What. Was. That?
Don’t get me wrong, I know it was the backdoor pilot to a possible spin off of the show. The news blasted through the fandom months ago, and was slammed with criticism right away. Why a spin off that does not include anyone from the regular or extended cast? Why ground it in an urban environment when the original show (at the onset) was set on the road? Why Mafia-esque, privileged, monster families when Supernatural’s main story has always been about blue collar loners driving muscle cars and squatting in grimy motels?
Few in my circles felt excited about this project without even wtching the first episode.
The producers could have gone a million ways to spin off a 9 year old show, fans discussed. My personal favorites were John Winchester and a young Sam and Dean. Also a depowered Castiel starting out as a hunter. With the second one they could have added the rest of Castiel's resurrected, extended family: Gabriel, Balthazar and Lucifer. Crowley could have joined them too. In fact Crowley could have had his own show since Mark Shepard has the charisma and talent to helm a spin off or two.
But instead they gave us this. Because Bloodlines was never meant to be a Supernatural spin off. It was one of the many scripts lying around the executive offices, meant for a potential fledgling show next season, and the CW gods decided to dress it up, paint it pretty, and market it with the Supernatural label . Much like what a store owner does with a knock off bag in this skit from an old Whoopi Goldberg show (skip to 2:20).
Initially I didn’t want to write this review. I kept thinking I am a Supernatural reviewer. I do not care for some soap opera riding its coattails. The only reason I chose to go ahead with the review was my love for the reader comments. I didn’t know what to write the review about though: Why this wasn’t a Supernatural spin off? Why the episode itself was awful beyond description? Or how I laughed out loud every time Sam and Dean showed up on screen because it looked like Jared and Jensen had accidentally walked into the wrong set? I chose to go for a combination of all, to keep my sanity intact.
Gripe #1 – This show’s premise goes against the essence of Supernatural
Let’s forget the absence of actors from the original show, the irrelevant setting, and lack of any adaptation from the original mythology (shifters, werewolves and other monsters are from lore, they don’t exclusively belong to Supernatural.) Even if we accept Bloodlines as a show inheriting nothing from its parent it still doesn’t work as a spin off, because its main premise runs counter to SPN.
Supernatural is based on the idea that there are dangerous monsters roaming the world and causing murder and mayhem among humans. Humanity’s only defense against these creatures are the rough and rugged hunters who have been seeking out and killing them for centuries. The only reason our streets aren’t teeming with vampires, ghouls and rougarous is because hunters clean them up.
Even though many parts of canon has changed over nine years, this core concept of how the world operates in the SPN universe and why monsters and demons haven’t taken over it has stayed the same. There was that bit with the Leviathans but Sam and Dean were aware of them and worked towards eliminating them in the end.
Bloodlines’ premise walks all over this principle. How could five large monster families live in Chicago, right under the hunters’ noses, for generations, and remain undiscovered and unopposed? And if they are so good at thwarting hunters (which they didn’t seem to be, judging by what happened in this episode) why have they remained in the city instead of expanding their territories? Why haven’t they taken over the whole country, even the whole world? This plot hole becomes more prominent when we consider one of the families is a shape shifter family, which means they could change into anyone they want (without pulling their skins off I might add.) What is stopping them from replacing the entire staff of the White House, or the Ministry of Defense, or other government agencies, and begin world domination from there? I really like to ask the show runner this one question without getting into the rest of the incongruities that make this premise so mind boggling.
Gripe #2 – The idea of monster families is inherently flawed
This is not so much a grievance with this episode as it is with the way all media treats classic monster and supernatural mythologies in the post-Twilight era.
Monsters didn’t used to have nuclear families. That was considered a human trait and one of the many that made humans sympathetic. Monsters couldn’t build a family that consisted of parents and children because most of them didn’t reproduce, at least not in the natural way. Some monsters like vampires and werewolves had covens and packs. But the rest of them were lone predators hiding in the shadows.
Even if we ignore ancient lore and think about it logically (fictional logic that is,) it makes no sense for monsters to have families, because most monsters are created, not born. Vampires are created through the bite, as are werewolves. Djinn and Ghouls don’t even form communities as evident from dialogue directly from the show. The only exception to this unwritten rule are the shape shifters.
And really, what does a werewolf family really mean? Do werewolves give birth to werewolves? Or do they bite their offspring once they reach a certain age? What about Djinn? Do they marry other Djinn even though there’s so few of them around? Do they inbreed? Where do the cousins and uncles and aunts come from? What would the offspring of a werewolf and shape shifter be? A shapewolf? A wereshifter?
As I said, the problem isn’t with the show, but with how the media started messing with monster lore in the second half on the 2000’s, particularly after the Twilight hype. Before that, vampires only had lairs were a master vampire ruled over a group of progeny. Twilight turned them into moms and dads and brothers and kids. It bastardized the vampire lore and set off a new wave based on the idea of nuclear family monsters throughout the entire media. Bloodlines is only the latest offshoot of that bastardization, in a long line of shows, movies and books that domesticated and purified what used to be wrong and scary.
Supernatural was one of the few shows that still followed the old traditions. Then new writers and show runners came along and changed it, so much so they now can put a label on another bastard show and call it its offspring.
Gripe #3 – Even as an original pilot, this is bad
I rambled on a lot about why this has nothing to do with Supernatural and is in fact a perversion of everything the original show was built on. However that’s only from the spin off perspective. What if we looked at it as a show in its own right, with original mythology, characters and plot?
Guess what? It still fails.
Bloodlines leaves behind everything good that elevates Supernatural to great heights and takes only the one low thing: the writing. From constant exposition, to wooden dialogue to characters doing irrational things (like the villain taking off his mask - all three layers of it - to explain both his reasons and his plan to the hostage) Bloodlines is a parade of bad writing. It’s if you stripped Supernatural of its good actors, and the amount of heavy lifting they do to make the awful scripts work, and replaced its cast with less talented newcomers.
Speaking of the casts, the one from Bloodlines sure leaves a lot to be desired. From humans to monsters everyone was clearly not picked for their acting skills. Ennis chews his way through every scene. Violet sleep walks through all of hers. Her brother works hard to pretend he is Tom Cruise. And the head of the shape shifter family…I can’t even tell what she says or does, fascinated as I am with her plastic looks and poses. The only one who is remotely bearable is David and that’s only because he's in easy company.
There were so many other problems I had with the episode that, as I was watching and taking notes, I ran out of paper and threw my hands up. I neither have the time nor the energy to analyse each of these so I'll just list them, end-credits style:
-Werewolves can wolf out without the full moon.
-Shifters can shift without taking off their skins.
-Shifters could also take over the world by shifting into world leaders, yet the only thing one does is to impersonate a university professor to steal exam questions.
-When his body becomes old and bedridden a shifter doesn’t shift into a healthier body.
-A bad guy calls his sister a bitch on camera, later she refers to herself as one too.
-Even though the guy who threatened her is now dead, the sister doesn't tell her ex why she ditched him so many years ago, just to keep the drama going.
-Everyone looks like they work at the same modeling agency even though they have different backgrounds and grew up in different environments
-The villain has a wall full of kid pictures and newspaper clippings, which would clue in the most brain dead viewers why he wants to kill monsters, yet the writers find it necessary to explain it to us.
-The villain is technically a hunter, who are technically the good guys in Supernatural. Yet he’s the only one who gets ganked in the end.
-When the villain sees a gun pointed at him by the boyfriend of the girl he killed, instead of denying the act, or running away, he stands there and explains why he did it.
-Even though it was a human who killed the main character’s girl he feels obligated to go after monsters, a.k.a. the good guys he encountered in this story.
-Once he thinks about becoming a hunter his dad calls him from beyond the grave like an oracle able to read minds.
-And last but not least that horrible voice over at the end, followed by the cheesy dialogue from the oracle dad, “If you start hunting, the monsters will kill you.” You thunk?
As always feel free to sound off in the comments. Here are some gifsets to cheer you up.