New on Blu-ray: ‘Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season’

HBO’s epic mega-hit Game of Thrones returns for its third season on Sunday, March 31, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to refresh your memory as to the complicated events and conflicts that have led us to those new episodes, via HBO Home Entertainment’s release today of the show’s complete second season on five discs.
The beautifully engineered set is flush with special features, but first, a brief overview of the drama itself, which opens in the politically charged aftermath of the season-one murders of both King Robert Baratheon and his right-hand man, Eddard “Ned” Stark. Currently sitting on the Iron Throne as monarch of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is vicious young Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), whose nightmarish reign is threatened by widening (and accurate) rumors that he is actually the incestuous spawn of Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her twin brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
The late King Robert’s sane and gentle-natured younger brother, Renly (Gethin Anthony), has wide popular support in his quest to unseat Joffrey and claim the throne, but Renly’s ruthless older brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) sees himself as the rightful heir and has aligned himself with a powerful priestess who commands dark magical powers. To the north, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Ned’s son, has united his own strong army hellbent on protecting the autonomy of Winterfell and its environs, while his half-brother, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), ventures north of The Wall to investigate unnerving rumors that a new leader has arisen among the unpredictable wildlings of that region. Far to the east, Daenerys “Dani” Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) reaches the oasis city of Qarth, where she guards her three dragon hatchlings and plots her own return to power.
Back in King’s Landing, it falls to little Tyrion Lannister (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage), the true moral voice of Game of Thrones, to find some way to protect Joffrey’s subjects from his sadistic whims and keep his unstable nephew from permanently tarnishing the reputation of the Lannisters.
Things come to a head in episode 9, wherein Tyrion leads Joffrey’s army in a desperate defense of their city against a massive army that is bolstered by sorcery, a taut hour scripted by Game-master George R.R. Martin himself.
You’ll spend more than nine hours just watching the events of the story as they originally aired on HBO last season, but you can easily invest even longer exploring the dragon’s hoard of special features included in this set. As the story unfolds, an in-episode guide lets you click and get background information on the characters, locations and background of the scene you’re watching, and each episode also includes audio commentaries by various members of the creative team, along with cast members including Dinklage, Clarke, Harington and Alfie Allen, whose rash, hotheaded Theon Greyjoy has a major storyline of his own.
There’s also a roundtable discussion in which Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth, a new character) join Clarke, Harington and Headey for a chat offering a behind-the-scenes perspective on the season, as well as a short documentary on the staggering logistics that went into creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay in episode 9. You’ll also find a fascinating feature on the religions of Westeros, which begin to assume greater prominence during this season, a comprehensive interactive guide called “War of the Five Kings” that will help you follow the complex political and military forces at work, and an engrossing section called simply “Histories and Lore,” 19 animated histories detailing the mythologies of this world as told from varying perspectives of the characters themselves. The only downside of these supplementary material is that you’ll find yourself falling down the proverbial rabbit hole and losing several hours before you know it, so be sure to set aside adequate free time before you start exploring.

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