My Thoughts On The "Supernatural" Season 5 Finale

Here be spoilers. If you haven't seen the season finale of Supernatural, it's best not to read on. Check out these pictures of kittens instead.

supernatural-tv-season5-2-300x240.jpg

Writers are slaves to the story. We work for it, it bends us to its will, we're its bitch -- never the other way around.

I think Supernatural is an incredible TV show. It's about two brothers who cruise the United States in a muscle car and slay monsters and demons. That immediately sold me on the concept, but it's an awfully good character-driven show too, which helps.

Like most genre shows, Supernatural's first few seasons were dominated by Monster Of The Week episodes (which are easy gateways to snag new viewers; essential when you're a new property), with vague allusions of greater machinations (hopefully to pay off in future seasons). However, things changed in Seasons Three and Four: all those niggling plot threads began to coalesce, propelling the Winchester brothers toward the endtimes itself -- Armageddon, in the here and now, with mission-critical roles for each of them. Very very cool.

I won't say this ultra-arc and buildup to Season Five's finale wasn't the most agonizing wait in TV history -- that goes to Lost; you poor Losties are masochists -- but Supernatural fans have patiently waited for more than two seasons, pining to see the prophesied Earth-rending devastation as viewed from Sam and Dean Winchester's ringside seats. We endured episode after episode of Big Talk About The Stakes and Terrible Hints Of The Battle To Come.

And finally, the finale arrived. I just watched it on Tivo.

Who farted?

There were some wonderful character moments (as manufactured at the last-possible-second as some of them were -- for instance: to my recollection, the key "kids in the Impala" flashbacks were never seen before this episode, making them smack of a deus ex machina catalyst in the context of the greater narrative), and when Satan snaps his fingers and makes an Angel of the Lord explode in a mist of blood and pulp ... well, that's unspeakably badass. Shattering longtime ally Bobby's neck was equally horrific and resonant.

But dude. When you yammer on for two seasons about the motherfucking Apocalypse, show me the motherfucking Apocalypse.

That didn't happen. Nor did a celestial smackdown between Satan and the archangel Michael -- again, something that had been meticulously manufactured and teased for two seasons. Which leads to a less-satisfying ... but still perfectly acceptable ... ending of Sam Winchester (possessed by Lucifer himself) and his half-brother So-And-So (I forget his name as he existed simply to be used in this poor endgame scenario, possessed by the archangel Michael) plummeting into Hell itself, where we can see Hell, and bear witness to the triumphant recapture of Lucifer's unholy essence.

But we didn't get to see any of that, either. We were treated to the sight of two dudes falling into a hole.

Perhaps I have snobbishly high standards, but when you rev me up for two seasons, you gotta deliver something more than two dudes pulling a Skywalker Noooooooo and leaping down a big-ass vortex. Gimme spectacle, man. That's what you've convinced me to expect.

Now I'm all for plot twists and upending expectations, but ending a stellar five-year run with a sigh makes me sigh. It makes me wonder what all that talky-talk gumflapping for the past two seasons was all about. If I can't go all the way with the prom queen, at least let me get to second base.

Going meta for a moment: I don't much follow entertainment news, but I caught wind that showrunner Eric Kripke always envisioned a "five-year plan" for Supernatural, and built a mythology and story arc to accommodate that. But CW, the network that airs the show, ordered a sixth season as this season -- the fifth and planned Final Season -- was underway. I reckon that network edict dropped a handful of sand into Kripke's creative Vaseline. I also reckon it messed with his (and the writing staff's) vision for Season Five. I wonder what the last half of this season -- and especially this episode -- would have been like, if the show were indeed to end here.

As a storyteller armed with this context, I can forgive most of Kripke's season finale script (and the direction of much of Season Five's second half) as I know he was probably compromising like crazy to deliver on Supernatural's promise of the Apocalypse, while building a launch pad for a previously-unplanned Season Six.

But as a fan, I'm underwhelmed and frustrated. I wanted more not because I'm a greedy fan (though I am a greedy fan), but because I was trained by the show to expect it. Two seasons of tension-building. Two seasons of angst about the roles Sam and Dean Winchester were to play during the endtimes. Big Talk Everywhere. And we get two dudes falling into a hole...

...and then the angel who was turned to pulp-mulch with a snap of Satan's finger is miraculously resurrected...

...and then the longtime ally whose neck had been shattered is miraculously resurrected...

...and, by episode's end, it appears the status quo has been reestablished in even more ways through even more miraculous resurrections. (Or some other mojo that'll be quickly explained next season.)

This represents a storytelling failure, because writers are slaves to the story. We work for it, it bends us to its will, we're its bitch -- never the other way around. Here's an instance of a story's climax that had all the foreshadowing of an epic confrontation, and was warped into a clearly well-intentioned, but ultimately unsatisfying, conclusion. I hate myself for bagging on this episode, and particularly hate bagging on Kripke's writing of it, as I think he's a frickin' genius worldbuilder and storyteller. I want to tell myself I'm not smart enough to get it, that I'm shallow for craving fireballs and not the family-driven ending I was presented ... an ending the story's creator clearly felt was worthy of the journey.

But dude. When you yammer on for two seasons about the motherfucking Apocalypse, show me the motherfucking Apocalypse.

--J.C.