Supernatural: an introductory guide

Season five of Supernatural is about to arrive on UK TV screens. But if the show is new to you, let Jess give you some pointers...


There are only three possible answers to the question: Have you heard about that American fantasy show Supernatural? and the answers are as follows. 1. No, I haven’t. 2. Yes, I have and it’s stupid. And 3. Oh,my God,yes! Do you watch it too? What did you think of that great plot device where a secondary fan base was created inside the actual show in a post-modern twist which hasn’t existed since Moonlighting?

Yes. In a non-scientific study carried out by my own imagination, these are the answers you would get.

The first two are misguided. To not have even taken a tiny peek into a world which includes killer bees, angels and impossibly attractive protagonists seems either ill-informed or biased. It might not be as academically stimulating as a BBC Four documentary on the brain of Einstein, but it’s not supposed to be. Neither is it meant to be the darkest show on television. What it does offer is some wonderfully addictive entertainment.

So, to celebrate the imminent arrival of Season five to UK screens on Living TV in early February, which is rumoured to be its last, here’s an all you need to know Supernatural guide to get you up to speed. Why not print it out and keep it in your pocket at all times?

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Primarily, this is the story of two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester, played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, respectively, and the relationship which exists between them. Whether they’re laughing, crying or arguing about killing things, there’s always an element of underlying, brooding tension which permeates the air. This has led many a fan-girl forum to fantasise about the possibilities of some brother on brother action (aptly named ‘wincest’. I think you can work out why.)  

After a mysterious demonic force robs them of a mother in childhood, their father, the mad, bad and sad John Winchester (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen fame) begins a kamikaze mission to haunt down the ‘thing that killed Mom’, roping his offspring in for the ride and teaching young Dean and Sam the ways of the hunter. You see, unbeknownst to the rest of us ‘normals‘, there has been a secret network of hunters battling the forces of evil since the Alamo. Suddenly it’s perfectly acceptable for a father to give his child a crossbow for his tenth birthday. Dean’s crafted a sawn off shotgun in woodwork class, you say? That’s not psychotic. That’s something to be celebrated.

Season one began with a pretty messy back story. Dean (the older, more loyal but ultimately boneheaded brother) makes a surprise visit to younger sibling Sam’s house. Their dad has disappeared and he needs help. Will he be willing to join the old team again? This is, apparently, a big ask as Sam has run away to college to study law and doesn’t want to go around killing things anymore. Of course, by episode two, he’s back in the game, helped along mainly by the fact that his girlfriend had just been burned alive on a ceiling by the very same demon bastard who diced their mom.

The truth is that Supernatural season one looked like a badly copied version of the X-Files, albeit without the aliens, conspiracy theorists and cloned sisters a go-go. But, it improved. It was re-commissioned for season two, gave itself a pat on the back and returned darker, funnier and more intriguing than ever.

Sam and Dean were no longer confined to mooching around dark forests, haplessly slaughtering tree monsters or haunted pick-up trucks; no. They were on a real mission this time. Aided by Sam’s newly awakened demonic powers as well as the untimely demise of their father, in the end, Sam dies, is latter resurrected like some present day Jesus, after Dean sells his soul in exchange for the life of his little bro’, and they finally dust the ‘evil son of bitch’ who slaughtered their family. The sound of joy echoes in the hearts of every SPN fan-girl in the land and we delve deeper into season three.

So, Dean’s sold his soul, has only got a year to live and is going straight to hell. It’s certainly an interesting way to start a season. Much better than, say; Buffy 4.0 where they just went to college and Giles opened a shop.

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We have two new characters joining our mismatched group of lovable killers, Bella, an English toff and ‘bitch’ who sells mystical artifacts to old ladies, and Ruby, a demon who hates demons as well as all of humanity. Still, she’s willing to help save Dean from hell, for reasons which later become more obvious, and manages to do this while permanently crossing her arms and scowling.

This season took a beating with the writer’s strikes in America. The commissioned 22 episodes went down to 16, which may have explained why Bella’s character never really developed beyond her basic package of ‘hot Brit toff with a gun’ hardwire. Still, fans were treated to a mix of tension and wisecrack buddy humour, Jared Padalecki’s acting skills improved and the final episode saw Dean sent into the CGI dimensions of Supernatural hell where no one can hear you scream, no matter how loudly you wail out Sam’s name before the end credits roll.

It was the return we had all been waiting for on season four’s opener Lazarus Rising and it did not disappoint. Dean, quite literally, crawled out of his grave, Sam hooked up with some hot demon action in the form of Ruby and then, lord almighty! An angel in a trench coat appeared and blew everyone’s minds.

Season four is where creator Eric Kripke really excelled himself. The writing was better, the storylines improved (even though there was some obligatory filler) and the general feeling was that Sam and Dean were nihilistically running towards  their own demise, because any hope of saving humanity was ultimately futile. Season four gave us the story arc of angels vs. demons and an impending apocalypse to kick off season five.

So there you have it, in a ram shackled nutshell and, okay, Supernatural might not be the bloody Wire, but it has some genuine charms. It takes the piss out of itself, it’s gory and fun and, in many parts, quite touching. It takes its two main characters, who wouldn’t look out of place on 90210, dumps all over their lives, then sits back and watches as they gleefully set fire to corpses, exorcise demons and steal credit cards to fund their horrible, miserable existence. If the rest of this wonderfully addictive show is anything to go by, season five will end in a firework display of blood, sweat and tears.

Watch it and learn, and if all goes to plan, we might just survive the apocalypse…

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