(couldn’t quite get the roundtable so I’ll just post this and encourage comments)
(I’m also not linking episodes like I normally do, just look here if you need refreshers)
To amend a rhyme, I think I can best sum up SPN season 5 with: “When it was good, it was very very good. But when it was bad it was horrid.”
The season started off strong, even showing us how a monster of the week episode could be done with “Fallen Idols”. Then the season promptly came off the rails with the antichrist episode and “aging poker” game episode.
The antichrist episode didn’t make that mad with its cheap shot at religion as much as it just made no sense in continuity and was poorly directed. The poker game, I’ll come back to.
Nonetheless, the season continued very strong up to the mind blowing “Abandon All Hope”. Then, it plummeted.
“Sam, Interrupted” was another MotW that had potential for being interesting but ended up as just another replay of the siren episode. The following episodes weren’t bad, but felt like they were accomplishing very little. We also focus almost exclusively on Dean even though the audience needs to be seeing some stuff from Sam, which we haven’t since episode 5.03. Then the 100th episode finally accomplishes something and we get the next 3 heavily rushed until we at last get a worthwhile finale.
Without a doubt the biggest misstep was compressing two horsemen into one episode, when (especially once you learn their importance) each one deserved its own spotlight. If anything, I would have sacked “the Curious Case of Dean Winchester” and replaced it with the boys playing a poker game with death (hearkening to the theme of the Seventh Seal). It’s certainly believable that Death has the power to take or give years of life and in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” we’re shown Death taking (or being forced to take) a special interest in Bobby. The episode with the boys in the mental institute could have worked had it been played straight, had the boys been given a chance to actually work with real mental health professionals and given a chance to work through some of their character. Obvious ending: One doctor doesn’t believe them until the wraith is killed in front of him/her. Shaken, she lets the boys out, asking if everything they’ve told her is true. After a moment of hesitation, Sam & Dean lie and say not the part about the Apocalypse – she can rest easy.
Another misstep in this season was the fact that it was written as if this was the first season of the show. Unfortunately, the character arcs of Sam & Dean had grown such that their roles as the vessels never gel’d as well as they should have. By the end of season 4, Sam made more sense to becoming Michael (especially to fix what he did wrong) while Dean looked to be more like Lucifer, just to spite all the angels. Even from the father angle, Sam had become increasingly devoted to their father’s legacy while Dean, since dying (the first time), was more anxious to abandon it. Lucifer’s plea to “walk off the chessboard” in “Swan Song” could be almost word for word Dean’s begging to leave it all behind.
Still, the portrayal of Lucifer was one of the best I’ve seen in a long long time, though Michael’s needed so much more work. I know they had a limited budget, but that’s why it was all the more important for the show to really paint a picture with everything they had. That was the biggest problem with unrelated MotW episodes. Without even so much as a mention to the Apocalypse (which is one thing “Fallen Idols” got right), every one of them broke the readers from the sense of impending doom. Crowley was a great role, but a bad part. Toward the end, you started wondering why bring the boys along at all, just let Crowley do everything. Then the show wanted things both ways, so we have Dean getting his ass kicked by a demon at the start of one episode, only for him to “lock” the demon in a “cage match” with Sam saying, “We’re the ones they should be worried about.” That line doesn’t work when you had to run earlier. I miss the days when Dean would provoke a fight with Ruby just to pickpocket her knife and trick her into a devil’s trap.
Poor Castiel. Misha Collins kicks so much ass, yet keeps disappearing at the most unexplained times. It nearly becomes a drinking game where after every hiatus break, the angel was missing while the boys were in trouble. It would have been a lot better had they established the idea of Castiel running on a “power reserve” early and made it a dilemma through the season, the boys not wanting Castiel to use his abilities until they really really need it (like a Genie and 3 wishes).
Finally, just one minor thing that bugged me: I liked the image of the 4 horse-rings joined, but it’s imagery made no sense. It was essentially war in the center with pestilence, famine, and death surrounding it. If anything, Death should have been the inner ring, with the other 3 surrounding and linking to it. Makes me thing they hadn’t really planned on the “4 keys to the cage” thing form the beginning but made that part up as they went along.
All in all… pretty good season, better than 3 and 1 I think, but not as good a season as 4 or 2. What do you people thing?