Before we even start humming “Carry on Wayward Son” and crying, I want to point out that if you are not caught up to at least the end of season 9 of Supernatural, what follows has spoilers aplenty. If you do not want to be spoiled, turn back now. I do not want to get ganked. I warned you.
Carrying on . . . wayward son . . . OK, I first want to say that as a therapist, Supernatural is ripe for using as case examples, what with all the substance abuse, grief, and unresolved feelings. Season nine was an exploration of the dangers of secret-keeping. It was also a sea of not-so-great episodes and story-lines interspersed with completely heart-wrenching developments. Did you block some things out due to vicarious trauma? Allow me to refresh your memory:
Castiel, kicked out of the bunker and doing the saddest load of laundry the world has ever known, followed by a string of sadness errands including getting a rib tattoo on his newly human flesh (ouch!), finds himself performing manual labor and facing rejection causing his already puppy dog face to extremely puppy-dog. Kevin is thrust off this mortal coil while Mama Tran languishes in a dungeon and is presumed dead. Sam is forcibly possessed (another article for another time), and Dean willingly accepts (and gets crazed by) the mark of Cain. Also, some stuff happens with angels that was so disinteresting to me, I don’t even want to talk about it. Metatron was OK until he made Castiel pop culture savvy and ruined everything. Overall, there were a couple of quality Dean/Cas moments, but mostly my favorite onscreen pair were to remain separated. I was quite pleased the writers finally established that Castiel is in love . . . with humanity (world’s longest pause).
I personally LOVE the Winchester brothers’ codependency—I know, I know, I would never encourage it in real live people, but it’s so entertaining. The way those boys fight and die for each other over and over again is so wrong it’s right. But the way they do that, mostly through going behind each other’s backs and lying to each other is where their relationship suffers. Then they wind up not talking to each other or trying to live normal lives, which is just ridiculous.
Let’s take a look at how this played out in season nine. I’m not going to go episode by epepisode here, but rather touch on some of Dean’s highest highs and the lowest lows. I will also gripe about and praise some things just because I can.
So, the elephant in the room the entire season is that Dean tricked Sam into being possessed by the angel, Gadreel. Season nine starts with Dean making a decision to keep this massive secret from Sam. Gadreel, hell-bent on remaining hidden, reinforced the secret-keeping impulse. Net result: Dean is a secret-keeping machine, with a super secret friend who can secretly bring people back from the dead. #secrets
One of the few people who has a profound bond with Dean, aside from a certain angel, is Charlie, who reappears in “Slumber Party” (9.4), as well as another kick ass lady, Dorothy. And, hey, Gadreel comes in handy bringing Charlie back from the dead because Dean can’t let go of people and internalizes every death as being his fault. Unfortunately, as so often happens in the Supernatural universe, kick-ass women leave us quickly. And, as Charlie walks into her adventure, Dean loses another important person in his life. Isolation intensifies.
And now for a palate cleanser: “Dog Dean Afternoon” (9.5). In therapy, there are some weeks where you just don’t talk about anything. You and your therapist sit and look at each other across the coffee table and make polite chit chat, but the conversation never dips below surface level. Usually after a session like that, the next one brings up something truly profound. So is the case here. Because we sit through an episode in which Dean makes eyes at a poodle, we are rewarded with the little gem that is “Heaven Can’t Wait” (9.6)—Castiel working at the Gas-N-Sip, Cas and Dean back together exchanging meaningful looks, quality time with Kevin, Sam and Crowley in the bunker. The world is beautiful and nothing hurts. For a moment, at least. And then Castiel gets dropped back off at the Gas-N-Sip, and all our hearts are broken. Dean is isolated; his self-loathing is growing.
When it comes to “Rock and a Hard Place” (9.8), I have some feelings about Dean shtupping the former porn star who was trying to turn over a celibate leaf. On the other hand, when you look at the losses in his life, it makes sense that the man would be desperate for some human contact, even if it isn’t the genuine contact of the person he most wants to be with. Speaking of the person he wants to be with . . . we get more Cas and Dean in “Road Trip” (9.10)! Joy is infused into the Dean’s life for a moment. But secrets are coming out and as soon as Gadreel is exorcised, Sam can’t deal with his brother’s secret keeping anymore. Now we get a Sammy who is pretty stoic towards his brother until the finale—these are not the Winchesters I want.
For all my grousing, there were a few highlights in season nine. “First Born” (9.11)—Cain! Timothy Omundson was an absolute delight and I could watch him all day. Of course, Mark Sheppard’s Crowley is always spot on. Also, Bees! And, please do notice the parallels between Cain and his wife and a couple of other people we know. But wait, does Dean want to listen to the terrible things that might accompany the mark of Cain? No? What’s that, Dean? Vengeance! Secrets!
And then, ugh, “The Purge” (9.13)—I can’t even. No, wait, I can. Fat jokes and the sexualization of yoga; two of my favorite things (when I want to have a rage aneurysm). Additionally, “#THINMAN” (9.15) was horribly heavy-handed. After I initially watched this episode, I was just like, “ouch, my head hurts from you guys hitting me over the head with the over-the-top parallels between the Ghostfacers and the boys. Like, we get it.” Plus, they were so lifeless—I enjoy the Ghostfacers and there was just no joy in them this season. Newsflash: people are multi-faceted. We can handle people—even Ghostfacers—having layers. I promise.
Now for some serious tough love for the showrunners. I think that we can all agree that “Bloodlines” (9.20) is the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the Supernatural universe. I mean, come on. You are making a spin-off but you aren’t spinning anybody off? As though you’re making Supernatural: Chicago, ala CSI: Miami? Nobody wants to watch that. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed the demographics of your audience, but we are, many of us, of the female persuasion. And we might like, I don’t know, to have some representation.
Supernatural has so many female characters that you (the showrunners) have gotten rid of, who would make for amazing spin-offs! Can anybody say anything involving Charlie Bradbury? Or, Charlie and Dorothy in Oz?! Who would not watch that? Or Sheriff Jody Mills? You could even figure out a way to resurrect Ellen and Jo, or do a period piece with young Mary Winchester (OMG, the outfits!) Instead, you decided to not use any of the characters we already love, and go with a male protagonist we’ve never met before—in Chicago, where we know that hunters have been—and we’re supposed to believe there are these demon gangsters that no hunter has ever heard of or talked about? Then to top the whole thing off, our motivation to get into this world is a girl in the freezer trope?! Ugh, clearly I could write an entire piece on that one episode alone, but I’ll move on to the end.
“Do you Believe in Miracles” (9.23) brought the season to a satisfying conclusion. I got the codependent Winchesters back that I love when Sam tried to save Dean at the last minute. Castiel’s eyes on that bloody angel blade? And Dean telling Sammy, “I’m proud of us”?! All the feels.
Despite what may feel like harsh criticism, I was left feeling like there was such potential for season 10. We’re toughest on those we love the most, but we are also the most forgiving of them.