Well it was better than season 9.
As hard as it might be for some to believe, I was actually kind of looking forward (behind all my cynicism formed by 2 years of Carver) to season 10.
Since S4 (with the arguable exception of S5) the show's has been stuck in the habit of always trying to end the world each season, seemingly without realizing that a good segment of Kripke's run was low key and devoted to more personal challenges. Meaning that when the end of the world arrived, it had all the greater impact. Unlike now where, like drug junkies, each time the world ends (or nearly so) the viewer finds themselves less and less invested even as the threat tries growing.
Thus when season 9 concluded similar to the close of season 2 (bad guy defeated - Dean in trouble soul-wise) I had a glimmer of hope. No world in danger, nothing big, all that was really at stake going into season 10 was the same as it was in season 3: Just a brother. Too often during the most recent seasons have the characters on the show had their selves subsummed by obsession with a plot. Given that S10 had no sign of such plot, dreams danced in my mind of a character-driven season. And as the season went on, even when some hopes were dashed, there often blossomed a new ray of hope that maybe, just maybe, this season could become one of the best post-Kripke ones. But how did the characters do?
The Hope: Dean's been directionless pretty much since he's got back from purgatory. Once upon a time there was at least a sense that he had a dream, a goal he had should they ever somehow be able to retire. After giving it up in S6, it's been much tougher to say for sure just what Dean Winchester wants out of life. With this season, I hoped that the writers were going to tear him down and rebuild him. Maybe he would want to form a new hunter family like Sam got to have in S6. Or maybe just remember the "saving people" part of the family business.
The Reality: The show runners apparently wanted Dean to have a struggle between the dark and the light. The problem is that they've blurred his actions and motivations so much in the previous years, the difference between "Dean with Mark" and "Dean without Mark" seemed an exercise suitable only for academics. There seemed to be a brief moment in the beginning where Dean decided he needed to act the saint: abstaining for bad food and badder girls, but that fell by the wayside before the midseason break without any real evidence that reverting to junk food was going to demonize him. We never even had a sign that he wanted to be saved, with him never bothering to try and sit out a fight or ask Sam to "take the burden" from him. By season's end, we still have no idea who Dean really is save for the echoes of his earlier season actions nor that he had any real struggle with the desires of his spirit vs the desires of the Mark.
Best Moment: Dean and Crowley, in the bar, with the cowboy hats.
The Hope: Since the beginning Sam has been the driving force of the show. First as a MacGuffin, then as a man on a mission. S7 tried mixing this up with Dean on the mission and Sam just trying to survive (and then there's 1st half of S8 where Sam... does nothing) but in general, Sam has been either the source of the mission or the one on a mission. With Dean "lost" at the end of S9, it seemed like Sam was going to finally get a mix of his "save bro" mission he had in S3, and the "need help" mission Dean had in pre-S1. Surprisingly, Sam has never been on the end of "miss him - go get" of the relationship duo (S6? no soul, S8? stupid dog) except between S3 and S4 so this was a chance for the audience to actually see Sam play the role of early SPN Dean: "I miss my family." With the efforts to save Dean, this would also be a great set up for Sam to finally embark on the journey the show's been teasing us with: Becoming and rebuilding the Men of Letters. Because while a lot can be said about the MoL canon headaches, it is nonetheless a concept hard to hate because it seems so perfect for the man Sam has always had a hint at being. This was a chance for him to return to the brains he once had.
The Reality: There was a semblance of a character there. Rather than forcing himself into the leadership role Dean needed him to be in, Sam just meandered as the plot needed. Most obvious example? Him recruiting Rowena when there's still no logical explanation for how he did that. Then his "let's keep more secrets" actions towards season's close came off as the attitude of a foolish child who has learned nothing (remember how bad secrets got last year for you guys?) rather than that of a desperate man at the end of his rope. Had we seen repeated tension between the boys throughout the season of Dean constantly stymieing Sam's efforts, then it would at least be understandable (and no, Dean going "don't bother" does not count as stymieing). Hell we never got an acknowledgment from him who used to be known as the more compassionate brother that maybe their "saving people" should include restoring Crowley's humanity.
Best Moment: With Dean in the car after Dean's anti-aging shenanigans.
The Hope: I confess, I'm not too jealous of the SPN show writers. Castiel has long been something of a white elephant to them - too popular to get rid off, yet can easily break stories that he's involved in. So with S9, and him made mortal, it seemed like an obvious fix! Let him learn life from the Winchesters as he trains to become something of a hunter with an angel/demon specialty. But then he got grace back. Oh but it's making him sick! Ok (I thought), maybe that was just to clean up Metatron's mess, now they'll take this bad grace out of him and let him rejoin the show in a new, mortal capacity. They even brought back his sorta-daughter to give him that human connection! He could become the new Bobby now. Or maybe make Sam, Bobby and let Dean & Cas hunt around. Lots of possibilities! Let's take this narrative thread and go with it! Find something, ANYTHING to do with this guy!
The Reality: Instead of actually taking time to FIX the angelic millstone hanging around the show's neck, they doubled down on it, leading to cringing moments such as Charlie dying and staying dead when a fallen angel revived her from death JUST. LAST. SEASON! The confirmation that Cas can, in fact, still mind-meld with people even after the S8 cataclysm (which makes episode 9.10 now seem really, REALLY silly). Yet some of the best episodes of the season were ones where Castiel participated (and not in any manner that required him to be specifically angelic) and angel-shenanigans were NOT involved. How in the world they can keep having the solution to a problem like Castiel slap them repeatedly in the face and yet not apply it is a baffling mystery to me.
Best Moment: Less him but the confirmation (or is it?) that Jimmy did get his afterlife with his beloved wife. It's hard to think of a family on this show that has been screwed as bad as the Novaks had been, so nice to see SOMEONE get a happy ending.
I was thinking about splitting these two up but the more I wrote this in my head, the more I realized they were overlapping so often it was best to just go ahead and group them together.
The Hope: To be honest, I didn't have any because I had no expectations for Crowley other than for him to be awesome because Mark Sheppard shows up in all the things I love. He had gone an entire season without being fully redeemed (a pretty damnable act by the boys - pun fully intended). Near the end of last season his boy had been brought to the future and sent to the winds and this season his mother had arrived. As the season went on I had some hope that maybe Rowena and Gavin would play the roles of devil/angel (respectively) on Crowley's shoulders. Heck with Dean possessing the Mark and demonized at the end of S9, part of me wondered if we'd see Crowley cross the line fully into humanity and join Sam in a race to stop Dean, the new King of Hell.
I'm not sure what more can be said other than ultimately nothing was really done with Crowley and his family that couldn't have been done with another witch. Especially when they revealed that some old MoL/Witch war had been raged and the plunder of it had been stored within the bunker; any old random witch would have sufficed (bring back Cordelia and Spike!) as you could have her helping them out in exchange for something locked away. That's certainly nothing against the actors either. Both Mark Sheppard and Ruth Connell are fine talents, but they do have to have something to work with.
Best Moment: Crowley playing darts on a helpless guy.
So in conclusion, if I had to sum up season 10 it would be "disappointing." It was at least marginally better than S9 given that they abandoned an over arcing plot so there was less to mess up there. I don't know if it would have been the best season ever, but the foundation and raw materials were there for a truly great and memorable one.
Instead we got a season that's probably faded from your mind as you've finished reading this. Maybe next season the show runners will grab the opportunities presented to them.
(gifs gratefully stolen from best SPN gif site)