Admittedly, "Godfather with fangs" is a concept that appeals to me, and I'm even willing to overlook the usual CW formula to say that Supernatural: Bloodlines might just have some potential. I just really hate backdoor pilots. They're basically a bait-and-switch. "Oh, you thought you were going to watch Supernatural? Here, watch this thing that's just like Supernatural and maybe even better than Supernatural."
"Bloodlines" was none of these things. It was an hour of awkward dialogue that introduced us to the pretty-people monsters of Chicago's underbelly. It was Sam and Dean reduced to nagging nannies. I'd say Jedi Knights, but they just weren't that cool or helpful, and Sam's desperation to keep newbie Ennis out of the hunting life would've been so much more touching if he wasn't so desperate with literally every new hunter they come across, and if we didn't already know that Ennis was going to ignore him because VENGEANCE. Also, he totally killed a human at the end there—a murderous, crazy-ass human—but is the show going to address that? No? Okay. Dean and Sam are so dead inside. They don't have time for this shit. You could almost see the air of "Fine. We tried. Go get yourself killed, we gotta go save the world again," when Dean received that conveniently-timed-excuse-to-leave phone call from Cas.
"Bloodlines" also ripped off Supernatural's own pilot with an impressive amount of Sam and Dean backstory crammed into Ennis and Dave's crabbypants existence: absent dad, "How dare you go to college???" vibes, overprotective big brothers making crappy decisions on younger brothers' behalves, a fridged girlfriend—and, like, so fridged, I mean, at least Jess lasted for the whole episode before getting torched on the ceiling and hey, getting torched on the ceiling is a badass way to go out compared to... getting thrown into a wall? Really? How many times per week do Sam and Dean get tossed like that? If Bloodlines gets picked up to series, how many times will Ennis get tossed like that?
Killing off the ladyfriend so early wasn't just a lazy way to push Ennis into the hunting life (is there a single male on this show who didn't get into hunting because of a dead girlfriend/fiancée/wife?), it also took away the potential to make Bloodlines a truly unique take on the mythology established over the past nine seasons in Supernatural. Though, judging from the essential rewrite of the entire way that shapeshifters function, methinks "established mythology" isn't going to be nearly as prominent as it should be. They're supposed to leave goo everywhere! And shed their skin when they change shape! Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn't appeal to the horny 17-year-old demo The CW is so desperate to keep watching now that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are married thirtysomethings with children.
There. I said it.
Anyway, while Supernatural has only recently gotten its heroes off the road and established in a home base, Bloodlines is meant to be a Chicago-centric series. Without that angle, we can assume that Ennis and Dave will meet people, and that when knowing those people grows inconvenient, they won't just jump in their car and drive across a few state lines. These characters are settled in. And by letting Ennis's fiancée live, Bloodlines could have explored the balance between home life and hunting life in a way that Supernatural hasn't been able to. For the Winchesters, it's always been one or the other. Bloodlines could've had both, but instead opted for the tired old dead-girlfriend-vengeance quest.
Outside of the Supernatural name that's slapped onto the outside of the package, "Bloodlines" is related to its parent show only in the barest of resemblances. There are monsters. There are hunters. I can't tell whether "Bloodlines" wants to be a glossy alternative to Supernatural's grit, but it's certainly more glossy and glamorous than two unshaven dudes riding around in a muscle car that probably smells like man-sweat and Burger King. Sam and Dean tend to tackle a lot of redneck monsters, but the baddies in "Bloodlines" come from the highest echelons of society. They take a more nuanced approach to survival, which is the only explanation I can come up with for why every hunter with some free time hasn't swept through Chicago to clean house. I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of those payoffs and arrangements Dave mentioned were with hunters.
However, this brings up the same issue I had with Supernatural itself back when we learned that there was an entire hunting community out there, not just three Winchesters in a car: How could two men who were literally raised in the life, given no other options for how to spend their adulthood, and completely unable to even consider doing something else (well, at least that's the case for one of them) not know that there was more out there than just their dad, a diary, and a few scattered allies?
If the five families of Chicago have tangled with hunters before (and I'm sure they have), and if they have some kind of arrangement or agreement or something somewhere, then how could Dean and Sam not know?
Maybe they were busy with that whole apocalypse thing.
That particular WTF, however, works in a roundabout way to "Bloodlines"' advantage. I tried very hard to remain impartial and I know I failed spectacularly due to my annoyance at sitting down to watch Supernatural and then not getting to watch Supernatural. Here's the thing, though: Supernatural has done some really great things. It's one of the most unique and creative shows airing on The CW today and the fact that we're nine seasons in and headed for a tenth highlights the viability of the concept as well as fan interest and dedication... but Supernatural did not start out that way. It wasn't bad, but it lacked the meat that came with later seasons and the evolution into a more mythology-heavy, serialized show. I'm just as guilty of anyone else of getting nostalgic for the first season (or second, personally, OMG I love the second season) but really, what was the first season about? Two pretty male twentysomethings hunting a different monster every week while being really sexy about it.
What I'm saying is, "Bloodlines" didn't impress me much, but it has potential to be worthwhile with a little—or a lot—of tweaking. The writers certainly got the man-angst portion of the program right with dead lovers, family politics, and absentee parental units abounding. But if Bloodlines wants to tap into all that sweet, sweet Supernatural rabid fandom of crazy—which it so clearly does, what with the backdoor pilot and all—it needs to respect its source material and at the very least, let the damn shapeshifters shed.
– "What's with the NRA Christmas in here?" I like Dave. It makes sense. He's basically Sam. I don't not like Ennis (a.k.a. Dean), but I'm just kind of over the tunnel-vision revenge-and-bloodthirstiness schtick.
– Dumb Winchester Sighting: all of it, probably done on purpose to make Ennis look smart enough to hunt on his own in anticipation of giving him a show. I hate backdoor pilots. Have I mentioned how much I hate backdoor pilots?
– The Black Keys music FTW! Love "Little Black Submarines."
– Is it sad that I predicted everything about Ennis's dad as soon as they said he was "dead?" Yawn.
– Will you be watching Bloodlines if it gets picked up? I'm willing to at least give it a chance. It's hard to judge a show based on one episode, especially when that episode isn't even technically an episode of that particular show. (See what I mean about backdoor pilots? SEE?)
– At the same time, this wasn't really en episode of Supernatural either. This half of Season Fine has been so Season Nein. Get it together, show!
AIRED ON 12/8/2016
Season 12 : Episode 8
AIRS ON 1/26/2017
Season 12 : Episode 9