Article Index

 
The Good
 

You have to admit, season five had some epic episodes and landmark scenes.  Only an established show like Supernatural could be confident enough to do something as groundbreaking and wildly imaginative as "Changing Channels."  Tying it into the exploding mytharc too added shock value as well, giving huge depth to an otherwise screwball comedy.  Lucky for them, they had a very strong character in the Trickster to step up to that incredible twist.  "The Real Ghostbusters" expanded on that risky meta territory that was started last season and it didn't get old.   The average guy got to be the hero, all inspired by the Sam and Dean mythos.  It was Eric Kripke's nice pat on the back to a loyal fandom that's often given him both joy and fifty fits through the years.  It worked without pushing this meta world too far into ridiculous territory.  

In terms of emotional impact, this was the strongest season yet.  Who can forget the stunning events in middle episodes like "The End," "Abandon All Hope," "The Song Remains The Same," and "My Bloody Valentine."  Dean's powerful showdown with Sam/Lucifer in "The End" is a scene that still gives us chills, the touching, no absolutely gut-wrenching, demise of Jo and Ellen in "Abandon All Hope" still makes us weep, Sam seeing his parents in the past and Dean's discouraging meeting with Michael in "The Song Remains The Same" still gets to us, and Sam going off the deep end with his powers after giving into Famine's spell (with a stunned Dean watching everything) and Dean's meltdown during Sam's painful demon blood detox still forces us to scrape our jaws off the floor.  

"Dark Side of The Moon" and "Point of No Return" are also two stellar and landmark episodes that will be talked about for ages, especially with the latter being the most satisfying and long desired brotherly reconciliation just in time for the 100th episode. Dean's dinner with death in "Two Minutes to Midnight" is easily one of the most heart stopping scenes this show has ever done, working by only using deep suspense and a deathly slow pace that had us white knuckling it the entire time.  Then in the next episode, "Swan Song", there's the eerie and spine tingling showdown through the mirror between Sam and Lucifer.  These are the moments that set this show apart from everyone else.    

Speaking of "Swan Song," when it comes to tying up the core theme, family conquers all, it was perfect.  Sam and Dean's plight was a test.  A test that affected multiple lives and the future of humanity.  For five seasons we got to see that test through the lives of these tortured siblings.  How they responded, how they managed against impossible odds (they barely did), and how they prevailed (bittersweet, with the sacrifice of Sam).  They never completely lost faith in each other, even though it did waver.  After all, they're flawed humans.  Ones that got to teach both Heaven and Hell a thing or two about the power of free will.      

This season carried on the ambitious themes set in season four rather well, one exploring God's motivation and his role in this universe. Remember Castiel from early in season four, "God works in mysterious ways."  Sure, that might have inspired Dean to kick his ass over that comment, but it didn't change things.  We weren't really going to get the answer about what God really wanted, but the exploration is part of the ages and could not be ignored.  It was like Lost finale.  Answering what the island was all about was like answering the meaning of life (credit to Mo Ryan for that observation).    

So, was Chuck God?  I think so, but it will always end up being a playful and unanswered notion for this show.  It reminds me strangely of the real identity of Robin Masters in "Magnum PI."  They played with us the entire time and we never did get the firm answer, but the hints were delicious.  Shows are allowed to do that. I take Chuck's presence to be more reflective of Joan Osborne's song, "What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us.  Like a stranger on the bus trying to find his way home."  I know people hate unsolved mystery but hey, creative license.  The way I see it, God was there helping.  Doesn't it make sense it would be someone close to them?  It'll be a fun little debate to carry on for a while, which means the show did its job.


  
Season five also was a master class showcase for acting.  You know how exciting it is to see a little show like this attract the caliber of acting it does now?  Sure, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beaver, and Misha Collins constantly prove their muscle, but the guest acting was some the best I've seen.  All four actors that played for the four horsemen, Titus Welliver, James Otis, Matt Frewer, and Julian Richings took their small parts to a level that rivals the performances of the top dramas.  The words "Sci-Fi show" didn't deter or cheese up their dastardly moments. Ditto for reputable genre actors Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer) and Mark Sheppard (Crowley).  Richard Speight Jr. really took his recurring character The Trickster to amazing new heights, literally since he was promoted to full fledged Arch Angel.    

Throw in the already steadies of Samantha Ferris (Ellen), Alona Tal (Jo), Matthew Cohen (Young John), Amy Gumenick (Young Mary), Samantha Smith (Mary), Colin Ford (Young Sam), Kurt Fuller (Zachariah), and Chad Lindberg (Ash) getting their golden moments to shine and they left us with performances we'll never forget.  Out of all the guest performances though, my sentimental favorite is Chad Everett.  I grew up watching this guy on TV and to see him pull off a dead on aged Dean Winchester?  What a stroke of genius.  Even at his age, Chad Everett still has got it.

Going back to Jared and Jensen though, fans often get spoiled with their consistency.  We forget what extraordinary things they do each week.  In season five, this is usually the point that many actors start phoning it in.  This especially happens when the writing gets less consistent as it often was this season.  Not these guys.  They took even the worst stuff (cough, "Hammer of The Gods" cough) and made it work.  They delivered something spectacular emotionally that only comes from that special touch actors can give.  The words on the pages won't do that.  So bravo to them both for continuing to blow us away every week, Paris Hilton or not.      

The Bad
 

Plotting and pacing.  I get that 22 episodes are hard, but season five failed where season four wildly succeeded.  Season three was a badly paced season, but most of that could be blamed on the writer's strike that took away six important episodes needed for good story telling.  Season five had no such excuse.  In terms of flow and even pace, this is season five's bad grade.  Sadly, most of this can be blamed on inconsistent writing.

Comments  

Yvonne
# Yvonne 2010-09-06 22:26
Thanks for the wrap up. You had me re-living some of the angst, excitement and nail biting by simply mentioning one or two things. Great, good, grievious! What a show!
Much of what you said I was nodding along to, one or two points I differ on but that's just this one fan's personal opinion, and hardly anything to quivel over. But the 'nodding off' comment had my eyebrows raised. Eh? I mean EH?!
No, I followed your logic and your point, but it did cause a double take on my part. :-)
Again, thanks for the wrap up and YAY!!! S6 is just around the corner!
elle
# elle 2010-09-07 01:07
Good recap/review Alice. I think you summed up the feelings about season 5 pretty darn well. When I think back at the episodes that season 5 brought us, it's almost startling to realize how disjointed a season we got, especially, as you say, when compared with season four. Still, some of the greatest moments of the show were featured in the past year so despite the fumbles, I look back fondly on season five.

That said, I'm excited for something fresh and new in season six - without the heaviness of the apocolypse, Heaven and Hell looming over the boys. Fun though it was, a reboot season sounds like exactly what we need to keep life in the show. And maybe give the writers a chance to regroup and keep things moving in a good direction with new ideas to flesh out.

Only a few weeks until season 6 and now I'm even more excited!
Suze
# Suze 2010-09-07 06:32
Nice one, Alice ... Pretty much my thoughts too. There were some great bits and great episodes, but on the whole S5 was rather too patchy, unfocused and stop-starty, especially compared to the juggernaut that was S4. Maybe the saying's right and it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive ... ;-)
elle2
# elle2 2010-09-07 11:20
Alice,

I'm of the opinion that you gave Season 5 an objective and well-thought out review and gave it kudos where it deserved them and knocks similarly where deserved.

If I were to rank the seasons I definitely would waver between putting this before Season 3 but after Seasons 2 and 4 (as the highest) and then there are many a time -- especially when focusing on the pacing aspect --that it's the lowest of the five seasons as the show was established enough by Season 5 that it should leap over 1 and 3. In one they were finding their way and in 3 between the writers' strike they also had to refind their stride after killing Yellow Eyes in Season 2.

When Season 5 works, it works but too often there are fabulous moments in otherwise less than stellar episodes.

One point that I do make is that I think many people overlook the fact that humans CAN kill angels in the land of SPN they just need the right weapon. In OTHOAP Uriel states that only angels can kill angels but as he states that he reveals a new, never before seen, weapon. To me it is clearly implied that the reason only angels can kill angels is because only angels have these weapons and it is the weapon, not the bearer, that has the power to kill.

Add that to the fact that in PONR Castiel dispatches two angels carrying similar weapons and prominently gives them to Sam and Dean tells us that Castiel knows the boys need these weapons going forward in a confrontation against angels.

That is why Dean was able to kill Zach and why Sam tried as both boys had those weapons.

However, my statements may not be something that you are in agreement with just as I fail to see the bringing back up of the demon blood thing for Sam. Ruby said in Lucifer Rising that Sam didn't need the blood, that he had the power in him all the time. Yet, for some reason it was dredged up again in Two Minutes to Midnight that Sam needed to suck down copious amounts of blood to 'wear' Lucifer. Makes no sense whatsoever. The question that was left lingering..."Yo u didn't need the feather to fly, Dumbo" never got answered in a satisfying way. Rather than let him continue with his detox and Demon Blood Anonymous journey they settled back for the tired and had him suck down the 'go juice' in order to wear Lucifer. If it's in the bloodline, then it's in the bloodline. Michael didn't need his vessel to have anything special other than the blood of John Winchester.

Alas, mistakes happen and loose strings are left to be pulled. I'm of the opinion that those strings, while annoying if focused on, should rather be tucked away and I plan to move forward. I've never attempted anything as ambitious as what Kripke and Co. did and while I wish there were some things cleaner, I'm glad they 'went for it'. When it worked it rocked and when it didn't...I ignore it. That way I continue to be excited about the show and only wish that September 24th were closer!

Thanks for giving an objective review to the season. It was worth the wait!

:-)
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-09-07 12:04
Fair wrap-up Alice……very fair. Season 5 was very awkward and inconsistent with LOTS of missed opportunities with little to no special effects like we saw in season 4, much ‘silly’ dialog, and lost plot constants. I would have to add, and here we agreed to disagree, the character of the boys was NOT true to the original characters we all fell in love with (that includes Sam also)…and for me most of it wouldn’t be included in character development. Don’t know the logic behind that, but I’m guessing it has something to do with CW’s push for very young viewers. You would know more about than me. I really hope CW isn’t a factor, as I would like to see it swing back to a show for all age groups, like it did in the first 3 seasons.

Yes, there were details that were changed and never mentioned in the plot…and to die-hard fans they would notice their absent right away. (The amulet, the ring, the bracelets… again a push from CW?) That's the bane of any show with a cult following. At least the amulet was written into the story, but it was used for a lot of sad emotion and really it could have been done a lot better. (Course now I’m an armchair writer, but a point bought out on many websites). As alluded to in Vancon, hopefully they boys were right and Gamble will start to turn things around. I really think the show would benefit from it EMENSELY.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-09-07 14:26
Alice, this was a fascinating read, thank you!

I have to admit, I'm trying to not expect too much from any tv show or movie and thus stay open for it - by that strategy I end up mostly liking it. This season I loved, though there were some bumby bits...

In contrast to the opinion of what Sablegreen said above (I hope to have understood her right, if not - my apologies, dear fellow writer(!), I was happy with the turns the characters took. Though I had loved season one's Sam and Dean, I loved them even more in season five, as their characters had become richer in colours and with more facets than originally described. It came naturally. I loved the continuity of character development.

When the season ended I thought - wow, this is my favourite ever! But I guess I was under the influence of the heart-wrenching three-part finale. My brain doesn't work well under a bombardment of tears.
Now, with some time having passed, I see the missed opportunities and I see what I missed - there were several logic-inconsist encies, you mentioned them... I would have loved to see more of the other arch angels, get explained why it was possible to exchange Adam for Dean, what was the true story behind the amulet, what about the anti-Christ, why not more story to the horsemen?

Still, I did love the season. A lot. I loved the acting fest for the lead actors as well as the supporting cast. I loved to see them grow and become even more skilled. I agreed with most of your thoughts and disagreed with some, but in general I appreciate your level-headed discourse! I think in the end, it is the best way to praise a show - looking at its strenghts and weaknesses and still remaining a fan curious about what will come.

so, I guess, you and I are basically of the same opinion. Ha, who would have thought? :-)
Thank you. Jas
alimac
# alimac 2010-09-07 18:09
thanks Alice (great name by the way, its my name too!) a great analysis that I can definitely agree with! I loved Crowley too, especially the fact that he was a Brit, I get all excited when I hear a fellow British voice in Spn, not that i don't love American accents! Maybe thats why I didn't hate Bella but I digress! I also loved the fact Death had a british accent I think it goes with our national cynicism!
But more seriously I agree with what you said about the boys repairing their relationship. For me what marked the fact that season five did its job was that it made the heart breakingly horrible bits of season four when the boys were pulling apart copeable with because you had seen the end of season five where they were reconciled and stronger. I barely registered how brilliant On the Head of a Pin is until I re-watched it after season five ended because it was so upsetting the first time! It's still deeply upsetting but you know it gets better!
Sorry for the rambling, i hope this is understandable, I'm not nearly as good at this as you! Anyway a fab review!
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2010-09-07 23:09
Great season review, Alice, and I agree with a good amount of what you wrote. I'm curious to watch the season on DVD over the course of a few days instead of weeks and see if that improves my attitude towards certain things. There was a lot to love about this season, some things that weren't as good, but all in all, still very enjoyable. Not as good as season 4, but man, that season was so darn good. Mind, I'm still of the opinion that even the bad episodes of Supernatural are better than most of the stuff on TV now. I hope they can get back to that level in season 6, and I can't wait to see what happens next. It's so close!!!
Randal
# Randal 2010-09-08 10:29
Since I agree with most of what you said in The Good (c'mon Ennio, pipe a tune), I'm going to nitpick The Bad (not that I don't disagree much there either, but the fun's in the arguing.) :D

I've only had the chance to watch the first three discs - a man needs sleep, ya know - so I want to wait to take in the stretch run before giving the mytharc the attention it deserves, but on 5.6, I loved the Twilight Zone-esque premise, but I think in a way they bit off more than they could have chewed, thus decided to shelve Jesse (almost?) permanently. One word could nuke the heavens? That's God-talent; Lucifer is to Jesse nearly as much as Dean is to Death. Introducing that much mojo is too much of a game changer.

As for 5.7, I don't think it suffers before Changing Channels. Seven episodes in, and they needed to deal with Bobby's psyche a bit before they started to amp up the fire and brimstone. We see Sam and Dean every week wringing hands. I do agree about 5.9. I love that ep (though the Colt business seems quite the tacked-on-at-th e-last-minute MacGuffinery) but going immediately from Changing Channels to Abandon All Hope would have worked better. Even Shakespeare didn't use comedy *all* the time to shuffle between scenes of despair.

99 Problems was before Point of No Return, so, huh? Unless I'm misreading what you're saying, and that you're complaining about angel vs. angel, a complaint I share. Frankly, a human shouldn't have the ability to kill an angel, even with a holy howitzer. That said, fucking fantastic to see Dean stick that psychopath, muah.

Michael was certainly more terrifying in 5.13 than in Swan Song, and don't get me started on Raphael. Look, there's only four archangels, so having another secondary character pop up at least once more isn't going to overload the viewing circuits.

The Ugly covers mostly the mytharc, so I'll wait, but I didn't mind the extra gross. Probably a guy thing. ;-)

Since the black-eyed demons were never really *the* bad guy, I could see them as more lackeys. I would have preferred them to have been used more as scary SS bastards, a threat in their own right, but when you've only got 40 minutes. I much preferred Nicki Aycox as Meg, so her sparing use didn't bother me, but I do think it was a missed opportunity.

Overall, four was leading up to the breaking point, so in a weird way, it was going to be more compelling, tighter storytelling aside (which it had); as a famous French bowler from Springfield once opined, the anticipation is better than the deed.

Though, I'd like to watch the season a few dozen times before coming to a not-really-perm anent conclusion. Can't judge an album after only a hundred spins, right?

Oh, site bit: I got timed out after taking too long to type up this incoherent comment. Not sure if that problem is recurring for anyone else. Damn internets!
Karen
# Karen 2010-09-09 09:37
Hi Alice
I would have to agree with majority of your assessment of season 5.
There were definitely some consistency issues, some missed opportunities and a few scratching of the head moments wondering WTH was that!

On the whole I have to say I enjoyed Season 5. It kept me captivated and I found I was able to get something from each episode, even if at times it was an extremely small tidbit.
To me Supernatural is like riding a roller coaster, it has its ups and downs, its twist and turns and at times it just spins you into a loop. I don’t believe there is one emotion I haven’t experienced with this show and that’s one of the many things I love about Supernatural. You just never know what to expect or what’s going to happen.
All you can do is hang on tight and enjoy the ride.
Alessandra
# Alessandra 2010-09-09 14:28
Well written as always Alice. You never shy from saying when something just didn't work - love that about you!

Like others,I was nodding my head in total agreement with you as well as laughing outloud at:"Heck, it made the hobbled by the writer's strike season three look well plotted." :lol:

My only change would be "gold standard of season four" nope it was a platinum standard IMHO which is why horror of horrors I actually found myself falling asleep :o during quite a lot of S5 episodes and no matter how hard/stressful/ long a day at work I had or how many commercial breaks that must be endured, I never slept through any other season!

Would have been happy with Show ending at 'Swan Song' but certainly not complaining that we have at least another year to follow the exploits of the Winchesters.

Let's hope consistency reigns this year and any 'head-scratchin g' is due to fans wondering "how the Hell did they come up with such an awesome plot?" :-)

15 days and counting *bangs head against a wall* ;-)
Marchbear
# Marchbear 2010-09-11 19:46
That was a very fair and well-balanced analysis of Season 5. I'm glad you waited to write it - I also needed time to process it and still didn't get to your observations. They were excellent points. I thought I was the only one falling asleep in Season 5 - this was watch-in-real-t ime must-see TV for me at the start of the season and by the end it was 'meh, I'll catch up on Friday'. Thanks for this - it helped clear my head for Season 6.
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-09-13 01:32
Just wanted to add a slightly different perspective.

In terms of no. of viewers [according to Wiki -http://en.wiki pedia.org/wiki/ Supernatural_(s eason_5)], it is perhaps surprising that some of less well regarded episodes had respectable numbers.

These include :

The Curious Case of Dean Winchester - 2.90 million
Sam, Interrupted - 2.79 million
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - 2.95 million (the Season's highest numbers)
Hammer of the Gods - 2.82 million

Compare the numbers for some of my personal favorite episodes (at least from what I can see from YouTube, since Season 5's DVD has not yet hit Singapore shores) -

The Song Remains the Same - 2.28 million (one of the Season's lowest, but this was shown after Swap Meat).

Dark Side of the Moon - 2.40 million.

For the sake of completeness :

Sympathy for the Devil - 2.90 million
Swan Song - 2.84 million.