This review comes with a disclaimer/health warning. I’m writing this having just watched eight seasons (that’s American, 22-episodes-per-season seasons) of Supernatural in less than six months (and the first five seasons were consumed in less than two months – I had to take a couple of months off to recover from what the Tumblr generation call ‘the feels’) . If I sound like a member of cult, that’s probably because to all intents and purposes, I am one.
I started watching something that was kinda X-Files meets Buffy with a (large) dash of daddy issues thrown in. By season five it became a show that will rip your heart out (if you’re human – if you’re a monster it will simply drive a stake through it).
The basic premise has never changed, even as the camera has slowly drawn back to show us that what we thought was the whole story was just a piece of a bigger, as yet incomplete, puzzle.
That premise is two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, hunting and killing monsters. Like modern day cowboys they ride into small towns across America, albeit in Dean’s 67 Chevy Impala rather than on a horse. (The Impala is practically a character in its own right, just like the Tardis is. Also, the last time I wanted to own a TV car this badly was in the 80s and that one talked and jumped over lorries…)
If you had asked me in December 2013 if I enjoyed horror, I’d have given you a resounding “no”. 172 episodes of Supernatural later, I can’t be so unequivocal. Granted there are plenty of scenes where I have to look away, but luckily Supernatural wasn’t sold to me as horror, so I’ve taken the gore as the price I pay to travel with the Winchesters.
There’s a richness to the stories that bears comparison to some of the most iconic novels, films and TV shows. Stories are this show’s lifeblood. It starts by telling us stories based on stories (folklore like the Woman in White, wendigos, shapeshifters, a hookman, Native American curses) before shifting perspective and leaning so hard on the fourth wall, it has Winchester-shaped dents in it. When it’s done well (and it’s done beautifully here) I adore this sort of thing. Throw in a heap of jokes at the expense of the cast (“I call this one my Blue Steel” (Dean, having his mugshot taken – Jensen Ackles was a child model) to mentions of the Gilmore Girls (Jared Padalecki had a recurring role in the show), the writers (Eric Kripke has a dig at his own film Boogeyman) and the show itself (spoilers…) and you can see why I’m smitten.
And that’s before you get all the excellent pop culture references, the whole Luke/Han vibe that Dean and Sam have going on and enough sass to sink the Titanic (I’m not saying the boys sink the Titanic, but they totally sink the Titanic. Sort of.).
And it’s not just the Winchesters who the writers send to hell and back before finding a way to hurt them (and us) a little bit more, but their ‘family’ of fellow hunters – not to mention Castiel, the gorgeous, dorky angel in a trenchcoat. The tears I’ve shed watching this show… I can’t tell you (I really, really can’t. Spoilers.)
I’ll be honest with you, there’s an argument for getting out after the season five finale. It’s the point at which the original story arc is complete and you can save yourself from some serious emotional pain further down the line. Also, the first five seasons are where the best writing is. However, seasons 6-8 aren’t dreadful, they boast the fabulous Sebastian Roché as Balthazar and they ensure we get to see a lot more of the superb Mark Sheppard as Crowley. Put it this way, as I sit jonesing for season 9 to be released on DVD, I regret nothing…
There is so much more to say, but it’s hard to say more without giving away things that are best enjoyed as surprises. Suffice to say, I can not recommend Supernatural highly enough. In fact, if I had to choose between my Supernatural boxed sets and my Doctor Who ones, I have to confess the Winchesters would be the ones protected inside a ring of salt, while the Doctor would be left to fight off the demons and vampires and shapeshifters and hellhounds. (Thank Ikea I don’t have to actually choose…)
Posted by Jo the Hat