I am a longtime Supernatural fan who, before now, has never purchased a season collection “new,” though I’ve purchased a few second-hand and caught up on the others via Netflix (thank God for the Netflix/CW contract – let’s keep that intact, please). However, after hearing so much about the Season 8 set, I took the plunge, and it was so worth it.
Unaired scenes for 14 episodes, and commentary on “Hunteri Heroici” (8×08), “As Time Goes By” (8×12), and “Everybody Hates Hitler” (8×13) accompany the 23 original episodes. There are also three featurettes: “Finding Supernatural: Creating the Found Footage Episode,” “For the Defense of Mankind: The Tablets Revealed” and “Angel Warrior: The Story of Castiel.” There’s also the much-anticipated seasonal gag reel, and for many fans, that alone make Supernatural’s DVD sets purchase-worthy.
Season 8 of Supernatural is, in many ways, a reboot of the series, and reaction has varied. To some, it’s “Season Gr8,” while others have been less enthusiastic. According to ratings, the season’s overall promise overshadowed many problems; however, some narrative disjointedness does exist, and while that can be artfully used to create speculation and suspense, it can also be detrimental.
Many fans remain unsatisfied with the explanation behind Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) not looking for older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) in Purgatory, just as many remain unhappy with the resolution of Sam’s romantic arc. Some canon inconsistencies also incited fan ire, such “The Great Escapist” mention of a Grand Canyon trip taken in the Winchesters’ childhood, which directly contradicts Winchester history revealed in “Croatoan” (2×09) and “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester” (4×02).
Happily, I found that watching the episodes back-to-back smoothes over some of these rough edges. No, the early-season divide between the Winchesters isn’t easier to digest nor are canon errors erased, but Season 8’s strengths are highlighted.
Season 8 is the opening act of new showrunner Jeremy Carver’s plot arc. It introduces the Men of Letters (a Winchester legacy that complements the Campbell’s), reincorporates Heaven and Hell storylines, reiterates the brotherly bond between Sam and Dean, challenges the brothers’ individuality, and reconfigures the dynamic between Dean and Castiel (Misha Collins). The then-angel’s connections to the Winchesters take on new significance, particularly as his character arc develops in tandem with Dean’s. And Season 8 further populates the Winchester universe with recurring and new characters, including Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), Benny Lafitte (Ty Olsson), Abaddon (Alaina Huffman), Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day), and Crowley (Mark Sheppard). Simply put, there’s a lot of good here for viewers to enjoy.
Writing and production talent is showcased as well. We have commentary on “As Time Goes By” from Robert Singer, Jeremy Carver, and Adam Glass, and details about the meticulous construction of the feature-worthy Men of Letters set. “Everybody Hates Hitler” director Phil Sgriccia and writer Ben Edlund also offer entertaining insights – from the revelation that Sgriccia placed a bright orange drop cord on top of the small fridge in the bunker to “piss off the art department” to discussion about the much-analyzed bar scene between Aaron Bass and Dean. Edlund says, “[Dean’s reaction] is almost like a romantic comedy kind of fluster, which is very interesting for the character Dean…because it just sorts of suggests this weird…this potential.” Sgriccia continues the comment “…potential for love in all places.” Without getting into meta (much is available online already), simply know that for those interested in Dean’s evolving characterization, this dialogue alone is gold.
The gag reel features J2’s phenomenal chemistry, along with scenes that will warm the cockles of many fans’ hearts. As for deleted scenes, I always want more, especially knowing the legendary on-set antics that must generate more footage than we get to see; that said, we’re given some noteworthy ones, particularly Benny’s discussion with Dean and the latter’s prayer to Castiel, both cut from “Taxi Driver” (8×09), and Sam’s conversation with Henry Winchester (Gil McKinney) from “As Time Goes By” (8×12).
Lamentably, the physical packaging of the DVD set is lacking, and the overly photo-shopped images of Ackles and Padalecki don’t do the sexy, badass Winchesters justice. (Exhibit A: Dean’s awkward machete-holding pose.) Hopefully, the season 9 DVD set will take a different artistic approach (and one that won’t use the “Prepare the Fall” poster…please).