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This time last year I was reviewing The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season on DVD, and now I’m reviewing the second season on DVD. Time certainly seems to fly in this series, right? Unless we’re stuck in the middle of a hiatus, of course.
The following review is based on the UK DVD set. As far as we’re aware, both the DVD and Blu-ray editions in the UK and the US will have the exact same features, so what I’m reviewing is most likely what you’ll be getting regardless of what version you purchase.
So, on with the review!
For reasons unknown, the UK cover art differs from the cover art advertised for the USA, featuring the the ballet promo image (left). I have to admit this fits better with the cover art for season 1, and I’ve seen quite a few American Vampire Diaries fans (Vee included) say that they prefer the ballet image themselves. While the cover may differ, the contents of the set should be exactly the same in the UK as they will be in the USA.
The rest of the artwork on the spine and back matches the first season with the scrollwork, vines and crows, though in purple rather than red. It’s clear that they’re all part of the same series, and the OCD perfectionists amongst us (of which I am one) will be very satisfied with them sitting on their shelves together. Just pray that they keep the theme up for season 3!
The disc art, however, is completely different, using the flowers from the recent water promos. I loved the promo pics themselves (aside from certain shirt choices), but would have preferred more of the scrollwork as on the season 1 discs. But then I’m not a flowery kind of guy, and do admit my first thought was ‘why did it have to be flowers?!’. I’m sure I’m not alone, as the Vampire Diaries does have a surprising amount of males amongst its fanbase. Flowery issues aside, they do look really excellent.
Again, the packaging is pretty economical, fitting all 5 discs into a standard-sized DVD case. The sleeve is also compact, though these days I am questioning the need for such sleeves when the plastic box fits everything in it. But then I’d also rather that box sets (and CDs, for that matter) came entirely in cardboard packaging so we aren’t putting more plastic out there… I’ll get off my soapbox now. As these things go, thumbs up for not being needlessly wasteful.
I do, sadly, have gripes. The first is really quite minor, in that the DVD holders are flimsy and fiddly. Season 1 had fantastic flip holders that gave you easy access while being secure. I’m not sure I trust the season 2 holders and may well be sourcing out a better case for it. Which may also help solve my biggest problem with the packaging…
Season 1 contained a nifty booklet which contained episode and disc information. Sadly, this isn’t present in the Season 2 set. Instead the information is printed on the back of the cover slip. Now, while I’m all for saving resources and reducing packaging, this time it’s on the side of fail. As the DVDs are stored on both sides of the case, there’s no way to properly see the episode information – even with the discs removed – unless you remove the cover slip from the case. This is pretty sub-optimal, and I think even a sheet of paper with the info printed on both sides would be acceptable over this setup. For anyone who wants to be able to print this off so you have a copy you can fold into the case for easy access, there’s a hi-res version here.
On the subject of the episode synopses on the cover slip… some of them are pretty cheesy, and I can’t decide whether I should be amused or cringe away from them. “Katherine adds to her stable of conquests”? “Jules and her Wolfman lover”? Both of those have me cringing. Though there’s a certain hilarious something about “Stefan and Damon lurk behind party masks at a lavish masquerade ball, preparing to kill.”
As with season 1, these are simple menus with the same background music by Michael Suby. While they may not be flashy, they are easy to navigate and prettied up with various episode and promotional stills. The deleted scenes are, thankfully, paired up with the correct episodes this time around. On the down side, episodes are still, sadly, listed only by number with no title, a feature which would have been nice to have seen fixed.
Once again, I’m very pleased to see the inclusion of English subtitles for the hard of hearing along with regular English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles.
Sound & Video
When I reviewed the season 1 DVDs I didn’t have a fancy television or sound system. I still don’t have a fancy sound system, but I do now have a decent television, and can say that the picture quality on these DVDs is crisp and clear, and a delight to watch. There’s nothing to grumble about the sound, either. All in all, the second season of the Vampire Diaries is preserved in excellent quality for repeat watching. Though whether the discs themselves can hold up to the abuse some fans may repeatedly put them through, who can tell?
There are less special features on the season 2 set than there were on season 1, and my initial reaction when they were announced was to be a little worried that it would make the features somewhat lacking in comparison. However, what is lost in quantity is made up for in quality. Retrofit have produced a set of very interesting and often funny special features.
Her Own Worst Enemy… Elena, Katherine and Nina!: As if we didn’t already know that Nina Dobrev does an amazing job playing so many roles on the show, this featurette goes behind the scenes to show us how they shoot the scenes with both Elena and Katherine, and the painstaking detail they go to really is quite amazing. More to the point, the extra effort that Nina has to go to in order to pull these scenes off as an actress is mind-blowing, and she deserves so much respect for what she does. I was also a bit disturbed to discover what Nina and cast members have said about how her demeanour changes depending on who she’s playing. Dressed up as Katherine for the interview, I got a very real sense of her being an almost different person to the Nina we’re used to in most interviews.
The Perfect Love Triangle, Vampires Werewolves and Witches: Thought you were confused about who’s related and who’s dating? Don’t worry, the cast and producers are, too. Luckily, this handy featurette helps clear that up, providing a useful relationship tree to keep track of everyone. Not that it clears things up all that much, but it’s certainly hilarious as the cast and producers try and work everything out themselves and try to explain it. A special shout out has to go to Candice Accola for having the most entertaining summary of the whole Damon/Elena/Tomb deal. Seriously, she should be given her own feature spot recapping episodes.
Pages of the Wolf: Werewolves have been a big focus this season, so it’s especially interesting to see what went on behind the scenes with the wolves and the transformation effects. We’ve all seen interviews with Michael Trevino and Candice Accola explaining how difficult and exhausting shooting Tyler’s transformation scene was, but these features allow them to go into far more depth along with insight from the producers and those responsible for the special effects. Seeing just how hard everyone worked on these scenes both in front of the camera, behind it and in the editing room just makes the viewer appreciate everything that goes into this show all the more.
Second Bite Gag Reel: Not much you can say about gag reels as they speak for themselves. This one does the job excellently, perhaps even better since season 1 as the cast and crew know each other a lot better, and more hilarity ensues. My particular favourite is Alaric’s ‘follow me on Twitter’ quip.
Unaired Scenes: Many of these are fun or interesting little snippets that were cut from episodes to save time, and nothing is lost from the episode with them missing. There are some interesting snippets to be learned (that may or may not be considered canon in the future), such as Katherine and Elena sharing 22nd June as their birthday (as if we needed the extra creep factor added to the whole doppelganger thing!). There are a couple of scenes with Stefan that add some more insight to his character; a couple of interesting discussions with Jeremy and Katherine, and an extra treat as Stefan manages to turn the tables on Katherine in the tomb. Likewise, there’s a scene with Caroline and Tyler that gives a little more emotional depth to them both. While these obviously had to go due to time constraints, it’s nice to be able to see them, if only as an extra.
Masquerade Commentary: Like with season 1, the commentary on this set is disappointing because of the lack of it. From the rest of the special features it’s clear that the cast and crew are passionate about this show, and it would have been fantastic to hear more from them from about specific episodes.
However, the commentary from Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson on the episode Masquerade is grade ‘A’ stuff. These people know how to give good commentary, and what Kevin and Julie have to say adds to the episode and the series as a whole. The commentary is sprinkled with tidbits about their thought processes when writing, intentions for characters that never came to light, and stories from behind the scenes. They’re also not afraid to poke fun at themselves and the characters, which really adds to the humour. You thought Alaric was the lamest babysitter ever? Kevin and Julie agree. Wondering where Bonnie’s dad is? Kevin and Julie put forward their own theories.
This really is a fine example of what DVD commentaries should be like, and I really hope we can see more of them in the season 3 boxset. You listening, WB? My hint there is about as subtle as a brick to the head.
In conclusion, lack of a decent amount of commentaries and annoying packaging fail aside, this is a very satisfying set of DVDs and definitely on a par with the season 1 set of the Vampire Diaries.
Want to own the Vampire Diares on DVD or Blu-ray?
|UK (Out Now):||US (Due August 30th):|
Season 2 DVD
Season 2 Blu-ray
Season 1 DVD
Season 1 Blu-ray
Season 1 + 2 boxset DVD
Season 1 + 2 boxset Blu-ray
Season 2 DVD
Season 2 Blu-ray
Season 1 DVD
Season 2 Blu-ray
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