The Wayward Winchester Boys Carry On
By: Alexander B. Huls, Mondo Magazine
MAJOR SPOILER WARNINGS! LIKE, SERIOUSLY MAJOR!
The Winchester boys have been through a lot this year. The death of their father, the threat of Sam going dark-side, the prospect of Dean having to possibly kill him, sexual tension fulfilled and unfulfilled, the destruction and restoration of the Chevy Impala, being wanted by the FBI, going to jail, the violent unfolding of the Yellow-Eyed-Demon’s (YED) master plan, being possessed, Dean losing himself to his inner demons, dying, and, of course, the litany of demons they’ve had to fight off throughout the season.
What’s this all amount to? Season Two of Supernatural leaping bounds over Season One.
With a season premiere that was as intense and compelling as a finale, Season Two began with a bang and never let up. Episode by episode the show demonstrated that its creators had become more assured as they clearly settled into a creative rhythm and figured out what makes the show great. As a result, episodes have become much more compelling and narratively taut, and Dean and Sam have developed as much more interesting, complex characters. The season also featured a growing ensemble of steady support characters around them (Jo, Bobby, etc.), as well as more sophisticated guest characters who have moved beyond simple and stereotypical damsels and gentlemen in distress.
What Supernatural most notably has learned to do well is ensure that the high-concept gimmick of weekly demon-hunting does not solely dominate the show’s course, but instead frequently serves as a dramatic background through which to explore more dramatic plot elements, or focus on the character development of the Winchesters. In particular, the greatest part of this season has been that the creators have really shown us that the Winchester boys are true heroes, the kind who sacrifice themselves for others and each other. Yet, they are also the kind of heroes with very human flaws that threaten to hinder their quest, but which they ultimately overcome to save the day. Finally, of course, the supernatural elements — for the most part — were more interesting and exciting this year, and there’s admittedly something nice about starting to learn the show’s mythology and determining, as an audience member, how the boys should proceed. Need to keep a demon out? Why, draw a line with salt, of course! A spirit is on the loose? Burn the bones!
Despite the greatness of this season, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have some minor grievances. While there were the occasional weaker episodes (“Playthings” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” for example), my biggest complaint is that as much as I enjoyed many of the episodes that followed “Born Under A Bad Sign,” I did find myself growing restless due to the fact that they were mostly stand-alone episodes, skirting around the greater YED mythological arc of the series. Because the first half of the season was effectively linked entirely with the YED storyline (the aftermath of Daddy Winchester’s death, and the gradual revelation of what he whispered to Dean before dying), I began to expect the storyline to progress further. However, in the second half of the season this barely occurred. By the time the first part of the finale began, I felt I really needed the pre-episode recap to remind me about the YED story arc since we hadn’t really had a lot of forward movement in that area, except for a few passing reminders of the “You’ll have to kill me if I go dark-side” Sam/Dean conflict.
That being said, it’s hard to be really upset when many of these stand-alone episodes were some of the best episodes the show has had so far. “Born Under A Bad Sign” was a great episode made exceptional by Jared Padalecki’s viciously intense performance. Even though “Roadkill” featured echoes of The Sixth Sense, the great casting (and performance) of Tricia Helfer, as well as the poignancy of her character’s twist, made this episode stand out. Even though I wasn’t huge on the predictability of the werewolf storyline, “Heart” was a memorable episode not only because Sam finally got some well-deserved lovin’, but because of its gut-wrenching and haunting end, reminding us all of the incredible sacrifices the boys make by living the life they do and the human tragedy it sometimes leaves in their wake. This theme became perhaps most clear in the episode I don’t think any self-respecting Supernatural fan could not have loved: “What Is and What Should Never Be.” I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking: Dean seeing his mother again, the realization that all the people they saved in their reality died in this one, Dean and Sam were strangers to each other, or Dean sacrificing the illusion of a happy life for that of a demon hunter (i.e. working for the greater good).
Finally, there was the two-part “All Hell Breaks Loose” finale, which certainly lived up to its name. We finally found out the YED’s master plan, with a few titillating twists along the way. There were several fatalities, and with that we saw how far Dean really was willing to go to save his little brother. Daddy Winchester made an awesome appearance. Revenge was had. Deals were made, secret truths were exposed, and most of all — for a while — it seemed like the world really was going to hell (literally!). When the YED’s plan was revealed, and we learned that hell-doors existed, and what he wanted to do… well, frankly, I was genuinely frightened as to what was going to happen. It was an exciting, satisfying ending to an excellent season.
Now some fans have expressed their feelings that the finale was slightly anti-climactic, both in how the threat of hell-on-earth ended as quickly as it began, and more specifically how the YED was actually killed, thereby ending the Winchester brothers’ two-season-long quest. However, even though the YED storyline has run its course, there is certainly more than enough to sustain the season (hopefully seasons) to come. We now have Sam’s mission to nullify Dean’s deal with the crossroads demon. Sam’s abilities still remain and the YED questioning Dean how certain he is that he what he brought back was 100% Sam, reeks of foreshadowing. Who’s to say another demon might not take an interest in Sam’s powers? On that note, 100-200 demons escaped from the hell-door, and the Winchester boys must now deal with them (“We’ve got work to do”) — there may very well be a demon amongst them who is bad as the YED, if not worse. FBI Agent Henricksen is, of course, still after the boys. Finally, don’t forget that when the YED showed Sam his mother’s death, Sam’s mom recognized the YED, raising puzzling questions as to how that might be possible.
While it’s a little sad to see the major storyline of the YED resolved, the creators have planted enough dramatic seeds to create numerous interesting scenarios to more than sustain next season and beyond. Frankly, I think it was a smart move. As thematically reassuring as it can be to have one über story-arc throughout a show’s run, it can end up perpetually teasing viewers with the promise of resolution, but not the fulfillment of it. This way the creators have ensured that the show will stay fresh, exciting, and a little unpredictable. I think this is the reason some of us felt slightly anti-climactic about the finale. None of us thought the YED story-line would be wrapped up this soon in the show’s run. Even though at first I was a little disappointed, I came to realize how great it was to be caught off-guard. Then I thought: Man, I can’t wait till next season to see what happens now. And isn’t that ultimately the exact feeling a season and its finale should leave you with?