Supernatural: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray review]

Duration: 936 minutes
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles

Back Cover

The creepy. The demented. The unexplained. The unearthly. Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) grew up hunting such terrifying things. But that’s all past. Law school beckons him. So does safety and normalcy. That is, until Sam’s estranged brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) appears with troubling news: their father has disappeared, a man who’s hunted evil for 22 years. So to find their father, the brothers must hunt what their father hunts…and Sam must return to the life he’d rather leave behind. Hold on tight for all 22 Season One Episodes of the edgy, hip series that has viewers in its grip and critics enthralled. Confront the Supernatural!

Season review

Supernatural: Season 1 Blu-ray CoverIf it seems as though TV and movies these days are all about vampires, zombies, werewolves and other creatures of the black, blame Chris Carter and Joss Whedon because their respective hit shows formed the rich loam from which the current media landscape grows. Not only have Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files and their ilk made the bizarre almost normal, but Whedon’s Buffyverse also incubated a lot of the hallmarks of current shows. These run from the now compulsory snappy, postmodern dialogue to the concepts around which so many shows revolve; like the sometimes violent, sometimes romantic mixup between supernatural creatures and everyday high school students, waitresses or demon hunters.

Supernatural is the direct descendant of both those seminal shows, with a little genetic material culled from A Fistful of Dollars. Sam and Dean Winchester are the 21st-century analogue of Old West heroes who ride in, slap down the bad guys, romance the gals then ride back out into the wild. They are a couple of normal Joes who just happen to have grown up hunting demons. Their father disappeared on a recent hunt, so the two saddle up and head out to find him in a beat up Impala. Each episode sees Sam and Dean count coup on a different, urban legend-based creature of the week, without getting mired in the overly biblical story arc that weighs down subsequent seasons.

Where the show takes more after Chris Carter than Joss Whedon is in the area of bad guys: Whereas vampires have been so romanticised, ridiculed and action-heroed that there’s just no hope for them as bona fide bogeymen anymore, urban legends still have a built-in chill factor. And Supernatural plays on this to make evil creepy as hell. Also, where Buffy set the tone for saccharin Sweet Valley High-esque trifles like The Twilight Saga or Charmed (which might as well have been called “Charlie’s Angels and the Hellspawn”), you’ll find nary a pair of designer shoes or demon trying to be human here. And it really says something dark about Hollywood when that’s a refreshing change.

Crave Factor – 8

Video

The show looks great. The images are sharp; the use of film grain, low-key hues and the extensive play of shadows give the show a dank, almost cavernous feel. Cinematography is as good as you’d expect from a post-millenial creepfest, and only helps to enhance the effect. All in all, the video quality is high, with the very occasional spot where posterization shows its ugly face.

Crave Factor – 8

Audio

The soundtrack comes through in crisp 5.1 Dolby Digital. Sound is well balanced, and though the show’s music depends heavily on classic hard rock, the music never drowns out the dialogue or sound effects. We’re not talking about a cutting-edge, lossless soundtrack here, but it’s very well done, especially when you consider that the DVD soundtrack was straight-up stereo.

Crave Factor – 7

Extras

The set includes a good selection of special features, including a panel discussion from a festival, an interactive map of US urban legends and extended scenes.  There are commentary tracks for the pilot and the episode Phantom Pilot, as well as a couple of featurettes and a gag reel. All in all, it’s a pretty good selection of extras.

Crave Factor – 6

Menu & Packaging

The menus are frankly uninspiring, with a look and feel that’s reminiscent of the DVD era. Also, the highlight colour on the episode selection screen leaves you wondering if anything has actually been selected.

As for the packaging, the day the wasteful cardboard slipcover disappears will be a great one for DVDs, Blu-rays and Western civilization. ’Nuff said.

Crave Factor – 2

Conclusion

As a show, the first season of Supernatural captures the creep-out factor of urban legends really well, then pumps it up for a jaded audience, thanks to fairly good (if sometimes uneven) writing, and uniformly good cinematography and design. And whereas later seasons give up the freshness, none of that is happening yet in this season. At the end of the day, Supernatural is a fun romp mixed with a sinister creepfest. As to whether it’s worth the money, fans of the genre will have no trouble forking out the money, but be aware that the show doesn’t keep it up. Those who like to own entire series but who have no love for the now-cliché biblical demon stomp may want to just rent it.

Overall Crave Factor
6

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