I was guardedly excited going into Supernatural's next (last?) best hope for a spin-off this week. The weight on Wayward Sisters' shoulders is substantial. Not only must it satisfy the existing fandom, it must earn its own following, on its own merits. My eventual opinion on its success? It was ... just okay.
I've never been a big fan of Claire, in all her willful, immortal teen angst, but Alex and Jody are mah homegurls. Donna is a bundle of cute, newcomer Kaia's actor can act her socks off, and honestly, the jury's still out on newbie #2, Missouri's niece Patience. But overall? Solid line-up.
Not only is it something certain quarters of fandom have been campaigning for — women's stories are so topical and important, and now is the time to tell them — but WS's graduation to an actual show means an expansion of the SPN universe (with the possibilities of cross-pollination between the flagship series and its spin-off), as well as continued employment for cast and crew. If WS gets picked up, it will support the idea that female characters can, indeed, spearhead genre shows in today's market.
Clearly, Wayward Sisters is a more fitting spin-off than showrunner Dabb's previous attempt, the canon-busting “Bloodlines”, which was substantially panned for reasons we've discussed ad nauseum years ago. WS is setting up for a true ensemble cast with a fixed location, allowing for more standing sets, a big boon when filming.
But here's where I get grumbly. The show was written by men, directed by a man, and largely staffed by men. Wow, would I have loved to have seen women in some of those guidance roles. The dialogue was missing relatability, snappiness and charm for me, sometimes devolving into stereotypical patios. (I was born in Minnesota. We don't talk that way, Donna.)
Claire actually, unironically, pulled out a diary in the episode's final moments. No, not a hunter's journal, a diary. I laughed aloud, and I don't think that scene was intended to be funny. It just didn't cut the mustard. Maybe younger viewers aren't aware of some of the television I grew up with: Cagney & Lacey, The Bionic Woman, Kate and Allie, China Beach, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Wonder Woman, Alice, Police Woman, One Day At A Time, hell, even Charlie's Angels.
Point is: for as "progressive" as younger fans figure themselves to be, with their texting and their internet and SJ "woke"ness, we old farts aren't as "white male obsessed" as we're often painted. For me, this isn't about supposed ingrained misogyny; it's about an inferior product. And that's saying something, as SPN isn't even as well-written a show as it once was.
REALITY VS. BELIEVABILITY
While 'suspension of disbelief' is part and parcel to watching Supernatural, we had to execute a more-than-typical level of it to buy into the plot of WS. (I'm going to assume, dear reader, that you've seen the episode by now, and if not, hunt down a recap.)
Claire, not yet 21 years old, self-taught solo hunter, kicks a notable amount of monster butt, at the open. Maybe a little too notable. Kind of verging on Mary Sue territory here, but on we go.
Kaia, in her hospital gown, sneaks out of the building without a hitch, only to conveniently run into an escaped monster from the rift that was ripped between South Dakota and The Bad Place. Dang, those critters can travel! Did it sniff out Kaia? Is that their super-monster power? Why didn't Jody and Claire, who were clearly staking out the backdoor for escaping Kaia, not see said monster? A little contrived ... eh, I'll let it pass.
We've all kinda accepted that the CW must have a special “creme” for their characters that erases scarring. So why do Claire and Kaia have scars, whereas Sam and Dean don't? I guess when it comes to flirting over scars, we don't need no stinkin' Neosporin.
But the point at which I sighed resignedly was when Sam and Dean — seasoned trackers — had been wandering around The Bad Place for two whole days (which we assume are 24-hours, just like our earthly days), and still couldn't find the rift, yet apparently Claire and Kaia can find the boys in a New York minute.
Kaia's Bad Place counterpart gets the jump on the Winchesters with equal ease. (Lizard must not be very nutritious, Dean.)
And then BadPlace!Kaia ties them up right by the rift? Really? I can only hope there's a story behind her that actually makes sense, if we get to see further WS episodes.
Supernatural has fallen under fire from many fans for what the show often does to its characters — 'fridging women, subtexting non-straight sexualities, killing so-called fan favorites “disrespectfully” — and Wayward Sisters seems to be following in its predecessor's footsteps. If we're going to hold the show accountable for these things, we need to hold WS to better standards as well. I'll admit, I was surprised they opted to kill Kaia, one of their non-white characters (who fandom is already romantically shipping together with Claire, because of moony eyes and hand-holding and "you show me your scars and I'll show you mine"), then turn her doppelganger into a villain. I don't believe there are sacred cows, that any character is above death or heroism or villainy, but if fans are going to criticize SPN for misogyny or overusing troublesome tropes, Wayward Sisters doesn't get a pass.
Fandom may have spurred the creation of this spin-off, but the big questions still remain: will fandom-at-large actually continue to watch WS without the Winchesters involved, and will the non-fandom viewing audience latch onto it, at all? We shall see, come May, when most pick-ups are announced. I suspect it'll get at least a half-season to prove itself, but they're going to have to step up the writing something fierce. I don't think serviceable will be good enough.