Looking back at 2016 overall, I think most of us are in agreement that this was hardly a banner year. Wait, I take that back, there were plenty of banners, all commemorating some pretty awful and troubling events. Bottom line, this year pretty much sucked.
When looking back at “Supernatural,” it wasn’t a marquis year for the show either. Lord knows I’ve made that point very well known through my reviews and other commentaries. However, this is a time of year where it’s best to let bygones be bygones, running on hope that a new and much better year is on it’s way. It’s time to forget all the bad and focus on the good, and despite the weaknesses, “Supernatural” wasn’t all bad. There were some grand achievements and memorable moments to come from this year and they should be noted.
Below are my picks for “Top Ten “Supernatural” Stories of 2016,” which covers the last part of season 11 (episodes 11.10 - 11.23) and the first part of season 12 (episodes 12.01 - 12.08). They are in order from best to bestest, at least according to my humble opinion. No science went into this ranking, just pure gut feel, and maybe a coin toss or two.
10. Rick Springfield as Lucifer
I’m as tired of the Lucifer storyline as most everyone else and I'm clinging onto hope upon hope that Lucifer’s time on earth is done. Having said that though, out of all of Lucifer’s vessels (Mark Pellegrino aside), I have to list Rick Springfield as my favorite. For an actor that has never watched the show, he got all of Lucifer’s mannerisms and quirks down perfectly. He made the character menacing again, not a goofy freak. My only wish is that he could have shown off some of his natural rock star talent as Lucifer, but that wouldn’t have been consistent with the storyline and that wish is really coming from my screaming 1980’s inner fan girl.
9. The Redemption of Metatron
I know how people feel about side characters and Metatron was not one of the more popular ones. I was appalled that he turned evil in the first place, even though Curtis Armstrong played the part of villain very well. Robbie Thompson left us with two priceless righting of the wrongs by not only revisiting the whereabouts of the amulet all this time (more on that later) but also redeeming Metatron by bringing him in to help Chuck/God through his family crisis. Only Metatron could get away with such blunt talk to the creator of the world. Their relationship goes back that far. I'm just tickled that we finally got to see it!
8. Castiel and Crowley Team Up to Find Lucifer
I’ve always loved Castiel and Crowley as characters, but I haven’t been pleased with their individuals story lines in recent seasons. I’ve felt they've been written as weak and watered down, making them a shadow of the awesome characters they once were. One improvement this season has been pairing them together. It’s always been a dream pairing for me, an angel and demon crossing the country together on a mission, or as Dean put it, “solving crimes.” These two are awesome together, and yes, I laugh at how much fun Crowley is having while Castiel plays cranky curmudgeon. TPTB definitely had “The Odd Couple” in mind when putting these two together and it’s working great. I really hope that the writers can come up with more future situations to pair these two (and maybe Rowena here and there) together.
7. The return of Chuck
I’ve love the character of Chuck Shurley and have ever since his debut in season four’s “The Monster at the End of This Book.” The second I saw Chuck’s final scene in “Swan Song,” I knew his disappearance into thin air meant he was God. After all, Kripke told me at Comic Con before season five that God would be a character. Yet the debate raged on between fans for seven seasons because his identity was only implied. No more implications. He is the Almighty. Granted, once that reveal happened Chuck’s return turned into a useless whimper, not to mention the blatant minimizing of what is essentially the creator of the universe, but we already knew that Chuck wasn’t perfect. It’s not like his behavior was that much of a surprise. Chuck thankfully didn’t stay around long because God being a slobby houseguest in the bunker got old fast. But it did help that Rob Benedict can sing because his poignant performance of "Fare Thee Well" will go down for the ages.
6. Bobby and Rufus return - “Safe House”
I still smile when I think of this episode. Robbie Thompson had said that he always wanted to do a Bobby and Rufus episode, aka the “Grumpy Old Men of Letters.” This was a masterpiece. Paralleling two similar investigations of the same MOTW that took place years apart, one by Bobby and Rufus and one by Sam and Dean, then having Dean and Bobby sort of meet in the middle in another dimension was freaking awesome and very inspired. Both Jim Beaver and Steven Williams were back in classic form, making us wonder why in the world were these two characters EVER killed off? I could watch a whole spinoff with these two. They made me laugh, they captivated me once again with their partnership, and it goes to prove that even in season 11, there’s plenty of room for more back story.
5. Dean's Submarine Adventure - "The Vessel"
Aside from the fact that this was a pretty powerful story for Dean, someone who doesn't take watching things unfold from the sidelines very well, I was more enamored by the technical achievements of this episode. I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Hawaii this summer and got to tour the U.S.S. Bowfin, which is a WWII submarine currently on display at Pearl Harbor. When I got to see the real thing, I really appreciated how much detail went into the submarine set for this episode. They spared no details. We saw in the real thing much of what you see in the episode. The torpedo room that had cots over top the torpedoes and the torpedo tubes nearby, the many controls, knobs and wheels everywhere, the steam engines and pipes, the control room, the cramped living quarters for both enlisted and officers, all in this tiny ship that held 70 to 80 men. This was a masterpiece for the set designers and that's after an already long list of achievements.
4. The Hurt!Winchester Fiesta - “Red Meat”
Let’s face it, anyone that reads "Supernatural" fan fiction knows that the most popular theme outside of slash is Hurt!Winchester. We love watching struggling and vulnerable heroes wounded and bloody fighting horrible peril to save the day. The one thing missing from this episode that is normally in fan fiction though was the touching brotherly hospital scene at the end. Sam's "quick patch" after suffering almost death was a little too convenient for me, and Dean really shouldn't have been up and around either after going into cardiac arrest. Ah well, the mere fact we got two Winchesters both in physical peril on the brink of death in one episode will have to be good enough.
3. Mary Winchester Lives
I haven’t been entirely happy with the slowness of how this story has played out the first half of season twelve, but bringing back Mary has raised some huge possibilities. After all, this whole Winchester story started with her death and spiraled from there. After 11 seasons they decided to go back to the source of it all and start again? That's a really risky move but so far it's worked. Mary’s reaction to coming back 33 years later has been understandable. Of course she was out of sorts and unable to connect with her grown sons that have gone through a lifetime without her. In the few times that Mary has on the screen, Samantha Smith has killed us with her character’s struggle for normalcy and belonging in a world that feels completely wrong. She’s been an amazing addition to the recurring cast. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mary can do now that she’s gaining her footing and reconnecting with her past. It just cannot result in another tragic death or heartbreak for Sam and Dean. I’m not sure my heart can take that anymore. Hear that writers?
2. The Maturing of the Winchester Brotherly Relationship
One thing has been true in this year, there hasn’t been any contrived brotherly fights or stupid conflicts. For the most part, there’s been no major blowups of Sam lying to Dean or Dean lying to Sam. Oh sure, there's been a couple of instances, like Dean lying to Sam at the end of "Red Meat," but Sam didn't call foul. He accepted that his brother didn't want to answer the question and moved on. A few seasons ago, that lie would have likely been dragged out as a major conflict. In other words, they’re treating each other like adults. They’re both on equal ground and they’re staying that way every week. They talk about things rationally, they don't always see things eye to eye but work it out, and the whole one brother sacrificing himself for the other is at a minimum (although not completely gone). Most important, they still maintain a deep devotion to one another.
I'm just thankful for moments like this:
Yes, even their separation at the end of season eleven was poignant but didn’t involve a lot of tears or melodrama. A hug goodbye and an acceptance of the mission. Sam was sad, no doubt heartbroken, but he knew that big brother was the only one that could do it. Sure, the grand reunion was lackluster and flat, but it can also be interpreted that Sam somehow knew that Dean would find a way back. That’s what they have always done for each other.
1. The Return of the Amulet - “Don’t Call Me Shurley”
This is a tricky moment since Sam and Dean were left with only looks to share their emotions when Dean found his once precious amulet in Sam's pocket, strongly implying that's where it had been this entire time (in Robbie Thompson's script, it was stated more as fact than implied). This reveal was so momumental for fans and a very long time coming. Most fans had clung onto the belief that Sam had fished the amulet out of the trash after Dean discarded it in "99 Problems" and getting that affirmation was one of the most satifying moments I've ever experienced with this show. I believe Dean had to feel some pride during his shock when he found the glowing discarded trinket right at the time that he and Sam were facing a bitter end. The topic never came up again (and probably never will since these writers don't like fan service), so now it can only be classified as one of those conversations that happened in the car off camera.
You know, I think I’m going to share my version of that "behind the scenes" conversation right now. Here’s Sam and Dean in the Impala:
Dean: You had it this whole time?
Dean: My amulet. You had it all these years?
Sam (smiling): Yeah. I…I couldn’t let it stay in the trash. It meant too much.
Dean: Were you ever going to tell me?
Sam: I don’t know, maybe. I had planned on telling you sooner, but then a lot happened. The right time never came up. It was in my pocket when I went to Hell. When I came back it went in my bag for a while, and then in the keepsake box. I forgot all about it until "Supernatural the Musical" happened. I forgot how important it was. When Amara was let loose, I started carrying it again for luck.
Dean: You couldn't say anything before now? After that musical would have been a great time. You let me put the fake one up on the mirror.
Sam: Yeah, I know. I just didn't know how you'd take it. Are you mad?
Dean: Mad? Yes. But...I couldn’t be happier. Knowing it was with you this whole time is somewhat...comforting.
Sam (slightly emotional after his brother’s approval): You can have it back.
Dean: Nah, I’ve gotten used to not wearing it. It’s served you well all these years. Keep it.
Sam (nods): Thanks. (Sam reaches into his pocket and rubs the well worn amulet, grateful that it can still be there when he needs it the most).
There are probably 800 better ways to write this scene, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :) Just having a scene like this would have been golden. I challenge you fan fiction writers out there to make this scene better in the comments. Who knows, with our collective minds we could come up with something epic.
That's a wrap on 2016. Are your favorites here? Agree with the rankings? Feel free to share your moments and rankings. There is no right or wrong.
Oh, and from myself and all of us at The Winchester Family Business, Happy New Year! May 2017 be much, much better.