By Mike Bax
HBO Home Entertainment

“Eloquent men are right every bit as often as imbeciles.” Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)

There is a cartoon that lives online that depicts Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin smiling menacingly as he squashes the characters of his wonderful series, one by one like insects. Five seasons into the show and this cartoon resonates all too accurately as the four royal houses of the Seven Kingdoms continue to destroy each other over the ten magical episodes contained on this 5th season Blu-ray set.

Without ruining anything of significance for readers/viewers, the overall storylines (without spoilers) in Season Five are as follows: Things start unravelling for Cersei Lannister at King’s Landing. Lancel Lannister returns to King’s Landing. Tyrion Lannister arrives in Pentos and his storyline progresses towards an eventual meeting with Daenerys Targaryen. Jon Snow, back on the ‘right’ side of the wall (where Stannis Baratheon has arrived to make things even more dire at the edge of Wildling territory) struggles with allegiances to both the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. We learn more about the White Walkers. Samwell Tarly and Gilly leave for Oldtown with Maester Aemon. Littlefinger puts Robin Arryn in the care of House Royce and leaves for Winterfell with Sansa Stark – Brienne of Tarth, still loyal to the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark, and her squire Podrick Payne follow them. Arya Stark arrives in Braavos and is accepted into the House of Black and White. We find out if Margaery Tyrell will marry Tommen Baratheon. Bronn and Jaime Lannister travel to Dorne to rescue Myrcella Baratheon from house Martell.

Over the course of ten episodes – episodes that garnered Game of Thrones with an unprecedented 12 Emmy Awards (including the award for Outstanding Drama Series) – things take some jaw-dropping turns at every corner as the series progresses to its agonizing cliff-hangers.

Game of Thrones has a history of delivering its most poignant episode of the season at episode 9. While this season certainly does follow suit, episode 10 of season 5 is equally crazy, finishing off the season with a one-two punch unlike any of the seasons prior.

The Game of Thrones books have stemmed out of George R.R. Martin’s adoration for the War of the Roses, and thus the attrition of beloved characters must be met with a certain level of understanding. It’s the fact that the characters are so lovingly fleshed out (both in the books and onscreen) that makes their eventual demises so damn hard for fans to cope with. It should come as no surprise that Game of Thrones Season Five continues along this merry path with an almost wild abandon at times. Deftly directed by five directors this season (Michael Slovis, Mark Mylod, Jeremy Podeswa, Miguel Sapochnik and David Nutter) each doing two episodes in sequence, Season Five of Game of Thrones does indeed serve as one of the most satisfying of the lot. The bar is set high for Season Six, commencing on April 24th 2016 for another ten-episode run.

From a technical standpoint, Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season delivers once again on all fronts. Season Five was filmed in 5 Countries, using 151 different sets, shot over 240 Days, employing 161 cast members, 1,000 crew and 5,000 extras – it was an undertaking of epic proportions. The picture and sound delivered on the Blu-ray discs are simply stunning – so stunning in fact that special showings of past episodes at select theatres have shown audiences what fans of the show have known for years now: Game of Thrones delivers the end-experience of seeing a mini-movie every week that it airs. Almost every episode of Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season contains audio commentary – INSIGHTFUL commentary by the actors and episode directors that are well worth enjoying on a second run through the season. The Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons commentary by Director David Nutter, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) is excellent, as is the Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy commentary with Executive Producers/Writers David Benioff and D.B Weiss, Director David Nutter, and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister).

Exclusive to the Blu-ray set are:
– In Episode Guides for every episode: a resource that interfaces with the episodes as the run yielding background information, locations and relevant histories for characters onscreen.
– Histories and Lore: Animated and narrated tours through the mythology of the show over 14 pieces, some of which feature illustrations from Game of Thrones storyboard artist, Will Simpson.
– The Dance of Dragons: a 20-minute-long clip about the Greens and the Blacks, the Targaryen civil war that brought down the dragons (narrated by characters from the show’s past seasons.

You can preview an exclusive clip of The Dance of Dragons here:

 

Also included on the set are:
– A Day in the Life: A 26-minute-long promotional featurette which aired on HBO and which includes some fun behind the scenes footage and interviews.
– New Characters/New Locations (1080p; 7:41) focuses on the ever expanding cast list of the series.
– Anatomy of an Episode: Mother’s Mercy is a 30-minute-long overview of the season’s finale. It’s rife with spoilers, so don’t watch this before you watch the ten episodes of season 5.
– The Real History Behind Game of Thrones: Interviews with George R.R. Martin in two parts – 35 minutes’ total.
– Deleted Scenes: 8 minutes of clipped scenes.

Highest recommendations for this Blu-ray set. Whether you are new to the season or are buying it to watch again before Season 6 starts at the end of April, you won’t be disappointed.

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