The State of the SUPERNATURAL Union

7 May

Continuing my habit of rambling about geeky stuff when I should be writing, editing, or promoting my books. This is more fun (but not a reflection of my ability to string together coherent sentences!) So… go check out my work on Amazon. See if anything sounds interesting to you. Maybe leave a review, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve been a fan of Supernatural since day one. The show has a great setup, great character, great execution… It’s a great show (putting aside season 7 for the sake of this post).

But, nearing the end of its twelfth season, the show has gotten into some ruts and lost sight of some of the things that made it great in the first place. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss the show’s past, present and future, and see where we stand at this point.

THE ROAD SO FAR… (you knew I had to do that, right?)

Supernatural premiered in September of 2005, at a time when the TV season still started in September. Back then, the show’s colors were muted. The atmosphere was dark and eerie. Each week was like a little horror movie, based on real world myths and urban legends. At the core of that structure were our two heroes, Sam and Dean Winchester.

I’m not going to give a full rundown of the series. I will say that at this point in the game, demons were rare. When you saw one, it meant that s**t was going down. Angels were unheard of. The stories were human-based, with the brothers attempting to save human victims from supernatural threats, and some time and effort was put into making these guest characters matter, which is why I’m still a little upset that they brought Sarah Blake back years later, only to kill her off.

For the first five seasons of the show, I don’t think a single episode let me down. Every time I thought that an episode would be stupid, they somehow managed to pull it off. I was in awe.

I say “the first five seasons”, because this is what I think of as the first “book” of Supernatural. In my head, each major arc (usually tied to a specific showrunner) is a book of its own. The next book isn’t necessarily a continuation of that story, it’s just a new book with the same characters, in the same world. As with comic books, new writers will come in and give their take on things, with some being more successful than others, but nothing will stop us from loving each book for what it is on its own. Those first five seasons are the complete Eric Kripke book of Supernatural. If you never watch another episode past that, you have a complete series. It’s a great book.

I was a fan of season 6, which was the beginning of the Sera Gamble book. I liked seeing Dean with some legitimate character development. I liked seeing him with a family, and growing beyond his horn-dog youth. I was intrigued by the Sam without a soul, and the struggle to get that back. I was a little thrown by the complete lack of concern for Adam, and… well, I still am.

Season 7 was a mess for me. The Leviathans just didn’t do it. The big corporate baddie just didn’t fit into the show, which was known for it’s truck-stop apocalypse. And we lost Bobby to such forgettable bad guys. It’s not fair!

The Sera Gamble book was like those in-between comic books, when there is no big over-reaching arc or purpose to tie it all together. It’s just there for fun. Sometimes that worked, and other times it didn’t. Overall, I think that Gamble contributed a lot of solid work to the series as a whole, but I’m not sure that she had a handle on running the show, with its unique voice. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t run a show that’s all about manly dudes with guns and cars… but there was something missing (especially the car, in season 7!)

Season 8 marked the beginning of the Jeremy Carver book. The Carver book feels more like the Kripke book, in that each move plays into the next, and it slowly builds up to a huge climax. Though I kinda hate that we now know of a legitimate means of closing the gates of Hell, and nobody is actually doing it, I did like watching the trials of season 8. I thought the angel fallout of season 9 was interesting, though I wasn’t a huge Metatron fan. The Dean-mon struggle of season 10 was solid. The Amara climax to this book in season 11 had its ups and downs for me (it was very similar to Lilith, after all), but I liked how it came together in the end.

NOW…

Season 12 has started a new book for Supernatural: the book of Dabb/Singer. It’s still far too early to tell where these showrunners will take the series. Is their plan a multi-year plan, like Kripke and Carver? Or is it more of a “make it up as we go along” plan, like the Gamble era? I guess we’ll find out. What I can safely say is that the show is still going strong, particularly when it comes to stand alone episodes, with monsters of the week. We’ve seen a number of new hunters this season, including the now-resurrected Mary Winchester, which is nice. We haven’t really had the whole hunter community in the mix for a while.

I think that Mary has been integrated into the show really well. She is a complicated character, mourning the loss of the young family that (from her perspective) she just saw hours earlier, while trying to create a world where her now-grown boys can live normal lives. She isn’t the picture-perfect image of a mother that the boys always dreamed of, making sandwiches and tucking them in. She is a confused, flawed, strong, loving woman. She fits right into the Winchester mix, which is no small accomplishment. This could have gone horribly wrong. I just hope that they don’t kill her off again, as they tend to do with human characters.

The British Men of Letters are another interesting element in the mix this year. They’re an old-school way of doing things, with reports and ranks. It’s a stark contrast to the hunter lifestyle, which relies more on word of mouth and flying by the seat of your pants. Each side thinks that they are the better way of doing things, and it’s interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses of both. Instead of trying to go bigger, with another apocalypse, Dabb/Singer took the show down to a human level. This is good. Let’s play in this sandbox for a while!

And this is where I think the show should have stayed. Unfortunately, they didn’t limit themselves to Mary Winchester and the British Men of Letters (side note: I do wish they hadn’t put this group in suits. I’m getting bored of the bad guys all wearing suits on this show. Put them in SWAT gear or something)

After Lucifer was used on season 11, he was not put back in the cage. He was out and about, which led to some interesting stuff along the way, but also to this nephilim storyline that I just can’t get into. First, Lucifer takes over the body of the POTUS, but the show doesn’t have the ability to do that level of story very well, so it ended up looking like he took over the body of the mayor in some well-off town. The execution of that episode was poor, with an odd, cartoonish take on a religious President.

Likewise, the guys being locked in a government prison felt like someone went to the bad part of town and bought a knockoff of a name-brand Supernatural episode, and tried to pass it off as the real thing. We’ve done a prison episode before, and it worked. Going for a super-secure government black site just didn’t do it for me.

I was happy when Lucifer was seemingly put back in the cage, and thought that the writers dodged a bullet. TV shows have a tendency to hold onto good characters or actors beyond their expiration date, because they like them. As a result, those characters start to go sour and by the end, you just want them gone. I feel this way about Lucifer, but not just Lucifer. I feel this way about Crowley as well. And I know it will get me some heck on the internet, but I think I might feel this way about Castiel too.

The nephilim story is begging to become that over-played storyline where a spawn-of-satan baby is born, and grows up over the course of a few episodes. Like Lilith, and Amara already have. After all, we’re not expecting to have a cute little spawn of Satan sitting in the Men of Letters bunker for ten seasons, waiting to become a storyline at some point, right? If Castiel had gone off into the sunset to raise the baby right, similar to what they did with the anti-Christ earlier in the series, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. But it feels like Castiel will be back and the nephilim will still be in play.

Man, I hated when they did this storyline on Angel.

Getting back to Crowley…

Remember when we met Crowley? He was in a mansion. He was cool, and powerful, but not too powerful. What happened to that mansion?

When used in small doses, Crowley can be interesting. I was really intrigued by the idea of having him purified during the trials of season 8, but he ended up reverting to his old form before long, just like Dean did after season 6 (I still wish that they’d allowed his character to grow and stay grown). Now, Crowley doesn’t add much to the show. Most of his scenes take place in that stupid dungeon/throne room place, and most of those scenes revolve around him talking about just how evil and powerful he is. Most of those scenes could be edited out of the series, and nobody would notice. What is his arc? What is his purpose?

At some point, you either have to kill the bad guy or the bad guy has to win. If neither of these things happen, both the heroes and the villains look pathetic. The Winchesters could have killed Crowley a hundred times over by now. They haven’t. Crowley could have killed them a hundred times over by now. He hasn’t. This idea that they are frienemies who secretly don’t want to kill each other doesn’t sit well with me. It means that the Winchesters are okay with letting a truly evil demon go on killing people.

I want the trials brought back into play. Close the gates of Hell and go back to making demons rare and scary.

The show is starting to make all of their bad guys the same. Dagon is an example of this. They’re all super-sarcastic, comedy-based bad guys. Many of them wear suits. They don’t really have personalities of their own, they’re just eeeeeevil. But this isn’t menacing. It’s actually getting kind of annoying. You could swap out Dagon dialogue for Lucifer, Crowley or Billie dialogue, and nobody would ever even know.

As for Castiel, it’s not that I hate the character. I just think he’d be better used in small doses, a couple of times per season, at most. There’s no strong storyline for him to play out. We’ve seen pretty much all that there is to see from him, and like Crowley, most of what we get now is just a lot of useless scenes to remind us that he’s still a series regular.

My “If I were running things” solution for all of these problems would be to put Lucifer back in the cage (maybe throwing in an Adam reference), and finding someone to go through the trials, to close the gates of Hell. Turn Hell back into the prison that it’s meant to be, and have Castiel tasked with being its warden. Right now, the inmates are running the prison. It makes no sense.

I get the sense that Crowley and Castiel are simply used as a way to give Jared and Jensen some time off.

One character that has successfully turned around for me is Rowena. I hated her when she was just another snarky, mustache-twirling villain, going on and on about how bad she was. However, after she met God and helped to save the world, something shifted in her. She isn’t eeeevil anymore. She’s a more layered, complex character, working toward something like redemption. That’s pretty cool.

So, season 12 has been up and down for me. The Hunters vs Men of Letters arc is interesting. The Mary arc is interesting. Going forward, I would be cool with seeing episodes that revolve around Mary, Claire, Jody, Cole, Eileen, and other human characters. It would give Jared and Jensen more time to spend with their families, if that’s what they need, but it wouldn’t mean that the whole “saving people, hunting things” theme is lost and we spend an hour watching Crowley twirl his mustache.

THE FUTURE

I’ve covered a lot of what I was going to say in this section, but I feel a need to mention that I’m not happy about them killing off Alicia Banes. I know she’s a stick figure now, so we’ll probably see her again, but Supernatural has a nasty habit of killing off human characters. Characters who could be used to move the series, and the franchise as a whole, forward. They once tried to give us a spinoff with a bunch of The Originals monster drama (and one of the originals was actually the star of the show!) and it went down as one of the biggest flop episodes ever. Supernatural fans are trained to want the monsters to die, so if there is ever to be a spinoff, or an expansion of the cast, human characters are the best option. If they keep killing them off, they’re only hurting the show. I know, it’s Supernatural and people need to die. But not everyone. John Winchester knew a lot of hunters, for a lot of years. Most of them only seemed to die when they made the mistake of appearing on the show.

Also, in regards to the future of the show, I know that people would be upset if the Sam/Dean dynamic changed, but I really wouldn’t mind seeing one of them get married or start a family. I don’t need the show to become The Vampire Diaries, with tons of relationship drama, but it’s been twelve years. Life changes. If people are too nervous about letting Sam or Dean break out of their molds, maybe Mary could be the character that goes down this path.

 

If you have any thoughts on anything I’ve said here, feel free to leave a comment!

And after you do that, follow this link to Amazon and check out the books I’ve written. Seriously, do that.

 

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