Watching the two newest episodes of Supernatural has been a sad reminder that this show has outlived its originally planned season five ending by three years. And it doesn’t look like anyone associated with the series has anything new to say about its characters or premise.
I’m not going to say that in the three seasons since Sam and Dean broken heaven and hell in an all-out conflict with Lucifer and the angel Michael, the show has been bad–far from it. Instead, it’s just been on a consistent, unwavering level of “good enough,” never really shaking up the monster of the week vs. quest of the season formula in any noticeable way. And with the premiere, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and this week’s episode, “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy,” we see the series starting to repeat itself in fundamental ways that further give proof to a show that may have outlived its concept.
When we ended last season, Dean and Castiel were on the wrong side of an exploding Dick and subsequently trapped in Purgatory, which serves as a sort of lockup for dead supernaturals, while Crowley makes off with unwilling prophet Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), who is able to interpret the word(s) of god from ancient tablets.
Flash-forward a year, and Dean has somehow clawed his way out of Purgatory, sans Castiel and with secrets, while Sam has all but retired after refusing to look for either his brother or the prophet. What we’ll be seeing in the next few episodes, I assume, is a lot of flashing back between the past and the present as we slowly come to see what the Winchester brothers have been up to.
The weird thing is, we’ve already seen this story play out at the start of season six, with Sam returned mysteriously from Hell after a year and Dean settled into a comfortable life in the suburbs, only to return because his brother needs him. And in both cases, both men have made a habit of hiding the big, horrible things that happened to them while they were away–Sam’s Hell-borne trauma stretched out over two seasons, and there’s no telling how long we’ll have to deal with the negative consequences of the bad thing that happened to Castiel in Purgatory or Dean’s new demon buddy Benny (Ty Olsson).
As for the overarching quest plot, teased in the season 8 trailer, Sam and Dean are after nothing less than the word of God that will allow them to close the gates of Hell and banish all demons from the Earth. Certainly a game changer in as much as it would make the series’ mission very different from what it is now, but again, it’s about finding a thing to fix a thing which we’ve done so many times before. And to help tread water a little more, extraneous obstacles are thrown in like a misplaced tablet and a supernatural auction house. That last bit, I actually really like as far as it deepens the mythology of the series and reveals some of the other gods and goddesses knocking around the world.
There’s nothing terrible or poorly thought-out about the series right now, it’s just exceedingly competent, a bit repetitive and nothing more. Barring any sort of cancellation in the near future, here’s hoping that the series’ writers find a way to shake things up as the season wears on.
Supernatural airs Wednesday nights at 9 on the CW.