A Pit Stop at The Crossroads: A Look Back at the Season 11 Finale – Originally published on Rain Man Digital
By Thomas Cowley
Season 12 of Supernatural is speeding down the rails like a runaway train and fans are anxiously awaiting its arrival, having eagerly lashed ourselves to the tracks like the world’s most oddly specific death cult. With salvation hurdling towards me, I spent a night re-watching the Season 11 Finale and I couldn’t help but remember the mixed reaction it evoked. Shortly after the episode aired many discussion boards were aflame with an odd mix of outrage and praise, which I found rather curious for such a well-received season. So after equipping myself with the proper spelunking gear and a canary, I thought I would take one last plunge into the catacombs of the recently deceased Season 11 and see what exactly was the cause of death, and whether or not foul play was involved.It is a well-known fact that you cannot please everyone (although I know a few bisexuals who would care to differ) and in no place is this more prevalent than storytelling. Regardless of how something ends, there is always going to be some smug prick (usually me) who has a list of ways in which you could have done something better. During my expedition I found two arguments that seemed to be trumpeted the loudest: an anti-climactic ending and disappointment in the fact that Amara did not turn the world into one of those barren lots downtown that are desolate 99% of the time, unless it’s game day and suddenly the cost per square foot is more expense than a condo in the south of France. While I personally was a fan of the finale, this is not to say that my opinion is right and another’s is wrong. Least not yet. I mean we are only two paragraphs in so give me some time.
Anti-Climactic Does Not Mean Bad Story Telling – Easily the biggest complaint was that the finale did not have the bareknuckle punch-up in a car parking lot that everyone was hoping to see. Whether or not we want to admit it, this is something that we all knew would probably be the case going into the episode. Short of Game of Thrones, no television show has the budget to visually display an apocalyptic struggle between deities. More importantly, everyone should have known going into the finale that it was never going to end in a big show of violence. Throughout the season we see time and again that Amara does not understand our world, nor does she understand the feelings that she has for Dean. Emotions of that kind were completely foreign to her, what with being a cosmic force and all. She was an alien dropped onto Earth and trying to understand our human emotions, all the while coming to grips with the fact that her anger may be blinding her from the truth about humans and the Earth. Meanwhile, Chuck reveals himself as God while hiding out in “the safest place ever created” because he is a coward. He is the God who deliberately sat on the sidelines and watched the apocalypse play out for a mix of his own amusement and to prove something to himself about his creations. Should we really expect him to pull some Rocky montage out of his ass and fight Amara one on one? It makes sense that we would find him hiding from his sister the same way that he had hidden from Humanity for all those years. Instead we see two characters complete their respective arcs. Amara finally puts aside her anger and forgives Chuck. She sees the value in humans and better understands her attraction to Dean. Chuck finally faces his sister, admits he was wrong, and shows a willingness to make things better between them. That was always how these characters, portrayed as they are, were going to solve their issues; by coming together and understanding that family is more important, a concept that these gods struggle to understand, but that humanity figured out long ago. Who better to teach them that than Dean?
Amara Was Not Pure Evil – There seemed to be this profound misunderstanding throughout this season by many that Amara, or The Darkness, was the epitome of all evil. This complaint threw me a bit because it seemed obvious to me that anyone who had actually been paying attention to the story would know that Amara, while destructive, was not pure evil. Admittedly, this is how she is first represented to the audience; a power that even Death does not want to let out. However, the entire point of her story was not that she was evil, but angry. Time and time again we see Amara’s misguided attempts to make people happy, the want to lash out at her brother, and a want to make her own world after kicking down her brother’s proverbial sand castle as a finale “fuck you.” Compare that to Lucifer, who wants to kill all humans and even goes so far as to kill his own brother Gabriel simply because he was standing in his way. Which one of those sounds like an angry child, and which one sounds like the To-Do List of a recently convicted serial killer? One person specifically, who I do not know and do not wish to name so I will refer to them as “Plonker Pete,” said that “darkness was synonymous with evil” and to give him “one good example of destruction used for good,” apparently having missed decomposition and digestion day in grade school biology. The mixing of Judeo-Christian theology with Eastern philosophy can create for some confusion, but the core concept is balance. There cannot be life without death, light without darkness. Amara was not evil, she was entropy. While she did not understand the moral issues with taking a person’s soul, she always thought she was doing the right thing; taking away people’s pain and giving them peace unlike Chuck who had abandoned them. That is not evil. That is someone trying to fix something without understanding how to fix it, like a child taking a fish for a walk because it looked bored in its tank.
Men of Letters – Kripke once told Gamble that she would need to tell smaller, more personal stories after Season 5, and that holds true for Dabb in Season 12. At this point, Sam and Dean are legendary heroes. They have stopped the apocalypse, defeated the Leviathans, survived angel wars, stopped the Darkness, and even met God. They are so far beyond the normal scope of a hunter that when the standard monster of the week talks a big game about taking on the Winchesters, we as the audience think “Oh, isn’t that cute!” So how do you create a situation in which our heroes feel vulnerable? We see them fail. While it is true that Dean talked Amara down off the metaphorical ledge, both he and Sam failed to stop Amara the way they had planned. Both times in fact. Only because she was willing to make a change and mend things with Chuck were they able to see another day. Our heroes holed up in a bar “waiting for the whole thing to blow over” because their original plan failed is exactly the kind of sobering reality we need for characters who ooze perfection. Seeing that allows us to better believe that an outside, human force could represent an actual problem for them. Cas and Crowley keep the angels and demons at bay, we have long since stopped being afraid of the police, and God has seemingly given them a pass on all their actions, good or bad. So who is left to hold them accountable for all the damage they cause? Lucifer said in the mid-season premiere that they “choose each other instead of the world, no matter how many innocent people die.” Their decisions, like any good character, show their true nature, and when push comes to shove, Sam and Dean choose each other over the fate of the world every time. How much blood is on their hands because of that? And now the consequences of those actions are finally coming back to haunt them from the only organization left that does not worship the boys.
All that being said, I do have one idea that I believe could have helped the lackluster response.
Bring Back “To Be Continued” – I don’t know why Supernatural has done away with “To Be Continued.” Maybe whomever first proposed the idea called a producer’s wife a whore during the annual holiday party so now there is a corporate mandate that “TBC” can never again be used. But in situations like this, I cannot help but to think that it would greatly improve the flow of the episode. The sad fact is that we are trained by television to take each episode by itself and laud it over every other episode as better, or condemn it as the worst episode ever despite the fact that they are all part of one big story. No one specifically praises chapter 51 of A Storm of Swords, they praise the whole book. And it is very rare that the final chapter of a novel or the last 5 minutes of a film contain the best parts, yet we have this concept that television must adhere to this rule. Why? Simply to improve ratings at the end of every year? And how well did that work out for my old punching bag “The Walking Dead?” In truth, the real Season 11 finale of Supernatural was a four part series of episodes, starting with “Don’t Call Me Shirley.” Had that episode, and the subsequent installments after it all been viewed in one single sitting, I personally do not believe that it would receive as much bile as it has. This same concept would have helped the season premiere as well, where the first episode was a lot of set up and the second episode was the pay off. Basically if you leave the room in the middle of sex, you better say you are coming back and not just start again tomorrow as if the previous night had not happened.
Now that the autopsy is done, what have we learned? Well, we learned that I can ramble on for over 1,800 words, and that the quality of the finale is completely subjective. Well that was a waste of fucking time then, wasn’t it? In all seriousness, while you may have not been a fan of the finale, that does not mean it was categorically bad. Unlike many other shows that set up a bullshit cliffhanger that completely destroys the pacing of the show simply to artificially boost the season premiere numbers, or those that makes a sudden lane shift at the last moment, for all its faults, the Season finale achieved what it set out to do; to tell a different story. That is something I think we should appreciate as fans. It shows us that the writers are not yet phoning it in; that they are deliberately working hard to provide us with new and unique experiences, not just for our sake, but for the sake of the show. They will not always please everyone, but they certainly try harder. And those who try harder are usually more fun than those who simply do the minimum in an attempt to appease everyone. Unless of course they try hard and are bisexual.
Originally published on Rain Man Digital