I love television. I especially love excellent television, but I can find the good in many things (except, perhaps, season 4013 of the Jersey Shore, Jersey Nursing Home). Because people who know me know I love television, I am constantly getting recommendations for shows to watch. Trouble is, there are too many shows, and there are other things that occupy my time, like hiking or having dinner or writing.
Thank god for the existence of Netflix and television on DVD in general. It allows me to catch up with shows that have consistently been recommended, and consume them in vast marathons, needle-to-the-vein style. On this site, I’ll be reviewing shows that I probably should have been watching all along.
One note about comments. Please try to avoid spoilers in the comments, as I’d like to try to experience these shows knowing as little advance story as possible. If you’re going to talk about spoilers, put SPOILERS at the top of your post in big letters.
First up is Supernatural, starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. I like supernatural television in general — old school fan of Buffy and Angel, and The Vampire Diaries is my current obsession — and knowing this, many fans have been surprised I don’t watch Supernatural. So it’s time.
The first season has twenty-two episodes, which I’ll watch and review over the course of twelve weeks A.V. Club style: Episode One and Episode Twenty-Two will get their own posts and the rest will be reviewed two at a time. So here we go, starting with the Pilot.
The first thing that strikes me about this show is that it is nothing like I thought it would be. You go into shows having some amount of expectation, based on word-of-mouth, promo materials, spoilers you’ve accidentally picked up, and so on. When I pressed play on disk one of season one, I expected to see a CW show like the other CW shows I enjoy (TVD, Gossip Girl, 90120). I expected pretty people, polished sets, shiny costumes. I expected quippy dialogue, pop-culture references to solidly place the show in today. And I expected that the story had something to do with two brothers who fought supernatural evil, something akin to Buffy. That is, after all, why people recommended it to me.
It turns out, Supernatural is classic horror. Buffy was squarely within the horror genre — while turning it on its head at times — but was also a show about high schoolers. Supernatural has none of the sense of the real world clashing with the supernatural world that Buffy played out so brilliantly. Instead, Supernatural stakes out its spot in the horror room and there it stays — for the Pilot, anyhow.
While I’ve never been particularly into horror, I quite enjoyed the Pilot. That’s because it told a good story, and showed signs of being able to tell a longer, larger, season-arc-style story as well. In addition, despite the stylized nature of the show, there was a freshness about it, whether it was from the dialogue, or the characters of Dean and Sam.
Let’s talk about Dean and Sam for a moment. I love a good brother story, so I have high hopes for the character arcs for these two. The Pilot didn’t hold back in letting the viewer know exactly what their story is: Dean followed in Dad’s footsteps working in the “family business” (hunting supernatural evil things and destroying them); Sam is trying to break free and have a normal life. Dean resents Sam’s opportunities to be normal; Sam resents Dean and Dad’s attempts to draw him back in.
They come together in the Pilot because, apparently, Dad is missing. Sam reluctantly agrees to go with Dean “just for the weekend” to try to find him. Once they’ve resolved the horror of the week, Sam goes back to school like he said he would, after telling Dean that he doesn’t feel compelled to continue to hunt monsters like Dean and Dad because Sam was a baby when Mom died — he didn’t even know her. Then, boom, it gets personal for Sam when he returns home to find the love of his life swallowed up by a fire in the ceiling just like Mom all those years ago (what’s up with that, anyhow?). Nicely done.
The symbolism in this episode is a little heavy-handed, but we can be forgiving of a Pilot for something like that. In addition, the horror of the week itself wasn’t all that original or remarkable: a Lady in White is terrorizing a town, and Dean and Sam figure it out and put her down. I have a feeling that’s going to be the way of the show for at least a while, meaning they’ll pick a classic horror tale, have it play out with Dean and Sam in the middle of it, and meanwhile further the larger story arc.
And that larger story arc is intriguing. Where is Dad? And what happened to Mom? The little clues that Dad seems to be leaving behind — GPS coordinates in a journal? — will be fun to follow, and the interactions between Sam and Dean, and their respective character arcs, show a lot of promise.