September 26, 2007

DVD Review: Supernatural - The Complete Second Season

Back in 2005 the networks were looking to cash in on the surprise success of the serialized, supernaturally-charged hit Lost. Everyone was looking to jump on the genre bandwagon. Not terribly surprising, most of them failed to live beyond their first season, and in one case not even complete its freshman outing. The shows included Invasion, Surface, and Threshold. Over on the final year of netlet WB's existence the powers that be decided to dip their toes in the water. They chose to go with a series that was not completely serial in nature, but did have plenty of room to expand any mythological aspirations. It was the only one to make it to a second season. That show is Supernatural. It is now on the verge of kicking off its third season. I am more than happy for it.

Season one followed the Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), as they searched for their missing father. In between their efforts, they often took the time to chase a variety of demons, spooks, and specters. Always hanging just over their shoulder is the shadow of a certain demon, one that is intimately entwined with the Winchester family, having killed Sam and Dean's mother, as well as Sam's girlfriend. Apparently, it has some bigger plans for the brothers. As the first season came to a close, the duo have been reunited with their father and learned that the demon had plans for Sam. The season ended with the trio on the run in Dean's killer 1967 black Impala, only to be rammed by a possessed trucker in a big rig. Were they dead? We were forced to wait months to learn what happened to them.

Season two got off to a strong start with an episode called "In My Time of Dying." It picks immediately after the season one ending crash. The trio are still alive, although Dean is in a coma-like state which leaves his soul wandering the hospital trying to communicate with his brother and father. It is a very good episode that does just what that movie The Invisible couldn't, solve the mystery of near death.

Following the first episode, the two are left to hunt and search on their own without their father. While they are on their own, they are not alone in their quest. They find new allies in their hunt. Bigger than the finding of new friends, which is all well and good, the second season goes much further into building the series mythology and increasing the serialized nature of the show which has bubbled beneath the surface since day one. It is much like the combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files.

It is revealed that there are other kids like Sam. In season one, Sam exhibited the ability to have visions, visions which have helped them along their quest. The second season continues to explore the visions, but goes a step further. It turns out there are a number of kids, the same age as Sam, that have begun to exhibit special abilities. Why? Only the big bad demon knows why. There is a reason that Sam is drawn to them, and it will all come to a head in the two part season finale.

Before we can get to the finale, we must make our way through a chorus line of ghoulies and life altering events. Among the best episodes are "The Usual Suspects" which features the stunt casting of Linda Blair as a sheriff and the brothers closest run in with the law yet, "Crossroad Blues" a decent episode which has greater implications later in the season, "Hunted" when the brothers split apart, "Nightshifter," and "Folsom Prison Blues."

For as good as those episodes are, there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is different than the other episodes and allows Jensen Ackles to spread his acting wings, he's come a long way from when I first saw him on Dark Angel. The episode is called "What is and What Should Never Be." Sam and Dean are hunting a Djinn, but it gets the drop on Dean. When he wakes up everything is different. It is life as it would be had his mother not been killed. It is a strong episode that brings up some feelings not seen before in Dean.

Dean's fantasy episode leads directly into the finale, "All Hell Breaks Loose Parts 1 and 2." These episodes bring their battle with the demon to a head. All of the other special kids are brought together. The demon is looking to bring about hell on Earth. This wraps up the demon tale, but it opens up a whole new one for the upcoming third season. Looking forward to see where it goes next.

Audio/Video. This set, put forth by Warner Brothers, looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. There is a great level of detail and sharpness throughout all six disks. This is one of the finest looking transfers I have seen in some time. Nothing but praise for the tech specs of this release. Wow.

Extras. Not overwhelming, but there is a nice complement of bonus material included.
  • Commentaries. Three commentaries: Jared, Jensen, and Kim Manners on "In My Time of Dying," Eric Kripke on "What Is and What Should Never Be," and Eric Kripke, Robert Singer, and Sera Gamble on "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1." All of them are good listens.
  • Deleted Scenes. There are extras on four episodes: "In My Time of Dying," "Bloodlust," "The Usual Suspects," and "Hunted."
  • The Devil's Road Map. This is really cool. It is a map of the US with pins placed where the episodes all take place. Each place is accompanied by a brief featurette about the making of the episode and information on the legendary origins. This is easily the best of the extra material. It offers lots of cool information. The longest portion is on the making of the season finale and the difficulties they had in getting it made. (40 minutes)
  • Jared's Original Screen Test for the Role of Sam. This is kind of fun, a look inside the audition. (8 minutes)
  • Webisode Gallery. Three production clips: "The Inside Scoop with Ivan Hayden/VFX Supervisor" (3 minutes), "Inside the Writers Room" (7 minutes), and "The Inside Scoop with Christopher Cooper/Prop Master" (3 minutes). The first one takes a quick look at coming up with creature designs and the varied ways they meet their demise and interact with the characters, the second talks about adapting urban legends and making a weekly horror movie, lastly you a given a look at all the toys they get to play with on the show. (total: 13 minutes)
  • Gag Reel. Your standard collection of flubbed lines and on set gags. This looks like it would be a fun production to work on. (9 minutes)

Bottomline. What can I say? This show is a blast, better than I expected it to be and glad for it. It may not be the best show ever, but it provides a lot of entertainment bang for the buck. It has a nice balance between mythology building and stand alone episodes. It is easy to get into with its mix of horror, action, and comedy. On top of that, the A/V quality is fantastic.



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