On-disc, the only difference between the Steelbook release and the previous Blu-ray version of this season is a new soundtrack under the Dolby Atmos specifications. While Game of Thrones is the first show to release a soundtrack for this system, you could very well need to upgrade your surround sound system in order to actually experience what the show has to offer. Thankfully, the more accessible surround sound options are still a great experience.
As for the Steelbook itself, this is a package designed to grab collectors who might want to display their collection on a shelf. The spine-edge of the Steelbook is the first part of a picture that, when combined with future Steelbook releases, look to make the astrolabe Game of Thrones logo featured prominently in the show's iconic opening sequence. The rest of the metal container features Winterfell as seen in the same sequence, and right where the House Stark sigil rests is a magnet that can either stay connected to the Steelbook or some other metal surface.
The only aspect of the packaging that I am not overly thrilled about is that the interior doesn't keep the discs separated. Instead, the five discs are stacked on two spindles. While it doesn't feel cheap like some others I've seen, I still worry about scratching or about having to remove a stack of discs in order to get to the next one in the line.
While Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season Steelbook Collector's Set's biggest draw is the packaging, the show itself is spectacular and started off what is one of the best shows on TV right now.
Game of Thrones is a medieval-set fantasy series whose rich history means that the characters come fully stocked with full-featured backstories that have heavy impacts on the current events.
The land of Westeros is broken up into seven kingdoms all ruled by one king, and it is the politics between that king and the ruling families that really drives Game of Thrones. When King Robert Baratheon's (Mark Addy) chief advisor dies suddenly, he seeks the help of long-time friend, Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) to replace him. Ned Stark is the head of his house and the lord of Winterfell, and while he feels his place is at home, duty requires that he accept the king's offer and heads to the capital along with his two daughters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams). Back at Winterfell, Ned leaves his three sons, Robb (Richard Madden), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) back home along with his wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), his ward, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and a whole slew of supporting characters. Meanwhile, Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) leaves at the same time to take up service even further north at a location known as The Wall.
The Wall is a massive ice barrier designed to separate the more civilized portions of Westeros from the frozen areas filled with barbaric people named Wildlings and, supposedly, something far worse, though most of the stories of the creatures that live above The Wall have faded to myth.
A major portion of Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season is divided between Snow's time on The Wall, the events happening at Winterfell and Ned's trials at King's Landing (the capital). But there is also another focus of both the show and this season. Years before the show's start, Robert led a revolt against the previous king. With his victory over the mad king, all but two members of House Targaryen were killed. The two survivors were young children at the time of the revolt, actually one was born just as the revolt ended, and were only allowed to live because they fled to a neighboring continent, Essos. When the series starts, Viserys (Harry Lloyd) is preparing to marry off his younger sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of a nomadic tribe that boasts a massive army. Viserys hopes to trade his sister for a big enough force to overthrow his father's usurper and take back his throne. They soon meet an exiled knight from Westeros named Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who quickly sides with Daenerys over her brother, and it rapidly becomes apparent that Viserys' plans aren't going to work out exactly how he planned.
As for the events surrounding King Robert and Ned Stark directly, Ned starts to learn that the kingdom is greatly in debt and Robert doesn't seem to have a mind for ruling. Instead, he relies heavily on his counselors to keep the kingdom moving. Ned also quickly learns that there is a constant undercurrent of scheming between these ranking officials as they each push their various plots, though what those plots are exactly isn't easily revealed. While council members like Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Varys (Conleth Hill) are chief among these manipulators, King Robert's own family is also plotting.
As a way to strengthen his resources, upon ascending to the throne, Robert married the only daughter to the richest family in the kingdom, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Cersei mothers three children, crowned prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), young Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Myrcella (Aimee Richardson), but the viewer quickly learns that Cersei's children might not be Robert's. Other members of House Lannister include Cersei's twin brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and their younger brother, a dwarf named Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).
If you've been following Game of Thrones, then you know this is just the tip of a massive iceberg, and if you haven't, don't let this list of characters daunt you. The cast might be big, but it is easy to keep everyone straight since you will quickly find yourself heavily invested in the characters and how they interact with each other.
That being said, Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season does come with a huge interactive app that will feed you pretty much every detail you might need in order to come into the show prepared. The Guide to Westeros not only touches on each house, their history and their members, but also every major event from the First Men coming to Westeros all the way up to the Targaryen invasion and Robert's Rebellion. While there are several options in the Guide to Westeros feature that are narrated by various cast members, there is also a good bit that is just text for you to read. This same text drives the In-Episode guide feature. While watching each episode, characters and locations that are relevant to the current scene become selectable and you can read the text that is also found in the Guide.
Other special features also include interviews with 15 cast members about their characters. All are interesting, and none reveal any details beyond the show's first episode, so this is another great way to prepare for the show if you are worried about not being able to keep track of everyone.
There are also special features that focus on the making of the series, what went into taking it from a book to a show (there is some overlap between these two featurettes), the creation of the Dothraki language and one on The Night's Watch. Another interesting special feature is a detailed look at the creation of Episode 6, as well as audio commentaries for most of the episodes in the season.
Like I said above, Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (Steelbook) doesn't add any new special features to what was already released. It is made for collectors or those fans (potential or actual) that were waiting for just a little more incentive before buying the first season. While the Dolby Atmos option has promise, you will need to make sure you have a setup that can support it before trying to experience the richer audio experience.