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

February 19th, 2013

Game of Thrones: Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Game of Thrones was one of the biggest new shows of 2011 and the second season was given the green light, and a larger budget, a mere two days after the series premiere. This turned out to be a wise choice, because the ratings for season two were even greater than they were for season one. But was this due to just hype? Or did the quality of the show increase as well? And is the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack as good as the first time around?

The Show

It is a little hard to review this show, because it is so dense with characters and plot. It is impossible to talk about the events of even the first episode without running into some spoilers. I guess the best way to discuss the season is to break it down into the main plot threads and the key characters involved in each. First, we will get some spoilers from season one out of the way.

The show is set in the land of Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, who lost their king, Robert Baratheon, and is now ruled by his son, Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). However, we learned last season that Joffrey wasn't actually Robert's son, but the illegitimate child of his wife, Cersei Lannister, and his wife's twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Ned Stark learned of this secret, which would have threatened Joffrey's rule, which is in part why he was killed. That's not a spoiler, because Sean Bean dies in nearly everything he does. This doesn't end the rumors, which causes a split in the Westeros between those loyal to Joffrey and those who believe his rule is illegitimate.

In the second camp, there are three main forces. Robb Stark (Richard Madden), eldest son of Ned, has begun to wage a campaign of war against the Lannister House. He's young and doesn't have a big army, but the Lannister's underestimate his ability, and this proves very costly early on. Unfortunately, he makes two key mistakes. The first is, and this is a major spoiler for later on, he frees Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), so he can return to the Iron Island to try and rally his father to Stark's side. If the Greyjoy navy was on Stark's side, they would have a much better chance to defeat the Lannisters at Kings Landing. However, Theon's father, Balon, decides instead to attack the Starks, for revenge over the death of his two other sons, which happened the last time he attacked the Starks. There are also the Baratheon brothers who both lay claim to the throne. Stannis is technically next in line, if his brother died without a true heir. However, while he is a gifted tactician and very loyal to the rule of law, he lacks charisma. His younger brother, Renly (Gethin Anthony), is much more inexperienced in war, but very charismatic and thus has a strong following. Stannis does have an ace, Melisandre, a fire priestess from a foreign land; however, not all of his followers trust her or think they should abandoned their gods for hers.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) still wants to reclaim the throne, carrying on the goal her now deceased brother had, as she believes her father was unjustly overthrown. However, her plans took a hit when her husband, Khal Drogo, died. However, her wedding gift, three petrified dragon eggs, turn out to be not so petrified and they hatch. This is a huge boon to her power, or it will be once they get strong enough to fight. For now, they make her a target, especially when she reaches the city of Qarth. Huge storyline, can't mention most of it.

Up north, Jon Snow, Ned's illegitimate son, has joined the Night's Watch and traveled beyond the wall. It turns out rumors of the dead rising were right, but that's not the only threat above up north, as the King of the Wildlings has raised an army to invade. Again, I have to skip most of this, including the cliffhanger ending.

While Tyrion is technically a Lannister, he is treated with such disdain by most of his family, that he is practically an independent actor in the grand political scheme. While his father, Tywin, more or less hates Tyrion, because his wife died in childbirth when Tyrion was born, he give Tyrion the post of acting Hand of the King, while Tywin is busy leading the Lannister army. This gives Tyrion power, and more importantly, responsibilities. It turns out having responsibilities is good for him.

The final character I will touch on is Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). After the death of her father, she had to escape Kings Landing. Yoren (Francis Magee), a member of the Night's Watch and someone loyal to the Starks, disguises her as a boy, barely, and takes her with the recruits for the Night's Watch to the Wall. Her family's home is along the way, so this is the safest way to get there. On a side note, there's a Game of Thrones YouTube channel, which is great / awful. I love the show, so I love watching the behind-the-scenes / interviews and such, but I avoid the channel during the season to avoid any spoilers. In one video, Maisie Williams was interviewed about her character and how she had to cut her hair really short, because she was pretending to be a boy in the show. One of the posters commented how he could see her boobs while she was in costume. He was attacked for being some kind of raving pervert. Here's the thing. You could tell she had breasts, but her character was pretending to be a boy. So if I can see she has breasts, and is therefore a girl, why can't any of the characters figure this out. Maybe I'm just being anal, but for me, this hurt suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, it doesn't take long before other characters do figure out she's not a boy. First is it one of her fellow recruits, then when they are all captured by Lannister's forces, Tywin Lannister himself immediately recognizes she's a girl. He doesn't realize who she is, but takes her in as a servant girl, because she shouldn't be left with the thugs and other prisoners. The scenes with Arya and Tywin are some of the best scenes of the season, and overall, Arya's character development is second only to Tyrion as far as overall quality.

I forgot to mention what happens in Winterfall after Bran is left in charge. There's just too much to talk about.

As for the overall quality of the show... I said Game of Thrones was the best new show of 2011 and awarded the first season Pick of the Week. Season two is even better. It is better in every regard. The only complaint I had before was that there were so many characters and storylines introduced that is was hard to keep up. This time there are many new characters and storylines, but they are introduced at a slower pace and we already are well immersed in the world, so it is not as hard to follow along.

My only real complaint this time around involves a couple characters who do things so incredibly stupid that it was frustrating to watch. For instance, Catelyn Stark let Jaime go free, in exchange for him promising no harm would come to her daughters, who were in Kings Landing. Thinking Jaime would live up to that promise is Sansa-level naivety. Speaking of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), she again misses an opportunity to flee for safety, but decides against it. I didn't find this as frustrating, because I came to expect this from her. Another time, Tyrion had the chance to diffuse the situation between him and Cersei and I don't think he took advantage of it, and it nearly cost him his life. These are not problems with the writing or the acting. In fact, it shows how good both are, because I became emotionally involved in the decisions these characters made.

The Extras

The extras are even better this time around, which is saying a lot. There are twelve audio commentary tracks on the ten episodes, with just all of the main cast appearing on one, and many of the writers and producers, and the creator himself, pitching in. Disc one also has Character Profiles. Over on disc five, there is an extensive making of featurette for the climactic battle, which I tried to avoid even hinting about. Inner Circle is a roundtable discussion with several of the cast and the showrunners, which is also very interesting. Finally George R.R. Martin discusses the religions in the series with the two showrunners. This adds up to more than an hour of extras, in addition to the audio commentary tracks.

There are exclusive extras on the Blu-ray version, starting with an In-Episode Guide, which is invaluable to keep track of who is who, the histories, etc. There are more featurettes on the Histories and Lore, and finally there's an interactive map of War of the Five Kings. Additionally, and this is rare for TV on DVD releases, there are DVDs of the show in the Blu-ray Combo Pack. Granted, they are flipper discs, and I hate flipper discs, but it is still a nice addition.

Like last time, the technical presentation is reference level quality. There is literally nothing to talk about, because there are no complaints to mention. If there was a single flaw in this show, I didn't notice it.

Finally, we get to the price. The Blu-ray cost just $5 or 20% more than the DVD, which would be an excellent price, even if there were no exclusive extras or DVD versions of the show.

The Verdict

Game of Thrones: Season Two... Buy it. Buy it now. Buy the Blu-ray Combo Pack if you can, but if you haven't made the leap to high definition, the DVD is still worth the money.

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Filed under: Video Review, Mark Addy, Sean Bean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Charles Dance, Stephen Dillane, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Carice van Houten, Patrick Malahide, Jason Momoa, Kit Harington, Isaac Hempstead-Wright