I rate each episode of Supernatural as I view it, giving each a score from zero to five stars. Looking at my spreadsheet and judging it objectively, Season 8 seems to have earned a cumulative score less than that of Season 7, which I gave a report card grade of B+.
But . . . reviewing a television series isn’t a completely objective task. You can’t reduce an entire season to something as cut-and-dried as the number of stars I gave each episode. Was this the greatest season of Supernatural I’ve watched so far? No. As I sit here pecking away at the keyboard, I feel in my heart that it was better than the Leviathan season, a season in which we saw Bobby Singer die. I’m not burying the lead here, my ultimate grade will be better than B+. At least a little better. This season was better than 7.
Let’s talk about the season.
Lots of great things happen this season. We get another year-long time jump. Dean finds a way to return from Purgatory after the Season 7 finale. But, he’s not alone. Dean is now best pals with a vampire named Benny, whom he met in Purgatory, and who helped him get out. Sam, meanwhile, has spent the year leading a normal life. He had a girlfriend, and a dog. He stopped hunting, even ditching most of his phones. He didn’t even, we find out later, try to find a way to get Dean out of Purgatory.
Kevin Tran, the new Prophet of the Lord, found a way to escape from Crowley, and he’s also seen another God tablet that tells how to banish demonkind from Earth permanently. When the Winchesters are reunited, their first task is to find Kevin and help him. So, we kick off the season with the brothers somewhat estranged again, keeping secrets from each other. We also get the beginnings of a season arc about using the God tablets to close the gates of Hell.
We also introduce a flashback style of storytelling to Supernatural that is reminiscent of Lost and of the first five seasons of Arrow, which I believe debuted the same year as this season. We get flashbacks of Dean’s time in Purgatory with Castiel and Benny the Vampire. We also get flashbacks about Sam’s meet-cute love affair with a pretty animal doctor named Amelia. Of the two storylines, Dean’s is the more compelling. But, both pretty much peter out midway through the season. Both Dean’s relationship with Benny and Sam’s with his vet girlfriend are doomed from the outset, but at least the Winchester boys still have each other.
We get some returning guest-stars this season. D.J. Qualls returns as Garth, who has grown on me. Felicia Day returns for two separate episodes as Charlie Bradbury. The first is largely about LARP-ing. The second provides more backstory explaining how Charlie became the person she is. Krissy Chambers, the young daughter of a hunter whom Dean bonded with in Season 7, returns for a one-shot. Jim Beaver also returns for one episode, as Bobby Singer, who is rescued from Hell and sent to his rightful home in Heaven.
Castiel (Misha Collins) eventually returns full-time to the show. His new heavenly foil is an angelic middle-manager named Naomi (Amanda Tapping). Later, Castiel is instrumental in locating the Metatron, who turns out to be Curtis Armstrong, Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds movies. Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard) continues to be the Big Bad on the Hell side of the equation, although the demon Meg does make a return appearance. These supernatural beings are all contributing forces in the season-long arc, which becomes about closing off both Heaven and Hell.
Other things happen along the way. In “As Time Goes By,” the Winchesters meet their paternal grandfather, who was in a super-secret organization called the Men of Letters. The demon Abaddon, a Knight of Hell, is introduced in the same episode. The Winchester grandfather time-travels to Season 8 of the show, and manages to expand the mythology of the series in new and interesting ways. Dean and Sam even get their own Batcave in the form of the Men of Letters secret lair, which also contains lots of cool arcane artifacts and volumes of supernatural lore. I don’t think this season leveraged the whole Men-of-Letters thing to its fullest, but it makes me excited about the potential storylines that could—and should—come from this new development.
We also get our share of monster-of-the-week episodes, some of which are throwaways, but also many fun ones as well. We meet Plutus the God of Greed; an ancient Mayan who worships Cacao the God of Maize; a Confederate soldier who’s become a vengeful spectre; a golem, and another secret organization called the Judah Initiative; the canine familiar, who is also a beautiful woman, of a male police detective witch; more djinns; a rogue Reaper who is also a taxi driver; and, a Nephalim, a human-angel hybrid.
Even though some of these episodes were fun, they were largely filler episodes, not propelling the main story in any significant ways. What some of these episodes did accomplish was sparking the imagination, showing that there were new and interesting directions that the show could take.
Still, I missed Bobby Singer this season. Castiel, Kevin Tran and Garth just don’t quite fill his shoes. Bobby was a father-figure. Those other characters are more like siblings to the Winchesters.
In the end, however, I must admit that I still liked this season. It was, as I said before, better than Season 7. Ultimately, it was more positive in tone, and it definitely ended in a more uplifting way. Unless I interpreted things wrong, Metatron transformed Castiel into a human, which should provide many interesting scenes next season. The visual of the angels falling from Heaven was also a memorable one.
I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Firewater’s Season 8 Report Card: A-
By the way, by my calculations I passed the halfway mark through the entire series somewhere in this season. That’s a lot of television.