SPN:Tribes – All aboard the fail train! (unless we derail it)

As you probably know by now (because I’m slow on commenting about things because I like to ponder them – often to the point I end up not saying anything), the Supernatural spin-off has been announced:

Supernatural: Tribes

And you’ve probably guessed my opinion of it from the title.  Feel free to yell at me about my opinion in the comments (I only censor spam).

If you’re still reading this, allow me explain how this is a very BAD idea, and how it could be salvaged.

First of all, let me just say that I don’t object to spin-offs in principle.  After all, my first fandom was Star Trek, so spin-offs are old hat to me.  However… I don’t feel like SPN is a show that really needs one.  See, as I’ve said before, even while I might have issues with Dr Who at times, I greatly respect and admire it’s brilliant turn to set up an in-narrative reason for the show to continue on with repeated cast changes.  In my opinion, SPN is one of the few shows out there which could do something similar, but with its own take.  Namely, though I love them, what if the show had picked up after S5 without Sam & Dean?  What if, after throwing Lucifer back in the cage, we started the next season with a different hunter or five?  Then we examined their stories over say… five years?  Letting it intersect with S&D at some point so we can all get some closure but just what if?  What if the show had been set up and established as a sort of long-arc anthology show? (oh wait, is that what American Horror Story is doing?)  Few years with some main characters, then the narrative is passed to a new “batch” of mains.  Yes it would have to be done very well (I don’t think we have as much as room for error as Dr Who did back in the day) but what if they had?  Heck they’re trampling over continuity so much now it’s like we get a new show each season anyway, just with keeping the two main actors.

But setting aside what could be, here’s what we got with set up and main cast overview.  Story?  Chicago is ruled by five families of monsters and the battle for the city between them & humans is beginning (or something).

As an idea?  This is not a bad one.  As a SUPERNATURAL idea?  It is horrid.

For those who are too young to remember, or maybe so old they forgot, SPN wasn’t the first show to do “people vs monsters” as a plot.  It wasn’t even the first to do “1-2 people vs monsters” as a show.  No what made SPN unique is that it is one of the very few shows that did disorganization between the humans and the monsters (I say “one of” since I’m sure there’s probably some obscure show out there which covered similar territory).  Mulder & Scully had the resources of the FBI & US government at their disposal, while their enemies usually had just as much or more as well.  The Winchesters, however, have nothing except what they can scam and lie from others.  Their targets are often in the same boat.  Even the demon threat from S1-4 was largely one of a group as strained on resources as the Winchesters.  The demons didn’t send the FBI after them, they had to steal the bodies of some of the agents and even then they couldn’t bring the full might of the USA onto the boys’ heads. There was a lot of give and take as the boys began to build up a network with Ash, Jo, Ellen and the Roadhouse – the demons destroy it.  Then the boys take out the leading demon, compromising whatever plans and networks Hell had prepared.  In fact, what made the revelation of the angels so powerful in S4 was that it was the first time we had a sense of organization and power in the show.  First there was a sense of hope: after all, with the might of heaven behind them, how could the boys lose?  But then when it was revealed that the angels were against them that hope was crushed: after all, how do you fight something even more powerful than the US government?  Then you realize in S5 that Dean not letting Micheal in keeps the angels from fully organizing while Lucifer steadily brings all of his might and power to the fore.

This is partially why I will actually say that if pressed, S7 is my pick for best post-Kripke.  The Leviathans brought a new threat against the boys: organization and control.  They held all the cards and throughout the season they steadily removed every strength the boys had until the Winchesters’ disorganization finally hit the Leviathans’ organization in just the right way to bring it down.  Yes, I’m not thrilled with how it was all “fixed” at the end of S7.  Being that I enjoy spy shows like Burn Notice and Chuck (hey, Mark Sheppard’s been in both…) I would have preferred the defeat of the Leviathans to be drawn out as well.  Had they been unwilling to make all of S8 the “retaking of earth”, I think in retrospect they should have had the rise of the Levis at the mid S7 point with the boys bringing them down bit by bit in the 2nd half.

So bringing this all back around, you’ll notice that the show has a running motif: organization and control is reserved for the biggest of enemies, or humans (Men of Letters, Nazi necromancers, etc).  Generic monsters?  No.  They don’t organize because it becomes noticeable.  Remember, this announcement says: “…the staggering truth” that Chicago is run by five families of monsters.  “Running” or “ruling” a major American city is not something you accomplish overnight, this takes decades, centuries.  Hmmm… what’s happened in the last 5 years, SPN time?  Death visited Chicago?  Eve gathering monsters to her and driving them insane?  Remember when Leviathans put something in the food such that any monsters eating people ended up dead?  Even if we could accept that these monsters were running the place way back at the beginning (in 2005), their rule would have to be broken and shattered just as collateral damage from all the previous goings on.

Now if we were talking about 5 groups of monsters who decided they need to band together and TAKE OVER Chicago…

So far we have 3 confirmed “groups” of these mobsters monsters.  Let’s take a look at each.

Shape-shifter: Ok, this I have the least amount of problem with.  They have been portrayed as… well much like humans, just ones with a “special ability”.  They don’t eat people, they just do what they want because they can.  They are the Id unchained.  Shifters taking over Chicago and surviving all the recent disruptions is something I will admit is plausible.

Werewolf: Oh there’s a big surprise.  Why?  Because EVERYONE is doing werewolves today (along with… below).  See, the problem is that previously in the show, they were not even really “monsters”, just people with a dangerous disability.  It wasn’t until the recent “Sharp Teeth” episode where they tried to remove the humanity of werewolves (where they get a lot of their patheos and tragedy) and forced into more monstrous stereotypes.  So we see that while SPN originally tried to play ww’s in the old tradition, they couldn’t resist bringing ww’s into the new tradition.

Vampire: This one ticks me off to no end.  See, SPN has a bit of a problem with vampires: obviously they can’t just ignore this infamous monster, there’s too much lore about them in pop culture and tradition.  But those monsters have been done to death (pun intended) and beyond.  So SPN applied a bit of a twist to them.  Unfortunately the twist was such that vampires are… well they’re overpowered in that world setting.  Their one weakness isn’t common (or how often do you pick up dead man’s blood?) and the only method of killing one (same as Highlander’s immortals) runs the risk of making more.  After all, all you have to do to become one is to ingest their blood or get some in an open wound.  Decapitating people, is not a clean kill method.  Let’s be honest, Dean & Sam should be vampires several times over by now if it wasn’t for their massive character shields. (seriously, the way Sam took out Gordon? – he should have needed detoxing after that)  That they had been hunted to endangered status helped some of these issues.  That humans grouped up and wrecked horrific vengeance on the vampires (with those past hunters probably being killed soon after) probably left a deep cultural memory on the vampires to avoid riling up the muggles.  But if a group of them is in charge of Chicago?  It should be like Daybreakers, not “Vampire: the Masquerade”!  If SPN vampires could work themselves into power positions, there’s almost nothing stopping them from full scale world takeover (since, remember: trying to kill one means you probably become one).

Which, also including those last two makes this show just like Being Human or Vampire Diaries or the Originals or Twilight or Underworld or True Blood or… actually some of those I might not be sure about so feel free to correct me if you’ve seen any of the number of shows SPN:T is ripping off without even trying to be original.

But!  But it’s not hopeless.  Like I said, a turf war of monsters WANTING to become powerful could work (but then I’ve been harping on that since S6).  IF the show is set on “scrappy underdogs vs powers that be” then the 5 monsters the show should do are:

  1. Shape-shifters: (see above)
  2. Djinns: 1) The show’s done very little with them so there’s room to work on their lore without breaking them too much (though I’m sure the WDWWW team will find a way…) and 2) the angle on what they control is obvious: drug metaphor/holodeck/entertainment option.  They give people visions in exchange for some of that sweet, sweet blood.  That people are often unconscious while they work gives them plenty of cover.  Since people come to them for “escapism”, their business probably dropped off when Leviathans drugged everyone up, leaving the group’s numbers lightly touched if at all.
  3. Crocottas: 1) like above. 2) They would be in charge of communication and networking in the city.  Since they eat souls, not bodies, they probably would have survived the Leviathan’s schemes.  With their power over communication, their political & blackmail ability would make them very feared.
  4. Bottom feeders: Well, pretty much anything like Changelings or Ghouls.  Monsters which could pass for humans for an extended period of time but their proclivities keep them from long stints in civilized society.  Then there’s the “similar to” like Sirens (which would possibly overlap djinns) and shape-shifter knock offs like Okami (if you want that “oriental mob” style in the show) and Vetala, etc.

In other words, SPN has about a half dozen monsters that can replace vampires/werewolves (with not many changes, though possibly giving a bit more balance to the world building) to give this show a truly unique feel.  That they don’t seem to be trying for these, does not give me much hope…

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8 thoughts on “SPN:Tribes – All aboard the fail train! (unless we derail it)

  1. Oh, you hit the nail on the head about everything I think’s gone wrong with this spinoff idea. I’ll probably watch one or two, but my inner Supernatural saturated brain is going to be picking apart each lol!canon moment and implausible plot point. The addition of a cast of ‘young 20-somethings’ doesn’t engender too much confidence that this’ll be anything more than a version of all the shows you mentioned.

    • I like your idea about using SPN’s more unique monsters. At least it would keep “Tribes” from being “trite”! I just don’t want the spin-off to be a poor reflection on the original series. Here’s hoping.

  2. Seriously, get out of my head…this seems like not a great idea–oh crap, that means it will probably be picked up for series then, right? And I would also agree that about S7.

  3. When I first heard about the spinoff series, I was hoping for a show focused on the Men of Letters. This series idea is disappointing. The fandom deserves better.

    • The narrative deserves better.

      Or at least, there is so much possible potential out there, why not do something new (*cough*;)) instead of something everybody else is doing?

      The fandom’s going to need a drinking game to go with this…

  4. While I agree with you on the idea of using less “popular” monsters, I think that the entire idea was to capitalize on those popular monsters. I hate to be cynical — no, wait, I totally don’t — it’s pretty clear that Bloodlines was a marketing driven concept — from the 20-something cast to the choice of monsters to the ridiculous melodramatic plotline — it’s just another crappy CW show. The fact is that Supernatural is a hold over from the WB when creators like Kripke were given the leeway to follow their vision. It flew under the radar for years, but it has become a victim of its own success. After seeing Bloodlines, it’s clear that Supernatural has been distorted to allow this mutant child to be born. It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog, and I couldn’t feel sadder for the actors and others involved who had no control over the abomination that resulted or the way that Supernatural itself has been whored out so a few producers and the network could make a buck.

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