Tuesday, 3 July 2018

WAYWARD SISTERS: or what went wrong with Supernatural spin-off - in my opinion

I don’t know why I feel so compelled to write about WAYWARD SISTERS after all this time. I guess because even now it’s still bugging the hell out of me for a number of reasons. So here are my thoughts on why I think it went wrong and missed its chance to become a good show I personally would have loved to watch. I remember getting quite excited when I heard about the plans for a female-headlined SUPERNATURAL spin-off. I thought it was a really good idea. I also thought, back then, that it would center around Jody and Donna – two very different but enjoyable characters, who make a very good team, who have some hunting experience, and who, I believed, were the most likely candidates for a show of their own, hunting monsters and saving people – like Sam and Dean or Bobby and Rufus – while bringing their own unique ways in the process. I was so looking forward to that.
However, what it turned out to be was 95% of unnecessary family drama (I’m sorry but haven’t we seen it all before?) and only 5% of fighting actual supernatural monsters – and even that part was so insipid that I’m not at all surprised that the show wasn’t picked. It simply failed to deliver what it was supposed to deliver as a SUPERNATURAL spin-off. If you have to ask – no, it was not supposed to deliver an episode heavily based on maudlin family drama, revolving around same old issues that have been plaguing the original show since the very beginning, and that have been resolved to a certain extent and with varying degrees of success in the course of its long run. So that was the first big problem that I had with WAYWARD SISTERS: too much drama and very little actual plot.
The second problem for me was that the creators chose one of the most controversial and problematic recurring characters to make their lead and pin their meager I-have-to-save-Sam-and-Dean plot on. I can’t help feeling that the writers painted themselves into a corner with Claire’s character, because every time there appears to be a slim chance of her further development and improvement, they snatch it away and push her back into a troubled-teenager-with-messed-up-past box – bizarrely, they also chose to make that tangled web of parental issues, frustration, insecurity, arrogance and devil-may-care attitude the central plotline of the pilot, which took a lot of screen time and utterly failed to bring anything remotely new or original to the show.
The third problem for me was the unnecessary overpopulation of old and new characters who had virtually nothing to do other than watch Claire and Jody butt heads, and, from time to time, when the occasion required, run around, pointing guns and shooting when in sight of otherworldly creatures. Unfortunately, such characters as Donna and Alex became little more than a background noise, supporting characters at best, pushed aside for the sake of the newcomers. But did we really need another psychic or a dream-walker-slash-messed-up-kid thrown into the mix? Personally, I think it would have made for a much more solid story if the writers concentrated their efforts on the smaller number of characters that we have already come to know and love and invest in and provided them with meaning and substance rather than extreme cardio workout. After all, the quantity of the characters doesn’t make for the quality of the story.
I also find it ironic that on SUPERNATURAL it has been stressed again and again that hunting life is not the kind of life that you choose or encourage anyone to take up. I mean, there has always been so much talk about Sam’s chance at going to college and having a normal life or Mary’s wish to live a normal life with her husband and kids. And here we have a bright young girl (Patience) with a bright future ahead of her and instead of leaving her be to have that future she is pushed into hunting life because of her abilities – that, when you think about it, could be just as easily used for good in some other way. Does it make any sense at all? How come she doesn’t deserve a chance at normal? How did hunting suddenly become a job that you actually encourage young girls to take up rather than an obscure and dangerous lifestyle that people are forced into because of loss, revenge and other supernaturally-effected circumstances?
Finally, the last but not the least of my problems with the pilot was that ridiculous “rescue mission” that constituted the rest of the plot. I don’t think that the notion of Sam and Dean being rescued by women (or teenage girls, in this case) is ridiculous. It was the writing that made it so. By choosing to provide comic effect for entertainment’s sake when introducing the boys – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that Sam and Dean couldn’t look less like two people in need of saving – the writers failed to represent their situation as truly dangerous and convince the audience that they were in dire straits to justify that contrived plot of theirs; and by choosing to disregard their extensive experience, skills and abilities, including excellent intuition and sense of direction, they did their characters a great disservice by suggesting that they wouldn’t be able to find a way out on their own.
If you need to manipulate characters and their capabilities by degrading them in order to fit your plot, then maybe you’re just not good at your job. Incidentally, it reflected poorly on the rescue party as well, at least in my eyes, because you can’t make someone look strong by deliberately weakening someone else and then, adding insult to injury, condescendingly make it miraculously easy for the girls to find and rescue the boys. I guess if your purpose is to push through the show that you seem to be more interested in than the current one you’re working on, then that’s how you would go about it… Unfortunately, that’s the impression that I got. And what made the whole thing even more unconvincing was the fact that Sam and Dean had spent over a day in that place without either finding their way back or being attacked by anyone or anything, making it look to all intents and purposes as though it was a picnic gone wrong – and it wasn’t until Claire and Kaia were finally on their way to save them that Sam and Dean ended up in any danger at all. 
Yet that wasn’t even the most ridiculous part. I guess the prize goes to that one-person ambush that had the two of them down in less than a minute, bound and ready to be served for dinner. I have to ask: is it some kind of game that these writers play, where they decide whether to increase or decrease the capabilities of the characters, depending on the circumstances that they put them in? In the end, I would have preferred to have the pilot without the boys in it, rather than have them being written in solely for comic relief and treated as a plot device to showcase that girls can also be heroes. I wanted to see a well-written story that would not employ tricks and gimmicks to achieve its end. I wanted to see an engaging story that would not use overblown and overused drama and would give each character a fair chance to show themselves. I wanted to see a compelling story about kick-ass women who hunt and kill monsters, who use their wits, skills, expertise and resources to solve a challenging case before them, and who save someone actually in need of saving.