Supernatural 9×20 Review: Bloodlines

Bloodlines4

It seems that the backdoor pilot for the Supernatural spin-off Bloodlines is receiving overwhelmingly negative reviews just about everywhere.   I feel like the minority, in that didn’t hate this episode with a burning passion.  While there were definitely flaws, there were a lot of enjoyable moments and I see a potential that could be explored in interesting ways.  Unfortunately, the flaws are pretty major, so criticism of the episode is warranted.  The episode started much the way as Supernatural did – with a woman fridged and a man pulled into the world of monsters in his grief.  Supernatural managed to hook people despite that deeply concerning trope, though, and that’s in large part to the amazing chemistry between the two leads.  In this instance we’re given a possibility for a friendship to grow between lead characters David and Ennis, but haven’t learned enough about them to connect with them as we did with Sam and Dean.  So overall, there are some issues, but I actually disagree with the majority of viewers and am interested to see where Bloodlines goes.  I see a potential here and I’ll be tuning in this fall to see if they develop it.

Bloodlines1Bloodlines definitely started off on the wrong foot with me.  Supernatural has a long history of killing women as a means to motivate the male protagonists (also known as “women in refrigerators” or “fridging”).  The series started off by killing both Mary Winchester to motivate John in the first couple minutes, then killing Sam’s girlfriend Jessica to conclude the pilot episode.  Two fridgings in a pilot episode doesn’t bode well for a show, and they’ve certainly continued that theme for many seasons.  I certainly hope it’s not a trait that carries over to Bloodlines, but the first episode certainly isn’t promising on that front.  The fact that one of the leads is POC does, however, show some promise for diversity.  If we can have strong women leads and some queer characters as well, I may be able to forgive them for starting with a fridging.  Perhaps one of the male leads could be bisexual or one of the women we’ve been introduced to already can take a more leading role, thus fleshing out the diversity of the cast a bit more.  I hope the females are more than just love interests or deaths to further males stories or, even worse, just villains or unlikable stereotypes.  We need heroic women and queer characters in prominent roles to correct some of the pitfalls of the original show.  These are absolutely doable things that we desperately need on TV.  Now is the time to do it.  It’s a great opportunity.

I do enjoy the main characters, though.  I don’t want to pick favorite this early in the game, but I’m partial to David from the little that we’ve seen so far.  I like his attitude and how easily he uses his powers to accomplish his goals.  He’s sassy and creative.  I don’t feel like we really got to know Ennis too much, as he was at emotional extremes throughout the entire episode.  He started off elated that he was about to propose to his girlfriend, but spent the rest of the episode either mourning her death or seeking revenge.  Once time has past and his personality starts to shine through I may warm up to him more.  It’s hard to get an accurate read on a character when emotions are running at such extremes, so I’ll reserve any further judgement on him for now.  It’s possible that he’ll play the straight man to David’s comic relief, which is a perfectly fine character choice, but I’m hoping we see more than just a revenge fueled character.  He needs more depth because right now he’s falling a bit flat due to his emotional state.

Bloodlines2One of the reasons why I’m actually looking forward to what Bloodlines has to offer is because it seems very dedicated to one of my favorite topics that’s discussed on Supernatural:  What makes a monster a ‘monster?’  Is it their species or their actions?  It’s clear that Ennis does not view David or Violet as monsters, despite the fact one is a shapeshifter and one is a werewolf.  It brings back the Winchester’s “shoot first” way of operating that seems to go in and out of use depending on the episode.  Sometimes they feel all monsters should die and sometimes they make exceptions.  Clearly Ennis is in favor of making exceptions and I’m interested in seeing how that works out now that he’s stepped into the world of the Monster Mafia.  This is one of my favorite themes to discuss, and if this show really takes off we’ll have a lot of room to talk about it.  This alone is probably why I didn’t hate the episode as much as everyone else did.  I like David and what he brings to the table on what a ‘monster’ truly is.

This episode was definitely Sam and Dean light, but that in and of itself shouldn’t mean that the episode is terrible.  Two of my favorite episodes – ‘Weekend at Bobby’s’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ – are light on Winchesters and they’re both great.  As the pilot episode for a new show, focusing on the characters that are in that show makes sense.  The problem is that the characters in the aforementioned two episodes are ones that fans know very well.  In this case, we don’t really know much about Ennis and David, so the Winchester’s absence was felt much more strongly.  My favorite episode of Doctor Who is Doctor-light with brand new characters (‘Blink’), but for some reason I feel like I really got to know who Sally Sparrow was as a person, which I didn’t feel I had the opportunity to do here.  David came close.  He was close enough that I can absolutely say that I like him, but it wasn’t enough to sooth the absence of the lead characters.

Bloodlines3Overall, I can definitely understand the criticism of the show, but I really did ultimately enjoy it.  I want to see more from this universe and more from these characters.  I want to see the monster debate discussed thoroughly, and I want the cast to be a beautiful array of diversity.  With the amount of hate towards this episode that I’ve seen, though, I fear I may not get these things.  This show probably won’t last past the first season because the issues in the backdoor pilot made many feel disconnected from it.  I’m not sure if most fans will even give the new series a chance to correct these mistakes.  Even more concerning, I’m not sure if the show will actually correct them.

Author: Angel Wilson

Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.



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