Blu-ray Review: Game of Thrones - The Complete Fifth Season

Get ready for April 24th's Season 6 premiere with this impressive feature-packed HBO box set

By , Columnist
The first couple of episodes of Game of Thrones' fifth season feel like a medieval soap opera with dragons thrown in to mix things up a bit. Kit Harington's Jon Snow provides pretty much the only sit-up-and-watch moments because of the ever-present sense that he is never far from danger. Almost everyone else gets a relatively easy ride as they smugly wander around opulent locations discussing mundane topics.

Even Peter Dinklage is barely tested because Tyrion Lannister is confined to such an extent that his frustrations might parallel those of viewers expecting a bit more impetus. Anyone being introduced to Game of Thrones via these two episodes could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about.

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With the benefit of hindsight, however, it's clear that what these episodes are doing is tacitly establishing relationships between characters that will have consequences later on (and generally not pleasant ones). This starts to become evident in episode three as some of the multiple subplots pick up pace. Thereafter, as the various intertwined stories progress, it becomes increasingly evident that all of this season's main characters are destined to face a crisis. With only ten scripts in a season, things start to motor along and events, in some cases, come to a head two or three episodes before the finale

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Perhaps the most visually outstanding of these is the stunning battle sequence in 'Hardhome'. Like so much else about scenes involving the Night's Watch, it epitomizes what makes Game of Thrones so compelling. Cinematic in scope and with top-notch CGI, it is emotionally stirring and heralds future events that are sure to be daunting for the characters and viewers.

Among the other highlights this season is the heart-wrenching 'Dance of Dragons'. Its central tragedy is predictable but that doesn't make it less difficult to watch. Emilia Clarke also has a good season as Daenerys, whose trials include dealing with unpredictable dragons that are now grown up and the Sons of Harpy, who up the ante in Meereen. On the upside Clarke gets to share some brilliantly witty interchanges with Dinklage as  Tyrion tries to sell himself as Daenerys' advisor.

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Of course, season five also has evidence aplenty of those traits for which Game of Thrones has become infamous. Nudity, violence, and the continued abuse of one female character in particular won't sit well with every viewer. Yet, while the show continues to be shocking, the level of explicit gore is less this season than might be expected from the series' reputation.

What is not controversial is the continued exceptional quality of the production. The CGI is obvious at times but that's forgivable given the scope of the storytelling. The acting is faultless, however. Particularly commendable are the performances of younger stars such as Clarke and Maisie Williams, who never seem anything less than completely convincing. This ensures that season five keeps Game of Thrones head and shoulders above most other shows on television despite its slow start. 

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HBO Home Entertainment has set a high bar for Blu-ray box sets with its Game of Thrones releases so far and The Complete Fifth Season easily meets that standard. Aside from including a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and a Digital Copy of each episode, this set has more audio commentaries (12) than there are episodes, which is pretty much unheard of.

Moreover, there are documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and In-Episode guides that provide background to the stories. You might expect this amount of material from a Special Edition release but with every Game of Thrones Blu-ray it comes as standard. Kudos to HBO for delivering the level of quality that makes this yet another essential addition to any fan's collection.

Season 6 of Game of Thrones premieres April 24 at 9pm on HBO. You can watch the March Madness trailer below.

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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