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Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (Steelbook Edition)

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jun 7, 2016
Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (Steelbook Edition)

Robb Stark's (Richard Madden) dangerous choices lead to shocking consequences, His youngest sister Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) makes a surprising alliance. Another sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner), finds herself passed around like a hot potato, while her brute of a fiancé Joffrey (Jack Gleeson)... make that former fiancé, but still a brute all the same... falls under the spell of a beautiful seducer, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), whose powerful house could become a major asset in the coming war. (Margaery's grandmother Olenna, a matriarch who combines the acid wit of Maggie Smith's Violet Crawley from "Downton Abbey" with Machiavelli's realpolitik instincts, is a scene-stealing delight.)

Youngest Stark brothers Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) join forces with new friends and travel toward a major turning point in Bran's destiny; they are thought to be dead, though their treacherous foster brother Theon (Alfie Allen) has spared their lives and killed others in their place. In his turn, luckless Theon has been captured by a sadistic torturer (Iwan Rheon) whose talents at both physical punishment and psychological distress eventually reduce Theon to a shadow of his former self. Half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) ventures into the wastelands beyond the great wall, making common cause with the Wildlings who live there in order to spy on them, and finds his loyalties becoming divided.

Meantime, the Lannisters -- though not nearly in as much peril as the various Starks -- have problems of their own. Patriarch Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) commands both Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to marry against their wishes in order to solidify the family's position; Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finds himself the captive of the imposing Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), until both of them fall into the hands of still another faction.

Dragon-mother Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), always with her eye to returning to the lands from which her family was banished and regaining power, acquires an army and seeks to free a city full of slaves. Another power player, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), presses ahead with his own plans for winning the throne, and with the beautiful, deadly Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a priestess of the "Lord of Light" (a fire god) at his side... and the deeply loyal, highly skeptical Davos Seaworthy (Liam Cunningham) risking all in trying to talk sense into him.

Winter is still coming, and the White Walkers with it -- but the most unlikely of heroes discovers a way to kill the dreaded White Walkers. Will his knowledge be of any help?

That's a (very) general thumbnail of Season Three's storylines, which continue to wend and weave. The show is pure fantasy, owing something to "The Lord of the Rings" and other classics of the genre, but it's also a political potboiler crossed with costume porn, historical drama, and sword-and-spear epics. It's impossible to the seriously, but also impossible to stop watching, and its infamous body count ticks up sharply this season with the notorious "Red Wedding."

There's a wealth of special features that will keep the most ardent fan absorbed for hours and hours... and hours. Chief among the special features are commentary tracks, featurettes that give the viewer in-depth looks as the Wildings and the so-called sacred institution of marriage, which in the context of this show -- as in so much of actual human history -- has had little to do with love, and everything to do with political, social, and economic advantage. Another featurette looks at the season's new characters, and the Red Wedding itself is given plenty of attention in the extras.

There are also scads of extras that delve into the backstory of this fictional world. The episodes only hint at the extensive skein of imagined histories, noble families, alliances, betrayals, legendary battles, and driving myths that make this particular pocket universe thrum and give it a fine-grained texture. For those joining the action in media res, a 14-minute Season 2 recap (and briefer recaps of both seasons one and two) will provide a working knowledge; a handy In-Episode Guide will do the rest. There are also the traditional extended and deleted scenes... and let us not forget the set's collective sigil magnet: The emblem of The Twins, locale of the infamous Red Wedding.

Hi-def snobs will thrill to both the crisp visuals and the Dolby Atmos sound on these discs. If there's a quibble to be had, it's with the packaging: As was true with the Season One and Season Two sets, the discs are stacked on top of one another and they're held quite firmly by the package's spindle such that it's a chore to pry them loose -- a shame, given the top-moth quality of the transfers, because flexing and bowing the discs to work them loose is bad for their long-term preservation. And you will want to make this your archival edition of choice.


"Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season" (Steelbook Edition)
Blu-ray
$79.98
http://store.hbo.com/game-of-thrones-the-complete-third-season-steelbook-blu-ray-digital-hd/detail.php?p=1000372&v=hbo_shows_game-of-thrones_media_dvd

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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