Now this is one even I’m pretty surprised by. I am generally a horror geek by habit, growing up in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer generation. After waving goodbye to Sunnydale (read: gross sobbing my teenage heart out), the Winchester brothers strolling onto screens armed with guns and salt in 2005 should’ve caught my attention straight off. Strangely enough, however, it has taken me this long to finally sit down and acquaint myself with these self-proclaimed demon hunters.
The series is now broadcasting its eighth season in the US, and I knew even as I sat down to watch that there was no possible way I would manage to cover all of that history in one go. So I turned off the lights and sat down to watch a taster session of the first seven episodes from season one – ‘Pilot’, ‘Wendigo’, ‘Dead in the Water’, ‘Phantom Traveler’, ‘Bloody Mary’, ‘Skin’ and ‘Hook Man’.
The basic premise of the show follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who are essentially on a road trip across the US, looking for their missing father. They also hunt demons and spirits and the like on the way.
There are a lot of things I like about this series as it progresses, the first of which is the dynamic between the two brothers. After a childhood together, hunting demons and other things that go bump in the night with their father, the first episode begins with Sam having broken out of the “family business” to go to college and attempt to be normal. The audience joins Sam as he re-enters a world of grisly, unexplained murders and disappearances. It’s a nice change from the usual track of following the uninitiated novice as they learn the truth in exposition which is barely disguised as helpful information. The rules of the world Sam and Dean live in are explained as the brothers reminisce over previous encounters with the supernatural, allowing for explanation without feeling forced. Both brothers take very different approaches to their work as well, with Dean playing the worldly-travelled demon hunter, a cynic who cracks jokes about the macabre and flirts with anything in a skirt. Sam, meanwhile, brings the human, emotional element into the equation, showing empathy for the victims of these bizarre happenings and taking the jobs they do to heart. Even in just seven episodes, the relationship between the brothers grows and changes, each rubbing off on the other, each learning things they hadn’t known. Imagine a buddy cop movie, but with monsters.
Another element of the series I really love are the creatures themselves. In the episode, ‘Pilot’, the spirit causing trouble is a ‘woman in white’, a folk legend with origins ranging from western Europe to Korea. The second episode is titled after it’s chosen monster, the wendigo, a creature of Native American lore. In the next six episodes, we see other beings ranging from vengeful spirits of the dead (‘Dead in the Water’), to modern urban legends (‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Hook Man’). I found it both fun and refreshing to find a series taking inspiration from multiple locations and time periods, rather than focusing on only one. What’s more, every creature is tied in to very human motivations and emotions, some propelled by grief, rage or fear, which makes them all the more interesting.
I wouldn’t necessarily say there was anything I was particularly unhappy with, rather things I hope to be explored or developed as the season continues. So far, the series operates on a ‘monster of the week’ structure, with some elements of the season’s plot arc woven through it. While it does keep things different, I’m hoping this stands as an introduction to the series, and that more episode-to-episode story arcs appear as the season progresses. Likewise, I found it both strange and oddly hilarious that everyone the brothers meet is, once faced with the reality of living in the Twilight Zone, remarkably calm and well-adjusted about the whole thing. Even seven episodes in, I would have expected at least one completely hysterical overreaction to being told the bogeyman is probably real. I want some realism in my unrealistic fantasy-horror drama, after all.
Overall, ‘Supernatural’ is a series I definitely intend to continue with, and would certainly recommend to those who perhaps, like me, have a set of over-watched Buffy boxsets at home.