Tag: opinion

Supernatural's latest episode should be its next back-door pilot

Contributed by
Feb 7, 2016, 6:52 PM EST (Updated)

Since Supernatural debuted back in September of 2005, it's developed a robust universe full of angels, demons, hunters, countless monsters of the week and enough lore to stretch across multiple compelling seasons.

But one thing that Supernatural has failed to do is create a successful spinoff.

You might recall that there was an attempt to back-door pilot a new series within the Supernatural-verse (doesn't that just sound like something that would have multiple shows?) with a Season 9 episode called "Bloodlines." That potential show, which was set in Chicago, would've centered around multiple powerful families, some werewolves, some shapeshifters, magic users, the works. It felt like Supernatural by way of other CW spinoff, The Originals.

It didn't get picked up.

Why? Well, even though "Bloodlines" wasn't critically panned, fans of Supernatural (who are known for having some very intense feelings about those Winchesters) simply weren't interested. And while there were rumors late in 2015 that another backdoor pilot might be attempted, there's been no official followup on that from any of the show's producers.

What is happening, however, is that Supernatural is pulling itself up by the bootstraps and having one of its best seasons in years. In the midst of a string of strong episodes came their latest, "Don't You Forget About Me," an episode that saw the return of Sheriff Jody Mills and her two wards, Castiel's "daughter," Claire, and former vampire victim Alex.

The plot is pretty simple -- the Winchesters turn up in Sioux Falls at Claire's insistance that there's evil afoot at the homestead, Jody and Alex reveal that Claire has been wrong about a lot of would-be hunts recently, but it turns out that vampires are after Alex because of something from her past. Nothing crazy, just your above-average Supernatural quality fare. Well, except that the entire episode felt like a spin-off pilot.

Intentional or not, "Don't You Forget About Me" made me ready to watch a show about Jody, Claire, and Alex. And it did by giving me a very basic spin on Supernatural's original premise -- a family of hunters fights against the things that go bump in the night.

Remember way back when Dean was gung ho about the family business but Sam just wanted to stay in school? Same thing here. Claire is the Dean, Alex is the Sam. Heck, Alex's connection to vampires draws a pretty strong parallel with Sam's connection to the yellow-eyed demon. And Jody Mills is the perfect stand-in for Bobby Singer, especially considering the two used to be together before he died.

"Don't You Forget About Me" is Supernatural but starring women, and it works really, really well.

I have long suspected that "Bloodlines" failed both because it felt a little half-baked and because it was too different from its parent show. It reminded me of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace -- it has a lot of the same creatures and classes as the original story, but none of the tone or style. "Don't You Forget About Me" is more like The Force Awakens -- it's got everything you love from the original, but pitched in a way that feels fresh and has ample ability to go someplace new.

Claire may be into hunting the way Dean was, but she lacks the years of experience Dean had by the time we first meet him. Alex may have the reluctance that Sam does, but her years trapped with vampires makes her fear of monsters much deeper and more personal. And while Jody Mills may be a surrogate parent to Claire and Alex much in the way that Bobby was to Sam and Dean, these are teeange girls she's actually raising which is a total different scenario. Plus, no one here is related by blood, making the ties that bind a little looser and less-tested than Sam and Dean's. 

All that being said, if "Don't You Forget About Me" was spun into its own series, it would still be about two young hunters and their mentor fighting against whatever monsters or demons that may come. And that's Supernatural when it's at its best. Sure, the big arc-driven seasons have suitable pathos, but it's the fun adventures of Sam and Dean kicking around in the Chevy Impala that keep bringing the audience back, even eleven years on. Saving people, hunting things -- the family business.

It's also worth mentioning the elephant in the room -- Supernatural is infamous when it comes to its lack of well-defined leading women. With all the father-son/brothers stories seemingly on repeat, there's very little in the way of mother/sister stories. And the cool women we get, like Ellen, Jo, Bella, Ruby, and Charlie, all wind up dead. The fact that Jody, Claire, and Alex are alive at all is kind of miraculous.

It's been said that because Supernatural is, at its heart, about these two brothers, that it's always going to be primarily a story about male characters. However you may feel about that, over a decade's worth of episodes seems to confirm that's how things will likely remain. That's just another reason why a show starring Jody, Claire, and Alex makes so much sense -- follwing the Supernatural formula, a show within this universe that primarily stars women is going to  be more likely to develop more female secondary and tertiary characters.

It doesn't hurt that all three women turned in solid performances. Kim Rhodes, especially, who has been playing Sheriff Jody Mills for years now, is unquestionbly one of those TV actors you forget how much you love until she turns up again. Kathryn Newton and Katherine Ramdeen, playing Claire and Alex respectively, have that same on-screen chemistry I saw in Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles in 2005.

Supernatural deserves to be franchised. All the angels, demons, gods, goddesses, creepy crawlies, bug-eyes beasts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and ghouls in the world can't be taken on by just Sam and Dean and their assbutt of an angel friend, Cass. 

We've already got this show about two brothers. It's high time Supernatural told the story of these two sisters.

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