STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $59.98
RUNNING TIME: 936 min.
• Commentary on "Pilot" by creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter, and producer Peter Johnson
• Commentary on "Phantom Traveler" by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles
• "Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness" – 15 minute never-before-seen making of documentary
• "Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen" – Never-before-seen featurette focusing on Jared and Jensen on the set of Supernatural
• Gag reel
• Unaired scenes
• Still gallery

The Pitch

Route 66 drives through X-Files country on its way to Angel-ville with a bathroom break in Friday the 13th: The Series-burg

"Now remember, we ice all the Pussycat Dolls and then get them to haunt us for the next couple of years…"

The Humans

Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Nicki Aycox.

The Nutshell

John Winchester is home one night with his wife, Mary, and two boys: Dean, 4, and infant, Sam. He’s soon shocked to discover his wife dead on the ceiling of Sam’s nursery with a bloody abdomen and then exploding into fire which quickly engulfs the house. John gets his two boys out of the inferno and is left to wonder – but is determined to find out – what has just happened. Cut to 22 years later and Sam is getting ready to graduate college when Dean suddenly shows up and enlists his help in finding their father, who has gone missing. Sam reluctantly agrees and leaves his girlfriend, Jessica, to go on a road trip to investigate their father’s last known whereabouts.

Mmm, melting ghost chicks…sexy…

It turns out that after his wife’s mysterious death, John Winchester became an expert ghost hunter / monster killer / occult expert and raised Sam and Dean to follow in the family business. So when Sam and Dean come across a Woman in White, a beautiful ghost who lures unfaithful men to their deaths, they fall right back into their old hunting routines. Once they deal with her and discover a clue to their father’s whereabouts, Sam decides that he needs to get back to college and Dean reluctantly agrees. But when Sam gets back, he shockingly discovers his girlfriend on the ceiling exactly like his mother, and she’s engulfed by flames like ole Mom was. So Sam then resolves to join his brother on the road to find their father and the thing that killed both his mother and girlfriend. Along the way, they also run into a few other creepy crawlies that they have to deal with.

Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to see why the Aquaman pilot didn’t get picked up…

The Lowdown

Honestly, I slept on Supernatural during its first season last year. With the sci-fi onslaught of Surface, Invasion, Threshold, Night Stalker, etc., I had little faith that any of those would last beyond a few episodes. In most cases I was right, but in this case, not so much so. It’s kind of surprising to me that I didn’t latch onto this show, because Supernatural follows one of the only shows I still watch religiously, Smallville. After cramming 22 episodes in a couple of days, I can now safely say that I’m in the camp of this show and hope that it continues for several years to come. It succeeds in taking over for shows dearly departed like X-Files and Angel that tool around the paranormal. It’s also very similar in style to the re-worked Night Stalker (review here) from last season. A lot of this can be attributed to some of the production crew, including exec producer John Shiban, exec producer / director Kim Manners and pilot director David Nutter, all of whom are esteemed X-Files vets.

It was lucky that Eugene Tooms was able to stop by for a guest shot.

The bread and butter of the show is taking American urban legends and putting a fresh spin on them. These include the episode, Blood Mary where they come across the legend of saying ‘Bloody Mary” into a mirror three times and having her appear and kill you. Turns out, this time Mary doesn’t necessarily go after the person saying the name into the mirror, but anybody nearby who has had a deadly secret in their past. The climax involves the original Bloody Mary mirror and an encounter with the vengeful spirit of Mary herself. In Hook Man, they come across the eponymous legend of the man with a bloody hook who seems to stalk a reverend’s daughter. He kills a would-be boyfriend in a wooded area and hangs him upside down over his car. Then later, he kills the girl’s promiscuous roommate by slashing her throat and leaves a message for her in the roommate’s blood on the wall. And in Wendigo, they encounter the legendary creature.

"Dude, you ruled in Jeepers Creepers…"

The entities that the brothers seem to encounter the most are vengeful spirits. These include Dead in the Water, which involves a spirit in a lake; Route 666, which centers on not only a vengeful person, but his giant black ghostly truck as well; and Asylum, where a gaggle of spirits are running about in an abandoned insane asylum; and finally in Provenance, a spirit in a painting likes to come out with a razor and give really close shaves to anybody who buys the painting. Generally, the way that these spirits have to be dealt with is to salt the bones of the troubled spirit’s body and then burn them. But it’s not always just the bones that have to be salted and burned and sometimes that’s what Sam and Dean have to discover. Other episodes include runs-in with more solid types of threats, including the Wendigo, a shapeshifting misogynist with a nasty shedding habit in Skin, vampires in Dead Man’s Blood, and a scarily regular, yet irregular family of backwoodsmen in The Benders.

"We’re hear to exercise the ghost of a 10-year-old boy."
"Don’t you mean exorcise?"

While I do dig the show, it does tend borrow a little too heavily from certain properties that have inspired it before at times. For instance, in the aforementioned Bloody Mary episode, the final encounter with Mary involves shot straight out of The Ring’s climax with Samara coming out of the TV. An episode titled Bugs mines similar territory that X-Files hit upon in War of the Coprophages or Teso Dos Bichos, and the Benders episode is straight out of Deliverance, Wrong Turn, and the infamous Home episode of X-Files. There’s also a segment in the penultimate episode, Salvation which uses a cross dropped in a building’s water system to create gallons of holy water that’s straight out of Constantine. And I suppose it was inevitable that vampires would eventually show up. Up until then, the show had managed to steer clear of many of the expected genre regulars. But those are minor concerns and the show is very smartly written and the resolutions to each episode’s bad guy are frequently clever and inventive.

Always nice to see Mary-Kate getting work…

One thing that I’m not so sure of, however, is Sam’s emerging mental abilities such as precognition and telekinesis that figures directly into why the entity that killed his mother and girlfriend went after him in the first place. I think part of the charm of the show is that basically these are two regular blue collar guys who happen to deal with the supernatural. They don’t typically employ magic items or magic to combat the evil they do, they use everyday items mostly like salt (a lot) and know-how to prevail. Angel lived in a world where that kind of thing was prevalent, and Angel himself was a vampire, but here, Sam and Dean are just a couple of dudes doing an unusual job and I think that’s a real part of what makes the show work. Having Sam’s emerging mental powers threatens to ruin that and I hope it’s not an element that they overexploit.

…and Nicole Ritchie too…

The two leads, Padalecki and Ackles also have a good chemistry and tag team their adventures in fun and entertaining fashion. I’ve been a fan of Ackles’ work ever since his turn as Alec in Dark Angel. He and Padalecki are both WB (now CW) veterans as Ackles had runs on both Smallville and Dawson’s Creek, while Padalecki is a veteran of Gilmore Girls as Dean Forester. And funnily enough, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays their father, John, is only about 12 years older than Ackles and 16 years older than Padalecki. He’s had guest spots on such genre notables as Sliders, Angel, Enterprise, and Tru Calling. But I first noticed him during his run as heart patient Denny Duquette on Grey’s Anatomy. The fourth regular cast member, the ’67 Impala that the brothers get around in, also fulfills the necessary cool car motif. Supernatural is a worthy successor to shows that I’ve enjoyed like Friday the 13th: The Series, Angel and others.

Turns out the director’s cut of American Beauty was a bit more extreme…

The Package

The show has the requisite dark look that you’d expect, looking very much like some of thre creepier episodes of X-Files and Angel, and is in widescreen, which is also nice. The audio doesn’t disappoint either in Dolby Digital. I frequently had to turn it down because the sound was so overpowering. The cover art is also suitably cool. There are two commentaries, on Pilot by creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter, and producer Peter Johnson, and on Phantom Traveler by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. There’s also "Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness", a 22-minute making-of, and "Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen", a video diary of the two leads. There’s also scores of deleted scenes for the episodes. A pretty entertaining gag reel and stills gallery round out the features.

8.4 out of 10