Supernatural : Season 11 (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Menu Audio
Reversible Cover-Complete list of episodes and special features
Audio Commentary-Ep.4 : "Baby" by writer and director
Audio Commentary
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-Jensen Ackles on directing "The Bad Seed" (5:15)
Featurette-On Set with SPN : Contest Winners Tour Prize (29:47)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Winchester Myth (16:20)
Featurette-Making Of-Digital Magic : Enhancing the Sets (8:08)
Outtakes-Gag Reel (9:50)
Featurette-2015 Comic-Con Panel (28:45)
Deleted Scenes-9 deleted scenes (15:46)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 971:06 (Case: 969)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Singer
John Badham
Jensen Ackles
Thomas J. Wright
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jared Padalecki
Jensen Ackles
Misha Collins
Mark A. Sheppard
Rob Benedict
Emily Swallow
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI Rental Music Jay Gruska
Christopher Lennertz


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Recap pre credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     On October 17 last year, Season 11 - yes eleven - of Supernatural premiered in the U.S. and became the longest-running North American fantasy series on television. The series has now been renewed for a twelfth season, which will premiere in the U.S. on October 13 this year. However, there was a time when its creator must have doubted whether this series would ever make its way to TV screens. Ultimately, after numerous knock-backs and almost ten years spent in development, Supernatural was finally on the air in 2005. Almost instantly it found its fan base, a base that has remained loyal and dedicated, and has expanded over the years. Creator Eric Kripke had originally planned for a series of only three seasons, but with its success these were extended to five. These first five concluded the original story line, and Kripke left the show as its executive producer. The series continued with Sera Gamble at the helm for Seasons 6 and 7, followed by Jeremy Carver for Seasons 8 through 11.

     For the uninitiated, Supernatural tells the journey of two brothers, Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) and his younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki). Having lost their mother to supernatural forces, Sam and Dean were raised by their father Jack (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to be modern day soldiers who take to the road like the western hero of old - note their last name! Instead of mounting their trusty steeds, these two modern day cowboys hit the road in their Chevy '67 Impala, and set off to rid the American landscape of assorted mysterious demonic creatures. So, the show began as Season 1 structured as a road trip made by two modern young studs - and studs they definitely are - travelling the highways and byways of their land. Like the classic traditional cowboy hero, the two itinerant Winchesters - note the name - ride - sorry - drive into some small town, deal with the monsters and demons, kiss a gal or two, and, at episode's end, drive off into the sunset, just like Alan Ladd.

     As the series progressed through subsequent seasons the quest of the Winchester boys became more complex, and rather than tackle a "monster of the week", the seasons took on wider plot arcs as the lads came to battle the darker forces of Lucifer and Hell. Beginning with Season 5 creator Kripke wanted to add this element of Christian mythology, with a wide narrative arc that involved a myriad of angelic and demonic characters. Given the show's structure it is obvious that Dean and Sam will survive for next week's episode, though at times there are excursions into Hell that see temporary "passings". In order to gain an element of suspense, marginal characters are at times added and then killed off, at times within the one episode. In Season 4 we saw the first appearance of a powerful Angel of The Lord, Castiel, played by the charismatic Misha Collins. Subsequently we have seen Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), Metatron, the angel scribe of The Lord (Curtis Armstrong), and a powerful demon, Crowley (Mark Sheppard). The conclusion of Season 10 saw Dean unleashing The Darkness into the world. This darkness, the antithesis of Creation, is represented by Season 11's chief protagonist, Amara. By devouring demons Amara ages quickly from young girl, through tween to teenage and finally adult woman (Emily Swallow). At the close of Season 10, "The Darkness", who had been imprisoned by her brother, God, was released into the world and was washing over the Impala as the Winchesters tried to escape its dark forces. In Season 11 the sibling rivalry between the released Amara and her brother, God, becomes a sort of parallel thread to the story of our basic siblings, Sam and Dean.

     The twenty-three episodes of this season do not always concentrate on the central arc. The first three episodes set up the conflict between Amara, God and the Winchesters. Other biblical elements referenced here are The Reaper, Holy Fire, The Darkness, The Book of the Damned, assorted demons and angels, the mark of Cain - and a fairly frequent dose of fancy torture. Amara grows older as she devours demons and gets stronger in order to exact her revenge upon God. But not all episodes concentrate on this larger plot arc. As a sort of respite from all these highly involved shenanigans, Episode 4, "Baby", is a dialogue driven character piece. This extremely well written episode is a showcase for the real strengths of this series, and demonstrates why this series, after ten years, continues to enthral its fans. Put simply, these strengths are Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. The action in this episode, for almost its entire forty-two minutes, occurs within the cabin of the Impala, affectionately called "Baby" by Dean. These two protagonists may not be as young as they were in Season 1, but they have become consummate screen actors. The camera is able to focus on the smallest facial feature and both actors can portray complex emotions with almost immobile features. These two are ridiculously photogenic, and the lighting and photography continually bring to mind the sumptuous close-ups favoured by Douglas Sirk in his 50's weepies at Universal. Jensen Ackles (My Bloody Valentine), shorter and burlier than his younger brother, is more conventionally handsome. His self-consciously masculine gruffness contrasts so well with the more sensitive and gently spoken Jared Padalecki - once slender but now a broad shouldered, pert nosed hunk. Any admirer who hasn't seen this actor in A Christmas Cottage should get hold of that charming movie - which co-stars Peter O'Toole and Marcia Gay Harden. Apart from "Baby", two episodes that stand relatively apart from the arc of Biblical mythology are two of the three that are directed by John Badham, director of Blue Thunder and my favourite interpretation of Bram Stoker's classic, Frank Langella's Dracula. These episodes begin with flashbacks to Ireland of thirty years ago ("Into the Mystic") and Nazi occupied France of 1943 ("The Vessel").

     This becomes the general pattern of the show with the overall arc episodes alternated with "boys on the road" episodes basically featuring the geek of the week. These episodes are frequently much lighter in tone with plots that have investigated murders in a hotel that was once the home of Lizzie Borden, the bunny mask murderer, high school murders revealing a nest of vampires, a wrestler's suicide, ghosts in a child's bedroom, werewolves and shapeshifters, orgies in the woods and other assorted "things that go bang in the night". This see-sawing continues until Episode 20, "Don't Call Me Shurley", where, from this point on, the focus is tightly on the central mythlogically based conflict.

     The twenty-three episodes of Season 11 are spread over four discs.

Disc 1

Disc 2

Disc 3

Disc 4

Special Features Disc 4

     Supernatural is a terrifically entertaining series. Frequently very funny, with smart witty dialogue, it is also exciting with very well executed action sequences, always well photographed and produced with very good special effects. Another ingredient to enjoy is the music. Apart from the original music almost all episodes feature catalogue music from, amongst others, Credence Clearwater Revival, Brian Wilson, Tom Jones, Bread, Edith Piaf, Judy Collins, and The Rolling Stones. The importance of music to the series comes to its peak in the "Don't Call Me Shurley" episode, when God (Rob Benedict) sings "Fare thee Well" sitting in a bar accompanying himself on guitar. More attention is given to the music of Supernatural in the Audio section below.

     Way back in the first episode of the first season, Sam criticises the music he finds on Dean's cassettes in the Impala. Dean responds: "House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cake hole." Dean's music was originally chosen by creator Eric Kripke, and continues to embody the energy of driving a car across the U.S. landscape while listening to "the greatest hits of mullet rock". It is this driving (pun intended) energy that is the core of this wildly entertaining and enduring series. If you haven't experienced Supernatural you may find that it is much more than you expected.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Roadshow have released Season 11 locally on four Blu-ray discs which deliver a flawless visual experience. This series looks a million bucks, with consistently excellent photography and beautiful colour. The palette is generally rich and strong, though never over saturated, unless intentionally, as in the bright primaries of a child's bedroom. When in Episode 11, "Back to the Mystic", we are in an Ireland of thirty years ago, the colours are more sombre, and in Episode 14, "The Vessel", we even have snatches of black-and-white as we are taken to Nazi occupied France of 1943. Detail is exceptional throughout, whether it is landscapes, the Impala beautifully framed or the flawless faces of the two male stars. When there are darker scenes, and there are many, the shadow detail is top notch as well. Skin tones are nigh perfect. This is one of the very best looking TV series.

     There are subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish (2) and Portuguese, white and centred at the foot of the image.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three audio tracks : English DTS - HD Master Audio 5.1 encoded at 48K, plus Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital.

     The dialogue is always crystal clear, and as far as I can detect, delivered front and centre. Actually there is only minimal movement across the front soundstage, generally when there is frantic movement of the Impala in a car chase. However, the surrounds are used extensively throughout every episode for effects and music. Whether it is subtle as in the rustling of leaves and the twittering of birds, or some ear shattering storm from hell, the surrounds almost overwhelm with their impact. There is also tremendous use of the subwoofer, employed whenever possible.

     I have to pay special attention to the music of Supernatural, all taking full advantage of the high-end capabilities of any home theatre system. There is the original "orchestral" synthesised score, with two alternating composers. Taking turns, episode by episode, are Jay Gruska and Christopher Lennertz. This is not synthesised elevator music, but pertinent musical punctuation of what is happening on screen. The main characters have their themes, and there is a pervading scariness to the scoring. There is a total absence of cliché in the horror aspects. You will not hear anything that resembles Carmina Burana here, no priests chanting Latin. This is original, genuinely fear evoking music. Individual instruments are at times added to the electronics and the subwoofer frequently is utilised to add elements of dread and fear. Added to this we have the catalogue of recorded music, evidently often chosen from creator Eric Kripke's personal library. Choices range from Led Zeppelin and The Beach Boys to Edith Piaf and Tom Jones. There is an emphasis on, as Kripke has called it, "mullet rock", but when it is appropriate tracks from other genres and periods make their way onto the eclectic soundtrack. This is a musically rich soundtrack that adds enormous vitality and impact to an already dynamic show.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is a healthy collection of extras here that should please any admirer of the show.

Menu

     The menu screen is the same on each of the four discs. There are full face portraits of the two stars, the same as on the slick, with music from the series under. On the reverse side of the slick is a complete list of episodes and the extra features to be found on the four discs.

Episode Audio Commentaries

     Ep. 4: "Baby". This episode pulled in the most viewers when shown in the U.S., and understandably so. It is an excellent episode and the commentary from writer Robbie Thompson and director Thomas J. Wright clearly shows the affection and pride they have in this example of their work. Much of the on-screen specific commentary focuses on the physical problems of shooting almost the entire episode inside the Impala, as the events are seen from the car's point-of-view. There are many interesting exchanges centring on the performances of the two stars. For any fan of the show this would be a fascinating commentary.

     Ep. 8: "Just My Imagination". The childhood imaginary friend is the basis of this episode, and as such this is a riot of colour. The world of the child is depicted with vibrant primary colours and much of the commentary is devoted to a discussion of this aspect of the production. Unfortunately the commentary by writer Jenny Klein and director Richard Speight Jr falls into the trap of being a bit too giggly and deteriorates into cute self-appreciation. It is mainly scene specific, and OK, but not as good as the "Baby" commentary. Once again there is great admiration shown for the work of two stars.

     Ep. 20: "Don't Call Me Shurley". Here the commentary is provided by writer Robbie Thompson assisted by actors Rob Benedict and Curtis Armstrong. This is a fascinating insight into the participation of the two actors, with particular concentration on one very lengthy dialogue scene from the episode.

Deleted Scenes

     There is a total of nine deleted scenes, accessible from the menu on the disc containing the particular episode. All scenes are of the same video quality as the episode itself.

Featurettes

     These interesting, well made featurettes are all presented in high-definition and are of generally excellent quality, with a deterioration in quality in only a few of the poorly lit behind-the-camera shots.

Jensen Ackles on Directing "The Bad Seed" (5:15)

     An enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at actor/director Jensen Ackles as he directs the third episode of Season 11. Though very brief no time is lost with many glimpses of Ackles at work and discussing his preparation for and approach to his work. Comments from various heads from the production side, as well as from actors Jared Padalecki and Mark Sheppard.

On Set with SPN: The Real Fan Contest (29:47)

     This one runs for just under half an hour and follows two winners of the Supernatural "Become a Hunter" contest . We follow the lucky two, plus two friends, as they are rewarded with the "very rare and coveted prize" of spending a day on the set of Supernatural. I have to say that this did not sound like compelling viewing, but it turned out to be a moving experience as the happy foursome are taken on a tour of the studio production, followed by a day looking at the various locations used. The shots of the locations of the two winners - one from Oregon and the other from Tokyo - have startling high definition clarity. In the studio the four are taken through the various production departments, have a ride in the Impala and, after lunch, finally get to meet the two handsome stars and have photos taken with them. Finally latecomer Misha Collins arrives to greet the four ecstatic fans. The emotion displayed by the winning contestants is so genuine that the viewer, at least this one, is left quite touched.

The Winchester Myth (16:20)

     This one explores the Winchesters' battle with Amara, and discusses in some depth the dual sibling threads in the show. There are the two brothers, Sam and Dean, and the brother and sister, God and Amara. Comments are offered by producers and writers, as well as the male stars and Emily Swallow. If you get a bit lost in the mythology as you watch the season, I would suggest that you take a break and watch this, then go back to watching the episodes.

Digital Magic: Enhancing the Sets with VFX (8:08)

     Hosted by Executive Consultant Robert Singer we take a look at how visual effects enhance the series. With interesting comments from Production Designer Jerry Wanek, Art Director John Marcynuk and VFX Supervisor Mark Meloche we concentrate on the varied depictions of Hell, and the demands of the submarine design for Episode 14. It's a pity this one is so short, because it's interesting.

Supernatural: 2015 Comic-Con Panel (28:45)

     This featurette, again just short of half an hour, is filmed at the 2015 Comic-Con gathering held in San Diego. Moderated by guest stars Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, the four main male cast members and their director and writer sit in front of a large fan audience. The first twenty minutes is plain awful, with the eight males behaving stupidly in a display of "boys will be boys" camaraderie. After twenty minutes of watching them goof around the audience gets to ask about three questions and that improves things a bit. This is no one's finest half-hour.

Gag Reel (9:50)

     Here we have the basic on-camera mistakes featuring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard and Ruth Connell. Undoubtedly this is purely for the fans, but it's pretty enjoyable watching the attractive stars fluffing lines and dancing around like idiots.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 Blu-ray release is identical to the Region 1 release.

Summary

     Supernatural is an excellent series. Extremely popular with its mainly young and female audience, it does not get its due from others who require lashings of swearing, gore and nudity in their entertainment. It looks fantastic, sounds great, contains excellent action sequences and SFX, has terrific music, two top young actors and has tight dialogue that is smart and witty but never crude. This four disc release is picture and sound perfect and contains a generous and interesting array of features - but give the Comic-Con panel a miss. This is a must for fans - and for others if prepared to do a little homework on the series.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDOPPO BDP-103AU, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 60UF850T 4K. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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