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Game of Thrones Complete Season Three Blu-Ray Review

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Stars: Masie Williams, Diana Rigg, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kit Harington, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie
Producers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Released by HBO Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

HBO’s third season of the hit series Game of Thrones keeps on delivering a high level of dark fantasy entertainment. George R.R. Martin’s characters and settings seem like the perfect story for those who grew up on Hobbits and Middle Earth but now yearn for something more adult. At the beginning of each episode were are treated to an animated montage that treks over the towns, castles and settings for the series very much like the inside cover of Tolkien’s The Hobbit had a map of Middle Earth. However that’s where the similarities end. Throne’s characters are drawn from a cold and hungry world. Most of them are trampled underfoot as the more powerful stomp their way ever closer to the throne that they so righteously believe to be theirs. There are so many claimers to the throne that at times it feels like the first round of the World Cup tournament. Indeed it is sometimes tough to keep track of all the characters in the series. Some of the  names are completely lost in the narrative melee. I suspect we each have our favorites who we keep a closer eye on.

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Much is made of the valor and honor of keeping one’s word. Allegiances are pledged. Secret promises are made. Guarantees are granted. These bonds get tested and sometimes they are broken with severe consequences. Some of the high born have a verbal skill rather than swordsmanship that keeps them going as they navigate through the treacherous dealings in the courts and castles. I’m reminded of that sequence in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) where Ernest Borgnine confronts William Holden about the value of a man’s word when he gives it. His reply, “That ain’t what counts! It’s who you give it to!” That morality runs throughout this season in particular. As we follow the various plotlines many of the characters break off into duets for the duration of the ten episodes. The hulking short haired warrior woman, Brienne of Tarth has taken the high and mighty Jamie Lannister as her prisoner to escort. He is completely despicable and known as the Kingslayer. Their relationship takes some interesting twists and turns culminating in an episode entitled, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”. Samwell Tarley, who seems to be channeling the charm of Hurley in Lost, rescues Gilly and her baby and leads them on an heroic journey. Jon Snow, maybe the real hero of the series takes up with Ygritte a ravishing girl from over the wall. They have a very intense relationship that as they grow closer tests the strengths of their own vows to their people. Love hurts.

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One of the most captivating characters is Daenerys Targaryen who is called Calista by her loyal second Jorah Mornmot but we all know as the Mother of Dragons. The way she deals with the right bastard who tries to take advantage of her over the sale of his well trained and “unsullied” slave warriors is sweet and just revenge. You can see if coming and yet it’s a powerful sequence. She has  three dragons; one tinted green, one  gold and one red. Anytime they are onscreen the series soars. Peter Dinklage has rightfully received generous praise for his role as the scheming Tyrion Lannister. He truly embraces the deceitful and intricate ways of the courts and yet has a few unexpected tender spots. A final standout character is the young Ayra Stark who was taught how to wield a sword at a very young age. She has maybe the boldest truest sense of rightful indignation and revenge in the whole show. It’s wonderful to see her cope with who to trust and who to watch out for. Her duet with the imposing Sandor The Hound is full of mystery. There are lots of others to watch including the perverted King Joffrey. A special treat this season was he appearance of Diana Rigg (The Avengers) as the matriarch Olenna Tyrell. She commands and becomes the centerpiece of any scene she is in.

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“The Climb” is a particularly strong episode coming just after the halfway point. We see Jon Snow, Ygritte and her wild brothers attempt to scale the wall that the Night Watch patrol. It is a gargantuan task. They put on medieval ice shoes and grab a long pick in each arm. There is much bravado as they lash ropes to each other and begin the treacherous mount. It’s a captivating and thrilling sequence. The show’s shepards David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are to be credited with keeping up a high standard. There are times when elements from different films trickle their way into. A torture sequences borrows a bit from Marathon Man (1976). The ability of Bran Stark and the Wogs to enter into the minds of flying Ravens and other animals strong recalls The Other (1972). These are not criticisms but simply cinematic common ground. One fault though is the overuse of the strongest man in the room close. Often during a confrontation the more powerful man will unloose of fuselage of threats. The weaker man crumples and the victor stares him down as he submits. Sometimes we see this well more than once in a single episode.  Game of Thrones is a well done series. Season three carries on splendidly with the task and does not let up at all on any ground. Once you have made it this far, past the first two seasons, you know well enough that getting attached to any one character may be risky. The show is fond of maiming and killing off anyone at any time.

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Video – 1.78:1
Even though this is shot with state of the art high definition equipment and operated by skilled craftsmen they are not afraid to let things look dirty and muddy. The scenes done outside the wall and on the wall look frigidly cold. There is a rustic and period feel to everything. We see a very strong dichotomy between the grandeur of King Jeffrey’s castle interiors and the rugged country exteriors. The visuals are a constant treat throughout the season. Mention again should be made of the excellently animated title sequence. It puts you in the mood for the show and helps re-acclimate you to where things are. The Blu-ray is superb, though the DVD more than holds its own with nice colors and deep black levels.

Audio – DTS 5.1 in English, French, Spanish, DTS 2.0 in Polish, Spanish with subtitles offered in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish

All dialogue is clear. The more robust of the characters are given a shade of bass to their voices. There is ample room tone in each setting so we feel where we are. The music accents and supports well without every calling attention to itself.

Extras –
There is a veritable boatload of extras that come with this season’s box set. Eight featurettes as well as In-Episode Guides and Commentaries. Also included in the sturdy cardboard box is a DVD set of the same which fits in a slim sleeve

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movies – Excellent

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