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Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season(TV) (2011-2012)
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 Seventh Season and the Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray release, see Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 13, 2012 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 Seventh Season Blu-ray Review
Carry on my wayward son... just not too far down this road, okay?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 13, 2012
No. No. No, no, no, no. This is not how a season of Supernatural is supposed to go. Season Six was a bit uneven, sure. Its Big Bad didn't quite pan out, Soulless Sam wore out his welcome, and a few too many monster-of-the-week episodes made it less of a fresh, post-Apocalypse start and more of a thrilling sidebar. But it at least wasn't cursed with Season One's growing pains or Season Two's mini-melodramas. (Dad's dead, Dean. Dad's dead. Dean! Dad's dead! Dad's dead, Dean! Dean... dad's dead. Dead!) Rookie showrunner Sera Gamble not only proved the series was in capable hands, she hit the ground running, pitting Sam and Dean against an even greater threat than Michael or Lucifer, returning to the show's monster-hunter roots (while complicating matters further in Heaven and Hell), dragging several mainstays to darker depths than before, and making the Winchesters' world a more volatile and explosive killing field than it already was. As if that weren't enough, Season Six ended with one of the most shocking, jaw-dropping Supernatural twists to date. Uneven, yes. Underwhelming? Not at all. Now if only I could say the same of Season Seven...
If you aren't caught up on Supernatural, best clear out now. There are some vicious Season Six spoilers dead ahead. Last chance. Alright... as the sixth season drew to a close, archangel Raphael and newly anointed King of Hell Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard) had joined forces to open a gateway to Purgatory. The less-than-likely duo failed, of course, thanks to some quick-thinking and sleight of hand by humanity's favorite angel, Castiel (Misha Collins). But that didn't mean the Winchester boys came out on top. Instead of preventing the gateway from being opened, Cas did the unthinkable and opened it himself, consuming every last soul in the process. Though his intentions were good, well, you know what comes next: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Turning to Sam and Dean (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), a supercharged Castiel calmly, oh-so-cooly uttered the words that would continue to blow the minds of series fans for the next four months: "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." The moral of the story, kids? Drink souls responsibly.
Season Seven drops the ball almost from the outset. Turns out Castiel isn't the main antagonist of Supernatural's latest 23 episodes after all, or a major player for that matter. He doesn't even hold onto his godhood for more than an episode, having learned the hard way that it's impossible for a mere angel to contain -- much less harness and control -- so many souls. If that strikes you as something of a spoiler, it should... until you learn that everything I just mentioned is crammed into the first forty minutes of the entire season. Soon after Cas is rid of the souls clawing at his guts, we're introduced to the real Nasties of Season Seven: the Leviathans, a new monster in the series' mythos pulled out of a lone passage in the Book of Job. Shape-shifters, face-munchers and generally testy world-enders, the Leviathans have been locked away in Purgatory for eons, ever since God determined they were too destructive to be a part of Creation. And surprise, surprise: they're none too pleased about the eternal prison sentence they've been serving. But not so fast, armchair Winchesters. Rather than destroy the world, the Leviathans' endgame is far more sinister... and enterprising. As Big Bads go, though, the Leviathans are tantalizing but underdeveloped; truly formidable foes that simply aren't as compelling as the demons, rogue angels, Alpha monsters and abominations that frequent the show. Yes, James Patrick Stuart sneers and leers with the best of 'em as their leader, wealthy entrepreneur-turned-grinning-mansuit Dick Roman, and yes, the race to uncover what the Leviathans are up to gives the seventh season serious momentum. But little else goes for the jugular, least of all the First Beasts' campy master plan.
Other elements, developments, and good ol' fashioned twists-n-turns are just as hit or miss. As memories of his stint in Hell begin flooding back, Sam once again emerges as a wild card, this time with visions of Mark Pellegrino's fiendishly vindictive Lucifer dancing in his head. (Is the Devil a stowaway, latched onto Sam's soul? Or is he a hallucination, created by Sam's fractured psyche?) Which would be more intriguing if Padalecki didn't traverse such familiar ground and gain such speed before running headlong into his limits as a dramatic actor. (Not that Gamble and her writers give him very much meaty material to work with.) Dean, meanwhile, thrown off his game by a gut punch sure to leave longtime fans reeling as well, tows the line admirably, even if Ackles is wasted in a mopey tough-guy storyline that only resonates for a short time. The same goes for Collins and Jim Beaver, the former being squandered in a throwaway subplot involving a prophet (Osric Chau) capable of translating the Word of God, and the latter, as fan-favorite father figure Bobby Singer, makes a sizable impact... before being dropped into a holding pattern. It's as if the writer's room ran out of steam mid-season, unsure of how to make the Leviathans more memorable, unsure of where to take key characters, unsure of what to do with the big changes they had proposed or were proposing. Unsure of a lot of things. It says something when the seventh season's guest stars -- Julian Richings as Death, DJ Qualls as Winchester ally Garth Fitzgerald IV, Felicia Day as a hacker working in Roman's headquarters, James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter as bickering witches, Nicholas Lea as Eliot Ness (in a fantastic episode involving time travel), Rick Worthy's Alpha Vamp, and others -- walk away with many of the standout scenes.
All is not lost, though, and I certainly haven't lost heart. Sam and Dean don't go quietly or fade into the night (much), many of their hunts are as frantic, frightening or funny as ever (when judged on each episode's individual merits, that is), Beaver and the supporting cast help justify most of the major changes made to the fabric of the Supernatural universe, and Season Seven provides just enough of that patented series punch to keep the fight going. By the time the Leviathans have been dealt with and cruel Mistress Fate has had her way with the Winchesters, Gamble and company have already begun pointing towards what will hopefully be a leaner, meaner, more consistent eighth season, one that promises to grant an old enemy a long-overdue seat at the Featured Creatures table. (I know, I know. The same writer's room pulled the same dirty trick at the end of last season before realizing they would actually have to follow through with a New God story arc. Let's pray Gamble learned her lesson.) And there wasn't any point where the series jumped the proverbial shark. Dexter's sixth season left me wondering how its writers could possibly dig their way out of the grave they buried themselves in. Supernatural's seventh season is a different beast entirely. It doesn't jump the shark, bury itself or do anything I'd call detrimental. It just has the unfortunate dishonor of being the show's weakest season; something that shouldn't be happening this late in its run. If Season Eight has similar issues, it might be time to finally close up shop. If newly appointed showrunner Jeremy Carver and his writing team find new creative veins to mine, then I say long live the Winchesters. Either way, here's hoping Supernatural has something better than Leviathans up its sleeve when the series returns to the CW this October.
The Complete Seventh Season Guide, with Episode Impressions and Scores
Hello, Cruel World: "Racked by hallucinations, Sam struggles to distinguish Hell from Earth; Leviathans escape Castiel's body and infiltrate Sioux Falls General Hospital." My take: promising but worrisome. Couldn't stop wondering where they were going with Castiel. My score: 4/5
The Girl Next Door: "In 1998, Sam developed a crush on a pretty monster he was hunting. Now she's back with the same M.O.: devouring her victims' pituitary glands." My take: a waste of guest star Jewel Staite. And why was the Cas and Leviathans story abandoned so quickly? My score: 2/5
Defending Your Life: "When the Egyptian god Osiris puts Dean on trial for his past sins, Sam summons up his rusty legal skills to defend his brother." My take: Isn't it a bit early to traipse down episodic paths? Feels like a first season episode, and an average one at that. My score: 2.5/5
Shut Up, Dr. Phil: "A hairdryer. A cupcake. A martini-soaked eyeball. Husband-and-wife witches employ inventive deadly weapons in their latest marital squabble." My take: shoulda, coulda been better. Marsters and Carpenter are great, but Padalecki and Ackles aren't. My score: 2.5/5
Slash Fiction: "Most Wanted, Sam and Dean. Leviathan clones of the Winchesters go kill crazy, then wait for the FBI to bring the real brothers down." My take: an arresting new direction that doesn't pan out. Good while it lasted. My score: 4/5
The Mentalists: "Sam and Dean investigate the most psychic town in America, where local mediums summon spirits then die gruesome deaths." My take: an inconsequential whodunit that's more of a distraction than a memorable episode. My score: 1/5
Season 7, Time For a Wedding!: "The Winchesters' Vegas trip turns romantic when Sam ties the knot in the Little White Chapel. Is it true love... or a love potion?" My take: somewhat cute but altogether trivial, this one's only redeemed by Crowley cleaning house. My score: 2/5
How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters: "Sam, Dean and Bobby encounter a monster in the New Jersey Woods. Dean encounters a monster sandwich at a local restaurant." My take: one of the season's worst. Couldn't stand the sandwich angle, can't believe they decided to run with it later. My score: 1/5
Death's Door: "Deep in a coma, a hunter relives the most profound -- and secret -- moments of his life. Death's door opens wide for a friend. Will it take him?" My take: I cried like a baby. One of the best of the season, if not the entire series. My score: 5/5
Adventures in Babysitting: "Dean searches relentlessly for Dick Roman. Sam steps up when a frightened girl calls asking for help." My take: lost me at the beginning, after leaping ahead several weeks. Decent followup, not all that it could have been, though. My score: 2.5/5
Time After Time After Time: "Hurtled back through time to 1944, Dean teams up with legendary federal agent -- and secret hunter -- Eliot Ness to find a time-traveling killer." My take: fun, fun, fun. More Ness as a monster-slaying force of Prohibition, please. My score: 4/5
The Slice Girls: "Dean's a dad after a one-night stand with an Amazon. Too bad the tribe has a postpartum tradition: dismembering the father of the baby." My take: a little bit of comedy, a little bit of creepy creaturing, and Dean facing fatherhood. Good but predictable. My score: 3/5
Plucky Pennywhistle's Magic Menagerie: "A mysterious murderer who uses childhood fears as weapons knows Sam's particular vulnerability." My take: a lot of fans loved this one. I thought it was okay. It had its ups (death by unicorn impalement!) but it also had a few too many downs. And clowns. My score: 3/5
Repo Man: "Four years ago, Sam and Dean saved a man possessed by a demon. Now a mental patient, he may be their only clue when the demon reemerges." My take: classic, twisted Supernatural. It's not only one of the better standalone eps of the season, it deploys Lucifer masterfully. My score: 4.5/5
Out With the Old: "Cursed objects -- ballet shoes, a teakettle, a gramophone -- lead Sam and Dean to a life-and-death confrontation with the Leviathans." My take: in-fighting amongst the Leviathans doesn't go a long way to making them more interesting. Entertaining but unremarkable. My score: 3/5
The Born-Again Identity: "When Sam suffers a mental breakdown, Dean contacts a faith healer. His name: Emanuel. His previous, forgotten name: I'm not telling." My take: finally! Not sold on the method at all, but I dig the madness. My score: 3/5
Party On, Garth: "You've been Garthed. Sam, Dean and goofy Garth hunt a fiend they can see only after they've engaged in some serious boozing." My take: Garth provides the laughs, the rest of the episode provides the groans. Not my favorite episode. My score: 2/5
Of Grave Importance: "When the brothers take on malevolent specters in a haunted house, they discover there's a ghost on their side." My take: The first of five taught, tightly penned episodes, and a preview of darker things to come. My score: 4/5
The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo: "Roman's best hacker, a social misfit with a motor scooter, works to crack a hard drive full of info about Sam and Dean." My take: Day kills in this riff on Dragon Tattoo, as does Stuart in all his smarmy villainy. If only the prophet were more interesting. My score: 4/5
Reading is Fundamental: "The Winchesters break open a sacred tablet, a storm erupts, a former ally awakes, and a studious teenage cellist transforms into a prophet." My take: more angels and demons than we've seen all season. The prophet is still a bore, though. My score: 4/5
There Will Be Blood: "A powerful spell requires blood from the Alpha Vampire and Crowley. Unfortunately, neither one is in any mood to donate." My take: Crowley and the Alpha Vamp? Why weren't these two the main antagonists of Season Seven? My score: 4.5/5
Survival of the Fittest: "Armed with everything they need including a ragtag crew of friends and enemies, Sam and Dean take the fight to the Leviathans' doorstep." My take: A battle is won too easily, but the finale delivers and ends with the promise of expanding the role of a familiar face next season. My score: 4/5
Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Like previous Supernatural Blu-ray releases (particularly seasons three through six), The Complete Seventh Season lays its beasties to eternal rest with a terrific 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation. The series' palette can be as bleak, grim and gritty as it ever has, but there's still plenty of wiggle room when it comes to bold splashes of color, eye-catching primaries, vivid reds, lifelike skintones and deep blacks. Contrast and delineation aren't as discriminating -- as usual -- but only by design. Shadows sometimes drain the backgrounds dry while hot whites often give sunlit scenes a stark, overcast appearance. Detail, though, remains unhindered and undeterred. Fine textures are refined and precisely resolved, edges are crisp and free of anomalies (meaning isn't much in the way of significant ringing to be found), closeups are remarkable, and the graininess of the image hasn't been tempered or reigned in. And the encode itself? Crush rears its head now and again, but that's about it. There isn't any troubling artifacting, banding, aliasing, smearing or bouts of aberrant noise to report, and most everything holds up to close scrutiny. Could the presentation have been improved if Warner had granted Season Seven more discs and each episode more room to breathe? Perhaps. Twenty-three episodes spread across four discs does seem a bit tight. But there simply isn't any damning visual evidence to suggest as much. Supernatural continues to impress in high definition, and fans -- whether they embrace or reject the series' latest season -- will be hard pressed to come up with any meaningful complaint when it comes to its first-class presentation.
Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
No complaints here either. The Complete Seventh Season's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track sinks its fangs into every grisly Leviathan attack, angelic blast, vicious killing spree, stake stab, Tommy Gun eruption, bestial roar, factory explosion, crack of thunder and creaking door the latest Supernatural season has on tap. Low-end output is unrelenting, ripping open Purgatory portals, reigning fire from Heaven, and pitting monster against monster with savage glee. The LFE channel never loses control, thanks to precision dynamics and near-flawless prioritization, and never dominates the soundscape either. (Except when called upon to do just that.) The rear speakers are bristling with activity too, and while a few directional effects shoot wide, the vast majority help create a palpably thick atmosphere and an immersive, altogether unnerving soundfield. Through it all, dialogue doesn't deviate, remaining clear, intelligible and well-grounded even when all Hell breaks loose. Sometimes rather literally. I wouldn't go so far as to dust off the word perfect (there are a few slight sound design hiccups), but I doubt the seventh season could sound any better than it does here. Lossless audio suits Supernatural, and it's nice to see it finally being granted to each new season.
Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Supernatural's seventh season isn't as tight and consistent as its sixth. Or its fifth. Or its fourth. Or... let's just save time and say Season Seven is the show's weakest to date. That said, it still manages to entertain, still manages to deliver in the long run and, aside from serving up some of the worst episodes of the entire series, ends strong and points to a sharper, smarter eighth season. Warner's Blu-ray release isn't nearly as uneven, especially when it comes to its outstanding AV presentation. The 4-disc set's supplemental package could use some more oomph, perhaps in the form of additional audio commentaries and fuller behind-the-scenes documentaries, but fans will get their fill nonetheless. All in all, it wasn't a great season, but I'm still proud to count myself a fan. My advice? Think of this one as Season 6.5, enjoy on its own hit or miss terms, and prepare yourself for Season 8 this fall.
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