A Retrospective Review of ‘Supernatural’

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     On Sept. 13, 2005, audiences were first introduced to Sam and Dean Winchester as the first episode of “Supernatural” premiered. Created by Eric Kripke out of his love for urban legends, the show follows the Brothers Winchester across the country as they fight supernatural threats ranging from ghosts and werewolves to angels and demons. The show became America’s longest running fantasy show in its eleventh season, with its fourteenth season currently airing. However, despite many fans joking that the show will just continue forever, the end is truly nigh, with season 15  being announced as the final. To send off one my favorite fantasy shows, I thought I’d do a retrospective review of the show.

     First is the acting; with 14 seasons and over 300 episodes, many new characters have come and gone, with differing levels of talent.

     However, throughout the main body of the show’s run, there have been five actors that carried the weight of the show: the show’s main leads, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as Dean and Sam Winchester; Misha Collins as Castiel, the brother’s fallen angel friend and ally; Mark Sheppard as Crowley, the Demon King of Hell; and Jim Beaver as Bobby Singer, monster hunter and father-figure for Sam and Dean.

     While Collins, Sheppard and Beaver have not always been full-time members of the cast, unlike Ackles and Padalecki, they certainly helped carry the show this far. Ackles and Padalecki, as Sam and Dean on the other hand, really sell the notion that they’re brothers; the fact that they’ve been working together for about 14 years now probably helps.

     Next comes the story; originally, Kripke intended “Supernatural” to end at season 5. However, some of the show’s writers and showrunners thought there was more material that could be worked with, and wanted to continue, a decision that The CW network agreed with.

     With the show having had multiple writers and showrunners, the story has had varying quality over the years. The show was, in my opinion, at its best in seasons four and five, where Sam and Dean are introduced to angels and the greater battle between Heaven and Hell.

     Most seasons after season 5 have been average in quality, with season 7 being the worst, due to starkly more politically biased writing. As well as the main villains, the Leviathans, being cardboard cut-outs copied and pasted out of an Alex Jones conspiracy theory.

     There have also been many instances of writers retconning certain elements, and perhaps the biggest complaint leveled towards the show is that it’s become repetitive, these are certainly valid criticisms. As for the show being better, the best seasons after season 5 were seasons 8, 10, 11 and 12, as they tap more meaningfully into the show’s key theme of the family being everything, while also expanding the show’s lore.

     The show’s soundtrack is one of it’s most stand-out and best aspects, mainly due to its heavy use of classic rock music, ranging from AC’DC to Bon Jovi, to Kansas. Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” plays during each season’s finale from season two onward and serves as the show’s theme song.

     This helps set the tone of the show, which is distinctly American, as the brothers traverse the backroads and small towns of America in their 1967 Chevy Impala; fighting paranormal, divine and demonic forces, not with high-tech gadgets, but with machetes, shotguns and homemade holy water. The overall feeling of “Supernatural” can best be described as an homage to Americana, and the soundtrack is one of the biggest contributors to this.

     The visual effects are rather average for a TV show. With such a wide range of paranormal creatures and phenomena shown, some effects can be done with prosthetics, makeup, clever editing or minimal CGI, while other effects, such as on-screen decapitations or the appearance of demons when not possessing a person (a black smoke cloud), rely heavily on CGI.

     One thing to note is that the show has grown more reliant on CGI over the years, notably from season 7 onward. While the effects are average, it is a noticeable difference, and not necessarily a good one.

     So, with the end in sight for “Supernatural,” I think it should be given the credit it’s due. It has developed a large and loyal fanbase, proven to have staying power, even when the story stumbled, and created its own world that viewers can lose themselves in. It explores myths, urban legends and religions from around the world over and pays homage to Americana. While nowhere near a perfect show, it has certainly made its mark on television, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in drama, sci-fi or fantasy.         

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