The funny thing about this show is that I really wasn’t into it the first time I watched it. At the time, it didn’t feel like there was a bigger back story. It just felt like the standard fantasy procedural where the characters go out, investigate some strange incident, and solve the problem by fighting some demon or another. I’m not sure why that bothered me, since there are so many shows like this and I actually enjoy most of them. Which might be why I decided to give it another try.
I have now watched the entire show to date and I’m glad I did. It turns out, there definitely was a bigger story going on–yellow eyes, Sam’s demonic abilities, Dean’s role in the apocalypse, oh right…and the apocalypse. It turns out that what I like most about the series is, in fact, those very things that I thought the show was missing. Where some fantasy shows struggle to build from one season to the next–how bad can things get after all?–this show has done an excellent job of making on season impact the next one so that to every action there is a bigger reaction coming. (See the end of this season, where we meet God, sort of.)
Supernatural follows Sam and Dean, two brothers who have grown up, raised by their father in the rough world of demon hunting after their mother is killed by a demon with yellow eyes. Sam attempts to leave this life to go to college, only to be pulled back in when his girlfriend is killed the same way.
The show has struggled over the years to add in a few more characters over the years. In came:
- Ruby, a demon who seems to be on the side of good
- Bobby Singer, a fellow hunter and father figure in the boys’ lives
- Ellen and Jo- Ellen is a saloon owner who is constantly in contact with hunters and Jo who becomes a hunter
- Bela, a self-centered thief
- Castiel, an arch-angel who becomes an ally
- Anna, a fallen angel who eventually gains her wings again
These are some of the bigger characters who have come into the story at some point or another. Bobby’s introduction originally felt forced and abrupt but he has since better integrated into the show and now feels like a good fit. The need for important characters also comes from a lack of tension–there is no chance that the brothers can be killed off so we have to care about others who might be killed.
One of the big issues about the show is that we have essentially seen that death is not really ever permanent. There are a myriad of ways in which a person might be resurrected. Because of this, we can never really be sad when someone dies and the fear that we might lose someone is never really there. This, in my opinion, is one of the primary issues with sci-fi and fantasy in general (think about Stargate SG-1 where Daniel dies every few episodes). It lowers the stakes of any problems happening. Despite this problem, the show has managed to make things build up from season to season. Even now, when you start wondering how we could have gotten bigger than the coming of Lucifer, we learn that there can be bigger problems.
There is also a general lack of female characters (which is where Bela and Ruby came in). It would be nice to have a bit more female energy on the show. The writers seem to be struggling with this. They are never really satisfied with their female characters and therefore none have stayed so far. I’m hoping they manage this eventually (I liked Jo, Ruby, and Anna personally but supposedly other viewers did not). I am hoping they will find and stick to one or two, perhaps someone who is equal to the brothers and not someone who needs protecting (like Dean’s most recent love interest).
Castiel wound up being one of the most interesting characters on the show, as we watched him grow from an unquestioning angel to someone who has come to question, think, and act of his own volition. interestingly, this is what leads to the issue of the coming season. The brothers are often self-centered and it is this lack of paying attention to others that ultimately leads to Castiel’s wild behavior.
I like how far the show’s mythology has gone and I am curious to see where they plan to take things. At the same time, it does feel like the show is winding down. I am not sure how much longer it can run.