After a somewhat disappointing second season, Sanctuary is back with a third installment of episodes where the show really hits its stride. The authors have found a voice for the program and have a much better understanding of what works and what doesn't. This season has a larger plot that reaches across multiple episodes, but it's also sprinkled with some very entertaining stand alone shows that never feel like monster-of-the-week filler. I'm a little surprised it retained enough fans through the second season to get renewed, but I'm very glad it did.
The show centers around a Sanctuary, a special supposedly secret (though everyone seems to know about it) center that protects and studies 'abnormals' creatures that have unique and special abilities. The institution is run by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), an intelligent and resourceful leader who just happens to be 157 years old. She's aided by Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a psychologist and ex-police profiler, tech geek Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins), Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi) an attractive ex-thief and general badass, and the butler/ extra muscle when needed, an abnormal named Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl). Together they scour the world looking for and protecting abnormals.
At the end of the last season, things were getting pretty interesting. A giant (I'm talking the size of a small city) sea-dwelling spider aptly named Big Bertha has been attacked by Sanctuary forces after Dr. Magnus was ousted from her position. The spider fought back by sending out a huge pulse that created not one but two tidal waves heading for different points on the Indian coast. Will had a connection with the powerful being/god Kali, but that was severed when Big Bertha was attacked. Only someone with Kali's power could stop a tidal wave, so Will makes a metaphorical Hail Mary pass and tries contact the being by having himself be killed in a controlled environment.
In the afterlife Will meets Kali once more and pleads his case, but what's totally unexpected is that he also sees Magnus' still alive father, who shows him a strange set of symbols and whispers for him to get the message to his daughter.
The cryptic message from Helen's father leads the team to a holographic representation of a magnificent, almost impossible city. Technologically advanced and yet obviously ancient, the group from Sanctuary travels the globe going from clue-to-clue to discover the ultimate secret that Magnus' father was trying to reveal to her.
I enjoyed this season a lot more than the previous two. The larger story arc kept things very interesting, and often times a stand alone story would surprisingly turn out to be related to the mysterious city. The mystery advanced at quite a steady pace too, leading to the cliff-hanging conclusion of the season.
The stand alone episodes were better than previous seasons too. Instead of the group going after a rouge abnormal they used the single-shot stories to flesh out the main characters including adding a love interest for two of the main players. One of my favorite shows was entirely a flashback, a story of 'The Five' (Magnus and four of her companions who all gained extraordinary powers while in college in the 1800's) during WWII when Magnus and some of her mates crossed into occupied
Speaking of The Five, Tesla in back in several episodes this season and John Druitt (Helen's old lover and Jack the Ripper) makes an appearance or two also. I have to admit I was surprised at how little Druitt was in the show... he appears in the opening credits along with the other main characters but isn't really an integral part of the season. I assume it's a way of thanking the actor since he also plays bigfoot, but is covered in so much makeup and prosthetics that you can't identify him.
One other episode that I have to mention is Wingman, the money saving clip show for the season. Now I generally despise clip shows, but this one was actually, dare I say it, good. Instead of replaying extended portions from a few episodes, the creators took it in another direction, stringing together many very short clips into interesting and engaging montages. For example, at one point Will mentions how tough Helen is, and that's followed by an impressive reel consisting of 5-10 second blips of Magnus shooting, punching, and blowing things up. There's also a decent plot (Will and Henry are trying to take their dates to a very exclusive restaurant, but they have to capture an escaped abnormal on the way, and do it before they loose their table. Funny, exciting, and fun to watch this is the way a clip show should be done.
The 20(!) episodes that make up the third season come in a fold out holder that has two overlapping discs per page. I'm not wild about fold out cases or overlapping discs, and I wish they would have used a single width 6 disc keepcase.
This program is recorded on new generation digital cameras that recorded with a resolution of 4096 X 2048 pixels (in comparison 1080p HD has a resolution of 1920 X 1080 pixels.) Consequently the 1.78:1 anamorphic image show looks good on Blu-ray, much better than season one did on DVD. The image was much sharper and the level of detail was greatly improved. The aliasing was gone and the blacks were darker and more even. The colors on this set are very nice, thought the skin tones sometimes look like they've been played with in post-production. Overall this is a nice looking set.
The show comes with both a DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track and a DD 5.1 option. I really enjoyed the DTS track which was pretty solid. The dialog was clear and there are not any audio defects worth noting, but the subwoofer track is a bit anemic. This is especially noticeable in the few scenes with explosions. There are SDH subtitles in English.
This set comes with a good amount of bonus material that really makes a complete package. First, there are commentary tracks on seven episodes with various members of the cast and crew. All of the leads are included as well as the series creators. I spot checked these and what I heard was lively and generally fun, though it did seem to be a bit superficial, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
There are also some behind-the-scenes documentaries included with the set:
Visual Effects of Sanctuary Season 3 - this was pretty cool and worth watching.
Amanda Tapping Directs "One Night"
Damian Kindler: In the Director's Chair
The Music of Sanctuary
Behind the Scenes:
Character Profile: Nikola Tesla
In addition to all that there is a blooper reel and a photo gallery. All in all this is a nice set of extras.
The first season was mildly interesting and held a lot of promise, but the show slipped a lot in the second season, writing out several good characters and relying on too may unimaginative, stand alone stories. That all changed with this season. They went back to having a season-long main plot, fleshed out the characters, and even brought back some fan favorites. If it keeps going at this rate, the show will be around for a long time. Highly Recommended.