To do a season seven review by now would seem like rubbing salt into old wounds.  However, I never did give it a proper sendoff - and I’m so ready to give it a sendoff.  I want to look fully forward to season eight without so much as a glance in the rearview mirror.  However, pretending season seven wasn’t what is was is like ignoring the giant elephant squashed in a tiny room with you and the cat.  So a review there shall be.  

I’ve already said a lot about “Supernatural’s” uneven season seven, not just on this site but others as well.  One would think that there isn’t much else for me to pick apart.  After all, on top of my episode reviews, I’ve made the case that “Supernatural” leaned too much on a formulaic standalone process that resembled most procedurals, I entertained dream theories that didn’t come to be because what we perceived to be clues was really evidence of inconsistent writing, I’ve spelled out in great detail how characterization was a total mess, and I’ve even tackled the ever glaring issue of Sam Winchester’s sideburns.  What’s left for me to say? 

There’s a few issues that I haven’t dug into deep yet.  When looking at individual episodes at a micro level, they weren’t bad.  For the most part.  Even “Season 7: Time For A Wedding” at first glance wasn’t that awful (my mind has changed since then).  The issues happen when putting it all together.  There is very little flow from one episode to the next and when these stories that did alright individually are put together, suddenly they’re a random mess.  Considering that “Supernatural” in prior seasons (yes, even season six) did such a good to great job with season structure and overall arc, one has to wonder, what in the world happened in season seven?  

The Season Seven Intent

One question is did season seven live up to what was truly intended by the writers?  After all, the season got off to a very strong start, much stronger than season six.  Even though there were a string of very weak to just plain bad episodes from episode three until episode 8 - “Slash Fiction” being the lone standout -  most of the season’s momentum was truly lost in the second half.  Fears that fans started to have in the first half of the season hit reality.  There was no plan, or any plan that may have existed was abandoned.  It was all random. 

This show for so long was heavily bogged down with sweeping mytharcs and bombastic drama, I understand the attraction from a writer’s standpoint to go back to basics, doing MOTW cases and standalone stories that they were never able to do before because of the series structure.  I know how many fans were ready to go back to the basics of season one, when it was just two guys and the open road.  Heck, several demanded it under no uncertain terms.   

When season seven was unveiled at Comic-Con last year, only Ben Edlund offered some hints about what to expect.  “They’re going to have a tough year, Sam and Dean, like they always do.  We’re really looking at, how have they been operating all these years, what have their tools been, what have their methods been, how can we take those things and make them difficult for them to use and they have to learn new tricks.  They have to evolve too.  This season is about challenging them as hunters.  Previous seasons have often been about challenging them as brothers or as humans or as men.  They’re going to have some professional difficulties because the world is going to try and eat them again.”

So, in a sense, that’s exactly what season seven was.  Sam and Dean, stripped down to their bare essentials, out of the open road fighting monsters or whatever lurked in the shadows.  As I’ve said before, a lot of these stories though lost their appeal when Sam and Dean were shown to be burned out, listless machines bouncing from case to case with no sense of purpose.  But there’s other things that didn’t work either.

The Leviathan 

The Big Bads.  The ancient sea creatures.  The big mouths.  To be honest, these creatures in terms of menacing nature really did look good on paper.  In the first half of the season, leading up to “Death’s Door,” they were very well portrayed.  They were an unstoppable, looming threat.  Come the second half of the season, they lost their luster.  I really wasn’t sure what it was about them I didn’t like until Ben Edlund said this at this year’s Comic-Con:

"...It seemed to me like we were moving in the direction of a B-movie premise with the monsters [the Leviathans]. I would say the monsters were actually a wrestling match of things that worked and didn't work, but mythologically speaking they set the ground for other things that I'm very pleased we've got working in our grandfather clock, so to speak." 

The B movie premise would exactly be the reason why the leviathan didn’t work.  “Supernatural” has always made their monsters believable.  Think about it, when the Trickster got too powerful, they made him an angel!  The leviathan as the season progressed grew more comical than scary, more tacky than truly diabolical.  When their agenda for world conquest preyed on perceived (and heavy handed) weaknesses of the American lifestyle, I actually expected it all to end with creatures in lizard style rubber suits and green makeup emerging from the black goo, followed by Ed Wood stepping out from behind the director’s chair yelling, “Cut!”   

The story really is ridiculous if you think about it.  Dick Roman conquered through best sellers about how to make money and tapping into the corn syrup supply?  That’s...not creepy.  It’s not even funny.  Aside from Dick Roman, there wasn’t much interaction with the Leviathan week to week, and Dean’s weekly phone conversations with Frank weren’t exactly building tension.  Mother of All ended up being more of a threat, and she wasn’t much of a threat.  

A case can be made that by the end of the season, the leviathan were disposed of too conveniently, with Sam and Dean stumbling upon a God weapon.  Perhaps, but I think at that point the story line just had to end.  It wasn’t working, and as Mr. Edlund said they saw the opportunity for the monsters to drive a mythological setup for next season.   It’s too bad though, because there was quite a bit of potential there that ended up being wasted just because some liberal writers in a room thought Americans were too fat and rich. 

Editing, Pacing, and Tone  

In season seven, far more than season six, the editing and pacing of the individual episodes served the technical structure of the story more than the emotional structure.    It’s a known fact that in the Sera Gamble era, the scripts became a little more packed.  They were shooting more story than what was allowed time wise so several scenes were cut.  That’s okay, “The Vampire Diaries” does it.  However, “The Vampire Diaries” knows it’s series tone, and often slows it’s story down to deliver the perfect emotional impact at the right times.  That takes priority over all.  “Supernatural” followed this formula as well in the first six seasons.  In season seven though, something changed.  In that editing room, the story structure became more important.  This would explain several of the editing choices and the inability to slow down the story to play out the emotional elements most of the time.  

In prior seasons, the stories and scene layouts played to the strengths of their actors.  Jared and Jensen were given opportunities to sell pauses in the action just through nonverbal interaction.  Even Misha Collins does this very well, but given the absence of his character for most of the season, his lost opportunities were noticeable.  “Death’s Door” was a masterful showcase of this type of storytelling, but when it was all packed into one episode and not spread evenly through the season, that led to the overall uneven feel from episode to episode.  

One scene that does stand out for me is Ghost!Bobby’s final farewell in the season finale.  After a touching goodbye with Bobby, Dean throws the flask on the fire.  We see Dean’s somber look as his face is lit up by the burning away of Bobby, then Sam’s.  Next is a close up on Dean’s pained expression as the light fades away, then Sam’s devastated reaction, then they share a glance that speaks volumes about their grief.  It all ends as the shot fades over to a somber Castiel on the stairs.  Just gorgeous.

Aside from the warehouse scene in “Hello, Cruel World,” I can’t recall any other scenes outside of “Death’s Door” that had such an emotional impact.  Total time for that scene?  1 minute, 42 seconds.  That amount of time was actually adequate to sell this scene.  So, I ask this of other episodes, why was it so hard to work in a one and a half minute allotment for emotional impact?  In a few cases, based on comments made at cons and online by the actors and directors, those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.  

Season seven lacked a lot of what I call “Emotional Storytelling 101.”  I’m not exactly sure if these choices were intentional, but in comparing episodes in season seven with prior seasons, it’s easy to pinpoint the style change.    

Let’s start first with a “Supernatural” classic, the “troubled glare” ending.  In “Nightmare,” Dean plays it cool for Sam’s sake, but this is his look as soon as Sam walks away.

Then there’s “Bloodlust,” after Dean has the talk with Sam outside the Impala.

Or how about my all time favorite?  Sam in “Mystery Spot” finally getting Dean back after his nearly year long ordeal being stuck in The Trickster’s alternate reality.  Here’s the triple whammy:

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There’s also the end of “In The Beginning” for you Castiel fans.  It’s different from an emotional perspective.  It’s frightening and very worrisome.  The impact is just as great, and makes for one awesome cliffhanger into the next episode. 

“Your brother is headed down a dangerous road Dean and we don’t know where it leads.  So stop it...”

“...or we will.”

For the record, that shot on Dean stayed fixed on his horrified look for five seconds.  

Here's season seven's contribution, the end of "Season 7: Time For a Wedding."  It just doesn't quite have the same punch, does it?  Especially when the comment about Dean focusing on his life now went nowhere.  It came after a goofy episode in which there were no high stakes that warranted this moment of reflection.  It was completely out of place.

Here’s an example of what I called “missed opportunity” all due to editing.  There’s Sam’s frustrated talk with Dean at the end “Shut Up, Dr. Phil.”  It’s a classic “Supernatural” setup, two brothers having a talk over the Impala.  Sam pleads with Dean to unload on him.  Dean won’t.  Sam is left very frustrated.  

Why didn’t this scene work?  The pacing.  The camera went back and forth between Dean and Sam in a mostly choppy fashion 19 times in the 1 minute 23 seconds this interaction took place.  Very little time was spent on showing each brother’s reaction to the conversation, and there was little variation in the shots.  It was very distracting.  Sam was also given only three seconds to work out a completely frustrated reaction, which was cut off before it was truly completed.  Trust me, just two seconds more would have spoken volumes here.  He wasn’t even shown getting into the car, which is a device often used by this show packed a punch into conversations like this (even last season’s “The Third Man” did that).  

In comparison, there’s season three’s “Malleus Maleficarum,” when Dean and Ruby had a conversation about Dean’s fate.  This scene too had plenty of back and forth.  A lot.  However, by the time that Ruby arrived, this scene played out for a little over four minutes.  In that time, there was a wider variety of shots, not just back and forth.  One shot that this show loves to use is framing both characters, clearly focusing on Ruby in the foreground when she talks, then Dean in the background when it’s his turn - exactly like the scene above for "Survival of The Fittest."  There are over 50 cuts in that scene.  When Ruby delivers her last comment to Dean and disappears, the focus of Dean is a slow fade away, and lasts almost ten seconds.  

That ten seconds was crucial.   It’s a beautiful shot of Dean isolated in the parking lot with the Impala nearby, facing a terrible future.  It lets the conversation sink in for us and truly shows the impact of Ruby’s terrifying revelation for Dean.  It’s an artsy way to go out, and I really felt the shock.  That’s coming from an episode that much like “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” wasn’t exactly a great episode all the way around. 

Editing wasn’t the only change.  Pacing also frequently suffered.  For another very interesting comparison, we don’t have to go any farther than season six’s “Unforgiven.”  When matched up with season seven’s “The Born-Again Identity,” the contrasts are fascinating.  Both told some rather devastating stories about Sam, but given that “The Born-Again Identity” dealt with Sam’s very long time coming mental breakdown, one would think that it would be far more gripping than the trauma he experienced remembering his vicious acts while soulless in “Unforgiven.”  Somehow though, “Unforgiven” ended up being the far more emotional story.  

“Unforgiven” for one focused clearly on Sam’s story.  The way they slowly unfolded the mystery, taking time to fully show Sam’s traumatized reactions each time he remembered the past, working Jared’s strengths to sell the story without words, this is a great example of ideal pacing selling the story.  I’m completely sucked in, feeling every bit of Sam’s gentle unraveling, drawn to tears at the end as he collapses and fades into traumatic memories of Hell.  

“The Born-Again Identity” became an exercise in what I often refer to as “short attention span theater.”  Too much was crammed into the story, and because it tried to do to much, it didn’t have any time to deliver emotional impact for Sam, Dean or Castiel’s story.  Not to mention, the brothers for the most part weren’t separated in “Unforgiven.”  Dean was there keeping a watchful eye with deep concern.  Aside from the one deep brotherly emotional scene in the beginning of “The Born-Again Identity” and the very rushed ending, the brothers were apart the entire time and never maintained any sort of contact.  The rushed ending (ending with Meg) also ruined Sam's "troubled glare."

“The Born-Again Identity” fails also on tone.  This goes back to my criticisms of characterization that I did in “A Deeper Look at Dean Winchester” and “A Deeper Look at Sam Winchester.”  Dean didn’t show a frantic concern for Sam.  I don’t expect Dean to continue on his role of overbearing caretaker after all this time, but it really wasn’t that long ago when Dean held vigil at Sam’s side in “The Man Who Knew Too Much” despite the looming threat by Castiel.  No matter what’s happening to Sam, he needs to be there.  From what we learned about season seven Dean, he’s so fried from the life that he’s just depressed and apathetic now toward everything, including Sam’s welfare.  That kills a lot of the tone this show built upon.  Even a little concern would have held way more for me than Dean and Castiel having a moment in the parking lot over a coat.  

No balance between episodes.  

Season one often struggled with balance between episodes.  The show was new, forging it’s identity, and some forget that the first half of the season got off to a very rough start.  When the show managed though to find it’s balance between MOTW and mytharc midseason, it took off and paved the way for the vastly superior season two.  For some reason, season seven never found that balance.  Most episodes didn’t blend seamlessly, wildly swinging from one spectrum to another.  For example, as enjoyable as “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” was in terms of mild humor, it proved to be a standalone that didn’t blend at all with the episode that aired before it, “The Slice Girls” or the episode that aired after it, “Repo Man.”  Same for “Party On Garth,” a filler episode that followed the very story intensive “The Born-Again Identity.”  

Fans were spoiled by the first five seasons in that we got very good at clue hunting.  What was presented in one episode more times than not amounted to something come other episodes.  Season six was the first season to fail in this regard, not delivering any kind of payoff to fans for their patience. Most of the clues ended up being red herrings to hide the real drama, Castiel and Crowley conspiring to steal souls from Purgatory. 

When a bunch of us about two thirds of the way through the season seven became puzzled with the rough writing and plot threads that didn’t mesh, we tried to connect the dots.  We ran a very popular series of articles here speculating Sam was still in Hell, Sam was still in a coma from “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” or Dean was dreaming in a Djinn induced haze.  We presented our cases, and they made sense.  Of course all our theories had roots in season six, and we probably knew that “Supernatural” going back that far and going “surprise!” might not be a better scenario either.  We hoped it all made sense in the end though.

Is Sam Winchester Still In Hell?   
Let's Discuss: Another Theory Surrounding Supernatural Seasons 6 and 7
Inside Sam's Grapefruit: Speculations on Season 7 of Supernatural
It's About Time That Dean Slept for 36 Hours

Sadly, come “The Born-Again Identity,” the truth became clear.  It was all random.  It was all from in-cohesive writing.  There is no prize waiting at the bottom of the box and no sweeping arc other than the boys running from B movie monsters and going through the motions from week to week.  Even the third cast member, the Impala, was noticeably (and often painfully) absent.  In some ways, that letdown was so severe that it pretty much blew the rest of the season.   

Which is Better, Season Six or Season Seven? 

What’s most strange to me is that when I did my season six review last summer, I wasn’t very happy with that season either, calling it the worst season of the series.  I had very high hopes that season seven would restore “Supernatural” to it’s past glory.  After seeing the finished product, I can now profess, I liked season six better.  I’m ready to call season seven as “Supernatural’s” worst.  

Why?  Sure the overall arc for both seasons was a total mess, season six missed some big opportunities as well, most notably with the Campbell family, and both seasons did the character of Castiel a gross disservice.  But season six stuck to the one element that defines this show.  They kept the brotherly bond in tact.  Mostly.  I even saw more brotherly bond with soulless Sam than I did with the brothers all this season.  

For those still not convinced, let’s look at the episodes.  When I examine the episode lists for both seasons, I find myself fondly smiling over far more season six titles than season seven.  “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” and “The French Mistake” are not only two of my all time favorites, but my family’s as well.  For reasons that some might find unfathomable, I absolutely love “Live Free and Twi-Hard” and “Unforgiven.”  There was just a certain shocking drama and emotional quality in both Dean and Sam in those episodes that to this day push my heart to the brink.  And who can’t smile over “Frontierland?”  Also me and my daughter to this day snicker anytime we hear Jefferson Starship at the store.  Yes, that little joke in “Mommy Dearest” will live forever, just like Asia’s “Heat of The Moment.”  And in terms of storytelling and cinematic quality, one of the strongest episodes ever done on “Supernatural” is Ben Edlund’s “The Man Who Would Be King.”

When looking back at season seven, only one episode evokes a strong response in me.  “Hello, Cruel World.”  Don’t get me wrong, “Death’s Door” is a masterpiece, but it hurts.  It’s not something I can watch over and over again and Bobby’s death so far has been proven to be nothing but senseless, making it hurt worse.  There weren’t even any really great comedy episodes this season compared to others.  I know, it’s hard to top “The French Mistake” but still, each season left it’s mark in this area - “Changing Channels,” “It’s A Terrible Life, “Tall Tales” for example - and “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” just didn’t live up to its predecessors.  

“Supernatural” stands apart from other shows and has gained its following because it isn’t a formulaic and normal show.  Each week they mixed it up and it all added up to something.  The episodes were just the ideal blend of humor, action, drama, angst, tension, mythology, and you just didn’t know what to expect each week.  Once season six and season seven lost that balance, the show lost at least a portion of its luster, it not a major chunk.  By the end of season seven, I didn’t recognize this show anymore.      

It’s Not All Bad

It’s not all bad though.  The way I talk of season seven often times, you’d think I’m making it sound like it was 23 episodes of “Bugs.”  That’s obviously not true and there are many fans that were happy with the season and liked the standalone concept.  Ben Edlund continued to fire on all cylinders with his scripts, and new writer Robbie Thompson proved to be an excellent addition to the staff, giving us three really great action oriented episodes that were a massive treat to watch, yet they also managed to stay true to the characters.  The season finale also set the show back on track, setting up some amazing possibilities for the season to come.  

From the technical aspects, “Supernatural” remains very strong.  The production quality is still top notch.  The direction, the lighting, the sound, the set decoration, the visual and special effects, etc.  “There Will Be Blood” was a first class exhibit of cinematography.  When looking at how shots were framed in the first three seasons and the way they are now, it’s just amazing how sophisticated the technical elements of this show have gotten.  

Perhaps it’s unrealistic for a fan to expect crazy like “Changing Channels” and “The French Mistake” when a series hits season seven.  Perhaps it’s unrealistic to think that the brothers still want to save the world with conviction after all this time.  It becomes a draining job, just like real life.  Perhaps it’s unrealistic to hope that after five seasons of fluid writing, the writers still had it them to keep the momentum going and deliver something spectacular.    

No doubt, fan expectations are big.  This fandom has taken so many different directions, the writers have to write for themselves as opposed to pleasing fans, because there’s no pleasing all fans.  But season seven was a drastic departure from everything that made this show what it was.  It moved away from the core vision and tried to be something else.  Trying something new is good.  Starting a new chapter is often necessary.  But the show still has to be recognizable to it’s base and I think in this season the show strayed too far.  That doesn’t mean of course that people weren’t entertained, but I can see why it was often disappointing for the long time faithful.  

I just don’t see myself re-watching a lot of “Supernatural” season seven, putting it on the shelf for dust to collect next to my “Smallville” season 8.  The season may have not worked for me, but I have very big hopes for season eight now that I’ve gotten the pitch.  There is a new creative energy and focus, and even Jensen and Jared are very happy with the changes.  This gives me hope, and season eight gets the benefit of the doubt from me.  

Goodbye season seven.  If I’m ever feeling nostalgic for campy horror movies blended with cop procedurals, I’ll be sure to give you another look.  I’m now proclaiming the door on season seven closed.

 

Comments  

Mieke
# Mieke 2012-07-22 21:42
Brilliant! I could not agree more. I find myself not watching the Friday night re-runs or the episodes I have saved on my DVR. Instead I started watching the series over again, right from 1.01 (for the umpteenth time) Boy, do I miss that show! Don't get me wrong, I am not and may never be, willing or ready to get off the Supernatural roller coaster, but I am hopeful that season 8, with the new show-runner and enthusiastic commitment from the powers that be at the CW, will get it back on track. It seems like there is actually a plan! And if the noticable positive energy coming from the team, importantly including J2, is any indication, I think we will be in for a treat. I can't wait until October! In the meantime, I am up to 1.14 "Nightmare", it's getting good :)
Dahne
# Dahne 2012-07-22 21:43
This article proves we have completely opposite tastes. The episodes you loved from season 6 are almost all in my worst column. Some of the things you hated in season 7 I loved. I definitely think season 7 was better than season 6 from an episode by episode level. I do agree the overall mytharc was lacking in season 7 and that was its biggest problem. However I didn't see this lack of brotherly bond that so colored your opinion of the season.

Would I be right in guessing that you thought seasons 4 and 5 were Supernatural's best? I only guess that because I thought they were the worst. For me, season 7 was better than anything since midseason 4 if only for the fact that I like more individual episodes in this season than in 4, 5, and 6. I agree that they needed to big the mytharc up more and that there was a lack of flow between writers, but I had a blast watching most of the episodes and that's something I can't say for most of seasons 4 and 5.
alysha
# alysha 2012-07-22 22:23
I agree that 7 was a mess. I thought six was bad, but at least the whole thing had a better flow and purpose even if the Mother of All was too young and grandpappy Campbell unexplained. Season 7 had no story. Everything you thought would happen was not to be and the story that was told was simplistic.

I think we will like season 8. I have high hopes.
rmoats8621
# rmoats8621 2012-07-22 22:28
Great article. I agree with your overall analysis of Season 7. Also, like you, I will not be re-watching this season as a whole. (unfortunately I've done the same for Season 6) I'll just watching a few of the episodes. However, I'm very hopeful for Season 8 and my excitement has been growing more and more ever since I've seen Jensen's interview at Comic Con. He looked great and spoke with enthusiasm about Season 8 and it's possibilities. Jared was the same, too. Smiles were broad. I definitely didn't see that response from either one of them last year. They were so somber and serious, as if they were going through the motions. Of course, they're professionals and have never acted any other way but respectful towards the writers, etc. However, I really got the feeling that last season was a let down for them too. That doesn't seem to be the case this year. Is it October yet??? :D
LEAH D
# LEAH D 2012-07-22 22:50
Excellent wrap-up of season 7!
I've been mulling this season over these past few days after I read several comments from fans who loved this season and last. I thought , am I being too critical? Have I turned into someone who nitpicks every episode to pieces? No I don't think so. Usually by now, I'm chomping at the bit for the DVD. Even S6 and I didn't love that season as much as past ones. Not this time. I will never have the expertise to analyze things in as much detail as you, the other writers and many of the fans but I KNEW this season just didn't satisfy on so many levels. The missing(mostly) of brotherly moments, The unending depression of Dean except the occasional episodes where he was cheerful for no reason. No follow- thru on Sam's story and many other things. I can only compare this season to eating a meal that fills you up but you end up leaving the table unsatisfied.
You have put into words what I can't and I can live with not being crazy about this season and not feel disloyal to the show I love so much. Onward to S8.
Lynn
# Lynn 2012-07-23 00:00
Kudos on your analysis of S7 - I agree on all counts. When the emotional heart of a show is the bond between its two main characters, erasing that from an entire season leaves even well-plotted episodes lackluster. There's nothing for viewers to care about when the brothers don't care about each other enough to make 'saving the world' other than an impersonal obligation. The show's actors are uniquely capable of nuance and subtext and conveying so much with so little - it's a crime not to let them do just that!

I'm sharing your tentative optimism about S8 though - hopefully the things that made this the best Show ever will be more in evidence once again :)
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-07-23 02:43
Good article, Alice, and so true.
I like how you pointed out some of the technical aspects too. I notice that stuff far more since I started watching this show (not just SPN, but other shows too). They certainly did miss a few opportunities to linger on a shot here and there. You know, I've rewatched a couple of episodes from earlier seasons just recently and it's easy to see the difference between then and now. I think it does lend to what I always thought was the problem with the last two seasons-a lack of focus. They had ideas, plenty of them, but I'm not sure they could decide which ones to give the most attention to. Honestly though, if they'd kept the brothers and their relationship at the core, I think everything else would've fallen into place. You're right-they strayed too far.
As for the episodes not really playing well together, I watched Plucky's and Repo Man together and I ended up going straight from laughing and light-hearted to utterly creeped out. I'm kind of used to this show getting to me emotionally, but that was a bit extreme, even for Supernatural.
All that being said though, I'm excited for season 8. It may just be I'm still happy the show's still on the air, but I do think they can get it back on track.
Cathia
# Cathia 2012-07-23 04:37
Great article, Alice.

But we know one thing now, Season Eight cannot be worse than this, so my hopes go to Jeremy Carver.
BeccaB
# BeccaB 2012-07-23 08:07
Great (and accurate) wrap on Season 7.

As much as it pains me to say so, the stand-alone episodes were the most enjoyable for me. As for the overall "myth arc" of the season --- I'M SO F****ING TIRED OF THIS PC CRAP CREEPING INTO ALL ASPECTS OF MY LIFE ESPECIALLY MY TV SHOW !!!!!

So, I think I'm going to go out and get a big juicy hamburger, a Dr. Pepper, and plan a corporate raid. Just to piss TPTB off.
cd28
# cd28 2012-07-23 08:25
Nice review. I think you hit on most the biggest issues. It hit me about a third of the way through the season that they're not telling a story anymore. And when I mean story, I mean a plot that gradually builds in intensity to a climax, with the other supporting elements (personal stories, setting, themes, symbolism) supporting it. Most good TV shows still do tell a story, or a lot of stories in the case of procedurals. But even in SPN's MOTW cases, I wasn't finding interesting stories within them. They seemed to be more about a gimmick, or a funny scenario that the writers wanted to try out.

The Sam wall/hallucinat ions wasn't a story because it wasn't building to anything else or supporting the mytharc. Dean's emotional story seemed to be building to him doing something that would move the main arc Leviathans/Purg atory in a new direction, but in the end, his big activity (getting sucked into Purgatory) had nothing to do with his depression. Same goes with Bobby's death/ghost reappearance. It was not connected to anything else, other than maybe Dean's depression.

The most hopeful thing I took away from Comic Con was the impression that JC has a plan. I don't feel like I know enough yet to know whether I'll find this plan satisfying, but I feel confident things will start leading somewhere again. And sorry to make this a brother thing, but I really need to see a good-faith effort to balance things out this season. A dog and an ex-girlfriend for Sam is a good start in giving him his humanity back, but we haven't heard anything yet about a meaty storyline for Sam - and I feel like it's been since season 4 since Sam had an interesting storyline. In season 6 it initially looked like something really interesting was brewing (that something significant might have happened in Hell to make him soulless, or that there was a mystery about his RoboSam days) but that didn't pan out to anything. The lack of information doesn't mean that there isn't a good story being developed for Sam, but we haven't heard anything yet either. It can be either in the past or in the present, but I need more than what we've gotten in the past few years to get excited about this show again.
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-07-23 10:05
You've hit all the points for what was wrong with S7, Alice, and they are no small things. I, too, thought S6 was the worst, until about half-way through S7, when it dawned on me that it was a total mess.

The other commenters have pretty well covered my feelings; no planning, no story really told, no involvement or character development within the season, and on and on.

Comic Con gave me back some hope that the Show can recover, and I'm looking forward to the premier episode. I love this series, but I can't do another season like S6 and S7. It has been that bad, and what a shame when we have these two exceptional characters and actors. I hope we get back to a story about them.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2012-07-23 14:53
Hi Alice.

Great review, and quite spot on too.

I gotta agree that this season is the worst, and I'd thought before that season 6 was but soon changed my mind after season 7 seemed so disjointed and weary. The connection was missing and there was really no aim in sight. And it was really a big shame since the season started out so strongly, way more stronger that season 6. But it started to go downhill from there. I had some hope but it slowly withered away as the episodes left me baffled and confused when they didn't seem to match to the prior (or the next) episodes. I too started hating the suits and the by-the-numbers -feel and missing the looks btw the brothers and their lack of genuine emotion towards anything, even each other!

Sam and Deans stories were told so poorly (Sams' because there was so much they could've done with it but did practically nothing, and Deans' by not giving him one, yet again) that it really made me uncaring and bored most of the time. I didn't see the love and mostly didn't feel it either. And that is the main reason I watch the Show.

I've been reflecting this season for quite some time and agree that individually the seasons episodes weren't half bad, but only if considered as standalones (not counting the first two eps). But ultimately if the season doesn't come together as a whole (and also neglects the main characters storylines so greatly), it will not come out as anything exciting or engaging. This season was a mess. And before I had thought that they couldn't ruin a season like they ruined season 6, but boy, was I wrong. Now, I actually do appreciate season 6 more (but it's certainly not even close the standards of the prior seasons). But at least it had a story to tell, unlike season 7 which was just a trainwreck. But hey, maybe I'll learn to appreciate it (or atleast tolerate it better) after some time.

Season 8 on the way, I'm feeling a bit mised bag of emotions, from trepidation to hope to wee bit excitement. I took the spoilers pretty bad at first (well Sams atleast), now with some time, I'm getting a bit more optimistic. But I gotta admit, that I'm still reeling over the clunkyness that was season 7 (and the fact that we've lost a great writer and still have so many..er... not so good ones, but atleast we got JC back which is nice) that my overall faith is a bit shaky at times. I'm putting a lot of faith I do have in JC so maybe I'm still hopefull that Show can turn around from this boring, clinical, direction. I do like that he's stressed how the brothers are the Show (something Kripke and Singer used to talk about in the earlier years), that their connection and bond is the base. I could live with that. :)
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2012-07-23 14:57
Eh, that was supposed to be "HATED their lack of genuine emotion towards..."


And also "mixed bag of emotions" was meant.
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-07-23 15:48
Hi Alice - Haha! Still with the "Bugs" hate on? I actually liked that one more than most of the season seven episodes. Forget the plot! I think there was more brotherly emotions going on in "Bugs" than in most of last season.

Anyway, I do find myself agreeing with you on the procedural front and extreme lack of brotherly love and brotherly moments. The last shot of "Bloodlust", the dithering over the top of the Impala, the ends of "Supernatural Christmas", "Malleus Malificarum" and "Bedtime Stories" etc. That kind of thing was all missing from season seven, and I missed it dearly! I keep thinking of the scene in "Bedtime Stories" in the hospital, when the doctor let his daughter go, and Dean says to Sam "Good advice!" and Sam says "Is that what you want me to do Dean? Just let you go?" and Dean, with an enigmatic look turns away and walks away from the camera down the hall in an extended shot, with Sam looking on. Somehow that shot just broke my heart and filled me with such emotion! Where have those moments gone? To me, they have been few and far between since season 4 and the brotherly division began.

I too loved "Live Free or Twi-Hard". Jensen fills me with despair in his depiction of Dean's horror, but I didn't enjoy Sam's return to that town with the spiders "Unforgiven". Maybe I couldn't reconcile Sammy with that cold cold monster he portrayed. Who knows why some things resonate in different ways with different folks.

So on the hindsight, I did enjoy season 6 more than 7. It had a much better flow and Dean's depression didn't overshadow everything and Sam's wall wasn't broken until the end of it.

It seemed like they were in much too much of a hurry to get the stories crammed into the time slot that they threw away all the little nuances that makes this show so special. Just when it seemed a moment was approaching it was dismissed much too quickly and on to the next scene. No opportunity to feed off the awesome talents of the 2 Js. No wonder Dean was depressed, maybe Jensen was a little also if all the good bits ended up on the cutting room floor.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed even season 7 more than any other show on the air, so when I play my dvds I won't skip it, but watch in order, as I am persnickety that way. I don't even cut out "Criss Angel/Douchebag " and I do not like that one at all.

The enthusiasm of the guys at ComicCon and the return of Jeremy Carver has me feeling enthusiasm for season 8, and I surely hope neither you or I will be disappointed. And I never want this show to end! ;-)
rmoats8621
# rmoats8621 2012-07-24 00:37
HAHA A season full of Bugs....Bugs was a such mess, but it had some good parts too. Dean peeking out of the bathroom with a towel on his head singing praises about the steam shower....price less. Other than that....those bugs were yucky, not creepy or scary! ;-)
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-24 07:51
Very well said Alice. I am commenting on Season 7 Happy Page thread, but a few of my comments on your article here. 7 thought on Season 7:
1. I still feel "The Mentalists" was meat & potatoes Classic Supernatural MOTW, and very much enjoyed this solid episode.
2. "The Girl Next Door" I still feel Amy was overall evil and needed to die. This episode had great flashbacks with Sam. I feel Kitsune grow evil as they get older. Jewel Staite was so charming in her performance, this is why so many fans FLIPPPED when Dean killer her at the end. True they let other monsters get away (before and after Amy), but this was motivated by Sam being a basket case at the time.
3. Dean and Jo's scene was beautiful.
4. Death's Door is in top 5 episodes of all time.
5. "Adventures in Babysitting" is another way underrated episode. The father hunter and his daughter were wonderful, good solid tone and structure of this episode.
6. "Adventures in Babysitting", "Time After Time", "The Slice Girls", "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie", and "Repo Man" were all very good/great episodes, and the strongest string of episodes in Season 7.
7. "The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" is another Classic. Charlie is one of the all time best guest characters. I hope very much to see her back. Soon!
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-07-28 01:56
Quote:
I feel Kitsune grow evil as they get older.
I think we have too small a subset to even begin to make that assumption. We only see Amy's mom when she's Amy's mom. There is no indication of how she behaved as a child/young adult. She MIGHT have had Amy's reservations, or she may have simply gone with instinct. Heck a lot of people become vegetarians when they get older because they have moral problems with eating meat. Lenore and her family at one time ate humans and switched as a matter of survival AND conscience.

As of now we have seen two Kitsunes Amy's mother who killed humans without remorse for food and Amy who found a job in a funeral home so she could feed without killing humans. The only time she deviated from this was when her child was ill. That does not mean she got evil as she got older, it meant her priorities changed when her child's life was on the line.

For all we know, Amy's mother is the anomaly and the real reason so many funeral homes are family operated businesses is because Kitsune families run them so they don't have to kill to eat. It certainly is easier when people bring the food to you.

Dean believed he had to kill Amy. I'm less certain he did, but the show came down on his side. The only thing I really am certain of is that I hope this storyline never, ever rears its ugly head again. I want her son to join his Uncle Arthur in the funeral home in Alaska and not have him show up trying to kill Dean.
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-30 12:09
My comment "FEEL" and your comment "MIGHT" are similar here. Beating the dead horse that no one seems to acknowledge, Amy DID kill humans. She stayed away from it until she could apparently justify her priorities by killing again because her son's life was on the line. Does that make it OK she killed again? Who is to say she would not kill again? Maybe just for the joy of it, now that she did it and has the taste for it. I don't know, you don't know, and Dean did not want to have to find out. Amy was a monster, and Dean did what he thought he had to do. As a child, Amy saved Sam's life when her mother was going to kill him. I "FEEL" that it is a possibility Kitsunes "MIGHT" become more evil, more monster nature, as they get older. The story could be interpreted as that is one of many possibilities in the life if a Kitsune. Maybe Dean had that knowledge, and that is the reason that sweet loveable Amy needed to be put down. 'For all we know....." comment about Kitsune families running so many funeral homes, nothing at all in the episode supported that conclusion, but it "MIGHT" be true. I "FEEL" that could be a possibility, so I am OK with that as one of many possibilities. Opinions are great! I hope we do get a follow up to this story, as we have not gotten an answer as to why Dean let her son go free. He contradicted himself--if he killed Amy because she was a monster, well so is her son. He should have been killed too. WHY did Dean let him go? He advised Dean he would be back in the future to avenge his mother's death. Why wait for that? Dean should have taken care of that monster when he had the chance. I want to know why he didn't.
caelius
# caelius 2012-07-24 08:21
I feel Kitsune grow evil as they get older.

You may feel that way, but there isn't any canon evidence to support you. Amy didn't kill because her nature overcame her; she made a choice to do something evil in emotionally compelling circumstances. You might as well say that Sam drained the nurse because it was his nature and he got evil as he got older, or that Dean tortured again to save Lisa and Ben because it was his nature and he gets evil as he gets older, or that Cas broke Sam's wall because it was his nature and he got evil as he got older.

Dean seeing it as a question of nature and can't help it has to do with Dean's issues. He wasn't actually making the (reasonable enough) argument that if her son got sick again she would choose to kill again for her son's sake, he was saying that she would inevitably kill because it was her nature and she couldn't help it. Which wasn't a rational read of the situation, but says volumes for the helplessness that Dean himself was feeling about himself and about Sam.
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-24 08:39
caelius,
You need to re-read my comments before putting words in my mouth. I said I think Kitsune become more evil as they get older. The support? Amy's mom was going to kill Sam. Later as an adult, Amy became a killer. Does her killing humans--regardl ess if they are "bad humans--for her son's benefit justify her killing humans? Of course not. But she did. I feel on the surface she appeared very nice, but she was very manipulative, to get what she wanted in her "emotionally compelling circumstances" as you put it. That was the beauty of Jewel Staite's performance.
Remember Sam and Dean are humans, and Cas is an Angle. They are not Kitsune, so your comments "might as well say" in this context make no sense. I never said humans or Angels get evil as they get older. Killing Amy was not Dean's issue with nature. There were several examples in the series when the boys let a monster go. They even later appear to have let Leviathan George go free at the end of "Out with the Old." Sam asked Dean to let Amy live. Dean was extremely worried about Sam's state of mind, and did not trust Sam's judgement. Dean killed Amy because he, at the time, did not trust Sam's judgement.
caelius
# caelius 2012-07-24 08:59
I was quoting your own words. There's no suggestion that a tendency to become a killer is a natural progression for kitsune, any more than it is for humans. Amy didn't become a killer because she was getting older, she killed, in exactly the same way a human character might, by choice when she could have refrained, under particular circumstances. Her actions are analogous to the actions of human or angelic characters because it's clear that she has free will. She was able to choose not to kill for years, and she made her choice to kill consciously and for motivations that could as well have applied to humans as to kitsune. There are monsters in Supernatural who seem to have no choice about killing (werewolves, for instance, who seem to operate on pure instinct; it is implied that the rugaru has a choice up till his first kill, but not after). But there are others, like Amy or the Phoenix in Frontierland, who operate on choice and circumstances, who are able to refrain from killing (like Lenore) though at some point choose to kill (to save her son, in Amy's case, in revenge, in the Phoenix's case).

It's not a question of whether Amy's choice was justified -- her actions are worse, not better, for having been dictated by choice rather than nature. But that still means that her actions are comparable to those of others who have free will, not a result of a natural process of growing older, and that makes her, in that respect, the same kind of creature as humans or angels.
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-24 09:11
Oh ccaelius,
"I was quoting your own words." No, actually you wern't. If you can find where I said HUMANS or ANGELS become more evil as they get older, I will send you a $100 bill. You completely missed the point and any response you have is irrelevant. I can't read the rest of your response when the first line starts with a lie.
"I feel Kitsune grow evil as they get older." THAT is what I said. I stand behind my comments and thoughts, after watching "The Girl Next Door" MANY times, since it so divided fans. Amy was not as innocent as those fans who freaked out Dean killed her think she was. That is my feeling, my belief, MY possible conclusion.
caelius
# caelius 2012-07-24 09:26
My post began with a direct quotation from your post, so, yes, I was quoting your own words. Nowhere did I attribute to you the argument that humans or angels become more evil as they grow older. I argued that such a statement could be supported by the same kind of evidence that you used to support your argument that kitsune become more evil as they grow older, since examples of similar behavior similarly chosen and motivated can be adduced for humans and for angels.

I think the ways in which different monsters behave, the degree to which humans, angels, and monsters have or feel that they have free will, and the ways in which Sam and Dean identify and identify with monsters are extremely important and complex themes of the show, and not ones that offer black and white answers.

I have tried to engage in a good faith discussion with you. But I don't think that's possible if you respond with accusations of lying and refuse to even read my points, so I think I will bow out now. Perhaps we can continue this potentially interesting discussion under circumstances of less hostility at some later point.
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-24 13:58
"You might as well say that Sam drained..."
"....or that Dean tortured again ..."
"....or that Cas broke Sam's wall..."
I disagree with those three comments you made.
Could you say the same about Humans? Yes you could. I personally believe as humans get older they become less evil. Kitsune are not Humans so the follow a completely different set of rules. They are monsters. That is why I don't have a problem with the black and white--if it's a monster, kill it, because eventually it will kill. That is my opinion. That is not Dean and Sam's as they have shown countless times. I hope we see Amy's son again, and Dean finishes the job, because by letting him go, Dean left another monster on the loose (not to mention Donald and Maggie Stark, they should have been killed too!).
caelius if we got our meanings and context crossed here, I apologize. Good faith discussion is good. We obviously both have love for Supernatural, and may see things from different points of view. I encourage that and look forward to many more discussions with you and all other fans here.
kerinda
# kerinda 2012-07-27 22:40
wait you want dean to kill a kid? is that what you are saying right?
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-30 11:46
Nope, not even close. You could not be more incorrect. Amy's (a monster) son was also a monster. Dean killed her because of that. Her "son" is a monster too. If Dean killed Amy because she was a monster, Dean should have killed him too. He is now on the lose, and will come after Dean to revenge his mother's killing--which he said at the end of the episode. A monster is a monster, regardless of age.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-07-30 12:18
What about Jesse, or the baby shifters? What about Sam? Should they all have been killed because they were/are monsters?

What about the Benders? Do you believe they should be killed?
Nate
# Nate 2012-07-30 13:38
That is the beauty of this show, there is never a clear answser. The brothers have been on both sides throughout the history of the show. I want to also be clear I never said it is black & white and all monsters should be killed--I did agree Amy should have been killed, and her son should have been. My thoughts:
Jesse--I would have voted yes. The boys did not. He was a threat I would like to see Jesse return, I thought he would have before the end of Season 5.
Baby Shifters-Most of the shifters in SPN have been bad and killed by the boys. I would say probably.
Sam--if I recall he has Demon blood, he is not a demon. And killing him, there is no show! My vote is No on Sam.
Benders--didn't they all die, except for the sister who never hunted or killed anyone? The others in that episode--heck yes.
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-07-31 02:56
Nate, I know you said there was never a clear answer on this show and I agree-it's one of the great things about SPN.
Thing is, I'm a little confused. I know these are just your opinions but I'd like to share mine:
I disagree with your reasoning here for Jesse, Baby shifters and Sam. Just to go back a little, I do think Dean killed Amy not just because she was a monster but because she was killing people. So this is my reasoning here: I don't think Jesse should have been killed. Killing him just because he had the potential to harm, makes that black and white to me. Yes, he hurt some people, but he didn't know he was doing it. Same for the baby shifters. I don't agree that just because other shifters grew up evil, they will too.
It reminds me of the conversation Sam and Dean had in Bloodlust when they were arguing about killing Lenore and her nest. Dean said, "If it's supernatural we kill it. End of story. That's our job." and Sam reminded him, "No, Dean that is not our job. Our job is hunting evil. And if they're not killing people, then they're not evil"
Sam: Obviously I'd never want to see Sam killed, but if Jesse should've died because he was a threat, by that reasoning, Sam should be too. No, he's not a demon, but he has demon blood in him which gave him psychic powers that made him capable of killing.
Nate
# Nate 2012-08-01 09:41
All good points Painted Wolf. It really comes down to Sam and Dean's opinion at that moment (kill or not kill). Sometimes they choose correctly, and sometimes they don't (but according to whose opinion? Another beauty of this debate, there is no correct answer). Their worst decision was letting George go free in "Out with the Old." I would think Leviathan would clearly be a "kill?" Although we never given an answer to George's fate either way.
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-08-01 10:06
I agree. There really is no correct answer, and I'm glad the writers approached it that way. Like I often say about this show, it's very human. No one can honestly say they haven't ever made a decision they consider morally bad. If i was always Sam and Dean always make the "right" decision and the monsters are always unforgivably evil, it would be boring indeed. It's an interesting debate. I do think what's also interesting is how familiarity (and love, really) can cloud these kind of judgments. Like how Dean said to Sam in Metamorphosis that "If I didn't know you, I would want to hunt you". He knows that what Sam's doing might be considered by other hunters to make him a target, but he knows Sam to be a generally good person, so he won't hunt him himself, even knowing that fact. Similar with Sam and Amy. Sam believed he could trust Amy because she saved his life, but Dean couldn't. His trust issues meant he didn't believe she could put the monster back into the cage once her son was healthy again. Ergo, she had to die. Yes, their decision to let George go was a little bad, but I figured they maybe thought he might be an ally. It's not the first time they've let a bad guy go for that reason. Guess it's a bigger picture thing too. The argument that you might need to hang up your morals for the sake of something bigger.
caelius
# caelius 2012-08-01 10:43
Yeah, this. Fandom seems to have taken the Mentalists as coming down with a much more black and white judgment than it did (this is true both of fans who agreed and those who violently disagreed with the judgment they saw). Sam granted that he had been influenced by subjective factors in sparing Amy, but he didn't say he had been wrong to do so, he said that he might have made a different call if she'd been a stranger, but that they'd never know. He questioned whether Dean's reactions suggested that Dean was as sure his call was right as Dean maintained. Dean, in turn, though he still maintained that killing her was what his gut told him was the right call and that most of his subsequent uneasiness was about lying to Sam, also granted that his trust issues post-Cas influenced his response to Amy. Both of them reacted in ways that were conditioned by their own situations and identifications , not just by an abstract view of the merits of the case.

Not only are the issues surrounding killing and sparing monsters and the lines between monster and human never simple on Spn in the abstract, Sam and Dean's reactions are both further complicated by what's going on with them individually, apart from the abstract question. Their responses are always going to be subjective.
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-08-02 02:07
Yeah, I think I had about the same reaction Dean had. I wasn't so much angry that he killed Amy, but that he lied to Sam about it. It brings about a good discussion about morality, and how our moral decisions can be skewed by these kinds of factors. I don't believe it was ever meant to be as black and white as some people took it, but again that's all subjective. Thing is, not only is there this grey area somewhere in the middle, there are many different shades of grey, some closer to white, some closer to black.
I've always tried to judge Sam and Dean's decisions, not by my own standards but by the situation they're in and what factors may have been influencing them at the time. Maybe that's why Sam forgave him so quickly. As you said, Sam admitted that maybe his decision might have changed if he hadn't known Amy, and Dean made a call he believed in at the time. I agree, their judgments were influenced by their situations. I think somewhere in there they got to a mutual understanding of that, which I thought was very mature. They both looked at both sides of the story.
JuliaG
# JuliaG 2012-08-02 19:04
To me, the issue is not so much whether Amy deserved to be killed, it's that Dean didn't trust Sam's judgement and then lied about what he did. I'm surprised and disappointed that Sam didn't bring up "stone number one" and what a betrayal of trust Dean killing Amy behind Sam's back was.
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-08-03 02:05
I agree, that was also my biggest problem with the whole thing. I hated that Dean lied to Sam. Thing is, they had their fight, Sam walked away, he was pissed for a while and then Dean admitted he was wrong, not about killing Amy, but lying to Sam about it. Sam could have brought up how much of a betrayal it was, but Dean knew that. That's also why I think he didn't say anything when Sam walked away- he knew he was wrong.
Trust is another issue. I'm still not entirely sure if it was Sam's judgement on Amy he didn't trust, or just Amy. But Dean admitted to his trust issues, too. Doesn't mean it didn't upset people to see the brothers lying to each other again, though.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2012-07-26 08:54
Quote:
I think the ways in which different monsters behave, the degree to which humans, angels, and monsters have or feel that they have free will, and the ways in which Sam and Dean identify and identify with monsters are extremely important and complex themes of the show, and not ones that offer black and white answers.
Let me just say ..perfect.I think the angels in the show are shown to be a lot different than my idea of angels (i.e benevolent to humans) so that they are even more complicated than demon's and monsters....
Daphne
# Daphne 2012-07-24 20:32
Great review, even though I didn't pay attention to the editing and all that, I couldn't agree more on the content. I don't like saying it, but this was Supernatural's worst season. The Leviathan storyline was just plain weak in my opinion, it never felt like a serious threat and it felt comical. I don't understand people saying they thought Dick Roman was a 'great villain'. We had some awesome villains on this show: Azazel, Lucifer, Alistair just gave you chills. Dick Roman, please. He doesn't even begin to compare.
The bond between Sam and Dean felt more flat to me too, the emotional interaction was missing, I just didn't feel that spark that I felt in the previous seasons. I think they meant to show that the brothers were finally getting some peace of mind, getting more mature and balanced, or something.
And then of course Castiel. No matter how happy I was to have him back, I didn't like how they turned him into a comical character. It was funny for one episode, but after a while when he started rambling about monkeys and playing twister, the way they tried to make him funny seemed way too forced. I love the sense of humour on this show usually, it's one fo the reasons I love Supernatural, but this to me was kind of fail. They ruined a once strong character. Compared to this season, season 6 was old skool good. I do however have high hopes for season 8, like you, and I'm crossing fingers that my hopes get fulfilled. But I have faith. Can't wait. Onwards to season 8!