So another hiatus means it's time to finish up my retrospective on seasons 6 and 7, otherwise known as the years when Sera Gamble ran Supernatural! If you need to catch up on prior installments:

Part 1 of the series.  Part 2 of it.  Part 3.

Now that I've rewatched the all the episodes that were written when Sera Gamble ran Supernatural (parts 1, 2 and 3), and we approach the point where post-Kripke years equal the number of years Kripke ran the show, what can we conclude?

Sera was given an almost impossible task that I am not jealous of her having to tackle. Like the Matrix, a definitive story arc had been told yet the audience wanted more. Not to mention being given the task to carry on the stories after someone who had demonstrated a pretty strong storytelling talent. Where and how do you follow it? In hindsight it might have been the best idea to make SPN into a mult-season anthology show, but to pull that off would have been a HUGE bet where you either win big, or lose big, so it's completely understandable why Gamble went with the safer route.

So now that we've had 2+ years of Carver, how do the Gamble 2 years compare?

Gamble loved to "play big" with the story - the arc of S6 and S7 were both world-changing (possibly destroying) arcs: Castiel is God! Leviathans will domesticate us! Carver seems to prefer smaller, more intimate, character driven arcs: the struggle between doing something good vs losing your brother, and whatever S9 was about (S10 looks to be shaping up to be a "save Dean" arc like S3).

Even more important, Gamble not only appreciated canon, but knew how to add to it and play with existing canon perfectly. Purgatory? May not have been intended by Kripke but made perfect sense with everything we'd been told. Why didn't anyone mess with it? Why the leviathans. Lucifer probably knew about it and passed the warning onto his closer subordinates while the "younger" demon (Crowley) and angel (Castiel) knew nothing about the danger. Even the addition of faeries made sense (i.e. Where were they during the Apocalypse? Probably hanging back in their own crib waiting to see whether things blow over.) It didn't always quite work (fate & the meta episodes for example) but when it failed, it was usually with smaller additions that were usually one-off episodes that could be ignored if they didn't work. Carver... does not do this. Abaddon... the Men of Letters... Lucifer's crypts... regardless of whether we fans liked whatever addition, we must be honest and admit that most of the time it's really hard (if not impossible) to fit everything together (no seriously, try figuring out how Abaddon & Azrael work and your head will explode).

Of course Gamble's run wasn't perfect. The politics of the show makers were much more overt a few times. More than once the writers showed their hands by having characters express views that logically they shouldn't. Besides, fundamentally, SPN is a world where politics is meaningless; who care what the details of the tax code are or school curriculum when Satan himself is attacking the entire world? So to try and score political points in the show comes off as very... petty and beneath the show. Sometimes they also lost control of the plot and wound up in corners they had to write themselves out of with resolutions that weren't always satisfying.

Lastly, there was also a clarity to Gamble's work that the recent years have lacked. Some might call it a lack of subtlety but at least during her run you could understand what characters' motivations and goals usually were as well as how creatures and items worked in the world. While there were still things fans could debate over, there was almost never any debate over what was happening in the show.

So all in all... I think Sera Gamble had a bit of a challenge having to follow on the heels of a very talented show creator, but looking back, nearly 3 years later, I think she did a pretty good job.

Comments  

njspnfan
# njspnfan 2015-03-07 18:19
Nice summary, Nate. I think we disagree as to which Sera Gamble season was better, but I always gave her credit for trying to expand the SPN monster universe in a logical manner that fit with the show, being "canon friendly" (for the most part), and trying some very interesting things; some of which worked, some that didn't. I did think she started losing control of the show mid-Season 7 but I don't know if that was all internal politics, or whether the writing was on the wall at that point. And, given the issues with the latter part of S9 and all of S10, I've grown to appreciate her work even more. And you're right, Kripke is a tough act to follow.
Prix68
# Prix68 2015-03-07 21:16
Good summary. I enjoyed S6. There were some misses but with so many episodes there are always a few that are less then stellar. It was in S7 that I started to have issues with the way the show was moving. Dick Roman was a little too campy and less menacing then he should have been. Killing off Bobby, Frank and putting Baby in storage. The brothers seemed distant by the second half as well. Like they were no longer really in sync. Cas and Sam both having mental health issues and Dean being a depressed alcoholic seemed a little wearing to me. All that being said, there were some really good episodes in the season and it looks a lot better after two and a half years of Jeremy Carver.
novi
# novi 2015-03-08 11:28
Sera was better with story-telling, more imaginative. But somehow (or is it just me?) she was gradually losing grip and interest for her main characters. So many of the episodes in seasons 6 and 7 could have happened to other heros, in another world. Lots of ideas for a possible spin-off! And the brothers did seem distant, Sam was actually on the verge of death before Dean noticed something wrong happening. Carver is better at characterizatio n, the relations between the boys are fun to watch, and as I watch for the cast I am mostly pleased with what I see. Besides, to me seasons 8-10 seem very well thought of, very thoroughly structured. One can see that there's a plan behind the story, and now we're coming to the climax. Ah, if only we could combine Gamble's creative inventiveness with Carver's psychological touch...
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-03-09 17:19
I agree on combining Gamble with Carver. That would make an epic season I reckon :D
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-03-09 19:09
I said once that the biggest issue I had with Sera was that Sam was always clean shaven, even after being in a coma for days at a time. I don't know if it was her, but it bothered me in that mildly annoying I like my scruff kind of way. I love love love season six, it is still my favorite. Season 7 started off so well, then lost its way, I don't know why, there was so much potential. If only they hadn't killed Bobby, I might have forgiven all the other things that irritated me, but Bobby's death was so pointless in the end. And that, piled on top of Sam's "cure" and Sam's Nickifer-halluc inations (instead of the more painful Dean/Bobby/Mom/ Jessica etc hallucinations) just proved how unimaginative Luci was with "torture". Of course, I did expect a lot considering how the season started, so on rewatch I still enjoy both Gamble years even if the Dick jokes got out of hand.
Prix68
# Prix68 2015-03-10 04:19
I think Gamble really underestimated the importance of the character Bobby in the show. How necessary he was to the structure and dynamics of the show. He was someone both brothers could relate to, respect for his opinion and Bobby could question their motivations and help us, as viewers, understand what the brothers were thinking and feeling as no one else could.
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-03-10 10:12
I completely agree, Bobby was the backbone and I was delighted when I heard he'd be back. The whole vengeful spirit angle tho, just ruined the purpose of his death and made Sam & Dean look dumb, there were much better ways to write that story. But, as a result I no longer "feel" for any remaining characters when they die (or are turned into werewolves). Until Bobby is back, I will refuse to cry over any other. Yeah, I sometimes seem to be holding my breath waiting to get my Bobby back.
Barbara Maake
# Barbara Maake 2015-03-10 07:44
I like your scruff comment, because my biggest problem with season 7 (well, after the fact that the leviathan came off as more campy than menacing) was Sam's hair/sideburns combo. I became mesmerized by his ever-longer sideburns and the way the pointy ends started creeping closer and closer to his mouth. That was more frightening than the leviathan! More seriously, what I liked about season 7 was that, to me, the brothers seemed to have the closest, least contentious relationship of any season. Aside from the brief fallout from the Amy revelation, they barely argued with each other. Of course maybe that was because Sam was too busy fighting Lucifer in his head and Dean was busy worrying about Sam. Their relationship was epitomized by the scene at the end of Plucky episode where they laughed with each other about glitter Sam. They just really seemed to LIKE each other that year, whereas for pretty good chunks of every other season they have been at odds. I found it refreshing.
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-03-10 09:59
I agree, the Gamble years were better at the broments than the plot lines. But, I could tell they were having fun and in the end, despite the problems with the overall story, the boys were on the same page fighting side-by-side. In fact, they were far more mature and comfortable in their relationship than the "more mature" Carver years. And, yes, sideburns from hell but never any scruff was just weird sometimes. These boys have never been overly groomed and making sure Sam had no 5 o'clock shadow meant he would need to be grooming a lot!
novi
# novi 2015-03-10 00:20
In reply to ThisOldBag
I think as S7 was considered to be a final season Sera had to get rid of all the characters in turn - first Cas, then Bobby isolating the boys, making things worse and worse for them. And it worked, I mean the season was extragrim. Then something made her change her mind, and Cas was back. Maybe by that time she had already known about the change of the route for the show. I generally like season 7, it was my first:-) . The only thing I can't get is the whole story with the bone of a good person, there should have been the good person, one and only, and not so easy to find. Preferably one of the Winchester (yes, this is how secretly wicked I am).
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-03-10 10:06
Yeah, I think she was trying to figure out how to end it. There was a bit of an outcry when she announced Misha would not be a regular and she has said how difficult it was to find a plot that would keep him in the plot but not have the magic save the Winchester button. She did pretty good with that. My problem wasn't the bone, it was that "taking everything away from the boys" ended up being "replacing everyone with someone else". Alone and figuring everything out for themselves would have been better IMO. All in all, I enjoyed the Gamble years very much.