Thursday, 13 August 2009

Of Supernatural Seasons 2, 3 and 4

The above video is entirely footage from Supernatural Season 1, it's set to 'Carry On My Wayward Song' which has become a kind of theme tune for the show, not only because it is about two sons but also because it's the song that plays before every finale with a kick-ass montage of the preceding episodes. This is the montage before the Season 1 finale (I've already reviewed Season 1) so I'm trying to keep spoilers to a minimum because this is a show I whole heatedly recommend for people who not only like genre shows but also fun shows, good acting and is quite often equally dramatic and hilarious.

For those who recall I reviewed Season 1 late last year and gave it a 7.5/10 saying that Season 2 had promise. All I'm going to say is that Season 2 more than delivered on that promise. Season 2 is a massive improvement over Season 1. The actors got the characters, the writers knew where the stories were going to go, the monsters weren't as uninspired (racist car? seriously?) and the show took us down many quirky avenues along the way. Whilst Season 3 is definitely weakened by having 6 episodes cut out because of the strike, it still delivers in many respects especially when it comes to the main plot of the season that was started at the end of Season 2. However Season 4 is where the show really kicks into high gear. What was a hell of lot of fun in both action, comedy and drama elevated itself to a show that asked big questions and is now set in Season 5 to have their own version of the Apocalypse with characters like God and The Devil coming along for the ride. That's a big development for a show that started out as two brothers battling unconnected monsters in the first season.

The main characters of the show are Sam and Dean Winchester. The main premise is that these two are hunters, not hunters of dear, but hunters of all manner of Supernatural creatures. Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts and Shapeshifters. The show creates a series of lore for each creature and how you kill it and whilst many creatures are faced more than once, the show can still surprise in how fresh it feels when they take it down in what is more less the same way. There are so many Vengeful Spirit episodes and whilst not all are as great as each other the show can still make these episodes interesting and downright fun to watch.

The show is grounded wonderfully by the main actors Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester and Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester. Whilst in Season 1 in some episodes it was clear they were just getting used to the characters, in the all the subsequent seasons they OWN the characters. All I have to say is that I want more Jensen Ackles on television. Whilst Jared Padalecki is great in his own right and can more than hold his own, it's Jense Ackles I've really become attached to. The guy is a bit like the quintessential cocky badass but can still come off as being a nuanced character when it comes to the emotional beats. The chemistry between the two lead actors is literally staggering. They are just a force to be reckoned, no matter what sort of scene it is these two make it work. They can be naturally hilarious with just a look and yet a few scenes later can have a deeply dramatic speech that actually makes you feel for these characters.

There aren't many shows I'll say I laugh at each and every episode but Supernatural is one of them. There is always some joke or some line or even some reaction that is hilarious. In one episode the two find out their lives are in a series of books and they have fans which lets them go onto a real Supernatural fan board and react to all the complaints to the show and even the Dean/Sam slash fiction (aka gay incest). It's wonderfully done and what's even more staggering is that a just a few scenes later they're in a life or death situation and acting their asses off in a completely different.

The show just gets the balance between comedy and drama completely. They know that without humour a show dealing with the subject they are can become too depressing, so they throw us more than enough comedic moments, and not just that but seriously hilarious moments. Plus the show will occasionally take time out from the main storyline and give us an episode that is just really quirky and funny. Many of these come from a certified genius, Ben Edlund, ex-Firefly and Angel writer (he wrote the puppet episode) but not all of them of course because he can do the dramatic seriously well also. Stuff like a Trickster God playing pranks, suicidal teddybears, Dracula paying for pizza using coupons, an episode filmed in the same style as a reality show (complete with bleeped swearing) and a groundhog day episode. Whislt not all of these Ben Edlund episodes, I can't help but feel he had a massive hand in their writing.

There isn't another show on television that gets the mix of comedy, drama and action so right apart from Chuck. Whilst Supernatural is obviously more dramatic they're both similar in terms of how they work and are equally as fun to watch. Like Chuck they also get how to a mix of standalone and plot driven episodes. Season 1 hinted at some larger elements but again it took Season 2-4 to elevate it. Season 1 was mostly set-up for the later seasons (some revelations were still coming in Season 4) but once it was done the show began to knock down plot points and showed an impeccable eye for old pieces of mythology. Better than Lost even which whilst it had a set story they didn't know the time frame. Supernatural knows its time frame is 5 seasons and building up to that, which gives it a massive plus over Lost (which is admittedly still the better show). The main plot of each season is constantly in the background and whilst not always at the forefront it still feels present.

Now being a show called Supernatural means it takes a lot of elements from horror movies. The first two seasons are definitely more centric to this idea of monster of the week which evolves to almost every episode of Season 4 being related to the main plot in some way. It's a steady progression however Season 2 and Season 4 definitely benefit the most. Season 2 for letting the writers mess around a little and introduce important elements in seemingly stand alone episodes that would be important later on and Season 4 because all the blocks are there for them to knock over. It's a shame Season 3 suffers in some respects such as the introduction of two female characters who don't mesh right and the condensing of so much plot into 4 episodes at the end of the season. It isn't bad but it's yet another casualty of the strike (along with Pushing Daisies, it seems Lost is the only show to have benefited).

Now for the gore. Before this show I had some fairly naive ideas about television censorship. The most you could show on a network show were gunshots and possibly some hinted violence as well as punching. Dear Lord was I wrong. This show is gory as hell. As I previously said I was impressed that they could show a full on head shot in this show but that's just a tip of the ice berg. Decapitation by barbed wire, frequent slit throats with blood gushing out, slit wrists, objects frequently stabbed through necks (most memorably from the position where we could see it come through the other side), eyeballs being scooped out of eye sockets, drowning on land, biting through a mans shoulder and someone being ripped to shreds by hell hounds. It's a cornucopia of violence and gore that can only be met by proper horror movies. Hell it's gorier than shows like Dexter (although not True Blood that show has recently made me feel physically ill whilst watching). Even the swearing is edging it for network shows. It's not at Dexter or Deadwood levels but still how many times can you say dick in a show?

The final place the show has improved upon over Season 1 is the expansion of it's supporting cast. The show is essentially about two brothers and in Season 1 there were really only one or two characters who appeared in more than one episode. Luckily in later Seasons we get a far more robust cast meaning that old characters can come back in cool ways. Whilst because the nature of some characters on the show it doesn't necessarily mean that it's always the same actor playing the character. To avoid spoilers I'll just say that whilst not all the characters work (two female characters in Season 3 but pay off comes for one in Season 4) many of them are delight. Fellow hunter Bobby is a definite highlight and appears in all four seasons so it's a definite treat whenever he shows up. I'm not going to say any other recurring characters apart from they involve many Demons, other Winchester family members, FBI agents, fellow hunters, physics, chosen children and Season 4 plot element **g****.

Overall the show improved on many of the elements of Season 1, they got the writing down amazingly well, the cast has increased in size whilst still keeping the heart of the show which is the two brothers. It feels like a horror movie made for TV albeit less scary but still gory. Plus the story has become all encompassing rather than being brought up every couple of episodes. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, are simply amazing if only for their chemistry and comedic timing (seriously they're up there with actor chemistry like Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson in Lost and Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad). The show has increased it's scope and truly become epic as it has progressed and delivered on all the promise of it's first season.

Seriously, I've fallen in love with this show, even if Season 3 faltered a little it doesn't detract from the two seasons that are on either side and still fulfills its purpose albeit not as well as Seasons 2 or 4 It's a fun show that might not be as dramatically satisfying as The Wire or Mad Men but it's a hell (haha) of a lot of fun and is just superb. Think Chuck with demons and you're close to the feel of this show. But honestly to sum up the appeal of this show, let's just say it's about two brothers travelling across America in Chevy Impala loaded with plenty of weapons battling demons as they go and listening to classic rock music.


P.S. Season by Season rating:
Season 2 - 9/10
Season 3 - 8/10
Season 4 - 9/10

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