This is the face of my inner Castiel when considering how much potential this unasked for 6th season of Supernatural has squandered.

I was not an early adopter of this show as I usually am with so many that I wind up championing or discussing at length. Some people may also wonder why I’m taking the time out to talk about this shit as opposed to writing episode reviews of Game of Thrones or something. The reason is that we all know that GoT is fucking rocking it. Five minutes with google will indicate for you in rather strong terms how gangbusters that show is. On the other hand, Supernatural has a serious fanbase and I have loved the show but there is going to be a major disparity between those who think the Season 6 experiment worked out, redeemed itself, etc and those who know the truth: the experiment has only proven that Eric Kripke’s successors don’t know what the fuck to do with their own show.

I started out thinking that Supernatural was just some wussy post-Buffyverse CW bullshit with a couple of pretty men in what would amount to a depressingly “female oriented” show. Of course, Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles (as Sam and Dean Winchester) are certainly pretty men, I was pleased to discover that this is a dark, gruesome show about a couple of blue collar monster hunters who get in over their heads and survive/thrive with a combination of pluck, determination, and a few lucky friendships. Add to that the interesting family dynamics, an awesome version of Judeo-Christian mythology and other sporadic thematic flirtations with Americana, every horror genre you can name, and so on and you’ve got a good package. Supernatural is a show that totally surprised me and only got better season by season until things started to fall apart in season 5 and reached critical mass by the end of season6.

It should be noted for those who don’t pay attention that Season6 was past the show’s creator-designed expiration date. The capper of S5 was the fucking apocalypse. Yes, that old standby. While I didn’t love all the choices, it still felt like the show should have ended. And it was intended to end there, culminating in a final expression of the brotherly love and daddy issues on a cosmic scale that brings the prime themes so full circle that it’s a nice ouroborous of a show. But they fucked all that up by deciding HEY, THIS COSTS NOTHING AND HAS LOTSA FANS AND THERE IS MONEY SO LET’S GOOO SEASON 6. At which point, Eric Kripke settled into an Exec Producer role since his five-year plan for the show had ended. Apparently, his plan was unusually detailed and is probably to thank for the cohesion of the first five seasons and especially the way things seemed to build. I have my problems with Season 5 and the finale but you can’t argue that it wasn’t a shot at the climax of five years worth of storylines and themes. Season 6 utterly lacks that guidance but seemed to have some neat directions it might go. Enough, really, that I hung in there until the finale hoping they’d keep up their penchant for pulling the fat out of the fire everytime it started to stink. That Season 6 was such a delicate balancing act between suckage and redemption probably supplied some degree of foreshadowing for the massive steaming pile that is the two-part finale.

Now, if was a complete trainwreck from Episode 1, that would be nothing worth talking about because I probably wouldn’t have been able to summon up enough loyalty to the show to bother. Like I said, it was a balancing act. Some episodes were very good and even darker than what I was used to from the show, and that’s saying something. Moreover, many of the ideas they were playing with in terms of mythology, character, and theme were interesting. Before I completely gut the finale, I’m going to pause a minute to describe these pros because they represent the resounding¬† viewing theme of this season for me: wasted potential.

First there’s the return of Sam. Everyone knew it was inevitable so it was nice that they didn’t dick around, especially since they did give us the Brother Alone stuff back when Dean bought it. This new Sam was easily the best part of the first half of the season, giving Padelecki a chance to stretch his acting muscles and show us a more badass side of the character. This stuff was good and presented a nice role reversal what with Dean’s position as someone who, like Sam in the beginning, has gotten outside the life and has mixed feelings about getting back in.

Then there’s the seeming arc of the season: Crowley’s monster hunt for purgatory. Rather than concentrate on Castiel’s new role in Heaven and the conflicts involved, Sarah Gamble and friends decided to get back to some kind of basics and tell monster stories again. This time, some strange shit is going down with otherwise run-of-the-mill baddies. This is a cool mystery and gave the show a chance to reflect on the glee with which the Bros have been killing these things in spite of clear evidence that some of them are more like Buffyverse monsters/demons in that they may not necessarily be bad people in the end. This started to be a cool idea. Then they ruined it but more on that later. The inclusion of a sidebar to the Judeo-Christian mythology they’ve been dealing with was a nice touch, especially that they found a way to link it to the more mundane bestiary we’ve seen over the years. Kind of a brilliant move really and I can see why they thought it was a good enough idea to hang another season on. Too bad they wasted it by resorting to Castiel’s war in Heaven anyway, which we knew would happen if only because every couple of episodes had humorless Castiel reminding everybody that shit was going down unseen!

Another great element was more focus on characters like Bobby and the Campbell family. Getting a bit more into the larger world of Hunters is always good for the show and added dimensions to the first half of the season that were lacking in the final third as the show went out of its way to kill everybody else off. Bobby is still kicking, I guess.

There were some great episodes in there. The raid on Crowley with Meg and Castiel’s weird sexual tension was good. More should have been made of that, really. Fish out of water Cas is the best Cas but I suppose they needed to change the character to keep him fresh. Right. And again, I should reiterate that those early episodes with Sammy No-Soul and the Campbells and Alphas and so on were pretty good. And dark.

Then it went to shit. But why do I think so? Why indeed.

It all kind of started to fall apart when the show engineered a conflict between Cas and the Bros over his working with Crowley. So many missteps here that the only explanation has to be some kind of problem in the process of writing it. I have no inside info so that’s speculation but I don’t know how else you explain the inappropriately shaped box they tried to cram this “surprise” into.

Examples of what I mean:

-Bobby, Sam, and Dean (among others) have made deals with and worked with demons including Crowley in the past. I get that they aren’t big Crowley fans after he bailed on them before but he helped all through S5 and seems to have a code of some kind. Never seemed like much of a villain to me. Why is it such a big deal when Castiel does it? They are huge hypocrites and the show never acknowledges it because it needs to contrive past that stuff or their house of cards falls apart. Unfortunately for them, it does anyway for the discerning viewer at least.

-Which brings me to the biggest what the fuck plothole in the show’s history. Castiel never, ever properly explains his partnership with Crowley, or his reasoning, to anyone but God. WE know what he’s up to and why, and may even agree with him (it’s fucking reasonable, really) but his human allies don’t. He never properly explains himself. This is because the show requires him not to if he’s going to end up being the villain and if the boys are going to end up justified in going after him in S7. You get that? He doesn’t explain himself because if he did, other characters would make entirely different decisions. To get to Point B from Point A, the writers had to conjure contrivance after insulting contrivance.

-The reasoning for Castiel’s moves is that Raphael will just restart what Michael and Lucifer almost put together before they got Winchester’d. That seems a helluva lot more important than “just trust me, Cas, you’re like a brother to me”. The reasons to get mad at Cas are vapor. I understand feeling betrayed because he lied but the guy bends over backward for them. Castiel’s slide darkside has a lot to do with how he is treated by his surrogate family. A lot of people will say this shows why it was such an awesome decision for the character, etc. It’s bullshit. None of this stuff would have happened if Castiel had done anything other than the lunkheaded double-dealing required by the writers to cram him into their lofty vision of the “New God” villain for S7. It’s ridiculous and betrays the characters as well as the show. All of a sudden we’re supposed to believe Castiel is far gone enough to kill Balthazar just for keeping tabs on him?

So there are some pretty strong examples that the showrunners poorly set up the final conflict of their unnecessary season, thereby undoing all the hard work and unlikely success they had making people believe that this show still had legs. It probably DOES still have legs, if I can clarify, but not if it’s going to be run this sloppily.

Let’s get into the episode itself.

I like that they finally decided to wrap up the Lisa and Ben subplot but this is how they do it? Erase their brains for me, Castiel! But I’ll still rage at you and suspect you for the same shit I’ve done several times. Oh sure, lessons have been learned along the way but c’mon. I mean, why not just kill the characters off to give Dean a reason to be a morose fuck for S7. I think that Castiel, the honorary feathery Winchester having fallen isn’t going to quite do it. The worst part is, Lisa and Ben are still conceivable targets for anything having it in for Dean to go after as a way of getting to him. Erasing their memories will keep them out of a Crowley-like situation another time around? Really? But this is meant to close that down, I’m sure, and suggests an uncharacteristic disregard for audience intelligence. It’s tantamount to the show flipping us all the bird.

And what the fuck were they thinking bringing HP Lovecraft into this in such a perfunctory and lame manner? I had heard he would be in the show and dreamed a dark dream of Lovecraftian horror being the next (and maybe final) corner of the genre that Supernatural would tackle. And this would be perfect as Lovecraft’s bone-chilling visions of cosmic entities of ambivalent insanity is a great direction to take the series and maybe the only thing bigger than Heaven vs Hell. And I’m also sure they could handled it with a budget by focusing on cults and shit. That said, the reason it’s just a box to check probably has to do with a lack of confidence in doing the idea justice with the rapidly shrinking budget of this show.

Or maybe they don’t really think that far ahead since Castiel being a new God with Old Testament flavor seems pretty big for the small budget. And while we’re on the subject, was there a more obvious direction for the show to take? Really, having Castiel go mad with power or whatever is an idea I can get behind. I like the idea of an absentee God being replaced by a juvenile one (with requisite jealousy, authoritarianism, etc). But if the notion isn’t properly set up or paid off by the show, how can I get behind it? If they really planned to have Castiel go bad, what stopped them from thinking out some believable motivations for everybody to end up at odds? As it stands, it’s a cool idea that seems contrived and out of context.

Oh and speaking of contrived. THIS is how they pay off a half season worth of waiting for Sam to remember Hell? For fuck’s sake. I mean, they only mention “the wall coming down” in every other episode. The result of which is what, a half-episode of wheel-spinning while he hunts his others in his mind? Fuck. Nevermind that this idea that all those souls might cause some sort of collateral damage like a nuclear meltdown doesn’t even come up until the last few episodes. Orly, Supernatural? I don’t understand why they expect us to care about plot points and character beats when they are delivered so haphazardly.

Take that time and use it on developing Castiel’s state of mind. You know, the one thing the audience is going to care about when he starts capping friends and double-crossing allies. People are going to say the “Castiel Episode” sets this all up but it’s too little, too late. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it pretty goddamn lazy that they waited until a handful of episodes before the finale to finally drop the major setup for their big finale. Really? Again, it feels like they changed their minds or something halfway through.

In general, the Castiel stuff has been one of the great examples of why they always say “show, don’t tell”. We should have seen more of why the war was going so badly, more of Team Castiel’s back against the wall. More of angels joining him because he seems to have God’s confidence after his resurrection and rejuicing. I mean, this shit isn’t difficult to identify as the building blocks to creating the kind of situation where we’d buy into the ultimate conclusion of what we’ve seen. Instead everything is just… sidetracked until it’s needed and then dumped on us all at once and still not developed enough to be convincing. Yeesh.

Anyway, I think that’s enough. So now I’m going to talk about how they can save this show in S7…

Don’t let this fucking god thing go on too long. If you’re going to have him go good again, get it over with fast. Do not make this the major arc of the season unless you’re going to find a way to tie in all the disparate Judeo-Christian mythology elements that have been left hanging since they were introduced. Best example: the Anti-christ kid. I could almost a see a really good 11th hour redemption thing after a season of Castiel ruining the world. If you’re going to have Castiel as the reigning God, do not leave things more or less status quo in the waking world. Castiel should make his presence felt. The world should be practically post-apocalyptic and definitely dystopian if you’re going to hinge a season on Castiel’s fall.

Find a way to deal with the after-effects of Sam’s ordeal. Do not “leave it at that” because the shit was weak. Please try and find a way to make us care about Sam and Dean again without resorting to contrived conflict and other bullshit. Maybe just let them be for a while and focus on other shit for your drama and theming.

Let Crowley come back. The character (thanks to the actor) are hugely part of why Season 6 wasn’t all bad. Along these lines, try and repopulate the Winchesters network of allies (or focus on their isolation). Let some female characters fucking live a while. Follow up on the recurring idea that demons and monsters are capable of being decent “people” and that sometimes humans are far worse.

I’m sure there’s a lot more they could do to ensure that Season 7 isn’t the debacle Season 6 proved to be. One of these things is to negotiate a better budget or stop writing things they can’t afford to do justice. The “dragons” and “phoenix” were major disappointments. If Angel and Buffy the Vampireslayer could have interesting-looking monsters and demons, so can you Supernatural. Embrace makeup effects for fuck’s sake.

I’m not really sure what else to say so I’ll just make disgusted noises from the other side of my computer while I try to imagine ways they’re going to make it all better. If they even notice that they need to.

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