Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming—In Atmos

Adapted from George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series of books, Game of Thrones debuted on HBO in 2011 and became an instant small-screen classic. The fifth season was recently honored with the “Outstanding Drama Series” Emmy, and the sixth (of rumored eight) will debut this year.

This is my second attempt at watching after the first failed miserably due to complaints from Mrs. Reviewer. While she loved the medieval period sets and costumes, she was extremely turned off by the gore and the seemingly never-ending display of bare breasts along with “pointless sex scenes.” I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the incestuous scene in the first episode, but I found that the rampant depictions of prostitution showcased the low morality prevalent in this society, and it became an integral part of the storytelling, especially the aforementioned incest.

It’s been three years since then, and my wife actually ended up liking the show—a lot—mainly due to the strong female leads and the depth of the story. If you haven’t been exposed to the series, be sure to pay attention from the first minute onward because there’s a lot going on in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

Season One is based specifically upon Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice and sets up the tale by introducing the houses vying for the Iron Throne. Eddard Stark, Lord and Master of Winterfell, is the protagonist for the season and hails from the northernmost city in the lands. When he’s chosen by his friend King Robert to serve as the king’s hand, his honor won’t allow him to refuse. Being king isn’t all that Robert thought it would be when he ascended to the throne 17 years ago, but with Stark at his side again, he hopes for a brighter future—good luck with that.

Season Two, A Clash of Kings, picks up shortly after the events of Season One, with war in full swing. Various houses in the realm are seeking their independence due to uncertainty of ascension, and everyone and their brother is calling himself king. While the fighting continues in the south, unrest brews north of the wall, as the undermanned Night’s Watch ventures into the wild lands in search of answers.

Each season’s 10 episodes are broken out over five discs, and the video encodes are near reference quality in almost all areas. Colors are bold and vibrant, and the detail is outstanding. Black levels are a mixed bag and occasionally come off as dark gray, but this rarely happens.

Every episode has now been remixed in Dolby Atmos (True HD 7.1 core), and the first scene of Episode One shows off the object-based audio as the Night’s Watch ventures into the tunnel through the wall. Echoes of their footsteps bounce around the room, placing you right into the scene. Unfortunately, these examples are few and far between for the majority of the 20 episodes. Overhead effects are limited to some score bleed and the occasional atmospheric effects. Fortunately, the dialogue is firmly rooted in the center and always intelligible. Episode Nine, Season Two, “Blackwater” (which cost a reported $8M to produce), is the most demo-worthy of the bunch, when King’s Landing is under siege by invaders. The soundstage comes alive as the battle gets underway, and when the king’s hand unveils his secret weapon, you might want to hang onto something.

These new Steelbook Collector’s Editions include all the supplements from the original releases along with collectible magnets—the direwolf sigil of House Stark with Season One and the House Lannister golden lion with Season Two. The disc-based features are outstanding and include a ton of useful information to better understand the vast universe that Martin has created. My favorite is “The Complete Guide to Westeros,” which includes interactive maps, the history of the various families, and over an hour’s worth of mini-featurettes delving into to religion, mythology, and historical events preceding the start of the series.

If you’re late to the party like I was, be sure to pick up these new Dolby Atmos-enabled Blu-rays. They’re fantastic!

Studio: HBO, 2011/2012
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 core
Length: 561 mins. (Season 1)/ 544 mins. (Season 2)
Rating: TV-MA
Directors: Neil Marshall, David Nutter, Alan Taylor, Daniel Minahan
Starring: Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Mark Addy

Viipottaja's picture

“pointless sex scenes.”

I am thoroughly confused now.. ;-P