I seem to be cursed when it comes to watching shows in their first season. Shortly after I watch them they either experience a ratings drop or cancellation. I wasn’t necessarily avoiding The Dresden Files because of this, but after watching this set for only a day I checked the status of the shows second season and found that Sci-Fi had opted not to pursue a second season. Great, now I knew that while this DVD said this was the “Complete First Season”, later printings would likely change to “Complete Series.”
The Dresden Files is based on Jim Butcher’s best-selling novels and follows the exploits of Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne) as he helps the Chicago Police Department on cases involving paranormal aspects. Throughout the season Harry is met with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and satanic creatures and he’s able to explain it all away to the cops in convincing tones, leading them to believe that what they witness is nothing out of the ordinary.
The show very much feels like book adaptations and while I don’t know if all of the episodes are based off of the books (I know the pilot was an adaptation of one of the books), they certainly feel like they could be. Very rarely do we see any correlation between the episodes (only one of the episodes features a recap of a previous episode), which is a shame because a little continuity would’ve been nice in a show as this. Of course it doesn’t help that the series aired out of order (and is presented in airdate order on this DVD set), making the episodes air in the following pattern: 3, 4, 5, 2, 7, 8, 6, 1, 10, 9, 11, and 12. If you’re slightly lost while watching this series on DVD at first, it’s definitely because of that order (and finding the original pilot at the end of disc two makes for a very disjointed viewing).
Normally watching a show with such self-contained episodes as this wouldn’t be an issue, but the pilot episode should have been included as an “extra” on this set, as it’s nearly unbearable to watch. Characters act differently, Harry uses magic out the wazoo, Bob (Harry’s ghost-in-a-skull mentor) is nowhere to be seen and the directing is absolutely horrible. I was worried the show took a different directorial turn mid-season and I nearly shut the episode off halfway through just to check. Regardless if you watch the show in order or not, do yourself a favor and save the pilot until last—watching it more than halfway through the set does no one any good.
Grievances of the airdate order aside, the show manages to progress in greatness, especially towards the end. The third and final disc in the set contains some of the best episodes of the series and you really get a feeling that it just starts to gel at this point. Blackthorne as Dresden does a remarkable job and the supporting cast and guest stars is just brilliant. While it doesn’t have the best CGI (in fact I daresay it has some of the worst I’ve seen in a modern television show—but this was on Sci-Fi, after all) or stunts, the show never fails to be humorous and entertaining through and through.
I had a strong desire to see more of Harry Dresden in a second season, but Sci-Fi has dashed my hopes of that. At least the show got a proper DVD release for the fans and future audiences it may find. This shoe comes Highly Recommended.
This marks the first time I’ve seen a three-disc DVD set come in a single pack amaray case. I’ve seen these type of cases before, but this is the first production one I’ve seen and I got to say, I like it a lot. The reflective foil cardboard slip cover mirrors everything below it and inside we find three DVDs with unique disc art, an advertisement for the Dresden books as well as a two-sided insert listing the episodes on each disc as well as credits for the show. Menus are all unique as well and are fully animated with music over the main menu only.
Video and audio for this release is surprisingly strong. I noticed a few instances of interlacing in a few episodes of the show, as well as some grain in the darker sequences, but for the most part everything was clean and clear. It was the first DVD transfer of a show I could watch fullscreen on my PC monitor that didn’t make it unbearable to watch and I really astonished by how nice of a transfer it was. In addition the 5.1 audio is a great little addition to the set and while most of the show is focused in the front channels, a few sound effects get thrown around to the rears.
A trio of deleted scenes and a commentary await us on the first disc. The deleted scenes are ultimately useless and not worth watching (one is merely only alternate dialogue, as the scene is the same in the episode it came from) but the commentary, as well as the one on the third disc, are informative and a ton of fun to listen to. The writers and director of “Rules of Engagement” and “Things That Go Bump” join Paul Blackthorn on both of the episodes and they’re full of anecdotes about the film, the casting process and the shooting of the episodes.
The only other extra on the set, located on the third disc, is a “Making-of” featurette and it contains your usual interviews and fluff you’ve come to expect from these things. There’s really nothing exciting to learn from this featurette, but it is fun to watch especially after knowing the series is no longer in production.
Overall the set was made on a budget and sometimes it shows but for the most part it was just fun to watch. Anyone who is a fan of the genre owes it to themselves to at least rent the series and give it a watch—the humor certainly makes it able to be rewatched and the mythical aspects are always good fun to watch. After all, when is watching something about a wizard named Harry not enjoyable?
The Dresden Files: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD on August 7th.