Every week Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a horror movie worth checking out. Today: I can admit I have a man-crush on Jensen Ackles.
Supernatural is a show that constantly raises the stakes.
When it began five years ago, Supernatural was about two brothers (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) who hunted monsters. Every episode of the show would feature a fresh(ish) take on a classic horror trope or scary movie. It was fun but nothing too, too memorable.
As the series progressed and the show’s creator Eric Kripke found his groove, though, the show grew. The “monster of the week” episodes were replaced with serialized storylines featuring the brothers’ attempt to halt a demonic plan to bring hell to Earth. And then, just when you were getting comfortable with the show’s new modus operandi, Kripke upped the stakes and introduced forces of heaven to balance the series’ signature villains — demons from hell.
By the fifth season, the show had continuously raised the bar to the point where there was no place left to go but the end of the world. Spinning directly from the fourth season finale’s cliffhanger that saw the grand daddy demon himself, Lucifer, freed from the hellish prison he’d been trapped in for the last few centuries, the fifth season begins with the opening bell being run for the apocalypse.
Sam (Padalecki) has betrayed his brother’s trust and teamed-up with a demon — a partnership that saw the youngest Winchester brother unwittingly free Satan and usher in Armageddon. Dean (Ackles) no longer feels he can work with his brother and, fairly early into the fifth season, the Winchester brothers call it splitsville.
The fifth season is about several things — patching up the relationship between the Winchester brothers and, more importantly, putting a cap in Satan’s ass. The only hitch? Satan is destined to possess Sam — riding his body into the fiery flames of Armageddon. The only one powerful enough to stop Sam is the archangel Michael. As luck would have it, Dean is the only person living capable of playing host to Michael’s spirit. The brothers, not wanting to embrace their destined future as puppets in the Armageddon, are left to go against destiny and forge a new future. Luckily, audiences are in for amazing fun as the fifth season of Supernatural is the show’s best yet and a flat out great example of quality television.
The show’s fifth season is pretty rich in the series’ mythology. The first batch of episodes and the entire second half of the season are dedicated to the overarching Armageddon arc. Plot points deal with everything from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to a demonic plague that turns its victims into flesh-hungry zombies.
For those, like me, who enjoy the occasional stand-alone episode featuring classic “monster of the week” action, the series has a couple of standout examples of this as well.
“The Real Ghostbusters” is a great example of the show’s winning combination of laughs and horror. Taking a break from their quest to kill Satan, the brothers find themselves unwilling attendees of a Supernatural fan convention. It seems a pulp fiction writer has been made a modern day prophet of the Lord. Instead of writing his visions down in a new testament of the Bible, though, this prophet has been turning Sam and Dean’s adventures into cheesy horror novels. The brothers are horrified to find a hotel full of impersonators who have overrun the grounds in a game of live-action role-playing. Unfortunately, the hotel playing host to the convention happens to really be haunted. In a hotel full of Sam and Dean wannabes, only the real deal can save the day and stop the largest massacre of geeks since the great Comic Con stampede of yore.
Other great episodes from the fifth season include “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester,” which sees the elder Winchester brother transformed into a geriatric by a man-witch with a fondness for gambling away people’s youth; “Changing Channels,” an episode that finds the brothers trapped in one television parody after another when they come across one of the series’ most memorable recurring villains, a Trickster god; and, of course, “Swan Song,” the series’ amazing season finale.
If Supernatural is about escalation each season, Kripke and his team of writers have set a new bar with the episode “Swan Song.” The final confrontation between the Winchester brothers, Satan and the forces of heaven come to a point in an abandoned cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas. Amazing writing, shocking moments, plenty of the series’ signature great soundtrack featuring classic rock, and some truly great acting make “Swan Song” one of the more memorable Supernatural episodes yet — if not one of best episodes of television last year period.
Supernatural‘s strengths as a show, as I said earlier, lie in its ability to deftly mix humor with its scares. The show is a weird amalgam of the mythology of Neil Gamain’s novels, the tone of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London and the irreverence of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher. It’s writing, while sometimes slipping into the overly melodramatic, never takes itself too seriously — the shows writers (including The Tick creator Ben Edlund) are always ready to poke fun at some of the show’s more groan-worthy tics.
Besides the show’s writing, the series always manages to pull in a great team of supporting actors around stars Ackles and Padalecki — both great performers in their own right.
By the fifth season, Misha Collins had been promoted to a series regular. As the brothers’ guardian angel Castiel, Collins is a great foil to his usual scene partner Ackles. While Dean is a charismatic rouge cut from the same cloth as Han Solo, Castiel is an emotionless robot who dresses like John Constantine and lacks a solid grasp on humanity.
Mark Pellegrino (Jacob from Lost) plays the role of Lucifer throughout the season. Pellegrino has quickly become a go-to guy for genre shows seeking a talented supporting actor and it’s easy to see why. As Lucifer, Pellegrino fills his role with the right amount of sympathy and menace. By the episode “Hammer of the Gods,” which sees Lucifer cutting a bloody trail through a hotel full of exotic deities, Pellegrino has already cemented himself high up in the list of actors that have memorably portrayed the devil.
The fifth season is rich in continuity and may prove to be a bit daunting to newcomers. There are a few fun stand-alone episodes such as “Swap Meat” and “My Bloody Valentine” that would make great introduction to series newcomers but overall the season is best enjoyed by those who have been watching the show from the start. If you’ve read this review and are hankering to dip your toe into the show, by all means don’t let me stop you. Supernatural is a great show — my favorite genre show currently on the air now that Lost is gone. It’s a show that has me convinced somebody invented a device that can read my minds and, instead of using it to steal my credit card pin number, made a list of all my favorite shows, movies, novels and comics books and, from their raw ingredients, created the perfect storm of horror media entertainment.
If you are a fan of the horror genre and you are not currently watching Supernatural, you are missing out on pure gold. Whether you begin by watching the first season or jump right into the fifth (now available on DVD and Blu-ray), you can’t go wrong.
Speaking of DVDs, the fifth season of Supernatural features a nice assortment of bonus features on DVD including a gag real, a deleted scene from “The Real Ghostbusters,” an audio commentary and a couple of web-series — including one staring the Ghostfacers, a wannabe team of monster hunters who have appeared in previous series.
The fifth season of Supernatural leaves the show’s characters in an entirely new place than they’ve ever been before. The show has consistently raised its stakes with each new season and there’s no reason to suspect next will be any different — even with the absence of series creator Eric Kripke. There are enough talented writers on the show’s staff that Supernatural, when it returns to television with new episodes on Friday, September 24, should remain television worth watching.
Tags: An American Werewolf In London, Constantine, Garth Ennis, Han Solo, Jensen Ackles, John Landis, Lost, Neil Gaiman, Preacher, Scary Movies (and Super Creeps), Star Wars, Steve Dillon, Supernatural, the cw