SUPERNATURAL Season 1 Blu-ray Review

     July 5, 2010

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Quirky television programs that blend horror, fantasy and folklore such as Supernatural have been a staple of network line-ups for decades. Obviously The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits are classics in the genre and set the bar for freaky quality. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer came along and injected teen melodrama, genuine emotion and pop cultural quips into the horror/fantasy television playbook. Soon after Buffy’s success, a deluge of similar shows flooded the airwaves (Roswell, Angel, Charmed and so on). Supernatural studiously follows the path blazed by its predecessors. The initial season of Supernatural starts off strong, but begins to meander into a droll villain of the week formula. Though, it’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters. Does Supernatural finish strong? Double tap the jump to find out.

Sam Winchester’s (Jared Padalecki) quaint college lifestyle is hampered when older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) unexpectedly shows up to cryptically inform his little bro that their pops, John Winchester, has disappeared on a “hunting” trip. In actuality, Sam and Dean’s old man is a hunter of things that go bump in the night and has gone AWOL.  And so the brother’s Winchester are propelled into their heroic journey. After their primary monster hunting mission ends Sam choses to leave the demon slaying to his brother, and returns to his college life. Though, the fates have different designs for the youngest Winchester and he is compelled to rejoin Dean in the hunt for their father. After the pilot, Supernatural begins to weave a path of Scooby Doo styled villain of the week episodes, most of which seem to end with the brothers discovering the remains of an angry apparition, dumping salt on them an setting them aflame. Apparently these are the only steps needed to send a vicious specter back to the netherworld.

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Not all is forsaken in the gloomy mystical universe of Supernatural. While the show slips into formulaic storytelling, half way through the season it begins to regain its foot holding when the mysterious John Winchester re-enters his son’s lives. The elder Winchester vanished on a solo hunt to find the demon that killed Mary, his wife and the boy’s mother. When the show is dealing with themes of family and authority, it’s quite intriguing. Dean and Sam’s constant brotherly bickering is sincerely believable. It never comes across as disingenuous, and even when the brothers are at odds it’s evident that they have each other’s best concerns at heart. When the highly hyped poppa Winchester arrives on the scene things get exponentially taut. The interaction between all three truly functions a believable family dynamic. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s presentation of John Winchester is wholly fatherly, dick-ish and badass. When the Winchester family is in full on demon destroying mode, their flow together is kinetic and much ghost/demon/ monster devastation is displayed.

For a network television program, the gore content is quite high and quite graphic. Episode 6, “Skin” is a proper example of this. A shape-shifter runs amok slaughtering humans and melds into the form of Dean, promptly pinning a murder on the older Winchester brother. When the shape-shifter shed’s its skin it’s simultaneously revolting yet an impressive display of special effects. Simply, the show’s practical and computer generated effects are some of the best I’ve seen on TV of late. A constant film of grime and gloom linger visually about the show which adds to the noir-ish “supernatural” feel of Supernatural. Also of note is the use of classic rock throughout the show. Some of the tracks may be considered cliché, but I felt an old school excitement when Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” boldly played in one of the first episodes.

Supernatural Season 1’s special features round out the Blu-ray collection handsomely. The Devils Road Map feature is an informative segment that adds to the mythology of the show and A Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen gives viewers a glimpse of the playful camaraderie generated between the actors. Though, the true glimpse of their chemistry shines on the commentary Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles share on Episode 4, “Phantom Traveller”. It’s clear these guys have a blast working together and its fun to hear them heckle each other throughout the commentary. Actually out of all the solid special features the two commentaries are the best. The commentary linked to the pilot introduces audiences to the show creators and the process by which the show followed to become green-lit. Listening to show runners behind the scenes insight to the show gives an informative and interesting look at the program. Initially the task of viewing and reviewing the first season of Supernatural was daunting. Watching nearly 20 hours of a CW show seemed like an interrogation technique used at Guantanamo Bay. By the halfway mark of the season I found myself eagerly awaiting each preceding episode. In fact, I would love to watch seasons 2-5 to find out what happens after the tense cliff hanger that ends season 1. Most definitely purchase or rent Supernatural Season 1 on Blu-ray.

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