Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Supernatural Season 6 Review

 Castiel! Nooooooooooo!

*ahem* Ok, that’s out of my system. No, wait NO CASTIEL! NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

Ok, I’m good, the raging Castiel fanpoodle within has been calmed… for now, time for the season review.

For me this season needs almost splitting into two parts. The second half was truly epic and awesome in all the best Supernatural ways and probably a 4.5 or even 5 fang (despite what they did to Castiel…) And the first half was a 3. At best.

Why? Because we’ve had far far far FAR too many “oh my god Sam is evil” storylines. I’m tired of them. Sam may be evil because of the psychic child of Azazel thing in Season 1 and 2. In season 3 it’s demon super powers, Ruby and possible heir to Azazel making him evil. In season 4 it’s demon blood addiction, demon powers and, again, Ruby making him evil. Season 5 he’s the vessel of Lucifer. Season 6 he has no soul and, because of that, no empathy or conscience. At this point I’d actually rather Sam died already and we concentrate on Dean and, say, Castiel. Yes, more Castiel. At very least please install some kind of alarm system “in case of evil Sam, break glass” with some kind of redemption pill. Maybe Dean could store up his many many emotional re-bonding moments and pick one at random. “Oh, Sam has hit his head on the Low Lintle of Evil and is now evil again, time for my ‘I don’t trust you and you need to re-earn it’ speech or my ‘we’re brothers, family and that’s what always counts, I got your back’ speech.”

I’m not saying that any of those past moments weren’t powerful, exciting, great to watch and incredible well-acted in their emotional aftermath. They were. But they’ve returned to this well too many times.

Another major barrier for me was Samuel and the Campbell family. Yes, family has always been important to Sam and Dean, but has it really been so based on bloodlines? If nothing else, one of the themes since as far back as season 2 is that family is more than just who you share blood with – Bobby is as much or more a father to them as John ever was and you can’t tell me there isn’t a brother dynamic between Castiel and Dean (with, ironically, Castiel as the little brother). So why all this trust for the Campbell clan and dear ol’ granddaddy?

On the plus side, all of this was resolved about half way into the season, with an added bonus of killing off the Campbells so they’re not going to be lurking around as a pseudo family in the future. They even doubled down on their lessons about family – even having Bobby’s blood stand in as “patricide” for Sam in a magical spell – because even if they’re not related by blood, Bobby is still their father. But it felt like they were re-learning something that had been already established.

One we got past unnecessary family and once Evil Sam was restored to the side of good yet again, the story started in earnest –and it was, again, epic. I’m impressed by how Supernatural can continue to do this – bring out the epic on a grand scale even after the last season which was similarly epic. At what point is it going to crash into anti-climax? At what point are we going to end up with a big bad that isn’t bigger or badder? And how will the season go from there?

As it stands, it’s still strong. This time, less because of a clear target they had from the very beginning (sadly not because of the distractions) but because of the mystery to unravel and the moving goal posts. Castiel is in an angelic civil war to control heaven against Raphael. If Castiel wins it’s free will for all angels. If Raphael wins, Lucifer and Michael get released and the apocalypse is back on. No-one wants that. But Castiel doesn’t have the juice to take on the Archangel Raphael, he’s desperate and Crowley is there to exploit that desperation as both a Crossroads Demon and as the new King of Hell now Lucifer’s gone. Their plan is to get Purgatory – the realm of all monsters – and the souls that are there, the souls of all monsters, vampires, shapeshifters, wraiths, you name it all the non-human monsters they’ve fought. Souls are the big power generators of the supernatural world, something that has been hinted at before and is artfully developed throughout the season with events like Castiel using Bobby’s soul to power time travel and making it clear that it’s an immense source of power and potentially unstable if meddled with. With this vast source of untapped monster souls, split 50/50, Castiel will be able to blow Raphael away and Crowley will be able to secure his place as King of Hell.

That’s the behind the scenes, but getting there is one season long revelation with lots of hints leading you to the goal but only at the very end is the whole story shown. We know about the Civil war in Heaven and we know Castiel is the underdog, including him trying to get his hands on Heaven’s stash of weapons. Then we find out that monsters – especially ancient and powerful progenitor monsters (like the vampires and werewolf alphas) are being captured and tortured by Samuel (and soulless Sam) – which leads to finding out that Samuel is working for Crowley for unknown purposes. Eve/the Mother of all Monsters, makes an appearance because she is Not Pleased at Crowley messing with her people on such a scale – and she becomes the big bad for a while as the Winchesters have to stop her turning all of humanity into monsters in a return blow at Crowley.

After she’s vanquished they learn Crowley’s still out there and have to go hunting him. It’s during this that they learn more about Purgatory, the power of souls, the untapped resources there – and slowly begin to see that Castiel is in on it with Crowley. Until the big ending with Raphael dead, Crowley double crossed and Castiel absorbing all that power – but becoming unstable and developing a god complex at the same time.

The development and hints around Castiel in this season are well done. We can see his fear and panic over the war, we can see the weight of his responsibilities grow. We can also repeatedly see his developing more of an “ends justifies the means” mentality, reversing the humanity he established with the Winchesters. His willingness to torture, his dismissal of wasting time to save children in favour of getting on with the main goal, his using the Winchesters as a distraction while he gets the weapons of Heaven – we see him change as a person even as he is extremely conflicted with his connection (or, should I say “profound bond”) with the Winchesters and the idea of hurting or betraying them. Still, everything doesn’t fall into place until episode 20, an excellent episode that Castiel narrates and shows his path into ever greater corruption, the excuses, justifications and lies he tells himself and the constant limits he tries to put on himself and Crowley as they get deeper in. This continues to the very end, Castiel determined to continue his course and stop the Apocalypse while at the same time begging for Dean’s trust and acceptance while also trying to seek forgiveness (again, beautifully shown after the kidnapping of Lisa and Ben).

Supernatural has repeatedly shown the ability to cover extreme emotional conflicts, recoveries and redemptions very well, and Castiel’s descent is at least as well done as any of those beforehand. Even if it does end up with my Castiel being the bad guy, wooooe!

Looking at individual episodes there’s a lot of good, some shaky (I’m not a fan of westerns) but it was more awesome moments than individual episodes that stand out (including lots and lots of awesome with Castiel). I should also mention there was a lot of hilarious moments in the series – and in the show. Some of Castiel’s lines (watching porn? Oh dear) and Crowley’s lines (mocking Bobby’s accent) have had me in stitches. Even soulless Sam creased me up (“EMPATHY SAM!”)

Episode 15 needs mentioning, where they came into “our world”, utterly shattering the 4th wall with Dean and Sam being called Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki is something I’m torn on, especially after the Chuck episode before. I’m not a fan of 4th wall breaking, it’s a gimmick and usually doesn’t work… except… oh gods it was funny! And showed just how willing they were to laugh at themselves: Dean’s horror at the soap roles Jensen Ackles has ACTUALLY played in the past, all of their wry amusement over the names of the actors (Jensen, Jared, Misha, Padalecki), the confused Misha Collins thinking he’s going through lines with them, tweeting everything and “I think I’m one of the guys!” and even calling the director, Bobby Singer, a dick for naming Bobby after himself. It was excellently well done self-parody and totally stopped me hating it. I also got a strong impression there were probably a lot of in-jokes the audience wasn’t meant to get but the cast probably did which just added to it.

And I have to give a nod to episode 5’s mocking of Twilight – it had to be done, yes yes it did.

Time for the complaints. Yes, the same complaints I’ve had since season 1. This show is a straight, white male save-the-day fantasy with only the briefest of inclusion and that all failing in epic levels.

POC – lots of dead extras (I’m actually beginning to think they may be using these as an attempt at inclusion because there seems to be more, including Lisa’s new boyfriend. The show up, show some melanin to the screen, and then they die). Raphael is now a Black woman not a Black man, but is still part of the Black People Against Winchesters club with hunter Gordon, Agent Henrickson and Uriel. Raphael is also dead, killed by Castiel – so is now a full full member of the club.

As an added bonus, Rufus, the one semi-regular, almost repeat-appearance Black character, the closest they’ve ever got to a Black cast member is now dead. Sam, Dean and Bobby are all very sad about this. I saw it coming the minute they gave him some backstory – not to develop the character, but to make it more sad for Bobby.

On women, we had a brief introduction to Gwen Campbell, a female hunter, before she died. She didn’t even die for emotional impact so I can’t say she was fridged. We had Ellie, an old flame of Bobby’s, a source of information and a Purgatory Beastie whose blood would open the portal who, yes, died in Bobby’s arms so he could be sad and we could see how far Castiel had fallen. Meg came back briefly to establish Crowley’s power and die (again). Ellen was brought back from the dead to make sure there was a sufficient sense of loss for the Winchesters and Bobby when they reset fate and returned her to the grave again. Angel Rachel showed up briefly to tell us that Castiel was Up To No Good and then she died. Lisa actually got to live – but her mind was wiped, effectively removing her from the story. From the beginning her only real point was a source of angst and emotional turmoil for Dean anyway, there was no attempt to develop her “you can hunt, just come back to us” idea. I actually entertained the brief idea of her becoming one of the Hunter’s support staff (a less hands-on Bobby, maybe), but no, she was there for tears and angst.

Which pretty much sums up the point of so many of the women this season, even the whole show – they die to serve a purpose, they die to develop characters and they (briefly) show up to advance a plot line then disappear into the plot box again – or die. They’re tools, not characters. Even Sherriff Jody who gets to live (so far, I don’t give her high odds of surviving next season) was just a tool.

There were no GBLT characters but, again, a plethora of gay jokes. Really? If you are going to erase us at least don’t use as comic relief. And don’t tell me Crowley is gay. Crowley makes gay jokes, lots and lots of gay jokes and lots of innuendo. He’s a demon, he does it to make people uncomfortable – even the creators have Word-of-Godded that one.

Now I’m going to go sit in a corner and wibble at Castiel being next season’s big bad. Oooooh Castiel *wibble* Mind you, he did demand they all bow and love him and since this is Castiel that is only right and proper. Right?