Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Created by Eric Kripke
Distributed by Warner Home Video
If, like me, you became a fan of Supernatural during its initial run (click here for our Season One DVD review), then no doubt, also like me, you probably alternated between loving and hating Season Two. On the plus side, it opened and closed strongly, expanding upon the series' main storyline (that of Sam and Dean hunting down the yellow-eyed monster who caused so much grief to the Winchester family) and concluding it in a most satisfactory manner. However, several early installments rehashed the same ground over and over before the writers eventually found their groove midway through the season and sent our boys off on their way toward redemption.
Speaking of rehashing, rather than provide back-story (and reiterate my affection for both of the main characters, the versatile actors who portray them, and the creator of the world in which they find themselves), this review will assume that you've been watching the show from the beginning and are up-to-date on the events that have transpired. Still, it is worth noting that Supernatural is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean, and there's no shortage of episodes that fit that category, starting with the season opener "In My Time of Dying." This one's definitely worth viewing twice in order to catch the highly entertaining commentary by director Kim Manners along with both Padalecki and Ackles. It's obvious the camaraderie between the two stars that began during Season One has only increased. But then the series hits a lull with some basically throwaway segments that don't do much to further along the narrative, most notably those involving damsel in distress Jo (Alona Tal), whose main purpose at first seems to be as a potential love interest for Dean. Thankfully that idea is dropped quickly and the character beats a hasty retreat from the series, at least for the time being.
Disc 3 is when things finally get rolling. The stand-alone, "monster of the week" type offerings that follow are among the season's best: "Playthings" about a haunted hotel, "Nightshifter" about a string of odd bank robberies, "Heart" about a werewolf on the loose, and "Folsom Prison Blues" about a haunted jail are stand-outs, especially "Heart," in which Sam gets to indulge in a little romance for a change. His lady love is charmingly played by guest star Emmanuelle (Saw II) Vaugier; too bad the younger Winchester never seems to be able to hold onto those he cares about the most. The ending is without a doubt one of the most heart-wrenching we've yet to see in the series. Fortunately, Season Two also provides a healthy dose of the comic relief we've come to rely on. "Tall Tales" and "Hollywood Babylon" are shining examples, especially the latter, which manages to poke fun at just about every Hollywood and genre stereotype known to man. But what really makes this set worth buying is the aforementioned main storyline, and the two-part finale "All Hell Breaks Loose" brings all of its disparate parts together into a cohesive whole that rewards loyal viewers with a proper climax while laying the groundwork for Season Three (and hopefully beyond).
Continuing the practice started in Season One of utilizing notable guest stars, Season Two brings us not only Ms. Vaugier but also Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer, Katharine Isabelle from the Ginger Snaps series, Linda Blair and Jason Gedrick as a couple of detectives who wind up apprehending and then helping the brothers, and genre favorite Gary Cole. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out primarily by Canadian actors, most of whom do a fine job of portraying the various individuals who cross Sam and Dean's path either as living people who require their help or as the demons and other entities who do battle with them.
As always, the soundtrack for the show is stellar and serves as another character for viewers to embrace and appreciate. From the appropriately soulful tracks found in "Crossroad Blues" to AC/DC and Journey in "Bloodlust" to Styx, The Doors, Dylan, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and even Sinatra scattered among other episodes, there's no other series on TV that uses music to convey mood and emotion as well as Supernatural. Week in and week out, it's exciting to see what the Music Department has in store for us, and I feel confident that the best is yet to come as they delve ever deeper into the characters and their story arcs.
I also must make mention of Serge Ladouceur, the director of photography for Supernatural. He's been with the series from the onset and is responsible for maintaining its consistent "look" that with one glance at the screen enables the viewer to recognize it instantaneously. Ladouceur's palette may strike those unfamiliar with the show as somewhat washed out, but after spending time with the Winchesters and their various predicaments, his choices become obvious. I can't imagine them being shot in bright light and happy colors; their melancholy and isolation demand subdued shades of gray and lots of darkness. Same with the production design, art direction, set decoration, and sound design -- when it comes to the technical side of Supernatural, the expression "less is more" has never been more applicable.
That is not, however, true with respect to the special effects, which are light years better than they deserve to be considering the show's time and budget constraints, or the special features found in this box set. As was the case with Season One, fans are given just about everything they could ask for … and more. Discs 1, 2, and 3 offer a handful of unaired (aka deleted) scenes that don't add a whole lot to the mix but are enjoyable to watch nonetheless. The gag reel is just as humorous as you'd expect given the cast and crew's personalities, and the three webisodes (which range from 3 to 8 minutes each) do a nice job of spotlighting a few members of the crew who are often overlooked: visual effects, writers, and props. The segment on writing does a perfect job of summarizing what it is about Supernatural that makes it so special -- its knack for combining scary, funny, angsty, bleak, and philosophical ideas into one very compelling package.
But the crowing jewel of the extras is something called The Devil's Road Map, an interactive map of the US that highlights the locations Dean and Sam travelled to over the course of Season Two. You can click on each individual city or play them all at once. Some are full-blown featurettes detailing the specific monster or urban legend the guys had to deal with, some are text-only factoids about the episode, and the rest are audio-only behind-the-scenes tidbits like Jensen's birthday reminiscence. Also, before you go crazy looking for it, note that for whatever reason, The Episode from Hell mini-documentary is only accessible via the Road Map. It all sounds a bit convoluted I know, but believe me; this is one cool-ass extra that provides a helluva lot of amusement and information.
So there we have it -- another tremendous package for a truly terrific show. But is Season Two the be-all and end-all of Supernatural? I would say not quite. It does do justice to Season One but never surpasses it. What it gets 100% right though is its advancement of the character arcs of Sam and Dean in preparation for the next phase of their hunting adventures. Their yellow-eyed nemesis may be done for, but the damage he inflicted will have repercussions for many moons, and I for one can't wait to see how they handle it. Join me on October 4th for the Season Three premiere on the CW Network when the Winchester boys raise some hell against seven demons based on the Seven Deadly Sins that have been released into the world. My money's on Sam and Dean. And who knows? We may even get to burn some more bones this year!
• Commentary on "In My Time of Dying" by executive producer/director Kim Manners and stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles
• Commentary on "What is and What Should Never Be" by creator/executive producer Eric Kripke
• Commentary on "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I" by creator/executive producer Eric Kripke, executive producer/director Robert Singer, and writer Sera Gamble
• Unaired scenes
• The Devil's Road Map
• The Episode From Hell: The Making of "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II"
• Gag reel
• Jared Padalecki's original screen test
• Webisode gallery
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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