Spoilers abound for all seasons, so read with caution. Also, season 8 review is super long.
This fucking season – this fucking show. This season is what I refer to as the “Voyager” season. When it’s good, it is absolutely great, but when it’s bad, it’s the worst thing ever. Never have I continued watching a show where I’ve literally yelled at the television, “Oh, FUCK you!!” as much as I have screamed that this season. However, this season also has some really awesome parts to it, these moments are so unbelievably awesome that it keeps the Supernatural faith going. But sometimes, barely.
Let’s start with the beginning of the season, as we resolve the Dean in Purgatory storyline. I love the character of Benny, and Ty Olsson brings a deep, soulful, and romantic Benny to life so well, it’s impressive what a fantastic actor he is. Also, if I were rich, I’d hire him to just read to me with Benny’s accent. This man talks and I swoon. Love, love, love Benny, but much of the plot lines surrounding him are pretty much a game of “kick the friendly vampire” as Sam and Dean’s dysfunction swallows everyone in their path.
Dean returns from Purgatory, a land where he is fighting for survival pretty much all of the time, and he’s more than little PTSD-y with it. There is a definite parallel between coming home from war – including having a suicidal war buddy who comes back with you (Benny) – during this season as Dean has to adjust to the real world again. He even has flashbacks and other symptoms popping up. Not that the Winchesters aren’t PTSD on legs most of the time, but this season is much more symbolic of a war veteran returning home.
During the first several episodes, I alternate between wanting to beat the crap out of Sam and wanting to beat the crap out of Dean. These fucking guys. Sam quit hunting and didn’t even search for Dean, and Dean takes this incredibly personally and tortures Sam with it pretty much every episode. This seemed completely out of character for Sam and it isn’t until season 10 when he tells Charlie that he doesn’t want to hunt without his brother, that he can’t hunt without his brother that this plot line even made sense to me.
If they’d established that aspect of Sam early on, this wouldn’t have come across as character assassination, but it came off that way anyway. However, with the season 10 patchwork line in the mix, yeah, Sam didn’t have Bobby, Castiel, Ruby, Dean, or basically anyone else to help him out, so he wandered. Ok, fine. I still think it’s stupid, but whatever.
Sam meets and eventually falls for the incredibly dislikable Amelia. I’m not one of the fan girls that hates anyone the brothers happen to fall in love with, but her? Really Sam? Her? She’s a damaged psyche in pants, but that’s what draws Sam and her together, their mutual fucked-uppedness seems to be the cementing force in their relationship. She’s hostile and not very nice most of the time, but the rest of the time, she’s just a hot mess of confusion.
This isn’t love, it’s mutual dependency – love takes some understanding, and none of the women Sam has loved have ever really understood everything about him because he doesn’t tell them. Love without understanding who the other person is eventually fails under the weight of romantic ideations being placed on a fantasy rather than on who the person actually is.
That said, I do like that Amelia gave Sam a normal life, including a birthday cake in a pretty park area. That made me like her a little bit, but the rest of the time she is just damage personified. Their ending sees Sam making a choice between life as a hunter and life as a “normal” person, and he chooses the hunter life. Dean tells him that when he chooses to make it stick and honestly, Sam really does. His angst about hunter vs human is gone and he really does continue in the life in a happy and productive way. After he chooses to end things with Amelia, he does become a hunter and even embraces it. After 8 years of him angsting over this (and after a year has gone by) Sam is now 30-31 years old, so it’s time to decide a direction.
Dean and Sam fight and angst at each other most of the early episodes. Dean’s mad about Sam deserting him in Purgatory. Sam’s mad about Benny, which I find inexplicable. He wants to kill Benny with a furor that seems insane and completely unreasonable. This dynamic makes all of the Wincest slash fiction make some sense to me. Sam’s mad that Dean has bonded with Benny during his time away. He let Lenore live when he found out she was a vegetarian, but somehow Benny deserves to die without hearing explanations? Again, feels like a bit of mild character assassination. Sam takes time and thinks things through, but with Benny he is both blind-lover jealous of Benny and still holding resentment for Dean’s killing of Amy, the kitsune.
Meanwhile, instead of explaining his loyalty to Benny to Sam, Dean just tells Sam to trust him. Basically, Dean’s so much more interested in Sam’s BLIND trust of him because he’s motherfucking DEAN, instead of giving Sam details that it is sincerely stupid. STUPID. How about in “Citizen Fang” – an episode where both brothers are complete assholes for some reason – Dean doesn’t tell Sam that he didn’t even get the story from Benny, but from a third party. This might have made Sam’s hate-rage fire cool down a bit, but no, why provide concrete examples of your reasoning when you can yell “trust me” really loud.
I hated the episode “Citizen Fang” and Benny is the only good thing about that entire episode. He behaves like a rational human being, whereas the hunters are too busy being mired in their own dysfunction to tell their ass from a hole in the ground.
Meanwhile, can we talk about Dean’s attitude towards Sam falling in love? Dude never says her name until he’s forced to do so by Sam. Furthermore, he belittles the entire relationship constantly as Sam ditching him for “some girl” because apparently, girls are throwaway items in this universe. I love Dean, but by the third time he says “some girl” with such contempt, I want to kick him in the nuts. If anyone had treated Lisa that way, he’d be pissed. However, this is another aspect of Dean’s character that makes both Wincest and the Destiel stories more than little plausible. Both brothers act like jealous lovers the first several episodes of this season, and Dean’s chemistry and love for Sam, Benny, and Castiel eclipses any love he’s ever had for a woman.
Lauren Tom as Linda Tran is a wonderful addition to the cast and Linda Tran is such a badass the entire time she is on screen. She’s thrown to the supernatural world and tries to find her place in it while also protecting her son. I love her and the episode “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” shows how she and Kevin Tran (Osric Chau) have the perfect mother-son banter. She’s a character we don’t see much of outside of being Kevin’s mother, but the writing of her and Lauren Tom’s performance make her so much more than most shows’ one note mother figure.
Kevin is a wonderful part of this season and I adore him. His character arc this season is both tragic and heroic. Crowley captures him and tortures him and he escapes. I’m not sure why they have him on some weird house boat but whatever. Kevin loses his sanity a little and becomes a weird recluse who only eats hotdogs, but he manages to figure out how to close the gates of hell. He also manages to conquer his fear of Crowley. When Crowley tries to fool him with a fake setting and a fake Sam and Dean, it doesn’t work. Not only doesn’t it work, but Crowley can’t even really scare Kevin anymore. Kevin knows Crowley is going to kill him, so he even arranges a last meal for himself. Quite the clever ducky, our Kevin.
The best thing about season 8 and probably all of the seasons that come after it is The Bunker. My love for the Bunker is infinite. It is a heavily warded, hidden fortress, that contains a library of weirdness for their research purposes. I want one, like right now. The bunker was a genius idea and wonderfully executed, except for one small complaint – even in season 10 they are still finding out things about the bunker, which is cool and pretty humorous, but I would think the very first thing you’d do in a place like that is go through each and every room. Just to make sure the perimeter is secure, but they find the library, kitchen, beds, and bathroom and are content to stop exploring. Sometimes their lack of curiosity is maddening.
“I like this bunker. It’s orderly.” Castiel
The Bunker is so freaking awesome, it bumps this back up a full letter grade. While I’m not a fan of the Men of Letters storyline as it plays out in season 12, the Men of Letters bunker is everything they could need from a Batcave. It has a garage for vehicles, a dungeon for demons, tons of books and files, plus a room for Dean, Sam, Castiel, and Kevin and probably room for a lot more. When Kevin disappears Dean mentions that they should have taken him to the bunker – ya think? That was one of the times I yelled curse words at the screen. NOT taking him to the bunker was so fucking stupid.
Dean’s reaction to the bunker is hilarious. He listens to the old-timey music, wears a dead guy’s robe, and eventually decorates his room. It’s fabulous to see Dean have a place to call his own. He even cooks what must have been a very tasty burger, seeing as Sam the Salad Eater took the burger with him when they had to leave rather than leave it behind.
The rest of the season, now that Dean and Sam have pledged their love and devotion to each other anew (sigh, so stupid) is the trials to close the gates of hell. Dean is going to do it, but of course it ends up being Sam. Anyone who has watched this show knows that the doors to hell will never be shut because Dean is incapable of sacrificing Sam. Dean would rather burn the world down and lose people they once saved for NOTHING rather than lose Sam. As soon as the trials started, I was disgusted because we all know how this will end.
Dean at the very end of the season realizing that the trials would kill Sam (he keeps getting progressively sicker, and we all know God likes a sacrifice in this show – like Dean is not just a professional hunter here, he’s a professional Denyer of the Obvious, and it makes me want to kick him) is not a surprise to anyone other than Dean. Even Sam responds with “So??” when Dean tells him about it. Everyone, including Sam, knows it means his death, so of course Dean stops it.
And this part of this episode shows the brilliance and frustration of the show: while rolling my eyes at Dean’s denial, stupidity, and utter selfishness and inability to look at a Greater Good scenario if the sacrifice is his, the following scene between a dying, crying Sam while Dean begs him to NOT close the gates of hell is amazing. Jared Padalecki breaks your heart and Jensen Ackles is pitch perfect, too. So while I’m intensely hating the stupid decision making that seems to be more about what is needed plot wise than character wise (although, Dean is kind of a wang about Sammy) I’m loving the scene that stems from it.
One of the things my husband and I did a lot of in season 8 is pausing the show and bitching about it. “If I were writing it…” was something I said a lot as we tried to figure out different ways to get the characters to the same place without the stupid decision making. However, what the entire show boils down to is these two brothers would rather destroy the world than lose each other. There are some episodes where this makes them almost the bad guys – if you didn’t actually close the gates of hell, what did Sarah die for? What did Tommy die for? What did Kevin almost drive himself mad for? What did you kill Benny for? People are wasted in the process of getting to this point and then they just stop, because yikes, if Sam dies that would be a totally different thing.
Fuck you, Dean. And fuck you, Sam for not just doing it anyway. I will say after seeing up through season 12 and shifting my point of view from it being about two brothers who save people, to two people who are cripplingly co-dependent and happen to shoot things a lot, did help. Also, Sam’s not as obvious about it as Dean is but he also can’t really function without Dean. So be it, writers. I honestly can’t tell if this dysfunction is written into the script or just thrown in for some angsty moments, but I will say it pretty much does hold true to the characters.
Also, the whole reason Sam does the trials is mostly pride. He thinks that Dean doesn’t think Sam can actually do it and meanwhile, Dean’s just not able to watch the guy die, but neither one of them actually seems to be listening to the other one.
But again, the rest of this episode is freaking phenomenal. The end of the season gives the entire season another bump in letter grade – the angels falling. I was raised Catholic and there is a lot of angel iconography in Catholicism, so this might just have been me, but I started sobbing instantly. Angels in this series might be dicks, but most of them just want to be told what to do. Seeing them fall to the earth like meteors streaking across the sky was devastating. I think I stopped crying long enough to hyperventilate or maybe have a panic attack. This was a devastating moment, and when Dean says, “The angels. They’re falling,” the devastation I feel is on his face – Jensen Ackles really rocks as an actor.
Castiel had more presence this season, even if he was only back to himself in the last few episodes. Dean being pissed at him has Castiel wanting to win his favor. He goes to a convenient store and creates a Castiel-style mess, while getting Dean’s favorite porn. His temper snaps when the cashier says they’re out of pie. Dean loves pie, and in order to get Dean to stop being mad at him, pie really is required.
Castiel: “You don’t understand. I need pie”
Metatron: “Put the virgin down, Castiel.”
This brings us to one of the better villains of the series, who eventually becomes a bit of a savior, he’s a complex guy, Metatron. Played by the always fun Curtis Armstrong, who every one knows from “Moonlighting,” 😉
Metatron is why the angels fell. The Winchesters in their fruitless journey to close the hell gates tell Metatron to get involved, and while I’m very happy he saved Kevin, considering he kills Kevin the next season, it’s a wash. I’m going to say that much of this bad guy is on the Winchesters as well. “Get involved! Wait, no not like that….” Again, at the end of this season my husband asked me if I thought they were intentionally trying to make the Winchesters the bad guys, and I don’t think so? But I’m not sure.
Anyway, this time around, I saw that the room number to Metatron’s hotel room is 366, which is maybe some foreshadowing. 366 isn’t 666 (Lucifer is boring), but it still sets off a little alarm bell. Metatron loves stories, and hey, who can blame him? He decides that since there is a power vacuum in heaven with the archangels either dead or in the cage, he might as well takeover. All of the energy they’ve put into deciphering the tablets is wasted against Metatron who knows the contents of all of them. Pro-tip, when the friendly guy starts talking about killing people, maybe he’s not on the side of the angels.
This episode points out two interesting things about humans – we write and enjoy stories, and each author is god to a tiny, but specific, universe and we make things the same everywhere. The sameness of the Biggersons makes Castiel invisible to the angels. They know he is at a Biggersons, but he keeps switching from one to the next to the next, so they can’t get to him because the sameness is confusing.
Naomi is terrifying, and Amanda Tapping on the show gets me Stargate Bingo (so many actors have been in both.) Naomi is on the side of heaven, no doubt in my mind, but it does make heaven seem like a terrifying place to be. What exactly is heaven’s agenda if it requires such dark tactics? Anyway, Naomi and Crowley have a history of some sort, as he knows how to push her buttons. Apparently, never call her a bureaucrat – she’ll melt your eyes out. However, being on the side of heaven means she’s temporarily on the side of the Winchesters in later episodes. She’s the one that tips Dean off about the trials killing his obviously dying brother. She was fun to have on the show as a bad guy and I really enjoyed it.
While I’m not going to go episode by episode, one episode, “Remember the Titians” stands out, not just because it has Prometheus in it, but because Prometheus falls in love with the dumbest woman in the entire universe. This was a good episode with the exception of this character – who always looked as if she badly needed a hairbrush to tidy messy hair. Basically everything she does is stupid and counter-productive. She gets Prometheus killed because of her sheer stupidity, and honestly, every time she is on screen it is a waste of time to even watch. How does this woman raise a child? Hell, how does she even dress herself in the mornings? Ugh.
Charlie Bradbury returns in “LARP and the Real Girl” and “Pac-Man Fever” deepening her bond and ties to the Winchesters. Charlie is always fun and delightful and these episodes are no exception.
I really thought the episode “Bitten” was a back-door pilot as the found footage episode revolves around three college roommates and barely has the Winchesters in it at all. This isn’t a bad pilot episode of something, but it didn’t really feel like a Supernatural episode so much.
“As Time Goes By” highlights how much Dean needs counseling for his daddy issues, and their paternal grandfather time travels from 1958 to 2013, and bursts out of their closet door. Dean spends most of the episode being incredibly hostile to his grandfather, who was assumed to have walked out on his family. After kicking the man all episode for something that was clearly not his fault, when Henry Winchester tries to go back in time to fix it, Dean stops him. Why? To save Sam! Bleh.
“Everyone Hates Hitler” came out before Nazis started being a political debate again, so they are excellent bad guys to root against. Also, the addition of a golem to the mythos and the Judah Initiative was really good world building. I really enjoyed this episode and the new characters it introduced.
Mostly, Supernatural is still completely watchable and enjoyable, but the writing felt uneven and the character making stupid decision was incredibly frustrating. Supernatural works the best – is the most enjoyable – when the brothers are working together and pulling in the same direction. This season didn’t have that dynamic for well over half the time.
Overall, I give the season a B – B is for Bunker. This season had really good episodes along with a few boring ones, but between the bunker and angels falling it makes up for a lot of the flaws.