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Featured TV on DVD Review: Game of Thrones: Season 5

March 13th, 2016

Game of Thrones: Season 5 - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-ray
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Game of Thrones: Season Five

Season Six of Game of Thrones starts on the 24th of April. Still a full month away. On the other hand, Season Five comes out this week and to celebrate we have a Contest and a review. How was Season Five compared to the previous seasons? Is it still engaging? Or now that the show is running out of source material to pull from, is it starting to show cracks?

The Show

Game of Thrones is one of the hardest shows to review, because you can't even get out of the first episode before running into major spoilers for the season. (I will be posting spoilers for season four and earlier, because I assume anyone reading this has already seen those seasons.) Worse still, there are so many characters that not all of them appear in the first episode. Or the first two episodes. So we can't talk about what happens in the season in chronological order. Instead, we have to talk about it on a character by character basis. Even then, not all of the main characters will appear in the summary, because there are just too many of them. Instead, let's talk about the characters geographically, starting with...

King's Landing. King's Landing has seen better days. Nearly everyone who had power in King's Landing at the beginning of the series is now either dead or gone. The latest victims were Tywin Lannister, who was killed by Tyrion, his son, for many reasons we don't need to get into. Short summary, Tyrion was falsely accused of killing his nephew and the king, Joffrey. Tyrion and Varys escape with plans to go to Meereen. That's good news for them, bad news for King's Landing, because they were two of the main reasons the city was as well run as it was. Meanwhile, Cersei is sending her bother Jaime to Dorn to retrieve her / their daughter, Anna, who is their only remaining blood relative, besides King Tommen, and she's losing influence over him to his new wife, Margaery Tyrell. She decides to increase her power by working with the High Sparrow. ... Cersei gives power to a religious fanatic in order to have more control over King's Landing. Cersei isn't half as smart as she thinks she is, which continually comes back to bite her.

Further up north at The Eyrie, Petyr Baelish has taken over House Tully after marrying, and then murdering Lysa Arryn. That may seem cruel, but the pair also conspired to kill Lysa's husband. Petyr Baelish takes Sansa Stark to Winterfell, which is her homeland. Unfortunately, Winterfell is currently controlled by the Boltons, Roose and his psychotic bastard son, Ramsey. Roose is responsible for betraying the Starks at the Red Wedding, so Sansa has no desire to be back home under these circumstances. However, Petyr convinces her that being nice to the Boltons, and marrying Ramsey, will be a good way to regain Winterfall for the Starks. You can guess how poorly that goes.

Even further north, at the wall, Jon Snow is Jon Snow. Oh Jon Snow, what is wrong with you? Things at the north are really bad. Not only is winter coming, but this time around, it's bringing an army of the undead and the leader of the Night's Watch is dead. Stannis Baratheon makes Jon Snow an offer. He will legitimize Jon Snow. He will become Jon Stark and will become the Lord of Winterfell. All Jon Snow has to do is convince the Wildlings to fight for Stannis against Roose Bolton. Jon Snow agrees to help recruit the Wildlings, but refuses to abandon his oath with the Night's Watch. In fact, he is elected as the new head of the Night's Watch. This is good news, because he is possibly the only person who truly understands the dangers that are building north of the wall and he will do anything to protect his people. He will do anything, but explain to them what the dangers are. He's afraid that would destroy moral, but it just means the average Night's Watch doesn't understand why he's working so hard to save the Wildlings.

Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon... I'm not even going to talk about this, because it is too depressing.

Moving East across the Narrow Sea. Arya Stark makes it to Braavos, where the House of Black and White and Jaqen H'ghar are. She wants to be one of the Faceless Men, a group of feared assassins. In order to become one of the Faceless Men, you have to give up your identity and your past. Arya Stark is someone who goes to bed reciting the names of the people she wants to kill, so giving up her past is not something she can do easily. She will have to learn, because the Faceless Men worship the Many-Faced God, a.k.a., the God of Death.

Finally, we get to Meereen, where things are not progressing very fast. Daenerys Targaryen shares a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses Jon Snow has. She's kind and loyal and wants to do what's best for her people. However, she's also young and doesn't always do the right thing. Too often she under-reacts until things get out of hand and then she over-reacts to compensate. That happens this season, a lot. So much so it has frustrated the viewers who want to see her story progress. We do see some signs that things are going to move forward, especially when Tyrion arrives with Jorah Mormont.

The "summary" could have been much longer, but I had to cut out many of the more important characters for time.

So how is season five? Well, the short answer is excellent. Then again, only the first season has a Tomatometer Score that isn't above 95% positive. However, there are some signs that the show might be in trouble going forward. As I mentioned above, the Daenerys Targaryen plot line just didn't move forward enough for most fans. It became frustrating to watch. It wasn't the only plot line that had problems this season. As I previously wrote about, the Sansa storyline actually went backwards. She started to show agency and that was taken away from her. Arya's part of the show is still interesting, but feels so unconnected to the overall Game of Thrones part of Game of Thrones that many fans think it is out of place.

That said, much of the season is also impeccable. Any time Tyrion and Varys are on the screen together, it is amazing. We are also seeing plots moving that have been hinted at since the beginning. Winter is finally nearly here.

The Extras

Extras begin with audio commentary tracks. There is one for nearly every episode. Episode seven doesn't have an audio commentary track, while episodes eight and nine have two of them. If that were all the extras, that would be acceptable. The final disc also has four featurettes, beginning with A Day in the Life, which is a 25-minute behind-the-scenes / making of featurette. New Characters / New Locations is an 8-minute featurette and it is about exactly what it says. Anatomy of an Episode is a 30-minute look at the series finale. The last featurette is a 40-minute, two-part look at the real life history that inspired the events of Game of Thrones. Finally, there are four deleted scenes with a total running time of eight minutes.

I don't have the Blu-ray, but I do know there are Blu-ray exclusive extras, including an in-episode guide to the characters and lore. There are also many shorter featurettes on the history of Westeros.

As for the price, the Blu-ray costs $40, which is only $5 more than the DVD. That's an excellent price for a TV on DVD release.

The Verdict

Game of Thrones: Season 5 had some troublesome elements that need to be avoided in season six and beyond. That said, it is still arguably the best show on TV. The DVD and Blu-ray have plenty of extras and are clear contenders for Pick of the Week.

Filed under: Video Review, Jonathan Pryce, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Charles Dance, Stephen Dillane, Peter Dinklage, Aidan Gillen, Iain Glen, Lena Headey, Michael McElhatton, Natalie Dormer, Kit Harington, Kate Dickie, Iwan Rheon, Kerry Ingram, Emilia Clarke, Tom Wlaschiha, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Dean-Charles Chapman, Conleth Hill, Jack Gleeson, Nell Tiger Free