Over on the CW channel in the states, famous for the likes of the Arrowverse and The Vampire Diaries, a little show has been airing for some time now by the name of Supernatural. Starring Jenson Ackles and Jared Padalecki, this series has been running for eleven years, has developed a huge cult following and is still, surprisingly, not that well known. Its ratings have kept it on air for twelve consecutive seasons, yet when compared to shows such as the uber-popular Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, it attracts nowhere near the same amount of publicity. However, despite its low viewing figures, one thing can be absolutely certain about Supernatural: it’s, by far, one of the best shows on TV.
The premise from the outside would appear to be quite simple, and indeed this makes it very easy to get into at first. It revolves around the Winchesters, who were a normal, happy family until the day something evil came to their house and murdered their mother Mary (Samantha Smith). Daddy Winchester John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), hell bent on revenge, trained his two sons, Sam (Padelecki) and Dean (Ackles), to be Hunters; experts who track down just about anything evil you’ve ever heard of, and kill (or gank) them. This is not an easy job, or appealing life – their rigorous training including advanced martial arts lessons and tutoring to be adequate with pretty much every weapon there is. A Hunter is usually very world weary, extremely tough, and incredibly learned in all different kinds of Monster lore. Ultimately, when season 1 starts, it’s 22 years after their mother’s death. Dad’s very suddenly and mysteriously gone missing, so the brothers hit the road to find him, encountering ghosts, demons, vampires, werewolves and monster trucks, while all the time trying to piece together the real reason their mother was killed.
While you might think this sounds very much like what you’ve seen before in the likes of Buffy, one thing Supernatural does well is take an idea pretty much done to death and make their own unique twist on it. Each episode in season 1 is littered with pop culture references, which the writers want you to notice, except they know exactly how far to go before it becomes just another rip off. A beautiful trait, which is only improved upon as the seasons progress. The episodes can be gripping, scary and, at times, hilarious. Indeed, it is definitely a show, particularly in its later seasons, that knows how to laugh at itself. Some ideas behind the episodes are actually downright ridiculous and would fall completely flat on pretty much any other series, yet Supernatural manages to make it work, every time.
Despite the premise being very simple at first, it soon develops beautifully further down the line, easily changing from an enjoyable show to an unmissable masterpiece of storytelling. Without a doubt, Supernatural has the most extensive, fascinating and complex mythology of any show I’ve seen, including Lost (which, as Lost clearly made up most of it as it went along, doesn’t really impress me anymore). The overriding arc, beginning with the mystery of the mother’s death, is beautifully constructed and ends up going in a direction that I simply cannot spoil for you – but it’s brilliant. Believe me; they touch on everything, whether its horror movie icons, mythological stories, religious events – you name it, Supernatural has probably done it. Even now, in its twelfth season, the writers continue to expand their universe, never truly feeling tired or worn out. If anything, the cast and crew seem very happy to keep going!
The big secret to its success, however, would certainly be the characters and the actors who play them. In all twelve current seasons, the vast majority of attention is on the two brothers, which places a huge amount of pressure on getting them right. Sam is your typical protagonist, who wants more than anything to have a normal life but cannot escape the family business. He’s sympathetic and, at least at first, the one that the audience can relate to. Dean is the opposite; an anti-hero who embraces hunting and will happily con his way to some money if he needs it. It helps as well that he is very, very funny. Indeed, half the pop culture references come from him. But, on the interior, there is a hell of a lot more to these brothers, which develops beautifully as the show goes on. Sam goes on quite a dark journey in later seasons, where he begins to question not just himself but everything around him. Dean is, in all, a very tragic character, having practically raised his brother when he himself was very young, and being utterly dedicated to his family. Both characters grow beautifully in their time on the show, yet one thing remains the same – they will always sacrifice pretty much anything for each other. And most of the time, they end up doing it, for the Sam and Dean story is not a fun one.
Outside of the brothers, there are a multitude of brilliant characters that show up throughout the twelve present seasons, just as complex, interesting and likeable as Sam and Dean. You’ve got John, their very skilled and dangerous father. Then there’s Bobby (Jim Beaver), a father figure to the boys who is an expert on most monsters and demons. And, as the show progresses, you are eventually introduced to some of the most entertaining villains on TV, as well as fan favourite Castiel (Misha Collins), though to reveal more would be to spoil some really massive plot points. And trust me, you want to go into this show knowing nothing; it loves its cliff-hangers. Believe me, it loves them.
In all, Supernatural is a truly brilliant show. It’s exceptionally well written, has a fantastic cast and contains gripping characters you will want to see succeed, even when it’s the villains you are spending time with. Just when you think they are running out of ideas, they sweep the rug out from under you and just keep on delivering. It’s a show that challenges, entertains and, at times, even scares you to death, and I simply cannot recommend it enough. Trust me, if you like any show in this genre, you will love this one. See it.
Supernatural is scheduled to start airing its twelfth Season in the UK on E4 from January 2017.