So you think you’ve had a bad day? Well, spare a moment for the Winchester boys. When we left them at the end of season two, their dad was dead, Dean had sold his soul to the devil to save his brother’s life, oh and just to put the icing on this particularly depressing cake, they had opened a gate to hell releasing untold hordes of evil upon the earth. Yep there’s nothing like a battle with the occult to put things into perspective.
If you have managed to avoid Supernatural so far then here’s the 411: the show follows the Winchester boys Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), ‘hunters’ who criss-cross America investigating and combating paranormal events. Town-by-town and episode-by-episode the brothers take on a new nasty, each one an individual chapter in the season’s wider story that also helps the boys to discover more about themselves and indeed each other along the way. The show is a sort of mash-up of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files all wrapped up in a classic road movie; and following this format, so expertly forged by Whedon and Carter, the show’s writers are given the freedom to craft some brilliant standalone episodes whilst also building a satisfying season-long narrative.
It’s fair to say this epic journey has taken its toll on them. As we join the boys in season three, Dean only has a year to live before the contract on his soul is up and the Hell Hounds turn up to collect. With this hanging over their heads the season is as much a personal journey for our two paranormal protagonists as it is about rescuing Dean’s soul before his time is up. Dean’s journey is perhaps the most intriguing. Living the life of a man who knows his number is up he survives the early part of the season on a diet of racy women, cholesterol filled breakfasts and reckless abandon for his own safety.
However, as his end draws near, he becomes a reflective, sombre character. This seriousness, alongside some well-constructed episodes that prise the brothers apart, provide an intriguing examination of Dean and Sam’s relationship, and for me, this is the highlight of the run.
Whilst the entire series is superb, there are some memorable moments and some standalone episodes that are head and shoulders above the rest. Some best bits that come to mind include the sequences of good and bad luck that the brothers experience after finding a cursed rabbit’s foot in the third episode, the shakey cam reality show footage of the Ghostfacer episode and a nod to Assault on Precinct 13 in the season’s final stages. But the standalone entry has to be Mystery Spot, a superbly written hour of entertainment where Sam watches his brother die over and over again in a Groundhog Day style. The episode is brilliant in its own right but also as it offers an insight into how Sam will struggle after Dean has gone and what he might have to become to survive on his own.
Whilst the show is overloaded with positives from excellent writing to clever referencing, unfortunately, as with all of the shows of the last year, Supernatural suffers at the hands of the writer’s strike. This is most most notable in the shortened length – a mere 16 episodes compared to the usual 22; that means that many issues are left unresolved, and leads the season finale to feel a little rushed. But perhaps the hardest hit by the shorter running time are the show’s two new female characters Bela (Lauren Cohan) and Ruby (Katie Cassidy), who are left disappointingly unexplored and ineffectively used.
ExtrasHere we are in luck, as Supernatural has an enjoyable mix of throwaway titbits and in-depth featurettes. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Scene specifics’ on each disc – short segments which offer a creative insight into individual episodes. Also of interest is the ‘Impala’ extra from disc 4 that takes a closer look at the show’s mechanical star. Perhaps the most interesting extra the box-set advertises is a bonus digital copy, which – for those of you aren’t familiar – offers an easy way to get the disc contents onto a portable media player without any additional fuss and expense.