The HBO series Game of Thrones is not a show that’s afraid of anything for the most part. Sex, violence, incest, betrayal, vengeance, it’s all there. Nothing, it seems, is off limits. And no character is safe. We learned that in season one. Season two is just as explosive, if not more so. While the first season had to spend time setting up all the characters and kingdoms, the second season could do what it wanted with them. That is exactly what the show did. Whatever direction the story seems to be moving in, it spins in a new direction almost without warning. What makes Game of Thrones great is its willingness to do anything in the name of storytelling. With so many characters and interlocking stories, things can get confusing, but the journey is worth it.
After the shocking turn of events in season one (some spoilers are necessary, so proceed with caution), namely the execution of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) by the newly crowned Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), things are thrown into turmoil. While war for the Iron Throne was certainly imminent, the loss of Stark was just the catalyst needed to get it going. With Stark gone it’s hard to know who to root for. His son Robb (Richard Madden) is proving himself to be a fierce warrior on the battlefield. We don’t get to know a lot about him as a character, but his story broadens toward the end of the season. My money on the successor to Stark is his young daughter, Arya (Maisie Williams). She was never satisfied living the life of a lady. Instead she learned to fight and has proven herself to be quite clever.
Arya is one of my favorite characters on the show. I love her tenacity and her ability to fight through the toughest of situations. However, my favorite character is Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). Despite his small stature, he is a formidable presence. He’s one of the only characters to see things for what they are. He doesn’t care much for all the formalities of a regal lifestyle. Though he is crass and uncouth a lot of the time, he is one of the most honorable characters on the show. He can be conniving, but he also has a strong sense of right and wrong. He does not seem to tolerate the mistreatment of the innocent—or at least those he deems to be innocent.
One of the biggest surprises of the season was the progression of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). In the first season I was not all that interested in her character. I didn’t dislike her, I just didn’t find her story as compelling as the others. That all changed this season. Beginning with the final episode of season one, her story has become one of the most interesting. I like that she has slowly learned to use her authority. Over time she has proven herself to be powerful. Hopefully she becomes a formidable opponent to the evil King Joffrey.
Speaking of Joffrey, I believe he is the most despicable character on the show. Granted, he is responsible for the death of Ned Stark, but even beyond that he’s pretty bad. Though unlikeable in every way, he is perfect for the show. He epitomizes the dark side of life. Mean and humorless, he has a total disregard for everyone else. At the very least with him you know what you are getting. He’s not fooling anyone as to what side he’s on.
The same can’t be said for many of the other characters on the show. Sometimes it’s hard to know who’s good and who’s bad. Someone can do something honorable at one moment, then turn around and betray their friends and family the next. It’s those unexpected surprises that keep the show fresh week after week. Season two of Game of Thrones portrays the strong rising to the top, while the weak are disposed of without a second thought. Sometimes it’s a surprise who will prevail and who will die.
It would not be a stretch to say that Game of Thrones is one of the most ambitious shows ever produced. The massive sets, epic storylines, and its many characters make for a massive amount of storytelling. Sometimes it’s hard to keep things straight. Luckily the Blu-ray set provides a ton of special features that can help do just that. Perhaps the most helpful is the “In-episode” guide. This guide can be run along with the episode, providing information on characters, locations, and history up to that point. It’s handy if you need a reminder of who is who and what they have done so far.
There are also a ton of featurettes that provide a backdrop for the series. These include character profiles, histories, and lore as told from the perspectives of the different characters. There’s also the “War of the Five Kings” feature, which provides an interactive guide to the strategies of the contenders for the throne. In addition there are extensive interviews and a “making of” segment on the final battle. There are also 12 commentary tracks, and a few “dragon eggs” scattered throughout the five discs.
The Blu-ray is presented in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that looks excellent. The colors are realistic and deep. The detail is as sharp as can be. Many scenes take place in darkness, but the clarity is never compromised. Shadows and figures are still distinct, never fading into the dark. You really couldn’t ask for a better visual presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is equally as good. The surrounds get a workout with the constant presence of background noises. The battle scenes were particularly spectacular, with thunderous explosions and the roar of battle cries. Voices are clear even with the quietest whispers. It’s a great audio and visual package all around.
Whether you’re already a fan or a newcomer to the series, I can hardly recommend it more. Game of Thrones is unlike anything I have seen on television before. The violence, nudity, and very adult themes may be a turn off for some (and make the show for adults only), but I enjoyed the no-holds-barred nature of the show. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next. Season three is scheduled to begin March 31, 2013 on HBO.