Brief S11 review (aka Not sad to see Carver go)

I wasn’t really sure if I was going to do an overall season review of Supernatural given I’ve started on that retrospective.  But somebody asked me to so here’s a few thoughts which will probably be expanded to nauseating detail later in the future.

Quick summation: S11 was like…. trying to raise a child that constantly shats on himself.  No matter where or when he just has no bowel control.  One day he declares proudly, “i’m gonna do a cartwheel!”  Right as you prepare for the worst, he successfully makes it over his hands… only to trip on his own shoelace when sticking the landing, sending himself tumbling down the stairs, knocking everything off the furniture, tearing out the front screen door as his momentum carries him end over end towards the sidewalk, tripping the mailman that was approaching as well as a jogging party before coming to a stop in the middle of the street – after a car swerved to avoid hitting him, ramming into your parked car and a few others.  And yet you’re so proud because the kid never once shat his pants during the whole ordeal.

Really of his 4 seasons, S11 is probably Carver’s best (but then only because it contains the STUPENDOUS episode “Baby” while S8, the next closest competitor, contained the horrendous “Taxi Driver”).

Thing is, it didn’t have to be this way.  It wasn’t impossible to fit “God’s sis” into the established cosmology of Supernatural, but it was going to take a little bit of work and some things would be stretched.  Just take a moment with me and imagine (emphasis, ‘IMAGINE’) a bit of dialog along the lines of:
“My brother attacked me with his 4 archangels.  So I fought back with 4 servants of my own that were eventually called the Horsemen.  The greatest of these I named ‘Death.'”

Sure it doesn’t perfectly smooth over Death’s line in S5 about him being the Yin to God’s Yang but it at least answers some questions about the Horsemen and implies some answers about why Death is as powerful as he is.  But to add to all that we now have additional drama back-added to S5 where now we can see the relationship between Death and Lucifer is one of former enemies and one of them is now enslaved to the will of other.  Heck if you really want to be ambitious, you could go and retcon a few things to reveal that since his release, Death had been working on a plot to release the DarknessTM.  Yes that would have been a lot like Azazel’s plan and Lucifer, but the season was already ripping off enough of S5, what’s one more?

Or what if (possibly even in addition to the above) they revealed that Amara was the one who created the leviathan to consume her brother’s works?  Things about them would make a lot more sense than they do now.

Just a couple of lines of dialog scattered around and everything would have fit perfectly, but all season long it was just a series of frustrations one after another that could have easily been fixed.  Let’s take a brief moment to look at an entry on the Winchester Family Business’s fan awards poll.  One entry says, “What is the Worst Crime against Supernatural by the writers in Supernatural Season 11?” and happens to be a very useful catalog of these frustrations.

Hand of God artifacts.  Why spend so much time on those when it turned out they were “redundant” once Chuck/God showed up?

Why was this so frustrating?  Because it was the exact same arc as S5’s Colt gun.  “We need a weapon against the enemy.” “Here is a weapon.” “Oh noes, it failed!”  The DIFFERENCE is that the Colt itself (because yes, props can have arcs too) spent 4 years previously SHOWING us the power and importance it had.  When the characters thought of the Colt, we the audience were also thinking about the Colt.  The revelation that there is an * after “the gun that can kill anything” was a blow to the audience as much as the characters because it was emotionally like a friend letting us down.  The HoG artifacts had NO build up.  There was no time for the audience to “get to know” these props and invest anything in them.

But you know what would have worked?  DEATH’S SCYTHE!  This was a prop introduced way back in S4 and at least had several hints that it was powerful.  Maybe not every audience member, but enough were probably thinking about it with the revelation of the DarknessTM being God’s sister.  “Death said he would reap God, the DarknessTM is God’s sister, he could reap the DarknessTM.”  But what do they do?  The show dissolves the thing at the end of the previous season in an off focus shot.  They COULD have done: “What if we used the scythe?” “What happened to it?” *goes on a search* “Found it!” *stabbity stab* “Oops, it doesn’t work now that Death’s – um… dead.” “Thanks, DEAN.”  In case you didn’t notice, it’s entirely the same plot as the HoGs, but the audience has investment in the prop and could actually believe it might work for a second!

Stressing a bond between Dean and Amara all season long that went nowhere except a big pep talk at the end.

Again like the bond Sam & Lucifer were supposed to have in S5 (though that was also a bit weak).  But like the statement says, what about it?  We saw Sam have more erotic dreams about Bella than Dean ever had about Amara.  (they couldn’t spare 1 “she came to his bedroom” dream the whole season?)  This is especially pathetic to me since I’ve just started watching Grimm and S2 of that had two characters becoming obsessed with each other thanks to a magical bond and by comparison it was far better done.

Bringing back Lucifer by possessing Castiel, calling him God’s “First” son and favorite, making him a petulant spoiled brat instead of the fearsome villain he’s always been.

And every handwaving of Michael was done AFTER the main characters majorly screwed up and didn’t even consider summoning him first.  It was even more frustrating because the audience had to watch 4 years of Azazel & company accomplish what was done in an afternoon.  Which just goes to further cheapen Lucifer since when characters don’t have to work hard for something, the audience doesn’t value it either.

Building up a big mytharc all season long and then suddenly abandoning it in three very weak final episodes.

This?  Is pretty much everything else all summed up.  Every frustration and failure of story just erodes the mytharc and further weakens the conclusion.

Bringing back the amulet in one fantastic and emotional moment, and then never speaking of it again (You think it would have come up, where has it been all this time?  Why did Sam have it?)

This?  Is a handy representation of the wider failure to properly integrate and reference canon in the season.  Heck had a hypothetical prop search been for the amulet would have MUCH more audience investment than HoGs or the scythe.  Plus it would have run parallel to the sibling theme with a gift from one sibling to another now being used to harm the sibling of a being it would locate.

Dropping Sam’s faith arc and new resolve to save people by midseason.  He didn’t even get a chance to have a serious talk with Chuck/God!

The only worst dropped arc than this was Castiel’s.

Which one was that? – WHY WASN’T CASTIEL THE ONE TO RALLY THE ANGELS THE FIRST TIME?  They could have given him a character arc that would have come together so perfectly… He rallies the angels into the collective smiting, it fails, Amara leaves him alive to demoralize his followers, dejected he turns to Lucifer.  Heck then it would at least make 110% more sense why at the penultimate episode Castiel is the one who is able to rally the angels (a SECOND time) for another smiting.  That’s how stories, work.

And in Sam’s case it should have been him to call out in prayer for God to answer in “Don’t call me Shurley” – or at least his insistence that Dean do so.

.

Way back at the beginning of the season, I joked with someone else that the season would end with Sam & Dean releasing Lucifer & Michael in a mutual agreement and the archangels would take over both brothers for a tag team match against the DarknessTM that would be almost DragonBallZ-esque in execution.

Who would have guessed that would have been the season’s best possible ending.

It wasn’t all horrible.  The arc was at least understandable and actions usually made some modicum of sense.  They actors & actresses all did very good with what they were given.  It just… could have been so, so much better.  This was a season that could have been truly epic and memorable.

Instead it was just mediocre.

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4 thoughts on “Brief S11 review (aka Not sad to see Carver go)

  1. So true, so true!

    I would have total outrage over how Castiel was treated this season and how God’s presence didn’t energize the angels (although it did come up in my season finale review), but the problem is they’ve neutered Castiel ever since Carver took over. The last writer that even attempted to do anything with Castiel was Ben Edlund and he’s been long gone. ALL of these writers need to go back and watch Castiel in seasons 4, 5 and even 6! Maybe they can remember that this guy is a warrior angel and a deep man of faith. His non-reaction to God’s presence is ludicrous! But, in this season, they made a point of building Sam’s faith and then abandoned it when God showed up? It was clear by that point the that writers had no f***ing idea what they were doing, except Robbie, and he was on his way out the door.

    By the way, I’ve been re-watching season six recently and while some of the stories were clunky, they still did a great job on characterization, something that really, really faltered in the Carver era. I’m so f***ing mad how badly they’ve butchered Crowley’s character in recent seasons. That’s even worse than Castiel and they’re practically ruined him.

    I think Carver in his era held back too much. He didn’t try to advance plots very quickly or elaborately and generate any huge excitement. He was perfectly happy with making everything barely serviceable. I do like that he let writers like Robbie Thompson run with some risky concepts, but for the most part, he didn’t really care about the mytharc and did the bare minimum to make it work. Considering it was a show he inherited, I could see why the lack of investment. It still doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.

    Another person who is happy with the serviceable status quo is Robert Singer. He’s here to make TV, not move mountains. He comes from the era when TV didn’t have any production value and was cheaply made. He doesn’t pay attention to canon nor does he really care. Kripke wanted to change the world. The fact that Singer had to come out of retirement to “rescue” Supernatural’s implosion once Carver left is just pathetic. I really hope they’re planning the end game.

    • I don’t entirely envy the writers since Castiel is too popular to ditch, but powerful enough that his presence acts like a loadstone around the plots. There was some hope in S9 when they made him mortal. He could still have remained a warrior, after all Sam & Dean are mortal yet remain recognized as dangerous fighters so there could have been stories drawn from Cas learning how to fight like a man and unlearn fighting like an angel. Part of me thought we might get something interesting with him taking over as perhaps a medic/bobby type in the bunker who could use ordinary supplies and spells to heal up the boys while using his own vast experience along with the MoL haul to figure out the monster of the week. Then you could at least explain why the boys look healthy again the next episode while leaving an explanation for why they can’t just resurrect anybody, like Charlie.

      But instead they had to give him back his grace AND THEN DO THE EXACT SAME THING ANYWAY. You could have had all of Castiel’s actions since S9 done by a mortal version and changed NOTHING except for maybe a dozen scenes (“oh but we’d lose the whole ‘bad grace is killing him’ arc”) but at least have an explanation for why Charlies can’t be resurrected.

      I think Carver in his era held back too much. He didn’t try to advance plots very quickly or elaborately and generate any huge excitement. He was perfectly happy with making everything barely serviceable. I do like that he let writers like Robbie Thompson run with some risky concepts, but for the most part, he didn’t really care about the mytharc and did the bare minimum to make it work. Considering it was a show he inherited, I could see why the lack of investment. It still doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.

      Almost perfectly well put. I might rip your words off later on. I’ll try to remember to attribute them to you. 😉

      Another person who is happy with the serviceable status quo is Robert Singer. He’s here to make TV, not move mountains. He comes from the era when TV didn’t have any production value and was cheaply made. He doesn’t pay attention to canon nor does he really care. Kripke wanted to change the world. The fact that Singer had to come out of retirement to “rescue” Supernatural’s implosion once Carver left is just pathetic. I really hope they’re planning the end game.

      So the show is having an implosion? I thought it was on top of the world and doing better than Gamble’s years.

      There’s nothing inherently wrong with Singer’s belief, challenging and restricting yourself generally increases one’s artistry. Plus it can be good to keep someone on hand who can remind you that one doesn’t have unlimited funds. Paired with another ambitious dreamer they could reach that perfect tension required to make a great show. I wish I had more faith in Adam Glass to think he could be that dreamer but given Bloodlines and what this last season closed out with it seems like he would much prefer to work on Grimm (which is a good show, I’m catching up on it now) than Supernatural.

      Looking back now I really wish they had established a routine of each show runner bringing on board a different set of hunters/main characters to revolve the show around for their run. (hey you could use Castiel as a connecting agent!)

  2. I think you mean Andrew Dabb and not Adam Glass? Adam Glass was the writer that liked to write himself in to the story by pretending he was Dean. I thought the end of Season 11 was a complete mess and a failure, though I suppose they did the best they could with cleaning it up. While Carver’s concept of the Darkness/Amara might have been interesting, was any thought really given how to wrap the storyline up, or by then did Carver realize he’d be gone and said, screw it, let the next showrunner worry about it? Came across that way to me. And for that I’ll give Dabb a pass on how Season 11 finished up.

    Absolutely right about Castiel and Crowley; at times, I was embarassed for Mark Sheppard, watching some of the things they were making Crowley do. And, this is an unpopular opinion but if you can’t find something interesting for Cas to do , then kill him off or send him back to heaven. I miss the warrior angel Cas of S4/S5 and could do with less comic relief Cas.

    Going forward, what worries me more is that Singer is back and Bucker/Ross-Leming were elevated to executive producers. While I agree that Bob Singer does bring practical showrunning experience (working on the business side of things – budgets/deadlines, etc.), I hope Dabb has a strong enough personality to push back on the creative side of things. Given this, and the big turnover in the writing staff, we should know pretty quickly whether this is the proverbial beginning of the end for Supernatural. Or, optimistically, maybe some fresh blood is just what the show needs.

    • Yes that is who I meant, I don’t know how I made that mistake.

      Could go either way. The crossroads podcast was talking about this too here recently. They brought up that Star Trek enterprise once allowed fans to submit work or something (forgot details). Who knows if SPN will resort to that. I think it could be interesting if they had a “motw” submission system.

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