[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday'sSupernatural: Bloodlines. Read on at your own risk!]
Supernatural has always been about killing monsters, hunting things, the family business. On the surface, Bloodlines has traces of all that. So then why did it feel so ... wrong?
The pilot for the potential spin-off had all the basic elements of what makesSupernatural great: monsters, mythology, complicated family relationships, high-stakes drama and, of course, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles). But even the Winchesters couldn't save this mess (and they've saved the world. Multiple times.)
Bloodlines expanded the Supernatural formula into an ensemble cast, featuring human and monster leads. But instead of delivering a bevy of fully developed, engaging characters, each felt so basic I couldn't believe they existed within the same universe as Castiel, Abaddon, Gabriel, Tessa and really, anyone else we've meet on Supernatural.
That's because for nearly ten years every single character Supernatural has introduced, no matter how short their tenure, has managed to feel like a real, flesh and blood being — and that even goes for the ghosts. But out of the six leads we met Tuesday night (and yes, I'm counting Freddie Costa and his two-minute cameo) only Ennis (Lucien Laviscount) and David (Nathaniel Buzolic) came close to feeling like believable characters. The rest were merely half-baked.
David, a shape-shifter who's been living as a human, managed to bring some charisma and heartbreak to the pilot. While Ennis, an orphan (or so he thought) with major anger issues, walked around like an idiotic blowfish, hoping that if he puffs himself up big enough, he may fool you.
And while The CW is known for hilariously aging down its actors to play high school, this is the first time I've ever seen someone on the network who actually looks like a teenager — and we're supposed to think he's some bada--adult? Not buying it. I know that when Supernatural started, Sam and Dean were also in their early 20s, but even though they looked younger, at least they never acted like kids.
Overall, Ennis just simply felt too juvenile. I definitely see the potential fun in watching a fledgling hunter discover the trade, but Ennis is going to need to tone down the machismo act if he wants to come off like nuanced hero instead of some punk kid. And I know it may sound odd criticizing Ennis for his tough guy façade when Dean, especially in the early seasons, loved putting on a bad boy show, but there was a sense of playfulness toSupernatural that turned these little moments from grating to endearing.Supernatural has always had some super cheesey lines, don't get me wrong, but Padalecki and Ackles always find a way to deliver them with both a sense of conviction and a wink, as though their characters are self-aware about fronting as action heroes rather than earnestly being like that. It's this sense of meta-fun and humor that was really missing from Ennis and Bloodlines in general, which is one of the major reasons why the pilot felt so hollow.
But while Bloodlines lost Supernatural's cheekiness, it has one unfortunate thing in common with its predecessor: horrible treatment of women. After all that talk of creating strong female characters, they give us the dreadfully archetypal Margo (Danielle Savre) and Violet (Melissa Roxburgh) — or, in the words of Julian, a "whore" and a "b----." (Great guys. Glad to see you lost your sense of humor, but kept your misogyny.) Margo plays the quintessential pantsuit power villainess, a clear foil to one of the show's male leads, David, while Violet is an irritatingly dew-eyed damsel in distress. David, that lucky dog, also gets this wet blanket for his love interest, despite the fact that we saw more chemistry between Bobby and Crowley in Season 5.
I want to believe these female characters could grow into equally as strong heroes as Ennis and David. I believe it is possible especially with Margo. Not necessarily plausible, but possible. But the way Bloodlines rehashed so manySupernatural tropes without subverting them makes me doubt it will break that far out of the mold to give us a full-time female heroine. Because despite all the talk about Bloodlines being its own entity, the pilot seemed like a ham-fisted, hollow echo of a beginner's guide to Supernatural.
Ennis' hunter origin story was already a direct callback to Sam's in the pilot. Did we really need him to also have an absentee hunter father he's going to want to track down? Those little plot points aren't why I fell for Supernatural. It was the characters. The chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki. The intriguing mythology and folklore. The sense of fun amidst so much darkness. Where were the callbacks to these?
Even in the scenes with Sam and Dean, Bloodlines felt a world away from Supernatural, despite such contrived parallels. Everything was too simple, too clean and too bright. And after nearly 10 years of the Winchester indoctrination about the importance of hunting monsters and saving humans, I found it hard to believe Sam and Dean didn't bat even one of their pretty little eyelashes when Ennis shot the man who killed his fiancé in cold blood.
Bloodlines feels like an attempt at pastiche that simply fell to parody. There were hints at a good show (buried deep, deep down), but I don't care to dig for them. It's just not worth risking tainting Supernatural's legacy with something that honestly has no right existing in the same universe we've shared with Sam and Dean for so long. If this was just another supernatural show, I wouldn't care about its future. I probably wouldn't watch it, but I wouldn't mind it. But to call it a Supernatural spin-off when it doesn't share anything beyond the fact they both have daddy issues and monsters just seems like a blatant attempt to exploit a preexisting fanbase. Personally, I just can't wait to hop back in the Impala with Sam and Dean next week and get back on the road where we all belong.
What did you think of Supernatural: Bloodlines?
Catch up on previous episodes of Supernatural here!
(Full Disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)