Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top 9 Problems With Season 9 of Supernatural

 Season Nine… Just… Season Nine. This season just irritates me on so many levels. To disappointing wastes of story, to character issues, to just episodes in general. So, I decided to just list my top nine problems with season nine. These are going to go from minor, more personal problems, to things that fail even on an objective level (or in some cases, are just in poor taste).

 Of course, this being a list about the whole season, expect spoilers, both for the season itself and some seasons before. Here we go!

9. The Lack Of "Fun Episodes" (Decent Ones)

 One of the highlights of the show is how they can go from serious, angsty, depressing episodes to wacky, creative "breather" episodes. The most notable ones being the Trickster episodes (mostly "Tall Tales", "Mystery Spot", and "Changing Channels"),

Most Famous/Quoted line from "Mystery Spot".

 and "The French Mistake" (an episode where the boys are teleported to "the real world", where their lives are a fictional TV show.)

A surreal moment for the fans...

But there are still other ones that are really funny and full of wacky hijinks,  such as "Hunter Heroici" (where they deal with cartoonish situations popping up all over the town of the week), "Clap Your Hands If You Believe" (where they think they're dealing with alien abduction, but it turns out it's fairies),

Actual Dialogue Coming Out The Mouth Of A Gruff Voiced Thirty-Something Year Old Man.

and "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie" (where children's fears (unicorns (yes, I know. And it even shoots rainbows out its butt! :D), octopuses (octopi?), sharks in ball pits, and of course clowns terrorize a town).

 However, Season 9 doesn't have any stand out, "ha ha" episodes. Sure, it has funny moments (such as 90% of the dialogue out of Crowley's mouth). But there's no real shining comedy episode. There were ones I think were MEANT to be the big comedy episodes, "Dog Dean Afternoon" and "#THINMAN", but they both fell flat. "Dog Dean Afternoon", while having a funny premise (Dean links minds with a dog so they can communicate with him and he starts acting doglike, hijinks ensue). But it was kinda unremarkable and (to me) was tainted by Ezekiel/Gadreel showing up for the fifth episode in a row when it really wasn't necessary (other than to plant the seed of suspicion in Sam) (and I was already sick of him at that point. WE GOT IT AT THAT POINT, WRITERS! SAM HAD AN ANGEL IN HIM! QUIT BEATING US OVER THE HEAD WITH IT! WE ARE CAPABLE OF MEMORY!)

(on a side note: I would have included Gadreel on the list for his role in the first few episodes and his sudden but inevitable betrayal, but I voiced most of my complaints about the former months ago in my "Angelus Ex Machina" rant, and the character DOES slightly redeem himself in the end, so...)

 As for "#THINMAN", it was a really funny episode, and had everything going for it: The Ghostfacers returned, we had generic, off-brand Slenderman, and there was a lot of Internet humor. Heck, I remember seeing the first two things would be there and thought "okay, if this episode doesn't deliver..."  Yeah, halfway through, there's a huge tonal shift, with the Ghostfacers breaking up because of lies (in a less than subtle parallel to The Winchesters' own relationship at the time). While, granted, "Mystery Spot" and "Changing Channels" both had tonal shifts, too, the humor had been strong and notable enough before it that it didn't kill the humor. This one? not so much.

 I think this season really could have benefitted from a good, old fashioned crazy comedy episode. (Especially if they got Crowley in it. I don't think we've ever seen him in one of those episodes. I want to see that.) It would have maybe made some parts of this season easier to swallow.
8. The Gabriel Fake-Out

 Hoo boy! So, in the episode "Meta Fiction", fan-favorite character Gabriel (AKA The Trickster) makes a sudden return after being believed to be dead (his dead body and wing outline shown and all). At first, this is great. He's just as hilarious as ever (his banter with Castiel being the highlight) and even seems to retain his character development from "Hammer Of The Gods" by telling Cas he's more or less going to stop running from Heaven and accept his duty as the sole remaining Archangel and run Heaven now. Then trying to give his "little brother" encouragement to rise up and take on Metatron himself when it seems Gabriel's backed into a corner by Metatron's goons.

 Then it turns out was all a dream.

 Well, to be specific, it was an illusion set up by Metatron to get Cas to lead his own flock of angels in his "elaborate plan" to rule Heaven, and... *sigh* I'll get to the Umbridge of Angels later. The point is, Gabriel wasn't there. WAY TO SAY "F YOU" TO THE AUDIENCE, GUYS! *slow clap*

 Well, they do make it ambiguous as to what Gabriel's real fate is, when Cas asks him if he's really still alive or not and Gabriel just gives him a look. And there is supposedly a tweet from a writer where they say Gabriel is still alive. But honestly, the damage is already done. They yanked the fandom's chain. And if that tweet was real, if I have to look at that stuff to get that sort of information, that's unfair to the people without the access. Heck, (Hannibal season 2 spoilers) even Bryan Fuller won't confirm if Chilton's alive, he just lets the fandom wait for the answer. And he didn't say "Freddie Lounds is alive, guys!" after loudly implying her death (even if it would've gotten him out of some of the hot water he was in for that episode...)

 Anyway, I just felt like that was pretty rotten of them to give the fandom what they wanted then take it away just as quickly.

 Now, the other problem that cropped up in "Meta Fiction"...
7. Metatron becoming a Mary Sue

 Yes. So, in "Meta Fiction", Metatron reveals that, since he has the Angel Tablet, he basically has power near God's. And he proceeds to show off his OP powers to The Winchesters by BLOWING OUT A HOLY FIRE RING THEY TRAPPED HIM IN and then, just to flip them off more, removes the warding and trapping sigils from The Impala's trunk and free Gadreel.

 Plus he makes Cas get pop culture references. The cad.

 Yeah, Metatron basically becomes a Mary Sue. (And from now on, I'm gonna call him "Meta Sue".)

 And it's not just the whole "way overpowered" thing. It seems like every little thing Meta Sue does completely works for him. His plan to paint Castiel in a bad light and make him loose his flock? Works. Get Gadreel to betray Dean and company even though Dean has been downright generous to the angel he barely knows? Works. Pretend to be a miracle-working hobo and thousands of homeless people (and maybe others) to be his own little overtrusting army of homeless people to protect him, beat up an angel who tries to expose him, and idolize him? Works. Fight Dean when he's all hopped up on The First Blade? Heck, he freakin' kills him. Yeah.

 And this is not at all helped by the fact Metatron was far from a popular character from the start of the season, probably being one of the few villains fans actually hate. Yes, people actually love Lucifer more than Metatron. (Hence my "Umbridge" remark.)

 Now, on TV Tropes's YMMV page for Supernatural, they say Crowley is a "Villain Sue". Well, I would agrue against that by saying Crowley does not always win. There are just as many times that the boys and company have got one over on him as he has them. Metatron, on the other hand? He's only beaten at the end of the season (in an admittedly satisfying and almost funny on a meta level way I'll talk about in another post). And even then he doesn't get ganked like most of the fandom undoubtedly thinks he deserves.

 It's funny, in "Meta Fiction" Meta Sue goes on about how he's "the hero" of the story and "what makes a story work'. Too bad he didn't know not to make his self-insert an overpowered Mary Sue.
6. Pacing

  The pacing is awful this season. It feels like no progress to start solving the problems gets done most of the season. Only towards the end. They either seem to forget "Oh yeah! we got fallen angels, Metatron, and Abaddon running around! Gotta do that!" After establishing the problem in the first three episodes until "Holy Terror". It's like, "Guys, can... Can we forget the boys becoming "born again virgins" on a case only for Dean to loose it instantly because lolz? You kinda got BIGGER PROBLEMS HERE!"

 I mean, say what you will about season 7, at least we had at some development to the conflict with the Leviathans (how to kill and fight them) before what I presume was the season break. Season nine? Nope! Little to nothing until "Holy Terror"!

 Then it seems like we have some progression in "Road Trip" and "First Born". But then we go forever before much of the plot happens, besides "yeah, Mark of Cain (and possibly no love from Sammy) make Dean go crazy". And what does happen feels more like repeating what we know they should be doing. "Metatron's a dick (pardon my language), we gotta stop him!" "Abaddon's evil as all get out, we gotta stop her!" Heck, to me, it feels like Castiel and Crowley move the plot along more when they appear than our heroes do.

 And of course this is in no way helped by the blatent (failed) pilot for a spin-off, "Bloodlines", that happens THREE EPISODES BEFORE THE END OF THE SEASON. If this had been earlier in the season, I'd be fine with this, but seriously! The season was almost over and things were down to the wire. Is that really the time to send everything screeching to a halt to try and test out your attempt at expanding the universe? But yeah, they leave everything to happen in the last three episodes.

 If they'd have tried harder to keep up the plot more often, I'd be more forgiving, but it was really bad this season. Too much filler, not enough plot.
5. Too Many Subplots and Plot Holes/Continuity Errors 
You and me both, Gabe.
 Speaking of which, there was a bit too many plot threads this season. To count, we had:
  • The Angels having fallen to Earth
  • Metatron
  • Gadreel's stuff
  • Abaddon trying to take over Hell
  • The Civil War between Bartholomew and Malachi
  • Cas running around on his own (then his Civil War with Metatron's forces)
  • The Mark of Cain
  • The Winchesters Fight For The Gazillionth Time

 That, coupled with the poor pacing, really hurt the season on an objective level. The Bartholomew and Malachi plot even proved to have little purpose, other than to push Cas to rise up and fight and give him some of his powers back. (You know they were useless otherwise when we need to be told Malachi was killed off-screen by Metatron to tie up the loose ends).

 To me, Supernatural works when it keeps its conflicts simple. Let's look at my three favorites: Season 2's conflict was stopping Yellow Eyes and finding out what was up with Sam and the Special Children. Season 5 was stopping The Apocalypse. And Season 8 was mainly sealing the Gates of Hell with the subplot of stopping Naomi and her brainwashing. That also helps make the "filler" episodes a bit more tolerable.

 Also, the story was riddled with plot holes and continuity errors, both for itself and the season. To name a few:
  • So if souls couldn't get into Heaven according to Kevin in "Captives", how is it Charlie clearly describes what matches the established canon for Heaven after she "dies" in "Slumber Party" way before that?
  • They establish that supposedly Heaven's doors are sealed to angels permanently to presumably everyone but Meta Sue with The Angel Tablet's translation, yet there's a portal later? (though admittedly, that one could be chalked up to Crowley or Metatron being a jerk or Meta Sue's typos people pointed out before the episode (see, he IS a Mary Sue writer!)...)
  • If the Angel Tablet can practically make and angel God according to Meta Sue, why didn't Cas exhibit that (or maybe, I don't know, USE IT TO STOP NAOMI, GATHER THE ANGELS TO WORK OUT THEIR ISSUES AND SAVE EVERYONE HALF THE CONFLICT THIS SEASON) when he was carrying the darn MacGuffin in his stomach a season ago?
 There's more, including one that I'll address later in the list, but those are the ones that come to mind most.

4. The Waste Of "Human!Castiel"

 At the start of the season (and end of season 8), it's established that now that Cas lost his grace thanks to Meta Sue,  he is now 100% human. I (and most of the fandom) were pretty psyched about this. The fandom because of the domestic opportunities (which, yeah, were appealing). And I for the chance to see Cas grow as a character. I wanted to see him adjust to human life, realize more about it, and use it to both develop and maybe strengthen his relationship with the boys, now that he can empathize with their human plights. It would've be cool to see Cas around more often, too, given that, as a human, he was no longer a game breaker and could help the boys out with "saving people, hunting things, the family business". And, of course, the humor of Cas trying to learn "how to human" and the brothers trying to help the adorkable fallen mess.

 Instead, Cas got thrown out the plot (again) unceremoniously, only popping up once more in human form before showing up again in "Holy Terror", where he steals an angel's grace and gets some mojo back, ultimately disappearing after "First Born" again until his off and on appearances until the end with his subplot, but by then he was pretty much a (nerfed) angel again.

 The cherry on top of this failberry pie came in "First Born", actually. In that episode, he and Sam work to extract the residual grace in him left by Gadreel to try and track down the turncoat. However, (in one of the narmiest (but in a sweet way) scenes ever), Cas decides not to extract further when he sees the process is not only killing Sam, and Sam is intent to continue. When Sam asks why, Cas says how his time as a human "changed him", how he "sees the value of human life" and how fragile they are and he can empathize and blah blah blah. While this is all well and good, the writers forgot one key rule of storytelling.


 Seriously. This scene would've been much more profound if we'd have seen this change over time. Instead of his two episodes "Heaven Can't Wait" and "I'm No Angel" then the writers assuring us, "yeah, he's changed." No. That's not how you do character development. While he keeps the development, they gave it to him in a bad way. And, of course, wasted a great chance for something new and exciting in the story for more of the same.
3. Overuse of show's clichés

  And more of the same is a problem. This season relied on the show's old clichés, essentially beating some dead horses one to many times for my tastes. "One of the brothers hides something from the other". "The brothers split up/fight." "Angels are terrible." "Dean is super-protective of Sam", "Cas is banished from the plot."

 On the subject of the brothers fighting, that especially irked me. I feel they dragged the already tired plot we'd seen many times before on the show, but usually contained to a few episodes before they reconcile. No, when they fight over Dean saving Sam against his wishes, it lasts the rest of the season, with Sam going so far as to say Dean is no longer his brother, say he'd let Dean die if he were in that position, and treat their relationship as just professional. It bugged me because, while in my opinion Sam did have some right to be angry at Dean for taking his agency (yeah, Team Free Will everybody!) (though he was a bit harsh), we KNEW they would make up. And you could SEE Sam still loved Dean, despite his words. But this lasted until the last episode. I spent most of the time wanting the boys to get over themselves and hug it out.

 I feel I should also mention "Bloodlines", since it, too, used show clichés, which is probably part of the reason it was so ill-received. The "the woman I love was killed and it forced me to be a hunter". "I don't want to be part of the family business, but I'm stuck like the mafia!" "My dad disappeared!" Blah blah blah...
2. "I'm No Angel"

 Okay, to be honest, these last two are interchangeable, I just sorted them by what drew more immediate anger out of me. This one, while initially infuriating (and by far a worse episode than the number one pick), is sort of a slow burn. It's like "The Blind Banker" episode of Sherlock: the more I think about it, the more it annoys/irritates me. (Heck, one of the things with number one makes this episode worse!) I feel like I need to review this episode on its own, just to fully discuss it, but besides the whole "Cas is kicked out by Dean and left to fend for himself" thing, this episode is rife with unfortunate implications and double standards. Mainly about men and sex. There's also a bit of out of characterness for Cas, and arguably a slap to the face for anyone who shipped Megstiel if you think about it too much. (And you know who loves to think too much!)

 Yeah, you know how I said "Bugs" was bad writing? Well, it still kinda is (Indian burial ground? It's the 21st century. And seriously, just Google when the sun rises in Oklahoma, writers...), but otherwise, it was just a bland episode. "I'm No Angel" is a heck of a lot worse. Trust me on this.

 Now, my number one issue:
1. "Stairway To Heaven"

 Now, before I begin, I'll admit this episode is a pretty decent episode aside from my main problem with it. Like "A Scandal In Belgravia" from Sherlock. However, "Stairway"'s issue is MUCH worse than "Belgravia"'s.

 It completely retcons Reapers into a faction of angels with no explanation.

 Seriously, there's no throwaway line of "Reapers are actually one of us" line from Cas or his flock. There's no reveal like there was for The Trickster being Gabriel in "Changing Channels". They just say "to the depths with continuity! It can stand in an endless line for eternity! Let's just act like this has always been!"

 To make matters worse, it's Dean who says this. Dean, who's had the most interaction with Reapers, especially Tessa (who he was addressing). It's just really bad, and I feel it's an unnecessary retcon, and (and I know I'll sound like a stereotypical strawman fangirl) spits a bit on the mythos established by The Kripke Era. Along with other complete contidictions to the mythos around Reapers. (This especially bugs me, since Reapers are among my favorite non-angel, non-demon creatures in Supernatural, along with shifters.)

 They could have had Tessa and the Reapers working with Cas some other way! They didn't need to make them angels. They could've just said "we had Reapers working for Bartholomew's flock, and when Cas killed them they joined us, too." Or "The Reapers have allied with us to stop Metatron, who they hate because he's keeping souls from Heaven, disrupting the natural order!" ANYTHING! But no. Retcon.

 And to top it off, they completely destroy Tessa's character. They have her brainwashed by Meta Sue to be his suicide bomber/"Castiel's reputation tarnisher". Then they have Dean kill her with The First Blade/her kill herself with the First Blade. Way to stay classy, respect a long-lasting character (and a female one, no less), and stuff another woman in the fridge, people! Have a cookie! Wait, I'm out of them. I gave them all to writers who earned them.


 Look, sorry I'm so filled with bile with this (I'm also kinda tired). This season just infuriates me more than any other season of the show. But were there an good things in this terrible season?

Well, that's another post...