After two incredibly well-received seasons, HBO's "Game of Thrones" could have easily collapsed under the weight of its own success, but the drama returned for a third season that was dramatically satisfying and consistently entertaining. Based upon George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "Game of Thrones" received the royal treatment from an HBO still stinging from the expensive collapse of "Rome". The show has become a worldwide phenomenon; an incredible feat considering intricately plotted fantasy has not always been universally appealing. The factions of Westeros continue to evolve in this third season, with series favorites Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) taking center stage, and the hateful King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) inflicting pain throughout the Seven Kingdoms.
Perhaps most impressive is that "Game of Thrones" seems to work for everyone, from fans of Martin's lengthy novels to viewers usually averse to fantasy dramas. This brutal, intimate and complex season three is not exactly light entertainment, but it is certainly compelling. Following the first part of "A Storm of Swords," Martin's third book in the series, this season sees the Lannisters begin to rebuild King's Landing after a fierce battle with the Baratheon army. Daenerys works to amass her own forces, and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) tries to hold together his quickly crumbling, increasingly powerless family. Dragons and White Walkers aside, "Game of Thrones" continues to excel largely as a political drama, and it is in the back hallways and castles of powerful, warring rulers that the show earns its stripes.
In honor of the show's continued success, HBO has re-released this Complete Third Season in collectible Steelbook packaging with collectible magnet. Those interested in additional details about Season 3 may want to check of Michael Zupan's review. Whether or not you purchase this particular edition may depend on your love of Steelbooks or previous Blu-ray purchasing habits. Season 3 may be the most entertaining season of the first three, and any of the Blu-ray editions offer excellent picture, sound and supplements. The series is a must watch, and this Steelbook edition is certainly recommended.
Each episode receives a lovely 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that offers impressive fine-object detail and texture. Close-ups reveal intimate facial details, the notable production design of fabrics and sets, and every bit of dirt, grime and blood shed during battle. The series has a wonderful filmic quality, and the Blu-ray is free of compression hiccups or edge enhancement. Black levels and shadow detail are solid, colors are nicely saturated, and skin tones appear natural. Only briefly did I spot some noise in backgrounds.
New to this release are Dolby Atmos surround tracks, which I sampled in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD. These mixes are absolutely theatrical in quality. The immersive action effects of battle surround the viewer. Dialogue is crisp and clear, whether delivered from the center channel or directionally. Ambient and environment effects are frequent and nuanced, and both clarity and range are excellent. The score, and wonderful opening theme, is weighty and nicely integrated. English, French, Spanish, German and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are included, as are a bunch of subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This five-disc set is packaged in a standard Steelbook, which slips inside a larger plastic box. A magnetic medallion is also included. Although pretty, I am not sold on the Steelbook packaging for a multi-disc TV season. The discs are stacked, which makes for somewhat difficult access, and the previous Blu-ray packaging was overall more aesthetically pleasing. An insert offers a code to redeem iTunes or UltraViolet HD digital copies of the episodes. Extras are numerous. The discs include Twelve Audio Commentaries; an In-Episode Guide with background information, videos and artwork for each episode; A Gathering Storm (14 minutes/HD), an overview of the season; New Characters (10 minutes/HD), about the new additions; Inside the Wildings (6 minutes/HD), about the people living beyond the Wall; The Politics of Marriage (9 minutes/HD), which discusses the show's frequent use of marriage as a political tool; Deleted/Extended Scenes (14 minutes/HD); Histories and Lore, stories about the mythology; Roots of Westeros, an interactive board of the setting; and "The Rains of Castamere" Unveiled (47 minutes/HD), an impressive look at the making of this episode.
HBO's "Game of Thrones" is an incredible series, and Season 3 is a worthy entry in the timeline. This newly released, Limited Edition Steelbook version offers new Dolby Atmos audio and the same great picture and supplements as the previous release. Whether or not you pick this up likely depends on you owning the season already and your love of Steelbooks. Recommended.