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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Supernatural: Season 7 (Blu-ray)
Supernatural: Season 7 (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 18, 2012 // Region Free
List Price: $69.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 23, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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There's a new God in town.

Fueled by the power of untold billions of souls snatched from Purgatory, Castiel is essentially omnipotent. The many angels who opposed him in his celestial civil war are quickly slaughtered. Castiel carves a path of destruction from one end of the planet to the other, mercilessly smiting hypocrites who twist the word of God for their own means. Sam Winchester is left cowering in indescribable pain, his torment in Hell roaring to the surface at Castiel's hand. Dean and Bobby, meanwhile, are dismissed as inconsequential dust mites. The Castiel they knew -- once their closest friend and ally -- is gone, and the Old Testament wrath in a trenchcoat that's taken his place...? How do they stop a capital-'g' God?

As it turns out, Castiel's divine...ascension, if you want to call it that, is just the first domino to tumble. The real threat throughout Supernatural's seventh season is what the fallen angel inadvertently unleashes upon the world: Leviathan. Predating man, Leviathan are among God's earliest creations and among his greatest mistakes. They're insatiably ravenous, devouring everything in sight, including each other. They can assume most any form. A quick brush with someone's skin is enough for them to duplicate his every last memory. Sure, sure, the Winchesters stave off the end of the world like most people change their socks, but this is different. The Leviathans' end game -- and the bloody means they take to get there -- are pretty far removed from your garden variety apocalypse. The Leviathan are smart, they're cunning, they can't be killed, and they're everywhere.

Gotta admit: I wasn't holding out a lot of hope for Supernatural's seventh season. Although the season before this delivered a few scattered moments of brilliance, that first year under longtime writer/newly-minted showrunner Sera Gamble was mostly a sloppy, aimless, disappointing misfire. Season six was so forgettable that I honestly have no
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memory of writing several thousand words about it this time last year. This, though...? Turns out that season seven is the most excited I've been about Supernatural in a couple of years.

Straight off the bat, though, let me talk about Leviathan. ...or is it 'Leviathans'? I need to know these things. Whatever the plural form is, I'm sorely tempted to say they're my favorite Big Bad throughout all of Supernatural's seven seasons. One of the trickiest things about crafting a show like Supernatural is the need for escalation; the threat that propels every season has to be bigger and badder than the one before it. This many seasons in, how do you keep topping yourself? What kind of badnik is going to outclass the frickin' Devil? Leviathan does all of that brilliantly. They have a plan but are much too clever to ever tip their hand. This isn't like Buffy where the Big Bad hashes out one Dastardly-Scheme-of-the-Week after another, each inevitably dismantled by our gallant heroes. The Winchesters stumble upon aspects of the Leviathans' master plan, but they hardly ever chalk up a 'win' along the way. They learn a little more and somehow manage to stay alive. The Leviathan tick off all the right checkboxes: they're superhumanly strong,
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they're essentially invincible, they're smarter than the Winchesters, their resources are unlimited, they can shift into any form they want, and...hell, having infiltrated every level of business and government, they're inescapable.

Even though they look at humanity the way most people look at the buffet at Golden Corral, one of my absolute favorite things about Leviathan is how much like us they really are. Leviathan isn't a hivemind, which would've been the easiest and most obvious way to write them. Unlike the mostly interchangeable vamps and demons we've seen over the years, every Leviathan has its own very distinct personality. There are strata at play here, and not just "The Alpha" and "The Not-the-Alphas". Some of 'em get annoyed by the shit jobs they're handed. Some are impulsive and shrug off the big plan. Some are stone-faced, grim, and serious; others seem kinda jittery and neurotic. The Leviathan are a complex and fully-formed civilization, and they're a whole lot higher on the food chain than we are. That, coupled with their unparalleled resources and power, make for a far more credible threat than another season of "grrrr....evil!" Billionaire CEO-slash-Leviathan high sheriff Dick Roman -- played by your favorite and mine, James Patrick Stuart from Andy Richter Controls the Universe -- doesn't snarl or glower. The guy's all smiles and bubbly, douchey charm, and he's earned it; when you're unstoppable, there's no reason to sweat. There's a lot of smirkingly sociopolitical commentary on the bill with Leviathan too, but I'll leave that for you to discover.

Hey, though, there are 23 episodes this season -- oooh, one more than usual! -- and the Winchesters have a lot more to fret about than an army of ancient, invincible Biblical monsters. You're lookin' at ghosts invading the most psychic town in America! Vampires! Amazons! Japanese booze demons! An Egyptian god who decides to play Judge Joe Brown with Dean! A brain-gobbling Kitsune emerging from Sam's barely-pubescent days in middle school! A War of the Roses deal between Whedonverse alums James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter, only with way more dark sorcery! A jaunt through time back to the 1940s! True Grit with slutty monsters! The most literally nightmarish Chuck E. Cheese ever! Cursed ballerina shoes and a bunch of random stuff from a antique store kinda like that other Friday the 13th!

I'm tempted to say this is the bloodiest and most brutal season of Supernatural yet. I mean...case-in-yikes:

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The Winchesters' safety nets are gradually stripped away, one after another. There's a more pervasive sense of loss and regret this year than ever before, and that's wholly deserved. Supernatural is a series that's long been fascinated by how the ghosts of the past (both literal and figurative) affect the present, and that in so many different ways is a focal point this season. I'd like to say more, but delving into any of that careens head-on into spoiiler territory. That also factors in when Sam and Dean reconnect with the victim of a demon possession years ago...how he was so profoundly changed by that experience. Yeah, yeah, we've seen the Winchesters return to clean up unfinished business before, but it's never been approached like this, where they're forced to face the aftermath rather than just tear off to the next job in the Impala.

I don't wanna make this season sound too heavy, though, 'cause a bunch of episodes really are a hell of a lot of fun. The, uh, consumerist culinary conceit of "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters" reminds me a lot of the mind-enslaving Cool Whip in The Stuff, one of my longtime favorite guilty pleasures. You probably don't need me to spell out how much of a blast "Season 7, Time for a Wedding!" is,
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featuring the triumphant return of Ginger Snaps alum Emily Perkins as Supernatural-superfan Becky Rosen. "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" is part homage, part love letter to Felicia Day, and it's ah-mazing. I personally guarantee that you will never watch a season of any TV show with more and better dick puns than this either.

One structural change that's greatly appreciated is that Supernatural doesn't take its eye off the prize in the home stretch. I mean, a lot of seasons of this show kinda seem to forget about the Arc-du-Year after a while and try to cram everything into the last two episodes. While the Leviathan aren't front and center much of the time, it's always made clear that there's a reason for that, and they're the focal point of quite a few of the episodes leading directly up to the season finalé. Skimming through some of the usual message boards, it seems like there've been an awful lot of complaints about how slowly the season trudges along and how ineffective the Leviathan are as Big Bads. Watching the season week-in and week-out, I can see how that might be true. Devouring 23 episodes over the course of a few weeknights...I guess that smoothens out a lot of the rough spots.

...and, yeah, there are a couple of misfires along the way. "The Girl Next Door", where Sam reconnects with a murderous creature from his past, fails to resonate. Then again, you have Firefly's Jewel Staite hiding behind the alias of "Amy Pond", and that pretty much singlehandedly salvages the episode for me. I love the concept of "Repo Man" -- dealing with the fallout of a demon possession when a series of ritualistic murders crop up again years later -- but the execution flounders. The ultimate bad ghostie in "Of Grave Importance" is literally the worst actor in the history of the show. I'm a
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seasoned nitpicker, and there are always tiny little moments I can poke and prod at, but I'm not going to bore you with any of that here. Still, pretty much every season of Supernatural misses the mark a couple of times, and these sorts of minor stumbles -- which are more "not as good as the rest" rather than outright bad -- don't get in the way too much.

I plunked the first disc of season seven into my Blu-ray player with a resigned sigh, and within a couple minutes, all my pessimism had been stomped into a bloody smear. Supernatural's seventh season is a hell of a return to form. Sure, sure, the season is still a little uneven, and its highs don't approach the greatest episodes of years past. This seventh season of Supernatural is still solid just about from start to finish, and for a series to remain this bloody and brilliant nearly 150 episodes in...yeah: Highly Recommended.


Video
I've been consistently floored by the way Supernatural has looked on Blu-ray, and season seven doesn't leave a whole lot of room for complaints either. Each episode is, as ever, staggeringly sharp and detailed. I don't think it's my imagination when I say that this is the brightest and most vividly saturated season of Supernatural yet. Still, when the Winchesters are skulking around in the shadows, black levels are every bit as deep and inky as you'd hope for. No artificial sharpening, overzealous filtering, or hiccups in the compression ever get in the way either. The only real criticism I have is that just about every last frame of Supernatural is so cinematic, but a handful of particularly frantic moments have an overly video-like appearance to them. They don't look bad, exactly, but those few seconds' worth of shots look so different than the rest of the season that the shift can be pretty jarring. That sort of thing obviously dates back a lot further in the production chain than the authoring of these Blu-ray discs anyway. Other than that...? Pretty much perfect.

This season's 23 episodes are spread across four dual-layer discs. Each episode has been encoded with AVC and, as always, is presented at its broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1.


Audio
Supernatural scores lossless audio for the second time on Blu-ray, presented again in six-channel, 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio. By far the most devastating weapon in its arsenal is a tight, punchy low-end. From the
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music's low-frequency snarl to colossal explosions to bodies being flung through walls to...um, clown haymakers, Supernatural's seventh season keeps the subwoofer rumbling throughout. There's a really strong sense of directionality across the front channels. The surrounds, meanwhile, are reserved largely for robust atmospherics and to reinforce the score. The use of the rears isn't nearly as aggressive as a balls-out horror flick would be, no, but they make their presence known when it counts, with ghostly death screams and skittering beasts attacking from behind. Supernatural's dialogue is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly, never finding itself buried in the mix. Correcting some of the small criticisms I had about the otherwise terrific sixth season, this latest Supernatural boxed set ranks right up there with the very best sounding TV series on Blu-ray.

Also included are Dolby Digital stereo dubs in Portuguese (192kbps) as well as DD 5.1 Japanese tracks (640kbps). Subtitles are dished out in English (SDH), Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Japanese.


Extras
Disc One
  • Jensen Sings Outtake (2 min.; HD): Three words: More. Air. Supply.


  • Audio Commentary: "We learned it by watching Busey." The first of this season's three commentaries pairs together Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on -- hey, appropriately enough! -- "Slash Fiction". It's a little quiet and low-key, but there are a few highlights, such as working alongside Kevin R. McNally this season, how Supernatural sets the gold standard for night driving on television, and pointing out another connection between Supernatural and Watchmen.

Disc Two
  • Washboards and Tommy Guns (25 min.; HD): The noirish leap back to the '40s in "Time After Time After Time" is easily one of this season's standouts, and a big part of what makes it such a remarkable episode is its infectiously jazzy score. This comprehensive featurette looks at how that music came together, featuring the first collaboration between composers Christopher Lennertz and Jay Gruska, gritty instrumentation brought to life by the California Feetwarmers, and recording the performances live with vintage gear in the former A&M Studios. Although the focus is rightly placed predominantly on "Time After Time After Time", the featurette also paints a strong picture of what it's like to put together the music for Supernatural in general as well.


  • Audio Commentary: It's always more than a little bit awesome to see Bobby and Rufus together on-screen, and...hey! The commentary for "Death's Door" gives you a chance to listen to the actors behind 'em too: Jim Beaver and Steven Williams. Again, it's sort of on the subdued side, and Beaver and Williams fall into the
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    trap of describing what's happening on screen rather than really talking about it. Don't expect a whole lot in the way of insight. Who's complaining, though? It's upbeat. It's cheery. They talk about crafting their performances, what a joy it is to work with everyone on both sides of the camera, and it turns out that Williams didn't know till now that Rufus was supposed to be Jewish.

Disc Three
  • Directing the Supernatural (20 min.; HD): A small army of directors -- among them Phil Sgriccia, Ben Edlund, Robert Singer, Jerry Wanek, and Jensen Ackles himself -- delve into what it's like to helm an episode of a series as ambitious as Supernatural with so many effects, so many stunts, and so few standing sets. They discuss the need for heavy preparation, the pressure, the severe time crunches, the compromises that have to be made, their cinematic inspirations, and how endlessly rewarding the experience ultimately is.

Disc Four
  • Gag Reel (6 min.; HD): Still the best gag reels of any TV show, ever. Okay, maybe the second best now, but who's counting?


  • Audio Commentary: The last of the three commentaries is, as you probably would've guessed, for the season finalé: "Survival of the Fittest". Executive producers Sera Gamble and Robert Singer take the reins this time, and it's a whole lot more talkative than this season's pair of actor-centric commentaries. Gamble and Singer chat about stepping away from the use of angels as a borderline-literal deus ex machina, the evolution of a certain weapon, this season's metaphor for corporate greed, and...hey, having to cobble together a new formula for ectoplasm so it doesn't look so much like leviathanic black goo. If you only have time to give one of this season's commentaries a spin, "Survival of the Fittest" would get my vote.

  • Supernatural Creature Fest Drive-In (60 min.; HD): Sporting really slick 3D navigation through a drive-in theater, disc four delivers a full hour's worth of additional featurettes. Rather than just structure 'em like straightahead talking heads pieces, they're introduced like movie trailers, spanning just about every conceivable genre: from grindhouse sleaze to romantic comedies all the way to artsy Japanese flicks. A few adorable little Easter eggs are scattered around there too.

    "Psycho Scribes of the Supernatural" (8 min.) touches on how the writers are still unearthing new creatures to gank, right at 150 episodes in, emphasizing the humanity in these monster stories and how they try to make the established lore their own. "Creatures from the Digital Realm" (6 min.) approaches those beasties from the VFX end of things, highlighting different stages of the digital effects for a few standout shots. "Prosthetic Men 7" (6 min.) does the same for practical effects, showing off some of the grislier, more gruesome makeup and prosthetics from this season: souls trying to claw their way out of Cas' six-pack, a possessed blow dryer, a bleeding cupcake, and an
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    oozing number 6 lunch special.

    "Highway to Death" (8 min.) compares what one character sees as he dies to real-life psychological and physiological phenomena. "Weekend at Lily Dale" (7 min.) also skews towards reality, including Supernatural's depiction of what's reputedly the most psychic city in America as well as a historical perspective on the Fox sisters depicted in "The Mentalists". The rest of the featurettes are also monster-of-the-week-centric: "Doppelgangers Ball!" (6 min.) takes a look...errr, two looks...at 'ganger lore and how that influences some of the performances this season, "Trial of the Winchesters!" (6 min.) tells you everything you wanted to know about Osiris but were afraid to ask, the double feature of "Desperate Foxes / Vetala Truck Stop Murders" (6 min.) touches on the Japanese kitsune and the Hindu vetala, and...whew!..."Monsters from the Planet Mythos!" (6 min.) aims the spotlight towards the Jersey Devil and Supernatural's take on Leviathan.

    Last up is a promo for "Time After Time After Time" that clocks in at a little over a minute.

This Supernatural set comes packaged in a shiny slipcase. A detailed episode guide is tucked inside along with an UltraViolet digital copy code.


The Final Word
Supernatural spent its sixth season stumbling around to find its footing after creator Eric Kripke stepped aside, and...well, that made for what might be the shakiest and most scattershot run of the series yet. Season seven, though...? Back in the saddle again. It's a stronger return to form than I ever would've thought possible: just about as wickedly funny, sopping with blood, dementedly imaginative, and breathlessly intense as ever. The shape-shifting, coldly calculating Leviathans are brilliant Big Bads, and they make for one of the best-formed season arcs that Supernatural has ever delivered. Very, very Highly Recommended.
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