HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 and 4
HTS Overall Score:94
Ahhh, “Game of Thrones”. The series where you’re scared to fall in love with the characters because you never know if they’re going to be around the next episode. From the mind of America’s favorite novelist serial killer, HBO has crafted one of THE best sword and sorcery fantasy series of all time. I was naturally skeptical of HBO trying to adapt 1000+ page books into a 12 episode season, but with the help of author George R.R. Martin they have done so with ease, even surpassing “Lord of the Rings” for depth and accuracy (not to mention being a LOT more adult in the process). The series has become the #1 highest rated show in all of cable television history, with ridiculous amounts of viewers tuning in every week to watch the latest episode (and then spoil it online, insert Mike grumbling and whining when he misses an episode and has to dodge that online minefield). Like with the last 2 sets that we reviewed, HBO has released and re-released the series several times over the last several years, but these steelbooks are considered their premium sets. Collector’s edition packaging is one thing, but adding in a full set of Dolby Atmos tracks (the first television series on Blu-ray to do so) is another thing, which is the very reason that I’m replacing my old editions with these new steelbooks.
I once again must warn you that I can’t go THAT in depth into the description of the show for two reasons. For one it is a show that is HEAVILY multi-layered, with so many intricate plots and double crosses going on with the show that if I start to give away too much it dampens the impact of quite a few plot points along the way. Then of course there’s the obvious answer for someone who’s seen the show. It’s just WAY too complicated without writing out a 5 page analysis of the goings on! People die, people live, 15,000 different political manipulations happen under the surface and the resulting spaghetti entangled story is just that much more headache inducing without watching the show as it unfolds.
With that being said, I have to say that season 3 and 4 are a bit unique. The showrunners decided to split George R.R. Martin’s 3rd book, “A Storm of Swords” into two seasons for very obvious reasons (and rightfully so in my opinion), so these seasons combined in the review come from ONE source (for the most part, there are a few bits of the 4th season that delve into newer material). While we always expect lots of death in the series and very few dragons, season 3 became the weak spot for the series. I usually rate the series a 4.5/5 or 5/5 depending on the season, but season 3 is a definite 4/5 for me. The show is a little bogged down as very little comparatively happens, and was the season that got audiences grumbling about the dragons. Or shall I say, lack of dragons. It’s always been a curse of the show that it hints at great things over the horizon, and the dragons has been the most anticipated inclusion out of all the show’s hints and teases. In season three we feel like we’re JUST on the verge of seeing something awesome, and then we’re having to chew through another whole season where very little happens. However, I will say that season 3 has one of the most shocking and jaw dropping season finales for those who haven’t read the books. I was one of those poor souls who had read the books and watched the finale over at a friend’s house who had never read them. So color me tickled pink as I’m on pins and needles just waiting for his reaction of the red wedding and then laughing hysterically as he nearly fell over. Well, that and the fun of having the gorgeous redheaded wildling, Ygritte made a main character.
Season 4 is a distinct pick up from season 3, and back to full form. While I won’t spoils WHO it is, there is finally a death that the audience can simply cheer for. A death that we have waited over 3 seasons to see and it is a joyous occasion indeed (viewers of the show won’t have a hard time figuring out whom I’m talking about either). Not to mention the fact that the war between the watch and the wildlings comes to full force, along with a shocking death for the season. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is still the highlight of the entire show, and his impeccable acting as the illegitimate gimp son of Lord Tywin Lannister is one of the reasons I continued to watch season 3, despite the bogged down plot points. Sadly Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is still the same old routine, with her raising her dragons and proudly proclaiming “some day!!” while pretty much spinning her wheels and getting rescued by her man in waiting time and time again. She is sadly one of the most annoying main characters in the show and seems fairly useless so far.
While the show definitely lost a little bit of steam in Season 3, the show went back to form in season 4 (and continued in season 5) and the intensity has not let up even into the latest season’s episodes so far. The success of “Game of Thrones” is nothing short of incredible, as sword and sorcery shows usually don’t get the same accolades that pulp sci-fi (the best comparison in the genre) does. However, the advent of adult cable television has opened up a brave new world for the genre as shows like “Spartacus” and “Game of Thrones” not only survive, but thrive with record numbers. As the show is starting to wind down (I believe the show runners are considering finishing up the series with season 7) I can safely say that “Game of Thrones” has solidified itself as one of THE best in the adult cable television lineup (a lineup that has become grossly oversaturated largely THANKS to “Game of Thrones).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=72329[/img]It’s no surprise that The encodes for these two seasons look impeccable. The show has been released several times (as mentioned), and each time they seem to share the same impeccable encode. I was a bit worried on the 1st 2 seasons being released on steelbook because of the extra bandwidth eaten up by the Atmos tracks, but I shouldn’t have been worried. The encodes between my regular release day editions and these steelbooks look identical. The series is heavily stylized with a slightly desaturated look to allow the show to look medieval, and the light grey color grading doesn’t hamper the lovely detailing one bit. Shot 100% digitally, the show is a magnificent looking series with all sorts of colors and settings that just make your jaw drop. From the frozen north with white and icy blue blended in, to the moors of the south with the deep green rolling hills. Blacks look impeccable and there is no signs of any major artifacting that I could tell. To put it simply, an incredible set of encodes that already have gotten multiple accolades for their attention to detail.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=72337[/img]Now, the biggest upgrade that these steelbooks have in store for audiences is in this department. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks present on the previous releases have always been stellar, but HBO decided to upgrade the audio to a full Dolby Atmos track and the results are simply divine. The LFE is more powerful, more crushing at times and the extra channel support is used quite well. I’m not sure whether the mix was completely redone from the source recordings, or whether the 5.1 mixes were matrixed to create the heights effects, but either way the sound absolutely incredible. There is pinpoint precision in the directionality of the track, with crumbling rocks falling from above, or the sounds of battle ringing from all directions, or even the score shifting around the sound stage at times. Word of warning, if you don’t have a Dolby Atmos setup detected on your system, the discs default to a Dolby Digital lossy 5.1 track instead of the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 experience that you get if you select the Atmos track.
• * Exclusive *In-Episode Guide
• "The Rains of Castamere" Unveiled
• The Roots of Westeros
• Histories & Lore
• "A Gathering Storm" Featurette
• "The Politics of Marriage" Featurette
• "Inside the Wildlings" Featurette
• New Characters of Season 3
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Commentaries with cast and crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Kit Harington, Richard Madden and more.
• *Exclusive* In-Episode Guide -
• Exclusive*Histories & Lore
• Behind the Battle for the Wall
• The Fallen: A Roundtable
• The Politics of Power: A Look Back at Season 3
• Bastards of Westeros
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Audio Commentaries - Commentaries with cast and crew including showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Pedro Pascal and more
These steelbook editions are handy upgrade over the last releases of the films, even though they come with a few flaws as well. They make for gorgeous packaging, and the addition of the Atmos tracks is a DEFINITE reason to upgrade your sets if you have the capabilities. The mixes seem even more powerful and intense than the old 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks too. HBO even packed in a live show of “Imagine Dragons” on Blu-ray and DVD as a pack in for this set, which actually has its own release as well (and a a really well done show). However there is a minor grumble that I have to get off my chest and that is due to the fact that steelbooks don’t have any flip trays inside and HBO was forced to stack the 4 discs, 2 on each side of the case on a single spindle per side. It’s not a major thing for myself, but I know some people may find that a problem. Definitely recommended as the best editions of "Game of Thrones" on the marketplace.
Starring: Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke
Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish, French, German, Italian DD 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0
Runtime: 555 minutes / 540 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Buy Game of Thrones: Season 3 (Atmos Steelbook) Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Game of Thrones: Season 4 (Atmos Steelbook) Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
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