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Supernatural Companion Season 1
      Supernatural Companion Season 2
Nicholas Knight
      Nicholas Knight
Titan Books, 159 pages
      Titan Books, 159 pages

Supernatural Companion Season 1
Supernatural Companion Season 2
Supernatural Companion
The Supernatural Companion series features an episode guide along with interviews of the actors and crew and other show details.

Supernatural Companion Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandy Auden

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Two brothers cruising the US on a Route 66 style road trip.

It's a simple premise for a TV series but it became far more sophisticated and infinitely more sexy than anyone could have anticipated.

Supernatural is a happy coincidence of good story telling, powerful performances and exceptional crew combining together to deliver scary episodes that are fun and intriguing all at the same time. Its success has finally been recognised and the merchandising wagon has started rolling.

In this second of three Supernatural reviews, we look at the official Supernatural Companions to Season One and Season Two by Nicholas Knight.

The two seasons both consist of a series of stand alone episodes but they have very different overall plotlines. The first sees the two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, searching for their demon-hunting Dad, John, who is in turn searching for the yellow-eyed demon who murdered his wife, Mary. That demon, many years later, also kills Sam's girlfriend Jessica.

In the second season, the boys have to cope with another family bereavement, while simultaneously dealing with Sam's increasing psychic abilities and the discovery of other people with similar skills. As more connections arise between these psychics, it becomes clearer that there is a very specific reason why they've been chosen.

Structure

Both volumes follow Titan Books general Companion layout, which comprises of an episode guide followed by interviews with the actors and crew. Quotes from the characters and trivia from the show, including a listing of the music tracks used in each episode, are liberally sprinkled throughout the sections; and between the episodes we get additional information on the urban legends that inspired the stories like thos for wendigos and the reapers.

At the back, there are interviews with the main actors, a section on the all important 1967 Chevy Impala car and a Meet The Crew series of interviews.

The layout makes it easy to find what you want, although an index would have been a useful addition. The content itself is broader than expected. The focus of the books is the entire show -- in front and behind the cameras. Knight has even delved into the numerous nooks and crannies where all the interesting stuff hides, like the creative inspiration for the soundtrack and the design of the motel rooms that we often take for granted, and the books are better for this approach.

The Episode Guides

Every episode gets at least four pages of coverage. On the whole, the episode summaries are a little too brief but they do pick out most of the important points -- quite an achievement given some of the convoluted plots like "Skin" and "The Benders." Only the double-episode finales at the end of each season get a full-blooded ten pages of interviews and synopsis, and these have a much meatier, satisfying feel to them. Covering each episode to this depth would have resulted in a more complete Companion but it would also have doubled the size of the book, bringing the corresponding increase in price. At its current length, it's far more accessible to the fans so the compromise of shorter episodes is understandable.

The interview sections cover an excellent range of cast and crew, from the actors, creator and directors through to the special effects supervisors, costume crew, hairstylists and composers. There's some repetition from the interviewees but mostly they're informative and lead to a greater appreciation of the effort involved bringing each episode to the screen.

Rather than just being an "isn't Supernatural wonderful" section, these interviews express honest thoughts about what worked and what didn't work; where it was scary and where it fell flat. As you'd expect, everyone has different favorites and it's fun comparing their opinions to your own.

Extras

Between the episode guides nestles a series of articles that take "A Closer Look At..." the Urban Legends at the root of the stories and gives a little more detail about what inspired each episode. Season Two's article on Supernatural's Ghost Rules is a must-read for an insight into funny behind-the-scenes situations and an additional "Closer Look Atů" on Possessions (supporting Season Two's "Born Under A Bad Sign") would have been a welcome addition, but these articles are well done on the whole. Where you're looking at Vampire or Werewolf lore, it's always going to be impossible to get the entire history onto a single page so don't go expecting miracles from these.

At the back of the book, interviews with the actors give a real insight into what they were trying to achieve in their role, despite not having a full idea of where the story was going. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles explain how they got the job and creator Eric Kripke comments on how the Chevy Impala was selected. There's also more behind the scenes information in the Meet The Crew section, and a look at whether any of the cast and crew actually believe in supernatural beings.

The book is enhanced both by the black and white stills from each episode and the separate section featuring sixteen gorgeous colour plates. There's a scattering of little fact boxes sharing snippets of trivia and a huge range of smart-ass quotes that illustrates the sharpness of the show's writing crew.

Verdict

So, do the Companions hit the sweet spot for a Supernatural fan?

The overall answer is yes, but not without a couple of small gripes.

The trivia fact boxes are interesting -- from the text message that Sam receives in Episode Six's "Skin" to the street names referenced in the pilot being real names from Eric Kripke's home town, Toledo -- but they stick to fairly high level factual details and don't display the in-depth, obsessiveness found in Companions for other series.

Also, the volumes lack a general feeling of fun, especially in Season One where the only irreverent article is Sam Winchester's entertaining "22 Reasons Not To Go On A Road Trip With My Brother". The second volume does get better with daft anecdotes from the interviewees though, so at least there's hope for the upcoming Season Three Companion.

All that said, the books succeed in delivering something for everyone and whether you just want to drool quietly over the publicity shots of Dean and Sam or spot the in-jokes about squeaky car doors and Official Bikini Inspectors, there is no doubt that these Companions will enhance your viewing pleasure with ease.

Copyright © 2008 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and a combination interviewer/reviewer for SFSite.com and UKSFBookNews.net. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.


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