'Supernatural' early seasons are still the best

Sam and Dean may have saved the world a dozen times, but Supernatural is at their best when they're just hunting monsters across America.

Before the series delved into angels and apocalypses, not to mention alternate realities and dimensions, Supernatural was a show about two brothers hunting monsters together while searching for their missing father. The 15-season series premiered in its final season on The WB in 2005 and continued to air on The CW for the next 15 years until fall 2020, making it North America's longest-running sci-fi/fantasy series . Starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester, Supernatural is one of those shows you can revisit time and time again. Whether you just love the world itself, or the dynamic between the Winchester brothers, it's clear that Supernatural will always have a place in audiences' hearts.

While the show remained popular in its later years, Supernatural's early years often stand out as the series' best, and for good reason. As Sam and Dean traveled across rural America to hunt monsters and urban legends, the first few seasons of Supernatural felt unlike anything before or since. A perfect blend of folklore and Americana, the show knows how to masterfully balance the overall plot (Revenge for the demon who killed their mother) Weekly monster stories, each structured like a mini horror movie. While later seasons would bog down with world-changing stakes, unkillable characters, and a plethora of continuity bugs, the show's early years -- despite some outdated references and flip phones -- still look good to this day .

With the arrival of season four, Supernatural began to take a new and unprecedented direction. Introducing an angel-on-angel conflict and a demonic blood arc against the backdrop of biblical apocalypse made the next two years a different high-octane thrill ride than it was on TV at the time. Sure, shows covering the events of the last book of the New Testament are all the rage now (Sleepy Hollow, Preacher, and Good Omens all come to mind), but at the time, series creator Eric Kripke was a trailblazer. No doubt the story of Armageddon has been told before, even on television, but never like this. But while season 4 is this writer's favorite Supernatural season, it's the original magic of the series' first few years -- the first three seasons -- that still make the show special nearly 20 years later.

Personal Stakes > World-Ending Conflicts

compared to The second half of the series, the first few years of Supernatural felt deeply personal. This can be seen in many ways, but most importantly the Winchesters' desire to find their missing father and avenge their mother's death. The struggle to find their father, while also tracking down the elusive yellow-eyed demon, only opens new and compelling doors for Sam and Dean. When they track down their father, they discover Sam's psychic abilities, which in turn only increases paranormal activity. Add to that Sam's grief over the death of his girlfriend Jessica, and Dean's longing to be reunited with the only family he's ever known, and every major plot point is deeply connected by an intricate tapestry of brotherhood that, as sentimental as it sounds, shows tick.

One of Supernatural's biggest themes is family, which drives everything Sam and Dean do. Not only do Ackles and Padalecki perfectly portray what it was like to have brothers in the early years (from the constant jabs to the prank fights, which lasted off-camera), but their take on the "no chick movie moment" of the hunt keeps their emotions close to the chest. Episodes like "Faith," "Birth of a Bad Omen," and "A Very Supernatural Christmas" highlight the bond between Sam and Dean so perfectly that the show struggles toward the end. Of course, the early siblings' relationship becomes a huge part of the show precisely because they love each other and they constantly sacrifice themselves for each other.

Of all the show's seasons, the inner turmoil that Sam and Dean went through in their early years feels the most raw and honest, not to mention the most relatable. To this day, we can still understand Sam's grief over the death of his first love. The same goes for Dean's efforts to achieve purpose and belonging. In a sense, these early years are a "coming of age" story, forcing Sam and Dean to grow up and become the men we see for the rest of the show. Their personal loss is as empathetic now as it was in the past, and while future seasons will focus more on apocalyptic conflict, the rupture of Sam and Dean's personal worlds still keeps us stuck on that day.

Saving People, Hunting Things

In the second episode of the series, "Wendigo", Sam and Dean begin to live by the motto "Save, Hunt, Family Business". As the Winchesters drive through each sleepy town infested by the latest monster, ghost or demon documented in their father's diary, they care as much about saving a personal life as they do about hunting down a nocturnal beast. We've seen this happen a lot over the years, whether it's Sam trying to save Madison the werewolf ("Heart"), or their conflict over the non-eating vampire Lenor ("Bloodthirsty"), or even brothers trying to save Humans come from the demon-possessed Meg ("The Devil's Trap"). Sam and Dean's commitment to saving lives transforms them from just modern cowboys driving around in cool muscle cars into supernatural superheroes.

But somewhere, Sam and Dean lost it. When season 11 rolled around, Sam mentioned to Dean that he was tired of "hunting" and wanted to go back and "save people". Sadly, that disappeared midway through the season and they forgot the first half of their motto as before. But when you compare an episode of season 3 to one from season 13, there's one stark difference: Sam and Dean used to genuinely care about the personal lives of the people they were protecting. As the brothers form these quick relationships with motel clerks, gallery owners, church parishioners and wandering hikers, they each become personally invested in the cases they take on. No wonder people get excited over the years whenever characters from the show's earlier years reappear.

That said, the first few seasons of Supernatural followed the X-Files pattern of telling more "monster of the week" stories than fairy tales. It was this self-sufficient nature of the show's early years that allowed fans to switch off each week while still leaving room for more shows. While weekly monster episodes are a bit of a dying art, Supernatural's early years have perfected it. The show could tell a complete story from beginning to end without suddenly having different looping arcs (often centered on Castiel, Crowley, or Jack), while still centering on new and compelling characters. Seems foreign to us now, but Supernatural sure knows how to make a good indie game. Even the "bad" episodes of the earlier years are more memorable than past season 6. ^Of course, even Supernatural's seasonal arcs stand on their own again. While the first two seasons were part of the same overall myth, the season two finale "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2" ended with our heroes truly over. And, like the best independent films, it includes one-off characters who really make a difference to the audience and the Winchesters. While there's still a lot of work to be done after season 2, and many questions still desperately need answers, "Hellbreak" still has a sense of ending that's been lacking in the show's later seasons. In other words, Supernatural had very few exit ramps, but at least the early years gave us a solid "way out."

Although the Monsters of the Week series existed long before show creator Eric Kripke's tenure on the series (the series ended with season 5), later years It's hard to capture the same magic that "Supernatural" emanates from the gates of hell. One of the ways Supernatural stands out is its interpretation of monsters. not like the creatures and demons you see in buffy Vampire slayers or angels, the antagonists you see in Supernatural are all based on the harsh realities of our world. Werewolves don't look like they came out of The Howling, nor do vampires parade around in capes or abhor stakes. Early Supernatural redefined the iconic monster by resurrecting traditional folklore while giving off a very Kolchak-inspired "American urban legend" vibe.

Style Over Substance

To achieve this, Supernatural's dark and themed lighting setups, as well as horror-inspired set designs, all help keep the world going. Of course, it helps that the first three seasons were shot on 35mm film. Now, say what you will about shooting on film, but 35mm looks sharper and sharper than digital, as did the first three seasons of Supernatural. Not convinced? Compare an episode of season 1 and season 10 and you'll see the day clearly. Part of what makes the show so successful is the visual aesthetic associated with it. Back then, monsters looked scarier, the world was darker, and there was more room for creatures to hide in every nook and cranny. As we said before, the show looks It feels like a horror movie, not too different from Jeepers Creepers or Final Destination.

But it's not just the look and feel of the world, it's the supernatural sounds that make it special too. In addition to a rock score by Jay Gruska and Christopher Lennertz, the show's classic rock soundtrack highlights your parents' personal favorites, including AC/DC, Styx, Def Leppard and Boston. When Dean repeats the same tracks over and over, it creates an air of defiance that kind of fuels the brothers' troubles, with legal and spiritual forces working against them. Unfortunately, the tune was toned down over time. It's unclear if this is internet disruption or simply music rights price increases, but the show doesn't sound the same after the first few seasons. Sure, b comes up once a year, and Bob Seger and REO Speedwagon often play, but as the Impala hits the highway, many of the greats disappear.

While the first season of Supernatural is admittedly still finding its edge, it remains a fan favorite, containing some of the show's most memorable episodes. for many, Supernatural is at its best when it's a horror series, and while arguably the show's best era was the apocalyptic arc of seasons 4-5, there's some truth to the horror-filled early years that stood out the most (more Needless to say the scariest).

Carrying On Strong

Before its world got too big, with too many regulars and angels, Supernatural was a little show about two brothers hunting monsters on the back roads of America. Whether it's the pervasive themes of family and grief, the self-sufficiency of the show's premiere, or the rustic and country vibe the series has built, the show's early years to this day have stood the test of time. Sure, the technology is a bit dated and some references may be outdated, but there's a heart behind these early years that proved impossible to replicate as the series went on.

There is no doubt that Supernatural remains one of the best and most impressive TV shows of all time, and we all loved it, both in its early and later years. Still, the first few years were full of sparks.

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