The first season of Supernatural was a good, solid adventure/horror show that was a lot of fun to watch. The program was filled with promise, and The CW network had the good sense to renew the it. Season 2 has just been released on DVD, and the show really comes into its own this season. These episodes flesh out and expand on the main character's personalities, have some suspenseful stories, bring in new reoccurring characters, and develop the world that Sam and Dean live in. This season turns the program from an entertaining show into a modern-day classic.
Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki & Jensen Ackles respectively) are hunters. They don't hunt animals for food or sport however, they hunt supernatural creatures. It all started 23 years ago when their mother was killed by a demon. Their father John (ably played by Jeffery Dean Morgan), an ex-marine, vowed to hunt down the monster that killed his wife. He spent the intervening years searching for it while ridding the world of other evil that he encountered. John Winchester raised his children to follow in his footsteps, teaching them to track, stalk, and kill evil wherever they found it, and they learned the lessons well.
Warning: The next two paragraphs contain information about the conclusion of the first season and events that take place in the first episode of this season. If you'd prefer avoid spoilers, skip down to here.
In the first season, John turns up missing and Dean and Sam spend most of the series looking for him. Surprisingly they do find him and the demon that killed their mother. The demon escapes, but so do the three Winchesters. The season ends with the trio of hunters riding in Dean's car, two of them wounded, planning their next move. The last shot is of a semi driven by a demon plowing into their car.
The second season opens just seconds later. Everyone in the car is hurt, but Dean is the worst, he's nearly dead. As a matter of fact, he should die, but John manages to crawl out of his hospital bed and performs a ritual to summon the demon they've been hunting. He agrees to give up his soul and the only earth-made weapon that can harm the demon in exchange for letting his son live. As John drops dead in a hospital room floor, Dean makes a miraculous recovery.
Dean restores his wrecked 1967 Chevy Impala himself, and the two brothers are back in business. They haven't given up on finding the demon, but there're other things that are worrying them. For one, what did the demon mean when he said that he has plans for Sam? They head to a place their father once mentioned: The Roadhouse. It's an old run-down bar out in the middle of nowhere that happens to be a favorite haunt of hunters. Hunters like Sam and Dean. The scope of the show opens up a lot and viewers discover that there are a handful of dedicated people like the Winchesters who hunt monsters. The Roadhouse is run by Ellen (Samantha Ferris) the widow of a hunter and her attractive daughter Jo (Alona Tal). A regular there is Ash (Chad Lindberg), a scruffy guy with a mullet ("all business in the front, party in the back") who drinks the booze people leave in their glasses and sleeps on the pool table. Oh yeah, and he has a degree from MIT and is an electronics genus. He helps the boys track paranormal occurrences in the US which they all hope will lead them to the demon.
This season, like the last, has the boys facing a different monster every episode. They encounter werewolves, ghosts, demonic clowns, and vampires along with a host of other nasties. Like the previous season, this year the episodes are very creepy. Supernatural has a dark feel and there are moments of gore in most episodes, though this is never overboard and relatively minor. It does keep you on the edge of your seat however. Battling a mixture of urban legends and more standard horror monsters, the episodes mostly all involve a murderous creature, and while most of the vivisection and such occur off screen, they effectively imply what's going on.
The thing that makes this season so engaging is that there's a lot of continuity. The episodes are still stand alone stories, but things that happened in the past (i.e. last season) come back to haunt them. (No pun intended.) While they've been hunting, Sam and Dean have had some run-ins with the police. The file got so big (and they've been linked to more than one murder) that now the FBI is on their trail which makes doing their job much more difficult. There's a persistent agent tracking them down, and he's almost as good at finding someone as they are.
The main reason that this is such a stand-out season is that there's a theme running through many of the episodes, and that's the cost that Sam and Dean have had to pay. Not only are they living a migrant lifestyle and on the run from the feds, but it's taken an emotional toll on them. It's not easy constantly fighting and killing evil things, and though they are saving countless lives, they never even get a "thanks". Dean, the cool and in control older brother, comes close to breaking at times, and Sam doesn't fare much better. Both characters are fleshed out over the course of this season and it's because of that examination of what drives them that some of the later episodes are so powerful.
This is one of the few season sets where I can honestly say I really enjoyed each and every episode. There isn't a dud in the bunch, and that's pretty amazing. Even great shows have their off moments, but Supernatural was hitting on all cylinders the entire year. There were some episodes that stood above the rest however. The two-part season finale was fantastic, and though it didn't end in a cliff-hanger like last year's show, it did leave viewers counting the days until next season begins. The most touching and emotional show was What is and What Should Never Be, where Dean encounters a Djinn. The creature touches him on the head, and Dean wakes up in another reality. One where his mother never died, he and his brother never became hunters, and his father ran a garage and played baseball. Dean has a loving (and gorgeous) girlfriend, Sam's in law school at Stanford and everything seems to be perfect. The only problem is that Dean knows that it's not real. Can he ignore that and just live in the fantasy world?
The Usual Suspects is another great episode which guest-starred Linda Blair as a Baltimore police detective. Dean lands in hot water when he is caught at the scene of a murder with the victim's blood on his hands. It's a bad spot to be in but when Dean's fingerprints come back and the police discover that he's listed as deceased and wanted for murder, things go from bad to worse. On top of all that, Sam and Dean still need to find the ghost who has been killing people and put it to rest. Blair does a great job and the writers even made references to her most famous role, which was a lot of fun.
Though there were many suspenseful and spooky episodes, this season had a couple of shows that were played for laughs. Tall Tales is one of them. The brothers call in Bobby, an old hunter friend of their father's, to help them figure out what's going on in a small college town. The brothers take turns relating the events, and they both take joy painting their sibling in the worst light possible. The highlight of the show has to be where the Frat guy tells them what happened when he was taken aboard a UFO. He was anally probed over and over and over, but that wasn't the worst. Afterwards the alien forced him to slow dance. A wonderfully comic episode.
The other laugh-out-loud funny show in this season is Hollywood Babylon, a satiric look at tinsel town. When the Winchesters start investigating a haunted set, Dean becomes a PA on a movie and starts to really enjoy it. You can tell that everyone associated with this episode had a great time throwing in their own Hollywood horror stories. The jabs at idiotic producers, thoughtless directors and hack re-write men are hilarious.
Stars Jensen Ackles (Days of Our Lives) and Jared Padalecki (Gilmore Girls) have really grown into their roles and work exceedingly well together. They really have great on-screen chemistry. At one point my son even commented that "It's hard to believe that they are just two actors who didn't even know each other before the show started. It seems like they are real brothers." He's right. They fight and bicker quite realistically and the interaction between the two actors is a real driving force in the show. In the hands of lesser actors the program wouldn't be nearly as entertaining and enjoyable.
This season the show gets upgraded to a DD5.1 mix. Like the first season, I was happy to discover that the original music was kept in tact. The background music mainly consists of classic rock by groups such as AC/DC, Boston, and Styx, among others, and it goes a long way towards creating the show's unique atmosphere. I'm very pleased that it was included. (Presumably producers are now including the DVD rights when they clear a song for use in a TV show, which is a good thing.) As for the sound quality, it was very good. The dialog is crisp and clean and the sound effects are never overpowered by the music. Distortion, hiss, dropouts, and other audio defects were absent.
The 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic image looked very good. The show was shot and mastered in HD and the resulting standard definition DVD has a good amount of detail. The image is sharp and the blacks are deep and dark. The show has a dark atmosphere with a lot of scenes taking place in sewers, dark warehouses, and abandoned buildings late at night. These low light scenes were reproduced very well, with details still present in the shadows and colors appropriately toned. On the digital side, things also look good with only a little minor aliasing in a few scenes. Overall a nice looking set.
There are some nice extras included with this season. There are three commentaries this time around. The season premier, In My Time of Dying, features the thoughts of stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as well as the director Kim Manners. This was my favorite commentary; it's always fun to hear Jared and Jensen's comments. One of the best episodes, What is and What Should Never Be, features a commentary by series creator/director Eric Kripke, and All Hell Breaks Loose Part One, the first half of the season closer, has an alternate commentary track by Erick Kripke, director Robert Singer, and writer Sera Gamble. All three were entertaining and related some interesting behind the scenes tidbits.
There's a gag reel that's pretty funny, several deleted scenes, and an interactive feature, The Devil's Road Map. This last item is a map of the US where you can highlight different towns that the show visited this season. At each stop they have some information on the monsters that were confronted. It wasn't too exciting.
Jared's original screen test is included, which is a lot of fun to watch, and there's also three 'webisodes' short featurettes there were presented on the show's web site. These include an interview with Ivan Hayden the special effects supervisor, a talk with the writers, and an interview with prop master Christopher Cooper.
Finally the packaging lists The Episode from Hell: The Making of All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2 as a bonus that's included on the discs. At first I couldn't find it, but then alter reader Wrenn e-mailed and told me where it was located: On the Devil's Road Map - spot 22. This 11-minute feature has the producers discussing the final episode and the problems that they faced filming it. The first hurdle was that the original script worked out to about 5½ hours of air time, something that they just couldn't do. They whittled and cut and finally managed to get it down to two hours, including commercials. I wish they would have included the original script as an extra, it would have been interesting to see if the elongated version was any better.
The first season was very good, but this set of shows is great. Literally every episode is entertaining and enjoyable, and there're not many shows you can say that about. The program is creepy and eerie with just the right amount of humor thrown in. In my review of the first season, I said that the show was like a cross between the X-files and The Fugitive. In this season the program has really evolved into a unique show that doesn't seem like a cobbling together of other popular series. The picture is great and the 5.1 sound fits the show well. This is just a great package. Highly Recommended.