The seventh season of CW’s demon hunter series treads some familiar territory, but keeps a solid footing on the strength of its longstanding characters and core cast members. The high definition presentation is once more impressive, though the collection of bonus material lacks some of the panache of previous releases.
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Studio: Warner Brothers Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Four-disc Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover
Running Time: ~16 hours
1080p high definition 1.78:1
DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Portuguese 2.0
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
The Season: 4/5
With the souls of Purgatory giving him unfathomable power, the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) declares himself God and begins exacting his own form of divine judgment on Earth (just as he did in Heaven). In his mercy he spares his onetime allies Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) and their mentor Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), but on the condition they not interfere in his work.
Though Castiel’s house cleaning includes some who are truly deserving, his methods are ghastly and brutal, and Bobby and the Winchesters begin looking for ways to stop their former friend, even if it means killing him. Calling on the power of Death (Julian Richings), they learn Castiel consumed not just human souls, but the Leviathans – ancient, malevolent creatures for whom Purgatory was originally created. With their untold numbers and collective power clearly wearing on their angelic vessel, both physically and mentally, Castiel tries to return them and the human souls to Purgatory. But the Leviathans are not so easily exorcised, eventually breaking free from Castiel’s body and into the population. While tracking down the Leviathans in human disguise will be old hat for seasoned demon hunters like the Winchesters, destroying them will be the real challenge, as the usual methods like silver, fire and decapitation have no effect. The beings are also highly organized, answering to an unidentified leader whose plans appear more ambitious than just wanton feasting on human flesh.
Meanwhile, Sam continues to fight a mental and emotional battle from his time spent in Hell with Lucifer, who shadows him in persistent hallucinations. Maintaining his grip on reality will require Sam to trust in his family completely, but the stress of the hunt and some unexpected betrayals leave little opportunity for true healing. A devastating loss and his own personal (metaphorical) demons will also put Dean on a path from which he will need his own taste of redemption. As emotionally compromised as they are, the Winchesters are the only ones who can stop the Leviathans, but it’s only when the hunters’ deepest wounds begin to heal that the fight against the creatures can begin.
Though the sixth season of CW’s paranormal action-adventure series managed to keep things fresh even after five jam-packed seasons, the seventh season couldn’t help feeling a bit familiar. Though the Leviathans were technically new players on the board, they really amounted to more of the same ol’ demon, albeit with with a tougher (though ultimately not impervious) shell. Though the discovery of the creatures’ weakness was entertaining, giving Beaver’s curmudgeonly Bobby Singer another chance to shine, its discovery was very much a foregone conclusion. The standalone episodes actually proved more compelling by comparison, featuring guest appearances by Joss Whedon show alumni like Jewel Staite (“Firefly”), Charisma Carpenter, and James Marsters (“Buffy” and "Angel") and including some novelty elements like time travel ("Time after Time After Time") and metaphysical character examinations ("Death's Door"). When all was said and done, the Leviathan arc proved a catalyst for interesting developments rather than an interesting development in itself.
As with most TV shows of a certain age, the enduring appeal ultimately rests on the shoulders of its longstanding characters and the actors portraying them, and in that respect the series still delivered. With Padalecki, Ackles, Beaver and Collins still invested in their roles, they kept things engaging even when the show seemed to lack inspiration. With an eighth season on tap and another change in the executive producer and showrunner (Jeremy Carver, who worked on Seasons Three to Five will be taking over for Sera Gamble) it’s going to be a challenge for the cast to maintain that same enthusiasm. However, “Supernatural” has such a strong fan base that it would take some serious missteps in both the writing and performances for viewership to really plunge.
"Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season" on Blu-ray includes all 23 episodes that aired in 2011 and 2012. The episodes are spread across four Blu-ray discs in the following arrangement:
Disc One: Episodes 1-6
Disc Two: Episodes 7-12
Disc Three: Episodes 13-18
Disc Four: Episodes 19-23
"Supernatural’s" eighth season is scheduled to premiere Wednesday, October 3rd at 9/8c on the CW.
Video Quality: 4.5/5
The series is accurately framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Little about “Supernatural’s” look and high definition presentation has changed over its last few releases. As before, contrast is noticeably stylized, with crushed blacks and sometimes 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. Fine object detail is excellent, particularly in skin and hair textures, and grain structure appears intact with minimal signs of reduction. There are moments of posterizing in background areas, but they are momentary and visible only under close scrutiny. Overall "Supernatural" has a great looking image that improves on its original high definition broadcast and most certainly its DVD counterpart.
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible. Support for the score in the surround channels is balanced and seamless, as are the sometimes aggressive atmospheric and directional effects. LFE is deep and robust, though - like the surround activity - somewhat measured in its application.
Special Features: 4.5/5
Missing this go around for “Supernatural” is the Hunter’s Guide interactive feature that helped the sixth season’s Blu-ray edition earn highest marks. There’s still a Blu-ray exclusive, interactive feature, but neither the presentation nor the material compare to past efforts. Still, the stand outs from the collection wind up being the various video featurettes; along with the audio commentaries and deleted scenes, it adds up to a solid, but somewhat less expansive, set of special features.
Episode Booklet: Includes descriptions, original air dates, and writer and director information for each episode.
Ultraviolet Digital Copy: Redeem by September 18, 2014.
Episode 6: Slash Fiction with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles: The laidback pair leave some sizable gaps in the recording, tending to get caught up in just watching the episode without much of substance to share. At one point, the two joke that it may be more interesting to watch the episode without them involved. Unfortunately, there’s a grain of truth to that.
Jensen Sings (2:04, HD): Extended outtake of Ackles letting loose with Air Supply in the car.
Episode 4: Defending Your Life (:38, HD)
Episode 6: Slash Fiction (:38, HD)
Episode 10: Death’s Door with Actors Jim Beaver and Steven Williams: Beaver and Williams offer an engaging track, mainly due to their jocular personalities. While they may not share a lot of in-depth information, the recording makes for an entertaining, “hang out” style experience.
Washboards and Tommy Guns: Scoring Time After Time After Time (25:12, HD): In this detailed and interesting piece, composers Jay Gruska and Chris Lennertz talk about how they came to work on the series and their unusual partnership, their inspiration for the time travel episode's music and score, and the rehearsal and recording experience at an historic Hollywood sound studio.
Episode 10: Death’s Door (:44, HD)
Episode 11: Adventures in Babysitting (1:52, HD)
Episode 12: Time After Time After Time (2:36, HD)
Directing the Supernatural (19:42, HD): Directors from the last seven years of the series, including veterans like Robert Singer, John Showalter, and Ben Edlund, and relative newcomer Jensen Ackles, talk about the challenges and triumphs of the job and working on “Supernatural” in particular. Part tribute to and analysis of their work, the piece will interest everyone from average viewers to aspiring filmmakers.
Episode 15: Repo Man (:26, HD)
Episode 18: Party On, Garth (1:06, HD)
Episode 23: Survival of the Fittest with Executive Producers Sera Gamble and Robert Singer: The writer and director turn in the strongest of the three commentaries, with the most background and behind-the-scenes material, though the measured pacing may challenge some listeners.
Supernatural Creature Fest Drive-In: Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, the interactive feature harkens back to the animated DVD menus of yore, with hot spots located within various CGI scenes. Depending on your tastes, this will be either novel or regressive. Some of the thematic elements are cute, with the drive-in and creature film motifs, but frankly they could have just played it straight and been just as effective.
Pyscho Scribes of the Supernatural (7:51, HD): The writers discuss developing the monsters for the season and their source of inspiration.
Creatures from the Digital Realm (5:53, HD): Visual effects artist Ivan Hayden goes over key CGI elements used to create the Leviathans.
Highway to Death (8:23, HD): Speculation on near death experiences and the afterlife and how they influenced the episode “Death’s Door.”
Weekend in Lily Dale (6:34, HD): The folklorists return to discuss the spiritualist community of Lily Dale, New York and the notorious Fox Sisters, who made the place famous.
Prosthetic Men 7 (5:54, HD): The creators of the show’s various creature effects discuss their work for the seventh season.
Doppelgangers Ball (6:09, HD): Discussion of dark twin lore and legends.
Trial of the Winchesters (5:47, HD): Discussion of the Osiris myth and its adaptation for the episode “Defending Your Life.”
Desperate Foxes / Vetala Truck Stop Murders (5:54, HD): Discussion of the Japanese kitsune and Hindu vetala legends.
Monsters from Planet Mythos (6:26, HD): Discussion of Biblical and extra-Biblical references to the Leviathans, and their adaptation for the season’s big bad.
Time After Time After Time Promo (1:17, HD): Promotional preview of the season’s time travel episode.
Gag Reel (6:10, HD)
Episode 19: Of Grave Importance (:28, HD)
The Season: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
Warner Home Video turns in another fine presentation for "Supernatural's" seventh season, and includes a strong, but somewhat less impressive, complement of extras. So deep into the series, it’s a release only fans of the show will be interested in, but fortunately it counts as another worthy release in the ever-expanding “Supernatural” series.