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.
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.