I don't know how many of you follow us on Twitter, but this was my initial reaction after seeing that shocking cliffhanger Friday evening:
@Winfambusiness: Hee, how much do you want to bet Sera Gamble wrote that end, chucked the script at Jeremy Carver and said, "All yours!" :)
I kid, I kid. Still, I didn't see it coming. Honest, I had no freaking clue they would go there. I'm glad I was too busy that week to go through the massive speculation in the comments, for I'm sure someone called Purgatory. If anyone called distraught and all alone puppy eyed Sammy though, I think you read a true spoiler.
Now that's the way to do a cliffhanger! I'm sure Mr. Carver may have had some input in the ending, but still, Sera did leave him with a doozy of a setup, didn't she? The events of the episode, which were very fun to watch, of course was the build up to the smack you in the face cliffhanger that's now got us screaming all the way to October. I haven't been this enthralled with a cliffhanger since season three's "No Rest For The Wicked."
I can sit here and gush to no end how much my heart was crushed into little pieces when a totally freaked out Sam was left all alone in the lab. You should have at least offered him a drink or something Crowley! Even at the end of "No Rest For The Wicked" Bobby was nearby. While Dean was in Hell he also had Ruby. Sam is truly alone for the first time ever (yes I'm sure he'll hook up with Sheriff Jody at some point) and whoa, what a task he has. He has the remaining Leviathan to deal with, who are no doubt going to be quite upset that their long time leader has been taken out by his brother. He has demons on his tail again, unless Crowley is gracious and calls them off. If any angels are left, you think they won't hesitate to take their ire out on the only remaining Winchester on earth? He also has to figure out what the Hell happened to Dean and if it's worth the risk to save him. I could sit here and speculate forever how this could be done but I won't. I'm not even going to make demands about how I only want Sam to save Dean (which I do). Nope, I've got all summer to do that.
Oh Dean! I actually love the Purgatory setup. We've been screaming all year long what happened to the passionate, brutal, "won't go down without a fight" Dean Winchester. Here's a chance for him to come alive again. Unlike Sam, Dean's not totally alone. Castiel is at least there to help. The question is though which Castiel does he have on his hands? Warrior Cass or one taco short of a combo plate Cass? I've heard "Hunger Games" mentioned a lot but I haven't seen it, so you won't hear me talking about that in comparison. I'm expecting instead a good old fashioned predator vs. prey type scenario. Dean Winchester in full survival mode. I'm not sure how long they can carry that, but it intrigues me for a least a few eps. I want to see him act like a warrior, not eat like one.
Still trying to wrap my head around this one
Season finales are always so tough to review. They, much like people, have their own personalities, their own slants that compare to others in some way but are uniquely their own. It's obvious to us all that Sera Gamble wrote this script knowing it was her last for "Supernatural." It was her job to tie up remaining loose ends as much as possible while setting up some possibilities for next season. In that regards, the script served its purpose extremely well. There was a ton of stuff packed into "Survival of The Fittest," but unlike the also very crowded "The Born-Again Identity," this episode flowed perfectly from busy scene to busy scene. It's fluid progression is really impressive considering all that was in there. Crowley, Castiel, Meg, Dick, Bobby, Sam and Dean all getting some sort of resolution/progression to their current arcs.
I'm most impressed how they were able to work in Bobby's story and make it emotionally powerful given the little time that was devoted. I felt rather proud when it was Sam that took charge of the situation to stop Bobby, leaving Dean behind to handle the surveillance on Dick. Everyone knows how close Bobby was with Dean, so it was a nice switch to see Sam get through. Then again, Sam did mean something to Bobby too, so it wasn't too much of a stretch. Yeah, perhaps I'm overanalyzing. Personally, I think it was Sam because there's something about a little woman choking a big guy that this show loves to do so much, especially Sera. Sorry, but can you picture that maid when she woke up in the hospital? "What happened?" "It was the oddest thing. You were carried in here by a large moose."
I totally felt the devastation of Sam and Dean when Bobby appeared to them, telling them how bad it felt going vengeful. Even though an angry ghost he was able to admit he was wrong and warned the boys never to test the ghost world like he did. "When it's your time, go." He also had sound advice for Dean, get Dick for the job, not for revenge. It's interesting Dean's little eye roll with that. It's almost like he was saying, "Easier said than done." I hope he was thinking that when he shoved the bone through Dick's neck.
We've known for a while now that burning the flask was the inevitable conclusion to Bobby's story, but it didn't hurt any less when it finally happened. It was the right thing to do, it was the farewell the boys were robbed of before, but it still hurts like a son of a bitch. Kudos to Robert Singer and Serge Ladoucer for deciding to show the simple glow of Bobby's spirit burning up on the boys' faces rather than Bobby burning himself. That is some powerful storytelling. It shows the true burden of the moment. Bobby is free, but Sam and Dean have to carry on his work. Just beautiful in a season that has been so absent of these sweet moments. Oh, but it gets better. There's the slow swipe to reveal Castiel somberly watching on the stairs. If I wasn't tearing up before (which I was), at that point I busted into sobs over Cass. He was Bobby's friend too and it was fitting, even in his questionable state, that he was there.
Let's talk about Castiel. I think that his character arc is actually the one they've gotten right this season. Sure, I sorely missed his presence from episodes 3 through 16, but since he's been back, the writers have actually crafted a perfectly credible and well written arc for him. Think about it, this is a new one. How do you incur mental illness on an angel? By remembering that Misha Collins is a very funny person, that's how. Let him act hippy, dippy, bizarre crazy, making us laugh with his avoidance of reality by offering honey he extracted himself to the King of Hell as a peace offering or flying away and coming back with board games to play by himself. Come on, who didn't laugh at the ridiculous sight of him playing Twister by himself. I want to see an outtake where Jensen and Jared join in the fun!
I always hear so many complaints about Castiel and say what you want, but it's been setup now for him to be a presence in season 8. I suspect he wasn't listed as a regular in the press release at the upfront because they didn't want to give away the ending. He's coming back and he's getting airtime. Being stuck in purgatory with Dean will finally be his chance to earn redemption, especially now that he's earned some forgiveness from Dean. I personally loved that scene between the two of them in the barn, the Impala under the tarp (they should have showed Dean uncovering the car and smiling!). It's nice that the angel can so well read in between the lines. Dean is starting to forgive. He's certainly come a long way since his first encounter with Dean, hasn't he?
The Impala. I cried...again. I saw it in the preview but to Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild?" Utter, happy, streaming tears of joy. She wasn't on long, but it was something special. How about a pic spam!
Yes, that's the sound of me screeching like a little girl. This is one extremely happy reviewer, finally. Also, how many want to see Sam put the iPod jack back in Baby now that it's his car again for the time being?
I haven't talked about Crowley yet. Crowley seems to have Hell in proper working order now, doesn't he? I've read theories that he's too powerful for a demon and perhaps he isn't a demon after all. We've never seen his black eyes or anything. That's possible, but I really think that being the King of Hell comes with a lot of power. We haven't seen his black eyes because he's likely elevated beyond that. He was a crossroads demon, so I would think he'd at least have red eyes. He's no ordinary demon, that's for sure, and demons are essentially born from fallen angels, so they are cousins in a way. That could give him angel like power. I'm just not buying into anything that he's more than a powerful demon at this point.
I'm struck by the comment from Crowley that Dick has been the leader of the Leviathan since "just before the first sunrise." That's ancient. Take that away and yes, the remaining Leviathan on earth (which right now is an unknown number) are going to be pretty lost. They're certainly going to be following their own agendas now that Dick is out of the picture. Remember how opportunistic George was? They don't seem like the type that will band together easily. They will more likely follow an "every creature for himself" mentality. So that becomes Sam's job now, trying to kill the remaining Leviathan (an impossible task) who will all be out to carve a niche for themselves. Some will become savages, like Joyce, others will be smarter, like George. That's a very interesting setup.
Even more interesting, Dick has gone back to Purgatory and there's no doubt Dean Winchester is public enemy number one. Something tells me Dick will have to take a number. Remember all the vamps Dean beheaded last year and before? Amy the Kitsune and her mother might be there too, ready to shove a knife into him. Actually, I can list every single monster he's killed since season one and it doesn't matter, the point is clear. This guy is royally screwed.
Man, there I go speculating again. I've got all summer for that! How about Kevin Tran? If there was any weak spots in the episode, it was the waste of a prophet. He conveniently escaped long enough to hear the master plan, but what did that do other than get Sam to the lab at the same time when Dick went poof? Why did both the Leviathan and Crowley want to hang onto the prophet? He translated, shouldn't he be done? Kevin's role was never clearly defined and too bad, because I think he's awesome. It was another case of a grossly underutilized character introduced because...I don't know why. Perhaps he'll play a key part in season 8.
I'm also not going to go into great length about why the brothers being separated is a good idea, but I like it. No, I love it. I want to know at what lengths these brothers will go to get back to each other. Will Dean resign himself to the fact he's stuck forever, or will Sam resign himself to the fact that opening the door to Purgatory will risk huge disaster? Again, all summer to speculate. But I love it.
Overall grade for "Survival of The Fittest" is an A-. I'm docking a bit for not showing Dean actually drive the Impala (even though I know it was him) and cutting the "don't get killed' scene. That could have been worked in by eliminating a stripping teenage girl in Dick Roman's lair (really?). Happy Summer Hellatus everyone!
In Appreciation of Sera
I wanted to say a few words in appreciation for Sera Gamble. I've had the deep honor of interviewing Sera seven times throughout the course of "Supernatural." She was gracious with her answers, enthusiastic, and it was always clear that no one loved this show more than she did. It was pure joy each time I spoke to her.
Let's face it, "Supernatural" fans are a wee bit demanding. I remember how frustrated Eric Kripke was with fans after stepping away from the show (see, Eric Kripke Defends Swan Song) at the end of season five. It's not just "Supernatural" though. I was reading an EW interview not too long ago from "The Vampire Diaries" showrunner Julie Plec, published right after the season finale. Her fandom too, not unlike "Supernatural's" is very vocal and demanding about things. Julie Plec is only at the end of season three and had this to say about fan backlash:
Is there anything else you'd like to say about the episode?
Just don't send hate mail or death threats via Twitter.
I saw your tweet earlier this week about being blindsided.
If I go back to Twitter right now and read my mentions, I'm going in fully warned and fully aware that a large majority of people will probably be hurling angry and hostile insults at me amidst all the beautiful love and wonderful support that the fans are so good at giving. But it's on a normal Tuesday, when I'm just reading the news and chatting with some friends, and I get hit with a "You're stupid, you suck, you have no talent, and you're ugly." [Laughs] It's like, wait a second. I was just having a nice moment, and you completely just gut-punched me with rudeness. Those are the ones that are hard to get over. It's like getting smacked out of nowhere when you're not expecting it. But continued love and appreciation for what is without a doubt the most passionate fanbase I have ever encountered in my entire life â€” including as a fan, I've never seen anything like it. Kudos to them for caring so much. We appreciate it.
Sera Gamble created a Twitter account, but wisely hasn't used it yet. As a matter of fact, she retreated from the spotlight this season, letting Robert Singer handle the producer's previews and cutting back her interviews (our yearly request was not replied to this season). I understand. Stepping up from writer to showrunner is a challenging enough task. There's writing arcs to control, story lines to map out, daily production duties that must be handled, overseeing post production duties (aka the editing room) and controlling all this on a strict budget. There's also a very vocal fandom and a network questioning your every move daily.
I'm not going to say as a showrunner Sera Gamble did an amazing job. I highly respect her, I love everything she's done for "Supernatural," but seasons six and seven have not lived up to the previous five. I've spelled out on countless occasions in my reviews why that is so. I also don't think Sera shoulders all of the blame. This is after all a team effort and somewhere along the line something strayed. However, she was the one who stepped forward with ideas to carry on the show after the original five year arc finished. I admire anyone who has to nerve to take over for the person who created it all. Without her, we may not have our show right now.
As a writer though, Sera set herself apart, and this season finale is no different. She did sorts of amazing things, and it's that legacy that's going to serve her well. She brought layers and sensitivity to these two universally screwed brothers and showed their heart and ability to overcome all when put in very vicarious situations. I personally am going to miss harassing Sera in every interview about her latest ways to excessively punish Sam Winchester. Thank you Sera for humoring me with those questions through the years!
After seven years of this, I'm sure she knew in her heart it was time to move on. I can't help but think she in the end was beaten down by it all. I don't work in entertainment, but I do work in corporate America. It's brutal out there, especially when your performance doesn't live up to expectations. And, when you're a woman (there, I said it!) I know she's exiting with a low key sendoff, and perhaps even with some bittersweet feelings. We don't know for sure. This may even be too little too late but thank you Sera Gamble for all your years of dedicated service to this little show that could. You will not be forgotten and we wish you nothing but success on your future projects. Just keep writing with your heart and I know a flock of fans will follow.