Saturday, September 6, 2014

Movie Reviews: Supernatural Season Six

Supernatural Season Six
created by Eric Kripke
What's your next move when you've told the story you wanted to tell, pulled off your greatest trick, completed all the narrative arcs and basically done everything with the characters you created that you could think of but find that there's still massive consumer demand for your story?
As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle realized after he killed off Sherlock Holmes only to be browbeaten into bringing him back, some creative types learn that the show must go on no matter what. Supernatural creator, showrunner and executive producer Eric Kripke wrote, produced and oversaw an exciting, entertaining and occasionally masterful five seasons of a show that touched on everything from fatalism, predestination and free will to sibling love and rivalry, parental love and loss, heaven and hell, God's mysterious workings and the fatal blindness of evil. He wrapped everything up neatly with a tidy bow for fans. Kripke only intended for the show to last five seasons. Season Five completed everything. However, there was demand for more of the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester. So Kripke bowed out as showrunner and turned over the show's reins to former writer and assistant producer Sera Gamble. I had mixed feelings about this. I thought it was an example of commerce winning out over art. If you're Sam and Dean after you've thrown a jerry wrench into the Apocalypse, saved the Universe, defeated Lucifer, The Archangel Michael, a host of Angels and Demons, conspired with Death, killed three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and (totally unwittingly) possibly talked to and hung out with God Himself, what else can you do that matches all that? I mean there's no place to go but down, isn't there? Well maybe...

Season Six really started emphasizing a theme that would become ever bigger in subsequent seasons. The Winchester Brothers have an extremely strong sibling bond, one that is made even stronger because of their parents' untimely violent demon caused deaths. They feel, often correctly, that's it's them against the world. And they intend to win. But it could be that this sibling love, this fraternal link is so ferociously tight, so intense that it's emotionally and psychologically unhealthy. There's little room for anyone else be they friend, lover or wife. It's a running gag on the show that Sam and Dean are often mistaken for a gay couple. Some fans both in-Universe and even in real life write "Wincest" fan-fiction. Right. I love my siblings. But if I spent every waking moment with them, working with them, traveling with them, etc, sooner rather than later we would go crazy and/or hurt each other. Good fences make good neighbors. That's just as true for family as it is anyone else. It may even be more accurate with family as relatives have the amazing ability to annoy you in ways that are both profound and prosaic. Whether it's the uncle who tells the same doggone story at every family gathering or the way your sister always sucks her teeth when she gets nervous, sometimes relatives can work your nerves.

At the end of Season Five, humanity avoided the Apocalypse, thanks to Sam, Dean and their Dad's trusty 67' Impala. Long story short, Lucifer, Michael and Sam were trapped in Hell forever. The Apocalypse was ended. The world was saved. And Dean lost his little brother, whom he was charged to protect. Dean has seemingly accepted Sam's death. He's living with Lisa (Cindy Sampson) and her young son Ben. Lisa has claimed that Ben is not Dean's son but Ben acts just like Dean and did so before they ever met. Lisa is that rare woman with whom the peripatetic and sometime clownishly macho Dean wants to settle down. Dean has deep and abiding feelings for Lisa, though they aren't married yet. Lisa also loves Dean. She has no problem with occasionally calling Dean on his bs. She's very supportive and quite nurturing but remains a truthteller. Dean and Lisa have something good, something real together. Dean has left the hunting lifestyle behind, though he hasn't been able to bring himself to sell the family heirloom, the Impala or get rid of the weapons and esoteric items in the trunk. And he still has his Daddy's trusty .45. When some strange events occur close to home Dean tries to ignore them. But you can't hide your true nature, even from yourself. And Dean is no longer just worried about himself. He takes his responsibilities to Lisa and Ben very seriously. He'll die for them. As his spidey-sense has gone off Dean takes steps to protect Lisa and Ben. Dean starts hunting again but he's rusty and out of shape. He's about to be killed by the monster-of-the week when surprise, surprise, he is rescued by Sam, back from Hell. Well. Dean is pleased and as shocked as you might be to see his little brother, once he verifies that it is Sam and not something else. But Dean quickly intuits that something is not quite right with Sam. Just as you can hear a loved one's voice and immediately know something is wrong, Dean knows something is up with Sam.

Being locked in Hell's cage and being the plaything of a frustrated Lucifer and Michael could certainly leave marks on anyone but it's more than that. Dean can't quite put his finger on it. Dean is annoyed when Sam casually reveals that he's been back from Hell for quite some time and has been working with their previously unknown maternal relatives, including their grandfather Samuel (Mitch Pileggi) whom Dean thought was dead. Even their godfather Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) knew of Sam's return. Everyone kept the truth from Dean because they did not want to destroy his good thing with Lisa. Well that's what they say. Dean must make the decision on whether he wants to take up hunting with Sam again and if so what that means for Lisa and Ben. Season Six's other theme is than nature abhors a vacuum. With God having left Heaven for parts unknown, Lucifer and Michael trapped in Hell and Gabriel dead, the last remaining Archangel, Raphael (Demore Barnes), decided that he should rule Heaven. Raphael is something of a well intentioned extremist. He wants to restart the Apocalypse. Raphael thinks that if the Book says there's supposed to be a Final Battle then by God there will BE a Final Battle even if he has to start it himself.
The worldweary angel Castiel (Misha Collins), a Winchester patron, ally and friend, opposes Raphael, even though he lacks the power to truly go toe to toe with an Archangel. Pivoting from resistance to counterattacks, Castiel thinks that he should rule Heaven, for the greater good of course. He might need the Winchester Brothers' help. As they are actually just "intelligent wave frequencies" Castiel and most other angels do not fully understand humans or as they call them "hairless apes". Sam and Dean will learn how truly alien the thought processes of angels can be. Meanwhile in Hell, the demon Crowley, (Mark Sheppard) seizes power and crowns himself as the King of Hell. Crowley's plans range from sick and twisted to downright maleficent. Many of his plots involve the Winchester Brothers. He hasn't forgotten how they've ruined his previous designs. And immortals have memories that are well, immortal. Crowley intends to win no matter what occurs. He was the season's most interesting and convincing villain. 
Season Six's balance is concerned with Dean trying to figure out what's wrong with Sam and fix it. But Sam may not want Dean's help. Sam is after all, bigger and stronger than Dean. Dean can't physically make Sam do things. Sam has some secrets. He seems unconcerned with some things that used to be very important to him before. And who let Sam out of the Cage anyway? If someone can do that can Lucifer and Michael escape? And grandfather or not, Dean does not know Samuel. Dean saw his grandfather die. Dean doesn't trust Samuel or his newly discovered cousins. Dean doesn't like that neither Samuel nor Sam can tell him why they're alive. Dean thinks someone is playing him. And nobody plays Dean Winchester. As revealed in Season Five, some residents of Heaven and Hell are not so different from each other. The powerful players on either side (Castiel may be an exception)  generally have little respect or love for humans. The malevolence of demons is matched by the contempt of the angels. There's also a third force, something that has no allegiance to either Heaven or Hell but is feared by both, that is an ever growing threat in this season. Sam and Dean get wind of it and try to stop it.
Fellow hunters Bobby Singer and Rufus Turner (Steven Williams) show up to give advice and assistance or more commonly tell the Winchester Brothers that they're complete and total morons. This was an uneven season. It had some trouble finding its sea legs so to speak. There were some lighter moments, including a (Mel Brooks homage) trip to an alternate reality where Sam and Dean are actors on a show titled Supernatural and Dean's compulsive need to one-up Sam. And of course the brothers continue their trademark impersonations of FBI agents who all just happen to have rock star names. As this is almost a reboot, if you have never watched the series before you could almost start watching from this season if you were so inclined.

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