HBO’s epic swords and scandals saga is finally out in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD today and you should buy it. It’s as simple as that.

Political intrigue and uncompromising violence are eager bedfellows and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels have been ably adapted by showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss to bring a complete world to the screen. It’s up there with HBO’s own Boardwalk Empire as a shining example of the power of big budget TV and from the very first episode it’ll have its talons lodged deep under your skin.

It’s a fearless and beautifully positioned series, one which will storm your preconceptions of fantasy TV (this is definitely not Xena: The Next Generation) and leave you genuinely excited for each new episode. The distinct narrative strands are perfectly balanced and threaten to cross over one another (this is NOT a good thing) and what is most surprising is that it is very surprising – we’ve seen many of these stories play out before but there are elements here which are done so well and serve the story so perfectly that it becomes something new and that’s rare indeed.

So, before you decide where to buy your copy (your only real decision in this arena) here are six reasons why you should be laughing as you part with your cash. There are a few spoilers hinted at here.

A whole world, beautifully made.

The many kingdoms of Westeros are beautifully rendered by the CG wizards behind the scenes and there’s a tangible air of reality to this fantasy series. Belfast, Malta and, to a particularly fine standard, Iceland make for a wild world over which the squabbles and skirmishes take place. The Wall in my own favourite and lies at the northernmost point of the Seven Kingdoms, a vast fortress protecting the inhabitants from the unknown wilds beyond. Not only does it look fantastic but provides solid dramatic relevance as the series progresses, becoming a metaphor for the fate of an important character.

Sean Bean’s reluctant hero.

Ned Stark is our guide into the world of Game of Thrones and though Sean Bean does wear his medieval armour very well his conflicted and vulnerable warden is perhaps Bean’s best role in a long time.

Far more than the second coming of Boromir even when Bean’s character withdraws as the other characters take their place he is the beating heart of the show. Loyalty to the King and to his family he is problematic to the emerging powers that (will) be and as the story develops we see he is the gatekeeper to a far darker world as the titular games begin.

The boy at the window.

This happens early on in the series and to get into specifics would be to deny you the proper experience suffice to say a curious boy happens upon a brother and sister conspiring in a most inappropriate manner.

The scene in particular sets the tone for the series, and when it ends (again in a completely unexpected manner) you realise that punches are not being pulled and this is a brutal story being told. That this one scene has ramifications set to last the entire series gives an idea of the scope of  the world David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are creating from George R. R. Martin’s source material.

The very best television series may begin slowly, but have flashes of the greatness that is to come. Martin Sheen’s entrance in the pilot of The West Wing and the celebrations of the last seconds of legal drinking in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire are just two examples and in this almost unassuming scene draws a line in the sand before the rest of the series leaps over and runs as far away from it as possible.

Peter Dinklage.

Few televisions characters have the impact and attraction of Tyrion Lannister, a suave and cultured head amongst the ranks of brutal, power hungry relatives and enemies, and Dinklage rightfully won his Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor as well as a host of other awards and nominations.

Frequently the most interesting man in the picture, he steals almost every scene and has a keen wit which is incredibly endearing. His story is, despite his family connections, is a harsh one as he is buffeted from one power struggle to another in the various houses of Westeros, dancing in and out of trouble making friends and enemies quickly.

His accosting of a horde of barbarians is a highlight of the final few episodes.

What becomes of Viserys Targaryen.

A hateful character, spiteful and hanging by a thread to the vestiges of power, this once heir to the throne yearns to grasp back his kingdom by marrying his sister off to the centuarian Khal Drogo of the Dothraki. Being a power crazed psycho is never going to stand you in good stead when you’re dealing with a race of warrior horsemen but Messrs. Benioff and Weiss refuse to bow to the cliché and instead we have a hardened warrior race tamed by an exiled princess, Daenerys Targaryen and it underlines one of the series’ key factors of success – every time a fight starts you have no idea who will come out of it alive.

Brother Viserys’ confrontation with Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo stills astounds me and it proves once again that you can never second guess the show. Buffy and webseries Husbands writer Jane Espenson makes a welcome first appearance here as one of the few writers the teams allowed to join in the fun.

Maisie Williams and the fate of Arya Stark.

Arya, one of the daughters of Sean Bean’s Ned Stark, has a far more interesting arc than her sister Sansa who is bound for the boy who would be (and then is) King – a petulant oik named Joffrey who deserves a thorough kicking in the nutsack.

In Maisie Williams Arya Stark is one of the brightest stars in the Throneverse and it is her emerging story which grabs the heart with the fiercest grip; she is at the centre of the unfolding story yet too young to be thought of as worth anyone’s attention.

That is certain to change in the next series.

Those are my six good reasons. Here’s my very good reason to pick this one up.

The Ending.

I’m not saying a word about it. Suffice to say that after ten hours in the company of kings and corpses, backstabbings and brutality the final minutes genuinely constitute a game changer and leave you in a state of fevered anticipation for April the 1st, when Season Two begins.

Perfect for the boxset generation, if you’ve not yet walked a while in the world of Game of Thrones now is the time to catch up. It’s a fiercely confident series, complex and seductive Game of Thrones is the must-see show at the moment and this Blu-ray set is the best way to do that.


As a little bonus for you I’ve included the latest HBO Sessions Thronecast which sees the series picked apart lovingly by journalists and fans and includes a very sharp looking Chris Laverty from But don’t watch until you’ve seen the show ok?

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