The Dresden Files: The Complete First Season – DVD Review

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Paul Blackthorne… Harry Dresden
Valerie Cruz… Lt. Connie Murphy
Terrence Mann… Bob

Running time: 530 minutes
Release date: August 7, 2007

The Show

The Dresden Files is based on the series of books of the same name. It’s a show about a wizard, Harry Dresden, who works more or less as a detective. He runs a business, it says ‘wizard’ both on his door and in the phone book, but he can’t actually tell people about magic they don’t already know. So for all intents and purposes, Harry’s a detective. The only difference is that Harry usually only takes cases where magic is afoot. Helping Harry in his cases are Bob (the ghost of a long dead wizard, forever bound to his own skull, able to manifest himself as a ghost but unable to travel more than a short distance away from his skull) and Lieutenant Murphy (a detective for the Chicago PD who on some level knows magic is real, but refuses to accept it).

The Dresden Files does a pretty good job of mixing the supernatural and detective genres. Really most recent shows involving the supernatural have had a lot of detective (or at least mystery) elements anyway, so it’s not like the two genres are all that difficult to combine.

One complaint I do have about the series is the High Council’s rules regarding the knowledge of magic. The rules themselves – primarily, if you don’t already know about magic, you don’t get to know – are fine, but the application of the silence rule is pretty inconsistent. Sometimes Harry is pretty straightforward in telling non-believers, chiefly Murphy, about what he is and what he’s doing, he just doesn’t show them concrete proof. Other times, he comes up with excuses or simply refuses to say how he has learned something. On a semi-related note, random guest stars tend to see/experience magical events pretty regularly; it’s really only with the cops (Murphy, in particular) that Harry has to kinda/sorta lie.

While I’ve yet to read any of the Jim Butcher books on which the TV show is based, apparently quite a bit has been changed during the move to television. In virtually every case where fiction moves from one medium to the other this is the case, so having a bunch of changes isn’t really a problem. However, at least some fans of the books aren’t too happy with the changes that were made. So if you’re a fan of the books, I’d advise against expecting the TV series to replicate the experience of the novels.

For whatever reason, The Dresden Files was one of those shows where the airing order and the filming order where changed around quite a bit. Fortunately, most of the episodes are stand-alones and in the cases where an episode does rely on something that happened in an early episode, the early episode was aired first. The only real problem with shuffling the episodes around is in the relationship between Harry and Murphy. At the onset, Harry and Murphy have a somewhat strained relationship. But as the series progresses Murphy becomes more accepting of Harry’s methods and a strong trust develops between the two characters. But in a few cases, an early filmed episode (like the pilot, “Storm Front”) will turn up fairly late in the season and all of sudden the relationship between Harry and Murphy is far more antagonistic than it should be. I did a little digging around and found the ‘correct’ order of the episodes: “Storm Front,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Birds of a Feather,” “Boone Identity,” “Hair of the Dog,” “Walls,” “Bad Blood,” “Soul Beneficiary,” “What About Bob?”, “The Other Dick,” “Things That Go Bump,” and “Second City.” Fortunately you don’t really need to watch the episodes in this order, but I thought I’d include the list for the purists out there.

Regrettably, Sci-Fi officially canceled The Dresden Files last month. There will be no second season. Fortunately the first season doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and while the first season leaves many unanswered questions – mainly in regards to the High Council – it still works pretty well as a complete series. Besides, if you’re really desperate for more The Dresden Files, there’s a whole (on-going) series of books out there.

Despite being aired out of order, and having a few inconsistencies in its magic rules, The Dresden Files was a pretty entertaining series. I think it could have really become something great if it had been allowed to continue. But as is, it’s a solid, entertaining and somewhat short show.

The Episodes

Disc 1

“Birds of a Feather” – A small boy thinks someone is trying to kill him and attempts to hire Harry. Initially Harry thinks the kid’s imagining things, but soon changes his mind.

“The Boone Identity” – A grieving father thinks the ghost of his daughter is trying to tell him something, and he hires Harry to find out what that is. As is usual the case with The Dresden Files things soon become far more complicated.

“Hair of the Dog” – Shortly after an unusual clubbing experience a young woman is found dead, with silver in her wounds. Obviously there’s a werewolf situation, but it’s up to Dresden to figure out just what’s going on. And that’s going to be tough as the feds have been put in charge of the investigation.

“Rules of Engagement” – Harry is hired to find someone. He finds his target almost immediately, but in far crispier condition than he expected. It quickly becomes apparent that the person hiring him had an ulterior motive and things are far more complicated than they first seemed.

Disc 2

“Bad Blood” – After somebody tries to kill Bianca, a vampire quasi-friend from Harry’s past, she comes to Harry to find out the who and the why.

“Soul Beneficiary” – A man tells Harry that he keeps having visions of his own (rather random) death. Harry thinks the guy is just paranoid and is in the process of getting rid of the guy when he drops dead of an apparent heart attack. A short time later the man’s wife also dies of a heart attack and Harry realizes there’s something else going on.

“Walls” – After a woman who was looking for Harry Dresden is killed in a hit and run, Harry ends up investigation a group of college students who have the gained the ability to walk through walls.

“Storm Front” – When a notorious mobster and his lover are found dead, their hearts exploded inside their chests, Harry realizes that only black magic could be responsible. It turns out Harry himself used a similar technique on his uncle several years ago, and the High Council suspects Dresden is responsible here as well. Harry sets out to prove his innocence and find the real killer. This episode was originally a two-hour pilot but was edited down to a one hour episode here. For the most part, it still works, but there are some things that feel out of place. (Harry’s much more open when talking about magic with Murphy and she’s doesn’t trust him nearly as much, because she hasn’t really had the first seven episodes to get used to Harry.)

Disc 3

“The Other Dick” – In order to keep working as a police consultant, Harry must get his PI license. When Harry’s instructor is killed via otherworldly methods, Harry teams up with the instructor’s protege (Claudia Black) to find out who killed him. Their investigation soon takes them to a fertility clinic where some unusual things are happening.

“What About Bob?” – Harry sleeps with a woman who is not what she seems. While Harry is asleep she steals Bob’s skull and delivers it to Justin Morningway, or rather a doppleganger of Harry’s deceased uncle. Said doppleganger offers to make Bob mortal in exchange for helping to revive the real Justin Morningway. Meanwhile, an anonymous tip leads to Murphy investigating the original death of Justin Morningway.

“Things that Go Bump” – Murphy comes to Harry for help investigating the source of a mysterious explosion a few blocks away. Before they can go anywhere though, Ancient Mai, Morgan and three other wardens show up and Harry’s building is soon surrounded by material from “the other side”, trapping everyone. Harry soon realizes that the trap had to have been sprung from the inside leaving Harry to try and discover the culprit and find a way to escape the trap.

“Second City” – After being branded, a man drowns in the middle of a street. It turns out there are more victims of this mysterious brander and Harry and Murphy try and find the killer. Harry’s actually a bit reluctant for once as Murphy’s connection to Harry and his unorthodox methods is begin to negatively impact how her co-workers view her. In addition, Murphy’s father shows up to visit and takes an instant dislike of Dresden.

The Video

As is pretty standard these days, the video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. Everything looks pretty good, with no real issues.

The Audio

The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it’s good as well with everything sounding nice and clear.

The Extras

Deleted scenes
A couple of deleted scenes from “Rules of Engagement” and one really, really brief one from “Hair of the Dog.” I rather liked the interplay between Harry and Bob in one of the scenes from “Rules of Engagement,” but it wasn’t anything crucial to the episode, so it’s understandable why it was cut.

Episode Commentaries
We get commentaries for “Rules of Engagement” and “Things that Go Bump” with Michael Grossman, Paul Blackthorne and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. The two commentaries were recorded back to back, and the trio take a little while to get warmed up, but by the middle of the first commentary it gets to be rather informative/amusing.

Inside The Dresden Files
A twenty-minute featurette on the making of The Dresden Files. Nothing particularly earth-shattering here, but I did like the bit on how they dealt with Terrence Mann nudging a curtain.

The Inside Pulse

While certainly nothing revolutionary, The Dresden Files was an entertaining show. If you’re a fan of paranormal shows with detective elements, then this series is probably going to be right up your alley. If you’re a fan of the books, I can’t promise you’ll get the same experience with the DVDs, but what you do get is pretty solid.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Dresden Files
(OUT OF 10)






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