A Sashurai’s Review: Supernatural – Season 9×20 (I’ve seen Kindred the Embraced, and this is no Kindred)

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Supernatural follows suit after several years and opens the gate for a spin-off show to take shape. “Bloodlines” follows the path of a young vengeful human who loses his love and encounters the deep world of Chicago. With the help of Sam and Dean, they uncover a supernatural mob battle brewing with reasons to war.

I’ll save my first impressions till after the recap, but my objective statement is that the episode did it’s job with setting, character establishment, motivation, and scenarios detailing future events. I’ll write up my good and bad in the mix and hopefully come to a generous conclusion on whether this show deserves a full season run.

 

Within a private club at a restaurant in Chicago, Sal, a shifter mixes words with Julian, a werewolf. They tussle briefly before the club is attacked by a hooded man who wields silver-bladed claws. He mains and kills several supernatural creatures in the club and chases Sal outside. A human, Ennis Roth proposes to his love, Tam, outside the restaurant and are both caught in the middle of the attack. The hooded man accidentally kills Tam and then purposefully kills Sal then escapes. Ennis hears Sal’s dying words before realizing that Tam is dead and holds her body.

David, Sal’s younger brother gets a call from college to return home because Sal is dead.

After being interrogated by Freddie, a loyal to Margo, brother of Sal, Sam and Dean enter the room and ask their questions then leave without explaining anything. Ennis returns home and finds his father’s gun which contains silver bullets with X’s on them.

On one side, Margo speaks with Freddie about blaming and retaliating against Julian while at Julian’s home, he speaks with a D’jinn who suspects Margo’s retaliation. Julian’s sister, Violet is worried but Julian threatens her to stay out of it.

Ennis breaks into the club and searches for clues when a vampire worker arrives and sniffs him out. He is about to attack Ennis when Dean decapitates him. Sam explains who they are as Dean realizes that monsters are hunting monsters in the city. Sam encourages Ennis to stay away.

After David speaks with Margo about doubts of Julian’s involvement, he goes to Ennis disguised as Freddie, asking questions about the incident. Ennis corners him when he realizes he’s shifter and David explains what he’s trying to stop a war. He tells Ennis that the killer wasn’t a werewolf because the slashes on Ennis’s shirt were silver and werewolves don’t have silver claws.

David then catches Violet at her front door. They argue about her choosing not to run away with him when they had the chance a while ago. The hooded man attacks them and kidnaps Violet as Sam, Dean, and Ennis show up. The four track Violet’s location to an abandoned warehouse and split up. The hooded man reveals to Violet that he’s a human who lost his son and blames both Sal and Julian for his death. He then captures David and threatens to kill him causing Violet to begin transforming. She breaks free and slashes the man. Sam, Dean, and Ennis find them and Ennis shoots the man in vengeance.

Afterward, David returns Violet home and ponders why Sal’s last words were of saying he was sorry and had no choice. Violet remembers a scene where she intended to run away with David but Sal intercepted her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t return home saying that their kind had to remain pure. In the present, Violet kisses David but leaves abruptly. David returns home and informs Margo that he intends to return to the family. Margo feigns being happy about his decision.

Sam implores Ennis to stay out of the monster’s war as Dean gets a call from Castiel who has a beat on Metatron. Sam says they’ll call hunters in to come to Chicago and they leave. Ennis narrates that he’s involved and can’t back out now. As he searches the hooded man’s hideout, he gets a call from his father saying the monsters will kill him if he starts hunting.

 

WHAT WORKED

In dealing with spin-off shows there are many things to consider about the setup and fallout of a premise that takes the reigns of a singular episode. First and foremost, the show is taking roots in a specific world but has to maintain a different feel and look than its predecessor. I believe Bloodlines has the right direction in separating itself from Supernatural. With monsters clearly running and ruling the nightlife of Chicago, what disappears is the sudden sense of dread and horror-like openings that comes with Supernatural’s M.O. Now you have functioning creatures who intend to exist within the confines of certain rules and also a sense of entitlement to their area of ownership.

Bloodlines establishes a lot of characters very quickly, but each character has a singular drive and plays with mirror opposites in that there’s despicable and sensible creatures on both sides. It’s a very “Game of Thrones-y” style where no one family holds all the good or evil characters. This can effect good characters making bad decisions and vice-versa with bad characters giving in to more caring traits.

While Ennis plays the good human and defacto central character, there’s also David, who is the Supernatural equivalent of a main character as well. They will continue to interact as players do when one knows too much and the other knows too little about what’s going on. They’ll become friends and help each other out of plights until something pushes one of the characters over the edge.

Sam and Dean also played their roles at a respectable distance. Cue in the background guitars for their entrances and keep everything simple. Dean is snarky and Sam is concerned. Together they tackled the scenario as best they could while not leaving Ennis high and dry. It was appreciative that Sam mentioned bringing hunters into the mix. He knows there’s a city that needs to be handled even though they’re completely taken with the plot of Metatron. I can’t imagine the two returning to Chicago any time soon except to simply provide the explanation that they haven’t forgotten. They take the cases as they come. As long as they know hunters are in the city, they won’t need to investigate as frequently.

I also liked not knowing the other two creature families involved. We know of the Werewolves, Shifters, and D’Jinn, and one can assume the vampires play a large role as well leaving one last family. Dean mentioned Wraiths but I’m not sure that’s the final pick. In any case, it leaves breathing room to contemplate how expansive and diverse the Supernatural culture is within the city. For the first time we can experience multiple scenes of creatures trying to live normally and interacting with human qualities that creates drama.

One last positive is the reveal that Ennis’s dad is not dead and even warns Ennis to stay out of the hunt. It’s more than obvious that his father was once a hunter but either gave it up or encountered a scenario that caused him to leave. Ennis seems to resent him but at least there’s a mystery element that gives Ennis to search out for now that his vengeance has been satisfied.

 

WHAT DIDN”T WORK

Spinoffs are very difficult to get right and even harder to be successful inside of the parent show where the tone and characters are meant to be different than what we expect. If Bloodlines premiered of its own accord on its own time-slot, there would be plenty of breathing space to apply itself and not feel overshadowed by the parent series. Depending on how far the show strafes, certain expectations can be maintained. The Originals did not differ from the tone of The Vampire Diaries which allowed a smooth transition. It’s not completely rare but it can work.

There are, however, several failed versions of spin-offs that couldn’t quite make its mark. I’m talking to you, Highlander season 6. Sitcoms have done this for generations. Married with Children tried three times to spin off and couldn’t seal the deal. Is Bloodlines any different? Let’s examine where their pilot missed the mark.

Let’s begin with Ennis. Everything about his character annoyed me from the start. He’s proven to be resourceful, but that’s his only good trait. Principle characters are very difficult to get right out of the gate and Ennis is no exception. He’s not interesting in the slightest and while his drive for finding the killer made sense, he already completed his vengeance at the end of the episode. This could have stretched an entire season, but they chose to have him kill another human, the man responsible at the end of the pilot. That’s poor decision making. I see no reason a character like him should be continuously thrust into the creature mob war now that his entire motivation is gone. Of course a character like him will feel compelled to uncover what’s hiding in the city, but he lacks direction and further more, I don’t care if he ends up dead the next episode. He’s not a strong principle character and as a human he’ll be getting himself in way over his head surviving encounters he probably shouldn’t, realistically.

The Romeo and Juliet creature love-story has been done and done again. Violet and David love each other but can’t be together because of warring families. This isn’t going to end well, and I don’t mean from a storyline aspect. These are the good characters of the show and I’m fine with David’s role as someone who wants to keep the war from spilling over, but when Violet refrained from telling her that she was threatened by Sal to stay away made me cringe. I get that she’s trying to protect David’s image of Sal but for the sake of their relationship, she should have been honest. Storylines work just as well when there’s honesty thrown in the mix. She’s playing a dangerous game by protecting David like that and it’s a very naive thing to do. It doesn’t matter if they end up together or not. Violet ruined the moment when she kissed David in a very anti-climactic way. It was off and weird with no lasting sentiment. Even David seemed confused as he wiped the blood from his lip.

Margo is a typical headstrong female who will play for power and be very condescending, cynical, narrow-minded, and the Shifter’s “evil” sibling. There’s nothing immediately there to like at the moment. Moving on.

Julian is a typical headstrong male who will play for power and be very condescending, cynical, narrow-minded, and the Werewolf’s “evil” sibling. There’s nothing immediately there to like at the moment. Moving on.

If there’s any chance of salvaging the cast as it is, there has to be room to make them more than one-dimensional. David is the only character who remotely fits the bill right now because he started as someone who just as easily cheated in college but then stood up and joined the family to do what he feels is right. Everyone else, bland and boring.

Another thing is, why Chicago? If the show didn’t tell me it took place in Chicago, I wouldn’t have even guessed it. Supernatural is about traveling the countryside and experiencing the culture of small towns and large. Residential and commcerial. Business and underworld. In this show. There’s going to be clubs, restaurants, clubs, mansions, clubs, more restaurants, more underground clubs, and the occasional abandoned warehouses. Chicago is a big city, but there will only be one culture identified, the creature culture. Humans are the backdrop while it’s the creatures we’ll be studying to get to know. But again, why Chicago? Can there be more important reasons than just turf wars? I’m hoping there is.

Storylines are also very much a big deal in these kind of spin-off situations. If a spin-off show lasts long enough, it generally has to make itself important or else it falls under the shadow of the parent series and never truly finds it’s ground. Buffy and Angel are a good example of this. While Angel premiered on it’s own time slot, it still relied heavily on elements of the Buffy world to maintain credibility. It didn’t take long for the show to develop its own mythos and eventually became as good, if not more so, than Buffy for one main reason and that’s building the story. How can a creature mob war realistically ever match up to Angels and Demons vying for control of Earth? This world has already experienced the wrath of Lucifer and the 4 horsemen. Shifters and Werewolves contending for property rights will be a tough sell beyond a single season. Granted these can be very interwoven personal stories, but in all fairness, a show of this plot should have been introduced before season 4. After one backdoor pilot, I am not convinced it has a lot of ground to stand on. That can change once it fits into a time slot, but for now, I’m not wholeheartedly convinced.

As a final note on this list, I wanted to say that incorporating demons and angels into this turf war would be a fantastic idea especially if they show up very rarely, but at the same time, that’s the root of my problem earlier. Bloodlines can’t always rely on elements that made Supernatural or else the series will never come into its own. Considering we’ve already gone over the history of creatures “ala Eve in Season 6” there will be very little to uncover in terms of history when those kinds of plots begin to surface. It’s an awkward place to give a show a shot after nine years and an insurmountable amount of history before now. Wouldn’t a spin-off with Charlie’s adventure in Oz be so much more fun to watch?

Overall, I’m not very impressed with this trial run. Pieces worked, but the characters are all wrong. This isn’t the kind of show that’s going to fashion a new audience. It’ll be the same audience who will have to put up with a sister-show that doesn’t have any of the real appeal that made Supernatural a fun journey to watch and ride with. In the end, a pilot sets the stage. Everything can be looked at, retooled, and formatted to fit a little better when the show officially debuts. I’m still on board to see what happens, but I remain completely skeptical with continuing this new franchise. Just imagine the Ghostfacers showing up in Chicago. How would that turn out?

 

No more words

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