Expectations can be tough to live up to. Though networks will most likely disagree, from a creative aspect it sometimes behooves a program, most especially the genre programming, to start off at a deliberate (not slow) pace. Rarely does a show offer an interwoven story arc spanning multiple seasons, at least not without a bit of ret-conning or “coincidental shifts” to make things fit. ‘Supernatural’ was a show to break that mold.
From the very first episode “Woman in White”, the tale of the Winchester family brought intrigue, horror, drama, and comedy that revolved around the iron-clad relationship of brothers Sam and Dean. By the fifth season Eric Kripke had created an iconic show with a mythology all its own with a payoff that rewarded the faithful Supernatural-ites who tuned in from the start. Kripke had said from the beginning his plan encompassed five seasons and it was a tale woven masterfully. “Swan Song”, the season five finale could have been the ending so few shows have, going out on top in the creative sense. But we all wanted more, demanding for Sam and Dean’s return and we got our wish. And as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ showed, be careful what you wish for.
How do you top a villain like Lucifer who was five years in the making who just happens to be the baddest bad guy creation has ever seen? It’s a difficult task to say the least and, while it was hit and miss, season six had its moments. It’s a sentiment shared with the latest season; some good episodes, one or two great ones but a few too many that missed the mark set by the unusually consistent first five season.
Despite the overall disappointment, the season started off strong. In “Meet the New Boss”, we were introduced to a Castiel filled with billion of monstrous souls as he becomes the new God. After two years of evolution, Cas becomes someone we knew and loved to a shell of his former self. And that shell was cracked, destroyed by the Leviathan, entities created by God prior to any of His other creations. Creatures with a power greater than that of angels, the Leviathan are beings able to mimic anyone and anything—memories and all—by a simple touch. Unable to be permanently killed by any known means, they, more than the Alpha monsters and even angels, are the apex predator. Throughout the season the Leviathan showed their strength is more than physical, but cunning beyond anything the Winchesters had ever come across. They even forced the brothers to put the Impala in storage (after impersonating the brothers and going on a killing streak in “Slash Fiction” and tapping into pretty much all forms of communication). Truly, in the mortal world, the Leviathan were sneaky little buggers.
Despite their power and cunning, the question becomes were the Leviathan, as Big Bads, interesting? Unfortunately, they were a bit dull and was the primary reason this season floundered. Even with the uneven and ‘soulless’ sixth season, we were still reminded of the monsters that hid in the shadows, those born of a hundred different cultures. Though mentioned in the Bible, there are no real stories based on the Leviathan. Not only that, but there’s nothing truly interesting about them. For his part, James Patrick Stuart brought a charisma to the role of head Leviathan Dick Roman that is on part with another favorite guest star, Mark Sheppard. Stuart brings such sleaze and pizzazz to the show that it was difficult not look forward to him on screen. And alas, that was another problem with this season; there were way too many filler episodes that did nothing to further the story. Yes, ‘Supernatural’ has done quite well with monster-of-the-week episodes in the past but these seemed cobbled together by comparison. Even with the sharp banter between Sam and Dean as good as it’s ever been, there wasn’t enough umph to maintain any type of momentum as we headed down the stretch run.
Hidden in the detritus of season seven were gems that eased the overall disappointment of my favorite show. As mentioned above, Stuart was incredible as the bad guy and also doing work as one of the premiere character actors on television today in Mark Sheppard. The resident King of Hell solidified himself as the best ‘Supernatural’ guest star there’s been on the show. Not far behind was Rachel Miner as the witty Meg. Like Sheppard, the charming Miner is hard not to root for even if she’s all in for herself. Other notable performances were a handful of Joss Whedon alum in Jewel Staite (“The Girl Next Door”), James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter (“Shut up, Dr. Phil”) and Felicia Day (“The Girl with the Dungeons & Dragons Tattoo”) as well as the return of Rick Worthy as the Alpha Vampire and Frank McNally as the eccentric genius Frank Devereaux. The guest stars did their part in making the season entertaining but the overall story was lacking.
As disappointing as it was, I would be remiss in not mentioning perhaps one of the more poignant events in ‘Supernatural’ history when Sam and Dean’s final familial tie, Bobby Singer, dies. His last moments of life in “Death’s Door” is both a shocking and emotional blow to viewers and Winchesters alike. Though Bobby remains on the show in various forms, he’s putting off the inevitable, finally put to rest in the finale “Survival of the Fittest”. His death is a stark reminder that, unlike so many other shows, no one is truly safe in the ‘Supernatural’ universe. It’s a testament to the writers’ focus on telling the best story possible, regardless of who (or what) must be sacrificed in order to get it done. As a fan I don’t like losing characters, but as a fan of the creative process and telling a wonderful story, I applaud the writers.
So where do we go from here? With Bobby gone and Castiel a shell of his former self, the brothers are on their own (quite literally with Dean stuck in Purgatory and Sam back in the real world). Even falling short of the mark, this season posed some interesting questions with the biggest being how are Dean and Cas going to make their way out of Purgatory? Other questions I have are what are Crowley’s intentions with Kevin, God’s prophet? Will the angels return? Will God make His presence known? Is Frank truly dead? And who will hold the mantle of Big Bad for season eight? So even with this year being sub-par by ‘Supernatural’ standards, there are still quite a few unexplored avenues to explore for who I think is the best team of writers on television. They’ve deposited enough good will in the bank that I’m eager to see how they rebound. And I’ve no doubt they will rebound in the same way Sam and Dean have done their entire lives: hard, strong, and fast with some kick ass rock for a soundtrack.