If you weren’t into television in the late aughts, you might have missed the blip on the radar that was Reaper. A CW show that ran from 2007 to 2009, only 2 seasons, I’ll always think of it as one of the Slayer’s most favored children. Perhaps I need to explain. The first thing you need to know is that I LOVE Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love Joss Whedon, I love Angel, I love Firefly; I’m all in and I am a fan forever. As such, I am a fan of all the artistic progeny that follows in Buffy’s (BtVS) footsteps. That includes, Supernatural, that includes Charmed and, in my world, that includes Reaper.
Reaper was a comedy-horror that focused on Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison of The O.C., That 70’s Show and The Ranch) who, on his 21st birthday, discovers that his parents sold his soul to the devil. Now he is the Devil’s servant, who tasks him with tracking down souls who have escaped from Hell, Big Bad of the Week style. Assisting him in his various assignments are his co-workers, Sock (Tyler Labine of Deadbeat and Tucker and Dale vs Evil) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez of Arrow and Mr. Robot), two slacker types that serve as sidekicks and comic relief. Rounding out the cast is Andi (Missy Peregrym of Rookie Blue and FBI), as the obligatory love interest.
And while the cast is likable, the absolute star of this show is Ray Wise, who plays the Devil himself. If you’re interested enough in this type of show to be reading this, chances are you’ve seen Ray Wise. From his role in the 1969 movie, Dare the Devil, to his presence in the 2019 Netflix show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, he has been in an absolute butt-ton of shows. I’m in no position to judge his acting ability (what do I know from good acting?), but Ray has such a presence on the screen that makes him impossible to ignore. Seriously, this man is a goddamn national treasure and deserves to be recognized as such.
As I have intimated, this show follows the Big Bad of the Week formula, in that the Devil assigns Sam a different soul to recover each week. While he’s not “The Choose One” or a Slayer, being in service to the Devil does have its privileges. When he receives an assignment, the Devil gives him a unique item with which to defeat and trap the escaped soul. In addition to the special “weapon”, he has certain powers. In the course of the show, he has demonstrated the ability to move objects with his mind, he can sense the lost souls he must hunt down, he has shown super strength when he gets angry and it’s even been hinted that he is invulnerable.
Sam also has his Scoobies, as well. None of them have any powers, but they more than pull their weight in the recovery of lost souls. Sock and Ben are, for the most part, portrayed as bumbling idiots, but they display quite a bit of bravery, despite being mere mortals, and the occasional flash of wisdom. For the first season, keeping Sam’s diabolical secret from Andi is a running gag, but, by season 2, despite the on-again, off-again nature of their relationship, she becomes a full fledged member of the team. The effective chemistry between them is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show.
In preparation to write this piece, I rewatched a few episodes and it has not aged well. That being said, I still think this is a great show that ended too quickly. I’ll be talking more about shows descended from The Slayer, and while Reaper is certainly no Supernatural, I enjoyed it more than Charmed and it may be an equal to Grimm. I don’t believe the show ever won any awards, but it still maintains high ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes (81 out of 100) and IMDB (7.7 out of 10), and one could do a lot worse if they’re looking for a horror-comedy to watch. I may be biased about the whole thing, but I’d tell people to watch it for Ray Wise alone. A goddamn, national treasure!