Supernatural Carries On In The End

Supernatural aired its very last episode “Carry On” a couple of nights ago, which brought an end to the long-running horror/fantasy series about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), and their adventures in hunting supernatural forces. As a series finale it left me feeling unsure about how I felt about it. But the more I think about it the more I feel that its penultimate episode “Inherit the Earth” would have been a better finale.

*Major Spoilers will follow*

“Carry On” was a fine episode and basically served as a coda to the lives of the Winchester Brothers. Some may think the very last episode should have been some kind of epic throw down against the forces of evil but Supernatural ended the way it began with a monster-of-the-week episode. In this case, a nest of vampires. Honestly this was the least interesting element of the episode. What followed after the vampires were killed was more important. OK, final warning on spoilers ahead.

Dean died after the vampires were killed after being impaled on a metal rod sticking out of post. It was a bit of a surprise and kind of underwhelming as far as deaths go. That is because the two brothers (and their allies and enemies) have been killed before multiple times in the show and then resurrected. It was hard to believe this was it. Or that the show creators felt this was best to finally kill Dean off in a sort of mundane manner. Yet others may feel it was appropriate that the great Dean Winchester not die in some epic battle but during a humdrum mission. I disagree, and find it surprising that Sam would not try to find a way to resurrect his brother.

winchester heaven

The scenes that followed with Sam Winchester mourning his brother with only Dean’s recently adopted dog for company was heartbreaking. However, by this point I was wondering if the show ran out of money because of the lack of guest stars. Sure, we got to see Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) in heaven with Dean, but none of the other mainstays like Castiel (Misha Collins) or Jack (Alexander Culvert) showed up. I read that this episode was filmed after the show’s shutdown ended (thanks again COVID-19) and the showrunners did not want to risk bringing in many people unless necessary. Still, the lack of mourners/guest appearances robbed the impact of Dean’s sudden passing.

As Dean explored heaven (basically shown as the empty backwoods and roads of middle America), scenes were intercut showing Sam moving on with his life as the song by Kansas, “Carry On Wayward Son”, the show’s unofficial theme song, played. He fathered a son he named after his brother; we don’t see who the child’s mother was, presumably it was his girlfriend Eileen (Shoshannah Stern), but we never got a good look; and Sam grew old and died with his adult son at his side. Cue to tears as Sam and Dean Winchester were finally reunited in heaven. The end.

As I mentioned earlier “Carry On” was fine by itself but the nitpicks kept nibbling me. It was great to see at least Sam being able to live out a normal life past hunting monsters, but it was sad that Dean was not allowed this destiny and God knows he deserved it since he was the more spiriturally troubled of the two. His death while being a Hunter was appropriate, but it should not have felt so mundane.

The previous episode “Inherit the Earth” could have and probably should have served as the series finale for Supernatural. The Winchesters had their final confrontation with Chuck/God (Rob Benedict), after he wiped out all forms of higher life on Earth. In their confrontation, the brothers were outmatched by Chuck, but he was defeated by Jack the Nephilim, who absorbed his powers. Afterwards, Jack became the new God and restored the universe in a cosmic reset before he vanished to become one with reality.

“Inherit the Earth” concluded with a great montage showing all the characters the Winchesters met during Supernatural’s run as the two drove off in Dean’s car while Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” played. To me this was how Supernatural should have ended. A bit open ended as Sam and Dean Winchester ride off into the open road looking for their next adventure now that they and the world were finally free of Chuck’s control.

If it matters that much to any fan, it’s best to stop watching Supernatural with its penultimate episode and just imagine Sam and Dean Winchester lived happily ever after hunting ghouls, evil ghosts, demons and whatever supernatural force came their way. If not then consider “Carry On” to be an acceptable, if sad, coda or epilogue to their lives and the show itself.

José Soto

It’s The End Of The Road For Supernatural

After 15 years, the horror/fantasy TV show Supernatural is finally coming to an end. Not only is it the longest running program on The CW network but the longest running American fantasy show of all time.

Supernatural stars Jason Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who roam mostly Middle America through its backroads and as Hunters battle things that go bump in the night. These inhuman threats range from deadly ghosts to bloodthirsty vampires, werewolves and ghouls, to even Lucifer (often Mark Pelligrino) himself, and now God aka Chuck (Rob Benedict).

When thinking about it, the show is akin to a modern-day Western with a horror/fantasy twist. In fact, series creator Eric Kripke (now working on The Boys) conceived the show as such with the Brothers Winchester playing the role of heroic cowboys who come into a small, remote town, right the wrongs and ride off to their next mission at the episode’s end in their vintage ’67 Impala instead of horses. Originally, Supernatural was supposed to be about two reporters who fought supernatural threats, but Kripke was only able to sell the program by reconceiving the characters as two brothers looking for their lost father. It’s a good thing Kripke did this because who knows if the original concept would have resonated with fans.

supernatural-season-1

What made Supernatural such a beloved cult hit with its dedicated fans was the easy comraderie and chemistry between the two brothers. Tall and lanky Sam was the more intellectual and sensitive brother while hot-headed Dean was more emotional and intense. More often than not, the two brothers butted heads that usually led to each of them storming off for an episode or two. And all-too-often their fights were based on lies and keeping vital information from each other. However, they shared a fierce familial love and loyalty towards each other.

The Wincester brothers were so much alike with their basic everyman demeanor, yet they were distinctive from one another. Dean jas a sharply, sarcastic wit, and a love of junk food, beer, and classic rock music. Meanwhile, Sam, who gave up his study of law at the start of the series, was more of a hunky dork with a big heart; but he was just as tough as his older brother. Thanks to the solid performance by the actors and their chemistry, the brothers were the heart of Supernatural.

The many characters they met throughout all 15 seasons also became very popular and vital parts of Supernatural whether as scene-stealing guest stars or popular regulars. The ones that stood out most where Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), a gruff, down-to-earth father/uncle figure who helped the Winchesters in their missions; the sarcastic and scheming demonic ruler of hell, Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard), who had a soft spot for the boys; Rowena (Ruth Connell), a centuries-old witch who was always scheming with many tricks up her sleeves; Jack (Alexander Calvert), a naive and well-meaning nephilum, who happened to be the son of Lucifer; and then there is Castiel (Misha Collins), a stoic angel who looks like he’s auditioning to be the next incarnation of Constantine with his rumpled suit and trenchcoat.

Supernatural more or less followed a certain formula, each season had the brothers and their allies confronting a monumental villain that threatened the world or creation. Intersped in between the arc episodes were monster-of-the-week or other standalone episodes. Early episodes focused on monster-of-the-week threats that established the Winchesters with their gruff, but caring relationship.

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The Movie Drought Hits The DCEU

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hit a severe snag thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As everyone knows the MCU films are now delayed and there won’t be any films released in 2020. Comic book film fans took some solace with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) upcoming slate. But now they too, are being delayed.

Whereas, 2021 had three films scheduled (The Suicide Squad, The Batman and Black Adam), now Warner Bros. announced that two of those films will no longer come out next year, with The Suicide Squad being the sole DCEU offering from the film studio. In other words, the most highly anticipated superhero film of 2021, The Batman, will now debut in March 2022, well over a year from now. At this point, the film was only about 25 percent completed before the pandemic shut down film productions earlier this year. What added to the delay was that when production started again for The Batman, the film had to shut down again because the film’s star Robert Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19. 

As for fans of Black Adam, that film is now officially in limbo without a release date. Bear in mind this film was announced back in 2014. Expect it to die a quiet death in development hell.

Films scheduled for 2022 have also being shuffled. The Flash, a film forever in development (as well as Black Adam), once scheduled for summer 2022, will now come out in November of that year. Meanwhile, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, the sequel to last year’s Shazam!, has been bumped all the way to June 2023. By the time they get to filming it will the young kids in the first film be too old to reprise their roles? That would be a shame since they were so wonderful in Shazam! There isn’t any word on the sequel to Aquaman, the biggest DCEU hit, and is scheduled for December 2022. But do not be surprised if it winds up in 2023. Let’s hope Jason Mamoa will still be interested in the film.

The only thing keeping fans going is that Wonder Woman 1984 is still slated to come out in December of this year. But do not be surprised if the Amazonian warrior will have to move to 2021 by the way things are going (the same goes for The Suicide Squad). It’s maddening because Wonder Woman 1984 is already finished and in fact we could have had the film last year if Warner Bros. had not moved it out of its original slot in lat 2019 for a more coveted summer release date. Of course, this is not the fault of the film studio since no one could have predicted this pandemic. Still, this is frustrating. 

On the other hand, the DCEU at least released a film this year, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was released this past February. It was not the best comic book film but it was at least a decent offering for starved fans. 

The best option for the DCEU is to fast track TV shows for HBO Max, in the same way many MCU fare will stream on Disney+ next year. HBO Max will have TV shows featuring DC heroes like Titans and Doom Patrol, but those shows are not set in the DCEU, and the only confirmed DCEU program coming out next year is the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. A Green Lantern show is coming out on HBO Max but it is still in development. 

Another thing these film studios could do is greenlight lower budget comic book films that do not need to earn hundreds of millions to break even. That way with today’s lowered box office earnings, the films could quietly earn their budget back and perhaps a small profit. Plus, it would keep fans happy. Still the core of the problem is that most people rightfully do not feel comfortable going to theaters and that will not change without a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, which is not expected well into next year. 

For now, there is not anything we can do except hope our situation changes, film studios feel comfortable enough to release big budget films and we can safely see our favorite heroes on the big screen again. 

 

 

A Look Back At Space: Above And Beyond

It has been 25 years since the sci-fi gem Space: Above and Beyond first premiered on television. The show was cancelled after only one season and has been forgotten by many, but is still treasured by a select few for its merits.

Created and produced by Glen Morgan and James Wong, Space: Above and Beyond was a military sci-fi adventure piece that took place in 2063. Humanity has just started to colonize other worlds before being attacked by these mysterious aliens called the Chigs. War broke out between humanity and the Chigs and the series followed the plight of a young group of soldiers hastily recruited into a squadron called the Wildcards to help fight the alien attackers who threatened Earth. The show was unique in that it showed that in the future, although humanity fought as one, Earth still was not united and had separate nations as today with armies from different nations cooperating in their war against the Chigs.

The soldiers making up the Wildcards were themselves very compelling and had fascinating back stories. The young leader of the squadron was Captain Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke), who was a career soldier who wanted to honor the memory of her deceased soldier parents. Tough as nails, yet loyal and caring to her squad, Vansen was one of the standouts in the show. Another lead was Nathan West (Morgan Weisser), who was the heart of the show. Sensitive, introspective yet strong-willed, West only joined the Wildcards after his girlfriend was kidnapped by the Chigs. The other lead in the show was Cooper Hawks (Rodney Rowland), the muscle of the squadron. He stood out from the other recruits because he was an “In Vitro”, a human who was artificially grown. Commanding the Wildcards was Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen (James Morrison, who was terrific in this role), an In Vitro himself. McQueen was a tough and decorated U.S. marine who had been through his fair share of wars and became a father figure of sorts to Hawks. Each episode examined the soldiers as they grew from green recruits into hardened fighters.

Space: Above and Beyond was one of the earliest TV shows to use the modern method of TV storytelling of episodes-long arcs. This contrasted with the norm back then when TV shows produced unrelated standalone episodes. The overall arc dealt with how humanity was fighting a desperate war against the aggressive Chigs. The fact that humanity seemed to be losing the war inspired many gritty episodes that explored the nature of sacrifice, comraderie, determination and loss. On the other hand, the show was not afraid to shine a light on humanity’s ugly side and raised questions about humankind’s conduct during the war not just with the aliens but with the past. Namely, it tackled bigotry with a new twist.

The In Vitroes were considered second-class citizens by humankind and useful only for being cannon fodder. They were developed to supplement human armies in a previous war against A.I.s (called Silicates) and were now struggling for equal rights. Many took up the In Vitro cause, such as West, yet many others considered them to be inferior and were hostile towards the In Vitroes. Hawks and McQueen struggled against the bigotry from others as they fought for humanity. Some of the best episodes focused on the two soldiers and their unique perspective. “Who Monitors the Birds?” was a largely dialogue-free episode that examined Hawks’ past upbringing as he underwent a covert mission behind enemy lines. “The Angriest Angel” focused on McQueen, who carried out a vendetta against a Chig fighter pilot that terrorized human fighter pilots with an advanced Chig fighter ship. The dogfight between McQueen’s fighter and the Chig’s was quite intense and rousing!

Eventually, humanity began to triumph against the Chigs and the final episodes dealt with a planned D-Day-type of invasion on Chig territory. There were many shocking twists about the origin of the Chigs, how the war began and the fate of the show’s characters. The fact that the final episode “…Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best” was open ended indicated that more seasons were planned as the war did not end and the characters were in cliffhanger situations. Some were apparently killed or taken prisoner by the Chigs. It was frustrating but added to a feeling of ambiguity about war and life; so the ending was somewhat appropriate.

Space: Above and Beyond was truly ahead of its time. It was one of the earliest shows to use computer effects which largely hold up today and had a fantastic and rousing military score by Shirley Walker. The show did a great job with its world building and set a template for hard and gritty miltary sci-fi that was further developed in the Battlestar Galactica reboot a decade later. But it was not appreciated or understood by many viewers when it first aired, and it was not a breakout hit that the network that aired it (Fox) hoped it would be.

As noted earlier, Space: Above and Beyond does have its fans and is considered to be an underappreciated gem. Anyone wishing to see will have to hunt for it online as its not currently streaming on Netflix or the other streaming apps, and the DVD boxset is quite pricey. Still, the show is worth seeking out for anyone wanting to see a well crafted military sci-fi yarn.

José Soto

Star Trek: Lower Decks Lacks Humor & Wit

Trek Lower Decks poster

The newest Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is the first animated Trek series since the 1970s and while that old show for the most part lived up to Star Trek, this animated show does not, unfortunately. There are many reasons why Star Trek: Lower Decks is just not up to par with Trek standards, but the most glaring is with its humor, or lack of.

Star Trek: Lower Decks, which streams on the CBS All Access app, was promoted as a comedy that takes place on the starship Cerritos, an unexceptional Starfleet ship assigned to mundane missions throughout Federation space . The show focuses on a crew of young Starfleet ensigns who for the most part dream of being promoted to senior officers while burdened with humdrum tasks like cleaning the holodeck, changing carbon filters and so on. The problem is the show just is not funny.

It tries its best, sometimes too hard, to be humorous and slapsticky, but at best the show elicits a few chuckles or wry smiles that only Trek fans can appreciate. The show is saddled with trying to be funny while telling traditional Star Trek stories and the tone winds up being very inconsistent. Some story lines are kind of interesting and could have worked in a normal Star Trek episode but then they gets thrown off with uninspired sight gags and jokes that are not especially witty and ruin the story. Take for instance this episode called “Moist Vessel”. The Cerritos is supposed to tow an ancient generational ship that has a substance that turns inorganic material into organic ones, which would be useful for terraforming purposes. This substance is accidently unleashed on the Cerritos and uncontrolled growths of organic material threatens the ship. This would have worked in a regular Star Trek episode, but in this case the plot is used for cheap laughs, though it did provide a platform for some character study.

mariner and boimler

As for the characters, they are not outstanding except for Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome). Unlike her overeager shipmates, she is more of a disillusioned slacker who complains nons-stop about Starfleet life. This is an interesting way to go for a Star Trek character, except it leaves you wondering why does she still stay onboard the ship? Why not just quit Starfleet? How is it she is still allowed to remain on the ship? For that last question, there is more to her story; her mother is the captain of the Cerritos and she is especially hard on Mariner, but that is about it. Her partner is an overeager and over-annoying Ensin named Boimler (Jack Quaid whose talents are better used in The Boys), who comes off as those petty buttkissers that no one likes, so it he is hard to empathize with. There are a few more ensigns who are alien or enhanced with cybernetic parts, but they do not stand out at all.

Star Trek: Lower Decks would have benefitted with wittier and funnier scripts that went all out and perhaps even meta. Perhaps a different animation style would have served it better because right now the show looks so cartoony that you expect it to be stuffed to the bulkheads with outrageous, LOL moments and jokes or even oulandish scenes that would have been too expensive to film in live action.

The show is not the worse thing out there and some revamping would salvage the endeavor. It does have potential, so it may be worth keeping an eye on. However, if fans want something to tide them over in between regular Trek productions like Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, they are better off watching The Orville, at least that show has better wit, humor and characters.