When a show is called Supernatural, it obviously has a lot of freedom in terms of subject matter. And over the last 11 seasons, Supernatural has lived up to its title, dealing with fables, fairy tales, folk stories, mythologies from all over the world, religious texts, and everything in between. If you can think of a creature, odds are, this show has done some variation of it.
But what Supernatural fans could have never expected — and one of the reasons this show is still so successful after so long on the air — is the flexibility the name gives itself in terms of format. Think of the episode where Sam’s stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario, and Dean dies more than 100 times. Or the episode in which Sam and Dean are trapped in various television shows. Furthermore, there’s no way anyone saw “The French Mistake” coming, in which Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki played Sam and Dean playing Jared and Jensen. Yeah, it doesn’t read well, but there’s a reason we ranked that episode in our top five.
And in season 10, the show once again played with format for its 200th episode, which featured a super-meta musical production in which a group of high schoolers told Sam and Dean’s story through song. But Wednesday night, in its 11th season, Supernatural might have taken its biggest risk yet.
In “Baby,” the show decided to focus in on the Impala that has been around since the pilot. The entire hour was told from the car’s perspective. In other words, if Sam and Dean got out of the car, the camera didn’t follow them. It’s a bold premise that no other show currently on the air could’ve pulled off. Heck, I’m not sure there’s another show that would have tried (or even thought of it).
But because of the loyal Supernatural fanbase, its history with bending the rules of format, and of course, its spectacular writing, it not only worked, but it was one of the show’s strongest hours to date.
For starters, it helps that Supernatural had established Baby as a character from day one. In a weird way, it felt right to finally see her side of things. (Yes, I’m talking about a car.) But more than that, there’s a reason why Supernatural can do pretty much anything: it manages to never lose sight of what it is at its base. This is the story of two brothers who love each other and would do anything to save each other. So long as the show holds on to that, it can put the brothers in any scenario and make it work.
And considering that “Baby” consisted of about 80 percent brother bonding, there’s no wonder why it’s gotten such a strong response. This show is at its best when Sam and Dean are simply being brothers. (Although a crazy scenario always helps.)
All of those things aside, the thing that Supernatural does best — which we don’t see very often in other dramas on television — is that it lets itself have fun. When something is ridiculous, it lets it be ridiculous. It makes fun of itself. It never, ever takes itself too seriously. But in doing so, it allows itself to be a part of a more serious conversation about how to create a long-lasting show.
When you watch Supernatural, you get the sense that the actors, writers, crew, and everyone involved enjoys creating this world, and that shows on screen. The overall chemistry of the show is consistent. It’s the foundation upon which the show’s able to branch out and try crazy things. And if “Baby” proved anything, it’s that 11 seasons in, Supernatural is still willing to take risks. And more importantly, it’s as much fun as it’s ever been.