Over the past five seasons, "Supernatural" has quietly developed one of televisions most intriguing mythologies. Tonight’s episode, "Changing Channels," proved that…and then some.
"Supernatural" started as a really cool mash-up of "creature of the week" and proceeded with a solid genre plot.
Sam and Dean Winchester drive around the country in their dad’s old Chevy Impala, continuing the family business — hunting and killing unnatural and evil things. Armed with a collection of classic rock tapes, a trunk full of weapons and their dad’s journal detailing all things evil, the brothers battled all sorts of cool monsters.
But at the end of season one, the show began to balance serialized storytelling and accessibility better than any other on television.
The creator, Eric Kripke, and the rest of the writing staff have done a wonderful job at slowly layering the mythology, season-by-season, without getting bogged down by it. This is not a show like "Lost" where you have to have been invested since episode one to understand what is going on. With "Supernatural," you can jump in with any episode and be entertained without feeling completely lost (pun intended).
A lot of the credit for that accessibility is due to the strength of the show’s two leads, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.
As Dean, Ackles proves to be a ridiculously charismatic television lead. His razor-sharp comedic timing and ability to emote seemingly on-command (the guy can produce a single tear drop that would even make Denzel Washington jealous) have helped make Dean one of televisions most intriguing characters.
Padalecki ably handles the tougher job of keeping Sam likable, even as he consistently makes bad decisions. Padalecki excels at playing the serious, cerebral Sam. Ackles is the crowd-pleaser, but Padalecki has proven himself a capable comedic actor, when called for, and does a great job at handling most of the show’s expository scenes.
Ackles and Padalecki were in top form in tonight’s episode. The season-long plot of the hunt to kill Lucifer advanced in some intriguing directions. The Trickster (Richard Speight Jr.) made a welcome return and, once again, got the best of the brothers, trapping them in episodes of familiar television shows. With the Winchesters stuck in The Trickster’s cable box of horrors, the writers have a ball inserting Ackles and Padalecki in some very familiar-looking shows. Anyone who ever wondered what "Supernatural" would look like as a sitcom, Japanese game show or "Knight Rider" had to look no further.
The highlight was the writer’s version of "Grey’s Anatomy." Dean’s guilty pleasure, "Dr. Sexy M.D." followed the adventures of the whiny, annoying and constantly-bordering-on-tears Dr. Ellen Piccolo at Seattle Mercy Hospital. I also loved the not-so-subtle dig at David Caruso’s sunglasses and murmur-heavy acting style on “CSI: Miami.” I must agree with Dean: only "no-talent douche bags wear sunglasses at night."
Despite the heavy doses of comedy, the episode significantly advanced the season’s overall plot. I loved that The Trickster turned out to be an angel with a personal stake in the brother’s battle. The heavy knowledge he drops on Dean and Sam about their destiny is as dark as any narrative twist the writers have given us so far.
Brilliantly mixing comedy with some seriously sobering revelations, "Changing Channels" shows "Supernatural" to be confidently firing on all cylinders.