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.
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.