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The first five episodes are great actually.  Yes, "Fallen Idols" isn't a great episode, but we needed something light after the first four intense episodes and that kind of story fit the bill just fine.  After that it was a mess. "I Believe The Children are Our Future" is decent upon first glance, but a mytharc episode that ends up going nowhere only manages to leave fans scratching their heads rather than delighting over a mystery.  It harms the momentum of a season.  "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester" and "The Real Ghostbusters" are perfect standalones, but they really didn't benefit from being on each side of "Changing Channels."  We almost forgot an apocalypse was happening in that string of episodes until Gabriel reminded us.  Gabriel's stern warning about Sam and Dean's awful fates would have been the perfect segue into the amazing yet grim showdown in "Abandon All Hope."  Given how bad several of the standalones were, the season would have benefitted with TCCODW and/or TRG being shown at different points. 

Sure, every season has weak episodes.  They happen.  Ones like Sam, Interrupted" are decent but suffer from missed opportunities.  After all, brothers in a psych ward?  The potential was huge and it came out with nothing more than Dean's stressed, Sam's angry and wraiths make a terrible MOTW story.  "Swap Meat" was a concept fans wanted for years but it just didn't work.  "99 Problems" fizzled after a great opening.  Weak episodes however should only be tepid and shouldn't leave more questions than answers.  Several season five's weak episodes left maddening head-scratchers that really wreaked havoc on the flow.    

Why was Dean a demon target for the first part of the season up to "Swap Meat" but ended up being left alone after that?  They figured out he couldn't die?  Didn't they already know that?  What happened to the Anti-Christ after much attention was brought to him in "I Believe The Children Are Our Future?"  Wasn't he supposed to be there for the apocalypse?  Why was Dean able to kill the Whore of Babylon in "99 Problems" which happened to occur after he had the power to kill Zachariah in "Point of No Return?"  Wasn't it established in season four only angels could kill other angels?  Why give the hero that kind of power then do nothing with it?  I expect not all plot threads can be answered but these were pretty glaring.      

The pacing in the back end of the season didn't improve much.  Between "Hammer of The Gods," "The Devil You Know," and "Two Minutes to Midnight" they couldn't have worked in the appearance of Pestilence better?  Why couldn't he get a full episode with a climactic conflict and build like War and Famine?  The unfolding story between the three episodes was jagged and sloppy and several plots shown in those episodes felt like a rushed afterthought.  It was the acting performances that gave these episodes some depth.  

The biggest error in pacing though came from screwed up CW scheduling.  The lineup was really hurt by "My Bloody Valentine" and "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" switching places.  The effects were jarring.  Wouldn't have that stunning lead in to "Dark Side of The Moon" made more sense after the crushing ending of "My Bloody Valentine?"  Ditto DMDWP would have made a nice buffer after the emotionally heavy "Song Remains The Same."  

Then there's mystery, or should I say lack of one.  As I mentioned earlier season four had a great mystery that unraveled perfectly all season delivering a satisfying pay off at the end.  Season five lacked such mystery, instead choosing to build on the early season reveals that Dean is Michael's vessel and Sam is Lucifer's.  I'll give kudos for the interesting dilemma and how shattering that idea must of have been for Sam and Dean, but it didn't make for a meaty enough season long arc.  I got bored with it by mid season.    

Season five ended up being about Sam and Dean resisting destiny.  Sure we were left guessing through the season why either of these guys would say yes to Lucifer or Michael, speculation started by Lucifer wearing his own Sam suit in "The End," but there were only so many times we could take hearing about that destiny and them saying "no."  It was a lot to put up with until Dean's "yes" then "no" in "Point of No Return," which was really awesome, and Sam's "yes" in the finale, which got my heart jumping.  Sadly, those two episodes weren't enough to keep us engaged all season long.  

The parallel of Sam and Dean with the Michael and Lucifer's relationship just got too heavy handed at times.  It wasn't always consistent either, especially the Michael of "The Song Remains The Same" and "Swan Song."  One was charismatic and confident, the other was wooden and weak.  Raphael, one of the four archangels, was introduced in episode three and was never heard from again, even though his role in this mythologically should have been as key as Gabriel's.  His introduction ended up being another one of those head-scratchers that jarred the pacing.  


 
The Ugly  

Aka, the not pretty.  The true "What the Hell were they thinking?" moments.  

"Hammer of The Gods."  I still positively loathe this episode.  If it wasn't for the incredible scene stealing and major showdown between Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer) and Richard Speight Jr. (Gabriel), this episode would be out-shaming "Bugs."  This offensive, poorly written, ill conceived piece of you know what was a major setback to strong storytelling that is Supernatural's strength.  Sam, coming off of a major character breakthrough, went back to the worrying ill-confident Sam of old as if nothing had happened.  Dean was really out of character, asking Gabriel to kill his own brother.  Huh?  Is that something Dean would have done?  No, as we appropriately learned in the finale.      

It didn't help that by this point scary was replaced by the gimmick of which episode could outgross one another.  It worked in "My Bloody Valentine" but after that, especially the graphic depiction of Gods that ate people and when creepy ended up being just plain gross in the case of Pestilence's introduction, it became my assumption this show was out of ideas, time and money.    

Then there was Castiel.  I'm on the fence when it came to Castiel this season.  His desperate search for God really didn't work out all that well.  It's one thing when there's a failed quest but his purpose never really went anywhere in the first place.  It ruined some of his mystique of the fallen angel on a mission.  Granted, I am very pleased by his character turn from "Point of No Return" on.  Once he got off the God thing, he went back to being the angel in crisis we know and love.  More humbled, but still doing his part for the team and being the fierce warrior he always was.      

Demons were quite different this year too.  They were excited that their overlord was in charge yet they were dumbed down this season.  They weren't menacing for sure.  Part of me takes that though to show that these guys were nothing when compared to the horsemen and Lucifer.  So, I suppose I'll let that pass.  I won't comment on the music either, for we've learned by now budget is too much to blame.  From what we did get though, I'm happy.       

Unfortunately, with a keen fandom like this one, sometimes there was too much focus on little details, like what happened to the amulet.  Where were Dean's rings, Sam's bracelet, all that.  I do excuse the fact that in a 22 episode season, forty minutes at time, if there isn't time to address some of the bigger details the little ones will definitely have to go.  Count me in though as a fan that wants to see that amulet back in season six.   

So there you are, season five in a nutshell.  I wouldn't call it a disaster or even bad, but compared to the other seasons, they're all better.  Considering how good all the other seasons are though, season five is still in very good company and holds up.  Now it's time to see what season six has in store.  Unlike season five, season six won't be starting with lofty expectations.  The pressure is off.  Also, we're pretty emotionally drained from season five.  Give the brothers a break, give us a break, and let them get back to saving people, hunting things.  You know, the family business.     

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.