Supernatural: The Complete First Season Release Date: Available now Studio: Warner Brothers Packaging/Materials: Four-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2005-2006 Rating: NR Running Time: 22 episodes, 15:36:00 MSRP: $49.99 THE EPISODES SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.78:1 Standard and high definition Audio Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 2.0, Spanish 2.0, German 2.0, Portuguese 2.0 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, French, German, Castellano, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish Variable The Season: 4/5 When Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) was only six months old, his mother fell victim to a demonic force and suffered a gruesome death. Since that fateful day his father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), with an eye towards finding what killed his wife, has been hunting the supernatural - the entities and creatures most have written off as fairy tales and legends. As soon as they could hold a weapon, he taught Sam and his older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) to hunt them too. But Sam, wanting some semblance of a normal life, decided to go to college instead of join the family business, and four years on he hasn't seen or talked to his brother and father. Then one night Dean shows up to tell him John has gone missing while on one of his hunting trips. Sam agrees to help find him, but only for a few days; he has his life to get back to on Monday morning, which includes his loving girlfriend Jessica (Adrianne Palicki) and a crucial interview for law school. The brothers' search begins in Jericho, Calif. where John was investigating a series of disappearances, all male. Though Sam and Dean ultimately figure out what's behind the incidents, it doesn't actually lead them to their father, his abandoned hotel room and a cryptic message left in his journal being the only clues to go on. Though Dean wants to continue the search, Sam has fulfilled his commitment, and insists on returning home. What awaits him there, however, is the last thing he expected, showing that as much he wants to put the past behind him, there are forces in the world that aren't going to let him. His only choice is to re-join Dean in the search for their father and the ongoing battle against evil, a mission that may ultimately bring them face-to-face with what changed all their lives in the first place. Alternately described by creator Eric Kripke as "Star Wars in truck stop America" and a blend of TV shows "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and "Route 66," "Supernatural" certainly bears out all those influences, but its distinguishing feature is ultimately Sam and Dean's sibling relationship. Like all good, post-modern genre shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Battlestar Galactica," the genre really proves to be a vehicle for exploring deeper, more timeless issues. In "Supernatural's" case, it's the notion of family and its myriad frustrations and rewards. Of course, there's plenty to appreciate for the horror lover too. Though some of its earlier episodes are notably derivative (the finale of "Bloody Mary" is just a little too "The Ring"), the execution in special effects and storytelling is generally spot-on, generating enough cringe-inducing moments to give the show legitimate horror cred (or as much as one can get on network television). Though the initial premise centered around America's urban legends and folklore seems a little limited, the writers obviously came up with a sustainable narrative arc to last the series five seasons, and with continued critical and viewer acclaim. Though I never got around to watching the show when it aired, I'll certainly be catching the rest of the seasons from here on out. "Supernatural: The Complete First Season" includes all 22 episodes that aired on the WB Network in 2005-2006. The season was first released on DVD in September of 2006. Video Quality: 4.5/5 The series is accurately framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. With the exception of the pilot, contrast is noticeably stylized, with crushed blacks and blown out highlights, creating a stark, high contrast image that suits the dark and sometimes gruesome material. As a result, black levels are consistently deep and inky, though shadow detail is often lacking. The pilot, on the other hand, takes a more conventional approach to its cinematography, though it is no less pleasing to look at. Though color in the rest of the episodes is manipulated as well (in some episodes more than others), there remains a good sense of depth, though dark and earthy tones tend to dominate the overall color palette. Fine object detail is excellent, particularly in skin and hair textures, and healthy grain structure indicates the absence of noise reduction measures. There are moments of macroblocking in some of the darkest scenes, but they are momentary and easily overlooked. Overall "Supernatural" has a great looking image that I'm sure improves on its original high definition broadcast and most certainly its initial debut on DVD. Audio Quality: 3.5/5 The 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a straightforward affair, with the front array dominating the mix and surround activity restricted to providing support for the score and soundtrack. Bass levels, though never extending to LFE depths, are respectable and give the track sufficient fullness and range. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. Special Features: 4.5/5 The special features package offers an impressive and entertaining set of materials, mainly because of the additional Blu-ray exclusive materials, "The Devil's Road Map" and the Paley Center discussion panel. The extras from the previous DVD release have all been carried over with the exception of the still image gallery. Commentary on the Pilot with Creator Eric Kripke, Director David Nutter and Producer Peter Johnson: The threw crew members cover the requisite topics of series development and inspiration, casting, and aesthetics, along with some entertaining anecdotes from filming the pilot. They can be a little over-complimentary of everyone involved, but it's a solid commentary track that should hold most viewers' interest. Commentary on "Phantom Traveler" (Episode Four) by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles: Padalecki and Ackles take a lighthearted approach in this second commentary track, cracking a lot of jokes but also managing to include some interesting information about their experience filming the episode. For fans of the two attractive leads, the "hang out" style of commentary should prove more than entertaining. Unaired / Extended Scenes Pilot (3:16, SD): Three scenes. Episode 2 (1:06, SD): One scene. Episode 4 (:55, SD): One scene. Episode 7 (6:36, SD): Three scenes. Episode 9 (1:42, SD): One scene. Episode 11 (2:18, SD): One scene. Episode 12 (2:59, SD): One scene. Episode 14 (2:15, SD): Two scenes. Paley Festival Panel Discussion with Cast and Creators (1:12:39, SD): An addition for and exclusive to the Blu-ray release, the discussion panel, recorded on March 4, 2006, includes Director Kim Manners, Writer John Shiban, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Executive Producer Robert Singer, and Writer/Creator Eric Kripke. The panel members spend the first half of the session talking about how they became involved in the show, what they appreciate about it, and their experiences working with each other. In the second half they field questions from the audience about upcoming plans, working with studio censors, and which scenes they most enjoyed. There aren't many surprises to be found (especially now that the series has concluded), but the panel members keep things interesting and fun. Located on Disc Three. Devil's Road Map: An addition for and exclusive to the Blu-ray release, an interactive map of the United States provides a visual for the characters' paranormal road trip, and includes episode recaps that have behind-the-scenes video and new interviews with the creative team, a "Local Information" piece that describes actual folklore from the towns and regions visited in the first season, and a collection of clips and interviews around John Winchester's journal. A definite highlight of the Blu-ray exclusives, the piece (located on Disc Four) breaks down into the following components: Episode Recaps / Local Information Pilot (5:12, HD); local information about Palo Alto, CA. Wendigo (3:22, HD); local information about Lost Creek, CO. Dead in the Water (2:31, HD); local information about Lake Manitoc, WI. Phantom Traveler (2:47, HD); local information about Catasauqua, PA. Bloody Mary (2:24, HD); local information about Toledo, OH. Skin (3:17, HD); local information about St. Louis, MO. Hook Man (2:50, HD); local information about Ankeny, IA. Bugs (1:42, HD); local information about Sapulpa, OK. Home (3:09, HD); local information about Lawrence, KS. Asylum (2:24, HD); local information about Rockford, IL. Scarecrow (2:24, HD); local information about Burkitsville, IN. Faith (3:38, HD); local information about Nebraska. Route 666 (2:45, HD); local information about Cape Girardeau, MO. Nightmare (3:06, HD); local information about Saginaw, MI. The Benders (2:32, HD); local information about Hibbing, MN. Shadow (2:19, HD); local information about Chicago, IL. Hell House (2:45, HD); local information about Richardson, TX. Something Wicked (2:28, HD); local information about Fitchburg, WI. Provenance (2:22, HD); local information about New Paltz, NY. Dead Man's Blood (4:09, HD); local information about Manning, CO. Salvation (2:59, HD); local information about Blue Earth, MN. Devil's Trap (5:01, HD); local information about Lincoln, NE. John Winchester's Journal Origins (1:29, HD): How the idea of the journal came about. Design (1:09, HD): Creating the prop. Fighting A Wendigo (:42, HD): Highlights from Episode 2: Wendigo. The Ritual Romano (1:15, HD): Highlights from Episode 4: Phantom Traveler. Inside the Roosevelt Asylum (:59, HD): Highlights from Episode 10: Asylum. Dad's Voice (:59, HD): How the journal helps the show's writers. Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen (10:37, SD): A look at the two leads as they get prepared for a day of production. Located on Disc Four. Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness (22:53, SD): Promotional in tone, much of the material is familiar after the other items like the panel discussion and commentaries. However it does wrap up the information in a more compact form. Located on Disc Four. Gag Reel (7:44, SD): Located on Disc Four. Episode Booklet: Includes descriptions, original air dates, and writer and director information for each episode. Recap The Season: 4/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Special Features: 4.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 Warner Brothers turns in a great presentation for "Supernatural's" horror-filled and emotionally resonant first season. The special features package, decent when the show came out on DVD, is now impressive because of the added, Blu-ray exclusive items. Coupled with the improved video quality that HD brings, it's easy to recommend a double-dip for those who already purchased the first season on DVD. For those who have yet to own it, the Blu-ray edition is a no-brainer.