Not done with S10 just yet…
One advantage with long form story telling is that the audience gets to witness the consequences of the protagonists’ actions and S10 did seem to settle upon examining all of the “consequences” of the brother’s efforts as its major theme.
The most obvious that springs to mind would be the negative consequences of Dean choosing the MoC and him becoming a demon. Cain wanted to make this point about his “children” (readas: consequences) during his single appearance during the season. The problem with the execution was… the largest consequence the audience could see Dean dealing with all season, was Cole – who intersected Dean’s life long before he ever got the MoC. Again, as pointed out last time, this worked to undercut the attempted implications and narrative stress of the Mark. Charlie returned from Oz dragging the consequences of her choices there into the Winchesters’ lives, and this worked better as a parallel to Dean’s struggle. Crowley and Rowena’s entire dance in S10 did echo the “consequence” theme as both of them were scripted like they were struggling with life choices, but it didn’t quite work out like intended. After having the heroes deny him any shot at redemption, the show could never really convince the audience that he felt much regret over his actions. Instead of setting him up as a contrast to Dean, the show just has Dean completing the curing ritual that was denied to Crowley and move on. Rowena, meanwhile spent most of the season as a nebulous character with no clear plan or goal beyond the whimsey of the moment. Ironically in a season all about consequences, she ended up escaping all of hers.
You’ll also notice that many of the MotW episodes this season had more of a “consequence” theme to them. In fact, let’s compare them to some earlier show parallels.
- Paper Moon – Deals more with the source werewolf dealing with the consequence of turning her sister. Compare with S2’s Heart which is far more about the person turned and Sam’s emotional turmoil over it.
- Ask Jeeves – Unlike any previous appearance by a shapeshifter, this time it isn’t greed or desire involving the shifter but the consequences of a mother’s affair and Bobby’s choice to spare a child.
- The Things They Carried – Deals more with Cole (a consequence of S-1 Dean) and soldiers bringing back consequences of a war.
- Halt & Catch Fire – While a beat for beat remake of Bloody Mary in it’s story structure, the ghost in S1 was more like a curse with the episode itself being far more about revelation. In S10 we have the victims dealing with their consequence of killing someone.
- Paint it Black – Goes far more into a ghost’s history than most other stories (like the pilot‘s) and paints the plot in light of the consequences of the artist while trying to get the ghost to come to terms with the consequences of its actions.
The problem is that while all of these episodes at least continue the theme of the season, you’ll notice above that the main characters are incidental to the plots. One could literally drop any other hunter character into them and have the episode still work compared to the earlier episodes which still very much required them.
However examining “all” consequences means all consequences – including the positive ones. So we have the two-hundredth episode, Fan Fiction, which gives the boys a moment to remember the positive impacts they’ve had on the world while applying some metaness to examine the positive impact they’ve had on OUR world. Hibbing 911 reunites us with 2 characters who wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for our boys, Jody & Donna as they help save more lives thanks to things they’ve learned.
Then there’s the really complicated, deep stuff. Because in life, sometimes even the right choice, or the best choice, or the least bad choice, will still have negative consequences. To me, the marked difference between a hero and villain is that the former faces and deals with these consequences while the latter tries to avoid them. This is why, ultimately, I kind of liked this season’s examination of Jimmy Novak’s family. Looking back with hindsight, it is pretty clear that Jimmy taking on Castiel full time was the best choice they had (no matter how funny it is to think about Godstiel being an 8 year old girl). Yet even though Jimmy and Cas made the right choice, it doesn’t take away from the fact that a daughter was left without her father. Of course she’s going to grow up a little messed up! Ideally she & her mom would have been “adopted” and cared for by the boys, but they hardly live in an ideal world.
Which gets a bit meta since this possibly rich, heartwarming storyline wasn’t realized ideally either. The outgrowth of the plot was the bare minimum to be organic. Time as a mortal in the previous season, having a near-death experience from the “bad grace” – none of that is shown as giving Castiel a moment of reflection upon the life he had to take. The show could have used a good retcon when Claire reveals, “I used to pray to you Castiel, every night. I would beg you to bring him home safe.” Did that impact Cas? Was the prayer part of what drove him in S6? What gave Cas the ability to resist the Leviathan in S7? Is it why Naomi tampered with him in S8, to shut that voice out? Were there times he wanted to go to Claire? Did he consider it while mortal the previous season? We don’t know, that line is the most we’re given. So it falls flat because the creators remove any potential story inertia from it. They don’t even tie in more tightly with the boys, having them reminisce about their father (which was nice) rather than the children their actions may have harmed (like Cole).
So the season limped along, finally gathered under a unifying theme, but no plan or consideration on how to examine or utilize that theme. A season that should have had the boys front and center most of the time, ended up pushing them to the side and keeping them as barely involved as possible. That also contributed to the forgetfulness of S10.