Okay, so season six and seven of Supernatural have been unpopular in many ways with the fandom. And understandably so: there were changes to the atmosphere of the show, characters were altered in confusing and non-sensical ways, plots have been dropped at random and character development has been questionable at time. So, with all that can be said to be wrong with this once great and beloved show one has to wonder: why do we stay?
For me the answer is simple - I just can't help but continue to love Supernatural. This piece isn't about inciting diatribes about what is wrong with the show, or critiquing the people who have complaints about it, legitimate or otherwise. Rather, it's about examining what keeps me coming back week after week, year after year, even during the tough times.
Every television show of decent age goes through rough patches (because let's face it, if they go these patches early on they likely won't survive into old age). My childhood idol and all-time favourite television show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I doubt this is a secret, as I quote the show many times in reviews and other pieces. I simply loved that Buffy wasn't perfect, that she kicked ass and had a pretty solid group around her without whom she wouldn't have been successful. And then they introduced a new character in the fifth season that I absolutely hated and for me, the show took a turn.
BTVS has been off the air for many years now, and despite the rough times when it was on the air and in its last couple years, I still consider it one of the best shows ever. The characters, the themes, the writing and the overall concepts embodied in the show resonate and stay with me even after all these years. Over time, the bad parts have faded away and what stick out boldly are the many, many great things.
Supernatural is much the same way. Yes, it is still on the air and therefore a work in progress, but I return every week because of the fondness I have for these characters and the fact that the good far outweighs any negative points that may be present now. I imagine many of you return for much the same reasons.
I won't say too much about season six, because in all honestly, it's kind of a hazy memory. There are key parts that stand out such as Dean with a sniper rifle, "The French Mistake," Sam's confrontations with himself inside his head, Castiel's episode, the unsunk Titanic timeline, and of course the season finale which left a major cliff hanger. It wasn't great, but definitely had its moments.
Season seven, though we are only 12 episodes in, is actually becoming a favourite season of mine. Is it near the caliber of season four (my all time favourite season)? Not in my opinion. Nor does it have the dynamic new excitement and air of discovery that came with season one. Or the conclusive notes of finality and satisfying payoffs of season five. But somehow, I can't help but have affection for this season.
To start with, I really like the Leviathan. Many viewers, as I understand would disagree with me on this point, but nevertheless I like their approach, their intelligence and that Sam and Dean aren't their focus, merely an irritating side pain. Are Sam and Dean the heroes? Absolutely. But, unlike previous seasons, the entire endgame as seen by the villains doesn't hinge on the Winchester brothers. It's kind of refreshing to me.
The other thing that works for me is the back to the back to the roots feeling of the season. Granted, this hasn't always been done well but for the most part I'm satisfied. Do I miss Castiel? Of course. I had a love affair with that character and was devastated by his loss and paltry send off. But I appreciate that the boys needed to go back to themselves and their beginning as just the two this time around.
This brings me to the next point. Now I'm sure I will get a lot of flak for what I'm about to say, but please hear me out. I'm kind of okay with Bobby's death. (Ducks flying foodstuffs). Why? Bobby was an integral piece of the SPN family and an incredible character. I truly loved him, really I did. But in a way his death kind of makes sense, for the aforementioned return to grass roots way. This season has been all about stripping the boys of everything they've known and relied on for the past few years: Cas, the Impala, their fake ideas, their hunting/motel routines - everything. And this couldn't have been complete with Bobby being taken out the picture. Do I wish he'd ended up in a coma and not dead? Well, yes. That would have been a better way to go, but I have to work with what the show has given me.
Furthermore, Bobby's death has become quite motivational for these boys, particularly Dean, who had that dead-inside feel about him more and more leading up to Bobby's demise. Again, it could have been a major injury that motivated him, rather than an out and out killing but hey, I'm not writing this thing. Finally, the send off was beautiful. If you're going to say goodbye to an adored character this is how you do it: with respect, fondness and appreciation.
Okay, so maybe the fact that I don't believe Bobby is really dead also helps. We totally haven't seen the last of him - no way, no how.
The final thing that strikes me about season seven is its lighter atmosphere overall. Forgive me for bringing Buffy back in again, but the analogy is important. In season six, Buffy went to an incredibly dark place. It'd always had a darker air about it as is the nature of the genre, but season six had some incredibly black themes and in many cases they were thrown right in your face (such as an almost-rape scene that I find very hard to watch) - there was hardly time to catch your breath before something more dark and angst ridden was happening. When season seven came back, I remember the show runners promising to pull it back from the darkness and inject some of the lightness that was present in earlier seasons. This is what has happened on Supernatural, season seven, in my opinion.
Season six felt very gloomy and heavy, despite what I think was an attempt to shake it up and breathe life. Season seven, on the other hand, feels somehow brighter. The show seems to be taken itself less seriously. That's bizarre to say about a show that has always made fun of itself, but it's the case nonetheless. Are there still dark themes? Without a doubt. But they are dealt with in a less heady, heavy handed approach (for the most part). I can't help it; there is a refreshing lightness about season seven that has drawn me back in. This is probably what season six should have been, coming off a five-year intense plot run. But I digress.
At the seven season point in this show, much like I did toward the end of the BTVS run (which went on to season seven, after the introduction of the much hated and poorly constructed character in season five) I remember what it once was and I smile because I enjoy the good parts that we're still seeing and try my best to overlook the frustrating bits. I've tried not to read so much into things. For example in "Time for a Wedding," many people likened this to sexual assault or something else of very sinister nature. My mind simply never went there, largely because I don't believe that could ever be the intention of the writers on this show. My life has been topsy turvey the last year or so, full of much reality based drama and I've tried to adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude, which I've tried to bring to my Supernatural viewings as well. It doesn't mean I don't see the bad spots. Just simply that focus is on the good spots.
In short, why do I still love Supernatural? The same reasons I fell in love with it all those years ago: it has some fantastic humour, clever writing, stunning cinematography and great lead characters.
What keeps you coming back, despite the kinks?