Season 11 is off to a fantastic start. It strikes me as I write this what an unusual thing that is to say. Season 11 and the word “fantastic” aren’t often used in the same sentence. Many long-running shows, even ones who are beloved by fans, often take a downturn in quality as they go on. It has to be difficult to come up with fresh story arcs and keep characters interesting over such a long span of time. Even real people aren’t quite as fascinating after you’ve known them for a decade – how can there possibly be nuances still to discover about fictional characters? How can we possibly still care about fictional characters enough to sustain a weekly television show in its eleventh year?
I’d be the first to say that Supernatural has had its ups and downs. Not every season is stellar and not every episode is breathtakingly awesome. But I still find something to love about this show every time I watch a new episode, and I’m enjoying Season 11 almost as much as I did the early seasons that first drew me into this decade-long love affair. That’s pretty damn amazing!
Credit for that feat goes to a whole bunch of people. The crew, many of whom have been there since the beginning, but who still are passionate about this show ten years later. The cast, who are still so excited about the show they’re making and the story they’re telling that they all showed up on twitter to live tweet along with fans! Jared, Jensen, Misha, Mark, guest stars past and present. Jared and Jensen sat together on the couch in their Supernatural tee shirts watching and tweeting exactly like so many of us were doing.
Pretty sure Jared used more exclamation points than even I did when he got excited about the episode. Then they hopped on Facebook live to chat with fans (in what looked like some scary mood lighting, but they managed to be totally adorable anyway). When does that happen in the eleventh season of a show? I check in with Jensen and Jared every time I see them, just a little chat about how they are and how they’re feeling about the current season. They’re always enthusiastic and excited, but this season? I think there have been a few times when they’re more excited than ME! And for anyone who knows me, that’s really saying something!
Also their live tweets were glorious. I imagine them speaking what they’re typing, so Jensen saying “F-ing great” and Jared saying “Holy s***” was kinda hot. I love that they can still get giddy and emotional over the show, just like we do.
This week was Robert Berens’ turn up to bat, and he definitely didn’t strike out. In fact, this was an episode that both kept my interest and kept me guessing, with twists and turns and lots of action as well as lots of conversation. Not clunky oh-no-more-exposition conversation either, but realistic conversation that gave us more insight into what exactly is happening in the world of the Winchesters.
The music, this time by Jay Gruska, once again worked perfectly – the music this season has been strikingly effective, so kudos to that team. They’ve also been with the show for quite a while, and it shows in their ability to get it right. I particularly love that the action scenes this season have been enriched by music that amps up my adrenaline level even more.
The editing was also ambitious and for the most part worked really well – even if it did make my head spin with the cut aways and back and forths. At one point, we had Sam fighting demons and Cas beating up Metatron, and the violence was underscored by the juxtaposition.
I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath! The juxtaposition also worked to create a parallel, as both Sam and Cas made the decision not to take a life if they didn’t have to. That’s been a theme that got temporarily lost in the middle of the series, with fans asking what happened to saving people and trying to exorcise demons instead of just knifing them to death. Either fandom got through to TPTB or they just woke up on their own, but finally the Winchesters seem to have remembered that too.
Cas, I suspect, has always been on board with that – one of the things I like about the character is that he has compassion. Even some of the awful things he’s done were motivated by a desire to do good (however ill advised). I like that we’re seeing Cas grapple again with what’s right. I also love that we’re getting to see his struggle with the aftermath of the attack dog spell and everything else he’s been through, and the impact his memories of hurting people are having. Dean isn’t the only one who struggles with guilt that can be nearly incapacitating. That’s a realistic struggle, for someone who values doing the right thing, especially when you’ve hurt people you care about very much.
Cas finding a coping strategy of binge watching television was a nice touch by Berens. Fandom immediately circulated gifs of Cas’ happy face with the message:
Cas is fandom. Fandom is Cas.
Don’t judge him too harshly for that coping strategy, Dean; it’s one many of us have used, and one that has managed to change or even save lives for some of the people watching Supernatural right now.
I also love that Cas was both emotional and badass in this episode. They’re not mutually exclusive, after all! His guilt and regret don’t cripple him, but he does have to deal with those feelings. I like that he isn’t rendered incompetent or helpless by allowing himself to feel instead of engaging in the customary Winchester method of denial.
Misha let some of Castiel’s power show through, and it made me shiver. Metatron misread his hesitation as weakness; Cas corrected him. Violently and powerfully. It was a glimpse of Cas as we first met him, which I liked. At the same time, I really appreciated that his own trauma doesn’t take away his ability to be empathic or to show mercy to others. Even Metatron.
Oh, and I love Metatron. I can’t help it, I love Curtis Armstrong and I was squeeful to see him back on SPN. And what a performance! I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I both hate Metatron and feel for him. He’s so whiny and often despicable, but he’s also so pathetic that I actually believe he’s hurting and start to feel sorry for him too. He deserved every blow Cas rained on him, but I didn’t want him to die. Curtis’ acting during that long scene with so much dialogue was incredible to watch; even Jensen couldn’t resist tweeting to him about it. I totally agree, Jensen.
I’m glad he’s still alive out there. And hey, he’s the one who delivered the bombshell WTF moment of the episode. The Darkness is God’s sister? What?? (Fandom had come close in speculation, but not too many people called it, which is a nice turn of events.) Jensen tweeted that he liked surprises. Me too, Jensen. And the fact that Supernatural can still surprise me after all this time? Surprising. Sorry.
Supernatural has had a fascination with sibling relationships ever since Kripke had the brilliant idea to make its protagonists brothers, which allowed his own psychological struggles with the rest of the Kripke family to be reflected in the Winchesters. That made them seem like real brothers from the start, along with some help from Jared and Jensen’s chemistry. Other sibling characters have served as mirrors for the Winchesters throughout the seasons, from Andy and his twin to the werewolf sisters to Lucifer and Michael and Gabriel – and now Amara and God. I have to say, that makes me even more interested in where the story is taking us.
Amara (or the Darkness) is working for me as the overarching danger of this season. She’s mysterious, nuanced, not necessarily “good” or “bad” – or at least it’s not that simple. She questions God’s decisions, especially as they cause humanity so much pain, and she’s capable of bringing peace to some she relieves of their souls even as it drives others to behavior which gets them killed or locked up fairly quickly. She has a thing for Dean and has completely turned on Crowley.
Poor Crowley, btw. While the scene where Amara breaks his hand was a bit over the top, I did feel for him a bit when Amara took Dean’s side so completely.
And he’d even been reading up on adolescent parenting skills! On the other hand, Crowley seemed pretty serious when he declared that his bromance with Dean was finally well and truly over, so maybe I should just be grateful that Amara stepped in when she did.
My favorite part of the episode? Dean went from strangely frozen and unable to kill Amara (like literally frozen, open mouthed and looking like he was in a trance) to WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU’RE HURTING SAM, I’MMA END YOU!
Amara didn’t look too pleased at that turn of events. She may have just learned something important about Dean Winchester. I just hope it’s not something she plans to use against him.
Response to that scene with Amara and Dean was mixed. Amara as a fairly young teenager (even if she’s actually older than anything in the universe) stroking Dean’s face was….weird. Vaguely uncomfortable and maybe a bit creepy? Some people didn’t read it that way at all, and the dialogue only referenced fascination.
But hey, this is Dean Winchester we’re talking about. If that was my first contact with humanity, I’d be pretty damn fascinated too. If fascinated is what we’re calling it these days.
The final music cue was undeniably awesome, not the least because I didn’t realize it was still the show! I thought it was some really interesting advertisement with great music until Amara was in the middle of it. It was again a mix of sort of creepy and yet pretty cool, especially because they used the version of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” from Pulp Fiction. Jensen was so excited about it, he might have used an exclamation point too. Maybe.
Not so sure I’m a fan of having to sexualize Amara (already?) in order for her to be the big bad. But so far, the character works for me and the actresses who have portrayed her have done an amazing job.
Getting back to Dean and Sam….I LOVED Sam in this episode! Sam being smart, Sam being badass, Sam kicking ass and taking names. We got so much Sam pov that fandom was confused as the camera actually followed Sam as he walked away from Dean.
My timeline: Why are you following Sam, cameraman? Are you lost??
Thank you, Robert Berens, for the much needed Sam pov!
I’m not sure what those visions were, but I’m intrigued. Of course, Sam doesn’t tell Dean about the visions and Dean doesn’t tell Sam about his Amara-induced paralysis. Naturally.
But Sam does get a chance to be pretty damn badass, and at the same time to stick to the rules he’s reiterated, trying desperately to overpower the demons without killing the meatsuits.
Sam and Dean even contemplate exorcizing the demon they caught trying to get to Goldie in her cell.
Fandom: Did Dean have to get on Sam’s shoulders to paint that on the ceiling? [Fanart ensues.]
I love fandom, have I mentioned?
Anyway, that’s an awesome scene. Winchesters in fed suits looking so goddamn badass, just sort of looming into frame behind the demon. RAWR.
That must be the poor actor who Jensen said passed out in the middle of the scene, and Jensen caught him before he fell right out of the chair. Hey, if I was faced with badass Sam and Dean, I might pass out too. Though it might be for slightly different reasons.
I felt bad for that guy; as demons go, he wasn’t too bad. Too bad the meat suit was shot through the heart, but yay for smart!Sammy realizing it.
More bits of awesome:
I’m hoping for the possible reappearance of God, aka Chuck, aka Rob Benedict!!
The reappearance of the wallpaper from Changing Channels (an homage from Jerry Wanek).
Crowley to Amara: I’ll leave you to your memes.
Everything about Metatron’s speech to Cas about reality being the new literature, making some pointed political and sociological observations because Show is sly like that. And smart like that.
Sam teasing Dean about his “summer of love” with Crowley and sounding a wee bit jealous.
Metatron to Castiel when asked about the Darkness: The band? (Come on, we’ve all said it at one point since the Season 10 finale!)
The last scene at the bunker ends with one of Dean Winchester’s least convincing performances ever, as he tries to convince Cas and Sam that the Darkness incapacitated him and neither of them is having it. I wonder if he’s trying to convince himself too.
Cas sticks up for himself, Sam has another vision and keeps it to himself, and that’s how we leave Team Free Will. Just that little glimpse of The Cage increased my excitement a thousand fold. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
I’m off to Pascon – follow us for live tweets and photos, and some exclusive interviews coming up too! If you’ve read and enjoyed our books on Supernatural, or would like one signed, come find me at the con! I’d love to say hi.
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