Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray, DVD Review

Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season will be available on February 18th on Blu-ray with HBO Select, DVD & Digital Download.  Pre-order your copy now for about $40 $30 on Amazon

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Image Courtesy of Blu-Ray

This box set is overflowing with exclusive bonus material including comprehensive guides, illustrated histories and an in-depth look at “The Rains of Castamere,” said to be one of the most discussed television episodes of 2013. I got to check it out a little early, so read on to find out all the details!

In the third season of Game of Thrones, the battle between the Houses of the Seven Kingdoms rages on. The fight for power intensifies, murder, betrayal and intrigue abound, and even more players enter the game. Season 3 is mostly based on A Storm of Swords, the third novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, however – book readers beware – the writers of the HBO series have taken many liberties when converting Martin’s story for the television audience. While the first two seasons of the show somewhat followed along with the first two books of the series, the third season’s events were mostly drawn from the first half of book 3, which is nearly twice the length of the first two volumes. To make things yet more convoluted, story lines from later in the series of books were also brought into Season 3, thus the timeline of  Martin’s novels seems to be irrelevant to the writers at HBO. The writing team for the third Season consisted of Executive Producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss episodes 1, 3-4, 6, 8, 9, 10, Bryan Cogman episode 5, Vanessa Taylor episode 2,  and George R.R. Martin episode 7.

Season 3 is made up of ten episodes which were filmed between July 10 and November 24 of 2012, and filming took place in several locations. Cast and crew returned to Northern Ireland, Croatia and Iceland, as well as adding new locations such as Morocco and expanding from two production units to three, with filming taking place in up to five countries, simultaneously. Six directors were used in season 3, Daniel Minahan episodes 1 and 2, David Benioff episode 3, Alex Graves episodes 4 and 5, Alik Sakharov episode 6, Michelle MacLaren episodes 7 and 8 and David Nutter episodes 9 and 10.

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The DVD set includes

  • Episodes of Season 3Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray and DVD features ten episodes over five discs. Episodes are 1-2 on Disc One, episodes3-4 on Disc Two, episodes 5-7 on Disc Three, episodes 8-9 on Disc Four and Episode 10 on Disc Five. Click on the episode title below to read our Season 3 episode reviews and learn more about the individual episodes.
  1. Valar Dohaeris
  2. Dark Wings, Dark Words
  3. Walk of Punishment
  4. And Now His Watch is Ended
  5. Kissed by Fire
  6. The Climb
  7. The Bear and the Maiden Fair
  8. Second Sons
  9. The Rains of Castamere
  10. Mhysa

Bonus Features

  • “A Gathering Storm” Featurette – Look back at the stormy events of Season 2 in this 14 minute recap with cast and crew. If you’ve seen Season 2, this is pretty pointless, as it’s just a summary of the season with quick perspectives from a few key characters. If you’re dying to spend more time with your favorite characters, this one’s for you. Otherwise, take your 14 minutes and do something constructive.
  • “The Politics of Marriage” Featurette – The concept of matrimony in Westeros is all about making power plays and political alliances. Cast and crew examine this ancient institution and it’s place in Game of Thrones.  If you enjoy learning about the world of Westeros and it’s cultures and traditions, this is a great feature. For those who haven’t yet read the books, this is a must watch, for sure. Even as a long time book reader, I enjoyed this feature and found the information to be well presented.
  • Inside the Wildlings” Featurette – Go beyond the Wall with this introduction to the Wildlings to gain a better understanding of their backstory. Another feature that was informative and well presented. I think as the show hasn’t yet delved deeply into the what drives the Wildlings and who they really are, this was a nice piece to give some insight into the folks from beyond the Wall.
  • New Characters of Season 3 Meet the new faces of Season 3 – Olenna Tyrell, Missandei, Mance Rayder, Tormund Giantsbane, Orell, Meera and Jojen Reed, The Blackfish – Brynden Tully, Edmure Tully, Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion. This was a segment that seemed a bit redundant, if you’ve seen the season. If you haven’t watched Season 3, or are easily confused, this could help you sort out some of the new faces.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes – Five deleted/extended scenes, “Jon Meets Mance,” “Edmure, Robb and The Blackfish,” “Tywin and Pycelle,” “Small Council Discusses Wildling Threat” and “Jon Thinks About Escaping.” Although there is nothing spectacular here, I would recommend watching all five deleted scenes. I personally enjoyed “Edmure, Robb and The Blackfish,”and “Small Council Discusses Wildling Threat,” as the cast in both scenes deliver excellent performances. If I had to choose a scene to be left out, I’d choose “Jon Thinks About Escaping,” as it seems the least necessary to drive the plot of the season.
  • Audio Commentaries – Twelve audio commentaries with cast and crew. The commentaries include “Dark Wings, Dark Words” with writer Vanessa Taylor, director Daniel Minahan, actors Jack Gleeson and Natalie Dormer; “Walk of Punishment” with executive producers/writers/directors David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; “Walk of Punishment” with production designer Gemma Jackson and costume designer Michele Clapton; “And Now His Watch Is Ended” with director Alex Graves, actors Lena Headey and Diana Rigg; “Kissed by Fire” with writer Bryan Cogman, actors Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie; “The Climb” with director Alik Sakharov, actors Kit Harington and Rose Leslie; “The Climb” with actors Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead Wright; “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” with co-executive producer/author George R.R. Martin and director Michelle MacLaren; “Second Sons” with Director Michelle MacLaren, actors John Bradley and Hannah Murray; “The Rains of Castamere” with director David Nutter and actors Richard Madden and Michelle Fairley; “The Rains of Castamere” with weapons master Tommy Dunne, stunt coordinator Paul Herbert, assistant stunt coordinator David Forman and swordmaster C.C. Smiff; and “Mhysa” with actors Emilia Clarke, Iain Glen and Iwan Rheon.  I’m not someone who generally enjoys commentary over the episodes of any series, however, I found the commentaries of George R.R. Martin, Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gendoline Christie and Iwan Rheon to be quite interesting and worth watching. Fans of any of the actors featured will enjoy spending some extra time with their favorite stars, and each actor commentary has a few interesting tidbits of information or insight on their character. “Walk of Punishment” with production designer Gemma Jackson and costume designer Michele Clapton was very interesting, as the visual aspects of the show are so impressive, I enjoyed hearing their perspectives on one of the episodes. My personal favorite episode with commentary was definitely “The Rains of Castamere” with weapons master Tommy Dunne, stunt coordinator Paul Herbert, assistant stunt coordinator David Forman and swordmaster C.C. Smiff. I’m a bit fascinated by stunt choreography and medieval weaponry, so it was a really interesting and different episode to listen to. I found it really difficult to sit through “The Climb” with Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead-Wright, as there was a lot of silliness and not much worth listening to. Skip this one if you’re really interested in learning something. Benioff and Weiss‘s commentary is also easy to skip, as there isn’t much new there that we haven’t already heard from them in one of their billions of interviews where they continually pat themselves on the back for all their many accomplishments.

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Image Courtesy of Blu-Ray

The Blu-ray with HBO Select includes all DVD features, plus:

  • In-Episode Guide – In-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters, locations and relevant histories.  Another good feature for those who haven’t yet read the books and would like some extra insight into the who’s who and what’s what of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. Book readers won’t find much new here, but it’s fun to play around with.
  • “The Rains of Castamere” Unveiled – Get an in-depth look at the creation of the most pivotal episode of Season 3 in this comprehensive featurette featuring cast and crew. This is a pretty classic behind the scenes bonus feature, which will appeal to those who enjoy looking into “the making of” and those who are still reeling from the shock of Season 3, Episode 9.
  • The Roots of Westeros – Explore the interconnected web or relationships, rivalries and conflicts between the noble houses of Westeros with this interactive guide. Excellent feature. See “History and Lore” below.
  • Histories and Lore  – Learn about the mythology of Westeros as old from the varying perspectives of the characters, themselves. While this and The Roots of Westeros are two separate features, I’m going to lump them together as they’re pretty similar – in a good way. These are features that I really enjoyed and are similar to the short animated clips we’ve seen from HBO’s bonus features in the past. The Roots of Westeros, along with Histories and Lore, are my favorite features, by far. For people who’ve read the books, it’s a treat to see these stories unfold before our eyes, and for those who haven’t, this will give a ton of information needed to better understand the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve watched all of these clips and I’m looking forward to watching them again. Standout narrators are Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton), Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Conleth Hill (Lord Varys), Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth).
    • Old Ghis & Slaver’s Bay – Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont )
    • House Reed – Ellie Kendrick (Meera Reed)
    • House Bolton – Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton)
    • House Frey – Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark)
    • House Tully – Clive Russell (The Blackfish, Brynden Tully)
    • The Lord of Light – Paul Kaye (Thoros of Myr)
    • Wargs and the Sight – Isaac Hempsted Wright (Bran Stark)
    • The Red Keep – Jack Gleeson (King Joffrey)
    • Robert’s Rebellion – Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish) and Conleth Hill     (Lord Varys)
    • The North – Kit Harrington (Jon Snow)
    • The Reach – Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell)
    • The Riverlands –  Clive Russell (The Blackfish, Brynden Tully)
    • The Stormlands – Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth)
    • The Westerlands – Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister)
    • The Vale – Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish)
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Image Courtesy of Blu-Ray

Overall, this is a really nice set, and fans of the show won’t be disappointed. I’m not overly impressed with the cover design of the box set, as it’s very plain, and when you slide the dragon sleeve over the box it looks weirdly blurry. The typography is attractive, though, and the inside fold out design looks decent. Fans will recognize the inside photos from some of the Season 3 promotional materials.

One minor issue I had with the Blu-ray discs, themselves, was that the on-screen navigation was sometimes difficult to make out. I’ve got good vision and a 47 inch high definition tv with 3D capability, and yet I had a tough time seeing the menus at times. I’d like to see a bolder font next time, and this is something that I don’t remember having an issue with in the boxed sets for Seasons 1 and 2. Otherwise, I’ve got surprisingly few complaints, and I’d recommend Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season pretty highly

Pre-order your copy now for about $40 $30 on Amazon 

What is is about the boxed set that has you most excited? What do you think would have been better left out, and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section, below. Check out these video clips while you wait for February 18 to arrive.

MJ Snow is an avian behavior specialist, animal activist, role player, blogger and writer.  A long time George RR Martin fangirl and Game of Thrones Addict, MJ spends way too much time in Westeros. MJ is the co-founder of The Snow Keep, a short story and fan-ficiton blog, and founder of  The Brothers Clegane, a Sandor & Gregor Clegane tribute blog. She also co-curates several other Game of Thrones themed blogs, as well as Empowering Animals, an Etsy shop which sells wristbands to raise funds for animal causes.

MJ on Twitter  Google Plus

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