My sister and I have always enjoyed good television together–whether movies or actual TV shows. Sharing the same room as we grew up meant we spent lots of time together, and many late nights watching something or other on our computers together, often sharing one earbud each from a pair of earbuds.
Since Megan got married and moved to Colorado, our time watching TV and movies together has obviously dwindled significantly, but last year when she got me hooked on Doctor Who, we discovered a new method of long-distance sharing: we would call each other on Skype or FaceTime, sync up our Netflix to the same timestamp, give a countdown, and hit play at the same time so that we could watch and give commentary together. Since then, we have spent many happy hours together sharing our enjoyment of a good TV show.
Most recently, she introduced me to Supernatural, a fantasy drama show that pushes the envelope on horror. Now first of all, I should state that while I enjoy a good thriller or pulse-pounding action flick as much as the next bloke, I will almost never cross the line into the horror genre; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that truly qualifies as a horror movie. I can deal with action quite well, even intense action, but I just don’t do horror with its typical gratuitous content on so many levels. That said, after Megan assured me that “season 1 is the worst!” in terms of the horror-esque content of Supernatural, I gritted my teeth and occasionally dove into my blanket to get through the first several episodes. I kept telling her that I didn’t know if I could keep it up, but after 6-8 episodes, I had to admit it. I was hooked. We are currently making our way through the fifth season, and it just keeps getting better.
I can hardly admit this [that it gets better and better] without cringing, and I still cannot wholeheartedly recommend it to almost anyone because it IS graphic and chill-inducing on a level that I’ve never really experienced in a TV show before. As Megan and I will say after particular episodes, “CREEPY!”
HOWEVER. I have found it to be extremely compelling on many levels, and as we have blown through these opening seasons, I find myself trying to analyze and articulate exactly what makes it so compelling. Why do I keep coming back? What makes me willing to suspend my usual disdain for this type of story? Especially as a writer, I continually see this in terms of the writing: what makes the show work? What makes these characters so engrossing? What makes the storyline so genuine and gripping?
As Megan and I have discussed and analyzed a thousand times by now, we keep coming back to one central element, the true heart of the show: the relationship between Sam (brilliantly portrayed by Jared Padalecki) and Dean (played by the equally brilliant Jensen Ackles) Winchester, two brothers who have found themselves caught up in a life they didn’t necessarily plan or choose for themselves, but from which they cannot seem to escape, even if they try. Yes, they fight monsters and save the world and even occasionally save the girl here and there, too, but the show always comes back to the relationship between two brothers–something I have found truly unique for a TV series. (I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I don’t remember hearing of another show whose primary protagonists are siblings.) It’s such an interesting element in the sense that it’s not a stereotypical romantic relationship that drives the show, or even a friendship, but the notion of FAMILY: yes, Sam and Dean drive each other nuts, but at the end of the day, family is family, and they will do anything for each other. The love they have for one another is not often explicitly stated (sometimes we forget to tell even the people we’re closest to how much we love them), but over and over again, each brother proves himself willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of the other.
To me, this is the heart of the show, and it’s also what keeps me coming back and makes it incredibly emotionally compelling. From a writer’s perspective, these character also come across as completely genuine because they act like “real” people: they screw up and make horrible decisions and hurt the people they love, but in even the most dire circumstances, they always fight for forgiveness and redemption. They learn the difference between justice and revenge, between selfish independence and self-sacrifice, and between hard-nosed “fairness” and true compassion. Sam and Dean grow and mature and change over the course of the show, which certainly helps to maintain the dynamic and progressive feel of the storylines.
In short, although I can’t say that I would recommend it to everyone I see, I do have to admit that it has turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking and compelling shows I have seen in a long time. I love to watch with an eye to glean whatever writing lesson I can learn from the story as a whole–and I certainly have come away with many! Most enjoyable of all, though, is sharing the experience with my sister, even across the miles. Three cheers for technology!
What about you? Have you discovered any great new TV shows recently? Is there another TV drama centered around siblings that I have missed?