When it comes to getting the current shows out in high definition, no one does it better than Warner Brothers. I am impressed each year with the number of shows they release on Blu-ray every year. Readers to this site know what I’m talking about. If you have TV fans on your list who also are fans of sci-fi and horror, these are the best sets to get this holiday season. Below you’ll find some excerpts from our reviews. I’ve put it all in one place to make your shopping experience easier. I know how little time you’ve got with a lot of shopping to do. Don’t forget to use one of our links if you get them from Amazon. It’ll help keep us going another year.
Arrow Season 2:
“The city still needs saving. But not by the Hood. And not by some vigilante who’s just crossing names off a list. It needs… something more.”
That someone, that something more …that something else is the DC Comics character Green Arrow. Not to be confused with the same-colored Hornet or Lantern. In season 2 Oliver Queen finally sheds the name and reputation of the Hood or Vigilante. He has vowed not to kill, and he no longer has the list to guide him. His job now is to go after any bad guys in StarlingCity.
When the season begins, it has been a year since the Earthquake, the result of The Undertaking. The Glades have suffered huge property loss and 503 lives. Moira Queen is bearing the brunt of the ill feelings it has caused, even though she had a change of heart and tried to warn people to get out. She’s in jail, and the prosecution is pushing for the death penalty. Oliver has been missing, and Felicity and Diggle have found him back on the island where he has been sulking in his failure. They convince him to return.
In Oliver’s absence a group of terrorists have taken on his image and believe they are carrying on his fight. It’s enough to prove to Oliver that the city needs a new hero, one who can set a better example than he did before. He also finds that everyone’s lives have changed. Thea (Holland) is now running the club and sleeping with Roy (Haynes). Roy is also trying to make a difference, and it’s driving a wedge in their relationship. Laurel (Cassidy) has lost her law firm in the earthquake and is now working for the other side. She’s a DA now, and one of her cases is going to be prosecuting Moira Queen. Detective Lance (Blackthorne) is now patrol officer Lance because of his teaming with The Hood. There’s a new politician in town named Sebastian Blood (Alejandro). Fans of the comic know there is much more to Blood than meets the eye. He’ll have a good/bad alternating relationship with Oliver/The Arrow.
Another new addition to the cast is Angel/Firefly star Summer Glau as Isabel Rochev, who is out to take advantage of the hits Queen Consolidated has taken and wants to take it over. Oliver doesn’t really help himself as much as he’s an absent CEO. Of course, she has other motives for her hostile takeover that will dovetail nicely into the climactic moments of the season finale.
The series is flush with colorful and interesting characters. While the series does not hold any closer to comic canon than Smallville did, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a lot here from the comics. It’s a veritable Easter egg hunt in every episode. You’ll see allusions and references to plenty of comic lore. Many characters are named after the artists and writers who have worked on the comic over the decades. If you notice a large use of the number 52, it refers to DC’s controversial reboot of their comic universe a few years ago. Even with so much homage paid to the comic incarnations, this is a standalone universe and often drifts from the characters and kinds of events portrayed over the decades in its four-color splendor. Purists are often bothered by that sort of loose playing with canon, but this needs to establish itself as its own thing with its own history and dynamic. Go with it, and you’ll likely find it an intriguing idea with superior writing and production values. “I approve this high.”
Supernatural Season 9
“There’s virtually nothing the Winchesters can’t do if they work together.”
But that’s the rub, isn’t it? The tradition has been that each of the last several seasons end up beginning with the brothers separated for one reason or another. Often one of them is trying to escape Hell, purgatory or some fantasy mental land. There are at least two times a year they split up over an argument. But the truth is that they know just as the fans do that when the chips are down and there’s an apocalypse around the corner, these guys are going to come together and kick some evil behind. Like that old energizer bunny, they just keep going and going and going. It’s been nine years now, and the boys are about to enter a tenth season on the CW. With no end in sight, it’s time to look at the ninth season of Supernatural.
“This one goes out to any angels with your ears on. This is Dean Winchester, and I need your help.”
As I’ve already mentioned, once again the boys start the season apart. Sam is dying from his attempt to complete the trials and close the gates of Hell. He’s in a coma, and Dean broadcasts a message over Angel Radio. He wants someone to heal Sam. What he gets is an offer from an angel to possess Sam and heal him from the inside. He can’t tell Sam about it or he’ll reject the angel, and it doesn’t require a spoiler alert to tell you that this thing is going to backfire. It will also stretch belief more than once as Sam almost catches on and Dean has to come up with a quick cover story. I think the writers let us down a bit here. Sam knows his brother better than that. And we’re smarter than to believe it.
The big story for season nine is the repercussions of blowing up Heaven. The angels have all fallen to Earth. For some it’s a new start. Most want to get back into Heaven, and nearly all of them blame Castiel, who is now a normal human without his grace on. Angels are hunting him, and the boys as they begin to form factions, and it looks like it’s going to lead to an all-out angel war on Earth.
The best stuff in the show doesn’t involve the brothers at all. Crowley is dealing with his touch of humanity and spends half the season as the brothers’ captive. Mark Sheppard is a highlight of the season. His performance makes Crowley hands down the most interesting character to be on the show since Bobby died. Then there’s human Castiel which, once again, provides tons of opportunities for Misha Collins to show his wonderful talents. Bobby does get a brief return, but I miss the heck out of both the actor and the character. Jared Padalecki has had to play several versions of Sam over the years. Credit the actor for allowing us to see those subtle differences. This season is no exception. Sam has become far more multidimensional than Dean. Yes, he gets the Mark of Cain this season which makes him a little angry and bloodthirsty, but really, that’s just normal Dean on steroids.
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 so 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.
Some shows just can’t help it. After years of being in production they keep hitting on all the right elements. Of course, it all boils down to the wonderful job of the leads. This is a show with no standing sets or standard situation. It changes from year to year. Hell, it changes from episode to episode. I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. “See you next season.”
The Vampire Diaries Season 5:
“It’s been a long summer.”
And my how things have changed in MysticFalls. Elena is a vampire, and Katherine is now a human, and doing a pitiful job of that, to be sure. Bonnie is a ghost who only Jeremy can see, and they’re trying to keep it all a big secret from everyone so they all think Bonnie is out globe-hopping and having a great time. Stefan is at the bottom of a lake in a safe where everyone else thinks Silas is. He’s drowning, dying and then waking up again and again and again. In between he’s hallucinating conversations with Damon and Elena. Meanwhile those two are hitting the sheets together again and again and again. All the while big bad from last season Silas is masquerading as Stefan. Turns out that’s his true form, and this season is going to make you sick and tired of the whole doppelganger thing. That is, if you weren’t already. Yes, it’s been quite a long summer, but it’s time to head back to MysticFalls once again.
The show’s finale mixes up the cast a bit. You see, as the heroes try to fight the Travelers, they have hopes of bringing back some dead people through Bonnie. Needless to say, a few characters die this season with hope that some will return. The final scene basically resets some of the cast, bringing back an old favorite and taking away a couple. I’m not sold it will hold. One of those takeaways will certainly be back somehow…at least I hope so.
When season 4 ended with Elena becoming a vampire, I had hoped that most of season 5 we’d see her adjustment to the new life. Sadly, we don’t see any of that. It’s like we just skipped over the elephant in the room. I have to believe that fans were looking forward to that. Nina Dobrev gets to act out many characters again, and I’m sure that was fun to do. Again she gets to stretch her chops a little. Even Paul Wesley gets to play the multi-character thing this season. It might be fun if there just wasn’t so much of it.
The show reaches that important 100-episode milestone early in the season. We get to see a lot of old faces for this one, and I think it will bring a smile to the fans’ faces as some of those we’ve lost along the way give brief appearances. It also means we’ll see The Vampire Diaries eventually in syndication. Can you imagine watching it daily at 4:00 on a local channel? You soon won’t have to.
With this season Vampire Diaries has really set itself apart from the similar HBO show True Blood. While that show appears to have lost its focus and direction, Vampire Diaries is getting better with each new season. The best shows always do. And while I still bridle at the teen angst and drama, this show has allowed itself to evolve beyond the trendy Twilight syndrome, and that’s why it will be around quite a while longer. I really like the show, and trust me, “I don’t do teen drama”.
The Originals Season 1:
“My siblings and I are the first vampires in all of history. The Original Family. Three centuries ago, we helped build a town called New Orleans. Now a plot by witches has lured me back, hoping that I will defeat a tyrant, a vampire I created. My brother hopes I will find redemption through the power of family, a miracle child, part werewolf, part vampire, a hybrid. My sister is doubtful; she thinks I am beyond redemption. Despite my brother’s best efforts, I have a plan of my own. I will take back my home and reclaim what was mine. I will be king.”
If you’re a fan of The Vampire Diaries, you need no introduction to Klaus Mikaelson and his family of original vampires. They were cursed by a powerful witch, their mother, to live forever as vampires. Klaus was her bastard son and also a werewolf. His cruelty and brutality are a millennium-long Grand Guignol of the most graphic kind. Can you build a spinoff show around a creature who has pretty much been the vicious villain of the mother show? That was my biggest question going in. The answer was a very resounding yes.
The Originals is actually an example of the way things work thanks to the internet. These days fans can actually have some kind of relationship with the actors and showrunners of a series. The concept began when fans first saw the potential of a series for the original family. They began to create fan trailers and fan fiction that centered around them. Not willing to let a good opportunity pass them by, Joseph Morgan and Claire Holt started to fan these attempts. They would re-tweet/post/hashtag them. They made sure that the powers that be were inundated with the idea. The campaign worked, and what might be a big loss for The Vampire Diaries became a huge chance for a show that I consider to be much better than what it came from. My previous reviews are a testament of how much I’ve liked The Vampire Diaries, but this stuff is far more compelling indeed.
It begins with a huge shift in concept. The Vampire Diaries, as good as it has been, suffers from the trend of vampire stories we are completely inundated with. Some of us are getting a little tired of the teenage angst and bad boy love that these shows continue to serve up. The Originals is different. It maintains the rules and universe of the The Vampire Diaries, but it takes the storytelling in another direction. Certainly there’s still the love affair for those of you who hunger for that like these vampires hunger for blood. But this show offers a much more powerful and ultimately more compelling sort of action.
“A city where vampires and witches are at war, how very tragic”.
Not for us. There’s a ton of history here that is revealed in the many flashbacks. Both character and city history are revealed, and the writers have found a way to make the city itself an intricate part of these characters and their motivations. Give the writers credit for combining actual history with the back story of these characters. It provides not only for a very rich history and culture, but it contains enough actual truth to lend a certain realism to the material. I’m not saying the show is realistic. There so much bloodshed here that it’s hard to imagine it going on for centuries without anyone catching on. You have to look the other way from time to time; this is still fantasy, after all. But it’s a wonderfully atmospheric fantasy. The Vampire Diaries lives in a fictional town that could almost be anywhere. I’m really loving these roots and how it does tend to interact with things that are very real. It’s an advantage these writers know they have and one they exploit quite cleverly.
“Family is power”.
That’s another aspect that sets this show apart. The family bonds here are powerful and also allow for the deepest kinds of betrayal. It’s also a great stage in which to place these actors. They will be a loss to The Vampire Diaries, because they are so good.
“Being diabolical has its perks.”
Joseph Morgan is an incredible talent that inhabits the body of Klaus in a manner that’s a little scary to think about. Yet no villain truly sees themselves as the bad guy, and we do get to see some of the humanity in Klaus. He cares for his family even when they disappoint him. He actually believes his rule will be best for the other people living here. He loves the city itself. Morgan allows us to see all of these emotions working just under the surface. Can an immortal be afraid? Regretful? Hurt? Morgan answers all of these questions with a huge amount of talent on display.
Daniel Gillies never had quite this large a canvas to work with on the other show. Here we see a more quiet display of power, but the power is never doubted. Gillies lets us in on his own disappointment and evolving anger. He’s also in love with Hayley, who carries Klaus’s child. He tries to keep a distance even though Klaus has expressed no interest in a girl who was essentially a one-night stand. We don’t get enough of Claire Holt, and I suspect she won’t be carrying on as a regular in the future. It’s a loss, to be sure.
The show does a great job of keeping itself separate from The Vampire Diaries. Sure, there are mentions of Mystic Falls, but not of many characters. No mention of Elena that I can recall. I think it was a good idea to limit any crossing over. Tyler shows up for an episode, but it fits in with what is going on here. I think this is a superior idea and that it will remain when The Vampire Diaries are gone. Between the two shows I’m going to be spending a lot of hours binge-watching them for years to come. “I’m going to enjoy this.”