Supernatural — a surprisingly thoughtful and moral show

supernaturalI’m not much of a TV watcher, preferring to read. Occasionally, though, a show will catch my interest. Such was the case with Dancing With The Stars, which I’ve said repeatedly is a morality tale decked out with dancing and beautiful people. It’s about perseverance, commitment, and a good attitude. It’s also got a nice dollop of free market wisdom because everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, although the real-world moral of the tale is that not everyone will succeed.

I recently got introduced to another TV morality tale, one that’s been running since 2005: It’s called Supernatural and it is now in its 11th season on the CW channel. I’m watching it on Netflix, and have reached Season 3 (so no spoilers, please).

The premise is that two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester, lost their mother to a demon attack when Dean was a child and Sam a baby. Their father, an ex-Marine, became a dedicated demon hunter and, along the way, learned to destroy dangerous ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of other ghasties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. The boys traveled with him on his hunts and, in turn, they became hunters too. The TV show follows their hunts.

The show functions well at many levels. First, the actors playing Sam and Dean (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) are very good looking. Sam is the sensitive, long-haired type; Dean is the good-looking, good-humored jock type.  They also fit comfortably in their roles, so they’re a pleasure to watch, both as attractive human beings and as actors.

Second, Supernatural’s plots are clever and, although I’m now in season 3, still hold surprises. Third, the research into the folklore of evil otherworldly things is extremely good. For a pop culture show, it doesn’t speak down to its audience. Fourth, it’s often quite funny. It balances serious episodes that have plot points that arch over the entire series and silly, often witty episodes that are just plain fun.

Those are the four obvious reasons for the show’s success. I’d like to comment on a few other things I like about it.

The show is incredibly pro-Christian. To get rid of demons, the boys use holy water and Catholic exorcism rituals — and they work to rid the world of evil, one demon at a time. The whole show accepts a moral framework of good and evil, and believes that it is incumbent upon good people to act in the face of evil. More than that, the show grapples with the moral costs of destroying an enemy.

A recent episode had the boys choosing between a special weapon that would wipe out a large section of the demon army assembled against then, but that would require them to kill two good guys in order to activate the weapon. The alternative was a makeshift solution with a less certain outcome and a risky fight. For fear of becoming like the demons, who lack any respect for human life in this existential war, the brothers opted for the second alternative. Initially, the makeshift plan seemed to have succeeded against a horde of demons. The problem was that the boys only managed to kill the foot soldiers, not the leader. The leader, in turn, wiped out everyone — not only the two good guys whose lives the boys were trying to save, but everyone.

I just watched that episode this morning (I told you, I’m binge watching), and it reminded me of this passage from David Hazony’s masterpiece about Obama’s foreign policy goals, especially with regard to his determination to make nice with Iran, no matter the cost:

The result of U.S. inaction, when action was possible and proposed, in order to make sure nothing stopped the Iran deal, has been the perpetuation of Assad’s brutality and the glaring perpetuation of a war that pits radical Sunnis against Shiites against Kurds against less-radical Sunnis against an Alawite regime, with Russia and Turkey and Iran and Saudi Arabia vying for influence, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and many millions displaced. Syria is now a country that will never be whole again but may also never successfully break apart. It is a war that could last a hundred years.

“By not intervening early,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Goldberg, “we have created a monster.” How big of a monster? Estimates range as high as 400,000 dead and tens of millions displaced.

Think about it: From a humanitarian perspective, the devastation resulting from the effort to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb may have already exceeded the devastation that would result from Iran actually dropping a nuclear bomb.

It’s hard to imagine that the Hollywood scriptwriters meant to do it, but they did succeed in proving my frequently made point which is that, when it comes to an evil ideology or leadership loose in the land, the ordinary people are going to die. The thing you need to do is decapitate the beast, and then wipe out any remnants of its existence at the lower echelons. If you can do this quickly, all the better. If you can’t do it quickly, you still need to wipe out the ideology — and people are going to die, either from the ideology itself or from wiping it out. Moreover, in these situations, sometimes a bad choice is really your only choice.

Going back to the Christian theme, the show accepts the premise that humans have souls. Nowadays, with Leftists reducing us to self-defined body parts, there’s something refreshing in a television show that recognizes that we are greater than the sum of our parts — and that this greatness is something to cherish and protect.

The show is also a rumination on family and the value of life. Sam and Dean are willing to go to Hell and back for each other — literally. To them, family is everything. Their father was also willing to go to Hell and back for them (again, literally). The Winchester family sees value in life and in deep familial bonds.

If you have a high fake gore tolerance and don’t mind “jump-scares” (moments when the show suddenly says “Boo!”), and if you have a lot of time to sink into watching 11 seasons of an hour-long show on Netflix, you can do a lot worse that Supernatural. It is, surprisingly enough, a show worth watching.