HBO’s Game of Thrones hits Blu-ray, digital, and DVD with its latest season just in time for the holidays. By now, anyone who might be interested in this release, The Complete Sixth Season, already knows the players and settings pretty well, hooked into the battle of sex, violence, and political intrigue for years. Who will end up ruling Westeros, and who else among our favorites might survive the bloody, never-ending conflicts? The sixth year continues those threads and tees up the final two, shorter seasons, set to air next summer and the year after.
A lot of exciting stuff happens in sixth season. The North descends further into chaos as Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon) secures his hold on the land. At the same time, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and a resurrected Jon Snow (Kit Harington) build an army to unseat Bolton, the bastard sitting in their departed father’s chair. Further north, the brothers at The Wall are thrown into chaos, and beyond that, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reappears after a season off, and we finally learn the story behind fan-favorite Hodor’s (Kristian Nairn) name in a very memorable episode.
Looking south, King’s Landing is a mess as Cersei (Lena Headey) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) each try to bend the ear of the ineffectual King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), who continues to be stream-rolled by The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). A clear winner emerges by the end of the year, probably surprising even Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who has come home to the capital. However, the new ruler shouldn’t get too comfortable, as the vengeful Sands steal control of Dorne and look towards the Red Keep.
This isn’t even taking into account what’s going on across the sea, with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) training to take her revenge, and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) trying to hold a city together for the MIA Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). And off the coast of Westeros, Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) struggle with murderous family members to attempt to hold onto their own lands.
This is all only a very brief overview of a busy ten episodes, which include many more characters and scenarios. The pacing is excellent, everything constantly in motion, and the various threads balanced beautifully. The world created continues to be grounded and compelling, and it’s very easy to see why this is one of the most popular series being made right now.
However, as a fan of the books first, I still find it a bit hard to overlook the horrible way in which the TV show departed from the source material. For four seasons, Game of Thrones was a pretty faithful adaptation of the novels. Beginning in season five, and continuing even more blatantly this year, the story has gone in a myriad of different directions, thumbing its nose at the author, George R.R. Martin. I get that a video medium needs to take certain liberties, but either it stays fairly true or it is its own thing; I can’t recall another example of a show that started the former and changed to the latter mid-stream. While part of this may be because the show has gotten ahead of the books in many regards, Martin being a notoriously slow writer, it still feels fundamentally wrong, a betrayal of the fans.
And yet, I can’t stop watching. I have come to love these actors and their portrayals of the characters, and if I can push the books out of my mind, it’s still a very good show. It makes me supremely sad that such an excellent show is tainted in this way, but at this point, it’s too late to change that. I am committed to seeing it through to the end regardless, even as I already long for a re-do in the future.
HBO usually takes good care of its viewers in terms of extras on their home releases, and Game of Thrones – The Complete Sixth Season is no exception. Besides the expected deleted scenes and audio commentaries (thirteen for ten episodes!), there is an in-episode guide that seems invaluable for such a complex, interwoven tale. The guide also provides background info for the series, not just the story, which means there is useful trivia even if one is already well-versed in all things Westeros. Adding to the mythology are a batch of “Histories & Lore,” as told by the characters.
Beyond that, there is an in-depth look at the impressive Battle of the Bastards sequence and a peek at the work done in Paint Hall. We also get to see how the Dothraki made their come back in the production after having been out of the story so long. So there is quite an impressive array of bonus material.
Despite my reservations about Misters Benioff and Weiss, the show-runners, and some of the (in my opinion) poor decisions they’ve made of late, Game of Thrones remains a must-see program, and this set is well worth a look.
Game of Thrones – The Complete Sixth Season is available now.