I’ve really struggled with putting together my “Deeper Look” articles this season, both for Sam and Dean. We were given 23 episodes and that is usually plenty of time to do a deep character examination. Season Eleven went a different way though, different than any other season before it. Character development was a sorry after thought. That’s been a troubling trend in the last few seasons but season eleven really dropped the ball. Turns out it is the worst season yet for characterization.
The potential for Sam and Dean’s characters to do epic things and grow as human beings was there at the beginning. TV writers often like to push their characters into spirals with the eventual goal of moving them forward (you can’t go up without going down sort of thing), so the setup was there, but nothing happened. Dean was intended to fall into a serious low this year with his attraction to Amara, but that didn’t quite happen the way it should have. Instead of a spiral, he quietly slipped into a boring holding pattern that did little to no justice for his character. But I’ll cover all that in my segment for Dean. This analysis is about Sam.
Half a season of effort went into Sam. The rest was throwing him into clichéd MOTW case mode, acting out of character, and then just outright pretending he wasn’t a relevant character. I’m not happy that Sam became waterboy for God instead of hero, but that’s not what has made me unhappy about his character overall. It was the writers not following through on what they started because the writing got lazy and disorganized as the season progressed. Once the “big reveal” about Sam’s visions happened in episode nine, which honestly wasn’t all that big a reveal since fans are smart, Sam was pushed more and more to the background until he was utterly useless in the end. That’s exactly what shouldn’t be happening to one of the two main characters.
Where did the writers go wrong? Let’s look at some key episodes.