Tag Archives: Richard Madden

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

Game of Thrones Season 3

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, Season 3 of ‘Game of Thrones’ contains a shocking plot twist its executive producers call ‘a watershed moment.’

Fans of HBO’s fantasy blockbuster Game of Thrones learned a long time ago to expect the unexpected, but if you didn’t catch Season 3 of the series – which was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week – brace yourself. Among these 10 episodes lies a plot twist that redefines the tem “game-changer.”
Even if by some miracle you managed to avoid spoilers as to the nature of this shocker, chances are good you know something major happened, because HBO Home Entertainment has been liberally using footage in its TV commercials that purports to show Game of Thrones fans jumping out of their skins when they saw the original broadcast in 2013.
Season 3 contains several very important story lines and plot developments. In Kings Landing, insane and inbred King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) finds his petulant power curtailed somewhat by the return of one of the few men who doesn’t fear the nasty little twerp: Joffrey’s grandpa, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who also makes life even more difficult for his put-upon son, Tyrion (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage). What Joffrey also fails to realize, however, is that a secondary threat has entered his court in the person of Lady Margaery Tyrrell (Natalie Dormer), whose own grandmother (the great Diana Rigg) is a masterful politician in her own right.
Much farther to the north, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his widowed mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), make peace over their recent differences and set upon devising a scheme to shore up the family’s dwindling army of allies in the face of renewed threat from the Lannisters.
Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) blossoms into a true queen as she assembles a formidable army of her own with a little help from her dragons.
The bombshell (don’t worry, no spoilers follow) arrives in the penultimate episode of the season, entitled “The Rains of Castamere,” named after a song associated with the Lannister clan. The new Blu-ray set includes an insightful 46-minute featurette called “The Rains of Castamere Unveiled,” in which executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, as well as principal cast members and various members of the crew, offer fascinating insights into how this crucial episode – and what Weiss calls “a watershed moment” – was structured and executed.
“Everything changes after this point,” Benioff says in his commentary. “Ned’s (Sean Bean) death was so pivotal at the end of Season 1. Even though there have been many big moments since then, there’s nothing that compares to (this).”
HBO’s 5-disc Blu-ray set, which contains copious other special features and background material, is, as usual, state of the art in technical terms. With Season 4 of Game of Thrones set to premiere on April 6, this release offers a welcome opportunity for fans to refresh their memories as to details in the labyrinthine plot even if they caught Season 3 during its original run last spring.
'The Rains of Castamere'

A scene from the Season 3 episode ‘The Rains of Castamere.’

Discovery hits pay dirt with epic Klondike

Discovery Channel makes its first foray into dcripted drama with the miniseries 'Klondike.'

Bill Haskell (Richard Madden, right) and Byron Epstein (Augustus Prew) make their tortuous way up Alaska’s Chilkoot Pass on their way to the Canadian Yukon in ‘Klondike,’ premiering Monday on Discovery Channel.

Klondike, which premieres this Monday-Wednesday, Jan. 20-22, on Discovery Channel, signals its epic intentions right from the get-go. The opening credits for the three-part, six-hour miniseries – Discovery’s first foray into scripted drama – strongly evoke HBO’s massive fantasy series Game of Thrones, right down to composer Adrian Johnston’s propulsive music.
That makes sense, I guess, since the main character in this sprawling chronicle of the last great Gold Rush in North America is played by Richard Madden. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, the Scottish actor starred in Thrones as Robb Stark, the King of the North, before his character was written out last season (in the worst! wedding! ever!).
In Klondike, Madden portrays Bill Haskell, a recent college graduate (class of 1897) who’s persuaded by his best friend, Byron Epstein (Augustus Prew), to postpone a business career in favor of striking out across the American frontier in quest of adventure and fortune in the gold fields of the Canadian Yukon. Their journey takes them up steep, snow-covered mountain passes fraught with avalanches and down icy whitewater rapids before the pair reach the mining town of Dawson City.
Situated in the Canadian wilderness near Bonanza Creek, the current hotspot for gold-hunters, this thriving frontier town, ironically dubbed “the Paris of the North,” makes Deadwood, S.D., look like Mayberry. Riddled with corruption, bigotry and any of the seven deadly sins you’d care to name, it brings out the worst in most of its residents. As Klondike unfolds, bodies go into the ground far more frequently than gold comes out of it, and the few miners who strike precious ore immediately become the targets of such truly heinous villains as Soapy Smith (Ian Hart), who preys on the misfortunes of others, and The Count (Tim Roth), a possibly insane Brit with a working-class accent and a ready willingness to murder his adversaries in cold blood.
After their harrowing journey across country, the partnership of Bill and Byron turns out to be shockingly short-lived, leaving a cash-strapped Bill to work their claim alone as he obsessively tries to uncover the identity of a killer among the Bonanza Creek miners. As months pass, he forges alliances with Goodman (Greg Lawson), a world-weary war veteran; taciturn miner Joe Meeker (Tim Blake Nelson, giving the most endearing performance in the miniseries); and Belinda Mulrooney (Abbie Cornish), a resourceful local businesswoman.
Using Charlotte Gray’s book Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike as his primary source material, writer Paul Scheuring – who, quite unbelievably, was the guy behind that truly terrible ABC drama series Zero Hour with Anthony Edwards from last season – has crafted a teleplay that is taut and sharply focused, deftly sidestepping the soapy melodrama too many historical dramas slide into. Among his relatively minor stumbles, an 11th-hour tragedy involving a main character is telegraphed with a heavy hand, and a Dawson City parade in the final moments – which bizarrely evokes HBO’s New Orleans drama Treme – feels tacked on just to give the audience a feel-good moment after all the bleakness.
Performances are generally excellent across the board, with the charismatic Madden handling a pitch-perfect American accent while subjecting himself to all manner of challenging physical ordeals. Cornish walks a fine line in showing both Belinda’s toughness and her vulnerability and Sam Shepard is admirably unsentimental yet compassionate as Dawson City’s resident priest, Father William Henry Judge.
I also want to single out New Zealand actor Marton Csokas for his heartfelt portrayal of conscience-stricken Superintendent Sam Steele, a Mountie character stuck in a subplot that, alas, feels somewhat dragged in from another movie.
Even without its other virtues, Klondike would score several points simply based on degree of difficulty. Directed by Simon Cellan Jones, the production wasn’t filmed on soundstages, but either out in the staggering natural wonders of Calgary, Canada, or within sets especially constructed out in the middle of nowhere. Buildings look convincingly weather-beaten and costumes look worn and lived in, adding to the verisimilitude.
In sum, Klondike isn’t just a success on its own terms, but it also leaves me eager to see what other, similar forays into scripted television Discovery Channel may make in the months to come. For now, job well done.
Abbie Cornish plays Dawson City businesswoman Belinda Mulrooney in 'Klondike' on Discovery Channel.

Abbie Cornish stars as Belinda Mulrooney in ‘Klondike.’

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.