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Supernatural: The Complete Third
Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 9/2/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/31/2008
The advent of cable TV has brought us many specialty networks which focus on one topic and one topic only. It's gotten to the point that this practice has been the target of satirists for years. (I was recently informed that I'm going to start getting The Tennis Channel. I can't wait...) Conversely, the major entertainment networks should provide a variety of programming. If they are to appeal to a diverse audience, and thus, get big ratings, they can't offer just one thing. Can a network has too much variety? Following this logic, The CW is tough to figure out. Having grown out of The WB, this network still focuses on soapy teen products such asGossip Girl and One Tree Hill. They're even brining back 90210. And yet, this net, which seems to be aimed squarely at teenaged girls, isn't afraid to show Supernatural, a slick horror show which isn't afraid to go for the scare, and is worlds away from the glamorous lives portrayed on those otehr shows.
(SPOILER WARNING: It won't be possible to discuss the events of Supernatural Season 3 without mentioning what happened inSeason 2. So, if you haven't seen the second season, and don't want it ruined, stop reading now.) Supernatural follows the adventures of Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki), two brothers who were trained by their father to hunt monsters and mysterious creatures, and they are carrying on that legacy. As Season 2 drew to a close, Sam and Dean were confronting "The Yellow-Eyed Demon", a creature who had killed their mother and father. When Sam is on the brink of death, Dean makes a deal with a demon to trade his soul for his brother's life. Dean is given one year to live as part of the deal.
As Season 3 opens, the boys are out on the open road again, going from town-to-town tracking baddies. Along the way, two women enter their lives, both of which could be a blessing or a curse. Ruby (Katie Cassidy) is a demon who claims that she despises the demon who holds the contract for Dean's soul and wants to help the guys find a way out of the deal. However, as she is a demon, Sam and Dean aren't sure if they can trust her. Bella (Lauren Cohan) deals in ancient relics and isn't above stealing artifacts. (Sam and Dean learn this the hard way.) Despite the fact that they can't trust her either, Bella may have information which could help Dean. As the end of the year-long period comes to a close, Sam becomes desperate to find a way to save his brother.
By their very nature, television shows have always been episodic. Many series have episodes which always feature self-contained stories. Soap-operas introduced the idea of story arcs, where a storyline will develop over a group of several episodes. This idea leaked into prime-time dramas (and the smarter sitcoms, such as Arrested Development or 30 Rock), and eventually it made its way to sci-fi, action, and horror shows. Shows such asLost and Heroes proved that audiences will remain glued to the TV if storylines continue to grow and change. So, it wouldn't be surprising to see something like Supernatural run with an idea like this.
But, just as The CW seems to be of two minds, so does Supernatural. Each season presents us with a main idea or goal, which will ostensibly form a story arc. However, the show then becomes very episodic. Within these episodes, Sam and Dean come to a town, learn that something out of the ordinary is happening, and then solve the problem. Usually, during the epilogue, they'll discuss something which has to do with that overriding story. Within the season, there will be other episodes which are solely dedicated to that one big plotline. Supernatural is a lot like The X-Files in this sense, as that series has episodes which would be self-contained stories, and then others which explored the mythology and conspiracies in the show.
For me, Supernatural works best during those individual stories, and it works for one reason: fun. For all three seasons of the show, the overall plot device has been something very dark and depressing. First, it was the plot to find the boy's father and to locate the demon that killed their mother. In the second season, they wanted to learn why Sam had psychic powers and how that was tied into the yellow-eyed demon. And, as noted above, Season 3 is about stopping Dean from going to hell. The individual eps dispense with this morose gloominess, and focus on the guys doing what they do best; hunting the things that go bump in the night. Even when these shows deal with a very serious subject, there is always levity and action to be had. Despite the fact that even Supernatural appears to be aimed at teenaged girls at times, the show isn't shy about showing creepy monsters and bloody violence. Imbedded in this is a sly sense of humor and Dean is often making jokes at Sam's expense. These episodes, much more so than the core ones, make Supernatural worth watching.
With Season 3, Supernatural achieves the best balance that we've seen from the series. The story arc concerning Dean's fate is certainly there and it is touched upon frequently. But, we also get some great stand-alone episodes, such as "Mystery Spot", "Time is on My Side" and "Ghostfacers". Television should always have one great horror show on during any given period, and for now, Supernatural will certainly suffice.
Supernatural: The Complete Third Season is condemned to DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The five-disc set contains all 16 episodes from the show's third season. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain in some shots and no defects from the source material. As I don't get The CW in HD where I live, it's great to see the show in widescreen. The colors look very good, and although this is a dark show, the image is never overly dark. The only issue here is that the image is a bit soft at times. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound is very detailed and there are nice surround sound effects here. The action scenes offers a great array of stereo sounds, which are nicely separated. The rumble of Dean's car gets the subwoofer involved. However, the surround speakers only come into play with musical cues and at times during the action sequences.
The Supernatural: The Complete Third Season DVD set contains an assortment of extras. We get several shorts entitled "A Closer Look", which focus on a specific aspect of certain episodes. They are: "Supernatural: The Magnificent Seven with Director Kim Manners" (2 minutes) has an interview with the director who talks about making the show like a Western. "Supernatural: The Kids are Alright with Creator/Executive Producer Eric Kripke" (3 minutes) is a talk of why the episode focused on children. "Supernatural: Bad Day at Black Rock with Writer Ben Edlund" (3 minutes) gives an overview to the introduction of Bella. (All Disc 1) "Supernatural: Red Sky at Morning with VFX Supervisor Ivan Hayden" (4 minutes) offers a picture-in-picture look at how the effects mirrored the mood of the scene. (Disc 2) "A Very Supernatural Christmas with Creator/Executive Producer Eric Kripke" (3 minutes) has the artist discussing where the idea for the episode came from. "Supernatural: Dream a Little Dream of Me with Creator/Executive Producer Eric Kripke" (4 minutes) lets us in on the fact that the show was to feature Jason of Friday the 13th, but the plans fell through. (Both Disc 3) "Supernatural: Jus in Bello with Writer Sera Gamble" (3 minutes) explains how the Agent Hendrickson storyline was resolved. (Disc 4)
Disc 4 also offers "Ghostfacers! Confessionals" (16 minutes) is a faux pilot episode of "Ghostfacers!" where the characters talk about themselves and their fears. There's some funny stuff here. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 5. In "From Legend to Reality: Supernatural Effects" (23 minutes) Visual Effects Supervisor Ivan Hayden walks us through the visual effects process. We see production meetings, special effects makeup, creature effects, and computer generated visual effects. The piece contains comments from many artists and a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. "The Impala" (5 minutes) is a treat for all of you gear-heads out there, as we get a close look at the '67 Impala that the boys drive. The final extra is an 8-minute GAG REEL.
On November 11, 2008, Warner Home Video brought Supernatural: The Complete Third Season to Blu-ray Disc. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 13 Mbps. The image here is very sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The image is never too bright or too dark -- even when the scene is dark, the action is still visible. The colors look very good, and the daytime scenes show an array of hues. The image is nicely detailed (we can see the pours on the actors' faces) and exterior shots have a nice depth. Some medium shots have that quasi-3-D look which I've seen on other Blu-ray transfers. This transfer is superior to digital broadcast quality. The Disc offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Not being an HD lossless track, this is essentially the same track as the one found on the DVD. Still, the sound here is pretty good. There are some very nice stereo effects, and the speaker separation is impressive. Action scenes provide noticeable bass and some moderate surround sound. I'm still disappointed by the amount of rumbling when Dean's car is on-screen. Fans of the show will want to upgrade to this Blu-ray Disc.
The Supernatural: The Complete Third Season contains all of the extras found on the DVD set.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long