The Wayward Sons Carry On: An In-Depth Review and Analysis of Supernatural
Don't Keep Reading if You Want To Keep Wondering
THIS ARTICLE IS FULL OF SPOILER ALERTS, SO CONTINUE ON AT YOUR OWN RISK.
This is a show that I attempted to watch a few years ago and didn't get into. I'd like to say it was because it was below my intellectual level and more or less uninspired, but the truth is that the stories scared me silly.
Once I got over myself, however, I re-approached the show (with apprehension) and was pleasantly surprised and soon guiltily addicted. On Tumblr I became what one might consider the "fandom" and it made me only want to watch more.
I'm going to include in this Hub a detailed review of the show. Additionally, the three main men of the show (Dean, Sam and Castiel if you're lame and don't watch it) will get in-depth analysis (all provided by my tired, tired mind) based on what I've seen so far, etc.
Choose Your Favorite!
Who's Your Favorite Character?
So What the Hell Actually Goes On? Well, Here's A Summary!
(wow, can you tell that I'm tired?)
The show features two brothers who have been more or less estranged since the end of high school (and possibly even sooner, though that has yet to be revealed). Sam, played by Jared Padalecki, resists the life that he lived with his father and brother and is found at college at the beginning of the series living a normal life with his normal girlfriend Jessica. Dean, played by Jensen Ackles, is Sam's older and more militarily raised brother. Dean embraces the life he was given and continues to do his work until he's forced to ask Sam for help.
But help with what, you might ask.
Well. Help with their father.
John Winchester and his wife, Mary have an interesting dynamic. Having met at a young age, Mary was secretly a "hunter". And by hunter I don't mean shooting down Bambi...I'm more talking about the monster under your bed.
In fact, Mary comes from a line of hunters. John, originally, is a clueless and infatuated young man who just wants to live the rest of his life with his girlfriend in a white picket fence house and a dog with two children (well, at least he got one thing he wanted...).
It's unclear when the tables turned, but Mary always says that if she were to have children she would not raise them in the same way she was raised. Maybe that's why she turned into a docile housewife (I think...) while letting her husband go hunt the bad things so that her children could remain safe and normal.
All this changed, however, when Sam turns 6 months old (like, exactly 6 months old). a Yellow-Eyed demon breaks into his bedroom to feed him demon blood (it'll make sense if you watch the series...). His mother, hearing her child crying over the baby monitor, goes into the bedroom while the demon is doing his dirty work. Assuming this is her husband, she goes downstairs to do something...probably get a drink. When she walks downstairs, however, she discovers her husband is in fact asleep in front of the TV and not watching over their child. In a panic, she runs back to Sam's room and the screen blacks out with the sound of screams echoing in the darkness.
We are then re-introduced to imagery when John runs into Sam's room. Seeing nothing, he relaxes and goes to look at his baby lovingly while he sleeps. But something's not right; drops of blood are falling from who knows where, and as John looks up, he finds out that they're not from some invisible source. Worse. They are, in fact, coming from his wife, who is mystically pinned to the ceiling, dead, with her gut ripped open. The moment he looks up, the ceiling behind Mary starts turning to flame, and she is eventually engulfed, forcing John, Sam and Dean out of the house and into the streets, where John's motivation to find what killed his wife becomes his soul purpose in life, with his sons as little assistants to his mission.
Dean follows his father without question, for the most part. Like a soldier in a war, he listens to his commander and does what he's asked without questions. As the older brother he also bears the responsibility of watching over Sam (especially at a younger age, but throughout their whole brothership).
Sam is less inclined to follow his father's and brother's leads, and instead seeks a more normal life where he can get out of the danger and darkness of hunting monsters all of the time. He wants to become a lawyer, has a normal girlfriend, friends, and a life apart from how he was raised.
The Rock Salt and Holy Water
So that's who and the why. Now's the now.
The series premier begins with Sam going to a Halloween party (without costume because you know how he "feels about Halloween"...) with his girlfriend, where we learn that he's just excelled at his LSAT and is planning to attend law school. Upon returning from the party, Sam is assaulted by his older brother Dean, who's more of a legend to his girlfriend than anything else (that is, she's never met him and really only heard the stories). When Dean says "Dad's gone hunting, and hasn't been back in a few days" it's an immediate clue to Sam that something is wrong. Hunting, of course, isn't just being out in the woods shooting deer...it's more like venturing into people's homes and shooting monsters and ghosts.
And thus, the "hero's journey" begins, with Sam being the reluctant protagonist and Dean being the force that pushes him into chaos.
Sam promises Dean that he will help find their father and then return (by Monday for an interview) to his normal life. But this isn't what happens: when Sam returns, he discovers his girlfriend, Jessica, has been murdered in the same way that his mother was killed. This prompts him to rush back to Dean, in order to find whoever killed the two most important women in his life. Thus begins the journey.
But the whole series isn't trying to find dear old dad and the killer monster that ruined all of their lives....that would be boring.
Instead, the brothers are actually able to find their father, and hunt with him as a family to get revenge. The conclusion of their quest unfortunately is unsuccessful, and ends in the death of their father, with the monster (Yellow Eyes) still running free as a threat to 6-month old babies around the world.
For a while, the story is about the two brothers carrying on the family business of hunting monsters and saving people. But about halfway through the series, the tides change and the focus becomes the fight between heaven and hell. Demons, angels, the devil, and God...all of this gets introduced, and it remains an integral part of the storyline from then on.
Sam struggles with the fact that he is powered by demon blood (thanks a bunch, Yellow Eyes...), and is chosen as Lucifer's true vessel in the fight between brothers.
Dean's concerns lie with the fact that he is burdened with the pressure to always keep Sam safe, while simultaneously recognizing that because he is Michael's vessel he might have to kill the very brother he has protected and loved his whole life.
Hint, if you're lost: Lucifer has escaped from Hell, and it is Michael the archangel's job to defeat him and send him back from whence he came (thus inevitably killing the vessel that Michael is using).
Other fun characters to look out for:
Dean is himself a laugh riot. His snarky, smart-ass remarks and pop culture references add some comic relief to an otherwise serious show that would more or less delve into the depths of despair otherwise.
Sam plays the moral backbone of the group, and though sometimes he makes a joke, most of his humor comes from his awkward, tall size and his facial expressions.
Bobby Singer is the boys' surrogate father. Played by Jim Beaver, he steps in just before their father dies and replaces him in a way. He remains throughout a majority of the series until his unfortunate death and "atonement". He serves as their resource for everything from pretending to be their FBI boss to finding them information on how to kill certain creatures. He's known for calling the two "idgits" and always uttering his annoyance by exclaiming "balls!" when something goes wrong. He's kind of the glue that holds the boys together in a way.
Castiel is a wonderful character, and one of my favorites. Played by Misha Collins, he is the Angel of the Lord who serves as the "angel on the shoulder" of the two boys as they struggle to fight the angels and demons flying their way. Cas is most connected to Dean, and though their relationship is initially shaky, Cas soon becomes more of a leading role than a supporting one. His humorous side is apparent with his inability to socially assimilate into the world of the human race. He certainly is their saving grace more than he is their comedic relief, however; his power and determination saves their asses more than just a few times.
Crowley is played by Mark Sheppard. He's a demon that likes to endearingly call Sam "moose". He is on the team of the brothers mostly because he fears that if Satan wins, he will be destroyed shortly after the human race. After the demise of Lucifer, he is still involved in their lives because he is now the King of Hell, and thus is a necessity to the brothers from time to time. Though for the most part he's a complete pain in the ass, he has his moments.
"They burned down my house. THEY ATE MY TAILOR!"
Chuck is a character that doesn't have the shelf life of the others, but is just as important and one of the most endearing guests of the show. Played by Rob Benedict, Chuck is the first of two main prophets in the series. He's the writer of the novel series "Supernatural" and knows just about everything in the boys' lives. He disappears just as Sam falls into the Cage with Michael, thus concluding that chapter of the brothers' stories. His awkward, charming nature makes him a joy to watch on screen and serves as both a comedic relief and a tool for moving the story forward with a slightly more omniscient point of view. He stops publishing the series Supernatural after Sam tells him "we have guns and we will kill you". Dean, especially, feels as though this exposure wrongfully portrays their lives as heroic and exciting vs gruesome and scary.
Gabriel, otherwise known as the Trickster, is a great character played by Richard Speight Jr. He's kind of like the thorn in the two brothers' sides. He is adamantly against the war between heaven and hell, but doesn't want to be involved in the archangel drama. Overall cautious of getting in the way of his brothers and his family, Gabriel hides the seriousness of his situation with comedy and bravado. In the end, however, when he chooses to step up, it ends in his unfortunate death.
Kevin, the second profit, is similar to Sam in that he is forced into the mess by the unfortunate hand of destiny. Played by Osric Chau, Kevin is a timid, nerdy high school Asian with a traditionally strict (but very spunky!) mother, and a dream of going to an Ivy League school. His ability to be dedicated and thorough helps the boys throughout their journey, but his comedic qualities come from how timid and unprepared he is for everything that is happening. Unlike Chuck who could stay in his room and write his novels, Kevin is thrust into the action and is forced to grow up faster than he should.
There are so many amazing characters in this show, both temporary and long-lasting. It would be difficult to name them all, and this is a very abbreviated list that reflects my personal favorites. Who stands out to you in the series?
The WooHoo and the Voodoo: ReviewOooh...
Here comes the review!
I started watching this show a few years ago, and didn't get past a few episodes. Mostly this was because it was freaking me out...though I'd like to say otherwise.
It made me check under my bed and behind my closet door!
But in reality, I think it just wasn't piquing my interest much the first time around.
When I started again, it was with my boyfriend. He was adamant about watching it and I was fine either way. I figured we'd see a few, then I'd be over it and go back to Grey's Anatomy (no judging!).
But boy, how wrong I was.
After a marathon of Supernatural, I was hooked. I went home and watched more, and more, and more...when I returned to college for Spring semester, I watched it while I was relaxing, while I was doing homework, while I was eating, while I was...well, while I was doing anything, really.
WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD?
Storyline and Plot: There's a lot to be said for Kripke's creation. The storyline starts out with a basic structure and kind of snowballs from there. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of shows about the supernatural, but the witty writing along with interesting stories and great characters and actors all spun together into a cohesive and addicting web that I fell right in to.
There's something about the monsters, the lore, all of the history that leaves me fascinated and wanting more. Much like Criminal Minds led me to research serial killers, their psychology, and the BAU, Supernatural sparked an interest in me: I wanted to know about all of the myths and legends they addressed (uh oh...another Hub idea?!).
Granted, I haven't had as much time this semester to explore the weird and freaky, but I fully intend to. And the fact that the show garners that much interest in me despite being a subject I'm more or less ambivalent to is impressive.
What's great about Supernatural is, even though the plot gets pretty crazy and weird, it still stays to its roots. It never feels like the ending of a lot of J.J. Abrams shows (which I love, by the way, but the endings aren't my favorite). Even though sometimes they seem to go on tangential rants from time to time, the overall plot remains strong and as of now, doesn't seem as though it's too much of a stretch. You know how you can tell when a series is reaching its end because its stories seem to get weaker and weaker? Supernatural isn't there yet.
The Writing: The writing in this show is particularly beautiful. Reminiscent of the witty banter of the Gilmore Girls along with the comedic anecdotes of Bones, the writing is one of the strongest examples of good scripting I've seen in a while. It's difficult to find that perfect balance between funny and serious: I think that Bones does it really well, as does House M.D.
And it's not just what the characters can say that make me laugh, either. The facial expressions can be priceless. If a picture is worth 1,000 words then a great facial expression and wonderful body language can be worth up to 100,000. I'm always impressed when a show doesn't need constant dialogue to get strong emotions and points across, and Supernatural definitely does this well.
Although sometimes the dialogue seems a little melodramatic and over the top, it's generally incredibly effective at what it's trying to accomplish.
The Characters: This goes along with writing, in a way, but it needs its own category. The characters of this show are fantastically acted and well thought out. Although sometimes the deep, gruff voices get to be a little too much, that blip is easily overseen because of how wonderful everything else is. There are multiple dimensions to each character that keep you interested, and there doesn't necessarily feel like one is better than the other: they are all treated by their creators with love and respect and are given rich backstories that sometimes can be forgotten in supporting characters.
The characters are also dynamic. They don't remain the same throughout the series, but their changes are realistic and believable to an audience who's fallen in love with Dean's snarky and sarcastic sense of humor and Sam's high moral ground. Castiel's devotion and social awkwardness and Bobby's crass personality remain their defining characteristics despite how many changes and evolutions their personalities and minds go through.
The characters interact well, too. Sam and Dean play brothers perfectly, from moments of love and devotion to scenes of utter annoyance where they're each at the ends of their rope. Dean and Castiel's relationship is perfect, as well, as "best friends" or a "bromance" of sorts where there's clearly a strong emotional connection between the two that's unique and dynamic. Bobby's relationship to the two brothers is also strong. He represents their father in a lot of ways, because of their father's death, but he does a wonderful job at remaining who he is without being blatantly paternal. He doesn't baby them, doesn't dote upon them, and is in fact most of the time pretty rude; but this doesn't deter the audience, because of the effective chemistry that he has with the two boys which doesn't need obvious actions or words to establish and strengthen.
SO...WHO WOULD LIKE THIS SHOW?
Not everybody. But it's got a pretty wide range of interests that it covers, and I wouldn't say it's limited to those enthralled with the paranormal and supernatural. I, myself, am a perfect example as I normally avoid these kinds of shows, books, and movies. However, there are so many other things that are strong in the series that it's not something that you should just avoid because of what it sounds like.
That being said, there is a lot of the paranormal, so if you're really superstitious you might not want to watch this...or at the very least, not at night, in the dark, with the lights off...
Another thing to be said about this series is that it's not pretty (ok...the characters are pretty scrumptious): the show is pretty violent overall, and I would not recommend letting kids under the age of 15 or 16 watchthis show, and I certainly wouldn't think that watching it alone would do them any good.
But if you like witty banter, strong comedic elements, a good story, dynamic characters, and contant action, this is the show for you!
My overall rating would be a 9/10. Not a 10/10 because sometimes the dialogue and stories can get a little cliché or "lame", and this stands out more because most of the content is so strong.
Sam Winchester: A Brief Analysis
Sam Winchester is the brother who opens the series. He's the one that wanted to get away from the Hunter life and live normally. This might be because he was so young when his father and older brother dove into finding the monster who killed his mother. There's probably a lack of responsibility to the job as well, given the fact that he wasn't consciously involved in the life-altering event.
That being said, his devotion of course changes when the exact same monster kills his girlfriend (who we can assume he was very serious with). This, at least in the beginning, is his driving force. Ironically and conveniently it's the same as his family's.
His background as the scholar of the group allows him to be their researcher and logical attribute. He tends to think and plan and gather information before attacking, whereas his brother's experience and knowledge comes more from his gut and what he remembers and his father's journal rather than collected data.
And maybe gut and instinct would be enough; but Sam does the research anyway and it helps save the brothers more than a few times. Sometimes it's needed, too, since the information isn't always at the tip of their fingers.
Sam's relationship with his father is rocky to the end. Because he wanted to move away from the life and his father disapproved, there's a tension between them on how Sam should live his life. Sam doesn't want to be the soldier that Dean is, and Sam's father struggles with having a son that will go against him and not follow his command. Even though you can tell that when they finally reunite there's obvious love between the two, there's also obvious tension. The two are identical in how strongly they'll stand behind their beliefs and this makes it impossible for them to really come to any agreement on their relationship and how it should be functioning. Upon the death of John Winchester, Sam finally begins to realize the ways in which his father was perhaps right about a lot of things and starts following some of his advice and relying more on his book because he now understands the trust that his father expected from him. Though perhaps their relationship is still not as strong and John and Dean's, it is certainly more important to Sam post-mortem.
Sam's strong moral beliefs are what make him him. His constant questioning of Dean's motives and their necessity are relentless but necessary. He is always considering the consequences to others; would doing this and this result in too many casualties? None at all would be preferable. It's hard to tell where this comes from, but one can assume it's just something he was born with. Sam is like his mother in the sense that he wants to live a normal life and maybe even in his ability to attach emotionally to situations and people. In this way, he holds the duo back from some questionable decisions; it also creates conflicts, however, that make the story more interesting and force them to find workarounds.
Especially in the episodes regarding the "vegetarian" vampires, this is especially relevant. Dean is willing to agree that monsters are bad no questions asked. But Sam warns that if they've promised to remain "sober", they should be respected until they harm someone else. This revelation that hunting isn't all black and white is something that extends beyond the vampire situation and forces Dean to reconsider a lot of things that he might not have if Sam wasn't the angel on his shoulder (and if you really want to bring the message home, the vampire they saved comes back to help them much later and gives them information they might not have gotten otherwise).
Sam's strong moral background is important, no doubt. But how important? When Sam loses his soul, it's clear that there's something amiss. Dean notes that his ability to gage what's important and what's not has almost completely disappeared and his judgement in nonexistent. This coupled with what he's willing to do because he just doesn't care makes it so much more obvious that without a soul, Sam is most definitely not the same person and even though he's a better "hunter" he's not very helpful other than his brute strength.
The most interesting thing about the two brothers is the vessels that are chosen from them. Because Sam is the "moral brother", it seems odd at first that his destiny is to serve Lucifer, the devil and the epitome of everything immoral. But it makes sense (as Gabriel lays it out): Sam is the younger brother. The rebel of the family, the one who rejected dad where all others followed in his footsteps without blinking an eye. Oh, and then there's that demon blood thing, which makes him a little more devilish when he drinks more of it (thanks a bunch, Ruby!).
Dean Winchester: A Brief Analysis
Dean Winchester is the soldier. The older brother, the protector the shield and the sword. Unlike his brother, his motivations as a hunter began the night that his mother was killed and he had to save his brother from a house exploding in flames. Two important parts of his personality came from this incident: his need to protect Sam, and his devotion to his father and their job.
Dean's relationship with Sam is very much that of the big brother, whose sole purpose it is to protect his younger brother and carry his burdens. Because of this, Dean carries a lot (probably too much) on his shoulders, and as the series goes on it obviously starts to wear him down. Whenever something happens to Sam, Dean feels responsible. His main concern is always his brother above all else.
Dean is also a soldier. Raised by his father, an ex-Marine, he's been trained from an early age how to react quickly and with foolproof reflexes (this message rings especially clear to him when he almost lets his brother get his energy drained by a monster at a young age because he froze and let it get away). Because of this, most of his actions are driven by his instincts as a warrior and fighter and less by his knowledge from research. Because he so idolizes his father and was raised to never question him, Dean always goes along without question and becomes almost like a robot when given orders.
All of that being said, Dean is also not the smartest of the two. Like I mentioned, he follows his instinct more than anything, and this leads to some humorous mistakes on his part that were made most likely because he didn't think things through or forgot to consider the consequences. He also sucks at rock paper scissors because he's super predictable. In case you ever need to win against him.
Dean is Michael's vessel. The sexoholic, alcoholic, riskoholic Dean Winchester is the vessel to an archangel. How did this happen? Well...he's the older brother. He's the one Lucifer went to for help and who Lucifer looked up to until his eternal damnation. So it's no wonder that Dean, the older brother who Sam used to idolize, would be paired with the archangel Michael.
But Dean isn't just the older brother with a lot on his shoulders and a contant need for fast cars, fast women and fast booze. He's actually pretty deep. And by deep, I mean that there's a lot of anxiety and depression brewing around inside of him. This is pointed out numerous times, but usually by people/creatures who get to know him or can see something in him. Indeed he is incredibly self-deprecating. Why? Because he holds himself responsible for almost everything that happens around him. All of Sam's pain and mistakes are just as much Sam's as they are Dean's, and this is exhausting. A lot of the pleasures he takes from life are necessary to sugarcoat the pain that he really feels.
But on the outside, Dean is the tough one who laughs in the face of death and whose middle name is fear. His snarky attitude and ability to joke even at the most perilous of times not only makes him a great comic relief, but also makes him even more apparent as a tortured soul. But it also represents him as smarter than he often appears. Although he didn't go to college and is arguably not nearly as book smart as Sam, his instincts and ability to judge a situation and act accordingly are spot-on most of the time and he doesn't wince in the face of danger. Although Sam doesn't either, he's more likely to freeze than his older brother, whose automatic instincts are far more deeply rooted.
Castiel: A Brief Analysis
Okay the Winchester boys are pretty awesome. But come on: who doesn't like Castiel? He's a nerdy angel with no social skills and an adorable face!
But all seriousness aside, he really is a very compelling character. But why? He's just an angel.
Well at first, he's just an angel. He's an "angel of the Lord" who's on earth to, at least partially, guide the Winchesters. His powers are potent and his love of God is unquestionable. Much like Dean (and maybe this is why they get along so well, in part), he follows his father without blinking because he believes that there's no other way to approach the situation.
He serves, for the storyline, as something to move things along when research and dad's journal become repetitive. He's also a weapon of sorts for the Winchesters, whose ability to kick ass isn't always present.
As the series progresses, Castiel's role becomes a far more personal one. His character develops and humanizes; he no longer considers the Winchesters as merely "objects" to watch over but more like brothers that he wants to protect and whom he cares for deeply. This, and many other factors, force him to question God and even his current existence, and much like Sam he rebels because he feels there are better decisions to be made and no one is making them.
He shifts often between having his powers and being stripped of them. When he's unable to be an angel, it strengthens the Winchester's connection with him. It proves that he is no longer just a weapon and a resource to them, but that he means much more in the long run. This probably ends up strengthening their relationship, even though Dean points out that without his angel powers he's nothing more than "a baby in a trenchcoat".
Castiel's major moment is when he becomes the new "God" and kind of fucks everything up, thus condemning himself to death. When he returns, he has no memory and has become a faith healer of sorts name "Emanuel". In a lot of ways this is his opportunity to have a fresh start. He's once again pure like he was at the beginning of the series, but his soon discovered past helps to motivate him into making better decisions (like taking on Sam's burden of having Satan constantly ringing in his ear). Like a baby, he once again has to walk before he can run and has to relearn things with a fresh perspective.
Wow this was a way too long Hub!
But anyway. I hope you enjoyed it.
I wanted to do a longer Hub on this show because I feel like it's a lot more than what it seems. There's so much depth in the characters that I didn't even touch the surface of, but I hope that you at least get a sense oef it more now than before you began to read.
I highly recommend at least trying to watch the show and if you can't make it through the first season then at least you took a stab at it, right?
And if I missed anything...which I'm sure I did, let me know and I'll add it in!