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Nightsky's New Book!

Family Don't End With Blood

Featuring a chapter from Nightsky!

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Season 12 of Supernatural began the reign of a new showrunner, Andrew Dabb. In addition, Robert Singer, who tried valiantly to retire after season 10 (he worked on only 9 episodes in season 11), officially came out of retirement to act as co-showrunner for season 12.  Under their direction is an almost entirely new writing team, supported by a new editor and new leads in various key pre- and post-production departments. Amidst all these changes, Andrew and Robert promoted season 12 in the media and to fans as a revival of classic Supernatural. They touted a return to simpler stories and the basic tenets of the show.
 
With 15 episodes aired, or almost two-thirds of the season known to fans, it's seems like a good time to ask, "What do fans think of the "new" Supernatural?" Do we yet have an idea of the show's style or direction this year?  Do we see any differences in the approach of this new writing team? Does the show feel different or the same as prior years? I asked The Winchester Family Business review team to tackle these questions. In order of their submission, Nate, Wednesday, myself and Alice each offer observations of Supernatural's season 12 style, tone and direction thus far. 

Nate Winchester

Do you yet have an idea of the show's style, direction or tone this season? 
I've called Season 12 (S12) the "repair season" and so far it seems like they are mostly intent on getting the show, characters, and canon back on track.  There still seems to be some conflict between writers on which way plotlines should proceed. 
 
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For example, the season started out with Sam being tortured by the BMoL.  The next episode, with different writers, showed us a Sam then being seduced by the BMoL. 
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In the first episode, the BMoL agents are trying to keep the other Winchesters away, while later in the season they then invite those same Winchesters into their home base.   I'd guess this is a sign of new showrunners not yet confident enough to set a vision and direction.  What are the BMoL's goals?  What are their motivations?  You can see a very generalized direction the BMoL are heading but each writer seems to have different thoughts on how the characters should get there.  This isn't a bad thing in and of itself and could even be used to diversify the BMoL cadre and show a real internal conflict within their ranks.  So the direction seems to be right, but they now need focus.
 
What's your opinion of its direction, both plot and style-wise (e.g does it feel "classic" to you, which is what they said they wanted to accomplish?)?
 TR12
 
There are only 2 episodes of the show that I remember exactly where, when, and how I watched them.  One of those was the S4 premiere which I commented at the time really felt like a return to the show's core.  This season gives me a bit of that same feeling.  The people making it now definitely seem to remember or have learned what made the show work and are restoring those elements while looking for ways to innovate within the framework.  I don't know if the show could go on for another five seasons, but with what this crew has demonstrated so far, I have some growing hope they can wrap things up on a high note and create a spin-off worthy of the Winchester legacy.
 

Wednesday

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Nightsky

I have three overall impressions as I assess Supernatural’s twelfth season thus far. The first word that comes to mind is inconsistent. The season has had some truly outstanding episodes – “Carry On”, “Asa Fox”, “The Raid” and "Regarding Dean"  to name a few - 
 
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– but it’s also had some episodes that I consider among the worst of the series (“The One” tops that list). The content within episodes has also been inconsistent. For example, “Lotus” and "Rock" had a few scenes that were superb, but they shared the screen with some truly cringe-worthy scenes.
 
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For me “Mama Mia” was also outstanding… until the reunions of Sam with Dean and Mary.
 
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Those were completely without heart and terribly disappointing. I know that many of you strongly objected to Sam’s bedroom scene in that episode too. We’ve also had what I consider to be the strongest religious resistance and the most intense child abuse scenes of the series, which made me sincerely worry about whether I’d be able to continue watching the “new” direction of the show. Then that intensity disappeared, and was followed by more than one episode that were parodies of the series itself ("The One" and "Rock", which had a lot of dialog that I interpreted as direct commentary to fans).
 
Which brings me to my second overall impression: emotional dampening. Again, there are both positive and negative aspects of this characteristic. On the negative side, every episode has missed major opportunities for emotional broments between Sam and Dean.
 
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I’m still waiting for hug #1 this season! It’s as if they’re partners and best friends but definitely not co-dependent brothers. Don’t get me wrong. I do not slash Sam/Dean, but I would like more than a valium-hazed relationship between them! Where's their connection? On the positive side though, they aren’t fighting, hating or nit-picking each other to pieces. I've also thoroughly enjoyed Mary's introduction in the show, and we’ve had tender moments between Sam and Mary. Plus Castiel had what I consider to be one of the best scenes of his character (in “Stuck”).
 
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However, even that near-death scene that was delivered with perhaps the very best acting I’ve seen from Misha in which he proclaimed that his love for the Winchesters is deeper than his love for his “blood” brothers and sisters (i.e. his angel family), was diluted by western music and time jumping. The emotional momentum was constantly either interrupted or diffused. The season’s emotional signature is restraint, yet I don’t understand how that scene’s intensity, or the intensity of “American Nightmare” for example, co-exists alongside so many other diluted moments.
 
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Thus my third impression: mysterious and surprising. Mary joined the BMoLs. Sam and Dean joined the BMoL. Crowley warded Lucifer’s vessel. There are more YEDs and they’re called Princes of Hell. The Colt is back. Even the characters within the plots are being surprised: BMoL were stunned that Ramiel was a powerful demon, the vamp alpha was in America, and there was a traitor in their midst; grandmothers learned of grandchildren hidden from them, and so many more examples of shocking plot developments. While I have theories on the next big surprises, season 12 has been very adept at doing the unexpected.
 
After 15 episodes, I don’t yet understand the style or direction of the show, its writers or the showrunners. Maybe that’s a good thing. Beyond my loyalty and deep investment in Supernatural, I know I’m certainly going to keep watching, if for no other reason than curiosity. 
 

Alice

 Do you yet have an idea of the show's style, direction, tone this year?
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Not really.  If I have a one word description of this season, it is “slow.”  Mind numbingly slow to be more descriptive.  The whole idea of slowing down the action (or not having much at all) to explore the more personal stories is a good one…assuming they’ve been exploring those personal stories adequately.  Most of what I’ve seen is a whole lot of nothing.  I can’t even remember what happened in most episodes because they’ve left such a low impression.  What’s even worse, Sam and Dean Winchester are no longer the main characters of their own story.  This season they’ve been relegated to background players and it’s been noticeable. 
 
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On the plus side, there have some good ideas and some great possibilities introduced.  Considering half of the writing team are new writers, the fresh ideas have certainly been there.  Unlike Nightsky, I loved the Tarantino “epic” feel of “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” (complete with Western score) and didn’t mind that it cut into the emotional aspects of the story.  It can’t all be drama every minute and I thought the homage for which they were trying was ideal and worth the expense of the usual weepy stuff.  But for every stylistic win like that, there were massive fails like with “First Blood”, which was mechanical and horribly uninteresting.  I’m still hopping mad over the missed opportunities of what was the best plot premise of the season so far.  That was our reward after a winter break of big anticipation?  The fact that there was no emotional fall out over Sam and Dean’s ordeal was appalling. 
 
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Bringing back Mary Winchester has offered some big possibilities, but Mary has been solemn and withdrawn the whole time and hasn’t connected with Sam and Dean much.  Heck, she really hasn't connected with the audience either which makes her unsympathetic.  While this is a practical approach, it hasn’t been a very interesting one.  I don’t watch this show for practicality and crave more.  We hardly saw John Winchester in season one and he delivered way more impact in his interactions.  The British Men of Letters has the greatest promise so far and since their story hasn’t played out yet, I’ve reserved my judgment on them for the end of the season.  I really, really hope a payoff is coming with that story because we haven’t been getting it elsewhere.  
 
What's your opinion of its direction, both plot and style-wise (e.g does it feel "classic" to you, which is what they said they wanted to accomplish?)?
I find that fans have different expectations.  Some want that old classic feel, some want the emotional beats, some want that action and great mythology that has cemented this show in history.  I want all of that.  The show used to deliver a great balance and consistency in tone from week to week but it seems each season it falls further and further away from that.  I get that with a new showrunner and writers this season they want to forge their own identities, but everything that made Supernatural extraordinary from everything else out there no longer exists.  It all seems random and not very unique.  Honestly, it feels tired.  
 
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The blueprint of mixing it up each week has been there, but the execution has been weak.  The only “classic” elements I’ve seen are shout outs to prior seasons like the return of the colt and the return of the alpha vamp.  It doesn’t feel classic to me.  As Wednesday painfully pointed out, not a single amulet sighting.  You can’t just drop that after bringing it back!  Sorry, I digress. :)  I don’t want to see the same thing each episode and I like a variety of stories week to week.  I love it when risks are taken.  “The One You’ve Been Waiting For” was a big bomb, but at least the idea had balls and they tried something different.
 
Characterization as well remains all over the place.  This has been a weak spot for the past few seasons.  Sam and Dean have become wooden and bland, I don’t know what version of Crowley is showing up each week, I have no freaking clue what’s happening with Rowena, you’ve seen my thoughts on Mary, and Castiel just needs a freaking purpose already!  Out of everyone though, Castiel’s story has actually shown the most potential and that’s been minimal.   
 
I shouldn’t be too harsh though because there is still some entertainment value.  I actually liked watching “LOTUS” even though the premise in the episode description was horrific and campy.  I loved Rick Springfield’s turn as Lucifer and the middle of the season has vastly improved with “Regarding Dean,” “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” and “The Raid”.  So there’s still hope things will turn around.  But so far, I give Supernatural Season 12 an overall grade of C-.  
 
So with our four very different points of view, we all agree on two points: the inconsistency of the season and the potential for the future. We're confused on storylines, characters, quality and style but we're all hopeful that the rest of the season brings the divergent pieces together into a cohesive whole. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but we've all been sufficiently impressed with the good episodes that we're willing to forgive the bad and grant Andrew more time to convince us of his grand plan.
 
With intent, we wrote this mid-season snapshot in much the same way as we've judged the writing team is penning the show - our individual views written in our own style, presenting them one after another with little aggregation, leaving it to you to make sense of it all. There's a lot of good content, but is it easy to understand?
 
Enough from us, though! What do you think? How would you answer the questions I posed? What words would you choose to describe the season's direction and style thus far? Pick your choice in the poll, then let's hear from you! Let's Discuss!