Warner Bros. // 2008 // 651 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 2nd, 2008
Two brothers, a @#$%-load of demons and shotguns loaded with rock salt. Hellz yeah, one of the niftier hour-longs on broadcast TV returns for a third season, and fans of quirky action-horror should pay attention.
As Season Two ended, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) had defeated their foe, the Yellow-Eyed Demon, sprung their dad from H-E-double-hockey-sticks and inadvertently unleashed an uncountable number of Hellspawn. Worse, Sam got himself killed, forcing Dean to make a deal for his soul in exchange for Sam's resurrection.
That's where the third round of episodes begin, with the brothers trying to cope with Dean's fate, while travelling all around the continental United States hunting down vampires, ghosts, witches and other evil bastards. Then there are the two new girls in their life: Ruby (Katie Cassidy), a demon-killing blond with a smart mouth and a dark secret, and Bela (Lauren Cohan), a thief who specializes in cursed objects.
But it's the ticking time bomb of Dean's deal that drives the season, as both brothers desperately try to find a way out of a contract that appears to be impossible to breach.
I'll be up front with you: This has become one of my favorite shows on TV, one of the few that I won't let languish in DVR-limbo. The first two seasons were fine programming, engaging enough to keep me coming for more, even if the monster-of-the-week conceit sometimes grew tired and led to uneven shows. What kept me going, however, were the two main characters. Sam and Dean, as played by Padelecki and Ackles, were awesome from the get go. The two actors bring charisma and chemistry to their roles -- the brotherly dynamic is not a hard sell -- and even when episodes hit rocky storytelling (and over the years there have been more than a few clunkers), Sam and Dean were enough to carry the load.
So while I liked the first two seasons fine, this third season, strike-shortened as it is, endeared itself to me big time. Maybe the series turned the corner with regards to creativity or perhaps the influence of Ben Edlund -- responsible for some of the most amusing shows on this disc -- spread to the rest of the writers, but this installment of Supernatural is one of the most entertaining seasons of television I've seen, right up there with Angel and Buffy. While not nearly as complex and thought-provoking as those shows, Supernatural found one issue to emphasize (the concept of brotherhood), which it does well, surrounding it with clever writing, interesting characters and plenty of quirky imagination.
Great show, so check it out if ghouls and ghosts and smart-ass protagonists are your bag. Looking closer at this third season reveals some noticeably different elements from the previous two. Though each season had its season-long arc, the overarching narrative here is more interwoven in the episode-to-episode grind. There are still monsters of the week, but, at the very least, Sam and Dean deal with some aspect of Dean's impending fate, and often the monsters and/or supporting characters play a large role in the grand design.
Speaking of supporting characters, there are two major additions to the mythos this go-round: Bela and Ruby. The good news is that they're both pretty OK, a far cry from the misfire that was Jo, an irritating female hunter that went over like a cement blimp last year. Bela and Ruby are strong females, necessary to balance the testosterone of the brothers, I suppose, but it never feels like they're manufactured to be "Buffy-like," as Jo was. Bela is an antagonist and Ruby is all over the map as far as her allegiances go, but their characters are fleshed out enough to make it feel like they actually belong in the universe and not created out of the blue just to fulfill an unspoken political correctness edict.
In the end, this is still Sam and Dean's story and they have plenty of good stuff to work with. A few of my favorites: "Bad Day at Black Rock," where Sam is bedeviled by a cursed rabbit's foot that first brings good luck then buries him in a hilarious string of bad luck; "Ghostfacers," a hugely clever spoof on reality TV ghost hunting series; "Mystery Spot," my favorite of the season, a Groundhog Day-inspired episode where Dean keeps dying and Sam is forced to relive the same day again; and the finale, "No Rest for the Wicked," mainly because of its ballsy ending. These are the highlights, but I can honestly say no episodes jump out as me as being jalopies -- it's just a strong season, dependably entertaining and sporadically brilliant.
A strong, clean transfer (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and an active surround mix (5.1 Dolby Digital) are joined by a nice set of bonus materials: "closer looks," featuring interviews with the creative talent behind select episodes, featurettes looking at the visual effects and the Dodge Challenger used in the series, a dopey set of "Ghostfacers" confessionals and a gag reel that's actually pretty funny.
Here's a nitpick: as per the overall story arc, the brothers tend to have the same conversation over and over, i.e., "Dean, you're going to die!" "Sam, you just need to learn how to take care of yourself!"
One of my favorite shows gets its best season. If you like fun TV, you'll like this set.
Not guilty. Pass the rock salt shotgun.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
Running Time: 651 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Inside Looks
* Gag Reel
* "Ghostfacers" Confessionals
* Official Site