First, I will share the transcription of the interview. Afterward, I give my commentary of what I thought about Andrew's answer, which is definitely not wrong, but misses the mark as well. It's one as a fan I'd like to examine further.
(Nightsky) Can you talk themes of season 12?
Themes of season 12. I would say mostly puberty is a strong theme. No, I think the theme for season 12 is really for us in the same way as season four was, and season eight was, and six was it? It’s a little bit more of a soft reset, a little bit back to basics. The really important thing to us is making the conflicts and the stakes personal to Sam and Dean, because as you go big, and certainly last year we went real big, I think sometimes the idea of saving the world looks really great on paper, but sometimes it can be a little nebulous in the telling of the story. So for us this season as we iris the lens in on Sam and Dean and their relationships a little bit more it’s important for us to keep the stakes and the danger and the excitement in little bit more of a contained way and a little bit more family focused. With Sam and Dean in the last few years we’ve built out their family in a lot of interesting different ways. Yes there’s Crowley and Castiel but there’s also Jody as she’s evolved into a nice character for us, some other characters as well, now Mom is back, that’s a whole other wrinkle. So it’s really about putting the focus on back family and building off that.
So what’s the relationship going to be like between Mary and the boys?
You have the season from both sides. In Mary’s case, Sam and Dean were to her potential. When you look at a baby, when you look at a four year old kid, like “Dean was a precocious four year old and Sam was a baby and they’re going to be amazing and I left my left to raise these kids,” and then she passes away and comes back. In some ways, what she sees she’s incredibly proud of Sam and Dean, they’re heroes. She may not be agree with hunting but she understands what they do and she understands how great they are, and the good they’ve done in the world, but she’s conflicted because she knows the dangers of this life better than anyone and certainly as well as our guys.
Then from Sam and Dean’s point of view, you’ve got someone who in many ways their entire life has been built around. Mom dies, everything spirals from that. When she comes back in, they have an idea of who their mother was, they’ve met her in the past, they got a glimpse of her ghost at one point, but they’ve never dealt with her on a day to day basis. They never gotten to see how she sees them, seeing that through their eyes. Sam and her have a lot in common, they both walked away from hunting, they both came back, but when it comes down to it she’s more like Dean. She’s take charge, kick ass, that’s her go to move. I don’t know if you saw the trailer but the first thing she does is throws Dean down on the ground and takes charge of the moment. That’s how we want to present that character. She’s a very vulnerable character and back, out of sorts a little bit, but she’s not a softie.
Can you talk about taking over as showrunner?
Sure, I think we all can agree it was a great move (laughs) and a long time…no. Um, the metaphor I use is you walk into an incredibly great cast, really great group of writers, incredible crew, they’re handing you the keys to a Lamborghini and they’re like, “The only problem here is you, the only thing that can go wrong is you, everything is gonna work great. So just don’t crash the car.” So my goal is to not crash the car.
(Alice) Season 11, it seems like it was going along a certain path, and then at the end it just did a 180. I know some of you had to replan some stuff but can you tell us what was going on? How did you get to that point?
I think what it really came down to for us was you’re dealing with these big apocalyptic forces. When we’ve done that before the end result has always been similar. Lucifer got tossed in a cage. There was a fight and Lucifer got tossed in a cage. Dick Roman, there was a fight and Dick Roman got stabbed in the neck. You know what I mean? So is there a way to do a different season finale? The risk you take with that is you’re doing a different kind of season finale and it goes against expectations, to your point. Does that make it bad or does that make it good? I think a lot of that is in the eye of the beholder. I will say for us what made it interesting it was not a conventional choice but I understand it may not have been as satisfying as seeing Dick Roman get stabbed in the neck, because there’s a finality with that and an endorphin release from that. Where as where God and Amara making peace and going off together that’s the best possible result, if you look at the universe and everything else like that, but it’s also in some ways a soft result. Like I said, we knew that going in. The idea always was the big actions happens in the episode before the season finale, and the season finale is going to be a much more smaller emotional story.
I get that people may not have been as into that as we were, they’re certainly fair, but I do believe that, you know, sometimes you try things and you hope they work and that one…yeah. It didn’t necessarily work for everyone, I’m certainly aware of that, but at the same time if you start doing things only you know that people are going to like, and people are like “Oh my God I love it,” that limits you storytelling wise. At this point in the show, those stories are easy to do. It’s easy to tick three boxes and know on Twitter the fans are going to go crazy for it. It just is. We all know what those three boxes are but I think the question is, if those are only the types of stories you’re telling and those are only the type of episodes you’re telling, then are you really allowing the show to grow creatively? It becomes a nostalgia cycle. You know what I mean? And we’ve certainly been on 12 years. We have our share of nostalgia and certainly have gone to that well but if that’s all you’re going for, that’s all you’re doing is repeating, then it becomes a real problem and it puts a clock on things. I think we have with the guys and these relationships we have places to go that are really interesting, I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m like, “We’re not going to do this because Twitter’s not going to like it.” I just don’t think that’s a good way ever to run a story, or run a show, and I also think truth of the matter is, the thing people like the most is that they want it but they didn’t know they wanted it. And that’s my hope is this season some of the stuff we’re doing, not just with the mythology but the characters, we’re hoping that there’s some stuff there that they’re really going to grab onto.
In many ways, I agree with Andrew's answer to my question. I SO agree that storytelling shouldn’t be about what makes people happy on Twitter. Writers shouldn’t be checking boxes and they should go into places that they’ve never gone before. That’s why this show has survived as long as it has. These are the creative minds and this is their vision. We are along for the ride. If we don’t like it, we get off. If we do like it or think there's potential, then we continue to hope that they’ll follow that path or just follow with blind faith, happy with the same or even better.
Personally, I was extremely disappointed with the final three episodes of season 11, and it wasn’t because we didn’t get to see the equivalent of Dick Roman getting a stake through his neck. I was disappointed that it was a lot of stunts and VFX and choppy plotting without truly digging into the emotional aspects of the story, aka the HEART of the show. It wasn’t captivating and the character interactions often made no sense. Everything I heard in that press room said that they are heading for more emotional stories in season 12. While that ideal pleases me, why wasn’t any of it done at the end of season 11?
I’m not talking about one emotional farewell at a gravesite, which was very well done. I wasn’t asking for an hour of that. I'm upset over the dropped threads and missed opportunities. What happened with the amulet? Why wasn’t Sam’s faith arc given some attention when God was around? Because there wasn’t time? (see Jared’s interview for that answer). Why at the end was Crowley, Rowena, Sam and Castiel relegated to eating peanuts in a bar? No, they didn’t have to be out there kicking ass. But the potential to play out all of that in an emotional way was there. Instead they were just…there. Sam could have had his touching conversation with God! Crowley and Rowena could have had a moment! Hell, what about Castiel? Wouldn't that have been his time to declare his faith and thankfulness for God? If something different is watching heroes in a bar eating peanuts during the ultimate climax of the season, I need a new set of heroes. Is this what Andrew referred to as "nebulous telling of the story?" Is the big arc truly to blame for all this?
But yeah, it goes back to what Andrew said, they took a risk. They didn’t try for the easy story and I’m okay with that. I’ve always applauded risk taking on this show. Most of the time it does work. For example I loved “Bitten” but I know a lot hated it. They all can’t be “The French Mistake,” which by the way was a MASSIVE risk. The thing is they’re trying. I’m very okay with toning plots down and digging more into themes of family and relationships just as long as they commit to those stories throughout the season and do them justice. That did not happen in season 11 and hasn’t happened well in a while. The short attention span and lack of consistency among the writing from week to week remains a concern. To me checking boxes is not a requirement. It’s telling a fluid and compelling story that in the end comes together and makes sense.
When looking back at of all the interviews from Comic Con, Mark Sheppard was the one that nailed it on the head. The below quote is perfect. It doesn’t matter how the writers do this, just as long as this is the end result. This WAS NOT the end result of season 11, not matter how hard they try to spin it:
“You take 11/12 seasons together you have some seasons that are major story arc and some that are less major story arc and more theme and have some seasons that are bits that you cobble together. I don't think it matters. However the writers approach it, we're still interested in the Winchester brothers and that's what counts. If we're not interested in the Winchester brothers we don't have a series to watch. As much fun as Misha and myself and the rest of us around the boys are, it's about them. If you want to watch them, it's the right place to be. I think we've done a very good job building and structuring over the years that platform to watch what happens to the Winchesters. “
A fellow blogger who’s name I shall not reveal told me at Comic Con that the loss of Robbie Thompson is devastating because he wrote Sam and Dean the way that person liked Sam and Dean to be written. The other writers don’t get that. Now, I don’t want to tell writers how to write Sam and Dean, they need to follow their own voices, but from my critical perspective any emotional story needs to involve both brothers, not just one. Why did Dean get his talk with God but not Sam? Dean was with Sam during “Swan Song.” Why wasn’t Sam with Dean in “Alpha and Omega?” Because they didn’t want to check a Twitter box? There is taking a different direction and just plainly going against the core of this show. Will we get to see the impact of Mary’s return on both brothers’ lives, or will Dean get most of the emphasis because he had the real relationship with her? I know it made for a cliff hanger by Sam not being there and now he starts off the season in peril and believing that Dean is dead, but in the end the choices didn’t sit right with me. It felt off. Instead of enjoying the version I got, I'm spending lots of time thinking of different ways that I would have done it differently. That's what happens with an unsatisfying conclusion.
But hey, all of this is just my opinion. I am just one fan,and I'm probably in the minority. I don’t want to tell these writers how to do their job, nor do I want to tell fans how they should be enjoying plots. If I were on the writing team, I probably wouldn’t be doing so hot either. They have to come up with a lot in a short amount of time. I greatly appreciate Andrew Dabb doing what a good writer/showrunner does, defending his creative choices. He hasn’t been giving into fan pressure like I’ve seen with so many other writers. He isn’t about the fan pandering. That’s just bad policy if he was. I’m very grateful he took time and concern to deliver that message to all of us. It could have easily been “no comment.” In the end the best I can hope for is to understand where he was coming from, and with that it’s time to move forward.
What do you all think? Do you agree with Andrew's defense of season 11? I had the good fortune of talking with several of showrunners at Comic Con and I'll have another article on how sometimes the accessibility of fans to showrunner leads to overinflated sense of fan entitlement. Andrew Dabb just makes the absolute best starting case.