“Do you want to hear a story?”
Ever thought about how odd that question is? Boil humanity down to the basics, imagine ourselves in at the very dawn of humanity. Two cavemen trading a goat for a stone hammer makes logical sens, we have the physical needs for food and tools, so a question like, “Can I have that hammer?” makes obvious sense. So why would we exchange a story? Time is the most precious of all Man’s resources so why would anyone give theirs to a storyteller? The apparently conclusion is that we do get SOMETHING from stories, it is just intangible. A greater understanding of the world, of other people, even an emotion, we seek out stories to get something from them. Hence the variability in people’s reaction to stories, some gain more from ones than others*.
So “Do you want to hear a story?” Almost everybody would reply, “What kind of story?” Why? Because in order to save that most precious of resources – time – Man has classified stories into genre in order to give everyone a hint as to what they might receive from that story. “What kind of story?” If I say “romantic,” you’ll know you should experience love. If I answer “horror,” fear should strike your heart. You ask because you might not want to experience this or that emotion, and if you’re not in the mood for love, then you don’t want to waste your time with a romantic tale. Thus the audience becomes very cross if they storyteller promises them one tale, and delivers another. The sole exception would be with jokes (quick little stories in their own right) because the unexpectedness contributes to the humor and laughter is almost always a positive emotion for people.
By now, you’ve probably figured out what this all has to do with S11.
Today “Do you want to hear a story?” is asked in advertisements and in the foreshadowing of an ongoing story. What did S10 promise the viewers? We watched a Dean that was supposed to be struggling against his darker nature – at one point becoming an outright demon. Cain, who also bore the MoC, said he could no longer resist it, that “There is no resisting the Mark or the Blade, there is only remission and relapse!” Then at the very end we learn the MoC is trapping “the Darkness(TM)” and the clear implication that this force is what drove Lucifer, Cain and even Dean to do the deeds they do.
Then S11 begins. We see people reduced to little more than zombies, committing acts they wouldn’t normally (like Dean once did). The form the Darkness(TM) has taken begins to outright eat souls. Everything promises the audience that this will be like S5’s fight against Lucifer – only bigger. This is not just an evil, but THE evil, THE Darkness to God’s Light. In fact God Himself (as Chuck) must get involved.
And in the end? Well turns out it was just a spat between siblings, everything will be better after a family field trip.
That isn’t to say that a redemptive arc for a villain can’t work as a story or be rewarding but the audience will not be happy if it goes against what was promised. Sam’s effort to figure out how to cure the not-quite-zombies? Never used again. Crowley’s efforts to raise Amara to be on his side? Pointless. Releasing Lucifer? Searching for the Hands of God? Amara & Dean’s connection? All worthless to the overall plot and the characters. Turns out Chuck and a Little Old Lady(TM) were all you needed. It’s no wonder a portion of the fandom had a negative reaction to the conclusion of S11, it was mostly revealed to be a waste of time.
How could it have been? Earlier in the season, Lucifer took Sam on an internal journey looking at his life. If you wanted to keep things as they were, then the last episode of S11 should have been a parallel with Dean & Amara. Perhaps reveal that Chuck is dead, and all is Darkness except for Dean. Amara comes to him, but is disturbed that he doesn’t seem happy. So she takes him on an internal journey where she sees through his life that he was happy with family, that joy can come from serving others. Point out that even when he was angriest with Sam, Dean still loved him. Let her maybe create something and discover the joy that Chuck had in creation itself. Eventually she realizes the error of her ways and undoes everything (maybe time travel, maybe resurrection, there’s plenty of excuses for it), bringing not just Chuck back, but those she killed. If you want to have the ultimate, epic Evil, then her redemption needs to be the ultimate, epic effort at reconciliation. Sure it may end up a clip show of the original 5 seasons, but then at least Sam and Dean BOTH would be playing a part in resolving the plot, which is also a promise the show usually makes and keeps year after year.
Betray the audience… and they will declare your story a bad deal.
*It even explains the generation gap. For example, parents, when they were young, watched/heard/read/etc story X, and gained an emotion. Then twenty years later, when new humans – their children – have grown older, storytellers repackage X into story Y, re-gifting the emotion to a new audience. But when the parents watch Y, they experience nothing new because they’ve already seen X and had that experience. Thus the parents hate Y and “just don’t get it.”