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WARNING - CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Game of Thrones: Season Four (2014. 5 disc Blu-ray set) continues the insanely successful show. Unlike the first season, which was essentially faithful to the book, the show has chosen to diverge in a number of ways. Firstly some of the characters do not appear, their part being incorporated into other characters storylines and some characters stories have been truncated. In a show with such an enormous roster of places and people this seem expedient as story telling in television is not the same as in novels.
Given that the show covers events across such a wide ranging area, it makes sense to look at these separately. That said if the previous seasons had covered themes of betrayal and war this one concentrated much more on interesting pairings.
This season introduced the extravagant and cocky house of Tyrell, in the form of a new character, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and one that made an instant impact and a perfect foil for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Both share a delight in flesh although Oberryn has come to Joffrey’s marriage with revenge in mind. The interplay between the two actors make up some of the better highlights of the first half of the season, especially when Oberyn becomes Tyrion’s unexpected way out of a death sentence.
Cersei (Lena Headey), reunited with Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has to contend with the fact that he has lost a hand, no longer her perfect knight. Their reunification becomes forced, in that in one scene there is a fine line between insistence and rape which some viewer though the show crossed.
GIANT SPOILER ALERT!
Never short of memorable moments this is the season when Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) gets murdered, the blame being laid at Tyrion's feet, although completely innocent his resentment towards his own family boils to a point where a death sentence looks almost certain. Praise must be given to Gleeson. who played Joffrey, the show has many witty and/or attractive characters, but it’s pretty safe to say that everyone hated Joffrey. To be able to invoke such a strong reaction in the audience is a testament to his acting ability; apparently he’s a lovely chap in real life
It’s been building for some time, with the massing of the Wildling army trying to force their way through the wall to safety. It’s hard from a moral standpoint not to sympathise with their reasons, given that winter is coming heralded by the return of the White Walkers. For Jon Snow (Kit Harington), this creates a dilemma, on the one hand he has become, against his oath, emotionally attached to Ygritte (Rose Leslie), but his role as a crow means he must deny them passage, which sparks a full on assault of castle black.
There is a whole host of characters traversing Westeros, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) sets off to fulfill her oath to find and protect the remaining Stark children, unaware that Arya (Maisie Williams) is travelling with Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), easily the most interesting pairing after Oberyn and Tyrion, towards the Eyrie, unaware that Sansa (Sophie Turner) has already made the same journey with Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), whilst further north, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) with the Reed siblings and Holdor (Kristian Nairn) are trying to breach the Wall to find the three eyed crow and possibility the remains of the first peoples.
Across the Sea
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) continues her series of conquest, freeing slaves to build an army to invade Westeros and reclaim the iron throne, eventually... sometime... possibly... In truth the girl is taking her sweet time with her plans, and after four seasons is not particularly closer to her goal than she was in season two and three. If it takes her much longer she may well find that winter has come and the White Walkers have slaughtered everyone anyway.
The cast is so vast that even this quick walkthrough, misses out Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister), Diana Rigg (Olenna Tyrell), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) and Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon), as well as many, many others. From the acting to the set and costume design the show drips quality. Given its scope there is little wonder that Game of Thrones has become the most popular show on television, certainly the most popular fantasy show ever made.
The discs are a vibrant riot of colour and detail, the colour palette having been chosen to reflect the part of the world depicted, from the rich warm colours of hotter climes to the bleak chill of the Wall. Encoded in MPEG-4 AVC 1080p, the aspect ratio remains the same as the televised show, 1.78:1. The 5.1 mix works well, with clarity in speech and an immersive deep rumble during the assault by the Wildings. It would be hard to fault either the picture or sound on the discs.
The set is not without its extras, which include:
Languages: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, check 2.0, polish 2.0 and Magyar 2.0; The Politics of Power: A Look Back at Season Three (25 min, 02 sec) presents an overview of the last season with contributions from the cast; Bastards of Westeros (7 min, 17 sec) with Martin explaining the role that bastards played in the story; New Characters and Locations (7 min, 39 sec) introduces us to the new lands as the show expands, with an introduction by the producers before the cast takes over introducing the new lands of Mareen; and Full length commentary for episodes one and two.
Commentary for episode four
Commentary for episode five and six
Commentary for episode seven and eight
Behind the Battle for the Wall (35 min, 40 sec) allows you a peek behind the curtain to see how the sequence was created; The Fallen: A round Table (28 min, 24 sec) has a selection of the most prominent characters to have bit the dust in season three discussing their experience on the show; Two deleted scenes: Bronn and Shae (1 min, 48 sec) Dany and Missandei (1 min, 10 sec); Season 4 Blooper Reel (2 min, 02 sec); Commentary for episode nine and ten.
So, another great set, released just in time for you to catch up before season five commences.
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