This week, in honor of the Season 7 finale on Friday, I’ve decided to do a five-part meta about why I love flawed, beautiful, broken Season 7 so much.
Yesterday I made some predictions about the Season Finale. Today, I wrap up this week’s series with a few final thoughts on the season and the road that still lies ahead.
In some ways, Season 7 has been a back-to-basics season—more akin to Seasons 2 and 3 than Season 6. Unlike the highly serialized narratives of the past few seasons, this season’s arc is more episodic, relying on one-off storylines and mini-arcs rather than season-long plot arcs. Yet it’s clear the season has a theme – Dean’s Descent – which is reflected in each episode, no matter how standalone. For the first time since Season 3, I feel like the mid-season one-off episodes are necessary and integral to the storyline, and with the possible exception of “Shut Up, Dr. Phil”, I don’t think there’s any truly ‘skippable’ episodes this year (as in, you could skip them and still get the full gist of the season’s plot).
As far as the dialogue goes, I think it’s as funny and charming as ever, and overall, I’ve rewatched the episodes of this season more than those of any other year except Season 3 (which is hardly a fair comparison, as that season has “Mystery Spot”, “Bad Day At Black Rock” and “Ghostfacers”). There’s something so delightful in the banter between Frank and Dean in “Slash Fiction”, or Garth’s casual confidence in “Party On, Garth”, or the way Sister Thibideaux bilks thinly-veiled racists out of their cash in “The Mentalists”. I love the better kind of God Castiel tries to become in “Meet The New Boss”, and the casually vile, utterly corporate nature of the Leviathan, and how everyone this season, from Maggie Stark to Krissy, is motivated by love and dependency in equal measure. (And not for nothing, but have you noticed how many queer characters there are this season? They’re everywhere, and they’re not being played for laughs, either.) All of it’s fantastic.
But what I love about Season 7 most, though, is that it continues the tradition begun in Season 2 and introduces genuinely lovable and interesting minor characters (many of the fandom’s favorite minors – Jo, Ellen, Ash, Ava; even love-to-hate ‘ems like Henrickson and Gordon—debuted in Season 2). Seasons 5 and 6 were an utter bloodbath for recurring minors, and this season, the writers have finally begun to repopulate the nest. We’ve been offered new characters to fall in love with— Frank Devereaux, Garth, Charlie, Krissy, Kevin, even Jody Mills (although technically she first appears in Season 5)—and man, somehow, some way, I love them all. (Hell, I even love the villains — Dick Roman is the best.)
That the writers can still get me so attached to minor characters five seasons after killing off Ava Wilson and Ronald Resnick speaks to the real reason I think most of us love this show so much – Supernatural isn’t just a story about brothers; it’s about the lives they influence along the way.
More Meta Behind The Break:
Season 7 hasn’t been perfect—in particular, I think the way the writers handled Bobby’s return has been one long canon-breaking bungle from start to finish—but overall I’m delighted with this year and the subtler, more mature storytelling the writers opted for. The showrunner this season and last season is a woman, and I think it shows in the greater weight the narrative has given to character growth, namely, the “re-humanization” of Team Free Will. As I said earlier in the week: Once you save the world and become Heroes, you need to re-learn how to be humans, lest you become Gods—or worse, Demons. It’s a necessary sequel to the Hero’s Journey, and Sera Gamble did an exquisite job ensuring that no matter what they did, Sam and Dean’s choices had personal repercussions and more human consequences. For once, the demons this season are (literally and figuratively) inner ones. The growth is emotional. And after six seasons of constant running and fighting and scraping to survive, I find it highly satisfying that Dean is forced to finally face the music and confront what he’s been running from—himself. It’s the right time in the series for this, and the Heroine’s Journey is the right way to do it.
A reader commented on yesterday’s post about Dean’s Descent echoing a common complaint about Season 7, which is basically, “what about Sam?” My response: What about him? Sam—who has done little but confront his own fears and foibles for six seasons – gets a well-deserved rest this season; with the exception of Hallucifer, Sam is at peace with himself and his role in the world.
And thank Chuck for that. Since the pilot, Sam has carried most of the show’s emotional burden—capped off by his quite literally becoming a whole, realized person in the finale of Season 6. But character growth only means something if we as the audience see it demonstrated; if a character has changed, we have to see him think or behave in a new way. So that translates to kind of a quiet season for Sam this year, which I’m okay with. In Season 7, we see it made obvious that Sam has grown up, he’s accepted his flaws, his guilt and his pain (the three aspects of himself he met in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”), and that he doesn’t need to struggle with himself so much any longer—or, at least, not like Dean does.
I like that the writers didn’t back away from that, that they didn’t try to erase or otherwise undermine Sam’s emotional growth in the pursuit of creating cheap dramatic tension, like so many other serialized shows often do. Sam matured, and in so doing, earned a rest. Now it’s Dean, who didn’t grow very much last season, to do some maturing of his own. (Remember how I said when a protagonist completes her Heroine’s Journey, it often catalyzes those around her to embark on their own Journeys? That’s exactly what’s happening here.)
One last thought on Season 7: As of tonight Sera Gamble is leaving the show, and I will miss her terribly. She’s always been one of my favorite Supernatural writers—in fact, she personally wrote many of my favorite episodes—“Faith”, “Houses of the Holy”, “It’s a Terrible Life”, and of course most of the season finale/premiere lead-ins—and she brings a perspective often sorely lacking on the apparently mostly male writing staff. (For example, it was Gamble who fought tooth and nail to get Ruby into a dead woman’s body, just so there wouldn’t be any rape or consent issues when she and Sam slept together.) She writes unapologetically brilliant women, and she isn’t afraid to explore the more difficult or problematic angles of the show’s more beloved characters. As a writer, Gamble is someone I look up to: clever, competent and unapologetic for being good at what she does, even in the face of fan sexism so vile it’d make even Henry Higgins blush. (And given that most of the Supernatural fandom is women, I don’t know whether that should make me angry or sad.)
Given that Gamble’s been involved in story creation since the pilot, I don’t know what a Supernatural without her looks like, and naturally, I’m a little apprehensive that the show will return to its more problematic story choices (such as its early season predilection to turn all women into virgins, mothers and whores). Still, with Jeremy Carver on board, I think she’s passing the torch into good hands, and as wary as I am, I’m even more excited to see what Season 8 has in store.
Tonight’s the Season finale, and while I won’t be able to watch it in real-time with the rest of you, I still feel like a kid on Christmas morning, bouncing up and down, barely able to contain myself. This has been far and away my favorite season of my favorite show—this week’s meta has only made me love it more – and rather than being disappointed that the story’s coming to a close, I’m excited to find out how it all comes together in the end. How will the Leviathan be defeated? Will Bobby go vengeful? Did Dean learn his lessons? Will Cas take responsibility for his actions? So many questions, all to be answered tonight.
So until then:
Carry on, my wayward son.
There’ll be peace when you are done.
Lay your weary head to rest.
Don’t you cry no more.
Read this series from the beginning here.