For those of you who came in late...
Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) are full time monster-hunters. Demons, vampires, witches, werewolves, Japanese ghost-girls, grim reapers, ancient gods, and even the occasional rogue angel or two. Together, and with their Uncle Bobby (Jim Beaver), they roam the small towns and back roads of the United States, taking care of supernatural forces wherever they rear their ugly heads.
Season Seven picks up right at a cliffhanger, with the boys squaring off against the archangel Castiel (Misha Collins). Castiel, it seems, has absorbed every single soul in Purgatory, and all that spiritual energy has turned him into... well, God. That’s how he sees it, anyway, since the actual Lord in Heaven hasn’t even made his presence known to the angels in ages. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a few million years worth of souls aren’t the only thing that was pulled free of Purgatory. Castiel has set loose the Leviathans, a race of shape-shifting, highly-intelligent monsters intent on eating every last person on Earth...once they’re fattened up a bit, anyway.
Supernatural suffers from the same problem as a lot of long-running shows these days. There’s just so much backstory to these characters and their world that it’s impossible to feel like you’re not entirely in on all the jokes. It doesn’t help that Supernatural has its own unique mythology and rules. I watched the series for the first two seasons, so I’ve got a basic grasp of it, but it’s hard to believe anyone could come into the show at this point and be able to understand half of what’s going on without devoutly studying the material on these discs.
A great example is the multi-episode plot thread about Sam suffering a slow nervous breakdown because of the time he spent locked in a cage in Hell with Lucifer (yes, the Lucifer, played by Mark Pellegrino), which Sam somehow escaped. This also clearly has something to do with the fact that Hell is now ruled by a demon named Crowley (Mark Sheppard) who also has more than a passing familiarity with the Winchester boys. Heck, half the monsters they encounter already seem to be on a first-name basis with them, even Death himself.
It’s not that the show isn’t well done. The actors are very comfortable in their roles after all these years, the stories are pretty solid for PG-rated horror, and the dialogue’s fun and sharp in places. The overall arc with the Leviathans is pretty creepy. The episode “Death’s Door” is a wonderful bit of solid emotion in the season (even if it gets nullified later), and “Of Grave Importance” is a wonderful tweak on haunted house tropes. But it’s tough to get engaged when almost every episode has three or four moments reminding you that you aren’t getting all the references.
Plus... well, Supernatural just feels like a show that’s been on for a long time. It’s got that vibe, for better or for worse. The comedy, the not so subtle homages to other sources (like the original syndicated horror show, Friday the 13th-The Series), the stunt casting (Jewel Staite as the cute monster-next-door from Sam’s childhood, Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters as two witches having marital difficulties, Felicia Day as “The Girl With the Dungeons & Dragons Tattoo”). Again, they’re all done very well, they just all feel kind of, well, done.
The special features in this set are a bit thin. Almost half the episodes have unaired scenes, but most of them are just little ten or fifteen second bits that don’t add much to the story. It’s easy to see why they got snipped. There are also a few commentaries. One’s by Padalecki and Ackles, and another one from Beaver and recurring guest star Steven Williams (he plays Uncle Bobby’s old hunting partner Rufus). The four of them do their best to fill forty minutes with extra material, but none of it’s particularly eye-opening. The last commentary is from executive producers Sera Gamble and Robert Singer (who also wrote and directed several episodes), and it’s a bit better but still feels a little superficial.
There’s also two original featurettes and a gag reel. “Directing the Supernatural” is a nice and sometimes brutally honest look at directing television. It’s much more about general directing than specifically Supernatural, but there’s still some nice bits, including Ackles talking about directing episodes. “Washboards and Tommy Guns” is the show’s composers talking about their retro score for the episode “Time After Time After Time,” where Dean is knocked into the past and teams up with secret monster-hunter Elliot Ness. Again, it’s probably going to be much more interesting to budding music directors than to your average Supernatural fan. And the gag real is... well, it’s a gag reel. Some of it’s even funny.
If you haven’t watched any Supernatural, you’ll have some fun with this set but you probably don’t want to start here. Fans of the show are going to love it. And if you’re thinking about working in the film industry, it’s worth Netflixing disc six just for some of the featurettes.
Length: 961 min.
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Release Date: 9/18/12
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beaver, Misha Collins
Directed by: Phil Sgriccia, Robert Singer, Guy Bee, Jensen Ackles, Robert Singer, John F. Showalter, Mike Rohl, Tim Andrew, Jeannot Szwarc, Jerry Wanek, Thomas J. Wright, John MacCarthy, Ben Edlund
Written by: Sera Gamble, Ben Edlund, Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin, Adam Glass, Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming, Robbie Thompson, Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, Robert Singer & Jenny Klein