It’s been a few weeks now since ‘Supernatural’ hit us with its tenth (!) season finale. If you didn’t know, ten years is a helluva long time, especially for a genre show. In fact, when it premieres next year, ‘Supernatural’ will surpass the well-remembered ‘Smallville’ as the longest running scripted show in CW history. But just like expensive doesn’t mean something’s quality, a decade’s long run on-air doesn’t mean a show should keep going. And with that, we run upon two questions, though, in the interest of focus, let’s start with the micro:
Was the ‘Supernatural’ season ten finale a let down?
Now, I will be the first to say this past season wasn’t the strongest (or weakest) in ‘Supernatural’ memory. On a positive frame, the season did a pretty good job maintaining the focus on Dean’s unfortunate situation with the Mark of Cain. Whereas our supporting players of Crowley, Castiel, and Rowena were all given emotional arcs that only strengthened their characters, it was Dean’s tumultuous journey that drove the majority of the season.
We all saw Dean at his worst early on, a demonic caricature of himself that, while never going full psycho, was dangerously close to doing so. If not for Crowley’s run of interference, who knows how Dean would have turned up. But he never reverted to the wholesale slaughter of “innocents,” though a few people who may not have been bastions of virtue but still didn’t deserve a killing, did suffer at his hands. Still, once Sam and Cas were able to bring Dean from the brink of disaster, the longtime hunter was still haunted by the things he’d done and, even scarier, the things he still wanted to do. His trek in Season Ten in some ways mirrored the Five Stages of Grief. There was Denial of the bloodlust running amuck inside him and the Anger at what he’d done. The Bargaining and Depression stages seemed to run together as their research continued to turn up bupkis and then…
Well, then there was the backslide.
During their rescue of Claire Novak, the daughter of Castiel’s host, Dean, surrounded by baddies, gave in to the call of the Mark and slaughtered everyone in the room. It was soon after this his Depression hit an all-time low until it bottomed-out and he Accepted the cards Fate had dealt him. No matter what, he was ready to face his future and abandoned any hopes of a cure.
Sam, on the other hand, refused to give up on Dean. His determination to pull out all the stops to find a cure for his brother was both a blessing and a curse. In the former, it stayed true to the bond the two have shared for the show’s life, moving Hell (literally) and high water to save one another, consequences be damned. Sadly, the latter is part and parcel to Season Ten’s shortcomings as well.
To start, as commendable as Sam’s drive to find a cure for Dean was, it also limited the younger Winchester’s personal story arc. Yes, we saw he’d do anything for Dean but it also relegated him to nothing more than the single-minded seeker that lacked any real emotional development. Sam’s blind determination, even against his brother’s wishes, while showing he’d do anything for his brother, no matter the costs; even if that means putting others they care for at risk. Yes, Charlie made her own decision in throwing her hat into the “We Must Save Dean” ring, but without Sam’s push, would she have found herself in the crosshairs of the Styne family? Yes, hindsight and all that jazz, I know. Plus, Dean channeling his inner Terminator on the Frankenstein ancestry was one of the better kick-ass ‘Supernatural’ moments in recent memory. That and the subsequent beat down of Castiel signaled to Dean that he was out of control and had to be stopped. But, as Crowley and others have stated, the Mark made Dean unkillable, so what could he do to prevent himself from taking the murderous rampage clamoring inside him from getting out?
Death’s arrival is, as they say, a game-changer. Not because he offers to take Dean from this plane of existence but his knowledge puts an entirely different face on the Mark’s importance as it pertains to the Universe. Yes, you heard right. Similar to the Seals that kept Lucifer locked away, the Mark is the dike keeping the Darkness (Primordial), defeated by God and His archangels, from wiping all Light from Existence. That little nugget of information produced one of the few genuine “holy crap” reactions from yours truly and reframed everything about the Mark to Dean, including the fact that, in order to keep Existence safe, he’d have to sacrifice Sam because his brother would not stop the search for a cure, a cure that would endanger all of Creation. Death proclaims that Sam must die, giving Dean the chance to do it or “I’ll do it myself”. With all this terrible knowledge of what the Mark represents, Dean knows what he has to do. He raises Death’s Scythe, ready to strike down his brother and…
…instead the knucklehead ‘kills’ Death!
Are you serious?!
Okay, so we aren’t quite sure whether or not Death is, well, dead, but it’s the idea behind the action that counts. To be fair, Rowena was in the midst of performing the spell to releasing the Mark so even if Dean had killed Sam/allowed Death to take him away, there’s no guarantee things would have ended differently. The problem becomes why would Dean, knowing how both he and Sam’s actions of putting each other first during some of the more game-changing moments have either ended or endangered the lives of those around them or the planet, do so again? Personally, their inability to see the big picture, even after all this time, was the most disappointing aspect of the finale. Never being put in such a situation, it’s difficult to say how one would react but, when you think about the experience the Winchesters have with world-ending possibilities, one would think they would have learned something of being selfless over these past ten years. Instead, Dean chooses his brother, world be damned. Hell, even if he would have dropped the Scythe and allowed Death to swing the killing blow would have shown growth, an ability to see the big picture. Yes, the open plot threads (Will Cas kill Crowley? How much power does Rowena have now? Will God return to defeat the Darkness?) make for a compelling eleventh season but at the expense of Dean’s potential growth as a warrior against Evil on a grander scale.
Which brings us to the macro view, specifically if ‘Supernatural’ has finally worn out its welcome? Is it time for Sam and Dean to drive off into the sunset? While the last three seasons have retained much of the show’s charm after the disappointments of seasons six and seven, we are approaching the danger zone of a once powerful show becomes a caricature of itself. Now, by no means am I intimating that next year will be a lackluster outing for the Winchesters but I do believe that, with where we are from a probable storytelling perspective—God’s ultimate return to fight the Darkness—a natural conclusion seems to be on the horizon. It’s not to say the wonderfully creative minds behind the show couldn’t concoct another compelling season following Sam and Dean’s road of “saving people, hunting things” but when does it become just a bit too much retread?
I love ‘Supernatural.’ Even during the ‘thin years’ (seasons six and seven), I’ve never missed an episode. And though the season five finale was a perfect way to end the series, I applauded the return of two of my favorite characters in television history. With that said, I don’t want ‘Supernatural’ to fall into the trap many shows do: forsaking the natural conclusion of its story at the behest of a network throwing more money for you to come back. I’m not in the position to make that decision and will admit I don’t know what I’d do as a creator/writer/actor if presented a similar situation. All I can do is speak out as a fan to say, while I enjoyed Season Ten and look forward to ‘Supernatural’’s return, I also wish to see the series go out on its own terms, and not like many shows who are cut due to a decline in viewership. It remains to be seen if Season Eleven with be the Winchesters’ last hurrah, but if it is, I do hope Kripke and company make it one for the ages and, ten years from now, us ‘Supernatural’ fans will reminisce on how our favorite show went out just the way it came in—with kick-ass tunes and a helluva nice ride.
Season Ten @ a Glance
- Several characters had surprisingly deep story arcs
- Dean’s ‘Five Stages’ of Grief
- Death’s arrival turning the Mark’s importance on its head
- Felicia Day’s Charlie was as fun as she’s ever been
- A somewhat stagnant story arc for Sam
- The Styne Family—good concept but rushed execution
- The last time we’ll hear “Arrivederchi, bitches!” RIP, Charlie
- Dean’s choice to put Creation itself at risk
- Rowena’s ascension to some major mojo
- The return of the Darkness
- Death’s Demise?
- Does this signal the return of God, Michael, and Lucifer