No, no, no.  That’s how they’re kicking off the season closing mytharc?  I have so many problems with this.  Why are we getting recycled plot-o-rama that’s once again crushing my hopes of a proper season ender?  Especially when there’s only one season left after this?  Aww man, this is so not improving my cranky mood. 

Okay, deep breaths…  I really do strive for a calm, constructive review, but after an hour like this, it’s so damn hard.  I mean come on, Meredith Glynn is a great writer.  She’s been on fire this year.  If I look semantically at “Game Night,” this wasn’t a bad episode. By that I mean that the scenes flowed together well and the dialogue was well done, etc.  I really enjoyed a lot of the shots done by director John Showalter.  The scene with Nick being led into the MOL Bunker was especially riveting in the way it was framed, capturing perfectly Sam’s anger.   

But yeah, that’s all I got in the praise department.  The problem is, what the writers and directors have been given to work with, even the good ones, is awful.  The originality in the plotting is not only missing, once again it seems like they’re trying to re-enact the entire history of “Supernatural” as if the past events never happened.  It all feels so wrong, and after this episode it’s another huge insult to the prior seasons I’ve grown to love. 

First, let’s look at the overused tropes.  We got Mary Winchester being an encouraging and supportive mother, which came out of nowhere.  Oh yeah, she’s about to die.  There’s the very overdone brotherly trope, one watching the other die, only for the miracle “healing” MacGuffin to come along and suck any dramatic impact from it.  Then there’s the beaten to death villain, aka Lucifer/Nick, who really should have stayed defeated back in season five but no, this time he found a way that spits on prior cannon.  The greatest insult though, the possible “tragic” death of a recurring character.  Yawn.  Oh no, another “Supernatural” death.  Instead of crying, I’m rolling my eyes. 

Then there’s the B plot, the Castiel and Anael pairing. I actually liked this pairing in theory.  Those two should have met a long time ago and they had the most hopeful scenes in the entire episode. I liked the idea of Anael becoming an ally in the future and finding her place in the Winchester world.  But then, I suddenly remembered the hundreds of other times they did this with a character and that anyone who helps the Winchesters and Castiel ends up dead.  So yeah girlie, take those earrings and run.

Think about it though, this has become a serious problem.  The careless nature of the plotting has hurt the benefit of the doubt between writer and audience, especially among long time fans.  The trust isn’t there.  I don’t want to get to know new characters because I’ll just watch them be killed off senselessly.  I don’t want to get engaged in a building plot because I know by the end it’ll all go south and veer off in illogical and frustrating directions, leading to one very unsatisfying conclusion.  I don’t want to be at the whim of the writers’ short attention spans which results in way too many dangling plot threads.   

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Case in point, Anael’s story could end up being a big positive but there’s nothing here to indicate that it’s more than screen time killing.  Why did we meet Methuselah?  Why are we seeing all these angels popping up on earth?  Shouldn’t all angels be called to Heaven by now to help from it collapsing?  Remember that dropped storyline?  It sounds like an all hands on deck situation to me, including Castiel.  Wasn’t there only supposed to be a couple angels left on earth?  I count three right there.  Why are three angels wasting time on this minor quest when there’s a much more urgent matter happening?  Why hasn’t the urgent matter been spoken of since last season? 

What really set me off though was this statement from Nick, “Nobody stays dead anymore.”  Has that tag line actually been a service to “Supernatural?”  Anyone can be brought back at anytime with any twist in the lore that may or may not be sound.  That kills the dramatic impact of a death, but at the same time opens up possibilities with the plotting.  But has that freedom made the plotting better or just gotten ridiculous?  I say the latter.  There used to be boundaries that had to be followed and continuity mattered.  Slowly over the years those boundaries have been stretched or outright eliminated (for example, see rules about vessels) due to desperation to push a plot forward.

What lack of imagination you ask?  Let’s follow the bouncing ball.  Why did Sam and Dean have go through another death scene?  I am impressed that for once a writer portrayed accurately what happens when one gets hit in the head too hard, and the scene was well done by Jensen and Jared, but did it really serve a purpose?  If Mary was concerned about Jack using his powers (presumably because of the whole burning his soul thing), why send him to heal Sam?  Did she figure that his soul was pretty much gone by that time?  Or was she putting Sam before Jack?  Of course Sam was in that predicament in the first place because he backed off on killing Nick.  Why, because he’s human?  He’s worse than most monsters. If anything, Jack’s brutality was acceptable.  Nick did have it coming.  He has never showed mercy to his victims and wasn’t going to start.  He had been corrupted.  Sam’s restraint in this case was not warranted.  Nick would have only hurt others.  Mary’s condemnation of Jack’s actions came across to me as hypocritical.  She would have done the same if she could have, especially if she saw what Nick did to Sam. 

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Another fallback is they’ve pulled out the infamous trick when it dawns on them they only have a couple of episodes to wrap their season long stalling -  the convenient out.  “This situation is iron clad and cannot be solved, oh but wait…”   Through the Castiel story, we find out that souls CAN be restored, and only Chuck can do that.  Really?  Since when?  Why didn’t he give Donatello his soul back in season 11 after Amara sucked it out? That was always a possibility?  Wouldn’t he want his noble prophet intact?  Wouldn’t he have done that for all the souls Amara took?  Or better yet, have her release them?  Suddenly Jack’s perilous soul disappearing situation isn’t so perilous. After all these seasons of the soul boundary there’s suddenly a way to hit the soul reset button.  How nifty!  The question is, will the journey to hitting that reset button be all that compelling? 

How do we go from “Nobody comes back from the empty,” to “Well wait, there’s technicalities if someone you’re connected with prays for you and wakes you up.”  If Lucifer is awake in the empty, how is that going over with the entity that controls it?  Castiel being awake drove it nuts.  How is Lucifer not doing that?  How did Castiel get a pass and not Lucifer?  How has this happened twice in a year but never ever before this in all of eternity?  I know this could be a potential convenient setup for all the angels to be released thus solving Heaven’s problem, but wouldn’t that a bit too easy?  That’s what I felt like when Nick was talking to Lucifer via Donatello.  How did he know to use Donatello to contact Lucifer?  Did the stupid demons somehow know that?  Did he find that in a library somewhere?  Where did he get angel grace?  Oh, and Nephilim blood is the key to the spell. How lucky that one just happened to be available and Lucifer remembered that spell, not to mention found a convenient way to communicate it.   It’s sloppy and desperate. 

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I know, even in season five all seemed hopeless until Sam came up with his plan a few episodes before the finale.  There was no way for Lucifer to go back into the box, so Sam had to take him there.  Why did it work then?  Maybe because the very idea of Sam having to sacrifice himself by being shut a cage in Hell with Lucifer forever SCARED THE FREAKING CRAP OUT OF US!!  It was a horrific fate worse than death for a character we cared a ton about.  I mean, stomach tied in inconsolable knots plotting.  The stakes couldn’t get higher.  It all played out according to plan but the whole process of getting there was so dramatic and oh so tragic to watch.  The way everything unfolded emotionally hit fans right where it hurt.  That’s how to do the “way out” twist, make the alternative slightly lesser of two horrific outcomes. 

The whole Ma’lak Box plot is the only recent story that compares to the magnitude of Sam’s choice in season five, and that inexplicably played out mid-season then discarded quickly along with Michael.  Anything they are trying to setup now cannot compare to that vision of Dean afraid and alone in the bottom of the ocean.  Nothing can be that gripping or terrifying. 

As a side gripe, the writers have done plenty to try and erase the impact of Sam’s sacrifice since it happened.  They’ve tried to recreate the impact of that moment with other characters and failed miserably.  I still think season eleven had the greatest insult in that regard when Lucifer came out of the cage after trapping Sam AGAIN, but this latest plot of Nick contacting Lucifer in the empty is the most recent example of how Sam’s sacrifice was for nothing. It’s a freaking insult.  Lucifer needs to stay dead because he’s no longer a credible villain.  He’s been rendered through poor writing to cartoonish freak instead of someone to be feared that just won’t go away. 

So that brings me to Jack.  You know, we’ve seen the “going darkside” thing before.  Sam, season four, ring any bells?  Castiel in season six and seven?  Then there’s the weak attempt of Demon Dean in season ten, which quickly abandoned when they realized they couldn’t pull it off.  What I’m seeing is a mirror of just that, Jack will got ballistic at the end of this season and have next season to earn his redemption.  Oh, but maybe he killed Mary.  Ugh, how original. 

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Do I really need to go through the list of characters unnecessarily killed for the sake of sensational plotting and then brought back in less interesting forms?  In ways that are totally contrived (see Gabriel/Trickster, Charlie, Bobby…)?  Mary Winchester has already been brought back once.  Her death wouldn’t be all that bad. She’d be back with John in the afterlife, or at least the memory of John.  You know, when she was most happiest.  That memory was the reason she abandoned Sam and Dean and took off on her own after being resurrected.  Death can’t be the worst thing to happen to Mary.  Oh right, it’s meant to unravel Sam and Dean.  Except, they lived without their mother for thirty-three years.  They haven’t seen her much since she came back.  Do we really need to go through yet another Winchester weep fest?  Is that how we want to end this?  Where is the action?  Where’s team free will kicking butt and taking names? 

As a reviewer I must respect the choice of creative license.  It’s their story to tell.  But, but, that’s the best they’ve got?  What if Sam actually died?  How about he and Mary are both dead and go to Heaven, and then Heaven collapses (remember that plot?) and their spirits and the others come to earth?  Or maybe they get involved with finding a high stakes way to save Heaven after finding out it’s failing?  Maybe Dean spends time with Castiel and Jack finding a way to help them or joining them in the fight to maintain order?  They all have a tussle with the entity of the empty who comes for Castiel and that results in those souls being released?  Castiel’s quest to find God somehow plays on this?  Or what would Dean do after working with his brother and mother to save the world and realize that this time, they stay dead? 

I’m just throwing out those possibilities.  I’m not saying they’re better.  I’m just saying, there’s still ways to make the plot interesting and unique without rehashing old ones.  There isn’t much time left for gutsy storytelling and I know I can’t be the only one that wants to see the show go out with a bang.  I still have to see how it all plays out this season but given the predictability of the plots in the last several seasons, especially toward the end, if it looks like a duck, turns out it is.  Jack going dark side is not sparking my interest nor is it setting up anything big for the final season.   

I’m sorry, but bottom line it’s old and tired.  Nightsky in her review talked about her reactions when Jared, Jensen, and Misha announced Season 15 would be the final season, how that impacted her emotions.  I suppose I’m experiencing a similar circumstance, but my feelings are just the opposite.  When the announcement finally came I felt…relief.  I’ve been waiting for this day to come for a long time.  I need for this circular and recycled plotting, spitting on anything that happened in the past, the destruction of good characters, and the failure to build but rather recreate the same tropes, to end.  I need that closure, and I hope I’m not alone. 

Overall grade depends on the criteria.  As the kick off to the end of the season, this first chapter earns a D+.  The script construction (dialogue, scene flow) and directing gets a B.  The originality of the lore, an F.  So, I really can’t say what this earned overall.  Let’s just mark it “TBD” until we see the rest play out.  With three episodes left, they better get busy.