Thursday, September 20, 2007

Supernatural Season 2 DVD

Third on my DVD watching spree is Season Two of "Supernatural". This is one of my favorite shows and the only one I watch live (as opposed to playback via TiVo).

The episodes for Season Two were just as good as I remembered. They really did some interesting things with changing the tone/style from episode-to-episode in this season. It’s possible to find this a bit jarring when watching in blocks. But that’s the only downside. I thought "Supernatural" was a very good show until the last three episodes of Season One. Those three episodes convinced me it was an excellent show. For the most part, Season Two maintained the excellent quality and built upon the Supernatural universe with good success. My favorites of the season were “Bloodlust”, “Nightshifter”, “Born Under a Bad Sign” and “What Is and What Should Never Be”.

Spoilers for the extras below the cut (gag reel, commentaries and a lot more!)

Season One of “Supernatural” had loads features including two easter eggs. The “Supernatural” cast & crew have demonstrated that they know how to promote the show in a very entertaining fashion. So I was excited about Season Two. Unfortunately, the extras got leaked to the Internet a couple weeks before the DVD release. I had to avoid some fansites in order to not be tempted by spoilers. But it was worth the wait because there's tons of stuff!

1) “The Devil's Road Map” - What a Fantastic Idea! There's a United States map with dots where each episode was set. Each episode dot leads to a feature. There's two categories of features, videos (“Urban Legends/Makingof..”) and sound recordings/cards “Episode Factoids”.

a) “Urban Legends” – Cool idea. They got academics & folklorists to speak about some of the urban legends discussed in the episodes. Only 4-5 episodes are covered but they are pretty interesting. The weakest one for me was the Hollywood ghosts segment. I thought the ghost hunter sounded flaky. The other experts gave off a more scholarly vibe. My favorite was the one discussing the “Crossroads” legend of blues guitarist Robert Jordan.

b) “The Making of All Hell Breaks Loose pt 2” – I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. Apparently, this episode was written on a much grander scale but it had to be parred down into a feasible length. I think the final product is better. They also had a bit of drama involving the cemetery they planned to film at. All in all, this is an interesting look in how to get something from the page to the screen.

c) “Episode Factoids” - Some of these were sound recordings, others just a card with a fun fact from a crew member about that episode. For the recordings, they had a great mix of people with differing perspectives. Seriously, their Visual Effects Supervisor is quite articulate about the work in a specific episode. His focus is narrow but his insights are pretty cool. Also, Jared Padalecki (Sam) and Kim Manners (director/producer) have no problem telling embarrassing stories. Eric Krike surprised me talking about what didn't work in an episode and how they had to try to correct for it. Very informative and entertaining feature.

2) Webisodes Featurettes - Three are included: Visual Effects, The Writer's Room and Props. All are good. The Visual Effects Supervisor, man, I could just listen to him talk for hours. He presents some rather technical stuff interestingly with a little bit of humour. Toward the end, he does this great little impersonation of Eric Kripke. The Writer's shown were John Shiban, Eric Kripke and Robert Singer. They all talked about how they research the urban legends and then try to find the "Supernatural"-specific twist. Shiban & Kripke were all "Monsters!YAH!" and Singer was more character development centered. You can definitely see where they get their shifting tones, which Kripke called "hopscotching genres". The propsmaster certainly knew what the fans liked. He focused mainly on the ghost-hunting equipment/weapons. Very interesting but it seemed shorter than the other two. Overall, good.

3) Jared Padalecki's Screen Test - Well, I can definitely see why he was hired. It's a bit longer than I thought it would be. You get to see him do the same scene twice and he gets better. Supposedly, Jensen Ackles was already selected to play Sam when Jared tried out. They liked Jared so much, they switched Sam to him and hired Jensen to play Dean.

4) Commentaries – Three are included. Each had a very different tone.

“In My Time of Dying”: OK. Not a lot of talking from the series stars. I get the impression they don’t usually watch their own show (likely because they are too busy spending 14+hrs a day shooting). And when the actors did talk, it was interesting. These guys appear to be really interested in their work and not at all full of themselves. The few tidbits on the production side were all interesting. This episode presented some challenges because one of the characters is invisible to the other characters. They talked a great deal about how they used camera tricks, etc to show that.

“What Is and What Should Never Be”: Excellent. Eric Kripke is a great commentator. He never shuts up, he’s amusing and he covers a good variety of topics. He spent a fair portion talking about what it was like to direct his first episode. He mentions getting sun in rainy Vancouver for the shot of Dean mowing the lawn. Apparently, some people didn't want Dean & Sam to be estranged in this alternate world. But Kripke stuck to his guns on that (I think correctly). Like in a recent "Heroes" commentary, he also mentioned BroYay! Although it’s a bit less surprising for "Supernatural". Brothers or not, with only two main characters who are both male, a larger than usual portion of fans are slashers.

“All Hell Breaks Loose, pt1”: Very Good. Eric Kripke again, joined by writer Sera Gamble and producer Robert Singer. Sera Gamble is especially cool to listen to because she kinda talks like a fan. She gave a Public Service Announcement against spoilers. Also, Kripke only compliments the first draft of an episode when it is really bad. If she gets a draft back with notes & no compliment, he likes it. The best stuff was on the writing process and how they got the location for “Frontierland”. This was an actual ruined amusement park and they re-wrote the episode to include it. But Singer (who directed) emphasizes that it was difficult to shoot because of bad weather. Again, Kripke & Singer are such an effective foil. Kripke is a horror-loving fangirl and Singer is more interested in character drama.

5) The Gag Reel – HILARIOUS. Apparently, the series stars handle the exceedingly long work-days by being complete loons. There’s a good mix of mess-ups, visual gags, low humor, etc. Definitely worth multiple viewings just because you miss things laughing so hard. Season One’s gag reel was also excellent so the bar was set pretty high. They definitely out-did themselves here. Also, several of the pranks & incidents shown here are mentioned in other places on the DVD features.

6) The Deleted Scenes – Deserved deletion. Unlike a show like "Heroes" where juggling 10+ characters can lead to some characters getting short-changed because of time, "Supernatural" has only two major characters (three if you count the car). There’s not much room to "lose" somebody. They may be interesting to some hard-core purists but not really for me.

Overall, Supernatural Season 2 is an excellent DVD release. Tons of features, presented in a cool way. Only a few OK ones but when the features are good, they are really good. Come On Season Three!

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