Supernatural: First Impressions

Late last fall, I asked for readers of this blog to pimp their favorite shows. Overwhelmingly, the most popular choice was a CW series called Supernatural – of course, there was a concerted campaign within the show’s fan community to write in and share the love for the series in hopes that it might generate greater awareness of the program.

Here’s just a few of the things readers had to say about Supernatural:

Every week is like a new little horror movie that, most times, is really quite frightening. But that’s not what really drives it. The true strength of Supernatural lies in the absolutely touching family ties and brotherly love exhibited every episode by Sam and Dean.

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The tight brotherly bond, driven by the love of their father is what keeps the fans coming back. The lore [hellhounds, demons, vamps, wendigos] keeps the fans sticking around for more and a crossover from the [Joss]Whedonverse thrills us! Each week a new puzzle piece is put down in the mystery of their family’s trials and tribulations and we LOVE Eric Kripke for such a great show.

*****

John, Sam and Dean are a dysfunctional family, and so intriguing with it that all the exchanges they have about their family issues have us fan(girls, mostly, I think) squee in delight. They all have a definite character, differences and similarities quite cleverly written and filmed (the way Dean and John move, the way in which John and Sam say the same words, etc). The feelings implied in looking out for each other not only as fellow hunters but as a family make the tension in the fighting/dangerous scenes raise up a notch. We want to see Sam telling it all to his father, we want to see what Dean would do, who would he side with, we want to see John worried about his boys. In short, we want to see MEN EMOTE for each other, and the family ties allow for a narrative that can play with this instead of justifying it.

******

Usually when there’s a friendship that fan glom onto, there will be hints of it onscreen–banter, and maybe once or twice per season they save each other’s lives. It’s the fans who had the really deep, strong emotional undercurrent in fanfic. But in Supernatural, the intense bond between the brothers is part of the text.

*********

It’s got a lovely mix of an overall mytharc as well as standalone bits and episodes.

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The arch narrative is threaded all throughout the first season, picked up in some episodes and just mentioned in others, but it’s what gives the series a fundamental unity and reason d’eitre.

*******

The continuity is fabulous, and works in all sorts of extra information, both on the characters and whatever myth they’re investigating. I find myself re-watching episodes, figuring out what’s going on, and the researching the history of the legends.

Each of the paragraphs above comes from a different reader but they represent steps in an argument that certainly got my attention. All I can say is that your campaign worked — at least in my case. I had only a vague awareness of Supernatural before I started getting flooded by these earnest pleas and recommendations. Frankly, I had lumped it together with Medium and The Ghost Whisperer, seeing the whole lot as basically TV knockoffs of The Sixth Sense. But, once I read those recommendations, I know I had to see it for myself and so I put the Season One DVD boxed set on my Christmas list. I’ve been watching Supernatural while coping with jet lag during my trip to Singapore — maybe not the best choice under the circumstances because instead of putting me to sleep, I keep wanting to watch just one more and end up staying up later than I should be. I more or less ended up inhaling Season One — watching the last eight episodes more or less back to back on the flight back from Singapore, and I am now craving season two.

I kept planning to write a midterm report on my viewing but given the choice between watching another episode and writing about the series, I kept choosing to watch another episode. Every statement I quoted above is absolutely true — this is a show which delivers real haunted house style horror every week and does so while giving us an extensive look into the emotional life and personal growth of its core protagonist. Each episode is self contained enough that you can watch it out of sequence and get something rewarding out of the experience, yet there’s a powerful cumulative effect of watching the episodes in sequence and thus seeing the character’s inner lives come bubbling up again and again. The writing is crisp; the characters have a distinctive voice.


You can try to compare it to X-Files or Buffy or Night Stalker, all of which it superficially resembles, but this series does things its own way (as I hope to illustrate in a moment).

It’s hard to imagine how or why a series this good is suffering from such total neglect from the network, from the critics, though clearly not from its most hardcore fans.

Let me tell you I was nervous going in. Having decided I wanted to write something in response to the community’s push, I was terrified I wasn’t going to like the show and would then have to write something negative. I never want to pee on someone else’s fandom but I was starting to see some folks out in LJland grumbling because I hadn’t said anything about Supernatural while I had posted about Heroes, the runner up show in my contest (You know who you are). I was already writing Heroes; Supernatural took homework and the end of a term is not the best time to be adding on extra assignments.

As it happens, the first few episodes didn’t quite grab me — they were good enough, they worked well within the terms of the genre, the characters and plot had potential, but I wasn’t hooked. For me, the episode that pushed me over the edge was “Skin.” And from there, it just got more and more intense. Retrospectively, it was all there from the beginning.

For those who, like me, got it confused with some of the other supernatural shows that hit television around the same time, this one deals with two brothers who are traveling across America doing battle with demonic forces and searching for their missing father. The creatures they encounter in any given episode are the stuff of campfire stories — they are inspired by roadside Americana and by urban legends. It is supernatural horror of a kind which movies rarely give us any more — spin tingling without being overly gory (other than an odd preoccupation with dripping blood). Indeed, its dependence on shadowy figures owes something to the vintage horror films of producer Val Lewton (The Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man) than anything in contemporary horror cinema. On the making of tape, Eric Kripke cites a range of filmic exemplars, including Poltergeist, An American Werewolf in London, and The Evil Dead movies.

The film scholar Robin Wood has identified the core formula for the horror film — “normality is threatened by the monstrous” — and suggested that the formula breaks down into three elements – normality, the monstrous, and the relationship between the two. And it is on that level that we can understand what separates Supernatural from many of the other horror series on television.

Joss Whedon has described the vampires and demons represented on Buffy as “metaphors” for teenage experience in America: they embody the horrors to be found in the hellmouth that is American public education.

The monsters in The X-Files ultimately became clues within the vast governmental conspiracy that Scully and Muldar wanted to uncover: the truth was out there and each monster we unmask brought us closer to the truth. Earlier in the series, everything hinged on the debate between faith and science, with the two partners contesting the validity of each other’s world views.

Something similar can be said of Lost where the supernatural elements are few and far between but seem to be just one more tantalizing clue to the puzzle that constitutes the series.

In Supernatural, the monsters are, in effect, emotional scars and psychic wounds. They represent unresolved emotional issues, often within the context of family life, and they are also external correlatives for the emotional drama taking place in the lives of the series’ protagonists. Sam and Dean go out there looking for things that are strange and unfamiliar and they end up seeing themselves and their relationship more clearly.

This is the stuff of classic melodrama: Peter Brooks tells us that melodrama externalizes emotions. It takes what the characters are feeling and projects it onto the universe. So that the character’s emotional lives gets mapped onto physical objects and artifacts, gets mirror backed to them through other characters, gets articulated through gestures and physical movements, and on a metalevel, speaks to us through the music which is what gives melodrama its name. Supernatural is melodrama in the best sense of the term.

On one level, it is made up of classic masculine elements — horror, the hero’s quest, sibling rivalry, unresolved oedipal dramas — but on another level, it seems ideally suited to the themes and concerns which have long interested the female fan community. Heck, this series is one long hurt/comfort story. Every episode seems structured as much around the character moments as around the monster of the week plotlines. Everything here seems designed to draw out the emotions of the characters and force them to communicate with each other across all of the various walls which traditional masculinity erects to prevent men from sharing their feelings with each other. Dean in particular seems to hate “chick flick moments” and has a running commentary on how much he would like to avoid getting in touch with his feelings but this doesn’t prevent us from having some real emotional revelations in almost every episode and the last few episodes of the season force each character to decide what matters most to them and to weigh their goals against their ties to their family in the most immediate ways possible.

I am someone who is definitely closer to Sam than to Dean in my outlook on life and indeed, there are moments in the series that I absolutely hate Dean, yet the series is well enough constructed that each time you reach that point, they peal back another layer and show some other aspect of his character. There are several episodes near the end of Season one which show us why he acts the way he does and suggests that his emotions run a lot deeper than his machismo will allow him to admit.

What gives the series its epic structure is the quest for the demon that took the life of the boy’s mother. The goal is what holds the dysfunctional and centrifugal family together; it is also what pulls them apart (since each of them holds within them some secrets about what happened that night that they have never shared with each other and the trauma has hit each of them on a different level.) Not every episode contributes directly to this core quest narrative — though many of them are connected to it in ways that are not immediately clear and the quest gains momentum as you move into the last third of the first season (and perhaps beyond). This is not an ensemble drama of the kind which most often wins recognition from critics these days: the focus is strongly on the two protagonists but around them, we accumulate, episode by episode, a richly drawn set of supporting characters, some of whom are recurring, some of whom appear in only a single storyline. It is not always clear which is which when we watch an episode and a real strength of the series is that what may at first seem to be throw away or one shot characters may resurface later. The series spends enough time setting up many of these characters that it produces considerable negative capability: we want to know what happens to these characters after the episode ends and in the case of the various family friends we encounter, we’d like to find out more about their history with the father before the series itself starts. There’s more than enough suggestions of back story here to sustain an army of fan writers for a long time to come.

A real strength of the series is the construction of female secondary characters, all the more unusual in a series which is so centrally about its core male leads. But each week, we seem to introduce one or two women who are struggling not only against supernatural forces but against the circumstances life has thrown their way. As Carol Clover suggests in Men, Women, and Chain Saw, horror films have traditionally offered a range of strong roles for women in part because men can accept the experience of risk and vulnerability at the heart of horror by mapping it onto the female victim. Clover describes the role of the Final Girl in the slasher film genre, for example, showing how the women overcome and ultimately face down their fear in the course of the action. These women sometimes surface as romantic interests for Sam and Dean but more often, they are extensions of their emotional drama: that is to say, each of them is dealing with some aspect of family drama which strongly parallels the issues which Sam and Dean are grappling with in their own lives. The men do not so much desire them as romantic or sex objects as they use them as mirrors to see into their own and each other’s souls. Each woman teaches them something they need to learn before they can become emotionally whole again and in the process, each teaches the viewer something about the men that we would not know otherwise. The show never patronizes the women, never denies them their core humanity, and indeed, often, it is clear that the men admire the women’s courage, intelligence, integrity, and passion. The result are some of the most compelling male/female relationships I’ve seen on prime time network television.

I am trying to write this without giving away too many spoilers. Part of my pleasure here was going into this series without knowing what to expect. Yet, I am hoping that I can lend my voice to the other fans of the series who wrote in this fall to pimp this show. You can certainly discover some of the virtues I’ve identified here in a single episode seen out of context but there really is a value in going back and watching this series from the beginning. There is a growth in the emotional life of the characters which is best experienced watching several episodes in a gulp. This is the kind of series that dvd box sets are made for.

I hope to write some more about Supernatural down the line. One of the things I am still working on are the parallels between Supernatural and Heroes, the other show which did very well with readers of this blog. There are several plot elements here — the theme of dopplegangers in “Skin” for example parallels the Niki/Jessica storyline in Heroes and the slow discovery of the extend of Sam’s powers has a lot in common with what happens to the various protagonists on the NBC superhero drama. I also think there’s a fair amount to be said here about what I see as the surprisingly negative portrayal of fans in “Hell House,” especially given the discussions we’ve had here about the “Love & Monsters” episode of Doctor Who.

I still have read none of the fan commentary beyond what’s been posted here or the fan fiction so I don’t know for sure what elements fans are picking up on in this series. That will be the next step once I get caught up with season two. But for the moment, I think you can add me to the list of Supernatural fans.

Comments

  1. Rose says:

    Glad you saw things our way LOL I hope you continue to enjoy it as much as we do.

  2. Morgan Dawn says:

    Lovely and excellent post about my favorite show (and

    not just because you had good things to say). Beyond the fannish squee, there has been considerable meta and insightful commentary about the show in fandom (along with some of the best fiction I’ve read in decades). I’ve taken a few stabs at the meta on family dynamics.

    On Sam:

    http://morgandawn.livejournal.com/342326.html

    On Dean: http://morgandawn.livejournal.com/352460.html

    On the nature of good/evil in the Supernatural universe (warning, Season 2 spoilers):

    http://morgandawn.livejournal.com/454549.html

    I also enjoyed this in- depth character analysis that was published in an Indian magazine:

    http://www.indiantelevision.com/headlines/y2k6/aug/aug22.htm

  3. Hope says:

    I am so glad to hear you’re hooked on this show!! One of the things that intrigues me about it is the intertextual contruction of it, it’s possible to read that aspect in a fannish model. I am puzzled/made uneasy by the fanboys in Hell House myself, though.

    And a big honking AMEN to your comments about the female characters. There has been some conflict in the fandom with regards to gender in the show.

    It’s fascinating to hear your take on the whole show, anyway. Welcome to the list!

  4. Amalthia says:

    I loved that you addressed the portrayal of female characters in this show. Sure in season one there weren’t any “regulars” but each guest star really made an impression.

    I’m also happy you enjoyed Supernatural. I know I was on the edge of my seat as it originally aired wanting to know what was going to happen next.

  5. I am delighted to see your response to Supernatural, which I consider the most underrated and underappreciated quality show currently on television. If you want to investigate what some of the fan community has drawn from the series, I would direct you to the various fan blogs over at TVGuide.com, including mine, which you can find here: http://community.tvguide.com/forum.jspa?userID=800002666&type=blog . The relationship issues are clearly far in the lead as the favorite elements contributing to fan dedication, and some of the discussions on the posts – ranging from Jungian analysis of character types to the personification of good and evil, and beyond – have been pretty erudite. This show has definitely generated passion and maintained quality; here’s hoping we have it for several seasons yet to come. Thanks for joining the club!

  6. Ki says:

    I am VERY happy that you understood where the fans were coming from and took a chance! This is a great, unbiased look at such a brilliant show and it’s refreshing to see it.

    You don’t know what you’re getting into, sir. Your days belong to watching SPN from here on out. ;)

    Also, thanks for using my comment. I’m incredibly proud to be a fan of this show.

  7. Jill says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m tickled to death that you got hooked on Supernatural.

    I may have been predisposed to like it, myself (well-written, well-acted buddy-mystery-supernatural-horror show with a mostly classic rock soundtrack, a noticeable absence of caricatured female characters, and a hot muscle car? Sold!), and indeed, I fell in love with it -immediately-, but I’ve also watched as practically every single friend has fallen for it over the past year or so, as well, many of them kicking and screaming most of the way (unsually until Skin ;) ).

    A friend of mine calls Supernatural a cross between Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Hardy Boys Mysteries, only cooler and much better written, which makes me laugh because I loved both of those shows when I was a kid, and the comparison makes a lot of sense.

    And since a lot of this entry is about family relationships, let me stick my neck out and say, I watch both Medium and The Ghost Whisperer, and those two shows are similar to Supernatural in that they’re very much about family relationships (in Medium, it’s a husband, wife, and 3 daughters, as well as the psychic-wife’s relationships with her DA boss and detective colleague; in Ghost Whisperer, it’s husband and wife and a few friends who know about the psychic-wife’s abilities), and the danger that comes along with their unique situations. Medium is extremely compelling and well-written, and has the most realistic husband-wife-family relationship I’ve ever seen depicted on TV (there have been interactions that were identical to things I’ve seen happen in my sister’s house). Ghost Whisperer is actually very sweet and touching, and rarely veers into melodrama. I know it isn’t cool to like anything upbeat or optimistic these days, but, well, I don’t put a lot of stock in critics’ opinions, anyway.

    Can’t wait for you to see Season 2!

  8. As I said before, I watch, but in a desultory way that is more about keeping up with the fandom. That said, rarely do I watch more than a few seasons of *any* show, or go out of my way to follow it if I miss eps, and I have bought eps from iTunes when my TiVo failed to recognize my season pass and am avidly looking forward to more. It’s a good show, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

    Fanfiction-wise, it feels a lot like … well, a lot like Smallville to me, actually. Granted, I never read much in the Whedon-verses, but the focus on family as the core of identity is really clear in the fanfiction as well as in the show, and Smallville is the other fandom that does that really well. Fanfiction has also done some wonderful work bringing out the regional America that the show tends to use as backdrop; some of the fanfiction is just *drenched* in a sense of place.

    I have a couple of other comments that I’ll email to you privately.

  9. Anne says:

    It is so wonderful to hear you praising what is certainly my favorite show currently on television, and possibly my favorite ever. It’s a fantastically unique show that suffers the handicap of all genre shows – prejudice and dismissal without any real knowledge of the content.

    The most amazing thing to me, and something you didn’t really touch on, is how these two young men, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, are so able to carry the show completely on their own. Certainly they are surrounded by a rich and complex array of characters, but when you come right down to it, it’s the Sam and Dean show. And these boys have stepped up to the plate in an incredible way. Jensen, particularly, is a revelation. I am so glad that he is getting his chance to shine. And Jared is so far from his days as the boy next door in Gilmore Girls – I am deeply impressed by his growth as well. And beyond their individual talents, they have a chemistry, a connection, that simply can’t be faked, and I honestly think that’s what allows this show to soar.

    And let me just say – if you liked the first season, you will LOVE the second season. It only gets better and better!

  10. eurydice13 says:

    Hahaha, our diabolical plan is working! The world shall be ours!

    Seriously, though, I’m glad you like the show and are telling people about it. :-)

  11. Fatima says:

    This is a very insightful analysis of Supernatural. I am so glad to read your opinion on what makes the show wonderful despite the absence of critics’ accolade which, in my opinion, this show deserves. I am also glad to read your opinion on the female characters that they introduced in the series. They are strong women caught in supernatural events but refused to be a victim of the situation. Thank you for your insights!

  12. Thea says:

    One of the things I find fascinating about Supernatural is how Dean is coded with many feminine/nurturing characteristics. I think the self-in-relation theory of female identity maps well over Dean’s character as shown so far. His fear of losing his family is so extreme, it leads me to think he constructs his identity in relation to his family. He’s willing to sacrifice himself for his family because that is the only way he could continue to exist.

    Though the mystery of the show centers on Sam, the emotional center is Dean, especially as Sam’s angst over losing Jess moves to the backburner after a while, but Dean’s fear of losing his family is shown almost every week. Many of the fans I know champion Dean over Sam, reflecting this placement.

  13. eurydice13 says:

    Also, for those of you just coming into Supernatural fandom, there’s an entire LJ community devoted to in-depth commentary and analysis of every episode. You can find it here:

    http://community.livejournal.com/spn_heavymeta/

    For a lighter approach to textual criticism, this community counts up uses of “dude,” “man,” Sam-vs.-Sammy, and speaking-in-unison for every episode. With graphs and pie-charts. And a complete “laundy list” of all the clothes the boys have ever worn. Did I mention our fandom is made up of NERDS?

    http://community.livejournal.com/dudemeter/

  14. eurydice13 says:

    One more link–there’s also a Supernatural wiki:

    http://supernatural.oscillating.net/

  15. jennagayle says:

    Thank you so, so much for this blog. I have let my friends on myspace know about your site to see if we can convert some more people. I am glad you share our frustration with why this show is not doing better than it is. It’s in a TERRIBLE timeslot competing with Grey’s Anatomy and CSI. The fans are very devoted though. We E-mail, call radio stations, post reviews wherever we can, and tell everyone we know about the show. Thanks again for your article, it was very intelligently written, and the fans appreciate the exposure.

  16. Danny says:

    Oh, man, you are gonna LOVE season two. Love it.

    This show is packed so full of myth and theme; it seems they’re just not happy until you need to watch every episode three times to get all the juxtaposition and innuendo. I’ve seen fans deconstruct the framing of one particular shot in an episode in an effort to predict what’s going to happen. This show is that layered.

    It’s rare (and nice) to come across a show that assumes that you as a viewer are an intelligent person, as opposed to a chimp with disposable income. :)

  17. Lindsay W says:

    Short and simple: this is the BEST analysis of Supernatural that I have ever read.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Not enough people do this show justice when trying to describe it’s perfection. :)

  18. femmenerd says:

    Just so you know, there are fangirls a-squee-ing on LJ about the fact that you made this post. I really appreciate what you said about the emotionality of the show. And I think you’re going to enjoy the second season even more–the show is really coming into its own lately. Since SPN ate my fandom experience I have taken occasion a few times to write informal meta about it as part of the ongoing dialogue within the fandom. On the “slashy” aesthetic of the show: http://femmenerd.livejournal.com/93934.html

    On the future of the arc and supporting characters: http://femmenerd.livejournal.com/121057.html

    And most recently on women guest stars: http://femmenerd.livejournal.com/162051.html#cutid1

  19. Mousitsa says:

    Without reiterating so many comments of my fellow fans, all I can truly say is thank you so very much for making the effort to watch with an open mind and an open heart. As I have told many of my friends converted in the same manner (a marathon viewing of season 1) once you have made this effort, this series will then own you mind, heart and soul and will renew your belief that quality television can truly exist but is unfortunately buried in such a vast sea of the moronic. The only thing I would beg you to do is to reconsider any thoughts of comparing Supernatural to Heroes, as there truly is no comparison. SN came first, is different and better, but lacks in the multimillion network backing for all-out advertising blitz. Please do not denigrate SN to the same level as “save the cheerleader, save the world”. Again, thank you for your honest and wonderfully positive review. You captured everything that we have loved about SN since it first grabbed us with the Pilot. I wholeheartedly welcome you to the unique club of the totally obsessed SN fans!

  20. Dr. Jenkins,

    I was thrilled to find this blog. I’ve been following your writings for a while – interesting and thoughtful indeed. I’ve been intrigued by fanfic as a big, unfiltered pool of role-playing/writing without needing to self-censor for a publishing industry, and wondering why more sociologists and communications theory researchers aren’t diving into this reinterpretation of oral storytelling.

    That and hey, it’s really FUN to read a thoughtful analysis of a big, serialized story that I am hooked on. Supernatural and Heroes are both on my must-not-miss list so I had a lot of fun reading your blog on it – I’ll look forward to your comments on season 2, if Supernatural has hooked you as much as it seems. Dark fairy tales and the traditional horror stories always seemed to me to be symbolic representations, as Whedon says of his vampires in Buffy. Abusive spouses are Bluebeard of course, and violent parents seemed like werewolves to me. Supernatural dives right into those waters. It works smoothly enough to be entertaining without subtext, but the subtext adds to it so much, in my opinion as, in a different way, happens with Heroes too. Pop culture as mythic shared stories.

    I’ll very much look foward to seeing more comments and keeping up with your blog.

    Thank you taking the time and glad that Supernatural didn’t disappoint you.

    JL

  21. Suzi says:

    I am so so glad that you decided to watch our favourite show,and im even more glad that you loved it!

    This show has become my favourite out of all the shows on primetime tv at the moment,and my main concern (i live in Australia) is getting the word about the show around so that we can have it shown at the same time as it is shown in the USA (like Jericho,the OC and a couple of others)

    Im just enamoured with everything about this show,all the things you have listed above and also another point i dont think you touched on,which is the closeness between the actors as people.

    Jensen and Jared are so close in real life and have become like brothers there too..

    This is an amazing thing that just lends to the dynamics of the show as far as im concerned.

    In closing im so so happy! Its great that you are hooked,and i cant wait til you see season 2!!

    Suzi

  22. Lucy says:

    I’m so glad you love the show:) I’ve been reading Textual Poachers lately and enjoying it (it’s amazing how much the core of being a fan hasn’t changed, despite the internet. We just do everything faster now). I’ll be happy to read your future analysis of SPN (pretty please?).

  23. Carly says:

    Welcome to our world ;)

    I was very impressed with this review.

    Us fans of Supernatural need as many people to spread the word about this show as possible. It needs the praise it deserves.

    Eric Kripke is a tredmendous writer.

  24. A. Hui says:

    Welcome to the Supernatural fandom!!! I am estatic to read how much you love this wonderful show and throughly enjoyed your analysis of it. Season 2 is fabulous and I can’t wait to read you’re analysis of it! Enjoy viewing!!!

  25. hermitme says:

    “[QUOTE]In Supernatural, the monsters are, in effect, emotional scars and psychic wounds. They represent unresolved emotional issues, often within the context of family life, and they are also external correlatives for the emotional drama taking place in the lives of the series’ protagonists. Sam and Dean go out there looking for things that are strange and unfamiliar and they end up seeing themselves and their relationship more clearly.[/QUOTE]”

    Damn! That was very revealing. I’ve watched this series since the beginning, I became obsessed after Asylum, but this tidbit surprised me because I never saw it. Great perception. Hah.

    I’m glad you like the show as much as we fans do and hope that the spread of the good word will entice other viewers to check out this fantastic gem. Thanks for the review, it was great and welcome to that Supernatural Fan Club.

  26. Deborah says:

    Professor Jenkins, thank you so much for the thoughtful review of Supernatural. I can’t tell you how glad I am that someone like you appreciates what I consider to be the best show on television at this time. The stories are well written, directed, and (especially) acted, and the scary stuff is great, but it’s the family relationship dynamic, especially the brother bond between Sam and Dean, that keeps me fascinated with this show. I am anxious for you to catch up on the Season 2 episodes so you can let us know your thoughts. While Season 1 was wonderful and I loved it, in my book Season 2 has far surpassed it. The tragedy they suffer in the season 2 opener is not glossed over and overcome by the next episode – we are now 10 episodes in and the brothers, and we, are still dealing with it (though we did finally get a big reveal in Ep. 2.10). These boys break my heart, and I can’t wait for the next episode.

    Thank you again for your kind words (and obvious good taste!)

  27. Erika says:

    I love the horror elements but what really hooked me on Supernatural was the idea of using horror to tell a classic hero’s journey tale with Sam as Luke Skywalker and with Dean, the older brother being given the Han Solo part. I’d rate Dean closer in television terms to Fonzie or Spike, because these characters are so easy to pump up due to them being cool, funny, and at least with Spike and Dean, emotionally tortured. I love Dean but I hate Fonzies because of the way they warp the writing and fanships. My heart belongs to Sam, mainly because he’s more like I am – and its rare to see the lead (by a hair, given that its a two person/one car show) in a hero’s drama be shown as intelligent and quiet.

    Emotionally, I’d equate Sam and Dean to Frodo and Samwise, and to Kirk and Spock. Another show about brothers, the anime, Fullmetal Alchemist, also has a comparable emotional core. There so few larger than life, epic friendships on tv shows and the story of Sam and Dean, as two brothers, does carry that weight for me. Its something I’ve been waiting for for a long time.

    At this point, I am most interested in the use of Sam as a person caught between two worlds, one human and one monstrous. Sam will be crossing through lines of identity and transformation, and I want to know where it will go and what it will mean.

  28. Andrew says:

    Wonderful blog entry Henry! I also agree about the importance of dedicating resources to development of highly sophisticated immersive environments (like the Revolution env-t built at MIT) for education.

  29. ML says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and illuminating analysis, Dr. Jenkins. I echo all of the above sentiments, and I would like to add that, on a personal level, it is so gratifying to see serious intellectuals try this show and find it as stimulating and enjoyable as I do. This show in particular has so many stigma attached to it: it’s a sci-fi/genre show, as you said, but it also has the less-than-credible reputation of its network and the extreme attractiveness of its leads [oh, it's just two talentless hot boys for the fangirls to drool over!] working against it. There are so many preconceived notions for people to overcome that I am sometimes embarrassed to “pimp” or discuss the show on an intellectual level with my real life friends and family, at least not without going into a long-winded explanation of why this show is so incredible *despite* these things. Especially when there is so little press coverage, let alone critical accolades, to back up one’s opinion to the skeptics. I myself was one of those skeptics well into the first season of the show, and like you, was finally pushed into watching by the instantaneous, intense, and sustained reaction from the internet community from the very first episode, to the point where I figured there *had* to be something to it. Yet, I didn’t go into the show expecting much more than light entertainment. Lo and behold, it has become one of my favorite shows of all time, and it is the first show I’ve ever watched, dearly loved, and obsessed over that has *not* gotten critical praise. I have moments where I think, have I been dumbed down, become easy to please over the years? (And I’m only 23!) Posts like this assure me that no, there is a very good reason that I like this show as much as I do. :)

    Thank you, and I look forward to more Supernatural musings on this blog!

  30. krito says:

    Well… Supernatural is a really special serie for me, first of all because there is an special bond between this two brothers that can and will sacrifice their lives for each other, and that is something pretty amaizing to watch. I have always been in love with supernatural stuff and this serie gives a really real side of what it is.

    Well, that’s it now