Saving People, Hunting Things, the Family Business
My wife and I are “SuperWhoLocks.” It’s a terrible affliction that strikes down anyone who’s pathologically obsessed with the shows Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. We’re a strange group. We never meet in one place outside of Comic Cons. We all have this fear the forces of darkness would find us clumped together and finally do away with us.
It’s a terrible burden.
All kidding aside, I want to talk about my passion for the show, Supernatural. I wasn’t there when the show began. I came in after a friend of mine recommended that I watch it. I binge watched (through the miracle of Netflix), eight seasons almost nonstop over a period of two weeks or so. The show was simply addicting.
What was not to love? The formula was simple. Take two brothers, give them a mission to kill terrifying monsters to save innocent people, mix in a theme of classic rock, muscle cars, prime wise-assery, baked with an angel, based on John Constantine (Misha Collins) with a devil played by one of the best character actors of the modern age (Mark Sheppard) and BANG, you have an awesome show.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show’s premise, it’s the story of two brothers who through terrible tragedy (as well as other deeper factors) were raised to be “hunters”. They are not typical hunters. The Winchester brothers (Sam and Dean – played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) hunt ghosts, ghouls, demons, and everything that goes bump in the night. While the two of them get by and survive by regularly breaking the law through credit card fraud and impersonating federal officers, they are here to fight the good fight.
After all, for them, it’s all part of what their father started in as “the family business”.
Now going on Season 12, the show following the end of a story arc where God himself needed to intervene for a mess too big for the brothers, is off to a new start as Dean and Sam, must now contend with their supernatural competitors from across the pond. Other organizations have grown tired of watching the Winchester brothers run amuck and need America to get their act together. The Winchesters do not want to play with their British cousins. As always, the boys may have gotten over their heads once they realize that some people just have more experience.
All this is outside the regular business of slaying monsters, demons, and renegade angels. After all, the family business has to be run and there are people out there who are in danger of losing their immortal souls to restless spirits and monsters that live for “Joe Everyman’s” blood.
With the Winchesters, even clowns aren’t safe.
The show, started in 2005, has been giving fans a healthy dose of splattered horror along with every kind of monster mythology out there. In addition to this, the show’s writers have taken on politics, corporations, junk food, porn, angels, demons, and Paris Hilton. While there might be a bit of violence and blood, every show promises the type of guilty pleasure a fifth grader gets from playing a shoot-em-up RPG and splattering zombies.
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
The success of the show can be credited partly from the chemistry within the cast. The actors seem to love what they’re doing. That fun bleeds onto their performances. Longtime fans can still remember outtakes of Jensen Ackles going full tilt in his lip syncing of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” between takes. The cast can be seen occasionally jamming outside of conventions with other fan favorites of the show Rob Benedict (Chuck), and Richard Speight Jr. (Gabriel) along with Leverage’s Christian Kane and Aldis Hodge.
Speaking about music, it plays a huge part in the show. Classic rock permeates the show like fruit punch in a sponge. The one thing fans can rely on every season, is a rock and roll montage at the beginning and “Carry On Our Wayward Son” at the season finale. The soundtrack of Supernatural plays like a “best of” rock album of the sixties, seventies, and eighties – that’s hair bands included. This all stems from the fact that the boys still ride around in their father’s 1967 Chevrolet Impala (aka “Baby”) that had a cassette tape player with his father’s mix tapes. Later episodes have Sam replacing the tape deck with an iPod-friendly system. It’s unknown if Dean ripped that one out yet.
The show rock roots have even gone into many of the episode’s titles. Season five done in 2009 had most of their episodes named after rock songs. Titles included “Sympathy for the Devil”, “The Song Remains the Same”, “Hammer of the Gods”, and “The Devil You Know”.
All Kinds of Heroes
Supernatural has much of the story elements from The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. The heroes are defined by the stories. When it comes down to an individual hero, we look to see how the story shapes him. Ironically, as we deal with two separate heroes, there are two different types.
Sam is a traditional “reluctant hero”. He wants nothing to do with the family business. He never liked life on the road and was nothing like either Dean or his father. It was his dream to lead a normal life and be a lawyer somewhere. Sam has grown to accept his roles and responsibilities, but the one thing that keeps him going is the responsibility and love he has for his older brother.
Dean is the epitome of the “outlaw hero” archetype. He lives for the road. He loves the cheap meals and the hotel rooms with the magic fingers. Dean loves drinking, Asian porn, and hunting for monsters. Watching Dean is like watching the kid that never grew up. In his mind, there was never a reason to. He learned what he needed to know. He learned that it’s easy to commit credit card fraud and impersonate the FBI as a necessary job skill. Outside of taking care of Baby, watching over Sam, and just having fun, hunting demons is what life’s all about for Dean.
The two brothers are indeed devoted to each other. Sam’s job is to watch out for Dean to keep him from drinking, hunting, and getting himself into dangerous spots and Dean’s job is to watch Sammy.
Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name
There is a lot I could say about the supporting cast as well. Yes, I could spend volumes of pages talking about both Castiel and Crowley – they’re local angel and deposed ruler of Hell, respectively. Both members are integral parts of the show and it is quite tempting to talk about them here.
However, I’m not going to.
I want you to discover them as I did – by watching the show. The show is just simply wonderful and full of magic. There are others that will come along and melt your heart as you watch how they touch the lives of the protagonists. People like John and Mary Winchester, Bobby Singer, Rufus, Charlie, Chuck, Benny, Death, Ash, Meg, Rowena, Gabriel, and Lucifer are like Christmas presents. I could tell you all about them, but I’d be robbing you of the experience of you getting to know them. They are characters that need to be discovered. Once you meet them on the show, you’ll want to open the package slowly and see how they reveal themselves.
Fans of the show know what I mean. Even the worst most heartless characters in the story have a way of crawling into your soul. Considering many of the characters are angels and demons, it is funny how very few of them are completely good or completely evil.
As Dean had said more than once, “Yeah, angels can be dicks.”
All of these characters are part of the magic. All of them will make you smile, shiver, and cry one way or another. When you watch the show, you’ll find there’s more than one gut laugh in each episode and, like any show that makes a good character ensemble, when they leave, you’ll find the show has gotten both better and worse because they were there.
The question you’re probably asking is whether the show is right for you. People who are curious should spend some time getting acquainted with the old episodes. A dedicated binge watch on Netflix will last around a month. It’s well worth it. While some would say the series slowed down a bit in Season 9, it gains a lot of momentum back in Seasons 10, 11, and 12.
I can say that if you’re a fan of a fun show that isn’t afraid to get a bit bloody and can sometimes scare you a bit, you’ll like this show. Hell, fans of Kevin Smith’s Dogma might feel right at home here knowing that angels are the kinds of beings that have problems just like people. Some just want to sit at a bar and just have a drink with a demon that has just as much to gripe about.
But just remember, as much as the show is about monsters, angels, and demons, it’s really about the people. And more than that, at its core, it’s about two brothers watching each other’s backs.