The third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is still more than a month away, but the second season of the acclaimed series is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, Game of Thrones follows members of noble houses in the fictional land of Westeros who are in the throes of a war over the Iron Throne. Starring Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Maisie Williams, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Jack Gleeson, Aidan Gillen and a veritable bounty of brilliant actors, the second season of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray is a must have for fans, with plenty of new material to enjoy alongside the highly rewatchable episodes themselves. Hit the jump for my review.
If you haven’t seen the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I highly suggest watching them before moving any further in this review as major spoilers are obviously going to follow. You can check out our review of season one on DVD here. This review will also be more about the extra features available with the Blu-ray rather than a recap of the show itself, but here’s a brief rundown of the events:
With the decapitation of House Stark’s patriarch, Ned (Sean Bean), the eldest Stark, Robb (Richard Madden) has declared himself King in the North. The youngest Stark sons, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson), are forced out of their homes due to a betrayal by the Starks’ former ward, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Aria Stark (Maisie Williams) is attempting to survive in the wilds outside of King’s Landing while Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) negotiates the politics within the Red Keep and the foul moods of her betrothed, the wretched boy king, Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson).
Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) does her part to destroy the kingdom while her dwarf brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tries his best to keep it together, especially when threatened by the upstart Baratheon brothers, Renly (Gethin Anthony) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane), who each lay claim to the throne. Another Lannister sibling, Jaime the Kingslayer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has been captured by Northerners, but is now in the capable hands of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).
Elsewhere, Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) navigates the Red Waste with the remains of her Dothraki horde and ends up in Qarth, where both her people and her dragons are in great peril. At the northern edge of the world, Ned’s bastard Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the men of the Night’s Watch hold the wall against wildling raiders, only to discover that there are far worse enemies than Mance’s barbarians and that Winter is indeed coming. (There is also a brief “Season One Recap” option under the first episode of season two as a refresher.)
The season two Blu-ray of HBO’s Game of Thrones is a nicely packaged five-disc set that also includes a separate booklet for a two-disc DVD version (two to three episodes on either side of each DVD). There is also a bonus digital version of the entire season which is activated with a code at a variety of vendors, though the code will work only once. An episode guide and quick reference to the warring houses is also included, which doubles as a map of Westeros when unfolded. Although the episodes themselves have great replay value, they’re made even better with the addition of the “In-Episode Guides” and the episode commentaries, which I’ll review briefly below:
If you turn this option on, a fairly unobtrusive side menu will pop out on your screen. It allows you to keep track of characters, locations and histories in the episode, along with handy images and brief descriptions of each. The histories must be “unlocked” in each episode (I’m assuming this happens just by watching them), but can also be found on the Special Features disc.
As a note, it’s always interesting to check out the audio commentaries, especially for Game of Thrones. On the season one commentary, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff infamously remarked on a model of President George W. Bush’s head used as a prop head on a spike, to which HBO overreacted and stopped production and shipment on the box set in order to digitally scrub his visage from the scene (thus creating unintended collector’s editions). The commentary also gives a ton of background information on characters, writing, production, etc. Also, throughout the commentary there are two unanimous accolades for the performances of Alfie Allen and Jack Gleeson in this season.
- “The North Remembers” – Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- “The Night Lands” – Alfie Allen and Gemma Whelan
- “What Is Dead May Never Die” – Writer Bryan Cogman and Director Alik Sakharov, also Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead Wright
- “Garden of Bones” – Carice van Houten and Liam Cunningham
- “The Ghost of Harrenhal” – No commentary track.
- “The Old Gods and the New” – Kit Harington, Rose Leslie and writer/producer Vanessa Taylor
- “The Man Without Honor” – Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- “The Prince of Winterfell” – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Michelle Fairley
- “Blackwater” – Author George R.R. Martin, also Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and director Neil Marshall
- “Valar Morghulis” – Visual Effects Supervisor Rainer Gombos and Visual Effects Producer Steve Kullback, also Emilia Clarke and director Alan Taylor
War of the Five Kings – An interactive guide to the characters, locations, houses, plot points, battle plans and Gods in Game of Thrones. Great for newcomers and a welcome refresher for the rest of us. Fans of the books will notice some of the changes made during the series adaptation.
Histories & Lore - Tales of historical wars and battles, as well as legends and lore from the world of Game of Thrones as narrated by the actors as their characters and accompanied by animated shorts. This might be as close as we’ll get to seeing events that take place prior to A Game of Thrones in a dramatic sense.
- Greyjoy Rebellion – Robb Stark, Theon Greyjoy and Stannis Baratheon
- Robert’s Rebellion – Stannis Baratheon, Davos Seaworth, Margaery Tyrell, Catelyn Stark
- House Tyrell – Margaery Tyrell
- House Greyjoy – Theon and Yara Greyjoy
- House Clegane – Sandor Clegane
- The Free Folk – Ygritte
- The Night’s Watch – Ygritte
- Dragonstone – Stannis Baratheon
- Harrenhal – Catelyn Stark
- The Free Cities – Ser Jorah Mormont
- Qarth – Xaro Xhoan Daxos
- The Drowned God – Yara Greyjoy
- Alchemist Guild – Wisdom Hallyne
- The Warlocks – Xaro Xhoan Daxos
Easily the most exciting episode of the season, this behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and crew from the Neil Marshall-directed episode shows the ridiculous lengths they went to pull off the fan-favorite battle. Highlights include ship construction, the details on making wildfire, the logistics behind the gory “head crush” scene, The Hound’s massive battle damage and Tyrion’s wound. Great technical stuff here, especially when you realize how quickly they had to put this episode together.
Game of Thrones: Inner Circle (~25 minutes)
A round-table discussion led by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff featuring Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley and Liam Cunningham, who each answer questions relevant to their characters’ experiences in season two.
Religions of Westeros (~7 minutes)
Author George R.R. Martin and showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff discuss the varying religions in the world of Game of Thrones.
Character Profiles (~2 minutes each)
Brief introductions for Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon and Theon Greyjoy.
There are hidden
Easter Dragon Eggs throughout the season two discs that grant access to deleted scenes and never-before-seen bonus content. I haven’t found any myself, but one has already popped up courtesy of Winter Is Coming:
Found my first dragon egg! And it is one I don’t believe has been reported. I found it while watching the ‘Histories and Lore’ videos. After watching the one about Harrenhal I noticed a circle in the bottom right hand corner when I arrowed down on my remote.. After looking a bit closer I realized it was a dragon egg.
If you find more, feel free to share them in the comments below.
- Format: AC-3, Box set, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Thai, English, French
- Region: Region A/1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 7
- Rated: Unrated
- Studio: HBO Studios
- DVD Release Date: February 19, 2013
- Run Time: 561 minutes
This one is definitely worth a buy if you’re a fan of the show if only for the replay value. There is a ton of additional information for fans who are looking to get into that next level experience. Fans of the book will recognize some nods of what is coming in season three, but the cast and crew do a great job of not giving away any spoilers. Pick it up ASAP, since Amazon has it discounted right now but that won’t last forever!