Are Supernatural fans ruining the show?
by Hemal Jhaveri, posted May 8th 2009 12:02PM
Being a fan of a "cult" show is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, cult fans are a special breed that live and die with the show. Shows that manage to shore up a devoted (or rabid) fan base can expect to stick around for a decent amount of time. On the other hand, these fans are notoriously finicky and can turn on you in an instant.
I imagine that Supernatural creator Eric Kripke has to feel somewhat the same way. While it's the base that's kept him at the CW for the past four seasons, he must realize what a demanding, petulant and critical bunch we are. Supernatural fans haven't yet reached the Trekkie level, but they seem to have an endless stream of complaints. So, as we approach the season finale of Supernatural, I have to wonder, do fans have too much of a say in what's going on with the series?
Do you keep the fans happy, or do you decide to do what's best for the show? With the season finale coming up, I feel like we're on the verge of that decision. From the previews of the last two episodes, the first of which aired last night, we're in for an epic battle that pits Sam and Dean against each other, which I know fans are not happy about.
From my informal surfing of the boards, the fans want nothing more than to see this Sam and Dean fight come to a happy end. But, creatively it's exactly this conflict that's making the show interesting to critics and casual viewers outside fandom. It's no surprise that the show has picked up critical and ratings steam since the brothers have come to blows. It may not be the same formula from season one that devoted fans feel in love with, but it makes for some really good television.
In the past three seasons, creator Eric Kripke has been walking a fine line between listening to fan feedback (and tweaking said show as a result) and flat out pandering to his audience. It's when Kripke tries to give fans what they want that the narrative runs into trouble. The last few episodes of season 4, namely "The Monster at the End of the Book" and most recently, "The Rapture" seem to be all about placating fans, rather than moving the story forward. When Castiel, the angel at the center of last episode, appeared in the season four opener, he was showered with love from fandom. With that in mind, "The Rapture" was a reactionary episode, something that only got done due to fan interest.
It's no coincidence that once the brothers' relationship began to show signs of strain, the show started to take off with a larger audience. This development brought new life to the show and shook off the formulaic stupor it was falling under. But, from my limited lurking on the TWOP boards and LiveJournal, where fans seem to congregate, Sam and Dean's strained relationship, as well as the Angels vs. Demons war, has been the biggest sticking point with fans all season. Much of the commentary focuses on one point, that Kripke has "ruined" what they love about the show by showing this conflict.
These ticks that fandom loves, like watching the boys cry, which was talked about in "The Monster at the End of the Book," are also the things that are dragging the show down. Look, the emotional relationship between the boys is still the heart of the show, but hopelessly devoted characters get boring to watch. With Sam and Dean gearing up to fight on different sides of this apocalyptic war, the story takes an epic and intriguing twist. And it provides a much needed creative resurgence.
I, for one, am really looking forward to the coming battle and just hope Kripke doesn't listen too closely to fans who may say otherwise.