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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Woes of a Supernatural Fan.

I dearly love how we can now binge-watch shows.  I remember back in the old days when this was something we just never got a chance to do.  Maybe, if you were lucky, somebody had the series you liked on VHS and they let you borrow it.  You could sit down and watch all the shows at once, if you were lucky enough to have them.

It was a rare thing.  Most of the time, there were shows missing.  Or they weren't in order.  The VHS quality was crap and you often missed entire scenes.  Sometimes there were other shows recorded on top of that tape.

I didn't have Star Trek:  The Next Generation when it first came out.  I was living in the country and the channel that carried it just didn't come on our TV.  Luckily, a friend of mine, Don, had some of the episodes for me to watch.  They were in no particular order, but I devoured them, and that's how I started watching ST:TNG.

It was like that for a few shows.  I wasn't able to finally binge-watch Twin Peaks until I was in Korea and found the whole series it in some hole-in-the-wall video rental store.  I would watch each episode in the dark of a classroom after everybody was gone, freezing my ass off because there wasn't any heat.  It would get downright creepy as the Killer Bob scenes became more and more menacing and I would be alone in that floor of the building.

The first time I was able to binge-watch a show online it was a glorious moment in personal entertainment.  Maybe it was Netflix, maybe it was some pirate site, it doesn't really matter.  What matter is that now we don't have to wait for the next episode or fret over some cliffhanger.  We can just sit down and watch the fucking thing.  It's nice.

Right now, a fellow horror writer and blogger, Rhoda Nightmare, has started binge-watching one of my favorite shows--Supernatural.

I count myself as one of the few people to have actually seen the pilot episode when it first aired all of those years ago.  It was so long ago, I was living with my aunt temporarily.  I had a rare night off from all of the jobs I was working, and I got to watch a show that looked interesting.

I'll admit I liked Supernatural right from the beginning.  My life got weird after that and I wasn't able to keep up with the show.  In fact, I thought it had been cancelled because it was on one of those newer networks full of shows nobody really liked.  Plus, I have this thing where I just assume if I happen to like the show then the networks are going to cancel it.

Supernatural is like a good pizza crust.  It is topped with a wide variety of stories, homages to various monsters, movies, books, short stories, comic books, cartoons, and even songs.  Some of these episodes are Monsters of the Week.  Once in a while, it's not even a monster, it's a really bad human.  And sure, there's the story that runs through the whole season, giving it that soap opera feeling.

I love 4th wall moments and Supernatural has a bunch of those.  It laughs at itself a lot.  One of my favorites was when Sam and Dean were put into a parallel dimension where they were the actors who played themselves.  Hence, they were Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles.  It was hilarious.  They made fun of themselves, their trailers, and Jared's wife, who played Ruby on the show at one point.  Genevieve Cortese even played herself, which was funny as hell, while Dean made fun of Sam for marrying a demon.

The point is, the show has some very creative writing sometimes.  Some of the best in-jokes are slipped in here and there.  But then, sometimes, the episodes are gut-punch deep.  One of those is an episode called "Heart" from the 2nd Season.

What makes this episode so difficult is by now we've really begun to feel for the brothers.  We know how rough their lives have been and how hard the consequences are for their actions.  By the 2nd Season, the show began to be an emotional meat grinder for the brothers and "Heart" cranks that up.

The simple version is this:  Sam falls in love with a woman bitten and infected by a werewolf.  She's changing into a werewolf at night and hurting people.   She doesn't want to live like that, she can't be cured, so she asks Sam to kill her.  And despite how badly this hurts, he does.

That's what Supernatural has always been about.  The brothers do what has to be done no matter what.  It's the hallmark of their Code.  It's also what has made the show incredibly gritty at times.  They joke around, they might play, the bad guys have some of the best lines on television, but there are episodes where Sam and Dean Winchester do what needs to be done no matter what the cost to their souls.  And it's probably why the fans have kept this show on the air for so long.

I think how Sam and Dean Winchester are written is almost a case study in how to have to characters commit acts of violence and still be sympathetic.  We see the toll their lives take on them and yet they keep going.

I'm still watching the show into Season Twelve, which says something, because usually those shows jump the shark in half that time.  But no, not Supernatural.  Supernatural hasn't jumped the shark just yet.  But even if they did, I'd still keep watching.  I know me--I'm a fan.  And being a fan means we watch until it's all done and the final credits roll.  

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