Supernatural: Bloodlines

The CW show Supernatural has been going for ten years now and series 11 has been given the thumbs up. I was a big fan of the show in the first five years for many reasons too numerous to get into. Created by Eric Kripke, it follows the adventures of two brothers who hunt monsters. It’s a family basis, one they inherited from their father and they and other Hunters keep the world safe for the rest of us.

After the success of the first season information started to come out that Kripke had a detailed five year plan for the show. However, at the end of the fifth season there is an ending, that is both satisfying and moving, but then like The Return of the King, there’s another tacked on ending. That extra bit opened up the door for them to do more. The show was successful, the ratings were good, so he stepped down as showrunner, someone else picked up the reigns and the show continued. Some of the seasons after were quite good, some less so, and there were some stand out characters and moments.

In the UK we’re currently getting to the end of season 9, and season 10 has just finished in America. There has been talk of a spin off show for a few years and episode 20 of S9, simply called Bloodlines, was supposed to act as a back door pilot. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it and bits and pieces from previous seasons. I don’t work in TV, so I’m coming to this purely as a fan.

Within the first ten minutes of the episode I could see why Bloodlines wasn’t picked up to be a spin-off show. Sam and Dean were in the episode, so that was familiar, but the focus was very different. It tried to create sympathetic monsters and for them to be the majority of the cast. It was somewhere between The Sopranos and Romeo and Juliet. A human gets caught up in a fight between two warring monster families, and through the course of the episode we find that there are five monster families fighting each other for power in Chicago. There is also a shapeshifter who is in love with a werewolf from another family, and at one point in the show there are knowing nods to various bits of pop culture. I think Dean mentions The Sopranos and he even calls the male character, Romeo.

In the story someone is attempting to make things worse and stir up a fight between the families. The perpetrator turns out to be a normal human who did it because he hates the monsters. They killed his son and countless other humans in their fighting. There is also an guy called Ross, just a regular guy who is unaware, who gets caught up in events, and he works with Sam and Dean to try and find out what is going on. At the end he sides with the two monsters in love, even going so far as to kill the ‘villain’, the human being.

While we’ve had sympathetic monsters in the past, this was just a step too far for me. The everyman character, Ross, whose past had some interesting hints, knew nothing about this world. The fans do. They know everything. Watching him catch up would be very tedious after nine series. Oh look, silver kills werewolves. We know. We’ve known for nine years, 23 episodes a year. Neither of the ‘good’ monsters were particularly nice or that interesting.  She appeared to be nothing more than a love interest for the male shapeshifter character, and he was an outsider who left the family business but has now returned. Very Godfather, but it didn’t grip me.

There wasn’t enough grit under the characters’ fingernails. It spent too long focusing on the family business and not enough on the characters. As fans we know the world, and if these are going to be our main characters for something independent, I wanted to really care about them. After approximately 43 minutes, I wasn’t that fussed about them and can’t really remember their names. I didn’t sympathise that much with any of them, apart from Ross, but even he didn’t engage me that much.

For me the strength of Supernatural, even for all of its ups and down over the years, is in its characters. Dean and Sam. We’ve spent so much time with them now that when Dean turns on a TV in a motel and there’s something adult on there, we know he’s going to grin, open a beer and sit back to watch it while Sam will roll his eyes. Over the years they’ve come into contact with so many people that not all of them can just go back to their ordinary lives after the monster is dead. Some of them become recurring characters over a season, or multiple seasons.

Bobby was a great character, and a surrogate father to the boys, who was in the show for many years. Ellen and Jo, a mother and daughter hunter pair, plus Ash, were in the earlier seasons.  Ruby and Bella were introduced and then later Castiel and even Crowley who have both become part of the furniture. Felicia Day’s character, Charlie, has been cropping up in the last few seasons too as she’s become a fan favourite. There are others, who have shown up only a couple of times per season, like Sheriff Mills, or Benny. There are too many to name, but in some ways I think what they would have been better off doing for a spin off show is mining the existing characters to create a new blended, ensemble show.

DC have just announced their Legends of Tomorrow show, which takes characters from Arrow, Flash and the general DC universe to create something new. Arrow and Flash were both getting a little clogged as the main cast was massive, so this was a smart move for a number of reasons. Supernatural has announced there is going to be another attempt at a spin off. Just imagine…

Imagine if Sam and Dean went back on the road, and their base was populated by a number of characters in training to be new Men (and women) of Letters and Hunters. Even if the main show ended, the boys could still crop up from time to time, or guest star with crossover episodes if it continued in parallel. I’d love to see certain characters come back and step up to embracing their destiny or just trying to make up for all of the hideous things they’ve done and find some kind of redemption.

In season 9, Sheriff Mills gets the boys involved with a vampire nest, except it’s not that cut and dried. A girl called Alex lived with a vampire family as their bait and she lured countless people home so her family could eat. At the end she turns on the monsters to save Mills. Lots of pathos and redemption, and family issues, and so much to mine. They’re both wounded, both have lost their families and in a weird way are a new family, and kind of mother and daughter.

Season 8, Aaron Bass, inherits a golem from his grandfather who fought against the Thule Society in World War II. The episode was so much fun, he was so different and so very interesting. There was so much going on that you could have a whole season around it by itself.

Garth has cropped up a few times, and is now a werewolf, but he wants to be a good werewolf with his new wife. He used to be a hunter too.

Benny. I loved the character of Benny played by Ty Olysson, and having someone like him in the mix would be great as he’s a bit of wildcard and yet is someone who is trying to do the right thing. Dean trusted him because of what they went through but Sam never really did until right at the end.

There are more, many more, that they could pull into an ensemble show and then explore in more depth. I hope the next spin off show is a success and I hope they use a lot of good material that has already been laid out because it will mean more to the fans than trying to create something new from whole cloth.