With little over three weeks until Season Two of HBO’s Game of Thrones premiers on April 1, Season One of this extraordinary series was finally released on DVD and Blu-ray. HBO certainly kept us waiting for the complete first season on disc, but I’m sure few will feel that the wait has not been worth it.
Excepting Salman Rushdie of course, who felt that the series was no more than well-produced trash…
Most of us however were genuinely gob-smacked by the series, which stands out as a watershed in the adaptation of genre fiction. Every aspect of production came together in a perfect demonstration of how to adapt sophisticated SF and fantasy fiction for the screen, in particular those weighty tomes and sprawling series beloved by the SF and fantasy readership.
If any single department in this undertaking should be singled out for particular praise, it is the team of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss who adapted the first book (and now the second) in George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire. Together they have brought to the screen a complex and intelligent work of fantasy fit for adult consumption. Any adaptation of novel to screen involves change, but as HBO’s Game of Thrones proves, those changes can be interesting rather than detrimental given the latitude of a TV series, talented writers and a respectable budget.
In contrast to Fox, which we’ve seen axe quality shows such as The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Firefly at the drop of a hat (or at least dropping audience numbers), HBO recognised early on that it had something special with Game of Thrones despite somewhat lackluster ratings for the premiere (2.2 million of HBO’s reported 40 million plus subscribers tuned in). Prepared to invest in quality TV however, a second season was quickly confirmed: “We are delighted by the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought George R.R. Martin’s amazing book series to the screen, and thrilled by the support of the media and our viewers,” HBO president Michael Lombardo commented in April 2011. “This is the continuation of an exciting creative partnership.”
Season Two adapts A Clash of Kings, book two in Martin’s epic (though unfinished) series. The story picks up where Game of Thrones ends – with the shocking execution of Ned Stark, head of House Stark, by the ruthless Lannisters, and the seven kingdoms of Westeros descending into civil war. Beyond the borders of Westeros another threat looms with Daenerys Targaryen of House Targaryen rebuilding her forces in preparation to invade and take back the Seven Kingdoms.
There’s little romance to Martin’s fantasy about warring families, political intrigue and the bloody struggle for power, and with a narrative dominated by grim realism we ought to be prepared for the worst, but even so the brutal turn of events is often refreshingly confronting and shocking. Few series are as courageous or brutal in the killing of key characters in the interests of furthering the story (Spooks aka MI5 comes to mind). Benioff infamously described Game of Thrones as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth”, but a more apt analogy for this uncompromising tale of political intrigue and warring families is possibly “Frank Herbert’s Dune with broadswords”: for quality writing, complexity and political intrigue, not to mention sheer scale, only Frank Herbert’s series of Dune novels compares to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
And now, finally, we have the opportunity to revisit the first season of the most exceptional fantasy series yet to grace our screens. As well as the complete first season, what else will you find on the DVD and Blu-ray sets of Game of Thrones? In short, a load of bonus content. On the whole the extras available in different regions are the same (although the Amazon UK Blu-ray set boasts an exclusive Creating the Visuals bonus disc). As usual there are some differences between the DVD and Bu-ray sets, but both include:
- A Complete Guide to Westeros
An interactive compendium of the noble houses and lands featured in Season One.
- Making Game of Thrones
A 30 minute feature including never-before-seen footage from the set and interviews with the cast and crew.
- Character Profiles
Profiles of 15 major characters as described by the actors portraying them.
- Creating the Show Open
An inside look at the creation of the Emmy-winning opening title sequence for Game of Thrones.
- From the Book to the Screen
Executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and author George R.R. Martin talk about the challenges of bringing Martin’s epic fantasy novel to life on HBO.
- The Night’s Watch
An in-depth look at the unique order of men who patrol and protect the Wall, a 700 foot ice structure that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the darkness beyond.
- Creating the Dothraki Language
An insightful glance into the comprehensive language created for the Dothraki people in Game of Thrones.
- Audio Commentaries
Seven audio commentaries with Cast and Crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, and more.
Additionally, the Blu-ray set includes:
- A Complete Guide to Westeros
An interactive compendium of the noble houses and lands featured in Season One, plus 24 exclusive histories of the Seven Kingdoms as told by the characters themselves.
- In-Episode Guide
In-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters, locations, and relevant histories while each episode plays.
- Anatomy of an Episode
An in-episode experience that explores the creative minds and colossal efforts behind episode six, A Golden Crown.
- Hidden Dragon Eggs
Find the hidden dragon eggs to uncover even more never-before-scene content.
All’n’all more than enough content to keep us suitably entertained until Season Two kicks off in a few weeks. Speaking of which, here’s the latest trailer for Season Two: