Three seasons in and no signs of slowing; that’s just how Supernatural (hereafter referred to as SN) rolls. In the first two seasons we had evil scarecrows, clowns, hook men, watery ghosts, Bloody Mary, werewolves, djinns, vampires, and a whole slew of demons (who are, to be honest, more or less SN’s bread and butter). So, now that we’ve made it into year three, how shall our intrepid heroes move forward? With style and badassery? Or will they become stagnant and tired?
Answer: Not on your friggin life. Season Three is more of the greatness that SN has provided over and over again and if anything, it gets even BETTER. Allow me to explain.
If you’re reading a review of the third season of a show you know nothing about, I can’t help you - not really. But I will sum up somewhat. . .
Way back in the early eighties (God, I’m old), a demon came to Lawrence, Kansas, and changed the life of the Winchester family forever. Mom was killed horribly, Dad - a former Marine who takes no shit - tried to save her and failed, and the oldest of the two boys escaped with his infant brother. Big Daddy Winchester, in his grief, learned a thing or two about kicking evil’s ass, and raised his boys to do the same. Years later, after a falling out, they all reconnected only to see Dad die at the hands of the same demon who killed Mom. After much bloodshed, they finally got their revenge, but it came with a price. Dean (Jensen Ackles, My Bloody Valentine 3D) made a deal with the devil - or, to be more accurate, your garden variety demon - to save his younger brother’s life, and now has only one year to live. Said younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki, Friday the 13th 2009) is angry and heartbroken and will do whatever he can to break his brother loose of his contract, which will doom Dean to an eternity in Hell. . .but is there really anything he CAN do?
This is where we find our boys at the beginning of Season 3. Dean has resigned himself to his fate, knowing that if he reneges on his deal, it will mean Sam’s life; it does, however, mean more bacon cheeseburgers and meaningless sex for himself since he‘s gonna die anyway. Sam, being a Winchester, is more than willing to sacrifice himself for the brother who already sacrificed himself for him, who in turn was saved by a father who sacrificed himself. . .you get the picture. Bottom line is that these guys will do ANYTHING for each other, and have, many times over. And it never ends well. Ever.
But along the way (this season, as expected, leading up to the moment when Dean’s appointment with Evil coming due), they’ve got some monsters to slay, and may I say that our boys haven’t missed a beat. There’s more evil mofos here than you can shake a stick at, and all of them meet the rock-salt shotgun of justice (or brass spikes, or holy water, or fire, or exorcisms, or. . .what have you) at the hands of our heroes. We’ve got the Seven Deadly Sins in the flesh getting demon-killing knives to the jaw, witches getting housed, Dreamscape/Freddy Krueger assholes receiving their comeuppance, one of the best Assault on Precinct 13 tributes ever made, a devilish Santa (kind of) going down the chimney to Hell, a Groundhog Day type scenario on acid, and your typical roster of ghosts and demons filling out the rest of the dance card. Plus more I don’t have the time to get into.
Let’s just say that, against all odds or common sense, this series is truly getting better as it goes on. I know I said that earlier, but it honestly bears repeating. It may be my own opinion, but no series really does that every single year. The only movie series I can think of that does is the Bourne flicks, where I’ve enjoyed every flick more than the last. And never has it happened to me with a TV show - maybe the fifth year is the best (24) or seasons three through 11 (The Simpsons) were the high water mark, and maybe there were some that never got particularly bad or (at least) worse, but stayed true to quality. . .but I’ve never seen any get exponentially better, deeper, and richer as the show went on. Maybe there are some. But not like this. Not ones where the characters grow this way, and the mythology arc becomes as deep as this does. Sure, I’m biased - SN has been my favorite horror/dark fantasy show since it began. But I was never prepared to love it more and more with each passing season; I’d have been happy for it to just be consistent. Yet it raises its game from year to year. I’m amazed by that.
The actors, of course, remain rock-solid. Ackles and Padalecki? Couldn’t be more perfect as badasses or brothers. I’ve said LOTS about their talents in these roles in my last two reviews of the show; there’s really nothing to add except that they have come to inhabit these characters in a way any self-respecting actor would be proud of. Outstanding work, every single time. Jim Beaver, as Bobby (the defacto father figure for the boys after BDW’s death), is an indispensable part of the formula here, and the show just wouldn’t be the same without his contributions of grit, know-how, and saltiness. Beaver could carry a show on his own, no problem, and that’s a fact. The two new additions this year seemed to be better received than Jo from Season 2 (even though I never hated her like others did); Ruby (Katie Cassidy, sexy as hell with actual menace here and there) the helpful demon, and Bela (Lauren Cohan), the mercenary thief who deals in occult objects. Ruby had a rather important part to play in the overall arc of the season; Bela, not so much. I understand a lot of fans REALLY didn’t like Bela (and, apparently, Cohan’s British accent), but I for one enjoyed her presence when she showed up - she was a good foil for Dean especially, and her backstory had a part to play in the proceedings as well. Even if I do believe that the boys - mostly Dean - would have killed her the second time she fucked them over so thoroughly. Still, I enjoyed the character and thought she made things interesting.
The writing is still of the same high quality; creator Eric Kripke has gathered together one hell of a staff in that respect. Special marks go to Sera Gamble (who always contributes great stuff), Jeremy Carver (who over just two years has made himself irreplaceable), and Ben Edlund (if you know who this man is, you rock simply on principle). The directing, FX, and cinematography are still some of the best you can watch weekly on TV. The scares, the sense of humor, and overall sense of style are about as good as it gets. There’s nothing I can point to that irreparably damages the show, the story, or the flow that remains present in every single episode.
The special features, compared to the last two DVD sets, have a slight flaw, unfortunately. There’s still a hilarious gag reel (a fan favorite since season 1), and a couple of good (yet brief) featurettes on the show’s special effects as well as one on Metallicar (and by that, I mean Dean’s Impala). Also, there’s the entire (well, 10-odd minutes) sit-down chat with the Ghostfacers from their episode - if you dig these guys, it’s great; if not, I’m sure it drags. Still, cool to have added it for the fans. But the real letdown is: no commentaries. There were two on the first set, three on the second (and they were all fantastic). . .but here, no full-length tracks for ANY episode. Just a feature called “A Closer Look” with various staff members that are attached to seven episodes, but only comprise roughly 3 to 4 minutes. These do have interesting information, but seem to serve as a Cliff Notes of commentary, more or less. I’d give up seven mini-commentaries for three full-length ones, for sure. But that’s my only complaint about the set, which has got the 1.85 widescreen and 5.1 digital surround rockin’.
Bottom line is this: if you enjoyed the first two seasons of SN, you’re gonna be one happy camper with the way the story expands and takes on more meaning here. There’s more monsters and ghosts and demons and evil sonsofbitches getting whipped up on, more one-liners, more great classic rock tracks as a soundtrack, and more of what it is that makes this show so undeniably kickass. If you’re a newbie to the world of the Winchesters, this is not the season I myself would start with, but even so, I bet you’d find a lot to enjoy here. Assuming you generally like stuff that is awesome, that is.