A few weeks back I posted about re-watching older seasons of Supernatural in anticipation of seeing the last few seasons I’d missed, including the series finale. I finally completed what occasionally felt like a gruelling trek, and I thought I’d share a few final thoughts about the show.
I actually almost didn’t make it to the end. The last season I’d seen involved a lot of sturm und drang about Lucifer fathering a child with an unsuspecting human woman. That season ended with baby Jack being born (and instantly aging up to a young man), in the process opening a portal to an alternate– apocalyptic– Earth. At this point, fan favourite Bobby is re-introduced to the show, while other favourites are killed off, including Crowley (RIP) and Castiel. Okay, I thought, this is going to be interesting.
Only it wasn’t.
I think the writers really didn’t know what to do with the alternate Earth. Bobby and Charlie were brought back, but then nothing much really happened with them (definitely nothing that added to character development, the story arc, or to the show as a whole). There’s a bizarre alternate Castiel who is (thankfully) quickly killed. New characters are introduced and brought to Sam and Dean’s Earth in a side plot that, along with these characters, went nowhere. Most were killed or just disappeared, and in the last season any that were left were wiped out of existence (more on that later). And then there was the apocalypse. We already had an apocalypse season on Supernatural— who decided we needed another one? And why did anyone think viewers would care if angels were wreaking havoc on another planet? It was a strange choice and mostly (I think) an excuse to bring back another character no one asked for: (alternate) Archangel Michael.
Boredom with what had initially seemed like it would be an interesting season soon turned to frustration. Not only did we have to sit through an alternate world’s apocalypse, but we had to endure human-hating angels led by apocalypse-obsessed alternate Michael. One stupid decision after another leads to him showing up on Sam and Dean’s Earth (which I’m calling Main Earth from now on), where Dean, going against all sense and reason, ends up giving Michael permission to possess him (AKA use him as a “vessel”) on the condition that Dean remain fully in control. Of course Michael never has any intention of keeping his word. Who could have foreseen this twist, other than literally everyone? It feels like we’ve seen this exact story a thousand times on Supernatural. Watching the characters make one dumb move after another was intolerable, and this was where I almost walked away from the show. I actually looked up series finale spoilers to find out if there was any point to keep watching. Ultimately, I decided there was, but if I had my way I’d purge this season, along with the “British Men of Letters” one.
Side note: the final season sees the return of original Michael, along with Sam and Dean’s half-brother Adam. Unlike alternate Michael, this works well, as original Michael helps the story along and gives the show a chance to tie up a longstanding loose end. And also unlike alternate Michael, original Michael’s motives actually make sense.
The Writers VS. Jack
Instead of another apocalypse and alternate Michael, I really would have preferred more of a focus on Jack. He was something new on Supernatural— the son of Lucifer, and an incredibly powerful being in his own right (more powerful than an archangel, according to the show). Or, at least, he should have been. As with their treatment of Castiel, the writers found every excuse to diminish his powers (right until the very last episode). Who was this kid? Would he go full-on Damian at some point? Would he team up with Lucifer, or destroy his father and become the new Big Bad? Or maybe he’d beat the odds and side with good. So many possibilities– so few opportunities taken by the writers. He did exhibit a few abilities early on (like bringing Cas back from the dead), but mostly it felt like we were perpetually waiting for Jack to do something. Even when he lost his soul, it didn’t change much. Jack had so much potential, but it was frustrating (there’s that word again) waiting for him to reach it. Not that it wasn’t satisfying when he finally did, but at that point it was verging on too little too late.
To borrow a much-overused phrase from the show “I get it”: a lot had to happen in the final season and we couldn’t necessarily have long goodbyes with a lot of characters. But it was disappointing the way some of them left. We’re lucky to have had a final visit with Rowena (awesome witch, the new Queen of Hell, and one of my all-time favourite characters), but too many other characters didn’t get more than a passing mention. It would have been nice, for example, when Dean went to heaven, to see someone other than (original) Bobby and, eventually, Sam. Why not a quick cast reunion at the end? At least they could have given us a final glimpse of Cas and Jack. And what happened to the people from the alternate Earths (which, reminder: includes us, as established in an earlier episode)? Chuck destroyed all the alternate Earths, and then wiped out nearly everyone on Main Earth, including the people rescued from apocalypse world. Jack eventually restores everyone on Main Earth, but he also implies that he’s going to be sticking with just the one earth. Never mind what ultimately happened to everyone on the alternate Earths, we don’t even know what happened to alternate Charlie and Bobby, whether they ended up anywhere or simply ceased to exist forever. All I’m saying is a little closure would have been nice.
It wasn’t all poor choices and unanswered questions, though. The one thing I think the show really got right in the final season was:
God as Villain
It probably created some controversy to make God (AKA Chuck) the ultimate villain on the show, but I think it works. Let’s face it: from his long absences (including during serious crises) and his lack of interest in his creations, to his fits of cruel vengeance/punishments, and his habit of playing favourites, God is half-villain already. Supernatural re-imagines him as a hack writer who plays with people’s lives for his own entertainment. He torments Sam and Dean (whom he claims are his favourite “characters”) and “cancels shows” (destroys all the alternate earths) because Sam and Dean don’t want to play along anymore. He wipes out every person and animal on Main Earth just so he can watch how Sam, Dean, and Jack will cope. When Dean is thrilled to discover a dog that was somehow missed, Chuck wipes out the dog while watching Dean’s reaction. His arrogance is ultimately his downfall, and when Jack absorbs all of Chuck’s power, it’s the best possible outcome. Chuck is left as a normal, powerless, human to live out his life and die; meanwhile it’s pretty clear that Jack is going to make a superior God. It’s a good end to the story arc and an interesting take on biblical mythology. I think it was a fitting conclusion to the series.
So, is it worth watching Supernatural? It’s not the best show, but as I’m discovering watching some of what else is out there, it’s not the worst one, either. Supernatural has multitudes of great characters, overall decent acting, a few really creative episodes, and some solid writing and storylines. They even managed to introduce a group of actually scary vampires in the last episode. Better late than never.
What did you think of the end of Supernatural? Share in the comments…
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I’m not exactly a fan of Supernatural, the long-running (and recently concluded) series featuring the monster-hunting Winchester brothers (Sam and Dean) and associates. I am, however, a fan of several of the characters, which is why I’ve stuck with the show. I’m currently re-watching older seasons in anticipation of catching up on the last couple I haven’t seen yet, including the series finale.
The thing is, no matter how much I try (and I have tried), I just can’t pretend this show doesn’t bother me on numerous levels. I’m not trying to ruin anything for the fans out there (who I’m sure far outnumber detractors like me), but someone needs to say it. Supernatural has problems. Here’s four of them.
In season 8 Supernatural introduced the “Men of Letters,” a secret society that, among other things, made a point of amassing and preserving vast stores of occult and magical knowledge. Sounds pretty cool, right? You’d think so, but apparently the show’s writers disagree, as multiple characters repeatedly refer to the Men of Letters as “librarians.” And it’s never a compliment.
First of all, fiction is full of librarians who could hold their own in the Supernatural universe. Secondly, the show itself establishes that the Men of Letters were also men of action– they just put a little more thought into their actions than the Winchesters and their fellow “hunters” tend to. More importantly, though, is that real-life librarians deserve better than this kind of casual derision. Yes, they spend an inordinate amount of time with books (not sure why that’s a bad thing), but they also help people and improve lives on a daily basis (here’s a story from last year as just one example). Librarian as an insult? You’re only showing your own ignorance.
2. Mary Shelley Didn’t Create Frankenstein
Season 10 brought us the ill-conceived Styne family, an ancient clan into all kinds of evil, including murder, Nazism, and really poorly stitched body modification (seriously, this is your thing– learn how to sew). But– big reveal– it turns out the family’s name was originally… Frankenstein (groan), and that their family friend Mary Shelley, after spending a few days at their estate and seeing what they were up to, wrote her book to try to warn the world. In other words, Frankenstein isn’t a work of Shelley’s vibrant imagination (and one of, if not the, first works of science fiction), but rather non-fiction based on something she witnessed.
Seeing as how women writers throughout history have been consistently ignored, suppressed, forgotten, and denied credit, for Supernatural to come along and discount the achievement of one of the few who did receive her due… let’s just say that Supernatural owes Mary Shelley a huge apology.
3. The Writers vs. Castiel
Introducing angels to the show is generally acknowledged as being one of Supernatural’s smarter moves. Castiel especially turned out to be a great character, with some decent development over the seasons. Unfortunately, the writers backed themselves into a corner with angels. Debuted as incredibly powerful beings who can destroy a human just by existing in their natural state, the writers subsequently were forced to find ways to make angels far weaker than they started out. As the Winchesters’ protector/friend Castiel gets the brunt of this– the writers spend the rest of the series finding excuses to take away his power. Poor Cas loses his mind, gets stuck in purgatory, is put under the control of another angel, and even becomes human, among other things. Even when he is at full strength, the writers ignore the extent of his abilities, inexplicably render them useless (“I can usually heal anything, but not this…”), or simply pretend he doesn’t exist. He can be summoned by phone or by prayer, yet he often “isn’t answering,” or more often, the Winchesters don’t bother calling. There are so many times when Cas could easily have dispatched demonic enemies or fixed an unfortunate situation (like, say, bringing Charlie back to life), but it’s inconvenient to the story, so he’s nowhere to be seen. What all this amounts to is a lot of poor and/or lazy writing that ultimately lowers the quality of the show. F for effort, guys.
4. Sucky Vampires
Vampires aren’t the focus of Supernatural, and it’s a good thing because the ones on this show are awful. From the hideous rows of fangs to their bland personalities, I have to wonder why the show bothered including vampires at all. Mercedes McNab, who brilliantly played student-turned-vampire Harmony on Buffy and Angel, shows up as a vampire in one season 3 episode of Supernatural. Her character mostly spouts exposition and whines about being hungry before Dean finally beheads her. Other vampires throughout the series are similarly unremarkable (although there was one storyline that had potential, about vampires taking advantage of the Twilight craze, but it ultimately missed the mark). Even Benny, who befriends Dean in season 8 and actually gets a story arc, serves mostly as a source of tension between Sam and Dean. Not every vampire is going to be a Dracula or a Spike, but it takes some skill to make all of yours forgettable.
There are other problems with Supernatural (like Sam and Dean’s casual willingness to murder innocent people just because they’re possessed– remember when they used to at least try an exorcism first?), but I’ll leave it here. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Share in the comments…
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If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥