by Paula R. Stiles
Kripke, Eric, et al. Supernatural Season Three [DVD]. Burbank [CA]: Warner Bros., 2008. 651 min. US $59.98/CAN $32.99.
Dean has made a deal with a Crossroad Demon to save Sam’s life and in return, he’s also received a year to live. He’s determined to make the most of it. Too bad the MOTWs are lacking in sympathy. More sinister is the strange obsession that every demon has with making Sam their King and killing Dean early, despite top demon Azazel being dead and Hell supposedly having Dean’s soul in the bag.
Supernatural season three was the year of the now-infamous Writers Strike, which finished off an awful lot of shows and derailed the plotlines of many others. Supernatural was anything but unaffected by the Strike. There were only 16 episodes in the season and on this DVD (but expect to pay the same price as for other seasons). This means that you get five disks of the usual type (widescreen, single-sided, dual-layer) instead of the usual six. Plus, the extras aren’t the greatest. While the Strike seemed to increase the creativity of the season three companion, it didn’t exactly increase the creativity of the extras for this DVD. That said, the show came back better than its genre competition and the downtime gave the writers the space to come up with the storyline for season four. So, it’s all good.
Despite the shortness of the season, and the chaos introduced into the season-long storyline by the Strike, season three had some great episodes, like: “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Jus in Bello”, “Fresh Blood”, “Malleus Maleficarum”, “Time Is on My Side”, “Ghostfacers”, “A Very Supernatural Christmas”, and season finale “No Rest for the Wicked”. Even the crappy ones (yes, that’s code for the disappointing “Red Sky at Morning”) have been improved by the nice resolution of the DVD.
A note about the packaging: Lauren Cohan (Bela) and Katie Cassidy (Ruby) do get billing on the inside DVD holder, something that did not thrill a lot of fans. Their pictures are smaller than those for Padalecki and Ackles, but they are there. An interesting thing is that, while the copyright for the DVD is 2008, the copyright for the “Package Design & Supplementary Material Compilation” is 2007. In other words, the packaging appears to have been done at the beginning of the season, before it became clear that these female recurring characters might be a drag on sales rather than a plus. Strangely enough, after a year of not having had to see either of them on the show (and having another actress as Ruby to contrast with Cassidy), this doesn’t seem nearly as irritating as it did when the DVD first came out. It probably also helps that Lauren Cohan (who is a decent actress) has gone on to better characters in better projects and Katie Cassidy did a good job this past spring in Harper’s Island (even if that show had some serious flaws, Cassidy wasn’t one of them).
Now to the extras. They are…mostly uninspired. They include two short documentaries (“From Legends to Reality: Supernatural Effects” and “Supernatural Impala Featurette: A Look Inside the Classic 1967 Chevrolet Impala”), short writer/director commentaries called “Closer Looks” on seven episodes (“The Magnificent Seven”, “The Kids Are Alright”, “Bad Day at Black Rock”, “Red Sky at Morning”, “A Very Supernatural Christmas”, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Jus in Bello”), “Ghostfacers Confessionals”, and the gag reel.
The featurettes are really short. So, even though the Impala one is lovely, as far as it goes, it doesn’t go very far. You get a quickie tour of the cars that they use for the show and that’s about it. Similarly, the commentaries are very short. If you’ve seen the one for “Dream a Little Dream of Me” that they released when that episode came out, you’ll know what to expect, though it’s nice that the “Magnificent Seven” one is done by the late and much-lamented Kim Manners.
This leaves us with the “Ghostfacers Confessionals” and the gag reel, and these, thankfully, are lots of fun. Remember the little “interviews” they do of Ed and Harry and the gang at the beginning of “Ghostfacers”? Well, these are the extended versions of those interviews.
That sounds boring, but it’s not. It looks as though the actors were not given a script, but asked to do improv in character and it’s absolutely hysterical. The best one is Spruce’s. The short version we saw in the episode doesn’t do justice to the sheer randomness of his meandering attempt to come across like a Midwest, white-bread version of Carlos Castaneda (who was himself an unabashed fraud, but that’s neither here nor there). Vying for the top spot is Maggie’s rant about Ed and Harry’s codependent geekiness – again, severely cut down for the episode. Most of Corbett’s hero worship and Ed and Harry’s shtick made it into the episode. These are on Disk Four and are well worth checking out – unless, of course, you loathed the Hellhounds/Ghostfacers. In which case, don’t bother.Then there’s the gag reel. I’ve heard some fans claim that the gag reels have become progressively less amusing as the seasons have worn on, largely because Padalecki and Ackles have ended up mugging more and flubbing lines less. I have to disagree. I love gag reels, but they’re not easy to make and the best do more than just make you laugh (though they absolutely need to do that). The ones for the Dark Angel DVDs, for example, were largely forgettable, except for a few goofy moments from Michael Weatherly and some cute bits involving Ackles (who was a supporting actor on that show). It takes more than a series of faces blowing lines to make a good gag reel. It has to be funny, but it should also show stuff behind the scenes (My Bloody Valentine 3D, for example, has a good technical gag reel).
Season three’s is a good gag reel on both counts. For example, there is Padalecki’s series of girly-scream takes (something Ackles apparently used for inspiration in his notorious “cat scream” in season four’s “Yellow Fever”), which are really very funny. They’re also informative, as one shows Padalecki doing a wire stunt. Then there is his “model runway” sequence where he’s supposed to be playing Sam sensing he’s being followed on a crowded street, and ends up doing Carmen Electra in Scary Movie, instead. Priceless.
Ackles is no slouch, either. For example, there’s a selection of Lon Chaneyesque horror-movie impressions (notably, a freakily effective Igor/Hunchback of Notre Dame, in broad daylight with no makeup or anything), as well as a brief shot where he’s thrown into a metal wall, drops to a cement floor from about three feet and has to give a thumbs-up to show he’s okay (bet the insurance people had a stroke when they saw that one). In another bit, Padalecki goes to extreme lengths to make Ackles laugh. Really extreme.
Also of note are some nice bits involving guests and recurring players such as Jim Beaver, Sterling K. Brown (“Hmmm, acting,” Brown growls at one point, while chained to a ceiling block, then accidentally pulls the whole thing down on top of him), Christopher Cousins (Dr. Garrison in “Bedtime Stories”), Robert Curtis Brown (Father Gil in Sin City), Cassidy, and Cohan. Regardless of how you feel about Bela, the parts where Padalecki and Ackles make Cohan laugh and flub her lines are pretty funny. The parts where Padalecki goofs around with Cousins and Robert Brown are even funnier.
So, the season three DVD is a lot like season three, itself: a bit of a mess, but with enough nuggets of gold in it to justify checking it out.
I’m afraid you’ll have to wait on my review of the season four DVD, as I haven’t been able to get hold of it, yet.
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