In the space of a life, five years can be a funny thing — an eternity or a blip. It depends on which five years you mean. Five years ago today, the WB launched Supernatural. For me, the five years have been both quick and slow — I live in the same house, drive the same car, and wear the same size (booyah!). My closest friends then are still my closest friends now. Very thankfully, my family members are still here. I’ve also lost my job, ridden out a hurricane and been without power for 14 days, and helped a parent move twice and recover from a significant injury. So, a lot has transpired.
When Supernatural launched, I had already watched it online, on a 15-inch laptop, and been giddy at what I saw. I’d loved Jensen Ackles since Dark Angel and was aware of the WB farm team mentality of desperately trying to establish shows for their reliable guest actors. Jensen had done stints on Smallville and Dawson’s Creek after Dark Angel ended and his FOX pilot, Still Life, never got out of the gate (sidebar: if anybody has those six episodes, I’m interested!).
Jared Padalecki had been a staple on Gilmore Girls before shooting a pilot for a MacGyver reboot that didn’t get picked up. So, the WB was looking to lock the boys into a vehicle, and it turned out to be a 67 Impala dreamed up by the as-yet-unproven Eric Kripke. I was on board as soon as it was cast. The premise was simple — two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester (named for the rifle, of course) battling things that go bump in the night while on a search for their missing dad, John (impeccably cast in Jeffrey Dean Morgan, another unproven talent). Out of the gate, the fit hit the shan when Sam lost his girlfriend in a sacrificial ceiling blaze, setting the boys on a course for vengeance and answers. The daddy arc was resolved fairly quickly by the beginning of the second season (and revisited again at the end of it), but the show evolved into a larger arc of the Winchesters as predestined to drive, and then end, the apocalypse.
The latter arc is where the show derailed for me. Dean died in the season three finale, returned in the season four premiere, and then we went on a 44-episode catechism lesson about good vs. evil, interrupted by occasional bursts of monsters of the week. While on that road, Sam was transformed from former college boy to demon consort and blood addict, Dean got angrier, and additional characters — hunter Bobby (genius Jim Beaver) and an angel named Castiel (played by Misha Collins), took on larger recurring roles. The series moved into an ensemble phase and got much, much darker. Sometimes, I just hit a limit with dark and sad and hopeless, as I did this spring. There are a handful of episodes from season five that I haven’t watched.
Over the course of the arc, several other recurring cast members rolled through and were exterminated, but as with the canon of Supernatural, nobody really dies, which is a bonus for the actors. The fifth season (and G vs. E. arc) concluded in May with Sam condemned to Hell after allowing Lucifer in and Dean choosing to be domesticated with a former flame, Lisa, and her son. Only as the episode ended, Sam, somehow freed from Hell, was waiting outside. For what, we don’t know. We’ll find out in a few weeks.
It’s been a significant five years behind the scenes for the cast and crew, too. The show rode out a programming switch from Tuesday to Thursday, a network buyout when the WB became The CW, and a writers strike that shortened the third season. The actors, writers, directors, and producers have traveled the globe on the convention circuit, meeting thousands upon thousands of fans, sitting on panels, taking pictures, and signing autographs. A community of fans was born that has followed them with intense loyalty and created a massive online universe. Much-beloved original director and producer Kim Manners (an alum of The X-Files), who helped shape the show’s look and feel and loved the mantra, “Kick it in the ass,” passed away in early 2009. Show creator Eric Kripke stepped down at the end of last season to spend time with his new family, handing the reins to the immensely capable Sera Gamble. And this year, Jensen and Jared became husbands, both marrying their sweethearts.
Sera has promised a reboot of sorts, returning to monsters of the week and a role reversal from who the boys were in the pilot. The recurring cast will still appear, but the focus will be back on the boys, who really were the reason this show was appointment TV for me for four and a half seasons. I’m looking forward to it being that again. In a final bit of kismet, the show has moved to Friday for its sixth season, alongside Smallville, which is marking its 10th. Maybe Supernatural will get there too.
Photo Courtesy of The CW