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Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season(TV) (2010)
The enigmatic Dr. Helen Magnus and the Sanctuary team are back and again on their quest to study and protect the strange and terrifying creatures that secretly populate our world.
For more about Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season and the Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, see the Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
Starring: Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Agam Darshi, Ryan Robbins, Christopher Heyerdahl
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Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
Though far from perfect, the second season of Sanctuary shows promise.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, July 21, 2010
Originally conceived as a 2 hour webisode series by the creative mind of Damian Kindler, Sanctuary quickly blossomed into a full-fledged series on the syndicated channel Syfy. Spanning two seasons thus far (with a third on the way), the Canadian-based production has acquired quite the cult following among the science fiction community, thanks to the involvement of actress/producer Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis) and the sure-handed direction of Martin Wood (another Stargate veteran). Released concurrently with the season one box set on Blu-ray, this edition contains the entire 13-episode season two run of the series, spread across four discs. The packaging consists of a cardboard outer box protecting a cardboard fold-out with plastic housing within. The discs are held in place using overlapping storage that utilizes pressure from small plastic pieces to hold them in place. Once secured, I was rather impressed with this new method of multi-disc housing, though it's important to note my copy arrived with two discs loose in the case (thankfully unscratched).
Following the cliffhanger conclusion of the first season, Dr. Magnus (Amanda Tapping) must wrestle with the realization that her daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup) has become a drone soldier for the underground organization known as the Cabal. Intimately aware of the security protocols used by the world-wide Sanctuary system, Ashley soon leads a team of enhanced soldiers on various missions to destroy these secretive hideouts and unleash the "Abnormal" residents onto an unsuspecting Earth. Vowing not to give up without a fight, Dr. Magnus and her team (now joined by the remaining members of "The Five") challenge the Cabal, effectively disrupting the organization's bid to disrupt the fragile existence of Abnormals. In the process of picking up the pieces during the aftermath, Dr. Magnus and her protégé Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) are forced to move beyond their individual struggles over the loss of a loved one, and return to their core work securing a safe future for the monsters and creatures humanity rejects. This culminates in a season finale that challenges the sympathetic view once championed by Helen Magnus, and introduces seeds of dissent within the very organization she's dedicated her life to.
Sanctuary underwent an interesting transformation during its season two run, demonstrating an enhanced sense of purpose that seemed lacking during the initial thirteen episodes. If you've read my opinion on the first season, you already know I found at least five of the episodes a bit mundane or counterproductive, as if they were simply tossed in for filler. This follow-up run hits one or two snags along the way, but looking back on each episode I can only name one stand-out that seemed mediocre at best ("Next Tuesday"). Aside from that particular hiccup, the rest of the episodes all contain an excellent mix of emotional weight, colorful characters, and dense storytelling that develops a consistent tone for the series (something I felt was lacking earlier on).
The most profound change in season two centers on the scope of the Sanctuary system, which was limited to just a single location in season one. This changes in the early episodes of season two, as we're shown a high-tech network of cooperating hideaways for Abnormal life-forms. This revelation opens the door for several of the conflicts that populate episodes in season two, since we witness the power struggle that gradually evolves between Magnus and the other Sanctuary leaders. I can appreciate the need to alter the scope of the series in subtle ways to expand the universe of the series, but I didn't entirely agree with the way the concept was introduced. For one thing, the leadership system is never fully addressed, leaving large gaps in logic during the episodes centered on the hierarchy of control. In addition, it tends to cheapen the work of Dr. Magnus over the past 200 years, since we're never really sure if she started the entire ball rolling (and gave up part of the control as she went) or simply joined the work in progress. These issues don't necessarily become bothersome enough to detract from the overall experience, but they make you question whether the change in scope was truly necessary.
As much as I enjoyed the second season of Sanctuary, there are two subtle weaknesses that emerged in season two that weren't present in season on. The first is the introduction of the character Kate Freelander (played by Agam Darshi). I realize the writers were looking for someone to fill Ashley's shoes after she defected to the Cabal, but I found the character of Kate off-putting, reckless, and downright selfish. Had she remained a fringe character with occasional appearances throughout the season, it may have lessened the impact of her annoying nature, but the choice to give her a central role in several plotlines was disappointing. The second problem with season two is the disappearance of the Cabal organization after the opening two episodes, and the almost frivolous manner in which the threat is removed from the series. Considering we spent a large portion of season one preparing for the exploits of this terrorist organization (while witnessing the role they have in Ashley's removal from the series), I can't comprehend why the writers discarded such effective build-up with haste. Perhaps they wanted to take the series in a different direction by the season two finale and felt the Cabal no longer fit within that mold, but the finale of season one ranks ahead of the conclusion chosen for season two. I'll be curious to find out where the writers take us in season three, and hope it's back in the direction of an antagonist in the vein of the Cabal.
Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 23Mbps), Sanctuary: Season Two offers increased consistency in comparison with the visual quality of the season one box set, but still suffers from several of the same deficiencies. It's amazing how the shift from green screen to real sets has helped in the strength of fine object detail -- no longer requiring the hazy image smoothing often found throughout season one. Even during scenes when green screen backgrounds are utilized, the melding of real actors on digital backgrounds provides a strong sense of depth, revealing an increased budget and more effective use of computer generated imagery. From a color standpoint, the palette incorporates a vivid spectrum full of naturalistic tones that never descend into drab territory. Likewise, black level depth rarely wavers into gray territory, creating wide differentiation between the lighter and darker shades within the image. There are still occasional moments of minor aliasing found within the digital backgrounds of a handful of scenes, but aside from that one problem, I never noticed any obvious anomalies in the digitally sourced image.
Taken as a whole, the visual quality of the Sanctuary: Season Two comes much closer to reaching the heights I anticipated from the use of RED camera technology (with 4 times the resolution of Blu-ray), though there are still minor set-backs that prevent this from hitting the upper echelon of Blu-ray treatments.
Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Continuing with the wildly entertaining sound design that's become a benchmark of the series, this box set incorporates a lossless audio mix that's sure to rattle the light fixtures of your home theater. Between mammoth underwater monsters wreaking havoc, hordes of zombie-like humanoids prowling a future wasteland, and multiple run-ins with vampire-like soldiers, there's rarely a moment to be lost on such trivial things as dialog. All joking aside, this is a fantastic mix that really nails the epic scope of the series, while never failing to extend the influence audio can have on one's enjoyment of television entertainment. Unlike season one, I hadn't witnessed this second Sanctuary outing during the initial television run, removing any point of reference for comparing the highly compressed lossy version and the one we're given here. However, it's not difficult to suggest the result is revelatory, allowing the robust lows to combine with precise clarity for an end product that ranks quite high among broadcast fare. Moving on to spatial separation within the mix, you'll notice an effective level of immersion during gun battles and fist fights, though the true strength of the rear channels can be found in the creative environmental effects utilized in the series. As we'd assume, the budgetary constraints of a show such as Sanctuary prevent the audio design from rivaling a theatrical summer blockbuster, but I've remained impressed at the lofty stabs at high-level creativity shown over and over again.
Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sanctuary International (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3:22 min): Damian Kindler, Martin Wood, Amanda Tapping and several members of the cast discuss the expansion of the series into an international network of Sanctuaries all over the world, enhancing the scope of the production.
Amanda Tapping Directs "Veritas" (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3:40 min): Stepping behind the camera for one of the episodes in season two, Amanda Tapping is shown taking the reins in a brief series of behind-the-scenes footage.
"Next Tuesday"-Anatomy of an Episode (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 16:44 min): This episode was the "bottle show" of the season (confined space), taking place entirely within the water filled smoke-stack of an oil well. The creative minds behind the series discuss the origins of the episode and how the story developed.
Sanctuary Visual Effects (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 8:53 min): The evolution of the visual effects courtesy of Anthem are chronicled through behind-the scenes green screen footage and interviews with members of the crew that worked primarily on the computer generated backgrounds or effects.
Sanctuary for Kids (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0): Amanda Tapping stars in a PR spot for fundraisers sponsored by the Sanctuary team that go toward charitable organizations centered on kids.
Sanctuary Goes to Comic-Con (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 8:05 min): Travelling to the Comic-Con 2009 convention, Damian Kindler, Martin Wood, Amanda Tapping, and Robin Dunne dish up a panel interview session for a crowd of fans.
Will Vision-On Set and Behind the Scenes (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 13:19 min): Robin Dunne completes a video tour of a typical episode, beginning with set design and ending in post-production. Without a doubt, this is one of the stronger supplements included on the disc.
Will Vision-Sanctuary Goes to Japan (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 10:47 min): The second video diary by Robin Dunne follows Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, and Martin Wood as they complete location scouting in Tokyo.
Dancing in Mumbai (720p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 12:34 min): In preparation for the final two episodes of season two, the parking lot of the Sanctuary production studio was turned into a Mumbai slum. As part of the finale, we have a Bollywood dance sequence starring Robin Dunne, which is dissected in this featurette.
Bloopers and Outtakes (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 5:05 min): As the title implies, this is a hilarious collection of clips showing the actors having a blast on set.
Rounding out the extras, we have a behind the scenes slide show that runs just over four minutes in length.
Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The second season of Sanctuary offers adequate reason to weather several of the weaker episodes in the opening season. The scope is larger, the writing more focused, and the emotional tone is finally consistent. There are still some aspects that detract from the series in subtle ways, but those who consider themselves fans of sci-fi/fantasy television productions could do a lot worse. After all, it's not every day you witness a Neanderthal side-kick, a werewolf tech nerd, and a teleporting Jack the Ripper working in unison.
Sanctuary: Other Seasons
Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: Spartacus and Sanctuary (Expired) - November 4, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deals of the Week affect Starz Home Entertainment's three Spartacus season compilations as well as Entertainment One's first four Sanctuary season. These deals expire at 12 AM PST/3 AM EST next Sunday, November 11th.
• Deal Alert: Sanctuary Seasons 1 & 2 Blu-ray $24.32 Each - May 31, 2010
Wal-Mart is offering the upcoming Blu-ray season sets Sanctuary: The Complete First Season and Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season at the special price of $24.32 each (51% off MSRP). Additionally, the retail giant is offering free shipping to home on both items. ...
• Sanctuary Seasons 1 and 2 Announced on Blu-ray - April 26, 2010
E1 Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Sanctuary: The Complete First Season and Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season for release on Blu-ray on June 15. This supernatural-themed TV series, which began life online as a webisode miniseries and subsequently ...
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