Monday, November 05, 2007

"I tell you one thing, there's no way I'm kissing a damn frog.": Supernatural

I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around Supernatural this season. I don't mean individual episodes per se, but more like what the season is going for as a whole. I'm pretty sure why, and I'm just going to come out and say it: I hate the "Dean has one year to live" storyline. I've hated it ever since Dean drove to the crossroads in last year's season finale, because I knew it would affect Sam and Dean's relationship in a way I wouldn't be fond of. I was willing to cut them a break and give the story a chance to develop in an interesting way, but five episodes into the season it is starting to become clear that all of my fears were well founded. To top it all off, some creative things about the show have obviously changed and it all adds up to a season three that for me is less than exciting to watch each week.

To discuss why this storyline isn't working for me, I must first discuss why I like the show so much in the first place. What brings me back week after week is twofold: the fun of the monster hunts and the relationship between the brothers. I am equally happy when the brothers are trading quips while shooting ghosts in the face with rock salt and having heart-to-heart emofests in the Impala. As long as they are doing it together, I'm happy. By its nature, the Crossroads storyline divides the brothers and even takes away many of the heart-to-heart moments I grew to love so much last year. Exactly as I feared, it has caused Dean to completely shut down and Sam to act independently of Dean to help him, splitting them up for most of the episodes so far. Also, unless the show gets canceled Dean isn't going to die, so the entire quest just feels false. How are we supposed to feel worry about something we know isn't going to happen? Things like that are usually done on lesser shows like Smallville, and it's concerning.

Another thing that has changed is the production of the show. I don't know the reasoning behind it, but the cinematography is different. The color palette is brighter and the shots are much less interestingly composed, and it is flat-out hurting the show. One of the things I've always admired about Supernatural is that even when the show was on The WB it felt different than anything else they had. Darker, more polished, more cinematic. Now it feels so generic, and it makes me sad. Also different is the score. What used to be an exciting, scary, nuanced horror score has now turned into some obvious, loud, Mickey-Mousing crap. There have barely been any classic rock songs this season as well, a fact that becomes more depressing each week.

The one bright spot this year has been the reveal that Sam might not be all that he seems. Sam has always been the more empathetic brother, quick to sympathize with a potential bad guy and slow on the kill. This year, however, he kills demons without thought and with little remorse (in turn killing their innocent human hosts by default). This evolution was cemented this week when Sam summoned, questioned and then killed the Crossroads Demon in cold blood even though it would ultimately do him no good in his quest to free Dean of the deal. He just did it because she pissed him off, and it was kind of awesome. It's nice to see Jared Padalecki play a different side of Sam, and I hope they allow this evolution to continue in new directions and not hit the same beats each week (as the show is wont to do at times). We now definitively see that Sam is different, now we need to explore why. Is it because he "came back wrong?" Or does it have something to do with the demon blood he was fed as a baby and has he had this inside him all along? Also, how does his mother fit into all of this? And Ruby? These are the questions I am interested in finding out answers to.

All of the above criticism is not to say that I completely disliked last Thursday's episode, "Bedtime Stories." Overall it was a pleasing episode and had some standout moments. The creepy, gory Hansel & Gretel-inspired death of the hiker in the woods was vintage Supernatural. The eerie and all-too-realistic image of a (Little Red Riding Hood-ed) girl getting into a minivan only to realize that instead of her grandmother driving it was the Big Bad Wolf kidnapper gave me chills up and down my spine. There were even some decent brotherly moments where they discussed Dean's reluctance to get out of his deal and Sam's determination to find a solution. Unfortunately those moments didn't really reveal anything we didn't already know about the characters. In fact, it feels like they've been hitting the same beats with Dean's character all season and it's getting tired. He has self-esteem issues. We get it. Move on.

I realize this entire post reads like a letter from a jilted lover, and it makes me sound a little bit crazy. Perhaps I am taking it too seriously. After all, this is just a personal preference as online reaction shows that many fans are enjoying this season immensely. I know everyone watches this show for different reasons. That being said, there is still plenty of time for the writers to pull a few tricks out of their proverbial hats and salvage this season into something truly interesting (although with the strike it becomes less and less clear how much time they will actually have). I'll be watching every episode to see where it goes, because I am nothing if not a loyal fan of Supernatural, warts and all. All I know is, I miss the Sam and Dean Winchester I used to know.

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