Supernatural: The Good, The Bad, and The Frustrating

Sometimes, when you love someone, it can be hard to be critical of them. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You don’t want to alienate them or otherwise cause friction in your relationship. However, I’ve always believed that a part of loving someone is telling them when they’re out of line. It’s important to, from time to time, be constructively critical of those we love so that we can see them do better and be better. It is also an important part of being loved that you learn to accept the constructive criticism in the spirit of love in which it was given. I said all of that to say, I love Supernatural. The show and its characters have meant more to me than I ever thought a television show could. Over the years, it has become a big chunk of my life (and taken a bigger chunk out of my bank account) and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to handle it when Baby’s taillights roll off into the distance for the last time. That being said, it’s time for Supernatural to accept some constructive criticism in the spirit of love in which I’m about to give it.

THE GOOD

Let’s start with the good. The best thing I can say about this season thus far is the performances have, as always, been solid. Supernatural was very lucky to land Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki because they are both very talented actors. They have, on many occasions, taken material that is pretty mediocre and turned it into good television. For example, Jared Padalecki did an excellent job in the first two episodes of the season playing captured and tortured Sam. He was the brave, strong Sam Winchester I’ve come to love over the last 12 years, but at the same time he conveyed a sense of great loss because he believed his brother to be dead. Although it was never explicitly stated in the show, I feel like the real reason Sam didn’t tell Lady Toni what she wanted to know was he didn’t want to go on living without Dean. He wouldn’t off himself because he knew that Dean wouldn’t have wanted that, but he was willing to let Lady Toni kill him. I’m pretty glad things didn’t work out that way for Sam though. It’s actually one of my biggest disappointments of this season that the show didn’t allow Sam’s kidnapping and torture to have more of an impact on him and Dean. It’s not that I expected to see him spend half the season crying in the corner or anything, but his treatment at the hands of the BMoL had to have caused at least some flashbacks to The Cage. The fact that he and Dean just moved on with their lives like nothing happened is disappointing. But let me stop. This is supposed to be the good stuff. Jensen Ackles continues to give outstanding performances. His work in ‘Regarding Dean’ is some of his best. Dean has had a rough go of it this season with people he thought were on his side betraying him (more on that in a moment) and it’s been interesting to watch Dean dealing with all of that now that he’s grown up a bit emotionally. Though I still wouldn’t exactly call him emotionally healthy. He’s certainly better than he was. However, allowing himself to open up a bit has also meant that the betrayals he’s endured this season hit him harder because he’s removed some of his armor. Jensen has done a really good job conveying Dean’s frustration, hurt, resentment, fear, and anger while simultaneously keeping him vulnerable. I can’t really say I’m surprised though. Jensen has always done a good job with Dean’s non-verbal communication despite the narrative, especially this season, not giving him very much to work with.

The Bad

There are several major issues with this season. First and foremost, the show can’t seem to pick a direction causing the story to be all over the place. The powers that be can’t figure out who or what they want to make the Big Bad for the season, so it’s like they keep throwing things out there to see what will stick. The season premier made it look like the BMoL were going to be the Winchesters’ primary foe, and that would’ve been great. However, the Brits have mostly been relegated to the back burner until the last handful of episodes. Then there was Mary and her pushing the Boys out of her life. When the show got tired of her doing that, they turned Mary into a lying, deceptive, manipulative jerk who seems to care more about herself than Sam and Dean. Then there’s the Lucifer spawn. The show keeps throwing comments out to remind us that Kelly Kline and her demon seed are a threat, but much like the BMoL, we haven’t really dealt with her very much either.

All of that leads to the second major problem this season which is pacing. I know it’s kind of a technical thing and may seem boring, but pacing is important. The pace of the story helps build tension so when you get to the climax, it carries the kind of emotional punch you want. For example, season four had very few episodes that I would say were extemporaneous. That whole season was like a snowball rolling downhill collecting momentum as it rolled along. All of it building toward two things: Sam and Dean duking it out and Lucifer being released from his cage. Because practically every single episode was building to it, when Sam and Dean fought each other it carried quite a bit of emotional weight. When Sam let Lucifer out of The Cage, that mattered because that’s what we’d been working toward all season. I cannot say the same for this season. I think I’m supposed to care that the Brits are planning to come over and wipe out all the American hunters, but since I haven’t spent any time this season getting to know any of them besides Mick and Ketch, it’s really difficult for me to care about that brewing conflict. I think I’m supposed to care about Mary, but after the way the show has butchered that character, I honestly just want her gone. I think I’m supposed to care about Lucifer’s child possibly setting off another apocalypse, but right now, meh. I’m not saying all of this could’ve been fixed by fixing the pacing because it couldn’t. But if the show had picked one direction, the BMoL for example, and then worked to have the entire season build up to the confrontation between the ‘Mericans and the Brits, I probably would’ve enjoyed that quite a lot.

The Frustrating

I’m not going to spend any more time talking about how frustrated I am with what they’ve done to Mary because I wrote about that at length in my last post. The show, once again, sacrificed character for story, and I’ve said time and time again that it never works out well when you do that. The mess that has become of Mary Winchester is proof positive of it.

I will, however, talk about how frustrated I am with Castiel. I don’t know how many times the show is planning to tread the same ground of Castiel making bad decisions because he’s trying to “protect” the Winchesters, but I sincerely wish they’d stop. He betrayed the Winchesters in season six by working with Crowley and bringing down Sam’s wall because he wanted to stop Raphael and protect the world from another apocalypse. He betrayed the Boys again in season eleven by saying yes to Lucifer because he “wanted to be of service to the fight” and he felt he had already screwed up so much that it was his “chance to make things right.” Now here we are again. Once again Cas goes to work with people who do not have the best interest of the world, much less the Winchesters, at heart. Once again Cas shows up and lies to the Boys about his true intentions and screws them over. Once again Cas justifies all of this by claiming he’s doing it to protect the Winchesters and because he desperately wants to put a win on the board. I’m just wondering how long the narrative is going to give Cas a pass for his bad choices. I could maybe see it when Cas didn’t understand that the Winchesters considered him family. But twice now Dean has given Cas the ‘you’re our brother’ speech. Also, when they went up against Ramiel, the Boys once again reminded Cas that they weren’t leaving him behind because he’s family. What is it going to take for Cas to grow up? What is it going to take for Cas to stop betraying two people who clearly love him and are willing to sacrifice for him? How many times is Cas going to have to make things worse before he realizes that making decisions without discussing it with his family never works out well. Now, he’s cost the Boys the Colt and he’s playing protector to Lucifer’s spawn. Because there’s obviously no way that could end badly. Insert eyeroll here. The powers that be have struggled since the end of season five to figure out what to do with Castiel. They’ve had several opportunities to explore some interesting paths for him, but they’ve squandered the possibility every time. Thus, we’ve seen no lasting growth in Castiel since season five ended. He has literally been making the same mistake over and over again without any end in sight. By the time Cas decided to run off and play protector of Lucifer’s demon seed, I was just done. So very done. Cas either has bricks for brains or he’s actively refusing to learn from his past mistakes. Either way, it’s frustrating as all get out to watch the show continue to tread this same ground without doing more than paying lip-service to emotional maturity in the character.

Like I said earlier, I love Supernatural. I know the show is capable of so much better than it’s been doing this season. I understand that we’ve got a new showrunner and he needs to find his legs. But at the same time, the mistakes that are being made this season are rookie mistakes which could be solved by going back and refreshing your memory on past season canon. Supernatural has an extremely talented cast and crew, and it bothers me that the writing this season hasn’t done better by them. I’m hoping Dabb and Co. can pull things together better going forward, but if they don’t stop and look at the mess they’ve made thus far, I’m not holding my breath for much improvement.

  • Bob D

    You’re incredible. Thanks so much for articulating many viewers’ thoughts about season 12 in general and especially Cass, in a way that can’t be construed as sheer hate. I would just also like to add many viewers have been physically sickened by the amount of Dean/Cass fanservice that is being crammed into cass-centric episodes (most notably 12×10 and 12×19) to please his fans or to make the writers popular on social media. The scenes and lines that pander to this group are glaringly contrived and awkward to watch, and often portray Dean out of character. This is not helping the viewership as far as half the fandom and the network’s key demographic is concerned. Neither is ignoring Sam and Dean’s twelve year old bond for the entire season in favor of promoting new characters and uninteresting sub-plots. This season, the two brothers have been hollow shells of the boys we have known and loved. Their bond cannot be properly serviced (as it was a priority to do in the past) if none of the major storylines are focused around them or around their emotional connection to each other. There’s plenty of room for “found family” (gag) without completely neglecting the bond that built this show, or by committing sacrilege in making everybody Dean deals with seem as important to him as Sam. I’m over Dean getting angrily emotional about every person he’s ever met. It’s trite and unorganic at this point. Again, so much pandering to rabid shippers.

    • Kelios

      well said, thank you.

    • Jessica Breaux

      Thanks for the comment! I will say, though, that I’ve always believed that the show needs interesting, regular recurring characters to help peel back layers about Sam and Dean. Cas’s relationship with Dean in season four was interesting to me because it was the first time that we saw Dean let someone into his inner circle that wasn’t a blood relative (or Bobby) and wasn’t a human. Over the course of season four and five we got a chance to see Dean develop a friendship with someone who didn’t have as much history as he and Sam have. The dynamic was different so it added layers to Dean. Because the show spent time developing the relationship between the Winchesters and Cas, we also got to see Cas go from just viewing Sam as the “boy with the demon blood” to recognizing Sam to be the good, brave man that he is. However, I do agree that the relationship and bond between Sam and Dean is the foundation of the show and it should never be neglected.

    • LD

      Actually, the rantings of this person don’t represent anyone I know in the fandom or the general audience at all. Dean cares about Cas, he’s family. That’s not out of character. Also – dear OP – the ENTIRE point of the show is “found family”, so if that makes you gag, you may need to find a new show to watch. Family don’t end with blood, boy. Dean isn’t emotional over everyone he’s ever met – just the ones who mean the most to him, like Sam and Cas.

      Also, physically sickened? Grow up. It’s not fan service, it’s just the show. Ta.

    • samanthasaurus

      Listen, I don’t care who you like in the show, but Cas has been around for 8 years now. At this point, dismissing all lines/plots which give Cas good characterization, or show Dean and Sam loving Cas, or show Dean and Cas being clear best friends, as “OOC” and therefore something that is only taken seriously by “rabid shippers” is honestly willfully, obstinately bitter. Let it go. Cas isn’t going anywhere. Believe what you want about his character and his motivations but stomping your feet and screaming “OOC!!!!!” anytime the show **Follows years upon years of canon** and portrays Cas and his relationship with the Winchesters as good is just, at this point, annoying for everyone involved–your fellow fans, and TPTB alike.

  • Lorie Heller

    I agree with what you are saying. I don’t think the character of Castiel is strong enough to have his own storyline. We are invested in Castiel due to his relationship with the Wincesters. Have you noticed that both Castiel and Sam make decisions that are supposedly for the greater good and they disregard any advice from Dean. Dean’s mistakes have been to protect loved ones, not because he thinks he knows what is best for the world. Also, what exactly is the difference between angels and demons – I’m tired of them both. I would rather see the Winchesters fighting human monsters than anymore angel/demon conflicts.

    • Sharon_123

      No no offence but not every decision Dean makes is in the best interests of that persion or to protect them esp Sam.
      Not everything he does is right or the right decision.
      I like Dean but this fandom needs to stop romantizing and justifying everything he does ,

      • Lorie Heller

        I’m not offended. except for the remark concerning “romantizing”. In fact I pointed out that Dean does make mistakes. The two main characters are Sam and Dean, not Sam, Dean, Castiel, and Crowley. Castiel and Crowley are entertaining, but only in relation to the Winchesters. I want Hunters to work together and able to resolve the problems and not always having friends with powers to assist or get them out of a mess. The show was best when Bobby, Rufus, Jodi, Asa etc. were there to help. As for Castiel having his powers and being “bad ass”; that easy when you have powers. Even though I like Misha Collins, I am not a fan of Castiel.

    • not so disgruntled viewer

      I am sorry but who Dean was protecting when he took on MoC?

      • cheryl42

        Well supposedly everyone. Abaddon had to be stopped according to S9 and that was the only way. Except for chopping off her head and actually cutting her into strips and burying her in cement. Details!

        • not so disgruntled viewer

          So he did that supposedly for greater good and because he thought he knows what is best for the world?

          • cheryl42

            Possibly, that seemed to be his motivation but I think he could have saved himself, Sam and the world a lot of aggravation if he had just chopped off her head and cut her into strips and buried her in cement. You know like they were supposed to do the first time.

            • not so disgruntled viewer

              I can’t agree with you more. It was a tragic mistake. 🙂

    • Jessica Breaux

      I understand what you’re saying, but I disagree about Castiel not being a strong enough character. He’s actually a very interesting character, and the show has had several opportunities to allow him to be a part of the Winchesters’ lives without him always being the deus ex machina. For example, the show missed a HUGE opportunity at the beginning of season nine when Metatron turned Cas human. Instead of really taking some time to explore what it would mean for a being who is several millennia old to suddenly be trapped within the bonds of humanity, the show went for poop jokes and Cas eating toothpaste. Cas being human also meant that someone Dean cared about was suddenly vulnerable in a way that he hadn’t been before. How would Dean react to that? How does Cas without powers impact the decisions that Sam and Dean make? Does Cas decide to become a hunter? Do the Winchesters teach him? There are so many missed opportunities with that storyline. My bottom line is, if Cas is going to continue being a part of the Supernatural universe, I want him to move on from making this same mistakes. I want him to keep growing and make new mistakes.

      • Vivian Deck

        At one time Cas did decide to become a hunter and Dean and Sam were “training” him but that did not work out. Lots of funny moments with that however (for instance interrogating the cat)

      • LD

        I’d like to think the show is aiming towards Cas eventually choosing a mortal life to spend with the boys. That’s the feeling I get, at least. He’s a great character and he’s not going anywhere, so that would be an interesting transition.

  • Vivian Deck

    They have also not used Mark Shepherd/Crowley to the best of his abilities either. He is a wonderful actor. They need to do what they promised us fans when S12 began and return Cas to his full powers and the badass Angel we all knew and loved. Yes he does need to have some humanity in his badassery but right now he is just whimpy. I love Supernatural and all 4 of the main characters but things need to change. Robert Singer has been there from the start and should know these guys better than anyone else. He needs to step up.

    • Jessica Breaux

      I agree about Crowley. The show has also struggled to figure out what to do with him for the last few seasons. Which is sad because Mark is such a wonderfully talented actor.

  • Melaniedesi

    Very nice, balanced review, thank you. I agree with nearly everything you’ve said. I have enjoyed S12 for the most part, but there have been some glaring missed opportunities. As you said, I think the worst is the lack of aftermath of Sam’s kidnapping. Jared brought so much to that and then . . . . no pay off.

    • Jessica Breaux

      Thanks for the comment and the compliment! 🙂

  • v. Pruett

    I personally would rather they go a few years back a few years when Dean and Sam hunting bad things and saving people. I don’t mind Cass, but Sam and Dean are the stars of the show. If Jared and Jensen are tired of doing the show they quit. I don’t
    mind some of the characters that have been part of the show, but I want it to go back
    to what it was before.

    c

    • LD

      Actually, per the showrunner Supernatural has four male leads – meaning J2M2. It hasn’t been “what it was before” for almost a decade. If that’s all you want to see, then just watch 1-3 on loop.

      • Melaniedesi

        Link to that quote, please.

        • rose mnor

          I posted a youtube video for the source of the quote last night my time, about 9 hours ago but it didn’t take? Anyway, I’ll try to post the video again in the reply.

          Those of you who are interested can find the video, just go to youtube and type Supernatural SDCC 2016 Robert Singer The Fandom and click on The Fandom’s video. At the 4.01 mark he clearly said the show has 4 male leads. Or if the audio is not clear just click on cc and close-caption will appear.

  • LD

    “how long is the narrative going to give Cas a pass for his bad choices”

    Listen up, doofus. Since you clearly don’t pay attention to the narrative, let me break it down for you. Cas usually suffers for his mistakes and he always apologizes – and atones. What you probably meant to say is “how long will the Winchesters give Cas a pass” and I have an answer for you.

    ALWAYS. FOREVER. Because they’re family, and that’s what family does. Supernatural is about making mistakes, finding a better way, and forgiving (to quote SuperWiki’s wonderful tweet). This goes for Sam, Dean, and Cas – because they’re family, and family don’t end with blood. Making a questionable and even sometimes bad decision with the intent to protect the ones you love the most? That is the *hallmark* of being a Winchester, and they’ve all done it numerous times. Countless times.

    The boys will forgive him, just like they’ve forgiven each other over the years, and Team Free Will be stronger than ever. I know that probably bothers this blatantly biased reviewer something awful, but jfc, judge all the characters by the same measuring stick or don’t bother writing anymore. You can’t overlook the complexity of a character’s actions – that’s reductive and ignorant, and Cas – just like the boys – always does what he thinks is right, always wants to protect his family, even if it may not be the best idea. He’s a Winchester, after all.

    Update: “thus we’ve seen no lasting growth in Castiel since season 5 ended”

    You.. you’re kidding me, right? No one is that willfully obtuse? Sorry, I can’t stop laughing at the utterly ridiculous statement you just made. Cas has had more character growth over the years than anyone else in the cast, and if you can’t see that, then you’re just not paying attention or you’re obstinately determined to be against the character. And clearly anything I say will go in one ear and out the other, but I’m not entirely sure how you got this steaming pile of rubbish published. It certainly doesn’t reflect the 95% of the Supernatural audience who aren’t completely hateful, insufferable snot-rockets.

    *Don’t bother arguing with me, because I’m right and responses will be ignored. Ciao, pumpkins.

    • LD

      also, small point of order, but Cas didn’t cost the boys the Colt. Dean would have brought it to fight Dagon whether or not it was stolen, so if you want to blame anyone for it falling into her hands.. you know where to point. How about we stop playing the blame game.

      • Lin

        Yeah, if I see one more person blaming Cas for getting the Colt destroyed, I’m just going to assume they didn’t watch the episode. It was back with Dean before the showdown with Dagon.

        Also, A+ to the rest of your post.

    • Jessica Breaux

      Hi, LD. I understand and respect your opinion, but I disagree. First, let me be clear. I do not hate Cas. I’ve never hated Cas. I’ve hated some of the things he’s done to Sam and Dean the same way I’ve hated some of the things Sam and Dean have done to each other. At times, I’ve been frustrated by and disappointed in each member of Team Free Will, but I’ve never hated any of them.

      That being said, of course Sam and Dean will keep forgiving Cas because he’s family. But my point is that Cas needs to move on from making this exact same mistake and using this exact same justification every time he makes this mistake. That’s what I mean by seeing no lasting growth in the character. For example, when the series started, Dean was very black and white about killing monsters. He didn’t care whether or not they were killing people. The fact that they were not human was enough for Dean to kill them. However, as the series has gone on, and Dean has grown up, we’ve seen him come to learn that just because something isn’t human doesn’t mean it’s inherently evil and needs to be killed. He’s learned to evaluate each case individually and kill only if the situation warrants it. That’s lasting growth.

      As it relates to Cas, yes he suffers for his mistakes and he always feels guilty, but he doesn’t seem to learn from them. What he’s doing now is the same thing he did with Purgatory and saying yes to Lucifer. Much like the Winchesters have finally learned that lying to each other and blindly sacrificing themselves for each other never works out well, I want Cas to learn that making decisions that will have such a major impact on so many people without even talking about it first with people who love you never works out well either. I want Cas to move on from making this same mistake into making new ones. I want to see him grow as a character.

      To your point about the Colt, that’s a valid point. Maybe Dean would have brought it anyway and maybe it would’ve been destroyed anyway. But Sam and Dean were looking for Kelly to remove Lucifer Jr.’s grace. Maybe they wouldn’t have taken the Colt at all since they weren’t planning to kill her.

  • Penny Jaime

    Ok, I don’t know anything about writing a TV show, so I’m just guessing here. But, I think that since, in season 5, they did the Apocalypse, they have been trying to go “bigger” by having multiple storylines. Because, nothing is bigger than the apocalypse, right? So, it does split the focus of the entire season that way.

    Sometimes, simple is better. Dean and Sam are all I need!! I do appreciate how hard they’ve worked to keep the show new, exciting, and constantly moving forward. They’re still full of surprises!

    • Jessica Breaux

      I agree that simple can be better. I’m actually quite relieved that we’ve stepped back from the Winchesters facing off against cosmically powerful beings. That’s why I’m a little concerned about where we’re going with this Lucifer Jr. storyline. Bringing the story down to a smaller, more relationship-driven story is a good thing. However, smaller stories doesn’t mean the show should be as all over the place as it is now.

  • cheryl42

    Spot on review of S12! I might add the lack of any Sam and Dean POV to the list. The season isn’t working mostly because the Winchesters haven’t been involved in any of the story arcs. We watch for the brothers. If they aren’t engaged neither are we.

  • Judy Taylor

    Totally agree. I too love this show, the actors and have been totally disappointed.

  • chriscross

    Great article!! You’ve hit the nail on the head in all respects. So many opportunities missed in these latter seasons. It’s a crying shame.
    I think TPTB are throwing a bunch of spin off ideas at the wall to see if anything sticks… meanwhile they’ve forgotten Sam and Dean and the once great show Supernatural.

  • HoneyMoon

    The truer words have never been spoken! Your review of not just this disaster of Season 12, but also the past few seasons, really spot on!

    Andrew Dabb is NOT a rookie in Supernatural. In fact, he’s been in the writing room since the beginning! Almost 10 years now! There is no excuse for him throw everything – Lucifer’s baby, BMOL, Mary – in a single season and hoping it will work out. Dabb has screwed up so much he makes me missing Carver for God sake!

    As suck as Carver was, at least he can focus the storyline one thing per season – Leviathan in S7, Metatron in S8, Gadreel in S9, MOC in S10 (though he should have let Dean became demon longer than he did and Sam fighting to save him – it would make an epic storyline of the season 10 and perhaps the show as well!) and Amara in S11 – and it all revolve around the brothers, as it SHOULD be!

    Season 12 is not just a mess of storylines and missing big opportunities, it also has relegated Sam and Dean into side characters in their own show and totally gone OOC since the 1st episode (except for their confrontation with Mary and Regarding Dean) and it is NOT acceptable! And the the viewers (well…non-viewers now) agree!

    As for Cass, it is time for him to grow up and be great again like he was before he decided to be a God in S6 or just be gone/die. All he did after that, especially in S12, is totally fan service and nothing more.

  • Wetsammywinchester

    Thanks for your review, which pretty much describes my feelings about s12. I agree especially about the dispersion of the antagonists. Too confusing and the characterizations of them seemed to bounce around from episode to episode – overall, I would have been happier with a deep dive on the BMoL and their background. The confusion also applies to Mary, where I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel bad for her or hate her (most likely, they were going for complicated, which would have been great – we need more complicated female characters who aren’t just mothers or badasses, but something in between – instead, we ended up with muddied Mary).

    Characterization is an innate issue with the show’s structure, having multiple writers tackling new characters. Dabb as show runner probably needs to extend great control and direction over that, so perhaps his confidence at driving the story arcs will get better in his second season in the role.

    As you said, Jensen and Jared’s performance are always solid. There’s at least one moment in every episode where they deliver.