Finale Fever – Supernatural Season 9
It’s hard to find a lot to say about this episode, not to say that it was especially bad but it didn’t inspire any massive level of excitement in what was going on. I think part of the problem is that it spent more time setting up next season than it did wrapping up this one. According to what I’ve read online, Jeremy Carver has said that next season (season 10) will be the end of the three season arc that he started in season 8 meaning that everything that happened in these two seasons will come to some kind of a conclusion. Multiple season arcs are nothing new for Supernatural or TV in general but this show has executed smaller parts of a larger saga much better before. None of the seasons leading up to the release and defeat of Lucifer felt like filler in any way for instance.
Given the lackadaisical approach the show has taken to the last few episode in terms of tying up story threads this episode comes as no real surprise. There was little in groundwork laid for anything to resolve organically so I have to hand it to the producers for not rushing a contrived ending.
Anyway, onto the episode which picks up from the moment Dean attacked Gadriel causing Sam and Cas to lock him up for a good old fashioned detox reminiscent of the similar treatment Bobby and Dean used on Sam when he had his addiction to demon blood, that seems like so long ago doesn’t it?
It is at this point that the gang splits up to fulfill their own part of the story. Cas and Gadriel come up with a plan to infiltrate heaven which brings Gadriel’s story to a fantastic ending, he has been seeking redemption over the course of the season and arguably finds it in his final selfless act. I liked this moment because Gadriel has earned this. Many of his actions have been questionable over the season but they have all been the actions of a desperate man trying to find somewhere to belong. Not saying his sacrifice forgives all of these but it does allow him to go out as a hero.
Meanwhile, Metatron continutes to pen his story by disguising himself as a homeless man named Marv who travels around performing miracles which naturally gains him a swarm of devoted followers. Dean tracks him down and attempts to end this forever which combines with Cas’ mission to find and destroy the Angel tablet to give Dean a chance to win. This really doesn’t go well as Cas is seconds too late to make a difference and Dean is killed in a largely one sided fight against Metatron. Apparently the power of the Mark of Cain has severe limitations when it comes to fighting Angels.
Dean’s death is something that I actually thought was done very well. Sam’s grief was played very well, it seems that Jared Padalecki let himself cut loose and show raw emotion as he cradled Dean’s lifeless form. I was reminded of Sam’s words to Dean earlier in the season when he said that should Dean die then Sam wouldn’t try to save him and liked that when faced with the situation shows that he didn’t actually mean it. He goes so far as to be an absent Crowley to bring Dean back. It might have been more interesting for Sam to let Dean die and find peace that way but given the slowly repaired relationship over the season it made perfect sense for Sam to react like this.
Another scene that I loved was Cas’ destruction of the tablet which was symbolically hidden underneath Metatron’s typewriter. The symbolism makes a lot of sense since Metatron was writing the story. With the tablet destroyed Cas is bringing back freedom to those who oppose him and allowing the story to play out in an unpredictable way. Cas also uses Metatron’s talent for storytelling against him by making him unwittingly broadcast his intentions to the rest of the angels, I thought this was brilliant and a very fitting way for this section of the story to come to a close.
As for the “twist” ending, I can’t say I was surprised. Dean becoming a demon was telegraphed from the minute he met Cain. It’s mentioned that Cain became the first demon after he died. Dean received the mark so therefore was bound to the same fate. I saw this coming a mile off but that doesn’t make it bad. A predictable ending doesn’t mean that it suddenly doesn’t work. If they find something fascinating to do with this turn of events then it absolutely justifies itself. If the first half of season 10 is Dean struggling to hold onto his humanity as he faces the nightmare of what he’s become with Cas and Sam working to cure him then that could be some dramatically fascinating storytelling. If they resolve it neatly by the end of the first episode then that’s less likely to be an effective use of the story potential.
Overall, this episode was immensely enjoyable in many ways. As I said it’s guilty of spending too much time on setting up the next season but it wasn’t without some great moments. Dean’s death, Gadriel’s sacrifice and the destruction of the tablet as well as the destruction of Metatron’s reputation being among them. There’s a lot of potential to carry into the next season and I am interested to see what will be done with it.
It surprises me that a show like Supernatural is still going strong after so many years on TV. The characters are still compelling, the plots are still exciting and it still feels like there’s lots of mileage left in the concept. It has become somewhat predictable in how things are resolved but the show isn’t poorly executed generally.
For me, the predictability of the resolutions comes from the expectations I have and those expectations are really high so if they end up going down a route that I predicted then it pleases me as it is often the way I would like it to go. Dean’s demon status for example is a story that has lots of dramatic possibilities that I would like to see explored. I have faith in the production team to explore these fully.
The continuation of the Angel tablet storyline from the last season has been good and the added complication of the fallen Angels has given the show so much more to work with. Having them split into factions allied with Metatron and Cas is a sensible story to go with and each side faced their own crises of faith in their leaders and their methodology.
Metatron’s status as the writer of the big picture story and making him a Godlike figure was a good idea that was well explored. I liked the idea that the characters were all following his story exactly and didn’t really know about it, this was subverted in the finale but while it ran it was really cool to see everything go according to Metatron’s master plan.
Sam and Dean’s relationship went through radical changes as the season went on. I like how Sam felt utterly betrayed by Dean’s decision to force Sam into saying yet to Gadriel’s possession to heal him. It was understandable why Dean did it but ethically it was somewhat dodgy. It ended up not going so well for either of them after Gadriel’s betrayal but Dean’s intentions were pure…albeit a little misguided. Over the rest of the season the dynamic was strained but the relationship repaired over time. Sam and Dean being separated and estranged is nothing new but there was a nice twist to it this time.
Dean’s infection with the Mark of Cain was what really defined this season for me. The building up of violent, murderous urges on his part was handled in really subtle ways. Jensen Ackles came across as straight up sinister a lot of the time and it was great to see. It was also interesting that the cold shoulder treatment that Sam was giving him pushes Dean to confide in Crowley a lot more which leads him down a much darker path as time goes on, Crowley encourages this behaviour in Dean who wasn’t in need of much encouragement in the first place.
Cas spent some of the season as a human but the plot was quickly ended so that he could become a general to an army of Angels in an uprising against Metatron. Naturally he preaches peaceful methods which don’t seem so practical some of the time but the ideals are sound. He doesn’t want to become Metatron because he has straddled that line in the past and it was a sour experience for him. Cas really grew as a character in ways that he hasn’t previously. He learned how much of a difference he can make to others and received first hand experience of what it means to be human. For Cas, this was the season where he takes charge of the situation and tries to forge his own destiny, literally shown when he destroys the tablet returns freedom of choice to people allowing them to make their own decisions and write their own story.
To sum up, I liked season 9 for the most part. It was a strong entry in the mythos of the series as a whole and took the characters to places we haven’t seen them go emotionally. There were missteps along the way like a backdoor pilot for a series that was never going to happen and general filler where it might have been better to develop ideas further in advance of the finale. Can’t overly complain though and look forward to season 10.