Hey, Geeks! Welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about all the worst parts of your favorite things. The new season of Supernatural premieres today and way, WAY too many of you are excited about that. Let’s talk about where you went wrong.
Complacency is No One’s Friend
Supernatural started off with a pretty cool premise. Two brothers that are surprisingly easy to love bond while fighting demons and daddy issues in equal measure. Good times. And in the beginning, it was a great ride. There was a specific demon with a specific weakness. The brothers grew and changed and learned to face this adversary over five strong, (mostly) well-paced years. There was a well-rounded and natural conclusion at the end of the arc. Good show. Let’s go home.
And then somebody realized that Supernatural was making way too much money to just abandon the project.
A lot of you know where I’m going with this. And you’re already yelling at me that I’m wrong. That the show is still just as good as it was back then. And you’re right. It has been aiming for just as good for years now. Not necessarily better, but as good. And some of you think it’s been hitting the mark. But don’t you dare tell me you can eat the same cabbage loaf for 10 years and not get tired of it. So what do you do?
Escalation is Not the Same as ‘Better’
If you think you should add spices or seasoning or carrots to your cabbage loaf, you could probably write a more interesting Supernatural season then we’ve gotten in years. Because the current writers apparently saw the above question and immediately shouted: “Make a bigger cabbage loaf!”
How do you top a great adversary and his apocalypse? Apparently by getting another, bigger adversary and another, bigger apocalypse! The formula worked for the first five seasons and now everyone is hooked! How could continually using bigger and “better” versions of it for another decade possibly fail?
Well, first, you lose your pacing. The new arcs no longer spread out over five steady, well-planned years. Things start to go too fast, and then too slow to compensate. Sometimes writers take a nosedive off the deep end and try to reel it back in with placating ‘fan favorites’ so you can blow your load on seeing Bobby Singer again instead of wondering what the hell just happened over the last nine episodes.
You might introduce and kill your next Big Bad Evil Guy in one season and then have to scramble to find another one to take its place almost immediately. Or maybe you decide to make one of the brothers a villain for a bit. That can’t get repeated too often, can it? (Spoiler: Yes it can. More on that in a minute). Well, shit. That always makes the fans want to revolt. What do we do?
Apparent answer: Find a bigger adversary!
Over and over again. Forever.
What can this new season possibly be bringing to the table? Are we now on Lucifer’s second cousin’s daughter, Anjali? Or did we find some sort of super-angel that eats worlds and vomits black holes? You could tell me either one and I honestly would not be surprised at this point.
Seriously. Dean. Sam is in His 30s Now.
Supernatural is popular for a lot of reasons — or at least two. Sam and Dean Winchester. These guys are really the only glue still holding this ramshackle clash of hobbled storylines and angst together. How could you even think about touching the thing that die-hard fans will almost definitely riot over? Easy. You can’t. And thus the brothers haven’t truly grown in about 10 years.
Dean is still babying Sam like he’s the puppy-eyed college student from 13 years ago, stoically using a thrusting chin to put bandaids on skinned knees. Sam is still angsty about who he is and who he wants to be despite having now spent 13 years of his life being the exact same whiny ball of uncertainty and poor decisions. And when one of them makes a mistake the other still goes to brood in the rain or the Impala until it’s time to kill something new.
I don’t even know what season this broody gif is from. It could be literally any of them.
That’s… kind of pathetic. Can you imagine being the same person that you were as a teenager? Hell, can you imagine being the same person you were five years ago? No. And we don’t do any of the things that should involve the constant soul-searching the brothers face almost daily. So why are we okay with watching the same formulaic writing every season? Bigger monster. Brotherly angst. Brothers drop angst to dive in front of a bullet for the other brother. Dean cradle’s Sam head like he’s the world’s largest toddler. One or both brothers die. Surviving brother sells soul to reverse death. Bigger monster shows up. Repeat.
Sam. Dean. You kill demons and worse for a living. I should not have to tell you to grow up. For the love of God, try something new. You’re not teenagers anymore.
Your Protagonists Should Not Die… Holy Shit. 122 times??
Okay. I already hear you shouting “Most of those were the Trickster in that one episode!” Shut up. I get that 103 of those deaths were from one Groundhog Day scenario. But that still means that the two protagonists have died more than 20 times over the course of 13 seasons. If you have to use your fingers to count how many times your main characters have died then that is… Too. Many. Times.
What sort of stakes do we even have? Do you really still care every time one of them drops? Are you under any impression at all that this time might be permanent? No. Just take your “one of the brothers died” shot and keep watching. Down your drink if they come back before the end of the episode. Haha. Uncomfortable, yet? Binge watch all of the seasons while playing that particular drinking game. No? Afraid of dying? Good. That’s how we should feel about death. But instead, we’re going through Winchesters more often than underwires. And I assure you that one of those feels more like a betrayal than the other.
“Just end it, Sammy.”
“Dude. No. The ratings.”
Scoobynatural Was a Thing. And You Watched It.
This show really can’t decide what it is. It’s been horror with comedic aspects. Drama with horror aspects. But for the most part, it’s tried to take itself pretty seriously. Don’t get me wrong, the show has jumped quite a few sharks in its day (and has lamplighted them more than once), but nothing before came anywhere close to the TV-version-of-clickbait that was Scoobynatural. But instead of recognizing it as the easy gimmick of shark-jumping absurdity that it was, people who had already started to move away from the show tuned in to be hogtied and dragged down memory lane. Again. Willingly.
Honestly, at this point I think that Supernatural is really only still popular because it gives us a sense of nostalgia from 13 years ago. When times were simpler and we only had to worry about Women in White or the odd Windego. When we had one demon and one apocalypse and one Colt. That’s why so little has changed. That’s why we’re still being spoon-fed the same recycled arcs and angst over a decade later.
So when Supernatural realized they could shove even more nostalgia down your throat, they jumped all over it. They didn’t even try to hide what it was. It was a gimmick. A publicity stunt. And you ate it right up. Because you’re not watching Supernatural (or any of your TV shows) for what it is. You’re watching it for what it was.
And they’ll keep giving that to you until you demand more.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.