So if fixing the Veil isn’t quite the arc of S9, maybe it’s something else? What about Abaddon’s story?
In some ways I like Abaddon, she’s a great subject for testing to see if you were paying attention through this series at all.
So let’s put here through the villain test* back in part 6. Let’s also work backwards.
2) Can we imagine the villain in various scenarios? Could you imagine Abaddon on laundry day? Could you imagine her reaction to discovering facebook? Maybe barely, but it ends up being super-generic “rawr I’m evil” reactions. She’s apparently ambitious but then what? What will she do once in charge?
1) Can we imagine the villain succeeding or failing in another way? Had Sam & Dean not stopped her, what would happen? We get some hints and lines about her wanting to make hell on earth or conquer them or something but… why? How? Let’s track her actions a moment.
After her first appearance in 8.12, Abaddon doesn’t show up again until the very end of the season where… she does nothing but interrupt Sam a bit and then get burned. She returns in episode 9.02 actually leading some demons to fight the Winchesters and then disappears until episode 9.06 where she does… nothing. Then again in episode 9.10 where she does… nothing.
Well not quite nothing. During all these episodes when she’s been on screen she’s taunting Crowley. But so what? No really, other than we, the audience, like Mark Sheppard as an actor, what objective reason do we have to care or be invested in who runs Hell? (yes feel free to make your “Supernatural predicted the 2016 American election” jokes now, I’m not going to because we’d be here all day) Is one of them going to reform Hell? Make it a better place? Turns things around down there? Of course not, this is supposed to be a villain fight but the problem is we’re not given an in-story reason to prefer either outcome.
Which brings us to 9.11, First Born. Serious question: Did Crowley actually manipulate Dean in this episode? By a dictionary definition perhaps. The episode tries to frame it as a manipulation but take a step back. How does TV tropes define it? “[R]ather than do any work, the Manipulative Bastard prefers to play on other characters’ emotions and then watch the victims destroy themselves as they waste their energy on fighting against fake dangers or their friends.” Now for a manipulation to work, the mark must have their own motivation that the Bastard uses for his ends. If a villain is trying to coax me into stealing candy from that baby over there, he won’t get far if the baby has licorices, because I don’t care for that stuff. Manipulation in a story always requires that both sides have motivation and drive towards a goal, otherwise it just doesn’t happen.
So what was Dean’s motivation in working so hard to kill Abaddon? What did Crowley “manipulate?” Concern for the world? We don’t even find out that Abaddon is doing anything to the world until 9.17, 6 episodes later! Because she scratched up Baby and Dean wants revenge? That happened in 9.16, 5 episodes later! Because she killed his grandfather? Has he mentioned that at all this season? (Where was “that was for my granddad, you bitch”?)
I’m not making this up, just jump down to “ACT ONE” and start reading. Set aside your mental image of the actors and the scene and just read the words. Is there any motivation in that scene beyond Jensen Ackles need for a paycheck? Why does Dean even believe Crowley about the First Blade? Back in episode 9.02 Abaddon fled when Gadreel revealed himself, so it seems like an angel blade would be worth a try on her.
Yes, the biggest problem with Abaddon’s arc this season, is that it’s written backwards (ironic for a character introduced via time travel). Then to top it off, these motivations and rationales which are shown after logic dictates they should, make no further sense. Episode 9.17 shows Abaddon ripping people’s souls out of them. Which can be done? Azazel needs to make a deal with parents (4.03) to go into a house and feed their baby demon blood but can rip the souls out of said parents, no red tape against it? REALLY? Do I have to go into all the problems this introduces into the Supernatural cosmology? Oh wait, I already did. One could make some kind of argument that a woman ripping souls out is a foreshadowing of S11 but the problem with that is foreshadowing should clarify and explain the fictional world, not make it confusing.
So is Abaddon the arc of S9? For Crowley, barely, but even less for the Winchesters. They usually had to be reminded of her. They barely put more effort into solving her issue than the Veil, and that was usually only because the writers forced them too.
So what is the arc of S9?
*Upon reflection and thinking about Abaddon, I will amend Ruby’s score up in that test. Originally she was scored low because, “Apparently she never considers that Sam (or Dean) might just take that knife or Colt and go kill Lilith, which they very nearly did at the end of season 3.” But as Abaddon reminds us in S8 and Alastair proved in S4, some demons powerful enough (or old enough) were not affected by the knife. If Ruby made it that way deliberately, then her plan gains brilliant points as Sam could use the knife to defend himself against any demons opposed to the Release Lucifer plan (which seem to be typically young demons) but cannot harm the higher ups, including probably Lilith, meaning he would have to use his powers, breaking the seal. Likewise, if Ruby helped Bobby “fix” the Colt, who’s to say she didn’t similarly sabotage it in some way? THAT’S an interesting question to consider: could the Colt, pre-Ruby fix, have killed Lucifer? Was it only her “helping” Bobby with it that spared the devil from it?