Updated: Jan 11
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Episode 5 - “The Bells”
(1) It's horrifying and thrilling as the Queen of Dragons - Daenerys Targaryen creates a merciless apocalypse of King’s Landing. (2) Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, won four Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series during its eight seasons.
“GAME OF THRONES: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy, 2019, TV-MA for violence, sexuality, and language; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, FangangoNOW, Google Play, HBO NOW, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: The nearly two-hour behind the scenes documentary “Game of Thrones: The Last Watch”
AUTHOR George R.R. Martin spent nearly five decades developing the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, but after eight seasons, HBO and creator/producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to conclude their adaptation of the fantasy saga “Game of Thrones.”
Last May, a series record of 19.3 million viewers watched the finale, “The Iron Throne,” breaking the record set the previous week with “The Bells” episode, which hit 18.4 million. It also became the most-watched telecast in HBO’s network history and season eight averaged 44.2 million viewers per episode, when you account for delaying watching.
The series was thoughtful and slow, telling Martin’s tale. He was consulted on the final scripts, but the producers wanted massive and spectacular battles. Many critics and fans remain divided by the ending, but "Thrones" rewrote the playbook of TV epics, while featuring a brilliant cast and sizzling storylines.
“Where these characters end up, which of them survive, which of them die, is something we’ve been talking about right from the get-go, and during season three is when it all started to make sense to us, exactly where it was going.” – David Benioff, creator/producer/director
Episode 5 - “The Bells”
(1) "Game of Thrones" title design won the series first Emmy Award in 2011. (2) Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) greets Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his men. (3) Queen of Dragons - Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has not eaten in days or left her chambers, which is pushing her to the brink of madness.
In September, “Thrones” dominated the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, winning best Outstanding Drama Series – its fourth in a row. It also scored a grand total of 32 nominations and won 12 golden statues while amassing 160 nominations, with 69 total wins over its eight seasons.
During the early years, “Thrones” wasn’t particularly an Emmy darling, only receiving four Primetime Emmy nods its first season, for drama series, directing, writing, with Peter Dinklage the only actor, who won his first try as Tyrion Lannister, the youngest child of Lord Tywin Lannister. It did receive nine Creative Arts nods that year, but only won for Outstanding Main Title Design.
The second season it was nominated for top drama series and Dinklage again, but both lost. It did receive 10 Creative Arts nods and won six. Season five is when “Thrones” emerged as an Emmy powerhouse, finally winning drama series, directing, writing, and Dinklage, with eight Creative Arts prizes.
In the final season, the women actors dominated the nominations, with Emilia Clarke getting her first Lead Actress nod as Queen of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen; and Supporting nods for Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Guest Actress Carice van Houten. Kit Harington got his first Lead Actor nod as Jon Snow, with Supporting nods for Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie Lannister.
(1) Lord Varys writes letters to the truth about Jon Snow's heritage. (2) Jon tells Daenerys, "I love you." She responds, "Is that all I am to you. Your queen?" (3&4) Preparing for the battle of King's Landing. (5) Queen Cersei I Lannister (Lena Headey) stands stonily on the balcony watching her kingdom be destroyed.
For a decade Northern Ireland had been home for “Thrones” and this coming spring, HBO and Banbridge’s Linen Mill Studios will open the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, located midway between Belfast and Dublin. It’s reported the experience will be much like the Harry Potter Tour at Warner Bros. Studio in London. It features 110,000-square-feet of authentic sets (King’s Landing, Winterfell, Dragonstone, and The Wall) costumes, weapons, and props. The tourism trade has been highly successful and will continue as visitors migrate to the Cliffs of Fair Head – the backdrop for Dragonstone – and the biggest expanse of rock climbing in Britain and Ireland, rising 600 feet above the sea near Ballycastle.
Housed in a nicely designed steelbook, the three 4K discs and three Blu-rays include eight commentary tracks, one for each episode and two commentaries for the final two shows with producers Dave Hill, Bryan Cogman, Daniel Portman, Chris Newman, and co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, plus with cast members Emilia Clarke, Jacob Anderson, Nathalie Emmanuel and Pilou Absek.
The third disc includes two 30-minute documentaries, highlighting Episode Three and the finale. During “When Winter Falls,” it examines the 11 weeks of filming at night for the battle of Winterfell. Camera operator Sean Savage says the conditions were unbearable, as they tried to create as much as possible in-camera, and not rely on visual effects. Multiple wind and smoke machines were used, while the snow was created with foam and paper, blasted with snow guns. “My goodness, it was overwhelming. You’re on this huge set. It’s filled with smoke. It feels like maybe 1,000 people on the set,” says Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth.
For the number of dead bodies needed for the battle sequences, the production looked at ancient mummies, corpses and skeletal figures for inspiration. “It was scary with all of the stunt guys playing the dead guys, decked with full makeup,” says Peter Dinklage.
(1) Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and citizens of King's Landing fear for their lives as the Queen of Dragons flies overhead. (2&3) The flames from the dragon destroy the Iron Fleet, the Golden Company army and much of King's Landing. (4) Davos Seaworth and the Northern Army storm the city. (5) Daenerys Targaryen on her dragon. (6) A small child is caught in the firey crossfire.
Toward the end of the fabulous “Last Watch” documentary, from filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, the behind the scenes cameras capture Kit Harington’s emotional final words to the cast and crew: “My heart is breaking. I love this show… and it’s never been a job for me. It’s been my life and this will always be the greatest thing I’ll ever do.”
While the original HBO broadcast struggled with black levels – especially with the epic battle of Episode Three, the 4K discs extract black levels not possible during its May presentation. The expansive HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning give each episode a much needed shot in the arm of expanded contrast levels from shadows to highlights without any compression artifacts. The facial toning is natural and the color palette slightly richer in saturation. The overall sharpness on the 4K from the 2K master (1.78:1 aspect ratio) is a slight uptick in clarity over the HD presentation.
The 4K and Blu-ray both include the enveloping Dolby Atmos track, but for some crazy reason it’s not the default track, so make sure you select it, via the menu or remote. During the battle sequences and when the Queen of Dragons flies overhead, the height and rear speakers get their biggest push. The dialogue and music cues are nicely balanced between all of the sound effects.
For all those “GOT” fans, this 4K set is the perfect last-minute stocking stuffer.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Sandor confronts Cersei's guard Gregor, a known lethal and much-feared warrior, who pulls a sword out of his stomach during their fight. (2) Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) reunites with his sister Cersei. (3) Princess Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) awakes after a concussive blast and sees the devastation around her.
Episode 6 - “The Iron Throne”
(1&2) Tyrion is devasted when he uncovers the bodies of Cersei and Jaime. (3) Jon Snow confronts Grey Worm on his execution of the surrendered soldiers.
(1&2) After destroying the city Daenerys addresses the Dothraki army. "You tore down their stone houses, you gave me the Seven Kingdoms." Then she asks the army to help her liberate the world from "Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea." (3) "You are my queen, now and always," says Jon as he drives a dagger through Daenerys heart. Drogon tries to wake her.
(1&2) The Stark's Sansa, Arya, and Bran meet Jon Snow before he leaves. (3) Ser Brienne Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) completes an entry into the Book of Brothers. (4) The new King Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) departs the meeting after asking his advisors to help find new Masters of Whisperers, War, and Law, and that he would look for Drogon, who was last seen flying east toward Volantis.