First, let me address a point brought up by Klutor:
Me: Why would he drop a hint about being scared of Dean? Demons are always prideful and about the only one more full of himself than Azazel was Alastair.
Klutor: True, but it could’ve been a subtle blink-and-you-miss-it thing. Or he could’ve voiced that fear privately to Meg/Duane/whoever, in order to motivate them more. “Do Daddy this one favor, will you, sweetheart?”
One of my favorite essayists on the internet (because he’s more than just a simple blogger) is Mad Goblin of SpideyKicksButt. He frequently takes what is clearly a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” medium (comic books) and will work in retcons and revelations from the stand point as if the Spidey universe was one planned out, consistent whole. (Like ours, perhaps?) I blatantly rip off his style because I find trying to fit everything together to be more fun than just answering questions with “well the writers didn’t think of it”. While that may be technically correct, it’s pretty boring of an answer.
One of the things that attracted me to Supernatural, is that I can just tell the show writes in a style very much like my own: you get a general, overall outline, but then let the details write themselves. So for example, I have strong evidence that at the beginning, it was never planned for Dean to be Michael’s vessel. That’s the “actual” answer to your question: There were no subtle clues because it wasn’t an idea until after Azazel was gone.” But that’s boring. So I like to say the answer is: “Because demons are too proud, yadda yadda yadda.”
Why do I bring this up?
Because never was it clearer that there was no plan, no direction than in season 6. I haven’t gotten as much behind-the-scenes material this time (because if I have magazines and books around, it makes it harder for me to deny season 6 exists) but it’s still so obvious that the writers were trying everything in the hope that something would “work”. Things like…
Lisa & Ben – This was the plot thread I was actually looking most forward to. For 5 seasons we’ve examined the brothers on the “eternal road trip” (though the road aspect of it was a little less emphasized in seasons 4 & 5). The default seems to be for hunters to always be on the move, but does it have to be? What if a hunter just “patrolled” or kept watch over a certain area? Again, there’s a lot of drama and story potential to be drawn from competing obligations. Does Dean have an obligation to his fellow man to stop the things that go bump in the night? How does he juggle that with the obligation to Lisa & Ben? Then to top it all off, almost all of the scenes involving the family were structured in a way almost guaranteed to fail. Why doesn’t Dean open up more to his wife and kid? They’re not the innocents they were. He’s saved them from a monster, they are aware that the “other world” exists. (This is part of why I liked Anna as Dean’s girl – she actually forced him to talk about things he needed to like a good woman should.) For added irony, at the end of season 5, Dean called Chuck out on having a real “virgin/whore complex”, and yet here we see that Dean has a similar complex – only instead of revolving around sex he seems to see it more as an “innocent/knowledgeable” kind of complex (hmmm… still looking for a good term – feel free to help me out here). It’s like Dean has such an idealized idea of a “home life” that he cannot stand to have it “stained” with evil or monsters. Which is in character for him and a believable reaction. But people have been making homes and families work since the beginning of time – often under less than ideal circumstances and so it was disappointing to see Dean not go through any character growth learning this lesson. It’s like the whole season had an unfortunate message that “if the family isn’t perfect, just give up”.
Grandpappy – Of all the hinted at storylines of this season, this was the one I was most hoping for. We’ve got to see the brothers interacting in a variety of relationships but not with a closer father figure. Not with a father figure as an equal. The first misstep was introducing the other Campbells. The SPN cast works best when it’s kept small – under half a dozen. But I thought it wasn’t completely unsalvageable. Heck, Dean even had a bit of chemistry with one of his [very] distant relatives (possibly the only girl worthy of taking Anna’s place). Maybe a bit of a love triangle? Dean having to choose between who the life he has and the life he wants? Instead, everything that could have been done, was wasted. It’s not even that there was tension between Granddad and his grandsons, it’s that no effort was made to resolve it. Samuel & Dean never acknowledged that they had met once before, or tried to build on that rapport. Then we find out that all of Granddad’s efforts were for Mary? That he “doesn’t even know” his grandkids? I’m sorry, but I think whoever wrote this has never known or met a grandparent in their life. I not only knew 4 very loving grandparents, but a lot of my friends have started having kids of their own and I’ve gotten to watch their parents’ reaction. Even though that new baby may only be a day old – even though the grandparents don’t know anything about them – those grandparents would be more than willing to do anything for the sake of their grandkid. Samuel’s motivation should have been to save Sam’s soul. At the end of season 5, the writers should have gone for something daring (like they used to) and left Bobby Singer dead. (Yes I know this would have condemned his soul to Hell but that whole deal with Crowley was so obviously tacked on to give them a plot thread for season 6 I wish it had been left out completely.) Then, season 6: Castiel brings Samuel back to life to give the brothers the father figure that they need. Make an excuse to keep Bobby dead like… “he was with his wife and I didn’t want to disturb them”. Give us a new relationship for the brothers to explore without treading the same ground. Seriously, why was he brought back? Sam gave us the clue that “whatever brought Sam up must have dragged me down” and once we found out that it was Castiel, that makes some sense (because I never believed Crowley had that kind of power), but why did Castiel do it? Seems like the answer from the writers is: “Shut up – let’s just pretend it never happened.”
Robo!Sam – “What is the soul” is a very old (if not the oldest) human question. How would SPN handle the answer? Well it will start with nuance and interesting questions… only to devolve into turning Robo!Sam into another villain. It’s almost funny watching early season 6 and late season 6 back to back. In the beginning, Robo!Sam was just a little off, but still seemed pretty decent. By the end (even retroactively), he’s as monstrous as anything they brothers have killed. It wasn’t a bad concept, but there was a problem this season with over-saturation. Every new idea we have takes away from time that could be spent examining a previous idea in depth. The only way to get around this is to tie ideas together (ex. developing a relationship with Grandpa while working to restore Sam to his “true self”). Instead, Sam’s soulless state doesn’t impact or intersect with any other story this season; and a fascinating character study was lost from it.
Monsters Amok – When looking back at the world of SPN, it’s easy to see now (especially with the RPG’s monster manuel) 3 divisions: Demons, Angels, other (principally monsters & ghosts). One of the things I complained about (but look back now, see that it was brilliant), is that the 3rd group never intersected with the first two (until Hammer of the Gods, anyway). We never even saw two different monsters intersect with each other. Just imagine all the possibilities! What would a vampire have to say to a shapeshifter? On and on it goes. For two whole seasons (and more in the case of Demons) we examined and witnessed the power structures and struggles of angels & demons. They were two empires, each run by a different system (or were they that different?) fighting with humanity caught in the middle. “Others” were nothing more than pure anarchy – disorganized – separated. If we look back in the (theoretical) history of the SPN verse, it seems obvious: demons wanted to wipe out humanity, angels were under orders to avoid that, so the two empires fought it out in various cold war analogies with monsters picking up scraps left over from the battle. Fast-forward to the end of season 5. Both empires have suffered a pretty crushing defeat (of sorts). There should be a proverbial and literal power vacuum in the world. So, with angels out of the way, demons out of the way, this should have been the season for monsters to shine (and it started out like maybe it would be). “Rules” are being broken because conceptually the rules were somewhat self-imposed by the monsters to avoid bringing the attention of either empire upon them. No longer a concern. And while the demons hated humans and angels were indifferent, monsters should be very interested in us. From breeding (i.e. vampires) to food (i.e. ….everyone) they want us around – they want us to be around forever and ever. Once upon a time they were worried we humans would be taken away from them (rapture? croatan virus? etc), but the Winchesters prevented that. The monsters know now: we will always be around. For the first time… they have hope. But any chance of this story idea was ruined by…
Mother-of-All – I am so angry about her. Not at first though. When I first heard the hints about her, a friend and I thought maybe she was going to be Echidna and thought that maybe it was a sign that this season they’ll take on a predominantly Greek mythology. Instead of (again) doing something interesting, the writers turned her into the “monster commander”. And via that, the monsters of the show were robbed of their distinguishing feature and turned into just another “empire” no different from angels or demons.
Quest for Purgatory – See above. The intersection between the monsters and the A&D world was not handled well. Especially because it was never answered why monsters that are currently alive would know about where a “location” is that monsters go to when they die. If you don’t know why that was so stupid, just imagine it was Crowley torturing people, asking them “where is Heaven?” and you’ll probably see the logic flaw. We’re never really given much of a reason for all these efforts for Purgatory till the end of the season. Until then it was “expanding real estate” which… makes one wonder why nobody else (not Satan, not Azazel, not Lilith, etc) ever had this idea. Nothing about this worked or made any sense until…
Angel Civil War (aka Fall of Castiel) – The plotline the writers finally settled on and ran with all the way to the end. And it still sort of failed (but not as much as the others). I was more active on the TV Tropes message board than before and if that place was any indication, this was the one plot thread the fandom latched onto. Why? At first it seemed that the civil war was just a plot device to keep Castiel out of the way and easily solving all the boys’ problems. Which meant the writers didn’t have as much time to screw it up like all the other plot threads. When the show finally focused on it? …It only “worked” because the other efforts were so bad in comparison. Without the season long build up and effort, we were stuck with Dean & Sam & Bobby suddenly becoming stubborn assholes just to keep Castiel on the railroad to villaindom. In season 4, the stubbornness that drove the brothers apart was believable and worked better because we had spent the entire season seeing them try to deal with factors way bigger than themselves. By the end of this season? It was just full on character derailment.
Season 7 may redeem this whole ordeal but far I only care to watch 2 episodes from this season more than once.