I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but there are spoilers for earlier series so if you haven’t seen those you may wish to stop reading now.
The story picks up with Joffrey firmly in place as King of the Seven Kingdoms, and Tywin Lannister as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, Mance Rayder is marching on the depleted Night’s Watch with a vast army.
There are a number of very significant plot twists, as you’d expect (a couple early on, a couple later). It seemed a little slower (though no less engaging) and perhaps less tense in the middle than earlier series, probably because the war for the throne is more or less over (for the time being).
We get a number of new characters, most significantly Prince Oberyn, a Lannister-hater whose sister and nephews and nieces were killed on the orders of Tywin Lannister when Robert Baratheon became king.
There seems to be a focus shift, with a little less for Daenerys and Tyrion, and more for Jon Snow. Despite liking the first two characters a lot, the way the Night’s Watch storyline develops works very nicely.
It also features the grimmest death by some way in Game of Thrones. I suspect those of a nervous disposition might be a bit unnerved by it. Otherwise, there’s the usual high and frequent level of violence. It might just be me, but there seems to be a bit less in the way of sex.
The extras are reasonable. There’s a nice round table discussion with some of the departing actors whose characters have snuffed it. Commentaries seem a bit lacking compared to earlier box sets, except on the final disc (the Kit Harrington, Rose Leslie and John Bradley commentary of episode 9 is the best by a distance). There’s a short but entertaining blooper reel, a couple of deleted scenes and a few other extras which are reasonably interesting.
Finally, if you’re also reading the books it’s worth noting that there are some departures from the source material and some accelerating of certain events so they happen sooner. For what it’s worth, I think that works perfectly well.
The tenth episode ends in such a way that I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens for the next series, and will definitely be picking up that box set when it comes out.