Game of Thrones Seasons 1 & 2 Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews seasons 1 & 2 of HBO Entertainment’s compelling TV series, Game of Thrones, in these Limited Edition Steelbook Collectors sets that include Dolby Atmos sound.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: HBO – 2011/2012
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Feature running time: 600/542 minutes
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Lain, Spanish, Castilian, Polish, Brazilian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Mark Addy, Nikolai Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Iain Glen, Alfrie Allen, John Bradley, James Cosmo, Liam Cunningham, Charles Dance, Stephen Dillane, Natalie Dormer, Michelle Fairley, Jerome Flynn, Aidan Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Conleth Hill, Sibel Kekilli, Rose Leslie

Directed by: Various
Written by: D.B. Weiss & David Benioff based on the “Song of ice and fire by George R.R. Martin
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 3, 2015

“You win or you die”

My Take:

Based on the bestselling fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, season one of Game of Thrones introduces a world where summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime. From the scheming south and the savage eastern lands, to the frozen north and ancient Wall that protects the realm from the mysterious darkness beyond, the powerful families of the Seven Kingdoms are locked in a battle for the Iron Throne.

In the second season of the epic HBO original series Game Of Thrones, kings from across the fictional continent of Westeros vie for the Iron Throne. As winter approaches, the cruel young Joffrey sits upon the Throne in King’s Landing, counseled by his conniving mother Cersci and his uncle Tyrion, who has been appointed the new Hand of the King. But the Lannister hold on power is under assault on many fronts, with two Baratheons donning crowns, and Robb Stark fighting as the King in the North. In the meantime, a new leader is rising among the wildlings north of the Wall, adding new perils for Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch, while Daenerys Targaryen looks to shore up her depleted power in the East with her three newborn dragons. With tensions and treaties, animosity and alliances, Season Two is a thrilling journey through a riveting and unforgettable landscape.

Game of Thrones is a story of duplicity and treachery, nobility and honor, conquest and triumph. In this game, you either win or you die.

I was late to the Game of Thrones phenomenon and didn’t begin watching it until season three. I haven’t read any of the books so my exposure going into it was limited and held only to what I had heard from friends that have been following from the outset. Needless to say it was a challenge trying to put the various storylines, characters and their correlation or lack thereof together. Since then I went back and watched seasons 1 and 2 which put all of the connective elements and foundational relationships of the events I saw in the following seasons into perspective.

I loved seasons one and two. The escalation of the tensions between Winterfell and King’s Landing drive them while the lesser but integral subplots following Arya Stark, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen provide an added and enriching layer to the proceedings. The culmination of both seasons come together as the war of the five kings escalates, resulting in treachery and bloodshed throughout the land. Part political thriller, part epic fantasy, seasons 1 and 2 bristle with rewarding drama/melodrama, engaging characters, numerous betrayals, thematic action/suspense and superb storytelling. Together the first two seasons of Games of Thrones is a visceral, captivating and sometimes shocking experience that is worth every minute.

The smash hit HBO series Game of Thrones has sat atop the Iron Throne of the home entertainment charts as the best-selling TV on Blu-ray/DVD title in each of the last four years. The box sets are popular among fans for their extensive bonus content that takes diehard viewers even further into the world of Westeros. Now these new Steelbook collector’s releases bring a whole new dimension to the series with the addition of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and brand new box art designed by Elastic, the agency responsible for the series’ Emmy® Award-winning opening credits. Each Steelbook showcases a specific location that is significant to that season and includes usable magnets on packaging featuring Game of Thrones sigils and symbols:

Season 1 packaging features Winterfell, where fans are introduced to the Stark family in the series premiere. The magnet for Season 1 is the direwolf sigil of House Stark.

In Season 2, the Lannisters’ influence is keenly felt from the Iron Throne and their sigil is included on packaging set in King’s Landing, where the season’s pivotal Battle of the Blackwater occurs.

I really like the steelbook packaging’s handsome exterior with the removable sigil magnet. The interior has two push button placement holders, one on each side, for the discs. My only complaint is that the discs have to mounted atop one another and I occasionally found it difficult to extract the discs by pressing the button.

In addition to all of the bonus content from the previous Blu-ray sets, the Game of Thrones Steelbook is the first TV on Blu-ray title to be released with the revolutionary new audio technology Dolby Atmos.

Parental Guide:

The show contains graphic violence, language, sexual content, graphic nudity and strong thematic material.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Dolby Atmos Rating: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion:
  • Soundstage integration:
  • Audio object placement:
  • Effectiveness:
  • Entertainment factor:

Game of Thrones: The Complete First and Second Season comes to Blu-ray Disc from HBO featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26 and 19 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 5.1 and 4.3 Mbps respectively.

This high definition video presentation offers clear, refined images that primarily boast a relatively subdued color palette that is rarely eye catching but conveys the earth tones and time period specific clothing, locals and sullen complexions with aplomb. There are instances where deeper more vivacious hues are utilized and their presence is not only welcomed but their application is purposefully vivid and boldly stated. The rendering of fine detail can range from exquisite to moderate. This leaves certain long range and mid-level shots with less dimensionality but not to the point of appearing soft. Black levels fluctuate however contrast is stable which when coupled along with the prevailing use of low level lighting mates well with the visual style of the presentation. I didn’t see any signs of video related artifacts/anomalies and felt that this high definition presentation closely mimicked and bested the series’ original broadcast quality.

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack isn’t bombastic or overly aggressive but that doesn’t prevent it from being remarkable. Its attributes come in the form of superlative high level detail, defining clarity, and subtly distinctive surround sound that doesn’t disappoint. This is a sophisticated sound design that incorporates a vast number of sounds/effects that are intricately mixed to engage the listening position. Bass can be deep and room energizing but never rises inappropriately in prominence. The mix expertly handles the delicate blend of music, discrete/ambient sounds, crystal clear dialogue and low frequency effects as it weaves an aurally stimulating pattern across the soundstage.

As previously mentioned Game of Thrones is the first TV series released on Blu-ray to incorporate Dolby Atmos. Having seen seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-ray I looked forward to seeing what Atmos would bring to the experience. In listening to the surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety in its use of overhead sounds but considering the source material that’s not a complete surprise. Game of Thrones has elements of action/adventure but much of the time is driven by dialogue. The show features a variety of interior and exterior locations/sequences containing a host of recorded sounds/effects designed to replicate its environs.

The Atmos mix uses the entire soundstage placing audio objects in the form of discrete off camera cues, a horse galloping left to right out of the frame and over your shoulder to the rear of the room, a roaring fire that burns hot at the front with popping sparks traveling overhead as the camera moves in closer, to enveloping atmospherics that fill the listening area. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements while complimenting the story’s thematic details. When the action kicks the level of immersion increases as the sound field comes alive with the visceral details of battle. This is done to very good effect, correlating with the onscreen events quite nicely as the most minute audio cues are fully realized.

I appreciated the fact that the sound designers didn’t go overboard with the freedom of object versus channel based mixing. The soundtracks retained much of their original essence with the Atmos mix adding a noticeable increase in scope which I found enhancing. Of the two releases I think I found season two’s listening experience to be a bit more enjoyable. You can’t go wrong with either and I tip my cap to HBO for their support of Dolby Atmos on Game of Thrones. I hope to see more..

Bonus Features:

  • Game of Thrones Season 1:
  • In-Episode Guides
  • 7 Audio Commentaries
  • Complete Guide to Westeros
  • Character Profiles
  • Anatomy of an Episode
  • Making of Game of Thrones
  • From the Book to the Screen
  • Creating the Show’s Open
  • Creating the Dothraki Language
  • The Night’s Watch
    Game of Thrones Season 2:
  • In-Episode Guide
  • 12 Audio Commentaries
  • Character Profiles
  • War of the Five Kings
  • Histories and Lore
  • Creating the Battle of Black Water
  • Game of Thrones: Inner Circle
  • The Religions of Westeros
  • Steelbook Collectible Packing
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Game of Thrones has sat atop the Iron Throne of the home entertainment charts as the best-selling TV on Blu-ray/DVD title in each of the last four years. Now these new Steelbook collector’s releases bring a whole new dimension to the series with the addition of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. I am happy to report that each of these collector’s sets make for a great addition to the collection of the show’s fans, while adding an enriching element for those with Dolby Atmos capable home theater systems.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS4910 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package