I’ve never watched Supernatural. By pure coincidence, I chose today to start watching it. I only found out afterward that today is the anniversary of the day the story begins, November 2, 1983. [Cue spooky music.]
Here is the sum of everything I knew about the show. Two dreamy brothers, one of whom was played with an actor who left Gilmore Girls for the role, chase down supernatural beings. And that the driver picks the music and shotgun shuts his cake hole. That’s it.
The pilot follows a typical format: It starts with an inciting incident in the past, in this case 22 years in the past, then catches us up to the present day. The action begins at a point when the main characters reunite following a separation. To put it in Hero’s Journey terms, younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) would be the hero, called into action by the mentor, older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles). Sam leaves his ordinary world, promising his girlfriend (Adrianne Palicki) he’ll be back for his law school interview on Monday. Then we’re headlong into monster-of-the-week territory.
I was on high cliche-alert for this Halloweentime spooky tale, and I didn’t have to wait long. The episode plot is the most repeated ghost story ever. Friends even made a joke about how lame this story is. A guy picks up a hitchhiking young woman who asks for a ride home, and it turns out she’s actually the ghost of someone who died in that spot years earlier.
It’s not enough that we probably all know this story, but we then learn the information via the brothers. Also, we see, first hand, how the ghost takes down her prey, from the perspective a young man who picks her up. The question is, why? We certainly don’t need this familiar tale spelled out for us. And, the scene takes us out of the main action. It interrupts the character- and relationship-building we’ve been doing with Sam and Dean. The writers could have used the time more efficiently. Because then, the heroes themselves face the ghost not once, but twice.
This conundrum begs the question, why does any crime show have to give us the victim POV scene (or its cousin, the discoverer-of-the-body POV scene)? Usually it comes in the cold open, but for this pilot they saved it for the second act. Still, it rarely adds anything, and it’s overdone. Is it meant to heighten suspense? It usually fails at that, because it always features unknown characters. Is it just a chance to showcase some gore? Maybe. That’s not a good reason. I say we call on writers to ditch this cheap plot device.
Sam’s girlfriend Jessica has some decent screen time in the beginning… in her underwear, for some reason. He makes reference to a possible future marriage, and swears that she must never learn about his family’s monster hunting ways. I found myself hoping this wasn’t going to be one of those shows where the main character has a secret life and has to make up increasingly ridiculous excuses to his significant other until she discovers his secret in the Season 1 finale.
I needn’t have worried. As it became more obvious that the show was going to be set on the road, it seemed Sam’s ordinary world was going to have to end. Stormtroopers had to kill his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. And, this is one place where the victim’s POV might have carried some weight! As minor a character as she was, Jessica had more substance than Random Bridge Driving Guy. And we end up with a freaking fridging! Seriously?
One moment I found interesting was when Dean is being questioned by a local cop, who says, “I know you got a partner. One of em’s an older guy. Maybe he started the whole thing.” Was this meant to suggest the possibility that their father did start something? I may be going way out here, but I’m speculating as someone who hasn’t watched the show before. Is Dad a bad guy? Was Mom murdered in retaliation for something he did? I really hope so, because otherwise this thing is too predictable.
Okay, okay, so I figure fans are mad at me by now. The thing is, despite all of the predictability, I enjoyed this pilot. Padalecki and Ackles have great chemistry. Monster hunting has provided material for a lot of good shows. This premiered the same year as Ghost Whisperer, so maybe the time was ripe for a male-led ghost story to complement that female-led one, and it’s lasted much longer, so it’s doing something right.