If you are a fan of the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker, you were more than likely disappointed in the remake a couple of years ago on ABC. Your hope is now once again restored. Supernatural is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to The Night Stalker. Like Kolchak, the Winchester brothers are faced with weekly incarnations of evil. They’re forced to research these legends and figure out a way to stop them. As Kolchak discovered, it’s a thankless job. Sure, Supernatural is populated with all sorts of beasties and nasties, but it also manages to hold on to a sense of humor that rounds out these adventures to make this one of the most entertaining shows around. When UPN and WB merged, I was a little worried about Supernatural. You do the math (that was another review). Two networks worth of shows, one network worth of programming time. Half of the shows needed to vanish, and I was concerned Supernatural would be one, if history of respect for genre shows was any indication. Fortunately for us, the show has not only survived, but it has thrived, looking to be around for quite a while yet.
In season 1 Sam Winchester (Padalecki) was in college. His fiancée was attacked by a creature that had once also taken his mother. Enter brother Dean (Ackles) who arrives to take the mourning Sam on a cross-country search for their missing father. It turns out that Daddy Winchester has been on a self-imposed crusade to find the monster that took his wife and any other demon or creature he might be able to hunt along the way. We also find out he’s trained the boys to be quite capable monster hunters themselves. Most of the first year dealt with the brothers fighting their way to their dad. It ended in a hell of a cliffhanger. Season 2 didn’t waste anytime picking up the action. The action picks up the moment we were left waiting last May. If the first year gave the boys their mission, the second is about consequences. All of the expected monsters are there for the hunt, and year two turned out twice as good as the first. If you didn’t think that was possible, check out this second-year DVD set.
What amazes me most about Supernatural is the incredible balance the show manages to keep up week after week. Of course, there is that creature-of-the-week idea, but without taking anything away from each episode, there is an overall story arc that ties these creatures and moments together in such an intricate yet easy-to-follow fashion. Each episode blends just the right mix of darkness, comedy, and series mythology. Even The X-Files wasn’t able to spin this flawless a tapestry. I also can’t say enough about the leads. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have a wonderfully complicated chemistry that gives us an element even Kolchak never had. This is not a one-trick-pony relationship. Under all of the brotherly love and shared tragedy there are far more emotional themes that surface from week to week. There are resentments and rivalries that can suddenly dominate their intercourse. Unlike most shows these conflicts are real and remain a part of the fabric of this relationship not to be brought out and then quickly overcome never to be seen again. Each of these events leaves a visible mark on their personalities. This kind of continuity is almost unheard of. It requires discipline and dedication by everyone involved; from the actors, writers, and production staff. And again, the season finale will leave you counting the hours until the next episode.
The fact is this. If you are even remotely a genre fan and have not checked out Supernatural, get your butt down to the store and get both seasons now. I promise you won’t be able to stop watching. As you venture into the second year, you’ll encounter vampires who feed on cattle with a Buffy angle, a serial killer’s ghost, Hoodoo, werewolves, and even angels. The boys continue to impersonate reporters, cops, doctors, and whatever else it takes to get the facts. There’s a little more running from the law in this season as some of their past indiscretions start to catch up with them. The quality is as high as it ever was.
Each episode of Supernatural is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is brought to you through a VC-1 codec. As you might expect, this show is dark in more than just its nature. Much of the action occurs at night, so black levels need to be spot-on, or any detail can be quickly washed away like blood pools in a hurricane. Supernatural delivers with great shadow definition and deep levels of black. I’ve seen the broadcast HD versions, and these are even better. What is remarkable about the colors is that they manage to hold on to such fine definition even under intense low-light filming conditions. There is nothing about this transfer that will keep you from enjoying the best horror series since Kolchak.
Supernatural’s audio is presented in a disappointing standard-definition Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It’s likely identical to the DVD release. I’m not sure why there was no uncompressed audio provided, but the series certainly would have benefited from the inclusion. Instead we have a very mundane presentation which has to depict some rather incredible images. It falls flat for a Blu-ray release. Certainly dialog comes through just fine. There is some rather aggressive use of surrounds on rare occasions. What really suffers here is your sub. Very disappointing indeed.
There are some select Audio Commentaries.
Gag Reel: Like the DVD set, there’s a short and entertaining gag reel on this set. I’m happy to see this is becoming a rather standard extra on many shows. While it might not offer much on the surface, these tidbits are certainly entertaining.
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes offer some extra footage. Nothing to scream about here, but nice to have.
The Devil’s Road Map: You can click on locations on the map of the U.S. and see little tidbits about the monsters the boys encountered in the various cities. There’s new high-definition footage here.
Webisodes: These were not actually episodes aired on the web, but three behind-the-scenes pieces that were available at the show’s web site, and maybe still are.
Jared’s Original Screen Test: There’s a little of this, I think, in one of the first season extras. Rough stuff, but a nice touch.
I must confess that I’ve stopped watching Supernatural on broadcast. There are many reasons for this trend I find myself falling into on the shows I tend to enjoy the most. I’m not a patient man, so waiting, particularly after cliffhangers, doesn’t work well for me. I like to sit down and watch a couple or three episodes in a sitting. I get a better feel for the show’s flow, and then it becomes more like a long movie for me. The networks are also to blame for this trend. Too often I don’t know if/when a show is going to be on. Musical-chair programming appears here to stay, and when a show has this kind of continuity, my whole season is wrecked when I miss an episode. Fortunately you don’t have to play that game. Now the second season is out on Blu-ray, so grab em’ while you can, because shows like this are “practically extinct”.