Go, Team Free Will – spoilers for all seasons abound so don’t continue if you don’t want to be super mega spoiled.
First of all, much of this season is spent kicking Sam. The Trickster shows up and does his level best to punish Sam for being a total prick the season before – granted, the Trickster isn’t there just to punish Sam, but still, it happens. Dean’s fury at Sam is pretty huge, too, which sees the brothers separating for the first few episodes, something no one watching the show really enjoys. However, in this context it makes sense, and the separation does allow for Dean to gain a better perspective of events, through some angelic help taking him to a nightmarish place. Sam is punished a lot for releasing Lucifer and his guilt and self-punishment is pretty evident from episode 1. After the last several episodes of season 4, this game of Kick Sam was needed to redeem the character, who was pretty irredeemable last season.
The goal of the season is for Sam and Dean to say “yes” to Lucifer and Michael, respectively. Angels can’t possess someone without their acquiescence, so the angels and demons both want the brothers to say yes, so the apocalypse can come. The whole season revolves around this plot.
One of the best – or at least most fun – episodes is Swap Meat, where a nerdy kid switches bodies with Sam. This is a hilarious episode which starts off with the kid in Sam’s body being picked up by a woman in a bar. The line that makes me laugh every time is “Crystal, I would love to have the sex with you.” This is a fun episode and it’s fun to watch, much like “Changing Channels” is – Sam and Dean in TV Land? Awesomely fun. “The Real Ghostbusters” is another simply fantastic episode, where they go to a fan convention for Chuck Shirley’s, aka Carver Edlund’s, Supernatural series of books. Becky, of course, invites them.
Becky is a character I love to see on the show, but if you analyze her appearances too closely, it seems as a fan of the series of books, the writers hold her in contempt. Becky is the butt of jokes, called a loser, and generally treated like a loony nerd, even though she’s actually pretty, smart, and funny.
It makes me wonder if the writers think all of their fans are losers, or if they just like to beat the dead of horse of “you live in your parent’s basement” which wasn’t funny ever, and ceases to be funny from both overuse and inaccuracy. Really using a line such as this to disparage nerds ignores the fact that nerds run the world, and not from their parents’ basements. So Becky is fun and I like her, but I wish the writers weren’t so contemptuous – it’s insulting to their fans, especially the female ones. That said, the fan convention is not only fun, but Becky provides them with critical information about the Colt.
This brings up another issue – if I were the Winchesters, I would have read every single book written. Becky has information that they boys don’t because she read the books. It’s beyond stupid and lazy that they haven’t read them all, too. Becky’s information leads us to a plan to shoot the devil in the face with the Colt. A plan I love because…
I’m sick to death of Lucifer. Prior to Mark Pellegrino being Lucifer, he has been the bad guy in damn near every single show in the universe. He shows up on screen and before the character introduction happens, my husband and I are telling whoever the main characters are to shoot him. A lot. Don’t even let this guy talk, he’s bad news, so please shoot him.
Needless to say, Mark Pellegrino showing up and being Lucifer, no big surprise. My husband actually, “Seriously? This guy again?” During season 5 I wasn’t sick to death of Lucifer, yet, so it’s mainly pretty interesting (by season 12 Lucifer is such an old and tired-out bad guy, I have no idea why they keep bringing him back. Fucking stop it, Supernatural, and get some different bad guys, ffs) but honestly as a character, Lucifer does come off as a petulant, spoiled brat, which is who he is.
The much better character that was introduced in season 5 is Mark Sheppard’s Crowley. Now, let’s be clear, other than in “Warehouse 13” pretty much every time Mark Sheppard shows up on screen he is an antagonist for the main characters, much like Mark Pellegrino, but Sheppard’s characters are somehow much more interesting and charming. “Sterling” from “Leverage” is a prime example of how fun an antagonist Sheppard is. Sheppard on the screen is a delight, whether he is torturing the main characters or simply bantering with the Winchester boys.
Crowley is a delight to behold and his introductory episode is one of the season’s best. I’d be hard pressed to say which intro I like better, Castiel’s or Crowley’s. Castiel’s is immense and impressive and awe inspiring. Crowley’s is fun. “Abandon All Hope…” not only introduces Crowley, but it also gets the Colt back in the boys’ hands, complete with a whole new set of bullets. Crowley is no fool, and knowing that the Devil hates demons, he’s going for self-preservation at this point.
In addition to Crowley, this episode sees the return of Ellen and Jo, two characters that were often underutilized. While Supernatural has a tendency to do too much Women in Refrigerators for my liking, because nothing upsets the Winchesters like a female death, the death of Jo and Ellen was beautiful and awesome. Alona Tal and Samantha Ferris are great in every episode they are in, but in this one they break your heart in two.
While saving Dean from hellhounds, Jo is attacked by one, and dying. This entire sequence shows what excellent acting the show has – Dean telling Bobby that he doesn’t think Jo is going to make it – Jensen Ackles does a great job of leaving words unsaid and here is a prime example. He tries to tell Bobby this, but can’t get the sentence out.
Patrick Swayze once said in an interview about “City of Joy” that he filmed it after experiencing the loss of his father, so crying was no problem for this movie, what was difficult was the suppressed emotions. Men in our society are taught (toxically) at a young age to not cry, to be a man, and those lessons run deep down to the bone. Jensen Ackles does tormented grief, quickly suppressed, unbelievably well.
However, the most moving thing about this episode is Samantha Ferris, who is so fucking fabulous I don’t have the words. Her character, Ellen, didn’t want Jo hunting monsters, but Jo did it anyway, so she figured they might as well do it together, so she could continue to watch out for her daughter. When Jo tells them, “Stop. Guys, stop. Can we uh, be realistic about this please? I can’t move my legs. I can’t be moved. My guts are bein’ held in by an Ace bandage. We gotta… we gotta get our priorities straight here. Number one, I’m not going anywhere.” She then tells them how they can make a bomb out of the conveniently stocked shelves of the hardware store they are hiding in. She breaks your heart while also being a smart badass – Jo, you are missed.
They make the bomb, the boys say their goodbyes (another gut wrenching Dean moment) and Ellen stays behind. “Somebody’s gotta let ’em in. Like you said, you’re not movin’. You got me, Jo. And you’re right. This is important. But I will not leave you here alone.” Ellen stays because someone has to do it and quite frankly, she doesn’t want to live without Jo. Ellen’s already lost her husband, losing her daughter is NOT something she wants to feel. However, Jo dies a few second before Ellen does and it’s emotionally shattering to see the realization on Ellen’s face that Jo has gone. She has time for a few seconds of grief, before she composes herself and destroys the hellhounds, herself, and the hardware store.
If I were in charge, Samantha Ferris would get all of the awards for this performance. If there’s a way to bring her back for Wayward Daughters/Sisters, I would be totally on board. Her character is tough as nails, smart, and doesn’t put up with any bullshit. She’s a tough broad, and I use broad as the highest of compliments.
Speaking of tough broads, this season also introduces us to Sheriff Jody Mills, one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen on television, right along with Ellen. Kim Rhodes brings to life the complex emotions and motivations of Jody right from the start. Most shows think “strong woman” means “crazy bitch” but in this show, Jody Mills is strong and tough, but also full of love.
“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” sees Jody’s son returning from the dead, so when Sam and Dean show up to kill some zombies, she’s not having it and takes them to jail. When the dead turn evil, her zombie son kills her husband. In one shattering second, Jody loses all that she loves and Sam comes in and helps her escape. Jody Mills cries and is shocked and upset and then is able to think coherently and clearly a few seconds later to help save her town. Most people would be a basket case rocking themselves in the corner, but Jody womans up to it in an impressive way. I could go on and on about how Jody Mills is one of the best female characters ever written, but I’ve already gone on too long.
Also, this season sees angry Castiel and it’s impressive. When Dean’s on the verge of saying yes to Michael, Castiel pretty much beats the crap out of him, and with good reason. Castiel has been cast out of heaven for helping the brothers, and is a fallen angel at this point. He did it for Dean and Sam and Team Free Will, so Dean pretty much deserves the beating. “I rebelled for this?! So that you could surrender to them? I gave everything for you. And this is what you give to me. ”
Later after Dean has said no to Michael, Castiel apologizes in his brutally honest way, “You’re not the burnt and broken shell of a man I thought you to be,” which is a great way to describe Dean pretty much any season, but was particularly funny coming from Castiel.
Kurt Fuller makes an awesome bad guy in Zachariah, but I have to say he makes an even better good guy. He plays a coroner in “Psych” and he becomes the most delightful and funny aspect of that show. However, he is fearsome and great in Supernatural and a worthy adversary.
Season 5 is an A overall. There are very few episodes I would skip entirely, as almost all of them are tied into the overarching apocalypse plot line. Even the weaker episodes of season 5 are really good, although I have to say the killing of Gabriel still has me bummed out. The show has a pretty high death toll, to be certain, but killing off the Trickster killed some of the delightful magic that’s been a part of the show every season he appears. He’s another character I’d like to see return from the dead.
This season is the climactic finish to the overall plot line of the first 5 seasons. As such, it is tense and funny and fun and violent and full of fantastically great moments for so many of the characters. If I had the time to review each and every episode in season 5, I would, because they are all brilliant in their own ways. Unless you’re a Sam-girl, because again, this season is designed to punish the crap out of him for releasing Lucifer, and boy howdy, do they. Swan Song, indeed.