December 17th, 2006

When Polter-Cows Attack!

Supernatural? More Like Hangin' with Mr. Coopernatural!

This has been a weird year for me. Because I am quite opposed to not starting a show from the very beginning. I don't like just jumping in without having seen all the necessary backstory. But, er, then I did it with Entourage. And then later I did it with Avatar. But in the middle, I did it with Supernatural.

I didn't intend to, really, but so many people on my flist kept talking about it, and I was surprised that it was apparently OMG SO GOOD, but I was also turned off by the fandom's obsession with incest.

And then they had to go and have Alona Tal on the show. So I thought, okay, I'll watch her episodes. And maybe other ones in between to keep up with what was going on, right? I didn't really have time for another show.

So I tuned into the second-season premiere and found it incredibly boring and unexciting and talky and redundant and bah. But I gave it the benefit of the doubt because I recognized that it was a really, really bad first episode and was designed for people who had seen the first season. The second episode, which was more typical, was more enjoyable, and Kripke seemed to want my viewership in particular by making reference to demons from Hindu mythology. I gave him props. I did notice, however, that Sam and Dean sure did talk about their damn feelings a lot, and while I recognized it as Not a Subtle Writing Technique, it was actually sort of refreshing because it kept me from having to think. For a new viewer like me, it was great! They told me how they felt, so I could turn my brain off and just listen. Also, I think Supernatural has the best Previouslies of any show ever. They're often cut to a song like a fanvid, or they tell a deliberate "Here's the show!" story, and it's quite obvious they spend an effort on them. Plus, I got a kick out of the flaming THEN followed by a flaming NOW. Overall, I liked the show since it was like a mini-horror movie every week, and I enjoyed it more than Smallville, which I could barely pay attention to anymore. Yes, I know saying something is better than Smallville is not saying much. But, finally, I broke down and watched the first season.

I began to like the show a lot more once it finally sunk in that Supernatural is basically The X-Files with A) more research to back it up and B) character development.

I loved that each monster/ghost/spirit/demon the brothers faced was rooted in some actual folklore/mythology/legend. I mean, it's damn cool to hear things like "We're dealing with a Woman in White." When you can hear the capital letters. And the first season tackles some of the classic urban legends like Bloody Mary and Hookman. That's just fun, yo.

And remember how on The X-Files, character development was "Scully gets cancer" or "Mulder dies again"? It was all plot-based, basically. Sam and Dean Winchester are two very different characters, and they each go through their own personal travails as they yell at each other about A) their relationship, B) their relationship with their father, C) why they're hunting, D) what's worth dying for, and E) how much Sam needs to get laid. It's not overly complex, but it's all very true and emotional. I appreciate good brother relationships on television because they're so rare.

Also, I am a sucker for random pop-culture references, and it's really fun to play "Spot Where Dean Got Their Fake Names This Week" (and it's hilarious the one time he gets called out on it).

One other thing that endeared me to the show and the Winchester brothers is realizing exactly what it is they were doing: they were fucking risking their lives just to help people. They had no special powers. They just had special knowledge. And a shotgun that could shoot rock salt. But they were so committed to saving lives, to making sure that whatever evil being was terrorizing a particular locale would never kill anyone again. They felt a responsibility, once they got wind of it, to do something about it, and I thought that was amazing. It's not like they ever got anything in return. Well, there were the hot women in every town. For that, I was thankful.

The show uses a lot of classic rock, which isn't really my thing, but it works. It certainly makes it sound different from other shows out there. Kripke isn't averse to modern rock, however; there's a nice usage of "Hey Man, Nice Shot."

While the first season was largely stand-alones, it did keep a nice arc going as the boys searched for their father (it's sort of funny, actually, how when they don't make headway, their response is basically, "Well, as long as we're out..."), and the last couple episodes were really intense and ass-kicking. That's what happens at the end of a season, right? And, surprisingly enough, the second-season premiere is a lot better when you actually know what's going on and care about the characters!

Here's the thing, though, okay: the show is not great. It is very good, I will give it that. It doesn't set the bar all that high, but by God, it hits it, and, you know, sometimes that's all you need. Quality entertainment. I'm into it when I'm watching, and I get generally excited at the prospect of a new episode, but I don't need to spend hours thinking about it or discussing it with other people. Clearly, you can, because people sure have unpacked this text, but I can enjoy it on a surface level.

Distilled to a quippy sound bite, my opinion is this: I think it's overrated by the fans but underrated by the critics. Because there's a good show here, but it doesn't seem to get recognized very much, from what I can tell.

So if you're into saving people, hunting things: the family business, I say give Supernatural a shot. Of rock salt.

(Har har.)