Supernatural: Where Do We Go From Here?

Supernatural began its thirteenth season in a fairly dark place. At the end of last season, the Winchesters watched their best friend die, saw their mother sucked into a parallel universe with Lucifer, and were left with trying to figure out what to do about Lucifer’s spawn. That’s a lot to deal with even by Winchester standards. Thus, there was a lot of grief, anger, denial, and fear swirling around and through the Boys at the opening of this season. Things have gotten marginally better, but it doesn’t look like the reprieve is going to last that long.

The first few episodes of the season focused primarily on Dean dealing with his grief, and they did a good job with that aspect of the story. Dean has never really developed good coping skills for his emotional pain, and he quickly skipped through denial and planted himself firmly in the anger stage of the grieving process. His anger led him to a place we’ve only seen Dean go once or twice before: he gave up. He gave up on the family business and, when Dean met Billie again in ‘Advanced Thanatology,’ it was pretty clear he’d also given up on life. Dean was broken in a way we haven’t seen for quite a while, and it was heartbreaking. Dean’s pain also led him to be very mean-spirited toward Jack. Dean was right to be concerned about Jack, but all of the vitriol he directed toward Jack wasn’t necessarily warranted. Neither was Dean’s disregard for Sam. Dean was hurting and angry, and in his hurt and anger he was blind to the fact that he wasn’t the only one who suffered losses that day. Sam also lost his friend and his mother. It wasn’t until Sam finally exploded at Dean that Dean realized that Sam wasn’t any more alright than he was. Sam’s outburst served as a metaphorical slap in the face for Dean, and that helped push Dean along in the grieving process.

While Dean was spiraling out, Sam was doing his best to keep it together by channeling his grief into helping Jack. To be clear, the narrative (disappointingly) hasn’t addressed Sam’s grief beyond his outburst at Dean and their subsequent conversation, but one of the things we’ve seen Sam do in the past is bury himself in his work when he’s in pain. That’s what it seems he’s doing again. It’s fairly obvious that Jack reminds Sam of himself several years ago when he was wrestling with whether he was good or evil. And honestly, you’d have to be blind to miss the parallels between Sam and Jack. Both of them lost their mother before they got a chance to know her. Both of them were “infected” by evil blood. Both of them feared that they were evil. Both of them had power that they didn’t really know how to control. And the list goes on. That being said, the primary difference between Sam and Jack is Dean. Dean has always been Sam’s solid ground. Even when Sam was at his worst, Sam knew Dean loved him and because of that love, Sam was (mostly) saved from himself. Sam is trying to be for Jack what Dean was for him, but as compassionate and caring as Sam is, he can’t love Jack the way that he and Dean love each other. What Sam can (and did) do for Jack is just be Sam. Sam is a good, strong, brave man. By sharing some of his personal struggles and journey with Jack, Sam let Jack see that even though he’s not perfect, perfection is not a requirement for being a good person.

Which brings me to the issue of Jack. I must admit that initially, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea of focusing too much of the story on Lucifer’s spawn. Perhaps it was the completely ridiculous manner in which the storyline began or perhaps it was the lazy writing leading up to Jack’s debut. Either way, I wasn’t looking forward to Jack. However, I’m pleasantly surprised to say that I rather enjoy Jack. The casting department did a good job in casting Alexander Calvert because he does an admirable job of balancing Jack’s innocence and vulnerability with his volatility and power. I sincerely hope we can keep on this trajectory of Jack exploring who he is, who he wants to be, and where he fits in the grand scheme of things.

I am not surprised that Cas has returned, but I am a bit disappointed. I’m disappointed for several reasons. First, Cas’s death had the potential to help move Dean and Sam forward as characters. Dean has grown up quite a bit from the young man we met in season one, but he still hasn’t done a good job of developing healthy coping skills to deal with his more intense emotions. Dean considers Cas family, and losing him was a crushing blow for Dean. As much as it hurt to watch Dean in so much pain, I was enjoying watching him work through his grief over losing his best friend because it’s the first time in a long time we’ve seen Dean do more than just bury himself at the bottom of a bottle to deal with his grief. Then there’s Sam. Even though Sam and Cas had a rather rocky start to their relationship, they have become good friends over the years, and I wanted to see Sam deal with losing Cas too. Basically, I wanted Cas’s death and subsequent absence to have a greater impact on Sam and Dean. Second, I’m disappointed because the show still doesn’t seem to know what to do with Cas, so why bring him back again? It doesn’t look like they’ve developed any new, interesting directions for Cas to go. There is the possibility that Cas is still in The Empty and whatever the being was that monitored The Empty is actually what’s come back. I’m not convinced that’s the case though. The point is, it seems that the show brought Cas back more because he’s a fan favorite than that they actually have a plan for an interesting character arc and lasting character growth for him.

That brings me to last week’s episode and the return of Mr. Ketch. I don’t think I’ve rolled my eyes harder than when Ketch showed back up pretending to be his twin brother. I didn’t for a second buy that it was anyone other than Arthur and it made me angry because that’s the show, once again, bringing back a character because they enjoy the actor and not because they have more story to tell for that character. The whole thing annoyed me for several reasons (and this is in no way an exhaustive list). First, Sam and Dean are seasoned hunters. No way would they just toss a body in a ditch and walk away. They would’ve salted and burned it because they know that’s the best way to make sure nothing comes back. Second, Ketch’s re-emergence opens the door for the return of the BMoL, and I’m not overly interested in that either. The show wasted a good opportunity last season with the BMoL, and I’m not particularly interested in retreading that ground. Finally, aside from them bringing Ketch back through lazy, uninspired writing, he’s just not that interesting of a character. He’s a remorseless sociopath who kills because he enjoys it. There aren’t really any nuances or layers to his character, and with the angels and demons, I’d say we’re full up on remorseless, sociopathic killers. To be clear, I have no problem with David Haydn-Jones the actor. He does a fine job with the character. My problem is the fact that the show felt the need to bring Ketch back at all. Completely unrelated and shallow, but here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome. Moving on…

All of that being said, Supernatural started off solidly this season by focusing on the characters. The show works best when it focuses on character and builds the story around them instead of the other way around. I’m also glad the show finally addressed the issue of Dean killing Death at the end of season ten. That plot hole has been bothering me for a while, and I like Billie so it’s cool she’s sticking around. However, that’s not to say that there haven’t been missteps. I’m still upset that they brought Missouri back just to kill her off as a set up for the spinoff. It was completely unnecessary, and the show (once again) played fast and loose with show canon just to accomplish their storypoint for Missouri’s granddaughter. Bringing characters back on the show just to kill them off is something the powers that be have been doing a lot in recent seasons, and it’s a mistake. It’s important to keep those characters around because it helps to remind us of Sam and Dean’s history and to help create some attachments to the world. It’s as if the powers that be believe that if they kill off all the folks from the Winchesters’ past that it will make the audience forget the past as well. They couldn’t be more wrong. It also seems that the show is planning to use the parallel universe as a means of bringing back characters but in different ways. That has the potential to either be really good or horrifically bad. We’ve only seen snippets of the parallel universe at this point, so I haven’t really had a chance to make up my mind about how I feel yet. I also don’t know how I feel about the show seemingly trying to make Lucifer into Crowley 2.0 in the sense that he wants to help save the world because it serves his own purposes. On the one hand, I love Mark Pellegrino and I think he does a fantastic job with Lucifer, but the Lucifer the show is working with now isn’t the same Lucifer they introduced in season five. This Lucifer is more like Sam’s hallucinations than the real Luci. So that’s pretty much where we are seven episodes into the season. There’s potential for some good storytelling going forward, but I’ve seen the show squander good opportunities before. Here’s hoping the powers that be have learned from their past mistakes. Fingers crossed!