First season of ‘Supernatural’ an entertaining blend of monster-of-the-week antics, family drama
What would you do for family? The question at the heart of the first season of “Supernatural” comes at you hard and fast, over and over again. From the death of a mother to the absence of a father to the bonds that bind brothers, “Supernatural” reinforces its core theme: Family comes first, no matter the cost.
“Supernatural: Season 1” (which premiered on the WB on Sept. 13, 2005, and is now available on Blu-ray) takes a different track from its contemporaries at the time: It wasn’t afraid to dole out plenty of emotional moments — replete with an “This is what you do for family!” ethos — while also trying to terrify you with all the things that go bump in the night (or the forest, or the sewers, or the basement …).
Utilizing a monster-of-the-week format for most of its 22 episodes, the first season of “Supernatural” sets the stage with the fiery death of Mary Winchester, the mother of Dean and Sam and wife to John. Twenty-two years later, Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) are brought back together to find their missing father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who has spent the past two decades hunting the demon that slayed Mary.
On their search, across multiple state lines in a ’67 Chevrolet Impala, the brothers, trained in the way of monster-hunting, encounter a hellscape of nightmares. “Supernatural” dives deep into America’s urban legends and folklore, introducing wendigos and vampires alongside its more demonic fare. You wouldn’t think, with America being such a young country in the grand scope of things, there’d be such depth to be mined, but “Supernatural” manages to merge the visceral horror of horrific enigmas with mentally engaging historical research to create a system that both spooks and informs.
Most episodes don’t extend much further than “Let’s kill this monster and save these people!” But it works here: Yes, a larger story is being weaved here — a father seeking revenge, two sons trying their best to understand what’s exactly happening and a nefarious (and shrouded) demonic endgame playing in the background — but Dean and Sam’s weekly adventures across the county hold more than enough weight on their own.
What doesn’t hold up, though, is the show’s special effects. For a show that revels in the supernatural, most of the costumes and special effects feel like they belong in a high school play, not a major television production.
In the end, the first season of “Supernatural” offers up a surprisingly potent mix of horror and history. And while it leans into its “monster of the week” pacing, there’s an engaging overarching premise foreshadowing something more that’s coming down the line. (This arc comes better into focus in the season’s final episodes.) There’s plenty to critique — Dean’s near-misogyny, Sam’s near-unbearable self-righteousness, their father’s blatant emotional abuse — but these threads seem to point to something a bit deeper afflicting the Winchesters. Whether that’s something that will make itself known in future seasons or just lazy writing, that’s yet to be determined. Even still, “Supernatural” offers plenty of enjoyable depths and scares. Let’s just hope the season finale’s cliffhanger points to something bigger than familial squabbling over who has better music taste.
Four monster-hunting stars out of five.