I’ve managed to schedule time each week to spend watching some of my unwatched DVD/Blu-Ray TV season sets. We’ll get a few reviews out of this, starting with the first season of this series, currently airing season five. This is one of the shows I’m following on DVD only, so don’t worry about spoilers for future seasons here. (I’ve only seen one episode beyond this point, from season three.)

Cast and Crew Information

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester
Jenson Ackles as Dead Winchester

Created by Eric Kripke
Cowritten by Eric Kripke (6 episodes), John Shiban (5 episodes), Raelle Tucker (4 episodes), Sara Gamble (4 episodes), Richard Hatem (2 episodes), Ron Milbauer (2 episodes), Terri Hughes Burton (2 episodes), Bill Coakley, Brad Buckner, Cathryn Humphris, Daniel Knauf, David Ehrman, Eugenie Ross-Leming, Patrick Sean Smith, Rachel Nave and Trey Callaway (1 episode each).
Directed by Kim Manners (5 episodes), David Nutter (2 episodes), Peter Ellis (2 episodes), Phil Sgriccia (2 episodes), Robert Singer (2 episodes), Allan Kroeker, Chris Long, David Jackson, Guy Bee, Ken Girotti, Paul Shapiro, Robert Duncan McNeill, Tony Wharmby and Whitney Ransick (1 episode each)

Availability Information

This first season is available on DVD only (and, at the time of this writing, is a steal at $18.99.) Seasons 2, 3 and 4 are also currently available on DVD for under $20, while seasons 3 and 4 are available on Blu-Ray (for $25.99 and $43.99 at the time of this writing.) Note that the Blu-Ray releases (of which I’ve only seen one episode) look upconverted rather than filmed in native Blu-Ray. The upside is that they pack more episodes on a disk, reducing the total number of disks required for a set and reducing the overall cost. It doesn’t look as good as most series, so people with upconverting players may still prefer the DVD for the price savings, but this season was better than most seasons I’ve spent over $50 on, so it’s really hard to argue with the price. The disks are well designed, too, with the option to turn off the “previously on” recap sections, which great for reducing repetition in marathon viewing or for keeping surprises surprising when you aren’t reminded of a character who hasn’t appeared in a while.)

Premise

Two brothers go on a quest to find their father and kill every evil thing they can find along the way, with particular interest in the pyrokinetic demon that killed their mother and one of their girlfriends. Hints of bigger things are dropped along the way. As one character puts it in episode 21, there’s a storm coming, and these boys and their daddy are smack in the middle of it.

High Point

Most series with this many visual effects take time to figure out how to film an episode. This series hit the ground running. The first two episodes were directed by David Nutter, who has a history of directing pilot episodes to establish the tone of a series. Those of us who read the credits will also notice names like Kim Manners, John Shiban, Tony Wharmby, and other alumni of The X-Files, a series with a similar look but different attitude and direction. It also feels like Eric Kripke (series creator and writer or co-writer of 27% of these episodes) has a plan in mind that will surface as things progress. (The IMDB gives Kripke writing or co-writing credit on 86 episodes to date, which indicates he’ll take on a lot more of the writing duties down the road.) They looked right and sounded right from the start. The brotherly relationship between Sam and Dean leads to hilarious dialogue at times (“Hey! No chick flick moments!”) and their personalities were established and clear from the outset. (“I’m not going to die in a hospital where the nurses aren’t even hot.”)

What I’m trying to say is this: a lot of shows have promise early on that falters when the viewers learn that the creators really have no idea where they’re going with anything. This is most definitely not one of those shows.

Low Point

Dean gained more trust than he deserved from a jaded sherrif in “The Benders.” That one aspect of that one episode needed a little something more to keep the willing suspension of disbelief intact.

The Review

This is an original series. It’s basically horror derived from fantasy, which isn’t new in itself, but the attitude and nature of the characters are fresh and new. THe familial aspect is also a nice touch. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects never falter. And there are a lot of them. They’ve learned from the classics, maintaining mood by not showing things as often as they do show them, while simultaneously making sure they have the budget to make things look good when they are seen. I give it 6 out of 6.

The stories and writing are solid. This first season is episodic enough to watch sporadically, but there’s also enough of the long-term plans revealed to make you want to see them all. (This is especially true given the quality of the episodic portions, and the inability to predict in advance when and where a piece of the larger puzzle is going to appear.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting is well done. The leads are very well cast. Jensen Ackles’ work is natural enough that I’d expect the actor to actually have this personality should I meet him on the street. Padalecki isn’t at that level, so I’ll have to settle for describing his contribution as only “very good.” I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is fantastic. There’s a variety of directors involved in this season, but the series remains so consistent that I expect that two of the three executive producers (Eric Kripke, Robert Singer and McG) are taking a fairly heavy hand in things on a day-to-day basis. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is excellent. There are a number of moments that hit the viewer hard, and they aren’t just limited to “sweeps week” episodes. I don’t even want to name the episodes, as it really is best to go in “blind” for a show like this. Know that each individual episode is gripping in its own right, often freaky enough to please horror fans, and generally mixed with enough humour to keep things together and entertaining in the long run. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, it’s one of the strongest first seasons of TV out there, with all the signs of a show that’s just going to get better. Given how dirt cheap the collected editions are right now, you really don’t have any excuses for not checking it out. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Supernatural: Season One receives 38 out of 42.