Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plots, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; and all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords, and honest men…all will play the “Game of Thrones.”
Based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Martin is credited as a co-executive producer and one of the writers for the series, whose shooting locations include Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia and Spain.
Plot: Nine noble families fight for control over the lands of Westeros, while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for millennia.
Creators: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Aspect Ratio: 1.78.1
Seasons: 8 Episodes: 73 Minutes: 4185
“Regardless of our opinions on the final season, Game of Thrones is still one of the greatest achievements in television history.”
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus Through the Seasons
Season 1: (90%) Its intricate storytelling and dark themes may overwhelm some viewers, but Game of Thrones is a transportive, well-acted, smartly written drama even non-genre fans can appreciate.
Season 2: (96%) Game of Thrones follows up a strong debut with an even better second season, combining elegant storytelling and vivid characters to create a rich fantasy world.
Season 3: (96%) Game of Thrones continues to deliver top quality drama for adults, raising the stakes even higher and leaving viewers hungry for more.
Season 4: (97%) Game of Thrones continues to be one of the best shows on TV, combining meticulously-plotted character arcs with the spectacular design of the Seven Kingdoms.
Season 5: (93%) Bloody action and extreme power plays return full throttle, as Game of Thrones enjoys a new-found liberation from the world of the source material, resulting in more unexpected thrills.
Season 6: (94%) Bloody and captivating as always, Game of Thrones plunges back into the midst of a world touched by grief, dread, and precarious sexuality.
Season 7: (93%) After a year-long wait, Game of Thrones roars back with powerful storytelling and a focused interest in its central characters — particularly the female ones.
Season 8: (55%) Game of Thrones‘ final season shortchanges the women of Westeros, sacrificing satisfying character arcs for spectacular set-pieces in its mad dash to the finish line.
There are so many ways to go about reviewing 73 episodes in 4K HDR — so to keep simplicity going I watched some of my favorite episodes which span every season. This was my way to try and culminate this entire package: I watched Baelor (Season 1), Blackwater (Season 2), The Rains of Castamere (Season 3), The Watchers on the Wall (Season 4), Hardhome (Season 5), The Door (Season 6), Battle of the Bastards (Season 6), The Spoils of War (Season 7) & The Long Night (Season 8). Sometime in the next year or so I’m going to dive back in and watch the whole thing start to finish to see if any of my feelings change when it comes to my opinion of the show. (We will get into that later.)
The first thing I noticed about the UHD collection was how the presentation (semi-dramatically) increased as the seasons progressed. Somewhere around the halfway point in the series you really start to see the quality shoot up in comparison to the first season. The costumes begin to show jaw-dropping detail and color — plus, the textures are precise as can be. On top of that, the scenery and props start to shine on their own at near reference level — HBO did some amazing work and the UHD shows off all their blood, sweat and tears.
As you already know, there’s quite a bit of CGI in this series and while there will be softer looking scenes due to that, it’s nothing that draws you away from the overall presentation. (Side note: the dragons look better and better as the seasons progress too.)
Lastly, we get to my favorite aspect of UHD, the use of HDR. The high-dynamic range isn’t as loud and in your face during this series — it’s more subtle and ingenious. The most obvious take away for me were the blue’s in the more winter-focus episodes because they now appear cooler and more spot on to the original intent. Beyond that, the black levels were stronger and every highlight, tone and shadow were noticeably better. That’s the point right? They delivered.
That can’t be all… (it’s not.)
Having the full series in my hands — there was only one episode I really wanted to watch, Season 8’s The Long Night. When this episode finally landed on HBO’s streaming service I wasn’t impressed with the black-levels or overall presentation. I’ve never been against streaming, but if the option is available to me, I’ll always want the disc because it’s the best version you can get. I’m not going to spoil this episode, but this is one of the few I wanted to put to the test.
So, what happened? (Let’s get nerdy for a second.)
I was incredibly impressed and my bias has grown in the conversation of physical media versus digital. The way HBO had to compress this episode in order to make it suitable for streaming killed the black levels, shadows and levels of dimension — it’s the darkest episode (and maybe the most important) in the entire series, so it’s unfortunate that it happened that way.
The black levels were concise with no banding, you could distinguish the distance between the darkness just in front of you in comparison to further out. This helped create a bigger sense of atmosphere that wasn’t available when I streamed this episode. I live in the Bay Area with rock solid internet and I noticed pixelation all over the place due to the compression, so this was a mind-bending difference to see. Beyond that, the highlights against the darkness were amazing too, whether it was the fire on the swords of the Dothraki or the bright orange and blue flames shooting out of the dragons mouth. Are we talking reference quality material? No, but it’s impressive never-the-less.
Those black levels, shadows and levels of dimension hit at highly accurate levels on the UHD — everything looked as it should and it really made me respect the amount of work that went into this last season, even though I wish it would have unfolded differently. The scope and scale that was needed to create this battle we waited seventy episodes to see was no small feat. All the actors, extras, props, CGI, dragons, fire and set pieces had to match the scale the series had been building on for eight years — seeing all the details and dynamics come to light in the best possible format was awesome. Dipping in to a lot of my favorite episodes re-lit the fire for my love and hype that I had around the series. Call me crazy, but revisiting these episodes got rid of some of that salt I thought I held on to.
Full disclosure, this is the very first television show collection I’ve ever owned. There are only a select handful of shows I would put into the must-own category and this is one of them. Game of Thrones was probably the last major water cooler show ever made — hopefully I’m wrong, but it’s going to be hard to replicate something like this again. The only other show (outside of a comedy or sitcom) that I will go out of my way to own when it ends will probably be The Walking Dead.
Game of Thrones, as a collective series, will probably go down as one of the best ever made and this UHD release (with the touch of HDR) brings all the cinematic achievements to the forefront. Not only are the visuals incredible on disc without any streaming hiccups, but the Dolby Atmos mix packs a bunch too if you have a setup to enjoy it with too. I believe that this UHD Collection was exclusively made for every fan of the show to own in the best format available. Like the quote up top states (and I keep referencing), regardless of our opinions on the final season, Game of Thrones is still one of the greatest achievements in television history. Quite simply, you HAVE TO own this.
No matter what you decide to do, you can grab a copy at your local retailer on 4K today!
Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Will you be picking the full collection on UHD? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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