Does Supernatural get better at all?
June 5, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Where to start watching 'Supernatural', if at all?

The series was recommended to me, but the first couple of episodes seem quite boring. They just follow one generic plotline: some evil ghost or demon shows up, brothers come and save the day.
I usually like scifi or fantasy shows, but

I read somewhere that it is supposed to get better in the later seasons, so my questions:
- Do they drop the one-episode plots in favour of a coherent storyline that is worth watching? When would be a good point to start then?
- I also read that the relationship of the two main characters is heavy on the bromance side, but I don't get that vibe at all. Is this just in some fanfic authors imagination, or does this develop as the story progresses too?
posted by ts;dr to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
(forgot to finish a sentence there: But... this one failed to grip me so far.)
posted by ts;dr at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2011

Supernatural obsessed my housemates for a few weeks at one point. A strong central plot emerges fairly quickly. At one point the show has fun with the "bromance" vibe by tossing in a writer character who is inadvertently writing the show as it happens around him. And, obviously, any show with strong male characters who stare intensely into each other's eyes has lots of slash potential (and, apparently, there's Supernatural slash aplenty).
posted by Nomyte at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2011

Supernatural definitely gets more interesting. The series is daring in a way, because it introduces elements of Judao-Christian mythology, which of course involves the risk of offending religious viewers. The heroic brothers don't just battle demons, they are also involved with actual angels from heaven (and they also visit both heaven and hell, in some episodes) and they become deeply involved in a power struggle between different factions in heaven. Some episodes are quite fascintating. That said, on the whole I never felt that anything in Supernatural really made sense in the way that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series did. The Supernatural plot lines seem overly complex, protracted, muddied, and leave too much that is unexplained. Since God's angels are involved in the series, there is also some discussion of what God's role in all of this is, but there does not seem to be any clear answer.
The relationship of the brothers is one of comrades in arms, but there is often very serious disagreement between the two, for various reasons. I never felt that there was some kind of "bromance".
posted by grizzled at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lucky for you, you've asked about my favorite currently-airing show!

It absolutely gets better. The show never entirely abandons the "freak of the week" storylines, but as it goes on, the show develops a nice balance between mythology and standalone episodes. I'm hesitant to say you should skip any of the first season episodes, because it's been a long time since I've watched Supernatural from the start, there's generally at least a few points that build towards the overarching story, but "Bugs" (episode 8) and "Route 666" (episode 13) are pretty useless, and are never referred to again that I can remember.

I'd say you start getting hints about the big scheme of things around episode 9, "Home", but by the end of the season it's in full swing and it never really lets off the gas. Stick with it; this show has one of the best storylines I've ever seen in a series, and it has very competent writers who don't blow that up. From season two onwards, there's a weak episode here and there, but the majority are very strong.

And yeah, there's a definite bromance going on. It, too, develops as the show progresses.
posted by andrewcilento at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first season of Supernatural is kind of like The X-Files - mostly monster-of-the-week episodes, while slowly a larger storyline emerges. The later seasons focus more on the larger plot, but the first season contains quite a lot of necessary backstory.

To me the real strength of the show is the relationship between the brothers, which I wouldn't characterize as a bromance at all, given that it's a sibling relationship. They have a lot of history, both bad and good, in their shared past, and different aspects of that come out over time.
posted by something something at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2011

Thanks, this is helpful. The last episode I just watched was Bugs, so I think I will keep watching it some more to see the story progressing.
I should have said that one of my favourite shows ever was Lost, so I'm quite fine with "overly complex, protracted, muddied, and leave too much that is unexplained". It actually makes me want to watch the show more now :)

Interesting how the perception of the bromance relationship differs: we now have two votes for bromance and two against...
posted by ts;dr at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2011

To clarify: there is no explicit bromance. The two main characters are very close, are often in dire peril, make sacrifices to save each other, and care deeply for each other. They have occasional dramatic disagreements and moments of doubt. There are also some rugged, trenchcoat-wearing angels.

This, by itself, has been enough to give rise to a large fan community, and fan communities invariably include a slash faction. At one point the show goes meta and gives a humorous nod to this phenomenon.
posted by Nomyte at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2011

Here's a little trick I've learned: if there's some show everybody likes but it starts out dull, skip ahead and start watching a later season. Then you'll get interested in the show and later have the interest to go back and watch the first season, even if it's not quite as good as what you got hooked on. Then you'll find it more interesting, especially when it fills in holes in the background for you.

For the record: this worked for me with Parks and Recreation, Bones, and yes, Supernatural. If you're yawning at season 1, skip ahead to season 2 and then go back and watch 1.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:38 AM on June 5, 2011

I've been watching Supernatural since maybe the second season. It just ended its 6th season, and in my opinion the writing and stories are occasionally kind of badly ridiculous, especially in the later seasons; however, I still find it worth watching.

I have to admit that I only started watching it because I liked Jensen Ackles when he was on Days of Our Lives, both in appearance and in acting ability, but he alone is not why I've continued to watch it every season. I like the other characters on the show, and sometimes it makes me laugh and other times it's surprisingly creepy. Other times it's silly in a bad way. And yet other times it's silly in a good and entertaining way. It is definitely a mixed bag.

Other favorite shows of mine have included Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation, for what that's worth.
posted by wondermouse at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2011

I also love Supernatural, but it took me halfway through the first season--episode 12 or so--to get really hooked. I've read that it took the writers a moment to twig to the chemistry between Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who I think became friends pretty quickly, and to start realizing that the real strength of the show lay in that relationship. If you've gotten through "Bugs," you've gotten through some of the shakier episodes, and the second half of the season (skipping "Route 666") gets much stronger.

The mythology does get progressively more complex. But one of the things I have always found interesting about Supernatural is that the show-runners are willing to answer the larger questions they've posed (although not all fans are always satisfied with the answers). No matter what though, they don't just drag things on and on, like, say, Chris Carter and the X-Files. They solve a problem or answer a question eventually and move on to the next one. Supernatural sort of re-invents itself every year. I mean, the brothers don't go from hunting monsters to directing high school musicals, but the framework in which they are hunting keeps shifting, and I find that really interesting.

Also, with a few major exceptions, people who die in Supernatural stay dead. This means that as things go along, the stakes feel real instead of manufactured. I've been watching from the very beginning, and there were still times in season 6 where I was on the edge of my seat and/or swearing at the television, going: "If you kill [one of my favorite characters], I will kill you!"
posted by colfax at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been watching from the pilot, but I'm terrible at remembering which season was which. But, yeah, each season has an overall arc that gets played out between the monster-of-the-week episodes. In season 1, the myth-arc was about finding out where John Winchester (the father) is, and learning more about why/who killed Mama Winchester, no?

I don't like everything about the show (there's some annoyingly recurrent misogyny) but I'm still hooked. They can be absolutely hilarious when they put their minds to it -- I don't think there were any all-out comedy episodes in season 1, but, there's definitely at least one in season 2 (#15 Tall Tales) and as the seasons went on they've gotten goofier and goofier.

The slashiness of the Winchester brothers (aka the Wincest) is just what happens when you cast two spectacularly good-looking guys as leads. I don't know whether or not it's done intentionally on the part of the actors or writers, or if it's just unavoidable chemistry. Obviously they're never going to hook up in the show since they're brothers, but they get a lot of mileage out of it both onscreen (having other people assume Sam & Dean are a couple, the later meta references when the character of Chuck the writer appears, etc.,) and offscreen in interviews and convention appearances. Also, the show doesn't seem to have much interest in creating & keeping recurring non-villain female characters, so other than the damsel-in-distress-of-the-week there aren't a lot of options for the fanfic writers to choose from.
posted by oh yeah! at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, you could (you shouldn't, maybe, but you could) skip to the season 1 finale, and go on from there; you could always come back and watch the remaining season 1 episodes later if you want, but there's not really a lot of need to in order to enjoy the later (and better) material.
posted by nonliteral at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

As the last season has played out with an endless procession of episodes where it seems like Sam and Dean just have long intense conversations with various people in dimly lit rooms about heaven and hell and angels and purgatory and whatever else, I've been positively pining for "some evil ghost or demon shows up, brothers come and save the day".

Seriously though, keep watching.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:25 PM on June 5, 2011

I LOVE this show (I'm even going to a convention this year for the first time ever... GEEK OVERLOAD!) but I am going to chime in that it wasn't until mid season 1 that I was totally sold. After that point, though, I was in it for good. The show gets WAY better, I swear, both in story line and in acting. (Jensen is always great, but Jared is a bit weak in S1 and the first half of S2 if you ask me... too much bitch face.... plus, whats with him always getting choked?) Season 2 is way better than Season 1, and Season 3 is better again even with the writer's strike going on that year. Season 4, however, takes it to a whole entirely new level and cemented its place in my mind as "best show ever"... plus, it introduces a spectacular secondary character that I love as much as the Winchesters. I just introduced the show to a friend of mine and she vehemently agrees that S4 takes the show to a whole new place and completely hits it out of the park.

So stick it out, watch a few more. The season finale for Season 1 is fantastic and still makes me gasp. And the premiere of Season 2 ("In my time of dying") is really really excellent. If you can get that far and still not enjoy it then I'd be shocked.

Also, it is a good fandom to be a part of - it is very active and enthusiastic, to put it mildly - and there is a LOT of fanfiction written. If you like that sort of thing then definitely keep watching...
posted by gwenlister at 4:36 PM on June 5, 2011

Also, I agree with above: If you can get past "Bugs" (which is a truly terrible episode) then there are rewards to be found on the other side. That is one of like three episodes in the entire show's run that I skip over when I am watching my dvds. (The others being "Hookman" and "The Kids Are Alright". And the Ghost Ship episode in Season 3... that was god awful...)
posted by gwenlister at 4:39 PM on June 5, 2011

I started watching with the last season, and it was the big arcs that got me hooked. There's a nice mixture of angst and humor, and while they borrow plots and characters they borrow them from Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, so its okay.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:55 PM on June 5, 2011

Yeah, the first season of Supernatural turned me off of watching it. Luckily, my wife loved it and kept watching it wothout me. I was in the room a few times while she watched some of the second season episodes, which piqued my interest enough to keep watching.

The second season is a marked improvement on the first, but the show really hits its stride in the third season, and has been pretty consistent since then. The sixth season, which was never meant to happen as the show had a five season arc planned, was a bit weak at the start but got better as it progressed. Definitely stick with it.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:28 PM on June 5, 2011

Great answers everybody, I should mark them all as 'best'

I already watched some more episodes, and they really got better after Bugs.
posted by ts;dr at 3:52 AM on June 6, 2011

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