Upon my first viewing, I was more focused on the mytharc. How were the writers going to get out of the corner they wrote themselves into? Surely they had something big and unexpected up their sleeves. After all, it’s what we’ve come to expect whenever the show kicks off with “Carry On Wayward Son.” I had some skepticism because of last week’s horrible episode but I was giving Andrew Dabb a chance to come through for the fans. Unfortunately, he didn’t. To say I’m underwhelmed is a gross understatement. Very disappointed doesn’t even cover it. As a long time reviewer of this show, I’m mortified.
What really sucks about “Alpha and Omega” is if this was an episode 2 or episode 16 of the season, I would be signing its praises. I would ding it for being slow in spots, but otherwise it’s a great character piece and an engaging story. But this is a season finale. The criteria is different. Did all the events of the season tie together? Were we given a proper conclusion based on all the clues we were fed? Instead of the grand resolution like we’ve seen in the past ten season finales, our worst fears were confirmed instead. This season’s mytharc was too ambitious, too big for the writer’s abilities. It was basically grownups screaming, “Do over!”
That #Supernatural season finale was the best example I've seen yet of people writing themselves into a corner and finding no good way out.— Alice Jester (@alicejester) May 26, 2016
The Alpha - A Good Episode
Let’s start with the positives. This episode was light years better than it’s penultimate predecessor, “We Happy Few.” I love that no one was killed. The deaths after the last two episodes were so tiresome. Heck, the pointless deaths in the last several seasons have been tiresome! I didn’t realize until I saw it on Supernatural Wiki just how few a times this has happened. Four episodes in the whole series counting this one. Four! Can you name the other three? (Don’t look on Supernatural wiki first).
There were the right emotional beats too. Dean’s final request was epic. I swear that’s the healthiest outlook ever to come out of his mouth. I actually pictured Sam capturing Gary Busey with a black hood and some rope and hauling him to the funeral. Dean’s sentiment hit all the right chords when he decided that Mary’s memorial spot would be his own. I especially love that Sam accepted his brother’s fate and didn’t try to stop him; instead he agreed to his final wishes. His pained eyes reflected all the heartbreak instead of words. That’s tremendous growth for Sam, finally accepting that he can’t save Dean this time. In a way, I think Sam’s resignation mirrored the writer’s resignation over not having any good resolution for this season. But yeah, season 11 and I still tear up over a poignant brotherly hug. Chick flicks be damned, I’m still melting into a fangirl puddle over their goodbyes.
The dialogue was strong in this episode. This is one of Andrew Dabb's greatest strengths and he did it well. Dean's speech to Castiel in the Impala wasn't over the top but it was honest and long time coming. Castiel has become a brother to them and it’s about time he heard it. It’s about time Dean said it! It was fitting that Castiel took part in the goodbye hugs this time. Dean truly does have two brothers (don’t thrown Adam at me, there was never a kinship there).
I also laughed out loud in a few places. I laughed the hardest when Crowley, Rowena, Sam and Chuck decided to wait out the end in the bar, with the song “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” blaring as the soundtrack. That's classic Edlundian humor, using a quirky music choice to compliment the grim mood of the situation. Just the looks on Rowena and Crowley’s glum faces as they were drinking and eating peanuts while that song played struck just the right funny spot for me.
Dean had me rolling in his resignation that the end was nigh. Immediately going to the MOL kitchen and getting drunk was the best choice he had. I loved this line:
“Look man, if you got something for me to punch, shoot, or kill, let me know and I'll do it. I'll do it 'til I die. But how are we supposed to fix the frickin' sun?”
Crowley was my favorite though in this episode because he reflected how I felt. There was no winning in this one. Just drink fine whiskey and don’t lose your biting sense of humor. He brought back my favorite pet names for Sam like “Samantha” and showed utter disgust over his mother’s sucking up to God. “Whatever. I’m not calling you Dad.” Bwah!
The VFX crew was on fire. First with the ghost blast wave gathering all the souls into the little blue rock at the asylum, and then again when Billie showed up and collected for souls for our wayward bunch. There was the long stares into the orange sun, and also the swirl of light and dark in the end drifting off into the unknown. Often we forget how lucky this show is to have an in house VFX crew like this. Very few other shows have that.
But yeah, this finale wasn’t perfect even if you take away the failure to address the mytharc. It dragged in parts and suffered from pacing issues. It felt choppy overall, until we got to the Dean soul bomb thing. For one, too much time was spent on exposition rather than drilling into the story. Why was that done in a season finale? Way too much time was given to the introduction of Lady Toni Bevell. Why did I need to see her arriving at her posh mansion, sipping tea and watching TV, kissing her son goodnight, and then arriving in the US on her private jet? This was time that could have been used in amping up the main story, aka the part we actually care about.
Also, why have a big team up when it was proved not to be necessary in the end? Talk about a big letdown and a waste of everyone’s time. I’ve read criticisms that Amara turned around a bit too quickly but her actions seemed right with me. She finally got her revenge on her brother and like all acts of revenge on this show, it felt empty in the end. She started watching her brother’s creation die and there was no satisfaction with that at all. I like the fact that she could appreciate beauty in the end. The scene with the old woman was very effective by giving us the important bridge from one action to the next. Why Amara got this and not Sam and Castiel when reconciling their relationship with God is beyond me, but I’ve got a section on missed opportunities coming later in this review.
All in all, the only thing that made this feel like a season finale was the two cliffhangers at the end. First there was Sam, who got the honor of meeting Lady Toni by staring at the other end of her gun. How did she know Castiel was an angel? She had been watching them a long time but I didn’t think there was angel radar out there. I’m assuming she read the “Supernatural” books.
I love the idea of any story that will broaden the Men of Letters legacy. We knew there were international branches thanks to “The Vessel”. For a while now I have hoped for a storyline where past actions would catch up with the brothers. I thought it would be the FBI figuring out that there were too many fake visits by fake agents, but to be most wanted with the Men of Letters sparks my interest. But it’s so hard to see Sam go through this crap when he thinks his brother just died. He just doesn’t get a break, does he? Exactly how do they plan on punishing him for this act?
I get that Sam was feeling a little punchy after losing Dean and was ready to throw caution to the wind, but I had hoped more of a cliffhanger than a fired gun. How about showing an unconscious Sam being loaded onto the jet in chains? He wakes up to find how seriously screwed he is. You know, the equivalent of a slow boat to China ending a la “24.” But since that’s what we got, judging by the angle of the camera, Toni fired that gun at point blank range. A few things could come out of this. Either Sam was shot and hauled off to England for healing and imprisonment, or he actually dies and Billie takes him to the Empty, or for some inexplicable reason, Toni misses. I’m going with the first scenario which could be terrible considering Sam believes Dean is dead. Would he accept his punishment and give up, or somehow keep fighting? My worst fear isn’t Sam’s fate though. No, I have this horrible fear that Toni will end up being a Sam love interest. They eventually take on the MOL legacy together and have MOL legacy babies. You think the show would go there? It sounds like more in their wheelhouse than God and his sister.
Then there’s Dean. Oh man, now that’s a cliffie. Amara rewards him by giving him what he always wanted, his mother alive. Well, we assume she’s alive. Does this mean Samantha Smith is joining the cast as a recurring character? Can you imagine the scenes alone of Mary coming back to the bunker, cooking meals for her boys and redecorating that stale bunker? How about she not only catches up with Dean, but finally gives Sam the mother he never had? It sound so…too good to be true. This show doesn’t go for rainbows and happy reunions. There’s always a catch. She’s a hunter too and I can also imagine her and Dean embarking on an adventure together to find Sam. That could kill half a season. After that’s done and she has some bonding time, I really hope that instead of killing her the writers have her go on some world travels. After all, life is short and how many times can a person die? That is assuming she’s alive and doesn’t turn evil.
The Omega - Epic Mytharc Fail
Wasted opportunities. That’s my two word review for season 11. It’s hard not to be bitter. I understand that the circumstances behind the scenes weren’t good this year. The Darkness was Jeremy Carver’s idea and then he bailed for “Frequency” before the season was finished. At some point Andrew Dabb and his writing team realized they had something way too ambitious and not grounded in reality. At what point that is I don’t know, but Robbie Thompson certainly gave us his all in “Don’t Call Me Shurley” before he left too. It’s almost like he was trying to prove to the other writers that this plot could be done. It looks like though the final four holding the bag, Brad Buckner, Eugenie Ross-Leming, Robert Berens, and Andrew Dabb, decided the best way out was to cut their losses and start over.
Sure, God and Amara settling their differences and smoking away together sounds logical, but for the loyal viewer who has been heavily invested in this show for a number of years, this hurts. Why didn’t they run further with all those little nuggets that were introduced throughout the season? What happened to The Hand of God, Billie the Reaper and her talk of the Empty, the whole theme of purification and redemption, Sam’s visions and rekindled faith, Dean and Amara destined to be bonded forever, the whole season of the train whistles in the background, bringing back Lucifer and Metatron for their shot at redemption and…wait for it…THE RETURN OF THE AMULET. Something of such deep meaning to the fans and the remaining writers decided to trash it, again. They didn’t even acknowledge that it ever happened. For shame writers, for shame.
To me, I can handle dropped plot points, but the dropped character growth for Sam, Dean, and Castiel are unforgivable. I’m not impressed with how they handled Dean and his bond with Amara this season, nor did they give him much in the way of anything to do. At least his gesture of sacrifice gave him a chance to save the world this time. By getting Amara and God to talk it out, he got to be the hero. That’s good, because he is a hero. It’s a Dean that I’ve sorely missed in recent years. I have grown very weary of taking Dean to dark places and giving him self doubt to the point where he’s been rendered useless. It essentially removed him as hero of his own story. They forgot that Dean’s motto has always been go out swinging. He wasn’t exactly swinging in this episode, but he wasn’t afraid either. It was a glimpse of the Dean we know and love. But that was the only glimpse we got all season long, with the exception of the brilliant “Baby.”
As for Sam, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? Did these writers in their haze forget that there are two main characters? That everyone else are supporting players? They were doing so well with Sam earlier in the season, running to his faith when things went sideways. Heck, Andrew Dabb even wrote “Form and Void” when Sam started praying to God again. How could he forget that? I ranted quite a bit about Sam in my review last week and even did some vigilante fan fic writing, but I still can’t fathom how main character arcs can be abandoned like this. Amara and God was too big, I get it, but Sam’s story was completely serviceable. What happened to the meaningful conversations, not him fetching water for God? Oh right, Sam internalizes. All those words were in his eyes. *headdesk* Why did Sam keep the amulet all these years without saying anything to Dean? Inquiring minds want to know!
No character got it worse though than Castiel. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see Castiel back in this episode. But looking at the episodes through the season, we only got to see the real Castiel for a small handful of them. He was Cassifer from 11.10 to 11.22! Once again, Castiel was lost and neutered, proving that they ran out of story ideas for Misha Collins a long time ago. I’ve so longed for the return of the warrior angel we had in seasons four and five. Did they forget that in season five Castiel was on a quest to find God? Shouldn’t that have come up this episode? God was back! If that doesn’t energize an angel, I’m not sure what does. Come to think of it, why didn’t they show other angels rejoicing over the return of their father? This would have very big freaking deal to them! That should have been shown at least two episodes ago and probably would have greatly enhanced last week’s episode. Why were the angels forgotten?
I don’t know, I see too many dropped balls, too much loose writing, too many blatant inconsistencies, too much gross negligence of important characters from week to week. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about those this summer since the list is too long to cover in this one review. This problem has plagued “Supernatural” often, but this year took things to a new low. It’s shaken the faith of the fans. As a matter of fact, other shows have been cancelled when these very obvious creative slips happen, usually because the viewers get frustrated and bail. I just wonder how long TPTB think they can live off of good will of SPN fans when quality is this bad? I’m very worried for SPN in season 12 because the failure to even finish a main story is not going to sit well for many of the faithful. It’s certainly made me question my loyalty.
The Red Headed Monster
It was revealed at the CW upfront presentation on May 20th that president Mark Pedowitz hasn’t determined the number of episodes for any of the CW shows for the upcoming season. They have a very heavy slate with 15 original scripted series and only 10 hours a week to program. I mean, they picked up Supergirl for Chuck’s sake! That’s another high profile show that will be taking a big slot. When doing the math, some shows like The 100, iZombie or Reign are clearly not getting 22 or 23 episodes. The question is, does “Supernatural” really need 23 episodes at this point?
The burden of 23 episodes has been hard on the show ever since they started it back in season eight. If you look at season seven, even 22 eps was a challenge. The reason seasons were expanded to 23 is because The CW didn’t have that many solid shows and they needed those extra weeks from each of their high profile series to bolster the lineup. That’s not the case this year. Shows like “Supernatural” and “The Vampire Diaries” are aging and running out of strong story ideas. The original people who worked on those shows have either left or cutback their roles significantly. There are too many filler weeks now in a season and it’s really lowered the quality of these shows in their later seasons. The momentum just isn’t there anymore.
I don’t want to see “Supernatural” end yet, but perhaps it’s time to slow it down until it meets an eventual end. Chances are very good it’ll be around until at least season 13 but these longer seasons are just getting too painful to watch. This show is living off of fan loyalty rather than trying to deliver meaningful episodes that retain viewers. Instead of forcing standalones and other weak story ideas (cough The Darkness cough) how about “Supernatural” Season 12 only be 18 or 19 episodes long? Removing those extra four to five episodes means that we’re less likely to get crap like “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits”, “Halt and Catch Fire,” “Paint It Black,” or “We Happy Few.” It makes the writers and producers jobs much easier too so they can focus on delivering better stories.
Supernatural’s ratings are fading too and I think that is partially from fatigue factor. It’s not as edgy as it once was. Now that they’ve outright duped the fans with a season mytharc that went nowhere, that can only make things worse. It is now the fourth highest rated show on the network and with “Supergirl” joining the lineup, it’ll likely slip to fifth. The DC properties are hot and require full seasons so why keep “Supernatural” artificially going more than it needs to? I know the fans love it and rely on it, but the slipping quality really can’t justify a 23 episode season any longer. (Same is true for “The Vampire Diaries.”)
Overall grade. For a standalone episode, I give this a B+. For a season finale, this slips to D+ territory. Any season finale that chooses to ignore everything that built up to this point and dispose of the story in the fastest and easiest way possible is a insult to viewers, no matter what the circumstances. I fully expect everyone in to be apology mode come Comic Con this year.