Season 11 is off to a fantastic start. It strikes me as I write this what an unusual thing that is to say. Season 11 and the word “fantastic” aren’t often used in the same sentence. Many long-running shows, even ones who are beloved by fans, often take a downturn in quality as they go on. It has to be difficult to come up with fresh story arcs and keep characters interesting over such a long span of time. Even real people aren’t quite as fascinating after you’ve known them for a decade – how can there possibly be nuances still to discover about fictional characters? How can we possibly still care about fictional characters enough to sustain a weekly television show in its eleventh year?
I’d be the first to say that Supernatural has had its ups and downs. Not every season is stellar and not every episode is breathtakingly awesome. But I still find something to love about this show every time I watch a new episode, and I’m enjoying Season 11 almost as much as I did the early seasons that first drew me into this decade-long love affair. That’s pretty damn amazing!
Credit for that feat goes to a whole bunch of people. The crew, many of whom have been there since the beginning, but who still are passionate about this show ten years later. The cast, who are still so excited about the show they’re making and the story they’re telling that they all showed up on twitter to live tweet along with fans! Jared, Jensen, Misha, Mark, guest stars past and present. Jared and Jensen sat together on the couch in their Supernatural tee shirts watching and tweeting exactly like so many of us were doing.
Pretty sure Jared used more exclamation points than even I did when he got excited about the episode. Then they hopped on Facebook live to chat with fans (in what looked like some scary mood lighting, but they managed to be totally adorable anyway). When does that happen in the eleventh season of a show? I check in with Jensen and Jared every time I see them, just a little chat about how they are and how they’re feeling about the current season. They’re always enthusiastic and excited, but this season? I think there have been a few times when they’re more excited than ME! And for anyone who knows me, that’s really saying something!
Also their live tweets were glorious. I imagine them speaking what they’re typing, so Jensen saying “F-ing great” and Jared saying “Holy s***” was kinda hot. I love that they can still get giddy and emotional over the show, just like we do.
This week was Robert Berens’ turn up to bat, and he definitely didn’t strike out. In fact, this was an episode that both kept my interest and kept me guessing, with twists and turns and lots of action as well as lots of conversation. Not clunky oh-no-more-exposition conversation either, but realistic conversation that gave us more insight into what exactly is happening in the world of the Winchesters.
The music, this time by Jay Gruska, once again worked perfectly – the music this season has been strikingly effective, so kudos to that team. They’ve also been with the show for quite a while, and it shows in their ability to get it right. I particularly love that the action scenes this season have been enriched by music that amps up my adrenaline level even more.
The editing was also ambitious and for the most part worked really well – even if it did make my head spin with the cut aways and back and forths. At one point, we had Sam fighting demons and Cas beating up Metatron, and the violence was underscored by the juxtaposition.
I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath! The juxtaposition also worked to create a parallel, as both Sam and Cas made the decision not to take a life if they didn’t have to. That’s been a theme that got temporarily lost in the middle of the series, with fans asking what happened to saving people and trying to exorcise demons instead of just knifing them to death. Either fandom got through to TPTB or they just woke up on their own, but finally the Winchesters seem to have remembered that too.
Cas, I suspect, has always been on board with that – one of the things I like about the character is that he has compassion. Even some of the awful things he’s done were motivated by a desire to do good (however ill advised). I like that we’re seeing Cas grapple again with what’s right. I also love that we’re getting to see his struggle with the aftermath of the attack dog spell and everything else he’s been through, and the impact his memories of hurting people are having. Dean isn’t the only one who struggles with guilt that can be nearly incapacitating. That’s a realistic struggle, for someone who values doing the right thing, especially when you’ve hurt people you care about very much.
Cas finding a coping strategy of binge watching television was a nice touch by Berens. Fandom immediately circulated gifs of Cas’ happy face with the message:
Cas is fandom. Fandom is Cas.
Don’t judge him too harshly for that coping strategy, Dean; it’s one many of us have used, and one that has managed to change or even save lives for some of the people watching Supernatural right now.
I also love that Cas was both emotional and badass in this episode. They’re not mutually exclusive, after all! His guilt and regret don’t cripple him, but he does have to deal with those feelings. I like that he isn’t rendered incompetent or helpless by allowing himself to feel instead of engaging in the customary Winchester method of denial.
Misha let some of Castiel’s power show through, and it made me shiver. Metatron misread his hesitation as weakness; Cas corrected him. Violently and powerfully. It was a glimpse of Cas as we first met him, which I liked. At the same time, I really appreciated that his own trauma doesn’t take away his ability to be empathic or to show mercy to others. Even Metatron.
Oh, and I love Metatron. I can’t help it, I love Curtis Armstrong and I was squeeful to see him back on SPN. And what a performance! I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I both hate Metatron and feel for him. He’s so whiny and often despicable, but he’s also so pathetic that I actually believe he’s hurting and start to feel sorry for him too. He deserved every blow Cas rained on him, but I didn’t want him to die. Curtis’ acting during that long scene with so much dialogue was incredible to watch; even Jensen couldn’t resist tweeting to him about it. I totally agree, Jensen.
I’m glad he’s still alive out there. And hey, he’s the one who delivered the bombshell WTF moment of the episode. The Darkness is God’s sister? What?? (Fandom had come close in speculation, but not too many people called it, which is a nice turn of events.) Jensen tweeted that he liked surprises. Me too, Jensen. And the fact that Supernatural can still surprise me after all this time? Surprising. Sorry.
Supernatural has had a fascination with sibling relationships ever since Kripke had the brilliant idea to make its protagonists brothers, which allowed his own psychological struggles with the rest of the Kripke family to be reflected in the Winchesters. That made them seem like real brothers from the start, along with some help from Jared and Jensen’s chemistry. Other sibling characters have served as mirrors for the Winchesters throughout the seasons, from Andy and his twin to the werewolf sisters to Lucifer and Michael and Gabriel – and now Amara and God. I have to say, that makes me even more interested in where the story is taking us.
Amara (or the Darkness) is working for me as the overarching danger of this season. She’s mysterious, nuanced, not necessarily “good” or “bad” – or at least it’s not that simple. She questions God’s decisions, especially as they cause humanity so much pain, and she’s capable of bringing peace to some she relieves of their souls even as it drives others to behavior which gets them killed or locked up fairly quickly. She has a thing for Dean and has completely turned on Crowley.
Poor Crowley, btw. While the scene where Amara breaks his hand was a bit over the top, I did feel for him a bit when Amara took Dean’s side so completely.
And he’d even been reading up on adolescent parenting skills! On the other hand, Crowley seemed pretty serious when he declared that his bromance with Dean was finally well and truly over, so maybe I should just be grateful that Amara stepped in when she did.
My favorite part of the episode? Dean went from strangely frozen and unable to kill Amara (like literally frozen, open mouthed and looking like he was in a trance) to WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU’RE HURTING SAM, I’MMA END YOU!
Amara didn’t look too pleased at that turn of events. She may have just learned something important about Dean Winchester. I just hope it’s not something she plans to use against him.
Response to that scene with Amara and Dean was mixed. Amara as a fairly young teenager (even if she’s actually older than anything in the universe) stroking Dean’s face was….weird. Vaguely uncomfortable and maybe a bit creepy? Some people didn’t read it that way at all, and the dialogue only referenced fascination.
But hey, this is Dean Winchester we’re talking about. If that was my first contact with humanity, I’d be pretty damn fascinated too. If fascinated is what we’re calling it these days.
The final music cue was undeniably awesome, not the least because I didn’t realize it was still the show! I thought it was some really interesting advertisement with great music until Amara was in the middle of it. It was again a mix of sort of creepy and yet pretty cool, especially because they used the version of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” from Pulp Fiction. Jensen was so excited about it, he might have used an exclamation point too. Maybe.
Not so sure I’m a fan of having to sexualize Amara (already?) in order for her to be the big bad. But so far, the character works for me and the actresses who have portrayed her have done an amazing job.
Getting back to Dean and Sam….I LOVED Sam in this episode! Sam being smart, Sam being badass, Sam kicking ass and taking names. We got so much Sam pov that fandom was confused as the camera actually followed Sam as he walked away from Dean.
My timeline: Why are you following Sam, cameraman? Are you lost??
Thank you, Robert Berens, for the much needed Sam pov!
I’m not sure what those visions were, but I’m intrigued. Of course, Sam doesn’t tell Dean about the visions and Dean doesn’t tell Sam about his Amara-induced paralysis. Naturally.
But Sam does get a chance to be pretty damn badass, and at the same time to stick to the rules he’s reiterated, trying desperately to overpower the demons without killing the meatsuits.
Sam and Dean even contemplate exorcizing the demon they caught trying to get to Goldie in her cell.
Fandom: Did Dean have to get on Sam’s shoulders to paint that on the ceiling? [Fanart ensues.]
I love fandom, have I mentioned?
Anyway, that’s an awesome scene. Winchesters in fed suits looking so goddamn badass, just sort of looming into frame behind the demon. RAWR.
That must be the poor actor who Jensen said passed out in the middle of the scene, and Jensen caught him before he fell right out of the chair. Hey, if I was faced with badass Sam and Dean, I might pass out too. Though it might be for slightly different reasons.
I felt bad for that guy; as demons go, he wasn’t too bad. Too bad the meat suit was shot through the heart, but yay for smart!Sammy realizing it.
More bits of awesome:
I’m hoping for the possible reappearance of God, aka Chuck, aka Rob Benedict!!
The reappearance of the wallpaper from Changing Channels (an homage from Jerry Wanek).
Crowley to Amara: I’ll leave you to your memes.
Everything about Metatron’s speech to Cas about reality being the new literature, making some pointed political and sociological observations because Show is sly like that. And smart like that.
Sam teasing Dean about his “summer of love” with Crowley and sounding a wee bit jealous.
Metatron to Castiel when asked about the Darkness: The band? (Come on, we’ve all said it at one point since the Season 10 finale!)
The last scene at the bunker ends with one of Dean Winchester’s least convincing performances ever, as he tries to convince Cas and Sam that the Darkness incapacitated him and neither of them is having it. I wonder if he’s trying to convince himself too.
Cas sticks up for himself, Sam has another vision and keeps it to himself, and that’s how we leave Team Free Will. Just that little glimpse of The Cage increased my excitement a thousand fold. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
I’m off to Pascon – follow us for live tweets and photos, and some exclusive interviews coming up too! If you’ve read and enjoyed our books on Supernatural, or would like one signed, come find me at the con! I’d love to say hi.
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24 thoughts on “THIS Is Season 11?? Supernatural Just Keeps Getting Better with Our Little World”
Reblogged this on Ana Fraser Lallybroch Blog.
Yes – I loved seeing Cas being badass as well as struggling with the past re: harm he has rained down & his emotional struggles. Nuanced, complex characters is a strength of our Show and I love when we get to see this. So much was packed into this episode!
Agree 1000%! Thank you for pointing out that emotional response =/= weak. Misha had a great opportunity to bring out the good stuff, and he delivered!
Enjoy PasCon! Waiting for your tweets and photos!!!
Can I just say how much I enjoy your dissection of each episode? This season feels like real literature. There are so many threads and ethical dilemmas. I particularly love the character development. The writers have really pushed the limits of television. And why not? How often do you get the opportunity to work on a season eleven show with such a dedicated fandom? I think they are experimenting with the writing to see how well it will be received. What an opportunity for the writers. We should meet the writers and directors at the cons.(loved Robert Singers panel at ChiCon 15). The fans were very respectful and asked excellent questions.
Thanks for your column!
I mostly agree with your comments on this episode, especially about this season being a good one. The story line is gripping and the boys (yet again) not telling each other everything is almost a a Winchester tradition by now.
I have to disagree with one thing. I didn’t like the cutting back and forth between Sam and Cas. For me, it loses flow ( if that makes any sense). There was too much of it and I got a little annoyed by it. Other than that, I thought it was great.
I find the Dean/Amara thing so fascinating and I’m really loving their interactions. The teenager thing is a bit creepy on first glance but the actress really sells the combination of primordial intelligence mixed with wonder at this new world around her.
Dean and Amara have a bond, they have chemistry, and a lot of tension. But as you said, I don’t read it as sexual or romantic. I think a large part of that is due to the fact that people tend to read any strong tension or chemistry between people of the opposite sex as sexual in nature. Our perception is colored by it.
Dean is fascinated by Amara, he can’t bring himself to kill her, maybe a part of him even wants to follow her and protect her. But I don’t think that means he wants to bang her(if you’ll pardon my French) , even if she were in an adult body.
Hear hear! I didn’t read it nearly as “skeevy” as some. I think only looking at the superficial age difference is doing a huge disservice to the character, the actors, the scenario.
To an extent, Amara reminds me a bit of Kirstin Dunst in “Interview with a Vampire” – the character is old and wise, but it’s off-putting to see that in a younger body. And I agree with your idea that they have a fascination – and the show itself has established the bond via the Mark of Cain – that is powerful but does not have to be romantic/sexual.
I so enjoy your in depth dissections of these episodes. The writers are making this season feel like great literature, with foreshadowing, multiple threads, incredible character development, and flashbacks.
It would be nice to meet all of the writers and directors at the cons. I so enjoyed Robert Singer’s panel at Chicon15. The audience took a different tack with him. There was humor, for sure, but there was a respectful awe of his craft.
Great episode! There was a lot of great action, insight, empathy and intrigue in this episode. I’m loving season 11 so far! Some interesting tid bits that fit into this episode, last weekend at the Denver Con Mark Pellegrino was very coy about Lucifer’s return but seeing the box in Sam’s vision pretty much says it all. I’m wondering if having Mark Pellegrino at the Denver Con right before this episode was planned???? Mark Sheppard was very insistent when asked about Crowley being able to take on Lucifer that Crowley would kick his ass. Foreshadowing anyone? There was a lot of great panels and info at the Denver Con unfortunately I can’t summarize as well as Lynn. One of the good questions I remember was when J2 were asked what their favorite music tie in episodes were, Jared said Night shifter, with Styx’s “Renegade” and Jensen said both episodes when the song “Oh Death” was used. Jensen also said that there would be another kick ass episode with music coming up, episode #9 I think, although I very much liked the end to this episode too and thought the song was right on cue.
Overall I enjoyed the episode but I had a few issues with it. I’m not of a fan of how easy it’s become to get into Hell. I had a problem with it in Season 8 and it’s gotten even easier in Season 11. I also miss the demons being really badass like Alastair, Meg (S1 & 2), and the YED. Demons have been used too much as comic relief and lost some of their scary impact. I loved Sam and getting more of his POV. The cage reveal was awesome and so was the song at the end. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with this.
They didn’t go to Hell in this episode, Crowley was keeping Amara in the abandoned asylum. Sam commented that he was surprised Crowley didn’t have her in Hell and Dean stated that Crowley “hates that place”
I had some issues with this episode, a little too talkie in some areas and some stupid plot contrivances, but overall, I liked it.
I thought Curtis Armstrong was great. He’s very good at playing a character we love to hate.
I also thought Jensen was amazing in his scenes with Amara (and I thought this actress was good too), especially the one scene. I thought Jensen wonderfully conveyed Dean’s thoughts and emotions, the confusion, worry, and fear through his eyes and facial expressions.
As SuperWiki said: “Love also Deans look of fascination and fear. He makes us believe in her power!”
She also tweeted something that I thought was spot-on:
“i loved how Amara looked at Dean like he was a beautiful butterfly she was in awe of but would also pin on her killing board to preserve him”
I’m really interested in this storyline and can’t wait to see more of it unfold.
i’m surprised that you didn’t mention that we finally got to see crowley’s “not in hell” palace. i’ve been wondering how he gets cell reception in hell… we got a glimpse of a hint that it was topside when rowena cast the spell to spy on crowley to find out where he hid the first blade, but nothing that i’ve noticed since then. it’s been a bit of a mystery. thanks, as always, for being so observant and thorough with your review. #SPNFamily
What I liked about this episode was all four characters were resprented well and their stories flowed together (finally). Loved having more Sam POV. I can’t remember which week it was but I had sent a tweet to Robert Berens about new rules. The new rules are the old rule reinvented. He liked my tweet and I am seeing that theme play out so far. You don;t always have to reinvent the wheel but you can enhance that wheel in how it operates.
I think your Kirsten Dunst reference is spot on. Wisdom, curiosity and wonder seem to be good descriptions for now, then will come the pulse pounding terror when she’s grown.
There is one other thing that this episode made me wonder: if the Darkness is God’s sister, and she predates humans – and therefore presumably souls – how does she know she needs them? Are souls little pieces of God? Is that why God is missing – he’s split among all of us? Is she consuming that?
The souls as power thing that was shown explicitly in season 6 seems to be coming back. I’m not a huge fan of the “holy cubical farm” vs. the “demonic boardroom” thing that’s set up in general. (When humans are shown comprehending heaven and hell is that context it makes sense – our inferior brains would need to make up a story for this to make sense. But scenes with only angels or only demons show it the same way, and I just want something … grander.) But, that boardroom set up does give a quick shorthand reminder that souls are power, simply because why else would “analysts be looking at the projections.” It does come down to the end game again, and I’m hoping Crowley’s makes his play clear. If it’s just to keep himself in power, that’s fine, but there seems to be some sort of implication that he has a greater vision. Or maybe he doesn’t we’ll be blessed/cursed with Mark Pellegrino again.
I’m thinking Pellegrino’s Lucifer would get rid of the demonic boardroom aspect of Hell and bring back horrific torture element that we saw when Dean and Sam were in hell before Crowley took over.
That would be great. I do miss his utter contempt for humanity.
I was having this discussion with some friends the other day regarding the sexualisation of Amara given that she is so young. What was interesting is that I didn’t see it as sexual at all, I saw it as predatory and I that’s why I think I’m liking this setup. Dean has been a victim before but it has always been quite aggressive or violent. It’s really interesting to see him in a situation where because the attack is passive and he isn’t recognising it as an assault at all. I also think that’s why it’s so important to have a young person playing this role because if it was someone older, the fandom would probably just try to ship it rather than see it as what is and that is Dean being preyed upon making it far less creepy. Case in point, see the original Amara/Dean scene and the shipping fanfic already out there about that.
I didn’t see the scene between Dean and Amara as sexual. It came across as fascination. Something as powerful, that has been locked away for so long, finally meets one of the creatures she was sacrificed for. Also, I think Dean isn’t so much as fascinated, but a bit scared of what will happen if Amara dies. Shes already told him that they have a bond. Maybe hes scared that he may end up with the mark again some how.
Just hope we don’t continue with the boys not telling each other things. It was good to see them talking in ‘Baby’, just hope its not ruined.
So far Season 11 has been fricking awesome.
Count me as a person who is about 70% skeeved by the Amara/Dean ‘fascination’. Maybe, for me, there should have been different, slightly less ambiguous dialog or slightly different body language…something. If I put my intellectual hat on I get that she is impossibly old and it’s not such a weird thing. But I’m a Mom first, of a 10 year old who looks 16 and gets checked out by MUCH older males constantly. The SKEEVE is my first, gut reaction. All that said, the actresses have been creepily, insanely good. When I’m able to put the blargh aside, there is nothing not great about this approach to Darkness being born into the world.