Now Screaming: Supernatural

Ghosts, spirits, demons...... What else?

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I was pleased to discover at the start of the year that Supernatural had finally made its way on to a streaming service. I’d caught a few episodes back when it first started but never managed to catch it regularly. I’d half-forgotten the show existed, I suspect like many people, until hearing about the much-publicized Scooby Doo cross-over episode last year. Well, thanks to Amazon Prime you now have the opportunity to check out the first twelve seasons without filling your house with DVD box sets. One of the most surprising conversations you might find yourself having upon telling someone you’ve just started watching Supernatural is about when it gets bad. This has happened to me several times, with opinions ranging everywhere from series 4 to series 10. Still, for a series about people who fight the supernatural its had surprising longevity (Buffy only had 7 seasons!) so it must have something going for it.

The first series delivers a lot of promise for a show with, on the face of it, such a generic title and well-worn premise. The appeal may not be immediately apparent from the first episode, ‘Pilot’, which is burdened with establishing not only the premise and the characters, but the first major plot arc and has a monster of the week to boot. In the episodes that follow though you can see see that one of the major strengths of the series is the portrayal of its two main characters. One might be forgiven for assuming the series cast two young men as leads simple to target young, female viewers – often the assumed audience for shows like this (particularly in the post-Twilight era). Here, though, there’s a narrative that’s very closely built around the bond of the two brothers. Not only is their dialogue convincing, but the nuance of what they say (or don’t say) to one another adds a compelling element to even the stand-alone episodes. The pithy, but never (at least not yet) cheesy, dialogue from the two brothers is one of the first indications this is a show that’s not only better than it has to be – but one that has held up pretty well.

Supernatural primarily seems to draw its inspiration from American short stories and urban legends. Rather than simply re-hashing these, though, the plots cleverly re-invent them, subvert them, or just have fun with them. The core themes of the show in turn resonate with these – Supernatural serves us a thick slice of Americana. The brothers drive their corvette between cornfields, all night diners and quaint towns in their search for ghouls and it gives the show a very well-defined vibe. This goes hand in hand with the fact Supernatural aims to be genuinely scary at times – and usually succeeds. At times it feels like an anthology show – the brothers are just a vehicle for leading us into a horror short story. They’re not all winners but it manages to be gripping without relying on action scenes or one-liners. Its not a show that takes itself too seriously and it wears its references on its sleeve – if an episode reminds you of something there’s a good chance a reference to it will crop up before the credits.

 

A relatively minor drawback with this version of the first series of Supernatural is the lack of licensed music. Knowing the music is something a lot of fans latched on to before I started watching it did not take me long to realize that something was amiss. Like Guardians of the Galaxy the show uses recognizable music as a means of injecting a little levity in between all the spooky stuff – I started to realize a few episodes in that there was a conspicuous lack of it of the rock music Dean is constantly referencing. It seems to have been resolved for the streaming of the second season onwards as far as I can tell, but it is disappointing nevertheless.

Overall Supernatural comes highly recommended. If you’re looking for something with 12 seasons and counting to get engrossed in this seems like it might be a safe bet. The quality and variety of the first season is much better than I was expecting, offering a fresh-feeling take on a monster hunting show without trying to reinvent the wheel. Make sure you check it out if you have Amazon Prime and are a fan of… well, the supernatural.

 

 

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Matt Crofts
Matt is the SFFN's Retro Editor, focusing on all things old but interesting, including (but not limited to!) books, movies and video games. As a researcher in Gothic literature Matt also has an affinity for black cats, Hammer horror, and all things Dracula.