Released: March 15, 2016
Copy provided by publisher
HBO puts so much effort into making their home release boxsets coveted collector’s items that even a middling season of television can be elevated by the format. Such is the case with the Game of Thrones season 5 Blu-ray boxset, which takes a somewhat mediocre season of the hit HBO series and turns it into something that can be proudly displayed on your shelf thanks to its beautiful packaging and strong batch of extra material.
As usual, HBO has gone above and beyond with their boxset design. Unlike most TV season sets, which are often flimsy and hastily thrown together, the casing for Game of Thrones season 5 is sturdy and efficiently laid out. It’s also aesthetically-pleasing, with a warm gold coloring throughout that makes for a striking appearance. Guess that fits with the dragon theme that HBO has been using to market the set and it’s hard to argue with the result.
There’s not much point in going into too much detail about what does and doesn’t work about season 5 here (you can find our reviews of each episode by clicking here) but suffice it to say that this was not the show’s strongest year. That being said, there are still a ton of standout moments that are worth revisiting on Blu-ray, especially the episode “Hardhome,” one of the finest, most pulse-pounding episodes in the series. If nothing else, it’s worth watching the season over again because Game of Thrones works much better as a “binge” series and the faults become less pronounced when you can simply queue up another episode.
Here’s a breakdown of the special features, which are found on both the Blu-ray and DVD editions. All descriptions provided by HBO:
Anatomy of an Episode: Mother’s Mercy – From the early stages of the writer’s room to the final visual effects, see what went into creating “Mother’s Mercy,” the Emmy-winning episode fans will be talking about for years to come.
The Real History Behind Game of Thrones – Watch historians, along with George R.R. Martin, explore the interweaving inspirations of the actual players in the era known as “The Wars of the Roses” and other historical events in this two-part series.
Audio Commentaries – 12 audio commentaries with cast and crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Haringon, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Iain Glen, Maisie Williams, Natalie Dormer, Gwendoline Christie and more.
Deleted Scenes – 4 deleted scenes
A Day in the Life – Three countries, hundreds of cast & crew, one epic day. Get an inside look at the production process of season 5.
New Characters/New Locations – Explore the new societies, cultures and locations of Season 5.
And here are the features that can only be found on the Blu-ray boxset:
The Dance of Dragons – Hear the story of the Greens and the Blacks, the Targaryen civil war that led to the downfall of the dragons, featuring surprise narration from notable characters from past seasons.
In-Episode Guide – Dig deeper into the show with this in-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters, locations, and relevant histories.
Histories and Lore – Learn about the mythology of Westeros and Essos as told from the varying perspectives of the characters themselves in 14 history pieces. Select Histories feature illustrations from the show’s storyboard artist, Will Simpson.
The standout of the standard extras is the Real History feature, a sizable documentary piece that dives into how author George R.R. Martin drew inspiration from European history – particularly the bloody War of the Roses in England, a 15th century feud between the Lancaster and York Houses that bear more than a passing similarity to the bad blood between the Starks and Lannisters. It’s truly fascinating stuff.
The Anatomy of an Episode feature is also well-worth a watch, but it’s a bit disappointing that it doesn’t go into further detail. It offers a look at how some of the scenes from the season finale were filmed, including Stannis Baratheon’s doomed march on Winterfell and Cersei’s walk of shame, but you won’t find anything particularly revealing here. It would have been great to have seen more episodes get the same treatment, especially the CGI-heavy “Hardhome,” but since it’s only available for one episode, at least HBO picked the right one to do it for.
If you only watch one feature though, make sure it’s the Dance of Dragons, which sheds light on the Targaryen civil war and how dragons started to disappear from Westeros. If ever there was proof that a Targaryen-focused spin-off series would make for compelling high drama, this is it.
The rest of the features run the gamut from essential to passable. The audio commentaries are a real treasure trove, full of delightful conversations between series actors and the show’s creative team. Definitely check out as many as you can. You can probably skip the deleted scenes as there’s nothing much going on in any of them, although the brief, bitter exchange between Ser Allisser Thorne and Tormund Giantsbane definitely shouldn’t have been cut.
The Game of Thrones season 5 Blu-ray set is an easy recommendation primarily because of how much effort has been put into it. Game of Thrones is best enjoyed in a serialized format anyway and even if you felt a bit burned by this latest season, you’ll probably still want it for the stellar crop of extras and numerous commentary tracks.
A disappointing season of Game of Thrones is elevated by a quality special features on the home video release.