How's this for a story arc: the Gates of Hell are opened, unleashing both Lucifer himself and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and bringing to an end civilization as we know it. That's what awaits fans of Supernatural
in its fifth and most epic season to date. The stumbles in plot or character that are typical to most long-running series are largely missing from this season (though some might consider the stunt casting of Paris Hilton as a pagan goddess in "Hammer of the Gods" as such); instead, there's a solid, complex, and entirely satisfying run of episodes, and even a pair of series highlights in "Changing Channels" and "The Real Ghostbusters." The former finds heroes Sam and Dean (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) trapped in a TV-influenced netherworld populated by perverse small-screen archetypes, while the latter is a clever bit of meta-fiction involving a real ghost at a Supernatural
fan convention, complete with Winchester brothers look-alikes. The other 20 episodes bounce between stand-alone adventures and the larger story at hand, which finds the brothers racing to collect the rings of the Four Horsemen, which will return Lucifer to his prison. This is fantasy storytelling for television at its best--broad in scope and heavy with special effects, but never forgetting that the core of the show is the relationship between Sam and Dean and their joint quest to rid the world of evil. Both are well represented here in a season that brings the show's main story line to its fitting and satisfying conclusion.
Fans should also be pleased with most of the extras on the six-disc set for Season 5. The most ambitious feature is the Apocalypse Survival Guide, hosted by Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver). Presented as a tour through Bobby's house, the guide gives viewers a detailed lowdown on the major players in the war against Satan, including the Horsemen, various demons, and the Man in Red himself. Navigating one's way through the interactive videos can be a challenge, as the layout requires viewers to constantly restart the disc in order to review certain videos, but for sheer informational content, it's hard to beat. Also present is a commentary track by series creator Eric Kripke (who left the series at the end of this season) and writer Ben Edlund on "The End," which required such elaborate sets that the show earned its own back lot; said location also gets a once-over, as does an unaired scene from "The Real Ghostbusters." Best of all is perhaps the entire web series Ghostfacers, which pokes much-needed fun at the reality show Ghost Hunters in addition to providing some minor scares. --Paul Gaita