Supernatural Re-Watch

So I’m almost done with the revision of the third Memoir, I just turned in my next chapter for L5R, the number of pictures left to edit is down to two digits, and the next ten months are jam-packed full of time-consuming things I intend to do.

Which means it’s a perfect time to start a new giant project!

(Or at least it’s a perfect time for my brain to suggest a new giant project.)

I’ve decided I’m in a mood to re-watch Supernatural. And if I’m going to do that, I might as well blog my way through, because one of my reasons for re-watching it is to take a look at its macro-level narrative structure. Eric Kripke, the showrunner, did a remarkably good job of blending a strongly episodic, Monster of the Week format with a long-term metaplot and thematic development, and I’d like to take a look at how he did it. I won’t be blogging each episode individually, but rather commenting on structural stuff as it comes up during the course of the show.

This will involve spoilers. Lots of them. I’ll put everything behind cuts, but if you already know the show or don’t care about being spoiled, feel free to share your thoughts!

Before I get started on the actual blogging, let me share how I got into this show, and why I find it interesting enough to merit this kind of project.

Round about fall or winter of 2006, my friend k8 invited myself and someone we’ll call S over to watch a TV show called Supernatural. I had never heard of it; I was pretty far out of touch with anything currently airing, mostly picking up shows on DVD.

Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. The show was mildly entertaining, but not anything special; if I were grading it, most episodes would have gotten a solid B, maybe a B-plus. (The exception? “Bugs.” Which is bad enough that I didn’t actually watch it: k8 showed us the two or three scenes that were relevant to character development, and otherwise fast-forwarded through it giving a summary of the terrible plot we were missing.) Had I been watching on my own, I don’t know if I would have continued, but I was enjoying hanging out with k8 and S.

k8 had seen the first season already, which turned out to be a good thing; S is also a writer, and she and I kept dissecting the show as we went. “Nah, A won’t be the villain. It’s too obvious. B? No, probably C, because of that thing in the last scene.” k8 said she would have axe-murdered us if we’d been spoiling things for her. But S and I found that the show held up to that treatment fairly well. It wasn’t that we couldn’t predict where a given plot was going; we could. There’s a difference, though, between “I can predict this because it’s trite and boring” and “I can predict this because I’m looking at it through a writer’s lens.”

And here’s the thing: over time, bit by bit, it started getting better.

We finished the first season and headed into the second. Those Bs and B-pluses started turning into B-pluses and A-minuses, and then got better still. I’d watched the entirety of The X-Files with a friend, so I knew how metaplot could go wrong; now I started to see how it could go right. Actions had consequences. Questions got answered, but created new questions. By the end of the second season, I was hooked. I moved to California and started hooking other friends in turn. My sister, who hates scary things, parked herself in my living room with a giant stuffed purple hippo clutched to her chest and made constant meeping noises, but kept watching. The show was rarely genius, but it was solid, in ways that were very satisfying to my writer-brain.

. . . at least, it was solid. I watched through the end of season 5, then stopped, then made the mistake of watching season 6. I know a lot of people still enjoy it, but for my money, Kripke was right: he planned it for five seasons and walked away when he was done, and tacking on new stories after that rarely ends well. This re-watch will not go beyond 5, though if anybody has seen anything from 6 onward, don’t worry about saying anything that would be a spoiler to me. I know some of it already, and don’t much care if people mention the rest.

The blogging won’t be happening on a regular schedule; posts will show up as I watch the show and think of things to say. I have no idea how long it will take. But if you’re interested, please join me for the ride!

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