A week before we were utterly stunned by the emotional mayhem that was “Sacrifice”, I posted an open letter to Jeremy Carver expressing my bewilderment about the primary story line of season 8. I began the letter with the following confession:
“Dear Jeremy, I am confused. It is only 4 days until Supernatural’s Season 8 finale airs in the U.S., but with so many plots and sub-plots still fluidly intertwining, I have no idea where this story is headed! I have totally given up on speculating, predicting or theorizing what is happening this season! I am intellectually baffled and emotionally exhausted.”
My letter went on to list all of the plot fragments that had been introduced during the season, and my personal theory on what we would see... in the season’s climactic last episode:
“I believe that you are setting up an immensely intricate myth arc that will take at least 3 years (and hopefully more than that!) to unravel and explain. I believe you have a plan. I want you to have a plan. Originally I had hoped to get Sam’s lost year, not looking for Dean, Naomi’s agenda, Cas’ manipulation, closing whatever gates…all resolved this season. I had hoped that by Episode 23, I would have a lot of answers. I have given up on that!! There’s less than a week left, and Cas is heading in some new, crazy, misguided direction; a Knight of Hell is released again (ineptly by the brothers); Sam is being attacked both emotionally and physically, and may be losing his resolve to complete the trials; Dean is alone in supporting both his brother and their quest; and Crowley, Naomi and Metatron are still mysteries….I promise I will write to you again this summer, after I have seen the finale and know all that you have to share with us this season. For now, though, I have to marvel at the amount of faith you have in fandom! You are either giving us the most complex season of all time (a judgment only hindsight can deliver once all is revealed), or are baiting us with clues and multi-year story set-ups that we have to absorb and just hold on to patiently for years. Or…are we, as fans, seeing way too many things that just aren’t there?”
I think answering that last question is crucial to understanding our expectations for season 9, both individually and as a worldwide fandom. Are Jeremy and his staff of writers working through a complex multi-year myth arc that involves more than just angel and demon tablets, or are fans seeing story lines that just don’t exist? We are holding our breath during the last two weeks of Hellatus, anxious to be liberated from the dramatic cliffhanger we were subjected to at the end of last season. Where exactly did the story leave us, though? We really have to understand season 8 before we can know what to expect from season 9.
Stepping back from the many, many distractions that kept us all guessing what direction we were headed last season, season 8 was ultimately about two main plot lines: finding and using the angel and demon tablets to accomplish a mission. Of course, everyone wanted the tablets for different reasons, so the race was on. The last image seared into our brains was the spectacular, convergent ending to the quests for those two tablets. Sam did not close the Gates of Hell, even though we watched the brothers devote a year to finding the prophet, losing him, finding him again, hiding him, losing him again, being reunited at last, then depositing him in their bunker, all while they followed step-by-step instructions through the trials given to them by the demon tablet’s translation. We also watched Castiel spend a year (here we go again…) searching for, finding, protecting, losing, regaining then finally delivering the angel tablet to the prophet so that it could be deciphered. Yet Castiel did not wait for the tablet’s translation and ultimately did not close the Gates of Heaven. So all that work to find the two tablets yet neither goal was accomplished! At the end of the season, our heroes have both the tablets and the prophet in their possession, yet the path forward has never been more unclear. Angels have been cast out of heaven, Cas has lost his grace, and Sam is mentally and physically broken.
A lot more happened in season 8 than just following that winding road to disaster, though. As part of my recap earlier this year, I listed all the other season 8 plot lines that were baiting us with their possibilities. If my theory is correct, and there is more afoot than just chasing the fallout from the two tablets, these other plots should eventually reemerge. How about if we revisit season 8’s sub-plots and predict where they will all lead? I’ll go first: (spoilers possible from this point forward!)
1. Purgatory – NO. A fabulous, permanent addition to the mythology, but I don’t think it will play a big part in the Heaven/Hell saga currently facing the brothers. It can always be revisited briefly for, say, finding a best friend who got marooned there? Which brings us to …
2. Benny – YES. If I’m not mistaken, spoilers have already leaked that we will be seeing more of Benny. Misdirection and teasing aside, I do believe his role in the brothers’ maturing relationship and his tremendous popularity as a good/bad guy will bring him back to us as a recurring character.
3. Naomi (the mysterious CIAngels, her control over Castiel, her history with Crowley and her relationship to heaven) – NO. I think this whole plot line played itself out. It added to the angels’ backstory and explained a lot of Castiel’s history, but I don’t think it will be a focus in the future. Partially, I think Amanda Tapping is too established an actor to sign up for a multi-year supporting role, and partially because you can only hate a nemesis-turned-ally for one season before they get tiresome…and she looked really and truly dead.
4. Metatron and Abaddon – YES. Oh, they’ll be back. Somehow either Castiel or Sam and Dean have to exact revenge on Metatron when they “fix” Heaven and restore the angels (which I have to believe is going to happen!). It’s no secret that Abaddon was primed for a power battle with a now-captured Crowley, so there will also be a lot of drama there, too.
5. Charlie, Garth and Bobby – YES. Again, no secret that they’ll be back too. Great supporting characters for a few fill-in episodes.
6. Aaron, the Golem and the Judah Initiative – NOT YET. This is a good sidebar story supported by solid, interesting, believable characters. With so many major story lines already on deck, though, (Sam, Cas, Dean’s secret, Heaven and Hell), and so many supporting characters with active story lines in play (see list of names above), I don’t think this could be explored in enough detail this season to do it justice. Plus we lost their creator, Ben Edlund, to a competing apocalyptic series. Let’s hold onto this one for the future.
7. The Men of Letters Legacy and Henry – YES and NOT YET. Obviously, the MOL bunker is a now a cornerstone of the series. I think we will see Henry again, but not until later. I wouldn’t object if he reappeared in the back half of season 9, but I believe it is more likely that he will be saved for subsequent seasons. I believe I am still on safe ground with what I predicted in May: “this whole new history has a profound impact on the myth arc. Introduction of Henry and his life’s story, the boys’ legacy as Winchesters, volumes of priceless information for the boys to use as hunters; in other words, a whole new world of stories to explore!”
8. The Brothers’ Maturing Relationship – YES. “The first half of the season was torture as we watched two brothers who barely recognized each other, fought all the time, said things that were deeply hurtful, and stayed together only to hunt, find Kevin, or survive. The second half of the season (especially the last few episodes) did a complete turnabout with hugs, mutual understanding, support, tolerance and honesty… everything I could hope for between the brothers!” That was how I described Sam and Dean’s relationship in Jeremy’s letter. As of now, I really believe we are in for a great season between the brothers. I don’t mean to imply that they will get along seamlessly or that there will be no rifts between them. We already know that Dean starts off the year keeping a big secret from Sam. I do believe, though, that we are through with contrived arguments for the sake of drama, or the wallowing in self-pity, alcoholism or self-imposed emotional isolation as season-long characters traits we have had to endure in the past. I believe Jeremy and the writers understand we want to see real, meaningful emotional angst and reconciliation that develops plot, not heartache.
9. Sam’s “lost” year trying to build a normal life (Sam didn’t look for Dean, found a new life with Amelia, lost it all again but hopes to find normalcy at the end of the trials) – NO. There were so many hints and soooo much speculation that Sam did not really build a new life with Amelia. There were several possible tangents suggested to account for the unfortunate allegation that Sam didn’t look for Dean:
o The attempted-suicide theory (Sam, worn down by remembering Hell and his Lucifer hallucinations, became despondent after losing Dean. His attempt to kill himself in the Impala was side-tracked when he hit a dog. This suicide theme was reinforced by “Heartache” when it was revealed that Brick drove his car off a bridge when faced with the prospect of living alone without his life partner.)
o The “dream” theory (The idealized quality of Sam’s memories of Amelia and the super bright lighting of his flashbacks suggested something other than reality. Then Sam’s revealing monologue to Fred Jones in “Hunteri Heroici” that you can’t live in a dream world because reality will always find you.)
o Sam’s memories were altered by Naomi (Naomi manipulated the minds of Samandriel, Ion, and perhaps many other angels over the millennia. The faulty memory theme was reinforced when Castiel corrected Dean’s memory of his escape from Purgatory, when Sam remembered intricate details of his life that Dean had long since forgotten, and when they found that Fred Jones’ memories were his salvation from a withering mind. Sam’s activities in his missing year could have been wiped away and new memories implanted, explaining how Sam suddenly knew how to reverse an exorcism, for example.)
After all our speculating, I now believe that Sam’s year was simply as it was presented, i.e. he didn’t know what else to do so he drove around, hit a dog, met a girl, fell in love, had his heart broken then rejoined his brother hunting. Do I think Don’s resurrection was a coincidence? No. I still believe there is a good chance that Don was revived by angels to push Sam back to hunting for the tablets. Unfortunately, there is an equally good chance that Don was revived by the writers to get them out of the corner they had painted themselves into with Amelia. I’m torn on this one. I’m not ready to admit defeat quite yet on the angel manipulation idea. I honestly think we’ve seen the last of Amelia, though, mostly because of the rather universal dislike of the character (I have one caveat to this, which I’ll get into later). As far as Sam’s pursuit of a normal life, that will always be a part of his character. I don’t, however, expect it to be foremost on his mind in S9.
Then there are the few, smaller theories or events left dangling:
10. Dean’s advice to Sam to “never take a joint from a guy named Don”, before knowing that Amelia’s husband’s name was Don – NO. I think this was a weird blip in the writing. Fans pay attention to the smallest details, but I think this one got past the writers.
11. The mysterious figure watching Sam’s Kermit, Tx house – NO. This one is weird, too. Jeremy stated in a video interview that they were going to fully and completely reveal the identity of that figure. That never happened. Did that 30 seconds of tape end up on the cutting room floor? Did they change their minds and decide to leave it open? Were we supposed to infer it was Dean because he knew Amelia’s number when he placed that phantom call to Sam? This one bugs me. I really don’t know if this detail is something we should remember, or something we should let go. As multiple-year arcs go, this could be a clue, but that seems inconsistent with Jeremy’s prediction. I won’t forget it, but I guess if forced to make a choice, I will let this one slide.
12. The repeated theme of fathers making sacrifices for their children (“As Time Goes By”, “Freaks and Geeks”, “Everybody Hates Hitler” and “Remember the Titans” all scared us with their ominous exploration of legacies and impossible choices fathers had to make to save their children – NOT YET. Was this introduced only to support the history of Henry’s loss of John or to promote the legacy notion? Probably, but there was that last evening between Sam and Amelia after all. I would let this one go, except that Jared said something happens this year that he can’t wait to explore. Something that has him more excited than anything in the past 3 to 4 years. I have a few theories about what that might be. The craziest theory is that he becomes a father. We know Jared would love acting the part of a father, but would the story really go there? I don’t believe it will in season 9, partially because of the unfortunate way that Amelia’s character was developed and received. I would like that door to stay closed. This one is stored in the back of my mind, though, afraid to even be spoken in the light of day because of how it would sidetrack the story. It totally fits in with the season 8’s emphasis on Sam wanting to have a normal life, but I think it is too soon.
Honestly, I see this as the way the series ends. I am a sucker for happy endings. I have never subscribed to the “Butch Cassidy”, guns blazing ending that Jared and Jensen promote. Instead, I foresee them being successful at fixing Heaven (together with Castiel), closing Hell’s gates forever and retiring from actively hunting in the field. I envision them both having families, teaching their children and the next generation of hunters how to protect the world (“Charmed” anyone?), that is if they don’t eliminate supernatural forces from the world completely. That would give incredible meaning to their lives and their saga, their multiple deaths and resurrections, Sam’s journey and Dean’s determination. In any case, I don’t believe all the fatherhood, legacy and family references that were introduced this year were an accident. It’s an option for the writers. One possible ending, depending on the way the story develops over the next several years. (There is also the complication of the spin-off being launched this year. It is dependent on supernatural forces still being active in our universe so that will be a factor also). If forced to make a yes/no choice, do I believe this will happen? Not in season 9, but I can’t seem to forget it.
Those are the threads that were introduced but not resolved in season 8. If we are dealing with a myth arc that is broader than the tablets, some of them are destined to reappear. The real burning question as we go into 9.01, though is ….How is Sam healed?? Season 8 left him near death, yet we know he gets better in the first episode. What is it that has Jared so excited for this year? He has repeatedly said that his favorite season was season 4, because Sam was powerful and strong, and Jared loved how that made him feel as an actor. So I believe Sam’s cure will give him power and strength, and allow Jared to play a new version of Sam. Most popular theory in my mind? Angel’s grace somehow infused into Sam. Sam as an angel, possessed by an angel, a vessel for an angel.... He always admired angels and what an ironic reversal: the boy with demon blood who was Lucifer’s vessel (the most powerful fallen angel) ends up with the grace of an angel. Sam was being purified after all. That would certainly get Jared excited and be a big secret for Dean! Angel!Sam. Too much? Another possibility: We know Death is involved, and he can do just about as much as God. He cures Sam and then Dean owes Death a favor? That wouldn’t get Jared jazzed, though. A third possibility was Bobby reanimated in Sam. Bobby!Sam? No, that doesn’t do it for me. So you tell me. What do you think cures our boy?
I didn’t write to Jeremy in the Hellatus months as I had promised because honestly, I was still shell-shocked from the finale. It may sound trite, but I really didn’t have the emotional resilience to speculate what would happen next. I just wanted to leave it all alone and see where the writers would take us. Was I the only one who felt like that? With only 2 weeks left, though, it’s probably time to take a deep breath and dust off the notes from last season. After all, that’s what we hope the writers did before they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards), isn’t it?
So do you think season 8’s breadcrumbs will be carried over into Season 9? We know Hell has to get a new (or reinstated) “King”, Heaven’s angels have to find a new (or old) home, and Castiel has to find a new (or old) life. But what else might happen? Let’s Discuss!