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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // June 14, 2011 // Region Free
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 16, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The end was in sight. Sam and Dean Winchester had finally reunited with their father. They had in their grasp the weapon to kill the yellow-eyed demon that had slaughtered their mother and torn their family
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apart...not just send the demon screaming back to Hell but completely, wholly, and irrevocably destroy him. The hunt was over, and Azazel was in their crosshairs. If Supernatural were any other series, the first season finalé would be the end of all that: some brutal, climactic brawl, the tide turning against the two brothers, a crack of gunfire, Azazel a still-sparking corpse on the ground, and the Winchesters together again to face whatever comes next. 'Course, Supernatural isn't just any other show. Killing Azazel would have meant killing their father, and not one to slink away to fight another day, the demon instead retaliated swiftly and without mercy. The finalé doesn't tie all those dangling subplots together in a neat, tidy bow, instead drawing to a close with an eighteen-wheeler violently plowing head-on into the Winchesters' trademark Impala. Inside that mangled wreckage, three battered, bloodied bodies are hanging onto life by a thread. It's a hell of a cliffhanger.

The opening moments of season two are set just a few seconds later, but it's hardly more of the same. In the handful of episodes that closed out Supernatural's first season, the show finally found its footing. Instead of coming across like The X-Files with two brothers in a vintage muscle car, Supernatural started to seem like...well, Supernatural. This is even more true in its second season, and part of that is refusing to settle into the same comfortable formula. This is a war, and there are casualties. The season doesn't reset in episode two with everyone all patched up and ready to fight. The decisions that are made in the premiere resonate throughout the season, shaping not just the overall plot but who these characters are. There were a couple of stories running in the background throughout the first season, but most of its episodes were self-contained. Season two, meanwhile, dives headfirst into the mythology that the show has created, and its structure is far more intensely serialized as a result. There are a lot more recurring characters, something the series had mostly strugged off up to that point. The lines separating good and evil are blurred. Everything -- the plotting, the dialogue, the acting, the visual effects...everything --
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improves dramatically this second time around.

Sam and Dean are both shattered. Sam is still reeling from the revelation that the yellow-eyed demon has plans for him and the rest of his children. Is he some kind of weapon? With his psychic premonitions and some kind of connection to the demon, Sam clearly isn't entirely human; does that mean he could turn into the sort of bloodthirsty monster that he and his brother have been gunning down their entire lives? Dean is carrying the heavy burden of a secret whispered into his ear with a dying breath, and there's the inescapable guilt of living when someone has died in his place. He becomes more reckless on his hunts...almost suicidal. The foundation of the show at a glance looks to be the same -- the two brothers still blaze a path from one end of the country in the other in that cherry '67 Impala, hacking apart all those things that go bump in the night -- but the mytharc is far more tightly woven into the series in its sophomore season. Sam meets more and more of the other children tainted by the yellow-eyed demon, building a sense of urgency and escalation despite the fact that the demon himself is so rarely seen. This isn't like Buffy where the Big Bad has to pop up every episode or two. The threat isn't always visible, but it's always, always there, lurking, and it becomes increasingly clear that their personal vendetta against the demon is turning into a fight for the survival of humanity as we know it.

I love the hell out of Supernatural, and as tough a time as I have ranking each season of the show, its sophomore year would have to hover somewhere near the top of my list. It's my third time tearing through
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this season over the past couple of years, and what seemed okay to me at first now strikes me as pretty much perfect. Even with as much of a frothing-at-the-mouth Supernatural fanboy as I am, just about every season has at least one or two episodes that make me cringe. There's nothing like that in season two. With as deeply invested as I am in the series' mythology and these characters, even the episodes I shrugged off the first time I saw them now seem terrific. Now I'm picking up on foreshadowing that's slyly hidden in the background or a seemingly throwaway line that will turn out to be really significant further down the road. The breakneck pace of the season never relents. The internal conflicts are every bit as engaging as when the Winchesters are squaring off against a werewolf or a nest of vampires. An even more increased emphasis on family strengthens the emotional core of the series, with the Winchesters taking on a surrogate father, mother, kid sister, and even a crazy redneck cousin type. I can't say enough how phenomenal Jensen Ackles' acting is, and he's able to juggle so many completely disparate elements -- effortless charm, borderline-slapstick, self-loathing, a smirking sense of humor, brooding intensity, and an incendiary temper -- and make them all seem like part of one exceptionally well-drawn character. This is the year that Ben Edlund joined the writing staff, and he's responsible not just for some of the best episodes this year but of the entire six season run of Supernatural, period. As bleak and drenched in angst as this series can get, Edlund's episodes break it up with some ridiculously clever and howlingly funny premises, and yet they're rarely played strictly for laughs. There'll frequently be a dark, unexpected reversal, and its sense of humor accentuates the drama rather than deflating it. Part of Eric Kripke's mission statement is that each episode would function as a short horror film in its own right, and that's pulled off brilliantly and bloodily throughout Supernatural's second season. Supernatural is one of the only series I started watching in the Blu-ray era that I keep rewatching over and over again, and not only does it still hold up to repeat viewings, it gets better.

Hopefully it's not blind fandom speaking here, but I really don't have any criticism or nitpicking about this season at all. The gripes I had my first time through mostly revolved around Harvelle's Road House, a dive bar that's a hub for Hunters...a place for them to share intel about their bug hunts and to drown their sorrows in PBR. It just came across as an easy way for the writing staff to kick their way out when they were in a corner. Ash, a mulleted barfly who happens to be a quadruple-digit-IQ uber-genius, is played so broadly that it's as if he leapt straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. I got that Ellen Harvelle and her daughter Jo were supposed to be a counterpoint to John Winchester and his two sons: that the boys were forced into this life by a father consumed with vengeance, while Jo is desperate to take after her late father and strike out on her own as a hunter despite her mother's strongest objections. Ellen initially came across to me like a proto-Bobby Singer, someone to give the boys a mission or lob out whatever
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exposition was needed to nudge the monster-of-the-week story along. Jo was a kid sister-slash-kinda-sorta-love interest who felt stapled on as someone trying to be like her big brothers. I didn't think much of them at first, but now that I've watched the season from start to finish for the third time...? I really like all of them, and they're really not given enough screentime to distract even for those of you out there who feel differently.

Like I said earlier, there really aren't any episodes that seem like a low point to me. The few that grated on my nerves a couple years ago, such as Jo tagging along to square off against the bloodthirsty ghost of America's first serial killer in "No Exit" and the awkwardly preachy is-it-a-ghost-or-an-angel "Houses of the Holy", seem perfectly fine to me now. Nothing this season is a complete misfire, and even the least great episodes will have a few standout horror sequences or smirkingly clever dialogue to keep them standing strong. I may not have a least favorite, but there are definitely some standouts on the opposite end of that spectrum. "Bloodlust" introduces a vampire hunter named Gordon Walker, and he and Dean hit it off immediately. Why not? They both have tricked-out rides, they're both packing a hell of an arsenal, they drive around the country pretty much doing whatever they want, and they gun down monsters most people don't even know exist. To them, it's black and white...good and evil. It's just that this particular nest of vampires that Gordon's been tracking is trying to stay under the radar...feeding on cattle and swearing off the higher-octane human stuff. That a creature of the night can decide not to be evil casts doubt on everything the Winchesters thought they knew, and it gives them a hell of an archenemy in Gordon Walker...someone who believes with every fiber of his being that he's right. "Crossroad Blues" pits Sam and Dean against a crossroads demon that can grant any wish, and the bill doesn't come due for ten full years. Of course, the price for that ticket is eternal damnation. These aren't hapless victims being preyed upon; these people sold their souls and now have to pay the piper. Should they be saved? Even a few seasons later, the Rashomon-ish "Tall Tales" still stands out as one of Supernatural's most hysterical and cacklingly
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demented episodes. A sleepy little college town is tormented by one ridiculous urban legend after another, from alligators in the sewer all the way to anal-probing, slow-dancing aliens. All of the episodes that Ben Edlund touches this season are every bit as brilliant too: the hyper-meta "Hollywood Babylon", where Sam and Dean toil away as P.A.s on the haunted set of a shitball spam-in-a-cabin horror flick, "Nightshifter", which is basically Dog Day Afternoon with a conspiracy nut marching into a bank with an automatic rifle, locking the boys, a gaggle of hostages, and a shapeshifter inside, and "Simon Said", in which one of the yellow-eyed demon's other children can make people do whatever he tells them. ...but is this doofy guy who's just taking advantage of the local womenfolk and tooling around in that van with the barbarian princess and polar bear on it really ordering people to their deaths? As a longtime fan of Ginger Snaps, it's awesome seeing Katharine Isabelle score a returning role as a high-strung psychic. The two-part finalé proves to be a showcase for her talents, proof-positive why Jim Beaver needed to be a series regular as crusty father figure Bobby Singer, and setting up a jaw-dropping game-changer for the season to follow.

Not nearly as many television series are finding their way to Blu-ray as I'd like, and for even the ones that do, it's pretty much always just the current seasons that hit high-def. Previous seasons are stuck on DVD only, and catching them in HD means tuning into reruns on cable. Supernatural is one of just a tiny handful to have its earlier seasons issued on Blu-ray, and with this collection of the show's second season, everything that's been released on DVD is on these other shiny five-inch discs in high-def too. That's really rare, and with as gorgeous as this season looks in high definition, I hope Supernatural's rabidly loyal fanbase takes advantage of it. For longtime fans who've already grabbed Supernatural's second season on DVD, this Blu-ray set is such a step up that it really is worth the upgrade. For first-time viewers who were introduced to Supernatural when season one hit BD this time last year, give this one a shot too. As much as I like the series' earliest episodes, Supernatural's sophomore season is in a completely different class...wildly addictive and endlessly rewatchable. Highly Recommended.

Seeing as how this is the sixth season of Supernatural I've watched in high-def and the fifth I've watched on Blu-ray, you think I'd be used to it by now. Sorry, I still can't get over just how gorgeous season two looks on BD. It certainly doesn't hurt that Supernatural boasts such dazzlingly cinematic photography, outclassing the bulk of the many, many horror movies I've come across over the years. The gloomy palette is rendered flawlessly, helping to establish a sense of looming, inescapable dread. Its colors can leap off the screen when needed, though, particularly the lush green grass that makes for one of the most memorable moments in "What Is And What Should Never Be". Contrast remains robust throughout, and the image never struggles even under the lowest of light. Crispness, clarity, and detail are all first-rate, easily eclipsing the DVD collection from a few years back:

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This Blu-ray set is even a considerable step up over the HD broadcasts of the series that I've seen. I really don't have any meaningful complaints at all. Admittedly, there are some tiny white flecks of dust that have always been a part of these episodes, and some eps, particularly "Nightshifter", look a little muddier and softer than the rest of the season. The texture of the film grain has somewhat of a digital look to it when I sit and stare at screengrabs, although from a normal viewing distance on my HDTV, it looks perfect. Supernatural is such a fantastic-looking series in general, and this season benefits greatly from the move to Blu-ray. Well worth the upgrade.

The second season of Supernatural is divided across four BD-50 discs: six episodes each on the first three discs and the remaining four episodes on the last disc. All twenty-two episodes are encoded with VC-1 and presented at their broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

Season two of Supernatural hasn't been
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lavished with lossless audio the way that Warner's next few TV-on-BD sets reportedly are. A few seconds after popping the first disc into my Blu-ray player, though, I was so immediately impressed that I had to double-check. These Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbps) tracks are huge. The lower frequencies are thick and vicious, rattling every square inch of the room. Most of the sound effects are remarkably clean and clear. The acoustic guitar that opens "Crossroad Blues" sounds as if it's being played live just a couple feet away from me. Use of the surrounds isn't quite as aggressive as a feature film might be, but the rear channels are used far more extensively than I'm used to hearing from a TV series. The violent bursts of expelled demon smoke, the whirring blades of the helicopters in "Nightshifter", the snarling hellhounds in "Crossroad Blues", and the skittering inside the walls of an aging highrise in "No Exit" are a few of the standouts there. When I say that Supernatural sounds nearly as great as it looks, I mean that as a very high compliment. Only a few niggling things drag down the overall score. Dialogue is sometimes marred by a very light crackle, not rendered as cleanly as so many of the other elements in the mix. Some effects, such as punches and kicks, aren't as distinct as they probably would be on a lossless soundtrack. As much as I appreciate the sound design taking advantage of the rear channels, some effects slink into the back that seem as if they shouldn't be there. Whenever one of the Winchesters pops open a lock, for instance, that metallic click always comes from behind. Those are pretty minor gripes overall, though, and I think this may be the best sounding of the five seasons of Supernatural on Blu-ray.

Also included are lossy stereo dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.

This Blu-ray release of Supernatural's second season carries over all of the extras from the DVD set, and The Devil's Road Map feature has been updated with new interviews...in high-def, even.
  • Deleted Scenes (8 min.; SD): Four episodes -- "In My Time of Dying", "Bloodlust", "The Usual Suspects", and "Hunted" -- each get a couple of deleted scenes, including Dean taking advantage of some of the perks of being invisible, spelling out the relationship between guest star Linda Blair's cop and her partner-slash-lover, Ash trying to pick up some chick in the Roadhouse, and fellow-demon-spawn Ava trying to get a sense of how Sam's premonitions work.

  • Audio Commentaries: There are also commentary tracks on three episodes, and they're all well worth setting aside the time to give a listen.

    "In My Time of Dying" has the most people in front of the mic, featuring stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, producer Cyrus Yavneh, and writer/creator Eric Kripke, and it's a ridiculously
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    fun listen. Among the highlights are the reveal that Fredric Lehne is pretty much blind when he's wearing Azazel's trademark yellow contacts, Jared struggling with a melting eye prosthetic, and lotsa quips about bassy voices and hand modeling.

    Eric Kripke goes it solo on "What Is and What Should Never Be", his first time taking the reins as a director on Supernatural. It's a very detailed discussion about every aspect of the episode, including how much it changed from the earliest drafts, the Buffy episode that inspired the overall premise, scheduling hiccups, week-long facial Henna tattoos, and Kripke learning firsthand about the realities of working as a TV director.

    Kripke returns for the third and final commentary as well, joined on "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1" by writer Sera Gamble and director Robert Singer. I'm kind of intrigued by how critical Kripke is of some elements of the season overall, although I'll admit that the things he frowns on really don't bother me. The three of them talk about what it's like to write and direct an episode with this many characters being juggled, including the reveal that Lily is a composite of two different characters from an earlier draft. There's a lot of talk about production design as well, and seeing as how that's one of the standout elements of this episode, that's definitely appreciated.

  • Gag Reel (9 min.; SD): Supernatural always serves up the best gag reels of any television series, ever, and season two marches right along in that same, proud tradition...with fart jokes, ridiculous pranks, a pretty-much-blinded actress fumbling towards Jensen Ackles' forehead, and a face-stuffing montage along with the usual stuff.

  • The Devil's Road Map (HD / SD): Rather than just do a straight dump of the Devil's Road Map extra from the DVDs, the Supernatural crew shot some new material to help bring it up to date. The meat of the extras are interviews and commentary: a mix of the original standard definition footage, brand-new HD interviews, and high definition excerpts from each episode. Each of this season's twenty-two episodes has a mini-featurette to go along with it, adding up to 78 minutes of episode discussion in all. Pretty much all of the key cast and crew are interviewed at one point or another, along with notes from folklorists, historians, a licensed therapist, and even an editor from the Weekly World News. It's not just about how these episodes were made but an exploration into the lore behind them. There are way too many highlights to possibly list here, but to rattle off just a few, Eric Kripke talks about how they gutted the comfortable formula they'd finally nailed by the end of season one, the twisted stuff Ben Edlund wanted to drop into his first episode, shooting in a working bank and its actual vault for the Supernatural version of Dog Day Afternoon, and Jensen Ackles ringing in his birthday surrounded by a bunch of grizzled, terrifying prison inmate-lookin' extras. The two-part season finalé by far gets the most attention, focusing on the scale of putting together episodes this ambitious and how drastically it was changed from Kripke's original concept. These featurettes can be viewed by scrolling through a list or by selecting
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    on an overview map the city in which an episode is set.

    Along with the episode-centric featurettes, there are also textual pages of local information for the settings of season two, from sleepy little towns like Medford, Wisconsin and Rivergrove, Oregon all the way to Philly and San Francisco. This being Supernatural and all, this isn't cheery CVB marketing copy but a run through the ghost stories and urban legends specific to each location.

    Finally, there are six additional featurettes, this time oriented around Harvell's Road House: building it up, tearing it down, the look of the place, and a whole lot about the people who call this dive bar home. These last few featurettes clock in at a little over 11 minutes in all and are presented in standard definition.

    In his minute-long intro to this feature, Eric Kripke mentions that there's an unlockable if you spot Azazel three times on the map, but I'm too lame to pull that off. No idea what that extra little goodie could be. Sorry.

The second season of Supernatural is BD Live-enabled, but the switch hadn't been flipped on as of this writing, and there's no indication there's anything new waiting in the wings online. The packaging is the same as it's been for the past few season releases, arriving in a reasonably slim case and a glossy cardboard slipcover.

The Final Word
I really can't point to a favorite season of Supernatural; whichever one I'm watching at the time always seems to me like the series' best. Supernatural is such a compulsively rewatchable show in general, and its second season is one in particular I keep coming back to again and again. In its first year, Supernatural was still finding its footing and made a lot of missteps along the way, but anyone who tuned in could see the enormous amount of potential that was there. Season two fulfills that promise. Everything I liked so much about the first season is built upon and dramatically improved. There's not a single episode I'd point to as a letdown, and season two delivers several of the series' most exceptional installments while it's at it. Anyone who started watching Supernatural when its uneven first season hit Blu-ray, no matter what they thought of its earliest episodes, ought to be deeply impressed by how much better the show gets now that it's standing on steady ground. For established fans...well, you obviously don't need me to sell you on Supernatural. These episodes look phenomenal in high definition, and I wouldn't think twice about putting aside my DVD box to make room for a Blu-ray set that looks this great. Highly Recommended.
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