It’s not easy to pinpoint precisely where Bloodlines went wrong, since the whole thing was pretty much a car crash. I’d say the real issue was in its conception, and everything else stemmed from there- that no sister-show of SPN should be this way was the general feeling surrounding the pilot.
And God knows I’m not saying Bloodlines should have been a carbon-copy of Supernatural. Of course shows have to change and grow; that’s how SPN itself has survived so long. But this was devoid of practically every distinctive feature of our show- the washed-out noir look, the dirtiness, the blue-collar world, Sam and Dean’s overintensity, the sheer weirdness. Because does Bloodlines look like a show that could carry off a French Mistake?
Then there was the horrible continuity. There are worse crimes in an episode, but this was so bad that I’ve forced myself to believe Sam and Dean made a voyage to a parallel universe for Bloodlines. Like- we’re seriously expected to believe that out of the massive hunter network, no-one caught wind of this? Not even the omniscient goddamn MoL? I’m not buying it. Where’s the Chicago that we saw in Shadow, anyway? In The Magnificent Seven? In Two Minutes To Midnight? I mean, come on, was that supposed to be Chicago’s sleazy Mafia underbelly? Jeez. The Lassiters lived in a mansion. When the Winchesters find themselves among rich people- citing Red Sky At Morning, Ask Jeeves- there’s a slight sense of mockery, of satire. Dean whines about suits. Sam freezes up when he gets slithered over by cougars. The usual. There are Flowers In The Attic references and lines like ‘I’ll check the corridor for… burlap.’
But everyone in Bloodlines is, clearly, wealthy. And of course the show’s welcome to a class shift. But it’s done with an entirely straight face- and it’s jarring. We’re meant to take this seriously, these people with their petty monster-WASP politics, while Sam and Dean are floozying round the US, facing death every day, getting into the occasional silly scenario or alternate dimension or musical of their own damn lives. And, hell, the whole monster-politics things trivialises monsters themselves. Take djinn, for example- their very appearence is mundane on Bloodlines, whereas on SPN they’re connected with ideas of dreams and power and mysticism, and the two episodes where they feature heavily- WIAWNSB and Exile On Main St.- are both killer. Compare the Bloodlines djinn with the SPN-djinn:
Same goes for sirens, though what Bloodlines did with them feels to me even more heavy-handed. We’ve only encountered one siren previously, in the incredibly dark and nasty Season Four episode Sex And Violence.
Sex And Violence is intense. There’s betrayal and gorgeous closeups and, uh, some pretty envelope-pushing subtext. Sirens have become connected to that, for me, and seeing them lumped in with the monster-mafia was depressing. Not to mention unrealistic.
The conception of the characters was problematic for me, too. First of all, why in God’s name does Ennis have Sam’s. Exact. Backstory. But the way Jess died was iconic, right? Pretty sure that’s burned into all our brains. Not to mention that Tamara’s death felt perfunctory, coming as it did five minutes into the episode. We’d had no time to gauge her, to get attached to her- not like with Jess.
Plus did they have to give Tamara the same name as the character played by one of SPN’s worst actresses ever?
I found Ennis himself largely unlikeable, probably thanks to the earliness of Tamara’s death. I can’t criticise him on those grounds. If you first met Sam in Wendigo you probably wouldn’t like him overmuch at first- grief doesn’t make people likeable. I don’t think we really saw much of who Ennis is, thanks to the decision to bump Tamara off early. And as for David Lassiter, he and the actor playing him were likeable enough, though completely lacking the charisma that either JA or JP brought to the SPN pilot. Melissa Roxborough, playing Violet Duvall, had all the presence of a fruit-fly. Her performance was nothingy in Time After Time After Time and it’s equally weak here. The character herself is drippy- I mean, the man she supposedly loves is being mauled and she runs for her life when he tells her to?
To be quite honest, the only times the episode actually came alive were when the Winchesters came onscreen- two great big suited guys towering over everyone else. Dean chortling over ‘Susan’. Sam playing the hardass detective. J2’s performances have the weight of nine years of characterisation and experience behind them, and when they’re in the room there’s really nowhere else to look. And let’s not forget:
It’s an unfair comparison, but take Bloodlines in contrast to the SPN pilot, which is strange and shadowy. It knows exactly what it’s doing. There are dusty roads and bridges and sleazy motels. There’s ‘Jerk/bitch’, ‘Driver picks the music’, ‘Dad’s on a hunting trip’, ‘Take your brother outside’- lines that every fan could finish for me- and the devastating final scenes. It’s haunting, if occasionally clumsy. Bloodlines is clumsy without the haunting.
There are too many minor characters to register in one episode, too, whereas our pilot was confined to, what- twenty speaking parts total? And most of the action unfolds around Sam and Dean’s little world. There’s a sense of liberation, trawling deserted roads to Back In Black, but claustrophobia too- Sam being pulled back into the Winchester snowglobe. Bloodlines is claustrophobic, but that’s because it’s trivial.
But the root of the problem? Bloodlines was generic. And that’s something that Supernatural, even at its absolute worst, has never, ever been. Bloodlines was a Winchester cameo on The Vampire Diaries or The Originals. It felt superficial- and judging by the fannish response, with even the uber-postive Sweatpants & Coffee team doing a double-take, everyone registered that on some level. The difference is that where SPN uses plot to get the emotions going, Bloodlines used emotion to get the plot going.
And, clearly, nobody cared.