A continued look into a hypothetical world where the show had adopted an unusual tradition…
Gamble’s years were still a bit rough and she left after 2, turning the show over to Carver. At the time rumors began to swell that Jared & Jensen would be returning but it turned out they were coming back in a behind-the-scenes manner (Jensen directing and Jared took up writing). Instead Carver decided to push the numbers and went with a set of three siblings (1 older and a pair of twins).
This seems to have focused Carver as S8 was a lot tighter in this world. The handoff episode a the beginning had our new protagonists finding the wife left behind last season. She taught them how to hunt Leviathans and gave them some pointers on how to clean up the mess before tossing the keys to Baby and walking off to try and find some way to save her husband from Purgatory.
Following that we had a hunt for Kevin and him joining the group then an arc involving finding, then translating the demon tablet over 5 episodes. Then the reveal of the trials. Turns out one of the siblings made a deal awhile back and the payment is coming due. (I won’t spoil which one.)
The second quarter of the season is when Castiel and Crowley return full force to the show and begin playing roles as chess masters with the siblings as key. Another five episodes of this (except for two MotW in there for character establishment) with the midseason break being the first trial. One of the twins passes it but the other is still killed off by other hellhounds, leaving the group reduced.
The third quarter of the season is the build up to the second trial: going to hell and back. 3 episodes are used to establish the trial, it’s rules, and prepare for Hell (Cas offers some advice since he’s visited before) and among these is the annual reunion episode with Dean and Gamble’s survivor coming back to help. Dean actually has a dramatic moment where he almost sabotages the plan because he wants Sam to be the soul rescued but he eventually agrees with the original plan in a moment that is one of the highlights of Jensen’s acting career and even made me tear up. The actual journey into Hell is an awesome and epic two-parter. Part 1 is getting into Hell and finding the lost sibling and ends on a cliffhanger with them unable to escape (right before a small hiatus, fans were livid). Part 2 brings back Bobby & Benny who hatch a hair-brained scheme to help the protagonists escape. Even Tessa shows up in a really clever, unexpected role. Unfortunately this kills them but the execution of the plan and subsequent rescue were just so badass you couldn’t imagine those two dying any other way. The Gamble’s husband protagonist does show up again in Purgatory but is unable to escape with the siblings. Eventually they do get back and try to have the twin returned to life but it’s revealed it can’t be done if the trial is to be completed. At the end, Castiel promises to take the twin to heaven and gives the siblings one moment to say goodbye in a perfect ending to the whole 5-episode arc. Yes this was all still on a tv budget but you can tell they had been saving up for this episode and everybody involved really worked hard to stretch out every cent and put it up on screen. Several times they even utilized their limitations to work for them. Plus the plot and characters were so well executed I found myself invested regardless. There were still one or two canon hiccups in this but it was all just so well done and you could tell they tried so hard to get everything right that those missteps were easy to forgive.
The final quarter of the season was a bit of a letdown but nothing really could have followed that epic arc. It still was pretty strong as the surviving siblings work to solve the final trial. Their efforts to even figure out how to “cure a demon” lead them to Metatron and to discover the Men of Letters’ bunker. In a clever bit, with the 2nd trial eating up most of the script, the set department had the bunker be half finished to really give it a look of being abandoned for ages. The characters even establish they’re going to have to work on fixing it up (to explain why the set designers slowly improve the location). The chess match between Cas & Crow also heats up in these five episodes as we see Crowley manage to get the ear of Metatron and convince him that Heaven needs to be sealed up like Hell. Them working together is very unsettling in the ways it should be. Anyway at the end of the “game,” things take an unexpected turn when Crowley gets caught to complete the trials and Castiel is used by Metatron to finish his efforts. The final episode of the season, “Sacrifice” proceeds in much the same way (similar, heatfelt speech) but the twin who had been doing the trials goes through with it anyway, sealing up Hell even as the angels fall out of Heaven.
Of course in our world S9 was a horrible mess so almost anything would be an improvement. In this world, things seemed to have focused for Carver.
With 2 of the 3 protagonists he started with dead by this point, he shocks everybody by revealing that Castial and Crowley both are now mortal and they join the surviving elder sibling to become the protagonists for this season. First few episodes are Crowley and sibling going to find Castiel, then there’s a bit of entertaining MotW romp where the two of them have to readjust to mortality and getting along with each other.
The status quo has been upset with angels and any demons left trapped on earth. Now exorcism carries more weight as any demons hit with it will be stuck in Hell forever. They try the spell to cast out angels on a few folks but find it doesn’t quit work right with whatever Metatron did. The resulting main arc is that apparently among the angels expelled, were some jailers. Among those is the first demon created by Lilith: Cain (less a literal biblical Cain). Turns out him and the other firsts were the Knights of Hell. He wants to reopen Hell while Metatron has his own plan to try and make things better. It seems kind of weak at first but then it all comes together when it’s Crowley who figures out how to stop Metatron and Castiel who halts Cain.
There’s actually no reunion episode this season.
Similar to our S10 this one is more MotW than a large arc. Even the reunion episode with Gamble’s survivor is just a leviathan callback. What few episodes related to an arc there are deals with the crew trying to stop Metatron’s self-described “insurance” when he was defeated.
Turns out while he was running Heaven, Metatron figured out how to let out the DarknessTM. He says the only way to stop it is to let him be put back in charge. What few angels remain empowered (last season many of them chose to become mortal like Castiel) can’t agree on who should be in charge so the sibling is chosen as their family has proven themselves worthy. In Heaven the previously dead twin also makes a comeback to help. Too late they realize Metatron’s trap requires a living mortal in Heaven and his death. At first you think Crowley will be the one to kill him but it turns out Castiel does, so DarknessTM is unleashed.
This season is a long, slow example of failure as everybody tries to stop the DarknessTM. (Who, yes, is still God’s “sister.”) They summon Death to stop her but it turns out he’s her servant. Things get bad enough they actually let Michael and Lucifer BOTH out of the cage, letting Jared and Jake return the show finally. Dean and Gamble’s survivor also return for a multi-part reunion late in the season when Chuck arrives. It’s all pretty entertaining in a way. At the end, Carver’s survivor does have a talk with the DarknessTM and draws upon their experience from the previous 3 years, talking about loss and what the twins meant to them. This convinces the DarknessTM to – if not forgive her brother right away – at least give him a chance to improve things. As a thank you, they give a gift to everybody who remains. Sam & Adam are freed, allowing them to rejoin Dean in a normal life and even Gamble’s married couple is reunited. It’s all a very touching capstone to a long run.
But Dabb wasn’t finished with the show…