; plenty of story (and character) arcs come to a close, while new threads begin to open the world up once again. There are some extremely powerful episodes this season; episodes five and nine stand out for their emotionally charged content, epic battle sequences and heart-breaking sacrifice; both rival any feature film for sheer verve and quality.
With winter now here, season seven cannot come soon enough
As a Blu-ray set, the package is, once again, reference all around; the picture is stunning – detail, colouring, black level – all conspire to give an epic frame. The sound is just as awesome, whether in 5.1 or Atmos the sonic assault and surround environment is second to none. All rounded off with a good set of extras features that explore various aspects of the show – not least with thirteen audio commentaries. Highly recommended.
You can buy Game of Thrones Season 6 on Blu-ray here
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