Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Supernatural' Season 5 (2009)

Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins
Created by Eric Kripke

I generally feel like five years is a pretty solid number for a show to run.  Sure, a well-written show can be extended further, but five years is a pretty decent amount of time to both explore a premise with a certain amount of depth while still not sticking around too long to outstay its welcome.  But alas, the business of TV is just that... a business.  And when business is good, it's hard to stop.  Such is the case with the CW network's "Supernatural," which had planned to end with this fifth season.  Unfortunately, the CW noticed that "Supernatural" was one of its most popular shows.  As a struggling smaller network, it could barely afford to let one of its hottest properties simply expire.  Of course, it had pulled the same move with "Smallville," which has gone on about five seasons too long as it steamrolls into its 10th idiotic season, playing fast, loose and stupid with the Superman mythology.

But I digress.  I'm here to talk about the fifth season of "Supernatural."  The fifth season finds demon hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) dealing with the repercussions of their major blunder at the end of season four: Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) has been released from his prison in Hell, jump-starting the Judeo-Christian apocalypse.  Now, as the demon army mobilizes, Sam and Dean find themselves accosted from all sides: Lucifer wants Sam to be his vessel on Earth, the Archangel Michael wants Dean to be his vessel, and once the human hunters find out who brought all this death and destruction down on them, well, even they want a piece of the Winchesters' hide. 

Among other problems, Sam and Dean's angelic ally, Castiel (Misha Collins) has rebelled against Heaven, and is slowly losing his powers and influence and becoming more human.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Death, Famine and Pestilence) have also arrived on Earth and are beginning to sow violence and chaos across the planet.  Along the way, there will be lots of twists and turns, angst between the Winchester brothers who fear they may have to face each other in mortal combat before this is all over, as well as a healthy dose of classic rock and sarcastic humor.

"Supernatural" is one of those shows that I don't feel really changes from year to year; no season is really any better or worse than any other.  Perhaps the weakest might be seasons one and three, as in the first season the show was still sort of finding its voice and three suffered from coming smack in the middle of that writers strike a few years back.  So season five is really just business as usual in a way, even though the stakes for the show are much larger here as the show is finally coming to the culmination of its five-year arc. 

But it all comes down to that business aspect that I mentioned before.  Season five seems to build in a certain direction, but then takes a left hand turn right before its destination.  I was really looking forward to seeing Sam-Lucifer vs Dean-Michael, but I feel cheated of that since the show decides instead, at the 11th hour, to bring back Sam and Dean's half-brother (who had appeared in a single episode years earlier) to take Dean's place in the prize fight between Lucifer and Michael.  I can't tell you how disappointing this is, how much it reeks to me of a business decision rather than a creative one.  It seems entirely designed to circumvent what should've been the entire show's climax and allow the writers to leave something open for season six. 

There are some strange inconsistencies across the season, as well.  While the apocalypse seems to be going down, the Winchesters will sometimes come across whole towns that have been devastated by demonic activity, but elsewhere life seems to go on as though nothing has changed.  An episode guest starring Paris Hilton of all people is also pretty lame, though it gets laughs for being so ludicrous.

Still, "Supernatural" is just as entertaining as it has always been.  Padalecki and Ackles share an easy chemistry, and beyond that, excellent comedic timing.  Part of the show's allure, much like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" before it, is its ability to poke fun at itself and the genre.  One episode finds the brothers trapped in a variety of TV shows like a "Grey's Anatomy" parody entitled "Dr. Sexy, MD", a Japanese game show where they get hit in the crotch for answering trivia questions incorrectly (in Japanese), a genital herpes commercial, and even "Knight Rider."  Even when the show isn't putting on a farce, it's still loaded with humor.  Castiel's unfamiliarity with human references is used, often to great effect. 

Ultimately, "Supernatural" is just fun to watch.  It'll never go down in history as great art on television, but as pure entertainment, it's hard to deny.