Judge Cynthia Boris thinks "supernatural" is a food label description.
Our reviews of Supernatural: The Complete First Season (published September 5th, 2006), Supernatural: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray) (published June 24th, 2010), Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published June 27th, 2011), Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (published September 2nd, 2008), Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (Blu-Ray) (published November 26th, 2008), Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season (published September 1st, 2009), Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 1st, 2009), Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 13th, 2010), Supernatural: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 26th, 2011), Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray) (published September 28th, 2012), and Supernatural: The Anime Series (Blu-ray) (published August 2nd, 2011) are also available.
Scare Yourself All Over Again
No one expected it to last a full season. Not when the other paranormal shows that started along side of it met with untimely deaths. Then there was the question of the ratings—dismal, but what did they expect putting it up against Grey's Anatomy and CSI? Not to mention that The WB and UPN are now the CW.
But then it's a show where the dead come back to life on a regular basis, so maybe it's no wonder that we're now holding in our hands Supernatural: The Complete Second Season.
Facts of the Case
When Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) Winchester was six months old, a yellow-eyed demon paid him a visit. Sam's mother, Mary, walked in on the demon and she was quickly flambéed. Her husband, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Grey's Anatomy), arrived in time to see his wife perish while stuck to the ceiling, thus alerting him to the fact that this was no ordinary house fire. He grabbed his infant son from the crib, thrust him into the arms of Sam's four-year-old brother Dean (Jensen Ackles, Smallville), and told him to run. It was a moment that would shape the rest of their lives. Determined to get the thing that killed Mary, John became a hunter of all things Supernatural and he raised his boys to do the same. But the family that hunts together doesn't always stay together. Sam rebelled and went to college. Dad got a lead and took off on his own. Now it's up to Dean to bring the family back together for the final showdown and it turns out there's more to what happened that night in Sammy's nursery than any of them could have imagined.
Season One was just the warm-up. It's Season Two and all hell is about to break loose—literally.
Season Two of Supernatural is much more about the mythology than it is about the Monster of the Week. There are a few stand-alone stories, but the average viewer will have a hard time following through if they haven't been watching on a regular basis, and that's not a good thing.
Don't get me wrong, I am still one of the show's biggest fans and I'll defend its merits to Hell and back but there is a huge mood shift in this collection: a couple of real misfires in regard to some new characters and a story arc that gets much too complicated for its own good.
If you proceed past this point, beware of hitchhiking ghosts and phantom spoilers. I think they're equally harmless but not everyone shares my view.
Season Two picks up exactly where Season One left off, with all three Winchesters seriously wounded after a car crash. And can we have a moment of silence for the Impala, please?
The opener episode, "In My Time of Dying," has a phantom Dean wandering the halls of the hospital while his body hovers between life and death. Dean's frustration is palpable as he tries to communicate with his father and brother, who have reverted to their usual antagonistic relationship. Add to that a reaper on the loose and it's a boffo start. The episode is filled with tension and emotion, and I defy you not to tear up when Sam stands by his brother's bedside and begs him not to die. And just when you think you've figured out all the twists, Daddy Winchester whispers something to Dean that both perplexes and horrifies him. It's a secret he hangs on to through a good portion of the season, but fans had it figured out long before the big reveal.
"Everybody Loves a Clown" is one of the huge missteps made in this season. The Roadhouse, a bar for hunters, is introduced along with Ellen (Samantha Ferris) and her daughter Jo (Alona Tal, Veronica Mars). Jo was instantly dubbed a "Mary Sue" by fans (not a complimentary title) and her rumored love affair with Dean was laughable. More a little sister than a love interest, Jo's days were numbered from the start. Ellen and the quirky computer whiz, Ash (Chad Lindberg), were great additions to the cast, but figuring out how to use them on a regular basis became a bit of a chore. On a side note, this episode is special in that it employed a hundred-plus Supernatural fans as background players in the carnival scenes. Other than the ending, which is incredible, the episode is forgettable.
Disc One wraps up with two stories designed to show us that Dean has gone out of control. "Bloodlust" offers up Buffy's Amber Benson as a vampire who believes in live and let live. It also introduces the character of Gordon (Sterling K. Brown, Army Wives) as a fellow hunter who is a bit too Rambo for Sam's taste. Some interesting moments, but again, not a favorite.
"Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things" really hammers the point home—"What's dead should stay dead!" Yeah, we all saw Pet Semetary; we get it. Creepy, with some great one-liners and Dean catching Sam watching porn; it doesn't get funnier than that.
Disc Two is likely to be the least watched disc in this set for me. We begin with another one of the "special children" in "Simon Said." Andy has the power of mind control, but is he using it to kill? Watch Dean's face when he can't stop himself from telling Andy the truth, and check out the major fire stunt—both highlights in this uneven tale.
"No Exit" should have been called No Way, as Jo gets herself captured by the ghost of a serial killer and the boys have to save her butt. There's nothing good here. Sam is virtually absent for half the episode and the forced chemistry between Dean and Jo is nauseating. Someone stop the insanity!
Ah, a bright spot in the form of Linda Blair (The Exorcist) as a police detective who pins a murder wrap on our boys in "The Usual Suspects." It's the first really big brush with the law and it's a foreshadowing of things to come. Okay, so it's stunt casting to include Blair, but she works even if the ending is a tad too nick-of-time and let's not even talk about the pea soup line.
Disc Two wraps up with "Crossroad Blues," based on the music of Robert Johnson. It's all about the consequences of making pacts with demons; if you don't think that's going to come up again, you haven't been watching very closely. The scene between Dean and the sexy Crossroads Demon is, shall I say, to die for.
Disc Three opens with "Croatoan," an odd tale that is one of the spookiest and dumbest all at the same time. It's supposed to be a story based on the mysterious disappearance of the entire Roanoke Colony in 1590. It mutates into a story about a demonic virus that turns people into part of a violent collective. It's the twists in the story that really shine. Part Carpenter's The Thing, part Dawn of the Dead, the infectee storyline is brutal, and it gets worse when Dean is faced with having to kill an infected Sam. Sadly, the ending to this piece is anticlimactical and unbelievable, even by Supernatural standards. Shame, shame.
Gordon returns in "Hunted," but this time he's hunting Sam and he's using Dean as bait. It's our introduction to the sweet and flighty Ava, yet another one of those "special children…" Exciting the first time through, but not much rewatch potential.
"Playthings" is almost pure Monster of the Week as the boys investigate a haunted hotel with a ghost who wants to play. Sam's drunk scene is a killer and the aftermath scene quite funny. The episode is also infamous for its homosexuality references as Sam and Dean are mistaken for a gay couple.
The season really starts to rock when you hit Disc Four. It starts with "Nightshifter," which has our boys involved in a bank hostage situation. The hostage taker is Ronald, a high-strung, gleeful geek who is trying to prove a "mandroid" is responsible for a recent string of robberies. It's actually a shape-shifter, but there's trouble on two fronts as the boys try to locate and kill the thing. Outside the bank, FBI Agent Henrickson (Charles Malik Whitfield) is wetting his pants with joy! He's been searching for the boys and has a whole laundry list of charges to pin on them the second they step out of that bank. Great episode with a punch-in-the-gut ending played out to the tune of "Renegade" by Styx.
The tone stays intense as we roll into "Houses of the Holy," where the boys go hunting for an avenging angel. This angel appears to people who need redemption, and then offers it to them in the form of a hit list. The victims all have nasty skeletons in their closets, but that's not enough to convince Dean that they should turn away. Another fine example of an episode that walks a fine line between right and wrong, and Dean's church pew monologue about mom, angels, and hell on Earth is devastating.
And the hits keep coming. Though there are some large plot holes in "Born Under a Bad Sign," they're worth ignoring, because Jared Padalecki plays evil like nobody's business! Sam goes missing for a week; when Dean finally catches up to him, it's not a pretty picture. Looks like Sammy's got a dark side and a lust for sweet Jo. Watching six-foot-four Padalecki manhandle petite Alona Tal is way sexier than it should be. Somebody turn up the air; it's getting warm in here.
Wow, time for a breather! And we get one in the light and clever "Tall Tales." X-Files fans will recognize the ploy as Sam and Dean each tell their bizarre tale to family friend Bobby (Jim Beaver, Deadwood). Dean portrays himself as the professional while Sam is played out as a prissy, whining, party-pooper. From Sam's point of view, it was Dean who was wasting time drinking, stuffing his face with candy, and flirting with every skank in a skirt. Add to that alien abductions, alligators in the sewer, and a trickster with a fondness for Weekly World News, and you have one very funny episode.
Disc Five is another uneven mix. It begins with more stunt casting with Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer as a woman terrorized by a killer on a dark and lonely road. It's pure horror movie with only our boys, Helfer, and the killer playing hide-and-seek for a full 40 minutes. It's classic Monster of the Week.
"Heart" borrows from American Werewolf in London, as Sam and Dean track down a werewolf in San Francisco. Sam finally gets to let loose with some hot monkey sex, but, hey, remember what happened to his last girlfriend? Yeah, this one is doomed, too. The ending will tear your "heart" out as Ackles and Padalecki engage in the battle of the scene-stealers.
Another comic episode comes into play at this point. It's "Hollywood Babylon," which has our boys acting out on a haunted movie set. Creator Eric Kripke says that the script was written to poke fun at every annoying note they ever got from the studio heads while filming Supernatural. Sadly, the joke gets lost in a near-parody episode that makes Dean look ridiculous and that doesn't sit well with me. After being driven to tears one episode earlier, I don't buy this wacky, happy version of Dean Winchester. Personally, I think he's possessed.
One of my favorite episodes rounds out Disc Five, "Folsom Prison Blues." Dean thinks he's quite clever when he arranges to get caught in the commission of a crime in order to hunt down a prison ghost. Only thing he didn't count on was Agent Henrickson showing up with an extradition order. It's a race against the legal clock as our boys do the "Jailhouse Rock." Poor, giant tiny!
The end is near when we pop in Disc Six. It all begins with "What is and What Should Never Be," an alternate universe episode that really shows off Ackles's acting chops. Thanks to a djinn, Dean wakes up in a fantasy world where he has a normal job and a sexy girlfriend, Sam is engaged to Jessica, and Mom is alive to kiss her boys goodnight. It truly is a wonderful world (so sing the Ramones) or is it?
The season wraps up with a two-parter called "All Hell Breaks Loose." Kripke and company took a big chance when they decided to wrap up the story that started it all with a third season looming on the horizon. It was a smart move. Kripke and I both were getting tired of the convoluted "special kids" storyline, not to mention the numerous close calls with The Yellow-Eyed-Demon and his family. The episode begins with a "special kid" reunion that includes Ava, Andy, two new kids, Jake, Lily, and, of course, Sam. They wake up all together in a ghost town, which appears to be haunted by only one actual ghost—but she's darn freaky, so okay. Then its Five Little Indians time as the Yellow-Eyed-Demon searches for the best of the bunch to be his right-hand man.
Sounded better on paper. What appears on screen is a slow-moving, expositional mess that includes a flashback to Sam's nursery that sets up more questions than it answers. Yes, there are answers to what happened to Mom and Jess, and what's up with Sam and his freaky powers, but they aren't good answers and for me, it all fell flat. But the disappointment I felt in Part One was wrestled to the ground and stomped on by Part Two which has Dean playing "Let's Make a Deal" with another sexy Crossroads Demon.
Behind Door No. 1—a dream vacation to beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
Behind Door No. 2—a donkey pulling a cart full of string beans.
Behind Door No. 3—every soul in hell just waiting for their chance to get out.
Um, I'll go with door number three, please!
Well, hey, it wouldn't be an exciting series if they didn't pick the wrong door now and again, would it?
With all hell on the loose, we end with a duplicate of the final shot of the show's pilot. Yes, indeedy, our boys have work to do.
Turning to the DVD itself, it's the same design as last year with some very nice photo choices scattered across the packaging. There are three commentaries with three distinctly different styles. Ackles and Padalecki chat with director Kim Manners about the difficulties of filming the season opener. Eric Kripke does a solo "fanboy" read on "What is and What Should Never Be." Kripke is then joined by director Robert Singer and writer Sera Gamble for a rollicking good time on "All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One." Funny, funny stuff.
It's not usually the norm, but several of the deleted scenes included here are actually interesting, as are Padalecki's original screen test, the gag reel, and the series of short behind-the-scenes videos originally designed for Verizon phone users.
The major undertaking here is the Devil's Road Map, which allows you to choose map points to access tiny featurettes about the episode that took place in that town. From chats with urban legends experts to Ackles talking about his birthday surprise on "Folsom Prison Blues," there's a ton to see here.
The largest video is associated with the finale episode and it's called "The Episode From Hell: The Making of All Hell Breaks Loose Part II." After you watch this, you'll take pity on them for the awful green-screen effects in this episode. Seriously, it's a wonder they were able to pull it off at all! It's a terrific look at what actually goes in to making an episode, something every fan will enjoy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Once again, Warner Brothers has delivered a damaged Supernatural DVD to my doorstep. I'm beginning to think it's part of some curse. Last year, hundreds of people complained about the finale pixilating and freezing. This year it's the end of "Simon Says" and the beginning of "No Exit." Choosing any of the four chapters involved results in a freeze that can't be undone without reloading the disc. On close inspection, I found a deep dig in the DVD itself. I'm hoping that means that I'm simply unlucky and it won't be a problem for others. That's what I thought last year, but it turned out I wasn't alone.
Now let me save you some frustration. When you pop in Disc Six, you'll see a menu of special features which is nothing but commentaries and commentaries in Chinese. Go to the bottom and use the over arrow to access a second page of features (Would it have killed them to write "more" at the end of the list?). Look over the new list and notice what's missing. "The Episode from Hell" featurette. That's what. You'll find this featurette inside the "Devil's Road Map" feature. Access that, then move your curser around the Midwest until you find episode 22. Click that and you're in.
Nothing like making you work for it.
Supernatural: The Complete Second Season may be too self-absorbed for the casual viewer, but fans, particularly female fans, will likely be pulled in by the emotional roller coaster. It wasn't until I watched several episodes in a row that I realized how often these boys cry on this show. When they aren't crying, they're proclaiming their love and devotion for each other (if not exactly to each other), or they're holding, touching, and hugging. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I prefer my men on the emo side. Says Sam to Dean in the finale, "You're my big brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you." And that, right there folks, is the reason you watch Supernatural.
This court knows the Winchester boys are guilty as sin; breaking and entering, credit card fraud, grave desecration, grand theft auto. But if they should happen to escape while our backs are turned…(hmm…what's this over here…).
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary on "In My Time of Dying" by Executive Producer/Director, Kim Manners, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.