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Blu-ray Review: Game Of Thrones: The Complete Second Season
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Game of Thrones Season 2 Blu-ray Image

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season
Blu-ray | DVD
CREATORS: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R. R. Martin (author)
STARRING: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Richard Madden, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Stephen Dillane, Conleth Hill, Aidan Gillen, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Iain Glen, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Jack Gleeson, Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, Liam Cunningham, James Cosmo, Rory McCann, Gethin Anthony, Gwendoline Christie, Carice van Houten, Joe Dempsie, Charles Dance, Donald Sumpter, Kristian Nairn, John Bradley, Sibel Kekilli, Natalia Tena, Finn Jones, Oona Chaplin, Natalie Dormer, Nonso Anozie, Rose Leslie
HBO
RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2013

I’ve developed something of a young tradition, one that I hope to continue for the next handful of years or so…if the old gods and the new see fit. As someone who was introduced to George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” universe by HBO’s adaptation of the books (I read, but not nearly as much as others), Game of Thrones, I, like many others—much to the chagrin of readers who had been singing its praises for years—instantly found myself obsessed with this incredibly detailed world, its unique and complex characters, and a long, rich history that could force many aspiring writers to retire their quills for the rest of their days.

After the first season came and went and instantly became one of my favorite new shows, the next logical step was to jump into the books. A year is a tortuous amount of time to wait for something this good. And while most people already knew how brilliant the books were, I soon found out that reading through after seeing the season was an exciting way to add new layers to the story. As I was nearing the end of the first book, the first season was getting ready to arrive on Blu-ray and DVD and season two was nearing its premiere. And so it began. As I write this I near the end of book two, I’m rewatching season two (and all the wonderful special features) on Blu-ray, and season three of the show inches ever closer.

Season one of Game of Thrones was dedicated to introducing characters and getting all of the storylines moving and intertwining and slowly spiraling into chaos. Season two introduces some new players in the game of thrones, but the primary focus is the War of the Five Kings, where five different figures claim the title of king: Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and the Lannisters, Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) all battling for the Iron Throne of Westeros; Robb Stark (Richard Madden) declaring himself King in the North; and Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) redeclaring himself as King of the Iron Islands.

Some folks (very few, but some) weren’t as happy about season two as they were the first season for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons was because the season was a little bit slower than the first, with not as many shocking moments. Another was that, unlike the first season, quite a bit was altered from the second book. But the plain and simple fact is that there’s good reason for these things, and that season two is just as great as the first season.

One thing to always keep in mind when you see things changed and left out of a movie or TV show adapted from a book, is that the people that make said movies and TV shows have a (often very strict) budget to work with. The possibilities are endless when writing a book and envisioning it as you read, which is why many prefer them to all other forms of entertainment, but things need to be tweaked to fit the budgetary constraints of a movie or show. As I came to find out, this was even more true when it came to season two of Game of Thrones.

See, there’s this episode you might remember. It’s titled “Blackwater,” and it was the penultimate episode of the season. The episode focuses on the Battle of Blackwater Bay—a crucial battle from the books in which Stannis Baratheon makes his move on King’s Landing and his goal to take his rightful place on the Iron Throne—which builds over the course of the season. Going into the season, creators David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and others, including George R.R. Martin, knew that it would be an immensely expensive episode to make, and there was a time when they didn’t think they’d even be able to do it (more on this episode in a can’t-miss special feature covered below). But they decided early that it would be impossible not to feature this particular battle, and had to save a whole lot of their budget for the entire season to use on this one episode. Just as a comparable example, you’ll recall toward the end of season one there’s a huge battle, but we don’t get to see it even though it is in the book. This was because of budget, but thankfully they were able to get by without showing it all. The show is already one of the priciest ever to make, and you can only image what a battle like that would have cost to pull off. They did not have this option when it came to “Blackwater.”

Perhaps the season wasn’t quite as exciting as the first season, but that’s also another testament to why the show is so damn good. Even if the majority of the season is moving pieces into place and characters strategizing, those very characters are so interesting in so many different ways that I can be wholly entertained just watching them interact and maneuver. And the most exciting thing about season two and all of these pieces moving into place, is that it sets up what’s sure to be an intense season three (with perhaps a few more king-types thrown into the mix for good measure) and season four (fingers crossed!) that will both cover the massive third book.

Martin’s books are already established as some of the best fantasy you can get your hands on, and Game of Thrones is quickly establishing itself as one of the all-time great shows, as well. And if season three is as good as the first two (and as crazy as it looks to be), it will be hard for anyone to deny that.

Special Features

After all that, we haven’t even gotten to the part you really want to know about: the special features! You already know the show is as good as I’ve gushed time and time again (if not, shame on thee—you’re banished to the Island of Misfit Jersey Shore fans), and you want to know what else the Blu-ray comes with. And I’m pleased to announce, the bonus content is once again awesome.

* Creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay — My personal favorite special feature on the season two Blu-ray (and DVD), this 30-minute-ish bonus looks at the making of the budget-busting penultimate episode mentioned above, “Blackwater.” Not only do cast and crew talk about how crucial and expensive the episode was, but they cover in detail everything they did to make the episode…and it is epic.

From the construction of a full-size almost sea-ready ship to the wildfire explosion to the stunts and various other special effects used, it is awe-inspiring to see what they put into making this one episode. You have to watch it.

* Histories & Lore — One of my favorite special features on the season one Blu-ray were these short histories and lore clips, which cover much of the backstories and history of Westeros you don’t see on the show to those who haven’t read the books (and those who haven’t read them in a long while). These shorts are presented using moving artwork in a motion comic style, while characters from the show tell the story.

Season two brings with it nineteen more animated shorts, and they’re all excellent. Be sure to take the time to watch all of these if you haven’t read the books; you won’t regret it and you’ll be amazed at just how much is going on in this world, and how far back the history of your favorite characters’ families goes.

* War of the Five Kings — This feature allows you to look into everyone involved in the War of the Five Kings, what they claim, and their strategies and movements.

* Game of Thrones Inner Circle — A roundtable discussion of the season and characters between creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, and stars Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark).

* The Religions of Westeros — The show’s creators and author George R.R. Martin discuss the various religions that are practiced throughout Westeros.

* Character Profiles — Seven major characters are profiled, with the actors who portray them describing who they’re playing.

* In-Episode Guide — A feature you can use while watching through the season that provides all the information you need about the scene you’re watching including which characters are involved, the location it’s set in, and any relevant history.

* Hidden Dragon Eggs — The hidden Dragon Eggs are back! Just like hidden Easter Eggs, hidden Dragon Eggs will offer a new bonus goodies to check out…if you can find them.

* Audio Commentaries — Twelve commentaries with various cast and crew discussing the episode as it plays.

Trailer

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