Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (DVD)
As far as season cliffhangers go, it's hard to think of one as spectacular--or as insurmountable--as the fate that befalls Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) at the conclusion of Supernatural
's third season, but that's only one of the many high points that await viewers in the course of these 16 episodes. Though the season is shorter (due to the 2007-2008 writers' strike), the overall quality of the episodes, both individually and as a whole, make the season one of the best to date in the show's history. The key to its success is the season's story arc, which has Dean and brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) struggling to continue their quest to fight evil while wrestling with the notion that Dean, who sold his soul to save his brother's life at the end of season 2, has only a year before the forces of darkness come to collect their due. What results is a strong mix of dramatic tension between Ackles and Padalecki (both actors come into their own with their characters in this season) and the more fright-driven fare by which the show has earned its reputation. Adding an intriguing wrinkle to the mix is the arrival of Ruby (Katie Cassidy), a demon who breaks tradition by helping the brothers in their adventures. Though not a fan favorite (and Cassidy herself would be gone by the end of this season, and replaced by Genevieve Cortese in season 4), her character underscored a recurring theme throughout the season--what is the true nature of evil?--which would be echoed in Dean's character development in the fourth and fifth seasons. It's an impressive direction for a series that might've continued down its Monster of the Week path, but instead took a bolder route, with considerable payoffs.
The reduced number of episodes also means fewer extras on the five-disc set; instead of full-length commentaries, producer Eric Kripke and the production team contribute "Closer Looks," scene-specific commentaries on seven episodes. They're informative and amusing but lack the degree of information that die-hard Supernatural fans might be seeking. A 7-minute gag reel and a 5-minute tour of the brothers' beloved Impala are amusing but forgettable, as is the 15-minute pilot for Ghostfacers, the reality show hosted by hapless paranormal investigators Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler in the episode of the same name. More interesting and informative is From Legends to Reality, a 20-minute featurette on the show's special effects teams, whose work reaches a high-water mark in this season. --Paul Gaita