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[personal profile] bagheera_san
Hello! I'm not dead, in fact I still read my flist every day, I just don't produce anything worth posting. Still studying hard, and living life, and doing therapy and all that, and in the evenings, when I'm not doing social things, I feel the need for mindless entertainment, so a couple of weeks ago I thought, hey, why not check out that show everyone used to love way back in SV fandom...

Back then, I avoided Supernatural for three reasons: 1) I thought it might be too gory-scary, 2) the two main characters seemed like boring young white dudes whose main appeal to the fans was attractiveness and 3) I thought I might actually like it, maybe, and get sucked into a new fandom when I didn't want to be. Then Supernatural got more seasons, and eventually the angel storyline came around, and I sort of registered it through fannish osmosis. I like angels and demons when they're done well, such as in Dogma or Good Omens or The Prophecy or even Constantine (angels and demons were the only good thing about this movie), and I like pairings that are basically human/god-like entity (it's a mystery why I don't like Doctor/Companion, now that I think about it). But I still didn't check out Supernatural.

But a few weeks ago my resistance suddenly vanished and I decided to watch it. I watched the first episode, and while it was surprisingly okay, I wasn't really up for monster of the week episodes, so I skipped ahead to S4. S4 of Supernatural is awesome. I watched all of it, and then S5, and S5 has the most perfect ending. There are four more seasons, but I cannot bring myself to watch them, because I know they're not as good. I also haven't watched Seasons 1, 2 and 3 because I suspect they're also not as great. This has never happened to me. I watched every single episode of House even though it wasn't that great, and I stuck to SV way longer than I should have. I am watching every single episode of ST:Voyager with my roleplaying buddies (we're in S5 now) and by god, that show is so bad. (I loved it as a teenager, but now... no. Just no.)

As TV goes, S4 and 5 of Supernatural are rare in that they feel as though they have been tightly plotted in advance (with the exception of a tiny handful of fillers) and the showrunner did not cave to the tempation to draw things out just to make more seasons possible. You rarely get that except when the show is based on a book. And while Supernatural fandom is weirdly obsessed with how "painful" or whatever their show is, I find it just the right level of dark but not hopeless. Terrible things happen to the characters, but they have something that is clearly worth fighting for, and in the end, they (mostly) win. It's like Buffy S5.

In addition, Supernatural has is surprisingly funny at times, and it has great meta episodes and cool recurring characters, plus great music. The two main actors are not as talentless as I assumed (sorry, all I had to go on was the fans, and you guys mostly obsessed about their prettyness) - they're way better than most of SV's cast, but just as pretty. Plus, Dean Winchester is a pretty awesome character, and the fact that the two main characters are brothers is an interesting change from "two investigators"-pairs like Holmes and Watson, Mulder and Scully etc. where the dynamic is very different, and painful, co-dependent family dynamics play no role.



S4 starts with a trope I like - the more TV you watch, the more you start to recognize your plot kinks. In this case: a character dies (or undergoes a similarly disruptive experience that makes it hard for them to return to their ordinary lives) and comes back from the grave much graver (that line from Buffy has been on my mind a lot lately). I loved this in Buffy, I like it, for example, whenever TNG chooses to inflict it on Picard, I like the Doctor's time war trauma, or would have, if it were differently executed, I like Tony Stark's near death transformation(s), I like Sisko's increasing strangeness as he gets closer and closer to the Prophets, and so on. It's not just trauma, it's an existential crisis and as these go, Dean Winchester's stay in hell is pretty good, because it both aged him and broke him and then, like the cherry on top, he's expected to save the world when all he wants is to throw down his arms and curl up and cry. Yep, plot kink ahoy.

But S4 proceeds to add another die-hard plot kink of mine: quasi-divine being champions mortal. Castiel, the angel in question, is pretty uncompromising about this whole, "BAM you're the chosen one and I believe in you whether you want it or not" thing, and Dean is understandably reluctant to accept the fact that he's a "righteous man" when he just spent years torturing people in hell, and when angels in SPN get impatient and angry with mortals, it's pretty scary. But Castiel isn't just a scarily powerful being, he's also straightforwardly holy, as in "I absolve you of all your sins" and laying on of hands and what not, and Dean is a guy who desperately craves that kind of healing but can't quite believe it or accept it as something he deserves.

And then we get to my next plot kink: Castiel gets so hung up on his pet mortal that he starts to fall from grace and has to ask all the hard questions about god. (Dean and Castiel remind me both of Picard and Q and of Baltar and Six from BSG - the tone is different and the characters are very different, but the basic dynamic is very similar).

As a sidenote: I don't ship wincest. Incest between brothers isn't the problem, I have no problem with it when it's characters like Thor and Loki who aren't really human, but the Winchesters are so incredibly co-dependent that shipping them feels REALLY UNHEALTHY and I just can't do it, even though a lot of good writers have written wincest. I do, on the other hand, ship Dean/Castiel, both because the chemistry is there and, as I said, this dynamic is a plot kink of mine. The problem with this ship is very few writers seem to capture the full scope of it - it lends itself well to romantic comedy because Castiel is so clueless about humans and the show often uses him as a funny character (like, say, Data) but at the same time he's an ancient, deadly soldier of the lord who introduces himself to Dean with, "I'm the one who raised you from perdition". Hard to find a balance there.

Meanwhile in S4, Sam, the little brother, pulls a S6 Willow (baaaad choices, addiction to power) and causes an apocalypse in the making. I like Sammy, but nowhere near as much as I like Dean (with the exception of the flashback episode where they're in school - I like tiny!Sam).

Then you find out that the angels are actually the bad guys, as in every bit as bad or worse than the devil. Not a surprising twist, but well done, especially since it gives us the exceptions from the rule - the couple of demons and angels who pull a Spike and decide that they actually don't want to destroy the world because they like it. There's Anna, Castiel's ex-mentor who decided to hide on Earth as a human because she likes humans better than angels. I love Anna, because she's got the best moral compass and the least hang-ups about emotions and sinning and stuff. And she has sex with Dean in his car, which is equal parts eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die and touched by an angel - again, it reminds me of Baltar and Six.

There's also Crowley, who in his very first scene already establishes that he has the most style out of all the demons ever. He's smooth, snarky, clearly amoral, yet extremely charismatic. You believe that people sell their souls to this guy. He is, basically, a much better devil than Lucifer (who, as THE BEST CHARACTER puts it, "I love you, but you're a great big bag of dicks").

And then there's Gabriel, aka THE BEST CHARACTER. I love him so much. See, in the first couple of seasons, there was a recurring foe known as the Trickster. In his first appearance, Tall Tales, Dean conceded that this guy had style. They killed him, because he was a monster of the week, but you got that it was done with some regret, because the Trickster? Was a funny guy, even though he killed people, and come on, they had it common. He's also a pagan god, though, so he isn't actually dead, and instead comes back, the next time to teach a moral lesson through dubious means ( a groundhog day paradox). When he returns in S5, it's also a much needed comic relief episode, except then Castiel shows up and reveals that this guy is actually the archangel Gabriel who has been posing as a pagan god for ages. And Trickster/Gabriel tells us that he ran off to become a pagan god because he was sick of god's very serious apocalypse plan. The good guys, proving that they're not completely dumb (I like this about SPN) ask him to join their team - he loves people, they love people, he loves free will, they love free will, but like any good trickster, Gabriel is a coward and says no.

Then a couple of episodes later, the Winchesters encounter a pagan god convention which I also love, because all those non-Christian deities are really annoyed that Christianity is causing the apocalypse when hey, they were mostly there first. It turns out they have been invited to talk about what to do about this by Loki. (SPN is definitely stealing from American Gods here, and also - but perhaps not intentionally - from Lokasenna, because when Trickster/Loki/Gabriel shows up, the first thing he does is insult all the gods at the table, and they're like "LOKI!!!", but hey, brilliant ideas are made for stealing). Loki, of course, is none other than Gabriel. In this episode he does pick sides, but it's too late, and he goes down in a lovely last-ditch attempt to backstab his brother Lucifer. And then he sends the Winchester a last message from beyond the grave in the form of a self-made porno tape in which he reveals a way to stop Lucifer and the angels.

Basically, Gabriel is the best on-screen Loki I have seen and his death isn't THAT sad because you know that this is a guy you just can't kill properly, even when you're Lucifer himself.

Then there's a bit about Horsemen, and War, Pestilence and Famine are pretty bad, but Death turns out to be another True Neutral who decides to help the Winchesters. I think SPN's biggest strength is that it really knows how to pick the good parts from other sources/popculture and blend it into something fun. (In this case, probably Sandman, but also Good Omens).

Another favourite episode of mine (aside from the funny meta episodes and the Gabriel episodes) is one in which the Winchesters go to Heaven (basically a soul-searching episode, though actually they're looking for god and not finding him). It's one of the best depiction of dream-states I've seen in TV, with a mix of dream logic, memories, breath-taking imagery and a sense of searching for I know not what and running from I don't want to know what that's just RIGHT.

The final showdown/apocalypse is suitable epic and at the same time a very small, private family drama. It's also very much like Buffy S5, which is still one of my all-time favourite season finales.

And then there's a little narrative framing device for this episode that still makes me laugh. Because it's told from the point of view of the Prophet Chuck, the writer of the Winchester Gospel. He's actually some drunk loser guy the Winchesters met a while ago in an episode where they learn that there's a series of urban fantasy books called "Supernatural" that is based on their lives. Castiel reveals that Chuck, the author, is actually an unwilling and unwitting Prophet of the Lord. So far, so good, but the books have a fan community with a BNF - Becky. In most shows, Becky would remain a caricature, but I think as much as SPN parodies its own fandom (and it's own status as pulp fiction), it's a loving parody. Anyway, Becky the BNF gets together with Chuck eventually and it's cute. Now in the last episode, Chuck tells the story, and then we see him at his typewriter, and then he vanishes into thin air. I dunno what SPN fandom makes of this, but I take it to mean that Chuck, the confused drunk loser, has been god all along. On the one hand, this is of course the show's creator having his ultimate Gary Stu fantasy (and parodying it at the same time), but on the other hand it's an answer to the question "Where is God in all this?", which the show has asked for two seasons, that I'm actually okay with.

Also, I like to imagine that at some point, the Virgin Mary shows up to commiserate with Becky.

Date: 2013-01-28 02:15 am (UTC)
evilawyer: young black-tailed prairie dog at SF Zoo (Default)
From: [personal profile] evilawyer
I have to get back into Supernatural. I watched it avidly in real time in its first season and half of its second and I really liked it way back then. I kept up with its general trajectory through the FL on LJ up through S4 or so, but I never got back into watching, which surprises me. Sounds like I'd like it all.

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