What... how many times... I... Supernatural is the best show on TV, hands-down, bar-none, the end.
I hate flashbacks - I really do - as a writing device, I find them weak; as a viewer, I find them cheesy. If there is a story to tell, then don't fill us in as we go - tell us the backstory and let's move on! The only effective use of flashbacks I've ever personally enjoyed was Stephen King's It - and even those got old as the novel wore on. But, as ever, Supernatural one-upped us all and proved that writers who know what they are doing can make anything work, no matter how tired or difficult it is.
Every budding writer - student, teacher, master, hack - take note: this is a textbook example of how the device is used; this is how it is done.
Tonight's Supernatural ("I Know What You Did Last Summer") used the flashback to forward a specific storyline - a singular point of story - as opposed to it being an information dump. Everything we learned within the flashbacks could have been left out; all it did was explore Sam and Ruby's relationship - while simultaneously developing both characters. We knew all of this already - and what we didn't, we certainly suspected! But by forwarding the story in this manner, we not only got the fuller picture as to their relationship, the current story was forwarded, and the ongoing story took on more shape, leading to the denouement.
Even better, Supernatural shows how the "arc" approach is handled - by those who can handle it. Granted, we've heard next to nothing of the Yellow-Eyed Demon and all that went before, but what happened then brought us to this point, so it does not really bear re-mentioning. They didn't bother to rush-around, "tying-up loose ends" just to say they did and they did not just drop the whole thing entirely, as though it never happened.
People: this is how you do an ongoing series; this is how it's done!
Supernatural is the best thing on TV.
© C Harris Lynn, 2008