I’ve never stopped being a fan of the series Supernatural. I compare it to all the different Trek series I’ve watched (well, of course I would compare it to Trek—have you met me?), in which even a less-than-stellar episode is still pretty good television. Prior to this season, however, the highwater mark for the show was way back in Season 6.
You remember Season 6, don’t you? That’s the one with the soulless Sam and Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) as Grandpa Campbell. Being perfectly honest, I have that season in a dead heat with Season 4, in which the angels were introduced, and Season 1, which—although awkward as all newly born foals must be—introduced most of the concepts that have carried through the entire series. I will wait until the end of Season 15, which has already begun as I write this, to decide which were my favorite episodes and seasons.
Season 7, which is the one with Leviathans (yimakh shemo), the season that saw the death of Bobby Singer (Jim Beavers) and left a lasting bad taste in my mouth, caused me to see most of the seasons that followed it in a less-favorable light, if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors here. I can’t blame 7 entirely, however, although that was certainly the series low-water mark (hopefully, will continue to be). Part of the problem is that the entire series mytharc had grown as complicated and unwieldy as you might expect from a horror-fantasy program that’s been on the air as long as this one has. At this point we’ve created so many heroes, villains, sacred places and artifacts that we need a compendium to keep up with them all. Mind you, that’s part of the fun, especially if you’re in on the joke. But, when things become too chaotic and campy, you can’t help but to wish for a Crisis on Infinite Earths-type scenario to clean the whole mess up and get back to basics.
That’s not exactly what happens in Season 12. Things continue to be complicated. But, some of the complications are fresh and fun, and they inject new life into the series.
First off, after the cosmic shenanigans of the previous season’s finale, we are reintroduced to Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith), wife of John, mother of Dean and Sam. Sure, we’ve gotten to know her a bit in the Dean time-travel episodes, but she’s now in our timeline. For lack of a better word, the real timeline. Mary was raised by Hunters to be a Hunter, and, guess what, she’s a Hunter. In fact, her character seems to have more in common with Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) than the more studious Sam (Jared Padalecki). Since John Winchester was the descendent of American Men of Letters, it seems that Sam was probably more like his old man than he would be comfortable admitting. Think about it. John kept pretty detailed logs and a monster journal. That seems more like Sam than Dean, doesn’t it? What do you mean, “I’m devoting too much serious thought to a frivolous subject”? That’s what hardcore nerd fans do, ya muttonhead.
At any rate, Mary was a nice addition to the series. The brothers instantly seem years younger. The boys have needed their Mommy. Dean lost her at a young age, and Sam never knew her at all. This alone stirs up so many character emotions and opens up potential dramatic possibilities. Her death at the hands of Azazel (along with the later death of Sam’s college girlfriend) set up the premise for the entire series. With her introduction into the modern Supernatural timeline, she continues to influence the show’s direction.
We seemed to have lost Lucifer as a Big Bad after he reconciled with his father, God (a guy named Chuck—long story) at the end of the previous season. We didn’t, though. After God leaves with his sister Amara, Lucifer feels abandoned, again, and lashes out at his father’s favorite creation, again. An underlying theme of this entire series has dealt with parental abandonment. Discuss this amongst yourselves.
As the season begins, Crowley (Mark Sheppard) is attempting to track Lucifer down as he hops from body to body, leaving a trail of smoking-eyed corpses in his wake. He eventually settles, momentarily, in the body of an aging shock-rocker, played by Rick Springfield (who may have rocked, but never truly shocked), which is fun. Then, he invades the body of the President of the United States, impregnates POTUS’s mistress with a Nephilim (which, in the show mythos, are angel-human hybrids), before he is apparently returned to the Cage with the aid of super-witch Rowena (Ruth Connell). As it turns out, he wasn’t returned to the Cage, but was hijacked by the ever-duplicitous Crowley and is Mark Pellegrino once again. Only now, he’s Crowley’s captive and slave. How do you think that will turn out? Yep, you got it.
At the end of the previous season, we were also left with the cliffhanger of Sam Winchester being shot by British Men of Letters operative Lady Toni Bevell (Elizabeth Blackmore). Even though the season kicks off with Sam—who was shot in the leg, by the way—being tortured by the Brits, their super-secret-agent organization becomes a huge part of the season. We get the previously name-dropped Mr. Ketch (David Haydn-Jones) the potential ally Mick Davies (Adam Fergus), and the stern headmistress Dr. Hess (Gillian Barber), in addition to Toni Bevell. Mary begins to work with the British Men of Letters on US soil, and Sam is later sucked into their high-tech agency as well. For a time, it seems like we’re going as far away from the basics as is humanly possible. It was like a crossover with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It reminded me, a lot, of that whole storyline in Buffy the Vampire Slayer about The Initiative. Not always in a good way.
I won’t give everything away about this season’s overall story arc. But, I will say that two Big Bads develop, and neither are unexpected. Lucifer is the overall Big Bad again, of course (no spoiler there) and his arc, with the delivery of his son who may-or-may-not-be the Antichrist, wrapping up in the truly exciting final episode, after the secondary Big Bad is resoundingly dealt with in the penultimate episode (also exciting). Only, Lucifer’s arc doesn’t so much “wrap up” as become more complicated, carrying over as a new storyline for the next season.
While the mytharc episodes were what truly elevated this season for me, we did get our usual assortment of monster-of-the-week episodes as well. 23 episodes are a lot of broadcast hours to fill. We get creepy dolls and dead children, religious stigmata, a witch curse that makes Dean lose his memory, and the god Moloch, as well as the customary werewolves and vampires and such.
Some one-off episodes of note. The Thule Society returns in the appropriately-titled “The One You’ve Been Waiting For” in which the Winchester brothers face off against none other that Adolf Hitler himself. “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” was an episode-long Quentin Tarantino homage, including a glowing off-camera McGuffin (which turns out to be the return of the semi-mythical Colt revolver), and introduces the concept of Princes of Hell. As it turns out Azazel was one such Prince, which all have yellow eyes, and Dagon is name-dropped in this episode. She becomes an important player in the back half of the season.
Lots of other fun stuff happens as well. Castiel and Crowley team up again in a weird buddy-cop arc as they track Lucifer. They pose as FBI agents using the aliases “Beyonce” and “Jay Z.” We get our usual Winchester aliases as well, including Morrison and Manzerak, Moon and Entwistle, and McVie and Fleetwood. At the beginning of the episode “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,” Dean walks in carrying a barbed-wire-wrapped bat, saying, “Man, Dad loved this thing.” That episode aired in 2016, which was the same year Jeffrey Dean Morgan started appearing as Negan on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Since Morgan also played John Winchester, this was a great Easter Egg for the fans.
As has also, unfortunately, become a series trope, we get some major character deaths this season. I’m not going to spoil those for you, but you already expect them if you’ve watched the series to this point. Are they permanent “deaths”? Hey, this is Supernatural. You know better than to ask that question.
I felt more positive about writing the review for this season than I have for a while. No, it’s not the show I started out watching. It’s unlikely that we can get that back since Pandora’s box was opened (metaphorically speaking: if that really happens on the show, I haven’t seen it yet). But, this season did recapture some of that earlier magic, when things were new and fresh. It gives me hope for the final three seasons.
Firewater’s Let’s-Have-a-Nephilim-Shower Report Card: A
As ever, I am a fan of the show. This entire season was worth the wait.