In the eighteenth episode of the eleventh season of Supernatural, A LOT OF THINGS HAPPEN. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
I think that perhaps more than any single thing I’m reading or watching right now, Supernatural provides me with the greatest challenge when it comes to critical analysis. I try (and don’t always succeed) at providing a balance between excitement and seriousness, and I have enjoyed that Supernatural has allowed me to do that. A LOT. Hell, this season is a great example! After ten full seasons, the show can still excite me and frustrate me. But I keep seeing the same main issue across these last few seasons. I feel like the writers have taken these characters – who are well-defined and dynamic – and treating them like game pieces. They’re picked up from and dropped into one disaster to another, as if that’s simply all the story that needs to be told. At this point, the repetition of themes and motifs is almost laughably bad, but I’m not laughing. I don’t want Supernatural to become irrelevant, and yet I worry that the show is going to keep promising us things, only to take them away.
I’ll explain. I found the pacing of “Hell’s Angels” to be frustrating because it was so plodding until it wasn’t. I believe a more consistent story would have worked here, but instead, the writers staged three long scenes full of talking and negotiation as an attempt to… what? Create a parallel? Have some nifty cut scenes? The problem I see with this is less of an editorial one. I do like story parallels a lot, especially when similar stories are unfolding simultaneously. I just couldn’t quite understand all of the stakes or all of the issues at hand. Let’s take Rowena for example. I was genuinely shocked by her return because I had assumed she was gone for good. Yet the excitement I felt (because I do love watching Ruth Connell do her thing) gave way to confusion. Exactly what did she want? What was she doing here? Where had she been in the weeks since Lucifer “killed” her?
See, the writers don’t bother defining this at all, and thus, I can’t focus on what they want me to focus on. I should be thrilled about a possible partnership between Amara and Rowena, but all I’m doing is asking questions. The same goes for Lucifer. Misha Collins is clearly having the time of his life with this characterization, and his joy is infectious. You can tell he’s loving the chance to be so ridiculous, but… what does he want? Heaven? The chance to have a lot of power? To bother and harass everyone? I suppose I’m less concerned with Lucifer!Cas because he works in the context of the show if you think of him as Supernatural‘s Loki. He’s just here to be chaotic and take the plot in new directions.
Yet the carrot being dangled out in front of us this season – Amara is going to re-write the universe after confronting God – keeps being pulled away further and further, and I never truly feel like we’re getting satisfying crumbs along the way. It’s as if the show thought up The Darkness, then created her endgame, and then figured they could just wing it in terms of determining what happens in the interim. Again, my issue isn’t with the cast or the acting. I just don’t get this as much as I should at this point. If Amara truly is the most powerful being, why hasn’t she destroyed God’s world yet? Wouldn’t that get him to show his face in a much more effective manner? What is Amara waiting for? If she can follow anyone around (as she does with Rowena), why can’t she locate God? God is her brother, and Rowena is a distant nothing compared to him. So why? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Oh, there’s a temporary explanation given to us here, but even that relies entirely on assumptions. We don’t actually know what Rowena did to heal Amara or why Rowena is even capable of healing a being like Amara. Hell, even Rowena’s resurrection is just written off as “surgically-inserted magic.”
I think the lack of details – in a show about lore, y’all! – is what makes this so distracting to me. We are just asked to accept everything as is, making the writers’ job easier, all so they can… give everyone scenes where they argue? Give us a big battle scene where literally every single attack is thwarted at the last second, meaning that no one actually was at risk for dying? If Supernatural is leading to some big confrontation, then they’re just killing time at this point, which is so frustrating! That’s especially the case when you’ve got SO MUCH POTENTIAL in one episode. Y’all, Crowley, Lucifer, Cas, the Winchesters, Rowena, and Amara were all in the same room. IN ONE SCENE! And what happens?
It’s not all terrible, and I really, really wish we’d gotten more in Cas’s subconscious. That was easily the coolest scene in the whole episode, and it had so much potential to explore Cas’s sense of duty, his complacency, and Lucifer’s desperation. Yet it makes up only a few minutes of this forty-odd-minute run, despite that this trio of characters are rarely in the same scene on this show. And then Lucifer and Amara finally fight! It’s the big confrontation we’ve been waiting for! Annnnnndddd… it’s over in ten seconds, the Horn of Joshua has no affect on her, none of this is explained to us, and then everyone is back to the start and GAHHHHHH. Why? Why is this happening? Perhaps this is all part of some later con and everything will come together smoothly.
But what I think Supernatural lacks these days isn’t original ideas or passion. These actors don’t seem bored in the slightest with their material, and the world of horror and the supernatural has limitless opportunities. I sense that there’s just not the same intensity to tell emotional, resonant stories anymore. It’s the storytelling that’s lacking. “Hell’s Angels” is full of shortcuts and lost opportunities. There’s no attempt at real worldbuilding here when there could be. Wouldn’t it be awesome to learn about some new form of magic that heals? There’s no attempt to give us dynamic, emotional scenes of desperation during the biggest battle of the season so far. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have Dean somehow get inside Cas’s head and beg him to come back? YOU HAVE YOUR EMOTIONAL DESPERATION STANDING RIGHT THERE, SUPERNATURAL. USE IT. And when the show could have moved the Amara story much further because we’re so close to the end of the season, the slate is wiped clean again, and we have to wait. Again.
These characters and these actors deserve a little better than that after ten years.
The video for “Hell’s Angel” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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