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Not Your Everyday Episode – Supernatural’s ‘Bloodlines’

May 1, 2014
Warner Bros/The CW

Warner Bros/The CW

This week’s episode wasn’t a ‘normal’ Supernatural episode, which means this won’t be a ‘normal’ episode review. Everyone knew that ‘Bloodlines’ was a backdoor pilot for a new CW show as well as an episode of Supernatural, so my expectations were different than usual. Which was a very good thing. Otherwise, I might have been jumping up and down screaming at my television WHEN THE HELL ARE WE GETTING BACK TO THE MARK OF CAIN STORYLINE??? Or I might have been repeatedly tweeting #NeedsMoreSam&Dean. I didn’t expect much progression in the main story arcs since this was essentially a standalone episode in order to introduce new characters and setting – but I have to admit, it’s difficult having a standalone this late in the season, when all I can think about is OMG we only have three more episodes!!!

Fandom’s reaction was mixed (as always), but on reflection, it was difficult having a pilot episode as Season 9 Episode 20 of a long-running Show which has struggled with pacing this season. We’ve all been on the edge of our seats, waiting patiently (or not) to find out what’s going to happen with the Mark of Cain, the Crowley and Abbadon battle, Metatron, the angel war – the Show has multiple major storylines and none of them seem anywhere near sewn up. No wonder, then, that it tried some fans’ patience to have a standalone episode interrupt the momentum. I had a hard time believing that the Winchesters would run off to Chicago to investigate some killings instead of spending all their time in the search for Gadreel, Metatron and Abbadon. Last week it made sense – it was Jody, and she’s like family. This week, everyone in Chicago was a stranger to Sam and Dean.

Therein lies another problem. Everyone in Chicago was a stranger to us as well. Spinoffs seem to work well with established characters who have been on the show long enough for us to care about their wellbeing and know a little about their backstory. The Originals’ main characters, for example, were established on The Vampire Diaries for a string of episodes before the spinoff separated them out. If Bloodlines had featured Benny, or Kevin, or Garth, or Jody, or Charlie, or anyone we’ve come to know and care about, then Sam and Dean interrupting their search to come help would have been more believable – and fans would have been invested enough in the characters to accept the new Show as part of Supernatural. Instead, it didn’t really feel like SPN – it felt like an episode of another show that happened to have the Winchesters as minor guest stars. In other words, this was an episode of Supernatural that wasn’t an episode of Supernatural.

In all fairness, this was not entirely a surprise. In a USA Today interview before the episode aired, executive producer Jeremy Carver noted that even in the opening minutes, “you are abundantly aware of how this is a different show than Supernatural, in a good way.”

I admit that my kneejerk reaction was “There IS no good way to be different than Supernatural!”

I’m empathizing with Singer and writer Andrew Dabb’s dilemma here though – in an interview for TVLine, Dabb said:

“[Supernatural] is going into Season 10 – and we all very much hope it’s going to go beyond Season 10. You don’t want to do another show that’s just about hunters because then you’re competing with Supernatural. So it really was a conversation between myself, [series creator] Eric Kripke and [executive producers] Bob Singer and Jeremy Carver about what can we do to make it in the world of Supernatural, but not an exact clone of Supernatural. “

That makes sense to me, and I admire Dabb’s loyalty and protectiveness for Supernatural – it’s something we all feel. But it put Dabb and company into a bit of a Catch-22. Making Bloodlines different than Supernatural but simultaneously making it an episode of Supernatural turned out to be a rather confusing (and at times frustrating) experience. Fan tweets:

“Okay, but where are Sam and Dean?” — Everyone watching Bloodlines

Never enough Sam & Dean, and that goes for shows they aren’t even on

(In fact, Sam&Dean trended on twitter during the episode as fans tweeted about their absence).

xxx 9.20 boys

That’s an unfair expectation to have for a backdoor pilot that has a whole cast of new stars to introduce. But because it was placed as a Supernatural episode – and especially because it was placed just four episodes from the end of the season with major loose ends still dangling – it was difficult not to be impatient with the lack of Winchesters.

The other thing that impacted reception to Bloodlines was that very protectiveness that Dabb and the rest of the cast and crew share with the fandom. We’re freaking passionate about this Show and that makes us all very protective. Even some of the cast were taken aback by their strong feelings. Kim Rhodes tweeted that she was feeling oddly competititve, adding “I don’t want sibling rivalry, help!”

The network clearly expected fans’ passion to seamlessly translate to anything Supernatural, but that’s not always the way it works. Fandom is emotional as often as logical, perhaps moreso. Some fans felt used – as though by giving this new show the name Supernatural, TPTB took it for granted that we’d flock over there like lemmings. TV Guide’s review (ouch) said it seemed like “a blatant attempt to exploit a preexisting fanbase.” Some fans felt the new show threatened the longevity of the original, replacing SPN with what seemed to be a cast of much younger actors and a more CW-friendly standard fare romantic plotline.

Bloodlines

Network tweet: Who’s excited for a new Supernatural love story?

I’m not sure what the answers were, but that hasn’t exactly been the draw of Supernatural until now (except in fanfiction).

Carver and company succeeded in distinguishing Bloodlines from SPN, but in the process, may have changed some of the things that Supernatural fans watch for. Bloodlines is prettier, less gritty, with a larger ensemble cast and a set-up that does fit better on the CW. Let’s face it, Supernatural has never fit in there – it’s been described as the ‘red headed stepchild’ of the network more than once. Bloodlines, in contrast, does fit in. The problem is, most of the people watching Supernatural cherish it for all the ways it doesn’t.

Tumblr post: DAMN IT, WHERE IS MY SHOW??

As far as Bloodlines characters go, the two leads, Ennis (Lucien Laviscount) and David (Nathaniel Buzolic), a human and a shapeshifter, have some chemistry and they already squabble like brothers even though they just met. There are plenty of callbacks to the Winchesters, with Ennis pulled into hunting by the death of his girlfriend and David pulled back from his attempt to escape the ‘family business’ by going to college. There are clear daddy issues, and sibling rivalries. Ennis is fond of saying “awesome” and David has snappy lines like:

Dean: “You and me, Romeo.”

David: “Sounds good, Buffy.”

Many of the themes are familiar Supernatural territory – loss, revenge, monsters versus humans (and humans who are monsters), the demands of family versus the freedom of escaping family bonds. Then there’s the evil mobstress big sister shapeshifter Margo (Danielle Savre) and the tragic victimized little sister werewolf, Violet (Melissa Roxburgh), referred to as a bitch by everyone, including herself. I get that she’s a werewolf, but urgh. I suppose some of that is familiar Supernatural territory too…

Some aspects of canon seemed to be altered a bit – don’t shapeshifters shed their skin ala Dean in ‘Skin’? I seem to remember that was pretty disgusting, and not nearly as seamless and pretty as it was on Bloodlines. Sometimes fandom isn’t such a stickler for canon continuity, though. Seen on Twitter:

Sam looks like he’s in a L’Oreal commercial though, so there’s your continuity.

diana_spn jar

While Bloodlines clearly drew from Supernatural, what it took from Supernatural is not necessarily what has made the Show such a success. It’s not the monsters that drew most of us into the Show and made us fall in love. It’s not the eye candy, or the canon romances. It’s Sam and Dean Winchester, and the incredible chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki, that has set Supernatural apart. It’s these characters, their relationship with each other and with the other important (well drawn, nuanced) characters — Cas, Bobby, Jody, Gabriel, Kevin, Charlie — that make the Show so popular.

Bloodlines may have worked better as a standalone pilot. It seemed aimed at a slightly different audience, which is fine unless you happen to be jammed into an existing Show, and a framework that doesn’t quite fit. Of course, an embedded pilot makes sense financially, but not if it jeopardizes the pilot’s pick-up.

There was actually quite a bit to like about Bloodlines – it was beautifully filmed, has an interesting premise with the five monster families, and it was cool to see the Winchesters in the big city for a change. The idea of changing the point of view from hunters to monsters is an interesting one. As Ackles said in the USA Today article, “You’ve seen the monsters through Sam and Dean’s eyes, and now we’re taking a whole different perspective on them.” An interesting idea, but a very different show.

From Lucien's instagram.

From Lucien’s instagram.

We also got a little bit of Sam and Dean interaction with some classic lines, as quoted with Twitter commentary:

“Yeah, I see ya…” — GUEST STAR Dean 1000000% done with you Winchester.

“I could go into detail, but I’m not going to.” – Dean Winchester is so done with everything.

I’m always happy to get a peek into Sam’s headspace, and we got a few comments from him on how he sees hunting now –

“You get in this too deep..there’s no getting out!”

“What we do…it’s messed up.”

Each time, the camera lingers on Dean’s reaction to Sam’s words. He seems to be trying to figure Sam out as desperately as I am!

I also admit that I squeed out loud when Sam introduced them:

“That’s my brother, Dean.”

He used the B word!!! Oh, my heart!

I also love that Bloodlines was filmed in Chicago. This gave some fans in the US a unique opportunity to watch filming. Winchester Family Business staff writer Nightsky, who lives in the Windy City, spent three crazy days trying to track down filming locations, and finally succeeded. Her adventures in fangirl persistence and creativity are here, along with behind the scenes photos:

http://www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com/article-archives/episode-related/18496-behind-the-scenes-of-supernatural-bloodlines

Filming in Chicago also meant that some lucky fans actually got to contribute to the Show they love! There’s nothing that warms our hearts more than the reciprocal relationship Supernatural has with its fans, so we were thrilled when a fan (Lisa Diamont) contacted us to share the story of how they were able to help the Show out during the filming of Bloodlines.

A few months ago, Impala owner and SPN fan Rick Blevins was approached by the Show, asking if they could use his Impala for the spinoff. Shipping Baby and all the weapons in her trunk across the border from Canada would have been a logistical nightmare (and cost a fortune). Rick is part of a group of Impala owners (as Lisa said, the ultimate cosplayers!) formed at the Dallas Creation convention in the past few years. He has helped many Impala-owning fans figure out what specific Impala parts are canon and where to find them, and even the color number of the interior paint! When the Show called him, Rick had helped build and then sold his own Impala, but he recommended another from the group. The only problem was, this car (belonging to SPN fan Stefany Torres) was not quite finished. There ensued a mad rush to finish the weapons trunk, which didn’t have some of the items seen prominently in many screen shots. The Impala group sprung into action, everyone digging through their prop stashes – in true SPN Family teamwork fashion, each car contributed some items to complete the weapons trunk.

One particularly crafty member (Claudia Drinovsky aka @swissmom8873) hand made the bullet box (wood with silver inlay) and the dream catcher (seen in the episode), and the evil eye beads that hang near the dream catcher. Ariel and Jay Horcher loaned the grenade launcher (shown in the episode), the cross on the trunk lid and a large wooden stake. Lisa and Adam Diamont supplied the long arrow usually seen at the top of the trunk lid and the compass that hangs near the brass knuckles. Once the Impala was fully decked out, Rick and Stefany headed to Chicago – and a fan Impala became part of canon.

xxx 9.20 impala

When Lisa shared this story with us, she also shared the emotion, something we’ve also experienced:

“How amazing the feeling of finally being able to give something back to Show after all the joy (and sometimes misery) Show has brought to us as fans. I just thought this was a great example of our awesome Fandom!”

We agree!

The promo for next week’s episode made me literally jump up and start screaming. Finally we’re getting to the main story arcs – Abbadon, Gadreel, Metratron, the Mark of Cain! Are you all as excited as I am???

Share your thoughts with us in comments – we’d love to know your reaction to Bloodlines!

–Lynn
For more fangirl adventure stories, read
Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls and Fan
Phenomena: Supernatural. Click the links
at the top of the page to order

35 Comments leave one →
  1. candygramme permalink
    May 1, 2014 4:20 am

    Yes, I agree with you. It was a typical CW teensoap, stocked with generic pretty people, and I found myself thinking of it as Beauty and Tomorrow’s Original Bloodline Diaries. I know a couple of 16 year olds who liked it, but I was bored. We had a show that’s been Sam and Dean light for the last couple of weeks – and okay, last week’s episode was great, but it was still Sam and Dean light – and then we get less than 3 minutes screen time for the boys out of a 43 minute show. Not good.

    Like you say, I watch to see Sam and Dean relentless in their pursuit of evil, working TOGETHER to prove that family can beat out superior odds. That’s been sadly missing for quite sometime, and I am beginning to wonder if it’s ever going to return.

  2. Teresa permalink
    May 1, 2014 4:29 am

    I still don’t understand how having his girlfriend killed by a human is supposed to be motivation for Ennis becoming a monster hunter, nor how we are all supposed to -like Sam and Dean – be okay that Ennis shot and killed a human. Didn’t we all have a kerfluffle recently when Dean cold-heartedly did that? Are we to understand then that humans are the monsters on Bloodlines?

    • Peter J permalink
      May 1, 2014 8:24 am

      We also just had an episode where Sam and Dean were both willing to kill a human in pursuit of a larger goal. I think this was done to set up the story of that other show (if it’s picked up) but also to remind us that Dean and Sam have hardened to where they no longer prioritize human life as much.

    • Jenny permalink
      May 6, 2014 3:06 pm

      Or better question – how human could have killed his girlfriend in the way she was killed – sent flying hand across the place and die in instant by an ordinary human hand?

  3. Tara permalink
    May 1, 2014 4:37 am

    Loved your article about the show. I couldn’t agree more on all counts! Nice job. Thanks also for the info on the fan contribution. Wonderful! I love it.

  4. bjxmas permalink
    May 1, 2014 5:01 am

    I just wish we’d truly been given a Supernatural franchise-worthy spin-off! There is such a rich tapestry of monster lore and Winchester history to tap into. I immediately thought of the Men of Letters and Sam and Dean’s great-granddad when I first heard they were pitching a new show. Now that’s a story I could get excited about! Add to that the crossover of characters that we’ve already come to love and want more of, basically anyone with a long life, such as Gabriel, Balthazar, Lenore and even Castiel, and you’d immediately win our love! How awesome would it be to see Cas wandering the historical streets of Chicago interacting before anyone knew who he was?!

    This show does fit into the CW but it doesn’t fit with Supernatural. So why didn’t they leave the boys out of it? It makes me truly wonder if they seriously don’t understand the fandom, the show, and our passion and what drives it?

    Any similarities to Sam and Dean’s story, with the dead girlfriend and the running off to college to escape his family, and then the final nail in the coffin, the phone call from the supposedly dead dad, which will now fuel an epic search…well, that all cannibalizes the heart and soul of what made Supernatural special and I for one don’t appreciate them taking our stories and mutating them into something less. That really left a sour taste instead of endearing me to the new show.

    So I’ll take a pass on Bloodlines, because it doesn’t interest me on a basic level and because it does bring out that sibling jealousy, most especially if it gets promoted as the new critical darling while Supernatural continues the uphill battle of grittily doing the job, being taken for granted, and just trudging on with little network promotion.

    I only hope they reconsider and go with the spin-off I long for and maybe to insure it succeeds, lock down an actor the fandom already admires and who could pull the weight of our expectations, someone like Christian Kane who has expressed interest in being on Supernatural. Now there’s a hunky, gritty, old-school hunter I’d find intriguing!

    B.J.

    • Peter J permalink
      May 1, 2014 8:22 am

      I think that Christian Kane is going to be on TNT’s series version of their Librarian movies.

      “I only hope they reconsider and go with the spin-off I long for ”

      Unfortunately, I don’t think they had a lot of choice in the matter. Last year, Mark Pedowitz said he didn’t believe SPN characters could carry a spinoff.

      https://zap2it.com/blogs/the_cw_talks_supernatural_season_9_potential_plus_could_castiel_get_a_spin-off-2013-01

      Andrew Dabb claimed if they get a series they will have SPN characters cross over. I guess we’ll see if that happens or if it’s even picked up.

  5. May 1, 2014 5:12 am

    I enjoyed watching the Supernatural universe from another perspective… and I’ve written this elsewhere… but this is not the first time our Show has done this… think Ghostfacers and Bitten. Not everyone likes the Ghostfacers. Not everyone enjoyed Bitten. And clearly, not everyone enjoyed Bloodlines. But all those episodes had a vibe that was different to a ‘typical’ episode of Supernatural. And it’s one of the things I like about the creators of our Show – they are not afraid to try new things, even if they don’t always work out. I, for one, will always support them in this… and give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they’ve given me SO much with this Show and characters that I’ve grown to love.

    And, in regard to those episodes, Ghostfacers got a web-series that ran at the same time as Supernatural. It didn’t impact on the original show. Kate, the werewolf, survived and, in theory, could turn up in Chicago. Who knows? I sense that people feel like the original Show has been tarnished because Bloodlines is not the same. But it was never meant to be the same and why should it change anyone’s opinion of Supernatural. I know I’ll always love it.

    I also don’t have a problem with a standalone episode this late in the season because we’ve had that in the vast majority of the seasons. It’s always the last 2-3 that tie up the season arc… and that’s not forgetting that Jeremy Carver has a 3-year arc. I don’t believe everything will be tied up by episode 23.

    I went into this episode thinking of it as a standalone and fully expecting it would be light on Sam and Dean. And I liked the way Sam and Dean were used because they provided some of the lighter moments. I love how nonchalantly Dean chopped off the monster’s head, and how Sam tried to explain the existence of monster’s in one short sentence.

    Was it the best pilot I’ve ever seen? No. But I think it has a lot going for it. I liked the chemistry between Ennis and David. I liked some of the humor. When David said “We shift our shape… it’s kinda all there in the name” while trying to explain what a shape-shifter was, I laughed out loud. And, when he called Dean Buffy, it was priceless (as was Sam’s face at that moment). I really hope they retain the humour if they get picked up.

    So yeah, I liked Bloodlines enough to watch a few more episodes if it’s given a chance to develop… and I really hope it is. Will I love it? I can’t answer that right now because it often takes me half a season to warm to characters in a new show. But I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand like many people that I’ve seen on social media in the last 24 hours.

  6. Tanya permalink
    May 1, 2014 5:59 am

    Spot on review! I also agree tht i think the ep would have fared better as an actual pilot ep thn right at the end of the current season. although i didnt think it great i will give it a chance. Most pilot eps arent so good since it takes time fr a cast esp an ensemble one to gel. It will also give some of the actors time to refine their skills as a few were lacking some. On the good side next weeks ep looks amazing!!

  7. jenofletters permalink
    May 1, 2014 6:01 am

    Your thoughts are very on point and exactly match my feelings after this episode.

    Also: the one thing that bugged me more than the shapeshifters lack of skin shedding (because I can chalk that up to them being extra powerful or something) is that David didn’t have Detective Costa’s thoughts and memories when he was pretending to be him. If he did, he wouldn’t have been caught in Ennis’ question about his father. That was the thing that made shifters so menacing to me… they took not only the appearance, but also the personality of who they were impersonating. Cannon is so important to me, and I can’t stand continuity errors that blatant. (rant over). Can’t wait for next week’s episode!

  8. May 1, 2014 8:20 am

    Well balanced review, probably the only one I’ve read so far. I haven’t watched the episode yet myself so I can’t comment on it myself. I will reserve my opinion once I have seen it. I have never been a fan of spin offs apart from Angel which was really well done, & the Originals which to me, seemed more interesting than TVD in the few episodes I watched of it.

    Supernatural is a really special show & I suppose we truly have been spoiled when you consider the calibre of Jensen & Jared as actors. It would be hard to recreate the special magic we are privelliged to enjoy every week.

  9. jen permalink
    May 1, 2014 9:27 am

    I still don’t get why we couldn’t have a character on the show that we already knew and cared about that would make us want to watch and ease the transition. Like, that’s so basic, why didn’t they do that?

  10. May 1, 2014 10:04 am

    Watched it and well I didn’t hate it, but I felt it was way off too. As positive things I could say I like the Freddy Krueger glove and the creepy killer and it was freaky in it’s own way.
    I liked the atmosphere and lighting of the episode and well Chicago is awesome. And of course the brothers were a plus. Dean got to kill a vampire again by chopping heads woo!
    Also the part I liked was that even if it’s not “On screen” the Impala story. Those kinds of things always make me smile in a good way.

    But All I can say it wasn’t totally bad but the dialogue and the characters they just weren’t my liking even though they did their best. They gave it a try and even though it was in a bad time this season, now it’s done and over. If you compare this to VD and Originals. I have seen them and they did this same but way better. I really would have wanted to love this too but I leave it to watchable. But still I try to be positive and as a stand alone pilot it wasn’t that bad. You can watch it and that is something I can’t say about some shows.

    In Winchester Family Business people were talking about a lot about the Spin-off. Death and Reapers in Chicago, Samuel Colt, Jody and A4 and I would have loved Eliot Ness in Chicago (Love Nicholas Lea). That episode was awesome. If it would have been about anything from the real Supernatural I think it would have worked out better for us and I would have loved it. But now. The ship passed. They tried and I hope Bloodlines finds their audience. Unfortunately it’s not me.

    There’s my two cents.

    – Lilah Kane

    http://memoirsofthefallen.wordpress.com/

  11. May 1, 2014 10:11 am

    My verdict out on Bloodlines. For me, too late in season for standalone ep. Loved the bits about fans helping out with getting an Impala ready to go for filming – insider info. I wouldn’t get anywhere else. Thanks!

  12. gidgetcommando permalink
    May 1, 2014 11:08 am

    Bloodlines didn’t feel as though it took place in the same universe as Supernatural. I see some potential, but it felt lost in the CW-ish mansions and designer clothes. (Those COULD work for these characters, but they’re trite on the CW.) There’s such an interesting premise here, but I’m not convinced yet. Even canon continuity was a problem. Since when do shapeshifters in the SPN world NOT leave bits of gooey skin behind when they shift? If you want Supernatural fans, respect what they love.

  13. May 1, 2014 12:20 pm

    Well written, as usual, Lynn.

    My comments have been along the same line. If they want a show that the Supernatural family wants to watch, they are going to have to de-CW it. It’s just that simple. We need older patriarchs and more complicated villains. I think Lucien and Nate have chemistry and there is potential here but timing was clearly driven for the benefit of the pilot (early May sweeps). And so if it hurts Show, well… there will be internet blood.

    I personally think some retooling and a 13 episode run to establish more depth would work. It’s NOT a Supernatural replacement. And it didn’t feel like one. So well done to Dabb & Singer for not makings feel shoved out the door.

    Speaking of L’Oreal hair. They’ve got Sam’s wind-blown locks in the promo. I’ve already seen it giff’d. A thing of beauty I tell ya.

    Finally, ITA that Dean is so DONE. Watching the first few episodes of S9 versus now is just heartbreaking. I think Dean is recasting his entire existence as that of a patsy. It fits his typical self-loathing and the message he thinks he’s hearing. Wrapping himself up in the business of killing things that need to be killed is his raison d’etre these days. It’s not a good vibe. Not remotely. I’m going to go back and watch bloodlines just to see if there is any hope on Dean’s face. Anywhere.

  14. blinderd8 permalink
    May 1, 2014 12:35 pm

    Sam and Dean are lightening in a bottle and its hard to duplicate it. Dabb is to be commended for doing what he was supposed to do in one short script, but cramming all of those familiar themes into one hour assumes that the fan base will go along for the ride. I agree it would have worked better as a stand alone pilot not using the Winchesters as bait for us. Perhaps if the pilot focused on one theme and one set of characters, chemistry might have developed(not expecting it to be J2 type off the bat), but with so much going on, it was hard to get any feels from the characters and duplicating the relationships between David and what’s his name well, I cannot remember the characters names let alone the actors who played them. SPN fan base knows its monster lore so the premise is a bit off. Again it may work for a younger demographic. It I want to see rival monsters fight over territory then there is The Originals. When SPN started some of the first year episodes were clunkers but my patience was rewarded as the writers worked out the relationship. I found myself immediately connected to the Sam/Dean relationship. Maybe it was the dialogue and the acting performances. It was different material but about family dynamics that broke down the wall and gave it a reality type feel. And yes, episode 20 is a bit of a bummer to interrupt the momentum of Supernatural, It should have been shown as a summer replacement and worked out the bugs.I found myself not being able to get rid of my disbelief. The ratings were strong so the CW will probably order the series, but they should not expect SPN fans to hang in unless there are big improvements based on honest feedback. Thanks for the review.

  15. May 1, 2014 1:27 pm

    I already wasn’t holding out much hope for this episode. Jensen ackles in an interview from earlier this season, just after they wrapped the episode seemed apprehensive at best about the pilot. As Jensen seems to have a hard time masking his feelings about certain things, I knew I could get a straight answer from him about whether it was going to be good or not. I knew this wasn’t going to be really good.

    Also, at this point in Supernatural, where we’ve had angels and god and whatnot for 6 seasons, now, it’s weird to go into a world that’s within the supernatural universe, where those things are just not known and not a part of it at all.

    I think the biggest thing that bothered me about this episode was the lack of continuity with shapeshifters. They’re supposed to shed their skin in a great mountain of yuck. Not be pretty boys who can just wipe a hand over their hand and change the color like so much Robin Tunney in The Craft. If they wanted a cleaner type of shifter they could’ve gone with calling them Thoughtforms. As outlined in the first shifter episode “Skin” Thoughtforms are shifters that alter other’s perception of them through psychic projections so there’s no actual physical transformation. But…I suppose calling something a “thoughtform” is a bit less sexy than calling something a “shapeshifter”. Now, the Show is no stranger to altering continuity and history of their creatures – just look at the evolution of Reapers on the show, but shifters have always been consistently yucky and anti-social. So, to have them be so attractive and part of a family unit, however fractured that unit is, just feels like a cheat.

    Sidenote: I love that the Impala in the episode was a fan car. That’s so freaking awesome. I love that sooo much!

    • May 1, 2014 1:29 pm

      Also, it would have been fun if Dean mentioned the last time he was in Chicago it was 1944.

    • May 1, 2014 2:13 pm

      Now, that I keep thinking about it, I think one of my biggest problems with this back door pilot was that there wasn’t a sense of fun to it. In the original Supernatural pilot, at least there’s this sense of fun and adventure amidst all the “dad is on a hunting trip and hasn’t been home in a few days” and women burning on ceilings. And bloodlines, aside from Dean’s one liners, just didn’t have that fun. And with the fact that it seems like the show will be a heavily serialized gangster drama, it doesn’t seem like that fun will ever be there. There will never be an episode about LARPing, there will never be an episode where one of the main characters dies over 100 times, there will never be an alternate universe meta episode. It doesn’t seem like there will be these awesome episodes where, even thought they don’t further plot, they further character, tremendously.

      Also, while I appreciate that this new spinoff is attempting to bring more female characters into the mix, let’s take a look at what it gave us. 1 woman in a refrigerator (the dead girlfriend as motivator), 1 non dimensional uber evil ice queen (Dave’s sister), and 1 not-so damsel in distress (the object of David’s affections, who admittedly actually saved herself and him in the end, but nonetheless came off very much as a trophy to be won.) If the spinoff doesn’t resolve its problems with its female characters, they’re just going to remain pretty 1 dimensional as was the case with the oft hated Bela and Amelia whose characters were so flimsy a light breeze could have knocked them down. Sidenote: I’m not hating on Bela. I don’t think her character was given a proper chance to become anything other than There were things hinted at in her that we never got to see fully realized. And I guess that’s my problem with any character – if they’re not fully realized. And that’s what I saw with the female characters on bloodlines. I’m not saying it couldn’t get better, but I’m doubtful it will.

      • May 1, 2014 6:49 pm

        I knew and accepted that it was a pilot and would interrupt the season momentum and have Sam & Dean only as guest stars.

        But yes, THIS, this is what bothered me:
        >Also, while I appreciate that this new spinoff is attempting to bring more female characters into the mix, let’s take a look at what it gave us. 1 woman in a refrigerator (the dead girlfriend as motivator), 1 non dimensional uber evil ice queen (Dave’s sister), and 1 not-so damsel in distress (the object of David’s affections, who admittedly actually saved herself and him in the end, but nonetheless came off very much as a trophy to be won.)

        Especially contrasted with the wonderful female characters of the previous week, this hurt.

        – Yes, Mary and Jess were killed as motivation, but they were killed intentionally, because of who they were and the circumstances that their own choices brought them to. Ennis’ girlfriend was completely fridged, dying accidentally and randomly, purely for sympathy to the male hero.
        – The ice queen sister was presented as the absolute stereotype of the “businesswoman in a man’s world” — and her over-the-top vulgar threatening felt unearned, to make that point.
        – The werewolf with the arranged marriage was the worst for me, because they seem to have altered werewolf lore to specifically create a down-dog “bitch” position that everyone accepts — so suddenly, werewolves are misogynistic by nature. wtf?

      • May 2, 2014 2:21 am

        I knew and accepted that it was a pilot and would interrupt the season momentum and have Sam & Dean only as guest stars.

        But yes, THIS, this is what bothered me:
        >Also, while I appreciate that this new spinoff is attempting to bring more female characters into the mix, let’s take a look at what it gave us. 1 woman in a refrigerator (the dead girlfriend as motivator), 1 non dimensional uber evil ice queen (Dave’s sister), and 1 not-so damsel in distress (the object of David’s affections, who admittedly actually saved herself and him in the end, but nonetheless came off very much as a trophy to be won.)

        Especially contrasted with the wonderful female characters of the previous week, this hurt.

        – Yes, Mary and Jess were killed as motivation, but they were killed intentionally, because of who they were and the circumstances that their own choices brought them to. Ennis’ girlfriend was completely fridged, dying accidentally and randomly, purely for sympathy to the male hero.
        – The ice queen sister was presented as the absolute stereotype of the “businesswoman in a man’s world” — and her over-the-top vulgar threatening felt unearned, to make that point.
        – The werewolf with the arranged marriage was the worst for me, because they seem to have altered werewolf lore to specifically create a down-dog “b-tch” position that everyone accepts — so suddenly, werewolves are misogynistic by nature…?

  16. May 1, 2014 1:36 pm

    Lynn, A wonderful review, as always! I particularly enjoyed reading fans’ reactions from Twitter. Fans can be so witty and spot-on with describing how everyone is feeling. 140 characters can sometimes say it all! You also have a way of explaining to us why we are feeling what we are feeling! Thank you for including my behind-the-scenes report, too! I was able to visit three of the locations used in the show. My article gives pictures of two of them; my personal story of chasing the shoot (which will be posted during Hiatus) will describe what happened at the third location (at night, driving around a Chgo neighborhood looking for an Impala…). After watching the cast and crew labor for hours over just a few seconds of footage, I felt personally invested in the pilot and really wanted to love it! Alas, I had many of the same reactions as you. I wrote everything in a “letter” to Andrew Dabb, which is posted on The Winchester Family Business. So hard to be honest and kind at the same time…yet somehow you always manage. Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom with us.

  17. Patti T permalink
    May 1, 2014 2:19 pm

    I don’t consider Bloodlines a spinoff – to *ME* a spinoff is a show built around existing characters in a show….and TPTB create another show for those characters.

    I consider this a BRAND NEW show…..and the SPN episode was actually the pilot episode of a new series called Bloodlines, with 2 very special guest stars. ACK that really bothered me that J&J were more like “guest stars” in their own show.

    That being said……I tried to separate myself and watch the show for what it was…..quiet honestly it did nothing for me. If it wasn’t a supposed “Supernatural” episode I would not have watched it. I was bored and distracted. I have a hard time getting into series (really I have SPN & Doctor Who -that’s it) and I KNOW this is not a show I’d watch~ I really wanted to like it but…there was nothing of interest for me.

  18. May 1, 2014 5:47 pm

    I didn’t like it (although I feel like a traitor for saying that). I thought it felt way to polished & glossy. It was almost like Supernatural meets Gossip Girl.

    I just did not feel like ANY of the new characters fit into the Supernatural universe – the new characters just felt entirely too manufactured. Like each character was there is fill a very specific stereotypical role. I know it is hard to give characters depth in a single episode, but I literally felt no pull to any new character – the new characters did not resonate with me because they didn’t feel real. I didn’t think they felt real like Sam & Dean did in the Pilot, or how Jody or John or Ellen or Bobby or Cas or Crowley did when they were introduced.

    SPN has always excelled with creating three-dimensional secondary characters, so because of that, these new spin-off characters felt like an extra big let down (at least to me).

    I get that it is a spin-off & the whole point is to be different from Supernatural, but it was really hard for me to relate the two worlds at all. Sam & Dean did not fit into the new world at all – the brothers stuck out like sore thumbs. Aside from the Supernatural name, I saw little to no similarities. All the monster rules were changed, the monsters looked/acted/shifted differently than those in the SPN world. I think for many existing SPN fans to get on board with the spin-off, like the TPTB probably expected, we need to at least be able to recognize this new world..even a little bit. And I didn’t.

    “While Bloodlines clearly drew from Supernatural, what it took from Supernatural is not necessarily what has made the Show such a success.”

    I 100% agree with your observation here & it REALLY makes me wonder if the writers/TPTB really understand what makes Supernatural so special – what has kept fans sticking around for 9+ years.

    It is Sam & Dean. I think it is the root of my current frustration with SPN right now too.

    Since day one, Sam & Dean have carried the show, and this season, the writers are not allowing the brothers to do so. And it shows.

    Between the shattered brother relationship, and the focus on angels/Megatron/demon face-off, Sam & Dean (and the MoC) have gotten lost in the shuffle. I feel like a lot of time the brothers are just kinda there..and are the characters who are providing the support to supporting characters.

    While I am glad Jody & Garth & Cas & Kevin & Mrs. Tran have been given opportunities to shine this season, the brothers really haven’t. I don’t think there has been one Sam-centric episode all season. An episode that really dug into Sam’s character. It is disheartening.

    I’m not saying that SPN needs to scale back on these secondary characters, I just wish the SPN writers could find a better balance with its characters & arcs. Like let Garth shine for an episode but please also weave some significant character development for Sam & Dean throughout the episode too.

    SPN needs something to ground it – especially as secondary characters continue to play a larger & larger role & the SPN universe expands well beyond the Winchesters – and the brothers have always provided that.

    Sam & Dean are sorely missing right now for me. And I am waiting for the day, I am come comment here and just leave the most glowing SPN review! I hate griping on my show.

  19. May 1, 2014 8:28 pm

    I agree, as a fan, it would have done better as it’s own show and not taking a cherry spot in the SPN lineup…SO close to season end! I apparently know my second fave character in the show better than I thought, because as soon as I saw Baby I thought ‘That’s not Baby.” Very cool to hear about the fan/show connection and how ‘we’ got to contribute! Great review and Can.Not.Wait til next week! Looks like it’ll be jam-packed with stuff!

  20. deansfangirl permalink
    May 1, 2014 8:40 pm

    SPN is a badass show that was intended to appeal to males. (Even though the girls who watch it are more vocal/obsessed about it, I still think the viewers are half male.) Therefore only half of your intended audience has even the *potential* to like a soap opera drama. Not to mention that many of us women don’t prefer girly tv in the first place. IMHO, this is where Bloodlines failed. They could rework it, or scrap it and go another direction, but if they don’t make it an action/horror genre show, the current fans won’t cross over.

  21. May 2, 2014 12:18 am

    Skin walkers shed.

  22. May 2, 2014 12:20 am

    I felf that the show should have started with the killing in Chicargo

  23. Freya922 permalink
    May 2, 2014 12:14 pm

    Bloodlines left me feeling pissed off and bereft – I wanted my Show, dammit! I wanted Sam and Dean, especially with every rampaging plot line completely unresolved at this point. Worse, I truly felt insulted. “Is this who they think we are?” I wondered, suddenly very conscious that I’m 50+ and in love with Supernatural because of… you know. Everything you wrote about in your book, everything they mentioned in the New York Times article. The boys, the brotherhood, the mythology, the writing, and the intelligence and passion of the fans, too.

    One thing that baffled me was how dull the Bloodlines characters seemed. They crank out fascinating characters all the time on Supernatural. Do you think the suits ordered them to make this show, with these certain CW-like characteristics, and they protested but were overruled, and so they made it just the way the Boss said, knowing it would crash and burn? That’s my fantasy. *snort*

  24. kfarrells permalink
    May 4, 2014 2:44 am

    Really enjoyed your review! You were very fair, and I happen to agree with most of what you wrote. I thought it was a better pilot in general than it was an episode of Supernatural. I agree that the lack of continuity with monster mythology was a problem, and it seemed like “bad timing”. I was distracted watching it because OMG I WANT TO SEE MORE MARK OF CAIN AND ABBADON AND METATRON!!! Sigh.

    The problem I had with this episode as a pilot was that it tried to introduce too much. One of the (many) things I love about Supernatural is that it built its world slowly, unraveling layers over the course of many seasons. They certainly didn’t blurt out in the Supernatural pilot that these two brothers needed to stop The Apocolypse. With Bloodlines, on the other hand, it seemed like they needed to declare everything about the new show in this single episode. Why mention that Chicago is run by five monster families? What did that add to this episode? Why introduce the rest of the shapeshifter and werewolf families right up front? Why explain that Ennis’ father was a cop (should have been his mother, imho) and his mother is dead, and oh, by the way, his father might not be dead… slow down, shouldn’t that be a cliffhanger for the end of a season?

    That being said, I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the core plotline of Bloodlines. I thought Ennis and David were interesting characters and that the actors had chemistry, and those things are difficult to pull off in one episode. They both lost someone as a result of this attack. The twist that it was, in fact, a HUNTER that killed Ennis’ fiance offered so much possibility! It got me thinking that what I REALLY want to see from a Supernatural spin-off is a reasonable, sympathetic lead character who see hunters, including Sam & Dean, as the BAD GUYS. Because let’s face it, we’ve followed our boys, and we know they have been manipulated and toyed with and used at every turn, but if we were in their world, and didn’t know the things we know, it would be very easy to see them as causing a whole heap of destruction. So Ennis loses someone because of a hunter and relates to David, a monster. Maybe when he starts investigating this new monster world, he starts uncovering some of the damage done as a result of The Apocalypse, Purgatory, etc. and starts noticing that The Winchesters are at the center of it. Let him start with the perspective that hunters are careless and end up hurting more people than they save. Then let him take several seasons to realize that it’s not so black & white – ultimately the same conclusion that Sam & Dean have had to come to regarding monsters.

    Another question this pilot raised is how the heck did five families of monsters come to rule Chicago without Sam & Dean hearing about it? I would much rather watch HOW this came to be rather than be told that it just is. But it’s not too late for that, I think. They could spend much the first season with Ennis investigating exactly how this happened, maybe by looking into suspicious unsolved cases over the past few years. If I were to pitch an idea for that, I would suggest that a couple monsters originally ended up in Chicago during the mayhem of The Apocalypse, or maybe to get away from Leviathan, or something with strong ties to our Supernatural history and can be traced back to the boys. Or maybe they just came to Chicago because someone there knows spells that can help monsters control their abilities and blend in (trying to explain the change in shifter rules)? Then a few connected humans find out the monsters are there and decide to use them, by making deals or blackmail, to get power or get rid of enemies. Those humans rise to power, then bring the monsters with them as part of the deal, or in some cases maybe the monsters take over and dispose of the humans that got them there. I like this of course because it ultimately makes humans bad guys too, which would add further conflict for Ennis and show a side of the world we haven’t explored too much. Hey, it could be interesting to watch an episode and not know whether we are dealing with a bad monster or a bad human week to week. It would also be very neat to watch Ennis learn about Sam & Dean with a completely different set of information then we’ve been given as viewers of Supernatural.

    Whoa, I guess that turned into a bit of a rant. Sorry, and thanks for letting me blurt it out in your comments! In summary, if it gets picked up, I’ll watch at least a few episodes and cross my fingers that they give up on the Supernatural love story, because NO. JUST NO! :)

  25. Ginger permalink
    May 4, 2014 5:35 am

    it would make me feel better if it was just called “Bloodlines” without the Supernatural name proceeding it. Because it doesn’t deserve the association.

  26. @mandraquex3000 permalink
    May 4, 2014 10:06 am

    Great article. Bloodlines has a decent plot, as has been said not enough S&D; but the same thing was done with the Bones BD pilot The Finder. The Bloodlines BD pilot would have been easier to swallow and less of a break from the main season arch if they had either [btw, I hate monday morn quarterbacking like this] 1) broken up the two stand alone stories with a story arch episode or two in between [they could have probably put jody's episode before MetaFiction and not really had any problems, other than the brothers just having been with cas, if they reordered them the way I am saying of course], or 2) at least had sam gets a call or reads the paper as they are leaving jody and says something like “looks like there might be a case in chicago, its not too far out of the way back to the bunker, wanna check it out?” To which dean replies something like “why not, never did kill anything the last time I was there.”

    I know the network would have said no, but I think they should have tried to allot more time for the whole episode. Not two hours, but 1.5. That way, sam and dean could have had some added screen time, it would not have seemed forced, and the new series cast would have adequate time to take the temporary helm.

    At the end of the ep, sam said they would call in some hunters. We could see Garth (werewolf cought in the middle). Its been what, a year or so since “freaks and geeks”, and I doubt the kids could stay away from hunting considering all the demon/angel activity going. We could see one or all three kids on Bloodlines; a little older and war worn maybe.

    I personally think that a spinoff from the “freaks and geeks” (of course they couldn’t use that for the series name though) episode ending would have made a good series. They said they would give up hunting but now they hunt in the tristate area. Probably a little too buffy:tvs though, right?

    As for shifters not slipping skin, one person already posited the fact that they could be more powerful/pure than the average shifter (i.e., closer to an alpha; recall the alpha shifter shifted w/o muck, even his clothes. Maybe on par with the higher order werewolves that can control when they change.). On the production side of things, it is less costly and less gory to those averted to horror genre. Same thing with the djinn; no blue skin, just a guy with tattoos. Of course vamps, they can be refered to and look fully human until they flash their cgi fangs or pop a vein in a victim’s neck, in which case you don’t see any fangs. All great, high value monsters with low production costs.

    On the impala, I thought the antenna was different. That’s awsome about the fan assist. Sounds like SPN could make an episode in every state and probably never have to bring an Impalla.

    I apologize for any mispellings as it is late, I am typing on a BB, and I don’t feel up to fact checking.

  27. May 5, 2014 5:50 am

    Lyn Always write what we thought! Hey Said it on twitter, I like the ep but don’t love it, should we give it try? Yes… Ok I have to watch it the second time to understand that I wasn’t wacth it Supernatural, but hey the episode had to much supernatural, I mean if they want to give you another show we really don’t need the same arcs, dead girlfriend, missin/dead Father… Ok we got that from the only one Supernatural.

    I really hope the spin off work if maybe those mean thant not all Supernatural Fans will watched, I think they should have to be careful about bring superantrual characters to Bloodlines, and don’t mess up with the character essence…..

    At the end was a good episode, if we talk that the spin off will have the same work quality of the Cas and Crew we are use to from supernatural.

  28. cecilia permalink
    May 8, 2014 9:23 pm

    I watched it and after about 30 minutes was ready to turn the channel. The only reason I kept it on till the end was out of respect for the 2Js. I understand that the cw is not picking it up for the new season.

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