Supernatural: Season 13 — a review

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Season 13 would be the last season of the CW’s Supernatural to have 23 episodes. When I finished watching this season, there were only forty more episodes to watch—20 episodes each in Seasons 14 and 15—until the series finale, which will come just a few months into 2020.

After I watched the finale, “Let the Good Times Roll,” I had spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 television hours with the Winchester brothers and their various allies. And, probably for the first time, I was glad that I would be reaching the end of their story soon.

It’s not that 13 is a bad season. It’s not. Out of all thirteen seasons, I would place this one in the middle of the pack, with as many seasons ranked above it as below. A lot of interesting things happen, new characters are introduced, and the season ends on an intriguing cliffhanger. Only two episodes earned less than a mediocre 3-star score from me, both for very different reasons. I will address these in just a bit.

Part of the reason this season was going to have to work hard to impress me was that Castiel (Misha Collins) was dead at the end of Season 12, and he still seems to be dead as 13 kicks off. Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) and Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) are trapped in Apocalypse World as well. It seems also that Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard) is genuinely gone from the series, and I found myself missing him.

But, we get our introduction to the Nephilim, Lucifer’s son, who will be called Jack Kline (Alexander Calvert). He has quickly aged to young adulthood and goes out into the world during the first episode as naked as the day he was born. Which I guess was the same day, now that I think about it. Jack is a stranger in a strange land, and it seems that he’s not inherently evil just because he’s Lucifer’s son. He helps bring Castiel back to life, in some dark dimension known as The Empty, at the end of the third episode. So, no matter what else he does, he’s okay in my book because he brings Castiel back to the program.

Not surprisingly, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) have different opinions about Jack, and it becomes a Nature-vs-Nurture debate of sorts. Dean, of course, is just convinced that Jack is evil. He comes around later.

Speaking of no longer dead (which has become something of a trope on this series), Ketch (David Haydn-Jones), Rowena (Ruth Connell) and Billie the Reaper (Lisa Berry) all return to the show. Ketch and Rowena’s deaths were reversed by magic, of course. Billie, who we last saw killed by Castiel, was actually promoted as the new Death. Donatello Redfield (Keith Szarabajka), the Prophet of the Lord, also returns. I thought Amara had killed him, but it turns out that all she did was rob him of his soul. We also get that alternate Apocalypse-World versions of Bobby Singer (Jim Beavers) and Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day), of course. Not back from the dead exactly, just duplicates of dead characters.

Asmodeus (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), a Prince of Hell, is introduced as the new King of Hell. It seems he will be a formidable foe for the Winchesters, but ultimately turns out to be toothless.

Over in Apocalypse World, Lucifer and Mary are captured by the A-World version of the archangel Michael (Christian Keyes). This alternate Michael killed his world’s version of Lucifer and then went on to kill most of that world’s population as well. He’s not a good guy. With the help of the A-World version of Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), Lucifer manages to escape back to the show reality, leaving Mary behind. Without his powers, Lucifer can’t get up to the same level of mischief he’s accustomed to. He and Castiel are both captured by Asmodeus and locked away in Hell.

Jack manages to use his powers to cross over into Apocalypse World and ultimately rescues Mary. Ketch begins working with Asmodeus, who has an angel blade designed to kill archangels, and who also has Gabriel (Richard Speight Jr.), who I thought was also dead, locked in a cell with his mouth sewn shut. Ultimately, Gabriel kills Asmodeus, but doesn’t hang around because he’s not a “team” guy. Across several episodes, the Winchester brothers are collecting ingredients for a spell to open the rift to Apocalypse World to save their mother.

Both of the Winchester brothers die at least once again each this season. I’ve lost count how many times this has been. Dean’s was self-induced so that he could communicate to some ghosts or something. This is the episode where Billie returned as Death. Sam was killed by feral vampires in Apocalypse World, only to be brought back to life by Lucifer.

In the penultimate episode, appropriately titled “Exodus,” the Winchesters lead a whole group of Apocalypse World hunters to our dimension, including the alternate versions of Bobby Singer and Charlie Bradbury. Gabriel dies again at the end of his redemption arc. Sam seals Lucifer away with Michael in the other dimension, but, of course, that only holds them until the finale episode immediately following that one.

During the finale, Lucifer and Michael, who had been working together to open the rift from their side, come over to our dimension. Lucifer almost convinces Jack to join him on a father-son trip across the cosmos, but ultimately he steals Jack’s angelic grace to pump up his power again. Desperate, Dean allows a wounded Michael to use his body as the angel’s vessel, since he was meant to become Michael’s Sword. Dean/Michael kills Lucifer (maybe: who knows at this point?) but then Michael hijacks Dean’s body and begins wreaking havoc again. Which is how the season ends.

If any of this synopsis seems confusing to you, imagine how it must seem when you include all of the monsters-of-the-week shows that don’t really add to the season arc. There were a number of those. We get wraiths, shapeshifters, ghosts in plague masks, crossroad demons, dreamwalkers, zombies, Gog and Magog, and Yokoth the Lovecraftian horror.

We also get what I consider to be “stunt” episodes. One-offs that add nothing really to the season’s arc, and tend to be hit-or-miss on the side of entertainment.

The hits? The ghost gunslinger episode “Tombstone” was an entertaining one, and ends with Jack accidentally killing a bank security guard when he was just trying to help. While the fifteenth episode “A Most Holy Man” justifies its existence because the brothers are trying to get a necessary ingredient to open the rift to Apocalypse World, it is really just a thinly veiled homage to film noir with a Maltese Falcon-like McGuffin that’s supposed to be the skull of St. Peter. The archangel Gabriel gets his Kill Bill moments in the twentieth episode, “Unfinished Business” as he seeks his revenge against Loki and his sons.

These were the fun “stunt” episodes.

The first of the two episodes I scored less than 3-stars this season were Episode 10 “Wayward Sisters,” which was another backdoor pilot for a series featuring Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes), Sheriff Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster), and their wayward foster daughters, using girl-power to kill monsters. The series never worked out, and neither did this episode. The other episode was Episode 16 “Scoobynatural,” in which the Winchester brothers find themselves in an animated episode of Scooby-Doo. I realize that this is a favorite episode for some fans. I didn’t care for it. In fact, I almost wish it had been an episode of Jabberjaw instead, because I suspect this may be where Supernatural finally jumped the shark.

Please excuse my brief moment of sarcastic criticism. I didn’t hate the Scooby-Doo episode; I just didn’t like what it meant for the series. The main story arc tended to wander already, so much so I found it difficult to follow at times. Some subplots seemed to go nowhere, and in a setting where Death seems as impermanent as a head cold, the plot itself is robbed of some suspense. Doing a cartoon episode or sneaking in a backdoor pilot seems a little—I don’t know—disrespectful.

That said, this was an okay season of Supernatural. I wouldn’t categorize it as either Great or Bad, but somewhere in-between in Just-OK-Land.

Firewater’s Scooby-Doo-Why-Are-You? Report Card: B+

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I’d never recommend skipping this season, because a lot of important stuff happens. But, you could probably safely fast-forward your way through a third of the episodes and not miss very much.

40 more to go.

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