I found this article particularly perfect in it's timing, since I was getting ready to kick off a series of articles leading up to Comic Con about season seven. The series is called, "Closing the Door on Supernatural Season 7." In this first installment, my dear friend Mo Ryan has done it again! 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-ryan/supernatural-season-8_b_1651908.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment&ir=Entertainment



For those that don't know this story, Mo Ryan is a nationally renowned TV critic and was the first major name to give "Supernatural" weekly reviews and the spotlight.  She fell in love with this show and became a major fan.  She still thinks "Supernatural" season four critically is one of the best on record.  However, come the second half of season six, she could see the problems.  It's one thing when I notice such things, but when a national critic does, that speaks volumes.  Come the middle of season 7, Mo couldn't take anymore and dropped her "Supernatural" reviews.  Her critical commentaries before then though drew HUGE backlash from this overprotective fandom, and she and those fans didn't part amiciably.  I found the whole thing rather disappointing, for she was only speaking the truth.  Sadly, the truth hurts. 

Mo has decided to come back and offer her thoughts about season 7 overall, especially since she like me has high hopes for what Jeremy Carver will bring to season 8.  Jeremy Carver has his coming out party next week at Comic Con so now is the time to reflect.  Mo even quoted me in my "A Deeper Look at Season Seven Dean Winchester" and "A Deeper Look at Season Seven Sam Winchester" articles, agreeing wholeheartedly that the characterization of season 7 was awful.  It should be noted, that those two articles on this site have easily become our most commented ever.  It isn't just me or Mo that sees the issues.  Many fans are aware as well, and that only intensifies the pressure on Jeremy Carver for season 8. 

Here are some of Mo's finer points:

-  She thinks that season seven had the right materials, but they all didn't come together to make anything practical.  She did a great analogy about stairs.  All the pieces to make stairs were in front of you, but you didn't get stairs. 

-  The Leviathan failed as villains.  A term she often brought up in her review was "resonance" and the Leviathan lacked that. 

-  Prior seasons did a really good job of tying each episode together and building off of one another.  This didn't happen in season seven.  I was particularly struck how she mentions that paying attention to clues used to be fun and they gave you a payoff.  I recall earlier this season when I paid attention to clues and came up with a theory, turned out that there were not clues and it didn't mean anything.  Talk about a major disappointment. 

-  This is a repeat of her criticism from last season, but killing off characters has gotten pointless.  The return of Ghost! Bobby was particuarly a major fail, and she commended Jim Beaver, Jensen Ackles, and Jared Padalecki for at least making some of it work.

-  Why was Meg brought back?  It didn't seem like she belonged.  Kevin Tran also turned out to be a stereotype. 

- This:  "In Season 7, for the most part, "Supernatural" was like a cover band, rehashing old themes and conflicts without enough creativity, energy, vision or passion."

Anyway, I IMPLORE every one of you read this article.  If you have thoughts, I highly suggest leaving Mo a comment on what you think.  She really does love getting constructive feedback.  Also share here what you think of Mo's opinion.  There's going to be a few more in the coming week, so let's send off season seven with a bang.

Okay, maybe not this bang.  Or maybe this is accurate?





 

Comments  

Ginger
# Ginger 2012-07-07 00:15
Mo did a great article; well-thought out and nicely presented. I think she has the same hopes for what she wants to see as the rest of us -- a well-told story about the Winchesters.

I, too, think Jeremy Carver has his work cut out for him, but I'm sure he and Mark Pedowitz both know that. I, for one, am pinning a lot of hope on him.
kerinda
# kerinda 2012-07-07 10:18
read the artcle to and liked it. to me season 7 well it sucked big time and the 1st 2 eps was ok but they pissed me of with the 3rd one that amy thing should have never happen I was starting to like dean again and then this happen it suck and it went down hill from there that by the end of the season I was saying thank god its over. I hope jeremy carver will not piss us of and go all season 4 on us again I can not stand to hear dean bitch about were he was like he did with hell it will suck. And damnit do something with sam already only 4 eps with his mental breakdown I wanted more but got nothing it made me love soulless sam more then I did because then they had something to do with him.
magichappening
# magichappening 2012-07-07 20:08
Thanks for pointing out the article Alice. Both that and the podcast were interesting. The comments about the number of characters killed off were interesting to me so I decided to have a go at counting them...

Caveat: Done with help from Superwiki and from memory, so errors/oversigh ts inevitable. Plus some were difficult to categorise as characters died more than once, in different forms, some deaths were fake, some were disappearances and some took place in the future and alternate/dimen sions so numbers are estimates :)

Season 1 Total = 3 (all female!)
• Humans: Mary Winchester (twice!), Jessica Moore

Season 2 Total = 9 (assuming the special children were human)
• Humans: Sam (briefly!), John Winchester, Ash, Jake, Andy, Ava, Ronald Resnick (human)
• Demons: Azazel
• Angels: Trickster/Gabri el (fake)

Season 3 Total = 15* (plus possibly 100 more for Dean!)
• Humans: Dean (many ?102 times* in Mystery Spot – 10 ways mostly shown - and then finally in No Rest for the Wicked), Victor Henrickson, Bela Talbot, Gordon Walker (human)
• Monsters: Gordon Walker (vampire)

Season 4 Total = 14

• Humans: Dean (briefly in Death Takes a Holiday), Sam (twice - briefly in DTAH and in Wishful Thinking), John Winchester (briefly, in the past), Samuel Campbell, Adam, Jimmy Novak
• Demons: Alastair, Lilith, Ruby, Uriel
• Monsters (incl. Ghosts): Victor Henrickson, Meg Masters, Ronald Resnick

Season 5 Total = 18

• Humans: Dean (briefly in DSOTM and TE), Sam (briefly in TSRTS, DSOTM and finally in SS –Cage = dead?), Ellen Harvelle, Jo Harvelle, Nick (Lucifer’s vessel – does he count as a major character?), Adam (Cage = dead?), Castiel (as a human, briefly), Bobby (briefly), Pamela
• Angels: Anna, Zachariah, Gabriel, Lucifer (Cage = dead?)
• Monsters: Karen Singer (zombie)
• Other: Chuck (disappeared, but not dead)

Season 6 Total: 16 (possibly plus approx. 50,000 descendants of Titanic survivors)!
• Humans: Dean (briefly, becomes a vampire and briefly in Appointment in Samara), Mark Campbell, Christian Campbell, Gwen Campbell, Samuel Campbell Ellen Harvelle/Singer (sort of in My Heart will Go On), Jo Harvelle/Singer (sort of), Rufus
• Angels: Balthazar, Raphael
• Demons: Crowley (fake, so does it count?)
• Other: Soulless Sam (does he count as a death?)
• Monsters: Eve, Eleanor Visyak< Lenore

Season 7 Total = 10

1. Humans: Bobby (twice), Dean (does Purgatory count as dying?), Frank Devereaux (is he really deead?)
2. Angels: Castiel
3. Monsters: Leviathan doctor (recurring, if not major), Chet, Edgar, Dick Roman
4. Other: Emma ‘Winchester†™ (does she count as major?)

‘Family’ (“don’t end with blood”) deaths

• Dean Winchester: 16 (plus possibly 100 more!)
• Sam Winchester: 6
• John Winchester: 2
• Mary Winchester: 2
• Bobby Singer: 3
• Castiel: 2
• Emma ‘Winchester†™: 1

Dean died at least once in 5/7 seasons – 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Sam died at least once in 3/7 seasons – 2, 4 and 5. The only season neither Sam nor Dean died was Season 1 (assuming Purgatory = death).

By ‘species’:
• Humans: 56 (plus possibly another 100 for Dean and approx. 50,000 of Titanic ‘survivors’!)
• Angels: 9 (including Gabriel/Trickst er’s fake death in Season 2, so actually 8 )
• Demons: 5 (including Crowley’a fake death in Season 6, so actually 4 )
• Monsters: 12
• Other: 3

Grand Total = 85
(not counting the myriad random, nameless, minor and non-recurring angels, demons, monsters, human ‘meatsuits’ and human victims)

Major or recurring characters still ‘alive’:


• Humans: Dean, Sam, Jody Mills, Becky, Garth, Ghostfacers, Lisa Braeden, Ben Braeden, Frank Devereaux?, Kevin Tran?, Charlie Bradbury
• Demons: Crowley, Meg
• Angels: Castiel
• Monsters: Alpha Vampire, Tessa
• Other: Chuck, Death

Lowest death toll:
Season 1
Highest death toll: Season 5 (not including all MS or Titanic deaths)

Made me think :)
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-07-10 09:49
I thought Maureen Ryan had many interesting and thought provoking insights to share. I used to enjoy reading her articles, whether they be positive or negative of the episodes and the season in general. Personally I enjoyed season 7, but I do agree that is was very disjointed. What keeps me coming back for more (and I think this goes for every fan) is the great acting and the heart of the show as a whole. I love these two guys so much, it's kind of scary, my family is beginning to think I'm a little nuts (actually, I always was, nothing new there).

So, I will be looking forward to Jeremy Carver and season 8, although I do think he has his work cut out for him. I will miss Sera Gamble's writing. She has been my favourite writer since the very beginning of this wonderful little show.
Mimi Rosen
# Mimi Rosen 2012-07-10 11:37
There's been lots of reasonable criticism of Season 7. I'm annoyed the showrunner wasted so many opportunities and failed at tightly written stories and continuity.

The Huffington Post ran a list of the 10 biggest TV turkeys of 2011 on November 22, 2011. Supernatural was number 2 behind the Kardashians. I thought this was unreasonable bashing of the show and I believe Ms. Ryan was part of this designation since she had been the main reviewer. So I'm not sure what to make of her opinions now.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-07-12 12:50
I don’t know if this comment belongs here (hell, I don’t know if this comment belongs anywhere) but I’m putting it here anyway. It doesn’t really address Mo’s comments (sorry Mo....) though I do concur with much of what she has to say. This is really just a mixum gatherum of thoughts based on a few things that keep cropping up in relation to season 7. There is, unfortunately, zero structure to what I’m posting here, by the way. I tried putting structure to it and I couldn’t so I stopped trying. Plus, for some bizarre reason I keep referring back to season 4 because I see quite a few similarities between season 4 and season 7.

Oh, and word of warning, I’m having a (very) wordy day......

Okay, there’s been a lot of criticism about season 7 in many articles and comments. Is it warranted? Not really for me to say but one of the phrases that cropped up most often when discussing season 7 was ‘bad writing’. There were many comments out there along the lines that the writers were lazy or they didn’t know what they were doing, they didn’t care about the show or that they hadn’t watched past seasons (that one was mine....) etc but it’s an issue I’ve come to be quite hesitant about.

I teach and one of my subjects is English. In state exams, the biggest section on the exam paper is Personal Writing where students are given a number of titles, they pick one and they let loose with it in the form of a story, narrative, descriptive essay yadda yadda. There isn’t a huge amount of time given to this section so it‘s drilled into the kids that everything they write has to tie in some way to the overall story they are telling because that is what will get you marks (feck creative expression, this is about getting them into college!). Every paragraph has to tie in with the essay title and every paragraph, every line, has to serve a purpose, whether it is to reveal something about a character or the setting or to add tension or just to use a snazzy word to impress the examiner; everything they put down on paper has to serve a purpose. Now, given that I’ve managed to get that into the heads of teenagers (and I’ve taught some right bloody nitwits in my day) I find it hard to believe that professional writers on the show aren’t writing with the same ethos that I teach first years.

Despite all my declarations to the contrary, the showrunners/pro ducers etc do actually know more about the characters and the story than I do because while I only spend 42 minutes 22-23 times a year watching it (excluding rewatches....) and a few hours a week reading about it and maybe writing up the odd comment, those in the ‘office’ live it. Storylines are thrashed out, there are drafts and redrafts and editing and buttloads more so I do believe that what we see in the 42 minutes of an episode is there for a reason. It’s not simply a case of ‘Yearrah, throw that down for the episode, it’ll be fine’. I believe that everything that is aired and everything that is not, serves a purpose. It might not be clear and it might not be what we, the viewer would have chosen to air, but the producers had reasons for choosing what they did.

One example, one of my main beefs with season 7 was what I saw to be a disinclination to acknowledge the events of seasons past ie The Mentalists, an episode about psychics and no mention was made of the Winchester who was (is??) psychic. It felt to me like they were disavowing older seasons and that really annoyed me. However, if they had mentioned Sam’s psychic ability then it could confuse a lot of new or casual viewers to the show and the last thing a show can do is alienate an audience. The same criteria could be applied in relation to John.

Add to that, it is often necessary to leave out things that we want to see in order to serve the overall story. If we take season 4, the lack of insight into the psychological and emotional side of Sam and his motivations has caused much consternation with many fans. It still does. However, I feel that the decision to do that, to show Sam and his motivations as being shaded, was necessary in order to further the idea that Sam was a vessel suitable for Lucifer. If we knew everything about Sam in that time, if we saw his devastation, the manipulations of Ruby etc then, when the Lucifer vessel reveal came there would be no doubt in our minds about Sam. We had to be unsure of Sam going into season 5 in order to create tension for that storyline. We had to see him in a negative light, we had to see him doing questionable things, we had to see him being shown to make the wrong decisions time and again, to consorting with demons, to liking power, to being angry and secretive and revenge driven because if he was portrayed as being a transparent, sympathetic Peter Pious then the very idea of him saying Yes to Lucifer would be like Dean going vegan; completely unfathomable and it would lessen the storyline in season 5; it would lessen the entire mytharc. The focus had to be on the dark side of Sam in season 4, not the light side so that we could draw similarities between Sam and Lucifer to enable us to buy into the idea that Sam would say yes.

Do some fans dislike Sam because of season 4? Sure but there are some fans out there who dislike Sam because they find JP’s forehead unattractive (I’m not kidding with that one up) so honestly, those who want to dislike Sam will find reason to dislike Sam, regardless of what rationalisation s for his behaviour are given on screen. Could Sam have been written more sympathetically ? Of course but to do so would have taken away from the story that was being told and it is the story that is paramount, not the character. That’s not doing the show a disservice, that’s damn good writing.

From what I’ve read, it seems that for many the show started spiralling downward with The Girl Next Door. I’ve read a lot of comments along the lines of ‘The Amy story was a blunder, it got out of hand, it didn’t serve a purpose’ etc but I think it did serve a purpose and it’s an episode I’ve grown to appreciate more and more as time goes on. Not only is it a prime example of open ended storytelling which I much prefer to close ended storytelling but if you consider the amount of debate it generated, and is still generating, then TGND was an excellent episode! Not only did it pose a huge moral conundrum for the viewers but Dean’s (and Sam’s) decision in relation to Amy is as polarising for many fans as Sam sleeping with Ruby in season 4.

I don’t think there’s a definitive right or wrong in relation to either case but in both cases you need to ask ‘Why did the producers decide to put it in?’ Sam sleeping with Ruby wasn’t necessary to the story itself, not in the way that drinking demon blood was. The writers had to have known the controversy it would cause, that it would forever be used as a stick to beat Sam with and that it would tear the brothers apart so when it would be much more character and user friendly to not have him sleep with her we need to ask why they put it in. Similarly, the writers had to have known that the decision to have Dean kill Amy would be equally as polarising so again, why did they put it in?

The decision for Dean to kill Amy wasn’t just based on a flick of a coin by the producers, it was intentional. The decision to portray Amy’s ‘victims’ as being worse than some of the monsters Sam and Dean have hunted was also intentional. To show Dean killing Amy the way he did, with gentleness (!) and a sort of reverence with the way he laid her on the bed (with the smallest amount of blood on her, a far cry from the usual monster deaths we see) was intentional and to show a now motherless Jacob looking at the face of the ‘monster’ that would haunt his dreams was intentional. If the show wanted to take the easy listening route then the show would have ended the episode when Sam and Dean got to the motel. That would have shown ‘character development’ from both sides; Sam by being seen to be able to make the ‘right’ decision and showing he could be trusted and Dean by trusting him to make the ‘right’ decision. It would have built on the ‘stone number one’ idea and also been consistent with the ‘Not all monsters are evil’ idea so it would definitely have been the easier thing for the show to do.

However, I think the show is long past posing easy questions. They are long past being making their main characters likability a priority, there’s no need for it anymore because the characters are well liked. I think they want to challenge their likeability and relatability by making some of their actions questionable because that will involve us more in the story and the character.

If they wanted to show Dean’s decision as being right while still shielding Sam they could have shown Dean hiding from Sam a newspaper with an article of another icepick killing on it before he showed up at Amy’s door or they’d have shown her attacking him. They didn’t. And if they wanted us to believe Sam’s actions were right then why would they show us Dean killing Amy in the first place, and in the manner that he did? ?
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-07-12 13:01
In much the same way that I believe that Sam sleeping with Ruby was the symbol of his descent, desperation and utter self loathing, much more so than drinking blood which was, for me, a symbol of his determination and self-sacrifice, I believe that Amy was a symbol of something for both Sam and Dean. (I love me some symbolism!) Too much has been made of her story for that to not be the case.

I think Sam’s decision to let her go was based on more than logic. Aside from their obvious similarities I feel that for Sam, Amy represented hope. She was the one that managed to get out. Despite his most fervent efforts Sam could not escape hunting, he couldn’t escape his destiny; Amy could and she did. Sure, she ‘slipped’ but so did he and Sam had been given more chances by more people than I’m sure he felt he deserved. This was his chance to pay it forward, he could give a helping hand as opposed to being the one getting the helping hand. For Sam, Amy was the decision that he could finally get right.

I think for Dean, Amy represented the exact opposite. She not only represented his lack of hope but also his lack of trust in his brother and most definitely his lack of trust in himself. In an earlier article (by Alice I think. Sorry for dragging you into my madness, boss!), she stated that she felt the writers were unable to grasp Dean’s spirit. Fair enough, but what if the show in season 7 did grasp Dean’s spirit, as it was in that moment, perfectly?

Let’s face it, dude’s fucked. The previous season he declared himself a monster, someone only good for cutting throats, and not much happened in the interim to allow himself to contest that. Spirits, especially the human spirit, can be easily broken and Dean’s spirit was holding things afloat for a long time. When Sam was in the doldrums about his destiny and the demon blood and whatnot, Dean was the one to try and hold him high and given the mental weight of Sam, that couldn’t last forever.

In season 2, Dean first showed the pressure of holding things up but it was also back in season 2 that the foundations of what drove Dean (monster = evil = kill it) started to get a bit of a shaking. With Lenore and with Sam he was now protecting a ‘monster’ (and if you consider Amy a monster first and a mother second then I feel you need to consider Sam a monster first and a man second) from people like himself. Had Sam not been his brother, odds are Dean would have killed him and logically, that would have been the right decision but he didn’t, instead he was willing to kill to protect him. When you suddenly start going against the foundations of what you’ve believed for over two decades, it’s going to send tremors through the whole building. Prior to that, hunting was easy for Dean. The decision to kill was very clear cut for him.

Then you start adding to Dean's now shaky foundations. With Dean’s hell, he experienced how a person can be twisted to do evil, no matter their good intentions. I dare say that Dean looked on the face of a lot of monsters after hell and thought ‘There but for the grace of God (literally) go I’. That again, shook him to his core. Castiel, another supernatural whom he trusted implicitly, betrayed him and he never saw it coming. He’d been shown by Death how many of his decisions tend to have disastrous consequences. His decisions in relation to Soulless Sam and Ben and Lisa, how much did all these factor into Dean’s decision to kill Amy?

Dean, at that time, was surrounded by those he didn’t trust, himself included. Dean didn’t trust Sam to be able to make the right decision, and that stemmed from more than the hallucinations. I don’t know if Dean ever did, could, or will, fully trust Sam. Therefore Dean, via his decision to kill Amy went back to the last time he trusted his own decisions, season 1-2; the last time he was secure in the knowledge that was he was doing was ‘right’. Grey area Dean might have been character growth Dean, but black and white Dean was the safe Dean. Supernaturals had bitten him in the ass (ooooh...) once too often for him to be able to judge them individually so it went back to monster = evil = kill it.

Another point that comes up quite often is in relation to how OOC the characters were written this year, most notably with Dean (so he’s the one I’m going to focus on). Yeah, I’m going to bite the bullet on that one and say that I don’t see much in the way of OOC behaviour in relation to either brother; quite the opposite, in fact. I thought how they reacted was very much in character given the situations they found themselves in, and what was going on in their own personal headspace at the time. Did they always behave as we would have expected them to? No, but all the things that were given as Sam and Dean acting ‘OOC’, Sam and Dean have done before.

For me, The Mentalists was the first episode where I started asking ‘Okay, who the hell are those guys? Dean would never say that to his brother and Sam would never capitulate that easily.’ It was the first time I thought there might be some veracity to the ‘bad characterisatio n’ talk that was running amuck at the time.

I’ve previously stated that I hate this episode and I do (Lord God, I do!). I know that much of my hate is based on the utter shock of seeing Dean acting as he did that way but I still hate it. However, after consideration I think that what happened in that bastard of a scene was very much in character for Dean at that time, and how he acted wasn’t new for him.

For me, that scene was Dean’s equivalent of Sam choking his brother in When the Levee Breaks except depression, frustration and anger were Dean’s demon blood here. It was in that scene that all of Dean’s most negative characteristics came to the fore in one fail swoop (and this isn’t a slight on the character, we all have good points and bad points); his manipulativenes s, his dominant nature, his arrogance, his temper, his rashness, his disinclination to see things from Sam’s POV and mostly his need to be highly thought of by his brother. However, in relation to the traits I’ve listed here, we’ve seen all of these from Dean before, just in dribs and drabs, and definitely not as concentrated as they were here.

Growth of character is not linear and it’s not consistent. Very often it’s a one step forward, two steps back sort of thing. If we all just learnt and grew and learnt and grew by the time we died we’d all be like Yoda, wise beyond belief. Dean was crumbling under the weight of 6 ½ odd years of worry and pain and grief (and 40 years of hell) by this episode and he snapped. It’s not very endearing but it is very human and it is very understandable.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying season 7 was brilliant. It’s probably my least favourite of all the seasons (hey, one of ‘em had to be!) but I don’t think it was a bad season. Yes, there are things I wish they had done differently. I think showing the season from Dean’s POV was a monumentally bad idea because, given that the guy preached suicide more than once, it lead to the overall tone of the season being more bleak than dark. I don’t think I ever got depressed while watching SPN before but during this season I did and it did sour me towards it. While I’d liked to have gotten more on the hallucinations storyline, I’m not going to list that one because I thought that what we did get of it was excellent and I’m a big fan of quality over quantity. I disliked that they went so far with Bobby and then kept pulling back. I felt they turned him into a bog standard vengeful ghost story at the end of it and I kinda thought Bobby deserved better than that. If he was to be a ghost I’d have liked to see him play a part in Dick Roman’s demise and then peacefully deciding to go when the job was done, much like Mary in Home and John in All Hell Breaks Loose. I thought the show chickened out when it came to Castiel because I think he’d have been an amazing big bad for the season and it would have added a much needed personal aspect to it. Admittedly, I’m struggling to come up with a reason for insane in the membrane Castiel because he seemed to come out of nowhere. Part of me thinks he was loosely based on Misha Collins and his true personality (so it might be a nudge, nudge, wink, wink to the fans) but it felt strange to me and I’d have taken it in a different direction. The Leviathans, once their giant corporate plan was revealed, became less scary because I thought it became more of a metaphor for obesity and hey, I’ve been battling that since I hit puberty so I ain’t scared of it no more! Overall, I felt the scope of the season was too big to cover in too little time. With the Leviathans it was like a case of ‘Here I am, now hate and fear me’ and I didn't because I wasn't given reason to fear them.

But one thing struck me as I was writing this, that if the season was written exactly as I wanted it, then there would have been just as many, if not more, angry viewers. No season is perfect but for now, I think I’m going to be thankful for what season 7 did give me and not be bitter about what it didn’t.

Man, that was cathartic!