Toy Review – Game of Thrones Series 1 from McFarlane Toys

Like many toy collectors of my generation I’ve had a long and tumultuous relationship with McFarlane Toys.

That may seem like a dramatic way to open a toy review, but I have to lay down some groundwork so you know where I’m coming from. I have a deep fondness for McFarlane Toys and the amazing changes they wrought in the toy industry. Because of them horror toys became mainstream and a constant presence in toy aisles. They also leveled up what was possible in a single action figure, from sculpt to paint to accessories.

McFarlane Toys penetrated the likes of Walmart and Target with collector-focused products and paved the way for mass-market availability of every niche of dorkery.

McFarlane Toys has produced some of the most amazing-looking action figures in the history of the business. They have also produced some tragically fragile collectibles that have a tendency to simply fall apart, sometimes straight out of the box.

There’s probably a whole post to be written, but that’s not what I’m here for today.

After Funko’s ultimately disappointing foray into 6” Game of Thrones figures it seemed like nobody was interested in saving the concept. McFarlane launched a line of building sets at some point, but those came and went quickly. I pretty much gave up on a toy line for the best show ever.

When this line was announced I didn’t really care too much. Between the company’s spotty record with QC and the hideous articulation of modern lines like The Walking Dead and Saga I had no interest. And if you had told me a few years ago that there would be Saga action figures that I didn’t own, I’d have called you crazy.

Then my son got McFarlane’s Fortnite toys for Christmas and the idea of a Game of Thrones line became much more interesting. Those Fortnite figures are some of the best I’ve seen – the sculpt and paint are excellent, the articulation is generous, and the figures are sturdy. Like, Marvel Legends sturdy.

I still wasn’t totally sold on McFarlane Game of Thrones figures, but I was definitely more open to the idea. The preview pics weren’t exactly awe-inspiring, but prototypes and internet images often aren’t. I’d need to see them in the store.

DSC_0321Obviously once I saw them in the store – Target, to be exact – I bought them. The fact that there was a ton of brand-new GoT merchandise surrounding these figures might have had an impact on my buying decision – there’s no denying a wall of new stuff is more exciting than a single peg of new figures. Presentation is important, a fact Target and every other retailer would do well to remember when organizing their collector sections.

I spent a good bit of time looking at each of the figures before buying. I’ll get into their individual pros and cons in a bit, but as a collection I was very impressed. Unfortunately I have yet to find a Night King for regular retail price.

To address the concerns you probably have just from glancing at the pictures here – yeah, by 2019 toy standards the paint apps on their faces are just adequate. I can’t call them bad and in fact they blend very well with what Funko did, but if you’re doing a toy line based on real people you have to at least equal big dog Hasbro’s standards. Heck, Mattel has been doing a great job lately, too, with their WWE Elite series.

What we have here are three excellent sculpts with paint that would have been great in 2012 but doesn’t quite cut it today. It has that caked-on look that seems to just be obscuring all of the fine details and results in likenesses that are “good enough”. Out of these three I’d say Jon Snow is the best, while Arya looks more like Sansa. Daenerys looks like an animated version of Daenerys, maybe.

From what I hear McFarlane knows they have to step up their game and will be utilizing facial printing in future waves. I hope I heard right because otherwise these are fantastic action figures.

Each figure has about as many points of articulation as you’d expect from a modern 6” line. They’re blended into the sculpts nicely and don’t detract from the figures’ profiles. Obviously these all have long garments that render leg articulation slightly less useful, but it is there.

The shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, thighs (I think), knees, and ankles all have nice joints. There aren’t double joints or particularly deep bends, but Spider-Man isn’t on Game of Thrones, so that’s okay. What I’m saying is that this line is going for something different than Marvel Legends. And yeah – that excuses the articulation, but not the sub-par face paint.

The figure’s heads and necks are mounted on a barbell recessed in the neck. This piece was a bit stuck on all three figures and resulted in an apparent restriction on head movement. Once it’s loosened up they have a nice range. Although these heads do pop right off – if you push them beyond their designed range at all, they’re off. Which is better than a broken part.

Each figure’s arms and legs are standard action figure limbs with the appropriate sculpt and articulation, but the garments on their torsos are soft plastic that cover a sort of armature. There’s not a ton of articulation underneath, but with the smooth, realistic aesthetic that McFarlane seems to be going for it’s a very nice look. And the plastic used for these garments holds detail and paint extraordinarily well. These pieces are beautiful and match the harder plastic of the rest of the figures perfectly.

From the neck down I have to say that these figures are fantastic. The level of detail is stunning and the paint applications are among the best I’ve seen. The various materials represented – leather, fabric, steel, whatever the heck Daenerys’ cloak is supposed to be – all look distinct.

As far as scale goes, I’ll have to take McFarlane’s word for it that Arya is this tall. Daenerys and Jon seem right in relation to each other and I can’t say I feel Arya was much shorter than Jon in the season 8 premiere. I believe these looks are all from season 7, but Jon and Arya were wearing basically the same stuff. Heck, Daenerys might have this on under her fancy fur coat. I can’t remember right now if we even saw.

DSC_0326ARYA STARK

I noticed something weird about Arya just now. I didn’t really look at the cardback when I was opening these, so I failed to notice that the upturned right shoulder of Arya’s tunic isn’t some weird  style thing. It’s not actually supposed to look like that. I don’t know how it got that way and I don’t know why it stayed, but between that and the paint smudges I didn’t notice until I was looking at these pictures I think I might need a new Arya. Or “Tiny Sansa” as I’m thinking of her.

She also kind of looks like Bran now that I’m looking closely. At least McFarlane has the Stark face down.

I realize it’s tough to see in the pictures because of the dark color – these are some drab figures – but Arya’s jacket has a wash to bring out the detail of the quilting. It gives the whole garment a great texture and look. The pattern on the long coat underneath is amazing and one of the best detail jobs I have ever seen on an action figure in this scale.

Aside from the not-as-good-as-it-could-be head, this figure has a realistic look and is all the more impressive for having solid articulation worked in as well.

Arya comes with Needle and the dagger that was meant to kill Bran and that actually did kill Petyr Baelish. Both items have sharp detail and immaculate paint. They’re made out of rigid, sturdy plastic, so don’t worry about them warping. They fit perfectly into the figure’s hands, but unfortunately there are no sheaths or scabbards, which is an absolutely baffling oversight for such a meticulously detailed action figure. It annoys the heck out of me.

But overall I’m happy with this Arya. It captures the spirit of the character if not the exact likeness and for now I’m okay with that. As easily as the heads pop off, maybe McFarlane can release a pack of updated heads at some point (probably not).

DSC_0344I didn’t review Funko’s Arya. I think this one is a far better figure and I prefer this older version, but I do think the other one got the likeness better.

DSC_0346JON SNOW

You’re just going to have to trust me here – this is the best likeness of these three figures. It does not look like trash in person, despite how rough it looks in these pictures. Although it does look like there’s a bit of missing hair paint app on the right side of the figure’s head.

This deco is not at the level of current Marvel Legends, but it’s very good despite the appearance that Jon is in a perpetual Liz Lemon-esque eyeroll.

The detail on the figure’s clothing is stunning, if drab. Seriously – are these guys Greyjoys or what?

One of the things I love about collecting action figures is getting to see all of the detail that we don’t necessarily have the time to appreciate when watching a show or movie. You can see on this figure that Jon is wearing a long coat of leather armor with matching gauntlets over a quilted tunic. The colors are subtly but noticeably different, as are the textures and patterns.

Jon’s belt is actually a separate piece, which almost makes up for the lack of scabbard for Longclaw, the sword he has tried to get rid of on multiple occasions, just to show what an honorable dude he is. The belt looks excellent and is loaded with insane details, both sculpted and painted. Longclaw and the included Dragonglass dagger can both be slid under the belt for storage, but what kind of jackass just sticks a sword in his belt like a five-year-old? The dagger I can live with, though.

The Stark breastplate looks fantastic, like actual steel. It’s a part of the armor coat, but has its own feel and texture.

As I mentioned, the figure comes with Jon’s Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, and a Dragonglass dagger. They both look great and fit nicely into the figure’s hands. Like Arya’s weapons they are a rigid, sturdy plastic.

DSC_0362This is a great Jon Snow and easily replaces Funko’s pretty darn good one.

For real, though – trust me on the face.

DSC_0364DAENERYS TARGARYEN

McFarlane’s Daenerys almost looks more like a gelfling than Emilia Clarke, though it’s just good enough to pass.

I can’t tell you exactly what it is that’s off about her admittedly well-painted face, but they didn’t quite get it. It’s pretty, well-defined, and precise. It’s just not there. Her hair is phenomenal, though. There are some intricately detailed braids and some nice washes to bring out the sculpted detail and give it a more realistic look.

Although I am just now noticing – it’s funny how pictures can bring these things out – that the lock of hair on the left side of the figure’s face appears to have been attached a bit too far forward. I didn’t see this in person and I don’t know that it’ll bother me on the shelf. I’ll have to take a look when I get home.

Daenerys has a lot more garment than the other figures. Her long, regal dress has an intensely tiny pattern all over and despite being a different, softer plastic it matches the arms perfectly. Aside from the necessary joints there’s no break in the flow of the design.

Her signature chain fastens the dragon scale half cloak to her back, complete with the three-headed dragon brooch at the top. There’s some loss of detail there, but at this scale what are you gonna do? At least she is as accurately about branding as she should be. This Targaryen is as on point with branding as Cobra Commander or Hordak.

The cloak itself is beautiful. It is sculpted to drape over the figure’s shoulder and it has a great look of weight and thickness. The dark washes between the individual scales make all of the difference in the world between this looking like plastic and looking like an actual piece of apparel, exotic though it may be.

Daenerys comes with markers for the Painted Table, which I hope like heck McFarlane plans to release in this scale. She has one for the Unsullied, one for the Dothraki, and one for the Martells. They look fantastic and have sculpted wood grain and complimentary paint jobs. It’s a little tough to get the Mother of Dragons to hold them, but it can be done. Hopefully I’ll have a table to put them on sooner than later.

DSC_0379I suppose looks-wise this one is about on par with Funko’s Daenerys, though it’s not quite right in completely different ways. I do like this costume more and as far as construction and just “feeling” like a quality toy this one has the edge.

DSC_0382THE VERDICT

Despite the fact that each of these figures sports a flaw that make it returnable in my mind, I still like them and have hope for the future of the line. While QC has always been a weakness for McFarlane, I think that this license is big enough for them to want to note these kinds of issues and eliminate them going forward.

If you’re a toy collector and a Game of Thrones fan and aren’t insanely picky, I think you’ll like these. The thing to remember is that they’re the start of an ongoing line that has the potential to be one of the best fantasy lines ever and that this is technically a new style and scale for McFarlane.

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say I’m all-in on this line until they give me reason to feel otherwise.

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