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Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season(TV) (2012-2013)
Sam Winchester grew up hunting unearthly horrors. But now law school and a normal life beckon. That is, until Sam’s estranged brother Dean appears with troubling news: their father has disappeared, a man who’s hunted evil for 22 years. So to find their father, the brothers must hunt what he hunts... and Sam must return to the life he’d rather leave behind.
For more about Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season and the Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray release, see Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Jim Beaver, Ty Olsson, Mark Sheppard
Directors: Jan Eliasberg, Guy Norman Bee, Nick Copus
» See full cast & crew
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray Review
A hell-bound start slowly, sometimes painfully, gives way to a heaven-sent season...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 13, 2013
Spoiler alert: The following review assumes that the reader is familiar with Seasons 1-7 of Supernatural. If you have yet to finish the series' previous season, proceed at your own risk. A review of The Complete Seventh Season can be found here.
If nothing else, Supernatural knows how to deliver a cliffhanger. When last we left veteran monster hunters Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), crossroads demon turned self-made King of Hell Crowley (scene chewer Mark A. Sheppard) had betrayed the brothers, laid claim to their go-to prophet Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), and stood idly by as Dean and nearly fallen angel Castiel (Misha Collins) disappeared in a flash of light upon killing Leviathan lord Dick Roman. As the credits prepared to roll, Dean and Castiel found themselves trapped in Purgatory, surrounded by a legion of hungry beasties licking their lips at the thought of devouring a legendary hunter and a high-ranking angel. Normally, an ending like that would have left series fans in a purgatory all their own, anxiously counting down the days until the next season was scheduled to arrive. Supernatural fans know better, though. Or rather we've recently come to know better, after the last three seasons have forced us to keep expectations in check.
Shortly after creator Eric Kripke relinquished the reigns to the show at the end of Season Five, cautious optimism began to lessen the scorn of doubtful Supernatural fans. The series could continue without skipping a creative beat, right? Not so fast, kiddo. Had the show ended at the end of its fifth season, most would declare the Winchesters' last hurrah a bittersweet but masterfully constructed end to the saga. Instead, Season Five closed with an intriguing image -- Sam, having hurled himself into a supposedly inescapable Hell pit to prevent the Apocalypse minutes before, mysteriously returned unharmed -- only to hobble to an anticlimactic start come the sixth season's premiere. Supernatural quickly recovered, thankfully, serving up a solid post-Kripke season, as well as ending with one of the best finale endgames to date: Castiel, drunk with countless souls and godlike power, proclaimed "I'm not an angel anymore. I'm your new God. A better one. So you will bow down and profess your love to me, your Lord. Or I shall destroy you." Cue dropped jaws and unanimous cheers from the faithful series fold. Unfortunately, Season Seven began by immediately revoking Castiel's newfound privileges, promoting a ragtag band of Leviathans to anointed Big Bad in his place. Boo. The ensuing seventh season was largely hit or miss, but had its charms, all of which culminated in yet another thrilling cliffhanger: the aforementioned Purgatory plunge.
Sigh. I think you know what's coming next. Season Eight, despite all its Purga-potential, opens with a whimper, wheezes for a few episodes, coughs uncontrollably through numerous flashbacks, and takes far too long to find its voice. In that regard, the eighth season is much like the seventh: occasionally brilliant, dishearteningly inconsistent at times, and ultimately a bit lopsided, with the second half outshining the first. And, wouldn't you know, it ends on a killer cliffhanger. Even so, Season Eight is notably better than Season Seven by the time its finale rolls around. Here's hoping that when Season Nine starts this fall we don't find ourselves muttering, "here we go again."
But I'm drifting too far ahead. Let's take a step back -- or have ourselves a cumbersome flashback! -- and examine what works and what doesn't work in Season Eight. (Don't worry, I won't reveal how the eighth season ends. I'll put the finale at the top of my "things that work" list and leave it at that.) First the lowdown. While, to us, Dean and Castiel have just arrived in Purgatory, the eighth season opens with Dean and new BFF Benny (Ty Olsson), a vampire of all things, inexplicably returning to the land of the living after a yearlong absence, and without Castiel in tow. What happened? How did Dean survive for a year, much less crawl his way out? Why was Benny's soul hitching a ride in Dean's blood? Where's Cas? How much torture can a vague season premiere subject on Supernatural fans? When Sam asks where the Winchesters' on-again, off-again guardian angel is, Dean only offers "Cas didn't make it."
Dean's Purgatory woes then unfold, piece by piece -- via sporadic, largely distracting flashback sequences -- over the course of the next ten episodes, all while the squabbling brothers deal with everything from demons to ancient demigods, werewolves, vampires, curses, the (not-so-surprising) return of Castiel, Crowley, Bobby's soul (Jim Beaver, in a much-too-small guest appearance), and the one enemy the Winchesters have never managed to defeat: hurt feelings. It turns out Sam didn't look for a way to save Dean from Purgatory. At all. He packed it in, quit the biz, shacked up with a girl, and wrote Dean off as dead. Wait, what? Seriously!? There isn't even a satisfying explanation to be had, making the (inevitably temporary) grudge Dean holds against Sam both justified and a wee bit irritating.
The boys eventually learn about trouble brewing in Heaven, Crowley's latest scheme, and a defunct secret society called The Men of Letters, though, which work hand in hand to give the eighth season renewed purpose and setup some of its best episodes. The second half of the season is infinitely better than the first, with several antagonists and fascinating free agents setting up shop. Crowly, obviously, who continues to be one of the show's most entertaining and frightening villains , not to mention one of the most welcome characters ever elevated to series regular; Benny, an unexpectedly well-realized inductee into the Winchesters' inner circle (well, Dean's circle at least); she-demon Meg (Rachel Miner), whose loyalties are always up in the air; Naomi (Amanda Tapping), a sinister, manipulative angel who drags Cas around unknowingly by an unseen leash; Abaddon (Alaina Huffman), a nigh immortal demon with ties to The Men of Letters; and Metatron (Curtis Armstrong), a low-level angel and smalltown hermit who went into hiding after God vacated the premises.
Familiar allies emerge from their hideaways too. Kevin's been hardened by a tough year, which is a nice shift for the coming-of-age prophet. His mother (Lauren Tom) returns, snarky and spirited as ever. Garth (DJ Qualls) is back, and still a fun but inadequate replacement for Bobby (no matter how much the showrunners attempt to make Qualls and his analyst an asset to the series). Even sweet Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day, the most likely candidate to star in a viable Supernatural spin-off) pops up, matching the Winchesters wit for wit. The series is as sharp as ever when it comes to its characters and comedy, striking an oft-times deft balance between humor, drama, horror and action; a balance other genre mashup series die terrible deaths failing to achieve.
By season's end, I found myself warming to the series again, having lost faith during the episodes preceding "Torn and Frayed." There are still far too many bumps in the road -- filler that a more streamlined season of 12-15 episodes might help the writers avoid -- and the showmakers remain a tad rudderless, without a clear command of where they're going or why. That all begins to change around the season's midpoint, thank God, and the resurgence of Heaven and Hell-centric episodes brings Season Eight more in line with the good ol' days of Seasons Three through Five. Will the ninth season (which premieres on Tuesday, October 8th) and tenth, possibly Final Ride of the Winchesters right old wrongs and redeem two uneven seasons? I'm not counting the series down for the count quite yet. If executive producer and showrunner Jeremy Carver can avoid the rookie mistakes of Season Eight (his first) and start as strong as each season so reliably ends, we may find ourselves praising the CW powers that be for stretching the saga beyond what sometimes feels like its breaking point.
The Complete Eighth Season Episode Guide:
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season continues the series' impressive run on Blu-ray thanks to its excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation. Like previous seasons, the latest twenty-three episodes are largely free of issues, minus some crush and uneven noise, both of which trace back to the show's source. A bit of banding sneaks in here and there, but otherwise, all is exactly as it should be. Colors are often drained of life, yet skintones are nicely saturated, primaries drip off the screen (oh, those reds), black levels are atmospheric and ominous, and contrast is consitently strong. Moreover, detail is terrific, particularly when it comes to closeups. The five-o-clock shadows, the flecks of blood, the nicks and scars, the fangs, the errant hairs, the specks of grime and broken glass. Edge definition is crisp, clean and free of ringing as well, and fine textures have been precisely resolved, without incident. All told, Season Eight looks great in high definition. There are some low-budget eyesores, sure, but fans won't flinch for a second.
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Complete Eighth Season's sonics never disappoint either, courtesy of another tip-top DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is clear and intelligible at all times, even when spoken on the run in the middle of a deadly forest or mid-fight, as whatever beastie-of-the-week closes in for the kill. Prioritization is spot on, with a well-balanced mix that allows sound effects, music and, at times, utter chaos swirl round the Winchesters and envelop the listener. LFE output is fierce and satisfying, with deep, menacing thooms and plenty of low-end oomph. The rear speakers are armed and raring to go at all times, embracing subtle ambience in the still of the night and unleashing suitably unsettling hell whenever the silence is broken. Dynamics are outstanding too, as is directionality and channel-pan transparency. If anything, supernatural energy blasts and other magic effects have a tendency to sound a bit stagey and on the nose, although each instance is undoubtedly a product of the series' sound design, nothing more. Like the most recent season releases, Supernatural's latest delivers the AV goods.
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack Contents (Subject to Change): The initial combo pack release of Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season features a slipcover (with the original pressing), four BD-50 discs, and an UltraViolet digital copy (Flixster download via redemption code, expires 9/10/2015). Please note: The Complete Eighth Season UltraViolet digital copy "does not include an iTunes file, but is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and most Android devices."
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Supernatural continues to struggle in Kripke's absence. Season Eight is better than Season Seven, though. While its earliest episodes suffer, the second half of the season finds its groove and, eventually, its edge. If it manages to start strong when it returns to CW this fall, and if it manages to maintain or consistently ratchet up its momentum, Season Nine might just be a welcome return to form. The current showrunners have certainly shown their capable of greatness... they need only deliver greatness on a regular basis. Fortunately, Warner's Blu-ray release is much more reliable, with a terrific AV presentation comparable to the series' more recent Blu-ray releases. Additional commentaries or a Picture-in-Picture track would have helped, but the eighth season supplemental package has enough to offer to satiate rabid fans. If you already own Supernatural's previous season releases, there's absolutely no reason to quit now. Recommended.
Supernatural: Other Seasons
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• Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray - June 5, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially announced the Blu-ray release of Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season. The latest season of the popular CW supernatural series stars Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard, Osric Chau, Ty ...
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