Television: A Commentary On Cliché TV Scripts Done Supernatural Style

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Much has been made of the Supernatural season four episode Jump the Shark and the standard TV script cliché it took on with its own unique style. However, the truth is the last half of season four of Supernatural has also dealt with two other of the four standard clichés scripts that always come along in any long running television series. What has made these things stand out above the usual fare that comes along with the clichés is the way in which the Supernatural writers cleverly manipulated them to advance and present the issues going on between Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.

As fans and viewers approach the airing of the season four finale, The Rapture, I thought it might be interesting to look at these clichés and to provide some commentary on how they came across in my perspective of them.

The first episode to present us with standard television script Cliché was the episode It’s a Terrible Life. In the episode, this was a twist on the old standard of what if the characters found themselves living different lives. Dean Smith was the stereotypical corporate sales manager with his suit and tie and yuppie lifestyle while Sam Wesson was the stereotypical tech geek stuck in the company uniform in a vast maze of cubicles and frustration with his life. Smith & Wesson: two trouble shooters in different aspects of the mundane world. We see these two strangers come together as if drawn by a magnet to each other and see them thrown together to hunt a vengeful spirit. The moral of this cliché was supposed to be that they belong together as brothers and hunters. Yet the problem I had with the “big reveal” at the end when the Angel Zachariah gives Dean back his memories and tells him the whole lesson was to prove to Dean that he would ‘always find his way back to being a hunter even in the dark’ fell totally false. In short, I as a viewer saw this angel lying to Dean.

Dean Smith was living the corporate life, but he seemed very happy in it. He had a purpose, he had friends and he had a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging was never more evident than when Dean Smith felt comfortable enough with a female co-worker to give her a warm, platonic pat on the shoulder as he went by. It was a gesture of feeling like family. If it hadn’t been for the restlessness of Sam Wesson and his barging into Dean Smith’s life, Dean would not have found his way to back to being hunter. All this really served to prove is that Dean Winchester is in the life he is in because of Sam and all that ties Dean to his brother. I saw the nice safe corporate world as an allegory for the nice normal life Dean had as a little boy until the YED came to disrupt everything; Sam started on the journey to his destiny, and Dean being forced to go along with him as protector and devoted older brother.

Zachariah lied. It wasn’t Dean’s instincts as a hunter that made him find his way back or be able to step up to the plate. It was his sense of duty and his subconscious link to Sam. If Sam hadn’t been present to draw him back into their world, Dean Smith would still be behind his desk. For this viewer there was a certain sense of sadness in seeing Dean have to give up his corporate life to once again have to sacrifice having friends and the comfort of having a bit of a routine. Zachariah made it all sound so suffocating but in reality it was a comforting normalcy that Dean was denied.

The second standard cliché was of course the highly touted ‘yes we are really gonna do this’ introduction of a hitherto unknown younger sibling. Into Sam and Dean Winchester’s lives came Adam Milligan, the nineteen-year-old illegitimate son of their father, John Winchester. I have to admit this was an interesting limb for the writers and the creator, Eric Kripke to go out on especially when the relationship between Dean and Sam is falling apart. To throw the curveball of another brother at them was an interesting concept. It was through their individual approaches to how to handle the situation of having another brother that we the viewers got a good look inside of the rift that was forming between Dean and Sam and how it was forming.

What I, as a viewer, found interesting in this cliché script was that once again at the heart of the issues between Sam and Dean was the way in which normalcy had been stripped from their lives. Watching the hurt on Dean’s face as he found out that their dad had not only made sure Adam had the kind of normal life that had he had denied to Dean and Sam but that John lived some of it with Adam was heart breaking. In this episode, it was Dean’s turn to lie. He lied to himself and to Sam when he said that John Winchester didn’t have a choice with how he raised his two oldest sons, dragging them into the shadowy, lonely world of being hunters. There was always a choice, but Dean lied because even in the midst of finding out their dad had given Adam the normalcy he had denied his oldest sons, Dean couldn’t stop being loyal to the father he never really knew. Watching Sam turn into that same kind of unknowable man was scaring the hell out of Dean.

The other interesting thing that this episode revealed about where the brothers Winchester are with each other was that while Sam is changing and growing into someone or something else, Dean is still trapped in his reactive nature. Still caught up in his past, unable to break free of what his father had instilled into him to be his driving force since he was four years old: Protect Sam. It also showed us that the Siren lied when he said that all Dean wanted was a little brother to follow him around and look up to him. The thought of having that with Adam scared Dean almost as much as seeing Sam turning into their father. What Dean wants is his ‘normalcy back’. Dean just wants for him and Sam to go back to being two brothers driving down the road in their ’67 Chevy Impala with a trunk full of weapons hunting down supernatural creatures.

It was at this point that I developed my theory that the reason we have seen so much of Dean’s reactions this season and so much of what has been going on with Sam has been kept hidden is because it might just be that the writers intended Dean to represent the viewing audience. That through him our takes and views on the situation was reflected into the story. Dean wants what we want, Dean worries about what we worry about and like us, he sees very little of what is going on with Sam and so Dean reflects our frustrations at this. We as the audience can only be reactive to what happens in the show, which is why Dean is our representative because he is the reactive character while Sam is the proactive one who keeps the story moving along.

This brings us to the third cliché script that the Supernatural writers took on with their own unique style. The cliché where one of the partners becomes addicted to a drug and the other has to do an intervention. Of course this being Supernatural, Sam isn’t addicted to a drug, but rather to demon blood which is giving him his power to fight and kill those very same demons. However, on a deeper level it is also Sam’s coming to terms with his destiny and to embracing his life for who and what he is. I found it very interesting that Sam has an ‘inner child’ self (whom we saw in the form of Collin Ford who does an excellent job of playing the younger version of Sam Winchester) as opposed to Dean whom, as we saw in Dream A Little Dream of Me, has only an inner adult self. Also interesting is that in everything that has been going on, while Sam may have kept secrets, he is the only one who has been the most honest. He is the only one who has gone after his goal in a straightforward line, only choosing not to share with Dean the things he feels his brother isn’t strong enough to handle. The only problem with this in my opinion of things is that Sam is mistaking Dean’s caution and his hesitancy as a weakness.

It is in this third cliché script that the writers begin to reveal the full depth of the rift between Sam and Dean Winchester. Shows us how far apart the brothers have become in their fundamental views on how to deal with the coming Apocalypse and with each other. In Sam, we see how much he has fallen onto the same obsessive path as his father, seeing only the goal in front of him and in Dean, we see the kind of weary resignation of man who has been pushed beyond his limits and who is clinging to his duty out of sheer stubborn will, deep loyalty and love. It is also, where we as the audience, once again looking through Dean’s eyes, see that Dean’s reactive nature may no longer be enough to keep Sam from changing, from becoming who is meant to be. When Sam tells Dean, ‘you don’t know me, you never knew me’ that scene has its greatest impact because the writers and show creator chose to keep Sam hidden from us and from Dean.

The one thing that I as a viewer have noticed or come to have another theory about is that every season, Dean is the same consistent character. Things happen and he reacts to them with Jensen Ackles giving us amazing performances in these reactions to the things that change the world around Dean and force him to deal with those changes. Sam on the other hand becomes a different variation of his character every season with Jared Padalecki more than rising to the challenge of having to play a different version of his character as Sam changes and evolves into a different person. That leaves me to wonder if the writers and show creator will attempt to do the last kind of cliché script they haven’t done yet; the one where either Sam or Dean becomes amnesic and lost and the other one has to find him before something terrible happens.

In the hands of the creative talent of the writers for Supernatural and the awesome acting talents of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles this kind of cliché script could turn into something very intriguing. It’s possible there is even a chance for Dean to step out of being the same reactive character he has been for four seasons and add a new dimension to him if he totally forgot who he was. We got a little taste of this concept in It’s a Terrible Life but not to the full extent of which this kind of cliché could be played out because even when he was ‘Dean Smith’, he was still reactive to a situation in which Sam was being proactive to the events. I guess we will just have to wait and see if the Supernatural writers venture into this cliché.

Meanwhile the season finale of Supernatural’s fourth season titled Lucifer Rising, is just around the bend and everyone from the writers, series creator and the actors promise fans that it will be one helluva an event and will leave us hanging on by our fingernails waiting for the beginning of season five this coming September. Lucifer Rising airs on tonight at 9 PM EST on The CW. Check out the sneak peek of the episode and the stills gallery provided by The CW Network.

Click on the Image below to see the Still Gallery.


17 thoughts on “Television: A Commentary On Cliché TV Scripts Done Supernatural Style”

  1. I think you've missed some important things about Dean. For one, Dean is not the same character he has been. Dean has grown and changed far more than you seem to realize. He's not a constant John's little soldier,but has broken away from John in all three seasons, and has grown into his own understanding of his father.

    Dean has also become important in his own right and not just a reaction to Sam. It's no longer about Sam's destiny that Dean reacts to. Dean has now his own destiny that Sam is reacting to. The trip to hell pushed Sam's story further, making Sam react by giving in to Ruby. Dean's resurrection is again pushing Sam into trying to prove to Dean and the angels that he, Sam is the one that is the stronger brother.

    This story has become more complicated than you have given it credit for and while I agree with some of your view, I do see that you seem to have missed some extremely important character developments for Dean, both involving his story in the and his character.

    1. I don't agree with you. Dean is a good character but he really needs to do something new. The only new side and develompment about Dean are thanks to the angels, Castiel and company are giving him the change to have his own story.
      I know and I respect if you like Dean.

  2. wow… what a finale. cant wait for season 5 😀
    but really… a flash of light and thats the ending?
    i wanted to see lucifer at least.
    and "God's left the building"
    does that mean Zeckariah was God? or had God left earth?

  3. Imo, Dean doesn´t have "a plot" (he made the deal for sam, he went to hell, he started the apocalypse which is connected with sam, and now, he has to finish it, still related to sam). That is not a plot, is just a twist: 4 years after, still 9/10 of the show is dean suffering because of sam, and if he stopped suffering because of sam, lets face it, the show ends. By the way, theres nothing wrong in not having his own plot, with or without his own plot, dean has always been the center of the show (certainly, not to the point he is now, which contrary to what i thought would happen, made some part of the audience feel completely saturated by his sometimes imaginary personal drama).

  4. Both brothers have changed, imo, not for better (these guys may be wiser, but who wants wiser characters, the old ones were fresh, funny, full of life, and better looking).

    Oh, and sam, he is "the mystery" of the show. No one can say anything about sam, because his subtle development was so subtle that he almost disappeared this season. No opinions, no feelings, only angry reactions and ambiguous answers, that doesnt answer anything about who he really is. People just assume what they want to assume about sam. That he came back evil, that he wants to prove dean that he is stronger than him, that he developed his powers to save the world because dean came back weak, that he is going to commit suicide, that he is using ruby, that ruby is using him, that he hates lilith because of dean´s contract (who knows why he hates lilith so much: nobody!!!). Assumptions is all we can have about sam, points of view based on what he does and what he says with so much ambiguity that we can understand whatever we want. Thats the reason why so many people see sam as evil, and at the same time, so many people see him as the most beautiful human being of the world.

  5. Uh, he made a deal for Sam but the apocalypse isn't about Sam. Stopping the apocalypse doesn't require Sam, it did require Sam to break the last seal but it required Dean to break the first one, otherwise Sam would have no use.

    Alos, if there is nothing wrong for leads to have no plot, then there is nothing wrong for Sam not to have one either, since at this point, I hope his story has ended and Dean's finally begins.

  6. As far as Dean equating the viewing audience, I'd believe that a lot more if I actually was able to sympathize with Dean. In Lucifer Rising, Bobby gives Dean the verbal bitchslap I've been dying to deliver myself all season. The one way that I do sympathize with Dean in is that he's obviously been thrown out of his element with Sam–he doesn't know how to deal with his "little" brother, who is no longer little in any sense except age–because Sam is "different" and the differences are getting too big for Dean to ignore or tease about; notice we're not getting any more Ghost Whisperer or Haley Joel Osment cracks. Other than that, I've been by turns irritated, disgusted and infuriated by Dean this season. He's been self-righteous, self-indulgent, hypocritical, and all-too-eager to throw physical punches rather than have the talks they used to have. Because, despite "No chick-flick moments, please" Sam and Dean have ALWAYS had them. Always. If we have been seeing Sam through Dean's eyes, then Sam has been nothing but wallpaper-slash-punching-bag because honestly, we haven't really seen Sam at all. Neither, I guess, has Dean, so in that, I agree with you, too. I don't believe Zachariah lied to Dean; having Ian pencil his neck open obviously got to Dean, because he was already ready to question it until he saw Sam Wesson, and he physically and mentally got into as soon as he had the excuse of the guy dying in front of him. Sam and Dean's roles have really been reversed this season, where Sam is the one who would've picked Dean up from college. I think that is the point Zachariah was wanting to make, to further drive the wedge in between Sam and Dean by pointing that out. That rift, incidentally, has been there for a while, but other people (Ruby, Castiel, Zachariah, the Siren, Uriel, Anna, Lillith) have all dug in and forced it wide open, and both boys have been prideful and deceived and disillusioned enough to make it happen, and it took an outsider–Uncle Bobby–to get through to Dean. Sam came to his own realization early on–look at how he wanted to check the voicemail on his phone from Dean, reach out, try to mend things–but was manipulated just the way Dean was.

  7. Dean sucks. He doesn't do anything new, he's always the same: crying, dreanking, whinning, bla bla bla bla.

  8. i hate supernatural xenophobic message. In supernatural, the normal brother is always right and the not normal, the different brother, is a complete loser.

  9. "The moral of this cliché was supposed to be that they belong together as brothers and hunters."

    No. The point of "It's a Terrible Life" was to see how each brother deals with the idea of DESTINY. And they each deal with this concept VERY differently. Sam was all too eager to seek HIS special destiny and wanted Dean to "tag along" with him on the trip [also see: Sam asking Dean to tag along with he and Ruby at the end of When the Levee Breaks]. But Dean is reluctant and still very much believes in free will and thinks his grand destiny is total crap. [ Also see his reaction to Zach in Lucifer Rising]. Sam relishes in the idea of being an agent of fate – of being SPECIAL. Dean HATES the idea that he has some special destiny. He doesn't even like being singled out at birthday parties. 😉

  10. "The other interesting thing that this episode revealed about where the brothers Winchester are with each other was that while Sam is changing and growing into someone or something else, Dean is still trapped in his reactive nature."

    The point of "Jump the Shark" was to see Dean struggle to deal with a brother who, in actuality, is already a monster. [also see: every monster-of-the-week presented this season, which all represent SAM]. And sure, Sam is changing and growing, but certainly NOT for the better. Dean felt that Adam deserved a better life than hunting, because he's been able to step back and see what that life has cost both he and Sam. And that's quite a change from S1Dean. Sam has changed and grown into someone … and that someone is John. Sure, Sam is pro-active … in his laser-focused revenge quest. And a lot of good that did him. Not only did Sam become an addict and choose a demon over Dean, but he also judged Dean to be weak and ineffective because it served his end goal. Sam was pro-active this season because he was singularly focused on realizing his special destiny. Whoops!

    (to be continued …)

  11. (continued …)

    Dean is the person who has grown and matured this season, for the better. Dean no longer puts his father – or his brother – up on a pedestal (much to the criticism of many Sam fans who think Dean's job is to worship Sam). Dean has opened his eyes where John is concerned, and where Sam is concerned. Dean decided, after voicing his own opinions over and over again, that Sam's choices were his own. He knew Sam was lying to him about Ruby, and all that he asked in return was that Sam stop treating him like he's an idiot. Dean was ready to let Sam make his own choices in the end, and I supported him for that. And If Bobby actually thinks Dean doesn't know that family isn't all sunshine and apple pie, then he hasn't been paying attention to Dean's life. If anyone knows how craptacular family can be, it's Dean Winchester.

    (to be continued …)

  12. (continued …)

    Dean certainly wasn't reactive regarding Sam in Meta or Levee. Yet, Sam's actions, pro-active as he believe them to be, allowed him to be manipulated by a demon, resulting in him becoming an addict who broke the final seal and caused Lucifer to rise. You go, Sammy! So, I think there's a balance to be found between pro-active and reactive, and I do believe that Dean managed this balance well this season. The Dean of S4 is quite different from the Dean we see in S1, and for the BETTER. But Dean will never believe in predetermined fate over free will choice. Especially not if the result of realizing his fate runs counter to the heart of Dean, "SAVING PEOPLE." Dean is not pro-active at all costs. If that's the character you're looking for, then I would suggest you move along.

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