Warner Bros. // 2005 // 936 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // September 5th, 2006
"I think he wants us to pick up where he left off. You know, saving people, hunting things...The family business." Dean to little brother Sam
When I was a kid I heard about this terrible thing that happened to the cousin of this friend of the girl who lived up the street. She was having a slumber party and they were playing truth or dare. She got asked a question about kissing a boy and rather than tell the truth she chose dare. The dare was she had to go into the bathroom with a candle and say Bloody Mary three times while staring into the bathroom mirror. So she did it, there was this horrible scream and they found her dead on the floor with her eyes scratched out. Seriously. People think it's just a story, but it's not. I know because I heard it straight from the girl's cousin's friend's friend, so how can you beat that as a reliable source?
Welcome to the world of Supernatural, where your greatest fears are realized and urban legends do come true.
It all started twenty-two years ago. While baby Sammy slept in his crib, real evil stalked the Winchester home. It took his mother, Mary. Pinned her to the ceiling and ripped open her stomach before setting her body (and the whole house) on fire. Sammy's daddy, John, saw it all as he snatched the child from the licking lips of the flame. He put the baby into the arms of his older boy (four-year old Dean) and instructed him to run, to save himself and his brother. John and his boys made it out alive but not unscathed. Dedicated to finding and killing the thing that took his wife, John raised his boys to be demon hunters. Martial arts and weapons training replaced football and soccer. Latin incantations instead of Goodnight Moon. Duty, honor and family came before anything else. They were raised to be soldiers but one son rebelled. Sam chose college over hunting. The day he left for Stanford was the last time he saw his father and brother, until now...
Supernatural: The Complete First Season begins four years later. Dad has disappeared and Dean wants his baby brother to come help find him. Soon Sam is back in the life. Their credit card scams to pay expenses, false identities and lies to make it past the police, bruises and scrapes and near-death experiences -- it doesn't matter, because they're saving lives. Sam and Dean Winchester are on the road again, hunting down ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. They may be looking for their dad, but along the way they find Bloody Mary, The Hookman, shapeshifters, faith healers and one fugly scarecrow. Hop in the Impala, lock the doors and turn up the radio, cause I see a bad moon rising.
According to Judge Jennifer Malkowski, Veronica Mars is the heir to the Buffy throne. If that's true, then Supernatural takes its baton from The X-Files. Shot in Vancouver, the series has that same dreary, cold bluish tint, the same passion for eerie puzzles, and a pair of leads whose chemistry supersedes all else. The show is the work of Eric Kripke, a Hollywood unknown who has managed to secure himself a spot right next to Joss Whedon in the fandom hall of fame. Kripke's greatest talent is in assembling a team (many from The X-Files) who could take his grand dreams and turn them into weekly nightmares.
Like magic, the success of Supernatural is the power of three.
1. The Writing
Like most good horror movies, Supernatural achieves that perfect balance between laughs and scares. The dialogue is snappy and snarky and knows exactly when to poke fun at itself and the genre.
Dean to brother Sam (in regard to his newly discovered paranormal powers): "So who's the hotter psychic...Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Love Hewitt, or you?"
The plots range from traditional urban legends such as Bloody Mary to their own personal devil, which the fans have dubbed "Celine Demon" (The ceiling demon). Each week, the boys drive into a different town and a different horror movie. Man, do these guys need a new travel agent.
2. The Directing
The pilot for Supernatural was directed by David Nutter, who is 12 for 12 in having his pilots picked up as a series (an unheard of number). Nutter is given a lot of credit for the overall look of the show. He makes the ordinary look scary as all get out. I never cease to be amazed by the interesting angles, shadows and style of the show. Kim Manners (The X-Files), who joined the show a bit later, brought his ability to elicit great performances from his actors as seen in episodes such as "Dead in the Water" and "Devil's Trap."
Which brings me to number three:
3. The Brothers
When you have a show with only two regular characters, you better find two guys who get along, not only on screen but off. Supernatural lucked out Vegas style when they cast Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as the brothers Winchester. Jared Padalecki was known to WB fans as Dean on Gilmore Girls but he also has a few films under his belt (most notably House of Wax and Flight of the Phoenix). Jared, as Sam, is the younger brother. He plays the role like a moody puppy dog. He mourns the loss of his "normal" life, still bucks the authority of emotionally absent father, and earnestly pledges to die for his brother if necessary.
Jensen Ackles has made a career out of playing second banana on such popular shows as Smallville, Dawson's Creek, and Dark Angel. As older brother Dean, Ackles is smug, tough; a guy who parties as hard as he works. But what Ackles does best is play the layers. Dean may seem devil-may-care, but underneath he's a hero who truly wants to spare the world from the horrors he has seen. Dean is the character most shaped by that night twenty-two years ago. He still misses his mother. He still honors his father. And he still lives to carry out the order he was given that night -- protect your little brother at all costs. That's what big brothers do.
Brothers also push each other around, play tricks on each other, mope, and whine about the other's tastes in music, food, and girls. Padalecki and Ackles play it all and they couldn't be closer if they were related by blood.
Okay, so there are a few more things that make Supernatural a wowzer. One is the classic rock soundtrack. From the start, Kripke was determined to block The WB from using their typical, sappy, pop music in the series. He wrote in Dean's obsession with bands such as Metallica, AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult. When an episode begins with the deep thrum of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," you know you're in for a ride. "Carry on My Wayward Son," "Bad Moon Rising," "Highway to Hell"...and hey, you can't have the reaper running loose without "Don't Fear the Reaper" playing all the while.
And what's classic music without a classic car? The boys travel the US in style in a 1967 black Impala which fans have dubbed "Metallicar." The car has become the much beloved third character in the series, in deference to the wonderful Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey's Anatomy) who has a reoccurring role as Papa John Winchester.
*MOW = Monster of the Week
* "Pilot" -- Sam and Dean reunite to find their missing father.
MOW: A Woman in White: a Mexican urban legend combined with the oft-told vanishing hitchhiker story.
One-Liner: Dean (to the arresting officer): "You talkin' about misdemeanor kind of trouble or squeal like a pig trouble?"
* "Wendigo" -- Still tracking dad, Sam and Dean head deep into the
woods of Colorado.
MOW: Wendigo: an American Indian legend about a creature created when man turned to cannibalism.
One-Liner: Dean: "Our family's so screwed to hell, maybe we can help some others. Makes things a little bit more bearable. And I tell you what else helps. Killing as many evil sons-of-bitches as I possibly can."
* "Dead in the Water" -- The boys head to the lake in Wisconsin to
investigate a series of suspicious drownings.
MOW: The boy in the water: general urban legend about a drowned boy looking for a playmate.
One-Liner: Andrea: (to Dean) "Must be hard, with your sense of direction, never being able to find your way to a decent pick-up line."
* "Phantom Traveler" -- When a demon takes over an airplane, Dean
has to face his fear of flying.
MOW: Airplanes: yeah really. Demon or not, this episode is about the fear of flying.
One-Liner: Jerry: "If you fellas would excuse me, I have some idiot to fire."
* "Bloody Mary" -- A children's game turns deadly and our boys are on it.
MOW: Bloody Mary: infamous urban legend about the dark woman in the mirror who will kill you if you say her name three times.
One-Liner: Dean: "A few local women, a Laura and a Catherine, committed suicide in front of a mirror. And a giant mirror fell on a guy named Dave."
* "Skin" -- A college chum of Sam's is arrested for murder but can
he be two places at the same time?
MOW: Shapeshifters: mythological creatures that can take on another human's or animal's form.
One-Liner: Dean (talking about the shifter who has his face): " All right, but first I want to find that handsome devil and kick the holy crap out of him!"
* "Hook Man" -- It's off to college when a frat boy is killed on
MOW: Hook Man: a popular urban legend about an escaped mental patient who stalks teens on lover's lane. Also, look for a quick reference to the famous "drip, drip, drip" urban legend.
One-Liner: Dean: "That's it! Next time, I get to watch the cute girl's house."
* "Bugs" -- Suburbia takes a licking in this tale of nature gone
MOW: Bugs: closing in on the world's general phobia of creepy crawly critters.
One-Liner: Dean (on living in the suburbs): " The manicured lawns, "How was your day, honey?" I'd blow my brains out."
* "Home" -- The boys return home to battle what might be the thing that killed their mother.
MOW: Inner Demons: old memories can open big wounds.
One-Liner: Dean: "Hey! Am I boring you with this hunting-evil stuff?"
* "Asylum" -- Sam and Dean investigate odd happenings at an
abandoned mental hospital
MOW: Mad-Doctor: basic horror movie tale of a doctor who goes too far in the name of science.
One-Liner: Dean (to Sam): "Let me know if you see any dead people, Haley Joel. "
* "Scarecrow" -- Human sacrifice is the key to this small farming
MOW: Scarecrow: come on they don't call them SCARE -crows for nothing.
One-Liner: Dean (as he's about to be sacrificed): "I hope your freakin' apple pie was worth it!"
* "Faith" -- The show takes a serious turn when a dying Dean is
cured by a faith healer.
MOW: Religion: yep, it doesn't get any more frightening than that.
One-Liner: Dean: "God save us from half the people who think they're doing God's work."
* "Route 666" -- Dean's old lover is at the center of this tale about a ghost truck.
MOW: Bigotry: it's also about ghostly vehicles but not really.
One-Liner: Sam: "I miss conversations that didn't start with 'This killer truck...'!"
* "Nightmare" -- A boy uses his psychic powers to murder his
MOW: Abusive Parents: again, the monster isn't the monster at all, getting clever here
One-Liner: Sam (dressed as a priest): "This has got to be a whole new low for us."
* "The Benders" -- Sam is abducted by a family of hunters. Human
hunters that is.
MOW: Hillbilly Cannibals: you've heard the stories...
One-Liner: Dean: "Eat me! Oh, no wait, you just might!"
* "Shadow" -- Shadow demons set the boys up as bait for a bigger
MOW: Shadow Demons: part of the "Celine Demon" mythos that is the basis of the show.
One-Liner: Dean (about Meg): "Hey Sam, don't take this the wrong way, but your girlfriend is a bitch."
* "Hell House" -- A pair of amateur ghostbusters make trouble for our boys.
MOW: Gossip: yes, there's a big scary ghost guy but it's really about what happens when you spread lies.
One-Liner: Harry: "Sweet lord of the rings! Run!"
* "Something Wicked" -- It's unfinished business for Dean when the
boys hunt a creature that steals the life out of children.
MOW: Shtriga: an Albanian legend about a witch that sucks the life out of children.
One-Liner: Dean (to the boy who's next on the hit list): "I'd give anything not to tell you this, but sometimes nightmares are real."
* "Provenance" -- An antique family portrait is the link to
MOW: Haunted Painting: even Night Gallery had a story about a haunted painting come to life!
One-Liner: Sam (to his lady love): "Well, this isn't exactly the first grave we've dug. Still think I'm a catch?"
* "Dead Man's Blood" -- The family joins forces when an old friend
of John's is killed.
MOW: Vampires: but with a twist.
One-Liner: Dean: "Vampires. Gets funnier every time I hear it!"
* "Salvation" -- It's the count down to the big one, the final meeting with "Celine Demon."
MOW: Celine Demon: the demon that took their mother is within reach.
One-Liner: Dean (to Sam on the verge of the big battle): "Don't say just in case something happens to you, I don't want to hear that freaking speech, man. Nobody's dying tonight, not us, not that family, nobody. Except that demon. That evil son of a bitch ain't getting any older than tonight, understand me?"
* "Devil's Trap" -- The Winchester boys aren't playing games
anymore. The demon has their father but they have something the demon wants
MOW: Celine Demon: the final showdown (or is it?)
One-Liner: Dean (in response to Meg's claim that she killed his dad.): "For your sake, I hope you're lying. Cause if it's true, I swear to God I will march into hell myself and I will slaughter each and every one of you evil sons of bitches, so help me God!"
Wow, I'm exhausted.
Finally, a look at the DVD itself. Kudos to Warner Brothers for terrific (but a bit fussy) packaging. Warm fall colors combine with lots of stills from the show in a foldout digipack. There's a zippy little feature that allows you to shut off the recap at the start of each episode (Supernatural has no credits, just a quick title card), but I recommend you leave it on during the last few episodes, as the recaps are quite cool.
The special features on this DVD are a fan's dream. Start off with a seven-minute gag reel that is more than the typical, "oops, I screwed up my line." Included are several instances of the boys rewriting the script, and several hilarious takes of a holiday greeting promo that never made it to air. And I defy anyone to listen to Jared Padalecki's distinctive laugh and not laugh along.
"The Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen" is one of the best extras I've ever seen on a DVD (remember I'm a huge fangirl when it comes to this show). This candid piece has cameras following the boys as they go about their day in preparation for filming. You go inside their trailers (hmm, that's some damage to the wall thanks to Jensen's knife throwing skills), get breakfast with Jared (man that boy can eat) and follow them through the snow as they get ready to shoot on top of a mountain on a cold and windy night. Best of all is the footage shot in the make-up trailer -- in addition to the brotherly cavorting, fans will be squeeing over the "wall of shame," dozens of photos of the boys made up in a variety of wigs and costumes. "Jaredina?" Enough said.
"Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness" is a lengthy featurette that follows the evolution of the series from casting to special effects, to the inspiration behind the stories including interviews with the cast and crew.
There's a still gallery of mostly monster art, several deleted scenes which should mostly stay deleted and only two commentaries (one by Kripke and Nutter, the other by Ackles and Padalecki). There is also an online interactive component that promises a peek at the scripts and a look at Season Two but the feature was unavailable for viewing at the time of this writing.
Oh, and look for a hidden message to the fans from creator Eric Kripke.
[UPDATE: 08 SEPTEMBER 2006] Now that the DVD has been out for several days there have been widespread reports of defective discs in the set. Disc Six is known to either freeze or jump (without the ability to go back and pick it up) chapters near the end of the final episode Devil's Trap. This is particularly infuriating to fans as the glitch comes at the turning point of the big finale reveal!
My biggest complaint here is the lack of commentaries. Two is not enough. I hope they do better when Season Two rolls around.
After much trials and tribulations I accessed the interactive features included with this DVD and it was hardly worth the effort. The best of the lot is a copy of the original script for the series which is quite different than the script that became the pilot. It's a great read and you can already start to hear the Sam and Dean we know and love.
Now the disappointments. The promised sneak peek of season two is\ nothing but Eric Kripke dropping a few spoilers for what's to come. Fans who embrace spoilers will already have all this info and fans who hate spoilers will be unhappy about the fact that the video starts as soon as the site connects with no real warning of what's to come.
Finally, the DVD gives you the username and password to access the laptop that is hidden in the trunk of the car on the Supernatural Interactive website. Yeah. What's in the laptop? A page of icons representing more hunter's blogs and they're all locked. Perhaps the passwords will be doled out on the show as the series progresses (Kripke is known for hiding info in the text of the show), but in the meantime it's a lousy extra.
If Supernatural were nothing but a weekly horror movie I wouldn't be shouting its praises as loud as I do. The series works because of the characters, the relationship ups and downs of the brothers Winchester. The rest is just window dressing. When you can watch a tough, demon hunting hunk pushed to tears and you buy it -- that's great TV. Clever, fast-paced, fun and the best rock and roll soundtrack since Miami Vice -- it's the surprise hit of the 2005 season. It's Supernatural.
This court finds Supernatural: The Complete First Season innocent of all charges, but sadly we already executed the people responsible. Ah, no worries, they'll rise from the dead tomorrow and it'll all be good.
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 936 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary on Pilot by creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter, and producer Peter Johnson
* Commentary on Phantom Traveler by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles
* Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness -- 15 minute never-before-seen making of documentary
* Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen -- Never-before-seen featurette focusing on Jared and Jensen on the set of Supernatural
* Gag reel
* Unaired scenes
* Still gallery
* Official Site
* Supernatural TV Fan Site
* Supernatural Central Fan Site