Game of Thrones Season 4 Blu-ray Review
The show is simply nerve wracking to watch at times
Season Four Review
The fourth season of HBO's Game of Thrones really needs no introduction.Picking up after the shocking events seen in the third season, the fourth kicks straight into gear and follows the fortunes (or otherwise) of our favourite characters in a series that holds no bars and can pull the rug from under your feet just when you think you are safe. That is the skill of the books but it's also the skill of the show. In fact the show's writers has even gone a step further by killing off characters that are, as yet, still alive in the books. Production values are just as strong, whilst the acting from everyone involved is absolutely top notch and believable. New characters and cultures are introduced and they fit in seamlessly – Prince Oberyn is one such example.The stories of the various characters vying for varying degrees of power, or just outright survival, intertwine perfectly making a very satisfying whole. And such is the skill of the writers and directors there is no stone left unturned with regard character actions. And it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if there were not moments of nudity and gore – both are very well catered for this season. And there are plenty of deaths as well, characters whom you think are safe, are killed off with alarming regularity. Some you are sad to see go, others not so much – but there is always consequence and that is what makes to show so utterly absorbing to watch!
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and are Region free. As we’ve come to expect from this stunning show, the picture elements are absolutely reference. Detail is incredible, from the stubble on Tyrion’s face to all the decretive gold inlay in the clothing, or the delicate stamping to the armour. Close up detail reveals plenty to see, be it wood grain, dirt and grime on sword handles or broken fingernails.
Middle and distance fare just as well; check out the landscapes, both sun drenched and snow covered – foliage, sand, rocks, castle walls etc. all are awash with finite detail – it looks like you can feel it. Colour is rich and bold or drab and washed out depending on the scene. Those set across the Narrow Sea or in King’s Landing are bright and vibrant with strong reds and yellows; while up north there is a stronger presence of earthy colours and blues. There is never any wash or bleed and all are bold and strong.
As we’ve come to expect from this stunning show, the picture elements are absolutely reference
Contrast and brightness are set to give a real punch to the picture adding strong blacks and plenty of depth. Visual pop is the norm here and shadow detail is excellent. Checkout the dungeon that Tyrion is hold up in, there is a magnificent shot, just before Prince Oberyn comes to visit him – it’s near pitch-black with just highlights on Tyrion’s face, then as the door opens light gradually opens the frame – stunning example of perfect black.
Digitally there are no compression issues, no edge enhancement, no posterization and with one exception no banding – When Sansa boards Littlefinger’s ship, the fog exhibits some slight banding otherwise the picture gets a very clean bill of health.
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray of Game of Thrones Season 4 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 - The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is, like the picture, reference all the way. Dialogue is clear and precise, dominated by the frontal array, though given plenty of directionality when needed. Sound effects are very natural and are never drowned out by the action. The score is layered perfectly into the mix, adding much to the show, and makes full use of all the speakers. The surrounds are in near constant use, not just with effects but providing plenty of ambience too; whether in the forest, at a wedding feast or being attacked by dragons. You name it the surrounds are there to fill out the sound scape and really place you in the centre of the action. Bass is phenomenal, grounding everything, giving both a natural feel to the soundscape and pummelling the depths when required with tight, controlled LF effects and not some uncontrollable blanket. Excellent stuff.
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 four 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 this season the standout episode is the attack on Castle Black. 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 outpost by The Wall. Throughout the mix bass effects are used sparingly for maximum impact and dialogue always remains clear and centred. 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. 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.
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – There are a total of 11 commentaries, episode 3 doesn’t have any, but episodes 9 and 10 both have two each. Contributors include (but are not limited to): David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Jack Gleeson, Natalie Dormer, Pedro Pascal, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Now I admit to not listening to every one in its entirety, but have dipped in and out of each; they are all full to the brim with anecdotal and technical detail about the specific episode and well worth gorging on if you want to know all about everything.
In Episode Guide – Press ok on your remote to read the highlighted icon’s information regarding, people, places and histories.
Histories and Lore – Members of the cast (in character) recite (and expand upon) various elements within the books that the series simply doesn’t have time to; whether that is Valyrian steel or the history of a character; a must for fans of the books - also available In Episode Guide.
The Politics of Power: A Look back at Season 3 – As the name implies this is a very brief catch up of the events that happened two years ago and helps remind the grey matter ready of the onslaught of Season 4. Runs about 25 minutes.
New Characters and Locations – Ten minutes of behind the scenes interviews with cast and crew looking at the new elements this Season contains, as the name implies characters and locations are highlighted.
Bastards of Westeros – Interviews with David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and George R.R. Martin on the role bastards play within this universe; their place in society and how the different cultures accept (or deny) them.
Behind the Battle of the Wall – Nearly forty minutes of behind the scenes location shooting containing interviews with cast and crew, effects, filming, stunts etc. on what has become one of the most epic battles of the series so far. With DTS 5.1 surround sound!
The Fallen: A Roundtable – Thirty minute feature hosted by writer Bryan Cogman as he sits with a number of the cast who lost their lives this season; discussions about how they came to the show, first days, how they found out about their deaths and last shooting days are discussed in this very informal but entertaining feature.
Deleted Scenes – Just the two, which played both together and run for about two minutes; first is a short conversation between Bronn and Shae after Tyrion rejects her, the other is mere seconds with Daenerys and Missandei.
Season 4 Blooper Reel – Fluffed lines and larking about on set, about two minutes worth.
Blu-ray VerdictGame of Thrones needs no introduction, it's a TV phenomenon unlike any other. Its blend of fantasy, nudity, violence and enthralling story telling has kept audiences glued to their TV sets and breaks between seasons are far, far too long. No character is safe; even those who you think are mainstays can be killed off, and that means all bets are off making the show, almost, nerve-shredding to watch.
The stories continue to develop in a very natural way and the overall season arc builds with consummate energy to the customary episode 9 conflict, and this season they really top themselves with the Wall battle. Characters, both loved and hated, lose their lives and each time there is a consequence. This season seems some extremely memorable deaths: some unexpected, some shocking, some extraordinary and some heart-breaking.
Production values and storytelling/direction are as strong as ever they were; each season seems to up the ante in this regard and the fourth season is thus far top of the bunch. At the time of writing with the fifth season just two months away, this release allows fever pitch to be maintained.
HBO’s package is as reference as previous releases
As a Blu-ray set, HBO’s package is as reference as previous releases; the picture is stunning in its presentation, detail is incredible, colours are rich and bold and black levels are sublime. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also reference with wonderful use of object-based effects and bass to die for. Extras are plentiful with some terrific behind the scene material as well as 11 commentaries. All this is icing on the cake though, because if you're a fan of the series you are going to be getting this set irrespective.
You can buy the Season 4 Blu-ray boxset here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £30.00
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