The Official Companion Season 3 didn't come out until March 2009, as we were heading for the end of season 4. While I'd really like to get these closer to the release of the season's DVDs, having a context with the new season actually enhances the experience.
Well...it's always better to live positively, right?
Long lead time notwithstanding, the wait is definitely worth it.
I've seen people remark that the writing in these companions isn't that great. I work as a freelance editor and proofreader, so I tend to be really sensitive to that kind of thing, and I'm a little baffled why they say that. It may be the journalistic style, which focuses heavily on presenting the words and information from their sources, rather than on pretty prose. It may be that I overlook it, delighted as I am with the tidbits and viewpoints we get.
The companions get us closer to everyone involved in the show than any other source. We start with a foreward by Sera Gamble, formerly a writer on the show, now the executive story editor and a supervising producer. The foreward is followed by an overview setting up the season, giving insight into how the studio, showrunner, and writers interact to figure out where they're going and how, along with a postmortem of the previous season.
The bulk of the book delves into the episodes, with "A Closer Look" sections on 10 of the urban legends, monsters, and mythologies that fed the season. That's followed by nine in-depth discussions of the main characters, sections about the crew, and a chapter on one of the companion novels (Bone Key). The book wraps up a bit weakly, rehashing "Do You Believe" and "Scary Stuff" that's been addressed in the Supernatural magazine and in previous companions and just about every interview conducted by a non-fan.
For intense fans like us, who seek interviews and convention reports all through the season, a lot of the information is duplicated, and the episode recaps are probably the least valuable sections. But the behind-the-scenes access is amazing. Every episode section talks to the writers and crew and actors, who explain how they approached certain scenes, made special effects happen, found locations, etc.
I'm always amazed at how a show set all over the United States can film in one small area of Canada and still make me forget that every week. So it's fascinating to see how they reuse certain places (the bar in "The Magnificent Seven" was also in "Sin City"), track down new places to film, and change up the ubiquitous motels.
There are sidebars about things like the prank wardrobe played on Jared Padalecki, dressing up his dogs in bandannas and a pink western shirt, and about connections between actors and other things they've done, and old names for certain episodes, and the music that's in each episode (because I'm a music dunce and only recognize about half the stuff they use).
The print is tiny, even for someone whose eyes are just barely starting to hint that they might soon be wanting me to move stuff a bit further away when I read it. On the other hand, when they use tiny font, they pack more in. Some people--I won't name names--wouldn't want to read this because they don't want to ruin the magic of living in the show.
But for those of us who can't get enough details, the companion is a must.
The Official Companion
by Nicholas Knight
Published by Titan Books
On a side note, in case you haven't yet seen, Supernatural scored a FULL FEATURE ARTICLE in this week's Entertainment Weekly! It's the 4/10/09 issue, with Jennifer Hudson on the cover, and is pretty decent, even if the writer mixes up Sam and Dean a couple of times.