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.