Entertainment News and Views
Chief Justice Michael Stailey's Blog
• Location: Santa Monica, CA
Highway to Hell
Supernatural - Tuesdays 9:00p ET / 8:00p CT on The WB
A quiet summer night in Kansas. A woman stirs in her bed and realizes her husband is not there. Going to look, she sees him hovering over the crib in the nursery, watching their infant son sleep. She turns and heads downstairs to the kitchen, only to discover her husband asleep in front of the living room television. Panic stricken, she runs back upstairs. Awoken by his wife's screams, John runs upstairs to find all is quiet. Son Sam is awake in his crib, but no making a sound. Blood drips from above. Looking up in horror, we see his wife plastered to the ceiling, immobile, her abdomen covered in blood. In a split second, she is engulfed in flame, as is the entire room. Grabbing Sam and older son Dean, the three flee the house as it is consumed by fire.
Thus, it begins. Two brothers, touched by an unknown evil. Raised by a father obsessed with tracking the beast that killed their mother and begat this life of dark vengeance. By the time high school is over, Sam's had enough. He goes away to college and establishes a normal life. In 72 hours, he will interview for law school and begin a promising new career. Only life has a funny way of correcting itself. When Dean shows up and announces Dad has gone missing, the boys hit the road to find him. While Sam is adamant this is a one-time deal, a series of events quickly proves you can't walk away from the family business.
From the minds of creator Erik Kripke (Boogeyman) and director David Nutter (Millennium), Supernatural fills a void left by The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. It's a modern take on the classic Demon Hunter archetype -- men touched and changed by the forces of evil, who subsequently rise up as humanity's champions and protectors (Blade, Van Helsing). As is often the case, they operate under the radar, keeping the innocent in the dark about these things that go bump in the night. It's a difficult life, but one to which they have been called.
Geared to The WB's target 18-34 demographic, the series stars heartthrobs Jansen Eckles (Days of Our Lives), and Jared Padalecki (Gilmore Girls). The boys play extremely well off each other, offering up an authentic fraternal relationship complete with a truckload of emotional and psychological baggage. The dialogue is sharp and well delivered. Even the weekly guest stars possess a depth and authenticity not often seen in hour-long sci-fi/actioners.
Drawing from centuries of folklore, myth, and legend, the writing team brings the boys face to face with a new evil each week, as they crisscross the country in search of their missing father. The production team avoids the trap of drawing from the classic Joss Whedon/Chris Carter warehouse of Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, and Aliens, opting instead for an A-list treatment of culturally based North American C-list beasties -- Woman in White, Wendigo, Skinwalkers. Impressive special effects, well thought out and executed plots, and a significant level of detail indicate the creative team is in this for the long haul. The backstory itself offers a deep wealth of material that can be diligently mined over the course of many seasons.
If the writing team can avoid the pitfalls common to most sci-fi/fantasy series -- same plot, different baddie; combined with a mass of unresolved plot threads -- and develop a rich universe that the boys and audiences enjoy exploring each week, we could have a worthy heir to the Whedonverse on our hands.
The Jury will reconvene at midseason.