Dear Mr. Dabb,
Supernatural: Bloodlines. Your project…your baby. You dedicated yourself to it for months. Pitching the idea, creating the new Bloodlines universe, picking the setting. Then draft after endless draft of the story - what to put in, what to leave out. I’m sure everyone involved with Supernatural and the CW gave you input that they all thought was extremely helpful. Then so much was riding on the casting. This wasn’t just an episode, after all. It was hopefully casting a new series. Were you thrilled to finally see it all come together? Were you bursting with pride when it finally aired? Were you hoping for an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the SPN family? Had you been warned that those closest to you are often the last ones to accept something different?
I am not going to give you an overall rating for the show that I saw. There are plenty of reviewers who will analyze and judge, being either gushingly supportive or brutally critical of the show. I’ve watched the show twice. To be honest, I wasn’t blown-away by my first viewing. In fact, I was bored. Then I watched it again and saw the intricacies of the set-up and heard the subtleties of the writing. So I thought I would share my first, and second, impressions with you. Admittedly, these opinions are very personal to me, but an audience is, after all, built up from millions of very personal impressions of a show…
Top Things I Liked about Bloodlines (in order):
1. It was filmed in Chicago. The background shots of the cityscape surrounding the Chicago River were breathtaking, but they always are. The back drop of the dual levels of downtown streets like Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave., the water ferry stops, the lights of the city far off in the distance behind the action, even how the elevated trains wound through the urban neighborhoods all combined to give Bloodlines a completely different feel from the sites of Vancouver and the surrounding rural counties that we have seen for nine years. It was wonderful. [Ok, honest disclaimer…If anyone doesn’t know it yet, I’m a Chicago native!].
2. I was markedly impressed with Lucien’s performance. I thought he held his own in scenes with Jared and Jensen, which wasn’t easy given their experience together and their confidence with the show. More than that, though, he decidedly established his character’s personality, motivations and emotions throughout every scene. He was believable, and I was on board.
3. Ennis tricked the shifter version of his mentor cop into revealing that he didn’t know Ennis’ dad was dead, then Ennis used his phone’s camera to see “what” was in his living room. Fast learner! Sam had only mentioned once that cameras can reveal non-humans. It said “smart guy” to me in a convincing, subtle way.
4. David had some snappy lines! “NRA Christmas”, “Buffy”, “I’m a shape shifter. We shift our shape – it’s kind of all there in the name”, “It’s kind of my go to” and so many others. Great humor! Love the snark!
5. Ennis (ala Sam) was introduced to hunting because his almost fiancée was killed. When Sam said, “I get it. Believe me, I’ve been there” it took me a few minutes to realize he had been exactly there.
6. I liked how Ennis and David are recombinant versions of Sam and Dean. Ennis has Sam’s heartbreak and his habit of researching his quarry, combined with Dean’s drive to live up to his Dad’s image. His dad knew about monsters and was obviously in more than one type of “law enforcement” (the silver bullets). There was even the phantom phone call from his “dead” father. The cop’s speech to Ennis: “Nate Ross was a great cop. Taught me everything I know…but his temper never did him any favors. Look, you had a tough break losing your dad as young as you did… but if you go off half-cocked spouting this monster crap or doing something stupid, I can’t help you any more Ennis.” was a great call-back to John Winchester and slick character set-up. Ennis even had Dean’s “awesome” down already! David is going to be the snarky one (ala Dean) combined with Sam’s reluctance to fulfill his destiny. David ran away from the family business three years ago (wasn’t Sam at college for four years?) and was trying to live a human life before being sucked back into the vortex of violence. Nice use of a proven formula.
7. The music alternated between a blues atmosphere (ala Chicago Blues) with “A Broken Heart is Blind” and a 1920s flapper feel (family blood feuds from Chicago’s prohibition era). Again, skilled adaptation of Supernatural’s legacy for music.
8. The explanation of the title “Bloodlines” was well done. I thought it helped establish the premise of the show.
Top things I didn’t like (in order):
1. It is based in Chicago. I am deeply disappointed that the show’s premise is built on an age-old stereotype that Chicago is run by mobsters (Sorry, did I get one letter wrong? You said monsters, right?), the cops are all corrupt (the families have them on the payroll) and at any minute, Chicago’s streets will erupt in an all-out war. I watched Bloodlines film on the Grand Staircase at Union Station where the classic baby carriage scene in the movie The Untouchables took place. The scene in Bloodlines ended up being cut, but was it a coincidence that you also used Union Station in the pilot, or were you trying to remind us of that era, or even the movie that epitomized that short span in Chicago’s history so many years ago? Dean termed the situation “Godfather with fangs” to reinforce the blood feud, gangster image. Chicago has so much to offer, but this type-casting of the city is tiresome and insulting. Please don’t build your new world entirely on an overused characterization of a complex, vibrant city.
2. I really, really didn’t like starting out the show with a group being chauvinistic pigs, sorry, dogs. I was revolted at the physically and emotionally abusive scene of “You’re the bitch in this pack, princess, and your job is to be pretty and silent…you don’t get a vote.” When Violet said “I’m a bitch. We don’t matter”, I recoiled as much from the idea that the females of the species were going to be lesser creatures, as I did hearing those words come out of the mouth of a brand new female character. Trite characterization and lazy use of an overdone plot line. Please, please drop it.
3. So many of the characters had predictable, shallow motivations. I felt like I was watching a soap opera (maybe that’s the idea? Soap operas are successful, long running stories after all), or Romeo and Juliet (Dean even called David “Romeo”). With time, I trust you to make each character more original and complex. The challenge of writing a pilot versus writing for an established series?
4. The new Bloodlines cast was a little stiff. I chalk that up to nerves and pressure, and it is unfair to compare them to the Js. Even so, the chemistry between Jared and Jensen was visible in their pilot. This group has to let their talent shine through. Patience, Grasshopper.
5. Sam and Dean didn’t belong in this episode. That seems odd to say since Supernatural is their story, but they seemed out of place every time they appeared. It was really uncomfortable watching Jared and Jensen being crammed into this situation where they were the interlopers. That isn’t so much a reflection on the storyline of the potential series as it was a problem with the decision to make it a back-door pilot.
6. This is a minor quibble, but it was a little hard to keep up with the bar scene. It was a baptism by fire into the new world! Are they all vampires? No wait, there’s a Djinn. That other guy is a shifter, and he’s arguing with a… werewolf? Now Freddy Krueger joins the party? Who’s who in the zoo? That was a lot to absorb so quickly, but hey, why not jump right in? You only had 42 minutes to build a universe, right?
7. Why don’t Sam and Dean have one of those lock picking guns? Would have been handy for the past nine years.
Andrew, you might have gotten some rather negative reactions right after the show aired. It was hard to like this Supernatural episode because, well, it wasn’t Supernatural. It was very, very different. That’s what you wanted, right?
I would really like to see your pilot succeed. It would be nice to have a spin-off perpetuate the Supernatural legacy. It would feel oddly validating that the “littleshowthatcould” spawned another series. I mentioned the pressure the cast felt, but I can only imagine the pressure you feel. Family is always the last to see the potential of something new and different from one of their own. Maybe the SPN Family isn’t even your target audience. Maybe you are shooting for a Vampire Diaries or Dallas demographic. Either way, good luck. You’ll hear honest, if not harsh, feedback from your family, but in the end, do what you think is right. After all, it is your show…and we’re all family here.
How about you? It you hated the pilot, have you tried to rewatch it a second time? Have your impressions changed at all? If you liked the pilot, please let your voices be heard! What would be your top likes and dislikes? If you list a disappointment, can you also list something you liked? We are SOOO protective of our show, its reputation and the franchise. Do you think this might work for a different audience?? Give it a go!