A lot of people seem to be pretty disenchanted with this season. And I totally understand why. I still much prefer it to season 7, though.
Admittedly, that’s mainly because Castiel has greater presence. And the Dean/Cas stuff has been the one consistently good element. But other than that, I…
I think that’s a strength of the show, killing off other characters. It stays focused on the 3 leads (I think it’s basically a 3 lead show now). Other characters come and go. Like Doctor Who. The fact that it’s their story, and that their life is so myopic around the brothers, is part of what works, and one of the main tragic elements of the story.
The writers also get to be super flexible. If a storyline doesn’t work or if casting doesn’t have chemistry, they end it (Amelia). And if it does they give it a full and satisfying arc and end (Meg, Benny).
I disagree very strongly. See my This Blog Is Pro-Scoobification tag.
I wouldn’t call it a tragic element of the story so much as tiring. Killing characters loses it’s emotional punch if it happens too often. And killing characters isn’t necessary to keep the show focused on the leads.
I also think that it hurts the flexibility of the story, because it closes doors that can’t be opened again without trivializing death even further. Imagine if the Roadhouse had been a permanent fixture on the show - there would have been a whole network of characters available and accessible, a whole sub-culture to play around in, instead of just having the odd hunter show up now and then. If Victor Henriksen hadn’t been killed off, and the show could have continued to play with the relationship between law enforcement and hunting. If Bela hadn’t been killed off, there would have continued to be this whole other side to the supernatural subculture, one that was illicit and deviant even in the eyes of hunters, one of criminals and opportunists. None of this would have taken focus off of the brothers, it would have just given them more space to play around in, more opportunities for interaction, a greater variety of relationships, and more opportunities for telling different stories, instead of just having the same dynamics play out ad nauseum.
The way the writers have just let characters and storylines drop off the edge of the earth never to be seen nor heard from again is also not something that I would call a strength. The way they just stopped including the Roadhouse in season 2, and the way they just left Amelia hanging feels messy and lazy. What they could do instead is commit to the characters that they introduce and find a different way to include them if their initial ideas didn’t pan out. (For example, season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike was supposed to fill Cordelia’s role in the group dynamic, of being the the one who bluntly told things the way they were, but Anya ended up filling that role. Instead of killing one of them off, a way was found to make both of the characters work. Also, as far as I could tell, there weren’t many fans who cared for Riley, but he still stuck around for two seasons before being written off, which is a lot more than generally disliked characters on SPN).
Also, Meg’s death was neither satisfying nor necessary.
So, yeah, I disagree.
You know, I’ve started watching Castle, and it makes for a good point of comparison. Because it’s very clearly about the two main characters, the supportings don’t feature as heavily as they do on, say, House, for example. But it still does have a solid recurring cast of characters, and though they aren’t featured heavily, they get their own little storylines and such. And obviously it’s very different tonally from Supernatural, but I think the mechanics of storytelling and character interaction can still be compared - you can have a show that is heavily centred on two characters and their relationship, and still have good collection of regular recurring characters as well.
And then of course the other show I always think about when it comes to this discussion is Angel, which was supposed to just be about Angel and Cordelia, but in the DVD commentary Joss Whedon talked about how he realized that more characters meant more storytelling opportunities, so he grew the cast.
To me it seems like just basic math - more characters means more relationships, more stories, and more depth.
Lauren Cohen and Katie Cassidy were in six eps each over two seasons, Alona Tal was in seven eps — they were never regulars. If you look at Ruby as a character she was in 18 episodes when you include Genevieve’s appearances. Misha has been in 45 episodes and was considered a regular. Jim Beaver was in 54, but still not listed as a regular on the show; although, I think the fans would all think of Bobby as a regular on the show. Like it or not, they were/are all secondary characters.
Supernatural was set up from the beginning with two lead characters that the narrative follows. It’s unclear to me why folks want the show to be something it isn’t. I think most fans like and even get attached to many of the secondary characters. Who doesn’t love Jody Mills or Ellen or Bobby? But I don’t quite understand the desire for it to be an ensemble cast, which would change the essential dynamic of the show.
It’s like Jared said at Comic Con, there are really three main characters: There’s ‘Sam’ and ‘Dean’ and then there’s ‘Sam and Dean’; not ‘Sam and Dean and Bobby and Ellen and Jo and Ash and Cas.’
Furthermore, trying to keep all those people alive in the universe in which Sam and Dean live is just unrealistic. It’s tragic but people have to die in Supernatural. That’s part of the journey that Sam and Dean have to travel — losing people they care about. There has to be real risk to the life a hunter leads or the story becomes pablum.
Since this was my secret, I’m replying to this.
Cohen and Cassidy were credited as main cast members in season three, and that was the only season they were in. They were on the DVD cover next to Jared and Jensen. Their status was that of regulars, even if that status didn’t last. And when the Roadhouse was introduced, it seemed like it was going to be much more of a mainstay in the Supernatural universe than it turned out to be.
Secondary characters can still be part of an ensemble, and they can still be utilized more than they are on Supernatural.
Angel was set up as a show that only follows two characters (because Whedon was always intending to kill off Doyle early on). But it expanded beyond that to become an ensemble, because Whedon realized that they expanded the story-telling opportunities. I was entirely expecting the same thing to happen with Supernatural. And the introduction of the Roadhouse and Ash and Ellen and Jo seemed to promise to do that. But then it was scrapped. The introduction of Bela and Ruby as series regulars seemed to promise to do that, but then they were killed off or had their role scaled back. Yeah, the show was set up to follow two characters, but it kept looking like it was going to expand past that.
I don’t want the essential dynamic of the show to change. I want the dynamic that was there when the Roadhouse was introduced and it looked like we’d be spending a good amount of time with the Harvelles. I want the dynamic that was there when we were getting to know Bela and Ruby as characters with histories and stories of their own. Was the dynamic of the show dramatically different at those points? I don’t think so. Supernatural is not stuck with the dynamic it had in season 1, it has not had that for a long time. If it did, I probably would not have kept watching the show. What I want are recurring characters like Bela and Ruby 1.0 and Cas, who are fully fleshed out and have stories and arcs of their own. And I want them to stick around for a decent amount of time.
And yeah. Sam and Dean and SamnDean are the main characters. Everyone knows that. But that doesn’t mean that the recurring characters have to be treated so poorly, or have such a small presence.
The deaths of recurring characters would be much more effective and meaningful if those characters had larger roles to begin with, and if they had on-going arcs of their own. I wrote a post on that topic a while ago, here.
And it’s only Castiel fans that bitch, really. You never hear anyone that’s a die hard Ruby fan, or a die hard Jo fan complain that they’re not on the show, or that they weren’t made into a main character. So why is Castiel so special?
No, I am deeply disappointed that Jo’s storyline never played out on the show, and that the Roadhouse was scrapped. As were many other people. And I often complain about how Jo was brought back to be used as cannon fodder instead of with an arc of her own.
Season 3 had Ruby and Bela as main cast members. And after Ash/Ellen/Jo were unceremoniously dropped and allowed to fade away as recurring characters, I was so pleased and excited that the show was finally expanding it’s cast. And, well, I was disappointed, wasn’t I? Bela might have been generally disliked, but there is a healthy contingent of us who are frustrated with the way her character was treated, and see it as indicative of the wider problem the show has with recurring characters. (ie. when Kripke said the problem with “Red Sky At Dawn” was that it became “The Bela Show” as if having one episode where a character who’s not Sam or Dean is explored is a problem).
And also, ANNA. Anna should have become a regular recurring character, instead of being sloppily killed off.
Not to mention Victor Henriksen. Such wasted potential. He could have been so much, been so interesting. We could have watched someone being introduced to the life of a hunter, he could have been a great ally, and him and Dean fighting back-to-back in “Jus in Bello” gave me such feelings.
So, you’re wrong. You think it’s just Castiel fans, probably because Castiel has more fans than the other characters I mentioned, and because Castiel was the only other main cast member besides Sam and Dean who was ever given a substantial storyline of his own. And it’s likely the case that the people who are Cas fans are also the ones who stan for the sorely under-utilized recurring characters of Supernatural.
But don’t tell me that you haven’t noticed the people saying that they want Jody, Kevin, Garth and/or Meg as regulars next season.
I don’t really consider three characters to be an ensemble cast either.
And I could reply to this in detail. Or, I could just recap.
I genuinely want a wider cast on Supernatural - I have since I started watching season one, and I’ve been disappointed every time it looked like there were going to be some supporting characters with some substance to them - except in the case of Castiel. And I want more than just him. Because they add to the world, and add to the main characters. Having more characters means more opportunities to create genuine tension, for the audience to fear for the fate of the characters, and hence for the stories to be more effective.
At this point in the show’s life, the fact that it does not have an ensemble cast is a flaw. Which, interestingly enough, means that the plot can’t come from Sam and Dean anymore, because with just the two of them, there’s no story left.
Yeah, I love Cas. But objectively, it’s clear that the show needs him, since he’s the character whose arc has been driving the main plotlines of the past two seasons - including the one during which he was dead most of the time. And unlike Sam and Dean, his story hasn’t been wrapped up. So no, I’m not mad because he “isn’t as important” as I’d like him to be. I’m baffled by the fact that he’s more important to the plot of the show than he reasonably should be, and yet his place on the show remains up in the air.
I was just thinking about Faith. She’s one of my top favourite Buffyverse characters. She’s very layered, she goes through dramatic character development, she has maybe one of the best storylines in the Buffyverse as well. And she was never part of a main cast. She was in 24 episodes, spread over five seasons and two TV shows (Buffy and Angel).
She’s a brilliant character on her own. But then she’s also a great foil for Buffy, she contributed a lot to Angel’s development, and she set off how Wesley changed really well.
When some fans say, “Supernatural isn’t like other shows,” and insist that it ought to be strictly about the Winchesters, I think of characters like Faith, and how much she added to the Buffyverse, how much she contributed to the main characters’ development. I think about how sparse and anemic the world of Supernatural is compared to the Buffyverse, and how it lacks recurring characters with anything even approaching the kind of character arc that Faith got. Who, when they’re used, are like a shot of adrenaline to the plot. And some Supernatural fans resent what little focus the recurring characters do get.
I think such fans must not actually like stories. Because you need characters with relationships to sustain long-running stories; you need multiple characters to create conflict and have that conflict stay fresh; and they need to be long-running characters for the audience to actually care about them.
The overwhelming majority of those character deaths? Were recurring characters with on-going arcs, if not part of the actual main cast.
And it’s an illustration of why having an ensemble cast is good for a show.
Because you need characters to be vulnerable in order to create tension, and they need to be characters that the audience is attached to and cares about.
Yes, a lot of characters are killed on Supernatural. But hardly any of them had stories of their own that we had been following.
Jo and Ellen were basically brought back to the show just to die. Anna was brought back just to facilitate a one-episode plot, and then die. Ash and Pam existed as tools for exposition. Balthazar didn’t have much story, he was purely instrumental, and highlighted as someone that Castiel cared about. Rufus didn’t have anything going on, and his relationship with Bobby was played up just so his death would have an impact.
Except for Anna, all of them were killed to show that uh oh! The stakes have been raised! and their deaths didn’t have much impact beyond that. (Anna wasn’t even supposed to be mourned. BUT I MOURN FOR HER WASTED POTENTIAL).
And they did the same thing with Bobby as with Rufus - play up his relationship with the boys at the start of season 7 so that it would hurt more when he was killed. But he didn’t actually have an arc of his own that was interrupted.
Victor Henriksen was transformed from a minor adversary into a character the audience cared about and then killed within the span of one episode. Gabriel had an arc, that lasted for all of two episodes, and people cared about his death because of it. Can you imagine how much more significant both of their deaths would have been if the audience knew them better?
Supernatural character deaths are cheap. Yes I cried during “Abandon All Hope”, but I’m left feeling resentful instead of heartbroken because it was so blatant that the Harvelles were brought back to be cannon fodder, I felt used. Yes I got teary during “Death’s Door”. But you know what that episode was? A way of making it seem like Bobby had an arc the whole time he was on the show when he really didn’t.
But… The first time a character dies on Buffy, it’s in the first episode, and it’s Jesse McNally, who is set up to be one of Buffy’s friends like Xander and Willow. But then he’s killed. And that’s what Joss does. He gives you characters that are part of the story, who feel substantial, and then he takes them from you. (Kendra and Mr. Universe are the exception, and I never watched Dollhouse, so I can’t speak to that.)
Anya, Spike, Tara, (also Angel, but he’s not pictured), Cordelia, Wesley, Fred, Doyle, Wash, Book, and Penny were all part of the main cast of their shows. Those that weren’t killed in series finales - their deaths were huge, fandom-defining events, and had major repercussions on the plot.
And then the recurring characters. The difference between how Whedon shows treat recurring characters and how Supernatural treats recurring characters is so stark. Supernatural points at the characters that you should care about, and gives them an emotional scene when they die. Whedon gives them time and story and makes you care about them.
Joyce was Buffy’s mother, we had known her for five years when she died, and maybe she never had an arc that was truly independent of Buffy, but her relationship with Buffy was an essential part of the plot, especially for the highschool years.
Jonathan (who isn’t pictured) - he started as such a minor character in season 2, a background character that they kept using, and then he had some significant episodes, and then he was a proper recurring character in season 6, so when he was killed his death was significant, even kind of symbolic, because he had been around since the highschool days and he harkened back to them before he died.
Lindsey and Lilah were there from the beginning of Angel, Lindsey from the first episode. They were a continual adversarial presence. But they grew and changed and had complex relationships with the main cast members.
Darla started as a minor adversary on Buffy, and when she was brought back to be on Angel, the plot was about her, and she had this beautiful, tragic, twisted story and relationship with Angel, she was huge part of who he is.
And you know what? Even Kendra. Kendra was in two episodes, then brought back for a third so she could be killed. But I would argue that she had more character development in those two episodes than Jo got, and that knowing her had a greater impact on Buffy than knowing the Harvelles had on the Winchesters.
And I’m finishing with Jenny, because I will never get over Jenny Calendar’s death. Never. Because she had a story of her own that I was invested in, and it was cut short. And it hurt me when it happened. So much more than any character death on Supernatural, and that includes Castiel, because his death was just so WTF and wasn’t given the place in an episode that a major character death should be given, so I suspected from the beginning that he would be brought back.
Point being: when a character dies on a Whedon show, it has meaning, and weight, and it changes the direction of the plot. It’s so much more powerful and more significant than character deaths on Supernatural.
And it can be that way because Whedon shows have strong ensemble casts with even more recurring characters, who are treated as more than just props for the main character’s development.
Secondary and tertiary characters need to be significant and have stories of their own for the audience to really feel their loss, for death to have the weight that it should, as well as for there to be any sense of tension.
In Defence of the Secondary Character
For some reason, it seems to be quite en vogue to criticise the character of Castiel simply because his last name is not Winchester, he has only been in the series since season 4, and his role is considered redundant at this point in the series. He is a useless character, apparently, because he is secondary.
I have also seen some similar, equally nasty remarks about Bobby Singer. Thank God he’s dead for good this time, right?
Wrong. Wrong. This is all incredibly wrong.
If you think that Supernatural exists solely as the Sam and Dean show, where the majority of the audience is happy to sit and watch these two loveable idjits bumble along week after week whilst working the same, tired monster-of-the-week formulaic drivel, I would suggest you need to rethink why you watch Supernatural, or anything for that matter.
Because we all love Sam and Dean Winchester. We would not still be watching the show, 7 seasons in if we hated the two leading characters.
But you know what makes Supernatural great? What makes the Winchesters reach and exceed their potential? The supportive secondary characters.
This is true of all great films, television series, and books. A man is only as good as the company he keeps, they say.
What would To Kill a Mockingbird be without Boo Radley? The man we never see till the end of the book and/or film, but whose very existence shapes the imagination of young Scout Finch? And in the end, the big bad boogeyman next door? The monster/man who was in the shadows the whole time? He is the very same man who saves her and her brother from the not-so-friendly neighbourhood racist.
There was also poor Tom Robinson, whose tragic life also informs much of Scout’s later childhood, preparing her for the grim reality of adulthood in a world where injustice and inequality reign supreme. Boo and Tom are both secondary characters to the Finch family, but are they any less significant to the story or the development of the characters? No. In fact, they are integral.
Gone With the Wind is unabashedly about Scarlett O’Hara, but tell me: who was there for her when Atlanta had burned, Tara was in shambles, and her mother was dead? Was it Rhett Butler, the primary male lead? No. It was Mammy, Scarlett’s one true constant, and the only person to ever tell her like it is. Mammy continued to be there for Scarlett and played a crucial role in helping the audience to sympathise with an otherwise bratty character.
Let’s go outside of the box: let’s talk Citizen Kane. Let’s talk about the protagonist’s final words, and the film’s most important secondary character: Rosebud. The fucking sled. Yes, an inanimate object was a crucial supporting character. The sled was the tangible remnant of Charles Foster Kane’s humble beginnings, and the only article in the world he wanted in his final moments of life, even when his wealth could have given him anything. But he wanted Rosebud.
What about Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? That poor slob without a name. And Holly Golightly refused to give him one, either. They did not belong to anyone, especially not each other. They were just two wild things, both liberated from their cages. Only you cannot live life without connections. Sometimes, though, it is nice to belong somewhere and with someone. And Cat belonged with Holly. Cat was the primary catalyst for Holly’s self-actualization. Cat was a crucial character, even though he was just a cat. Even though he was so secondary, you do not even notice him in the scenes for most of the film.
We could go on and on about Star Wars. You could even argue everyone without the surname “Skywalker” is a supporting character, considering the series revolves around Anakin and Luke, respectively. Han Solo is just a scruffy-looking nerf herder, right? A rogue pilot with swank to spare. And his trusty first mate Chewbacca. Can you honestly imagine any of the original Star Wars films without them? And then there is old Ben Kenobi, who was struck down in A New Hope, but whose influence on Luke lasts throughout the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Where would Frodo be without his fellowship? Where would he be, most especially, without Samwise, Merry, and Pippin. Yes, they are all secondary characters. But their sacrifices spur him on to finish the difficult task that was given to him. Sam carries the heaviest burden of all: he carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom. And in the end? Frodo departs to the Grey Havens, leaving good, old Sam with his own part of the story to fill. Sam was secondary, yes, but he had a story to tell and was shown respect and courtesy through this acknowledgement that he deserved to tell his own tale.
Harry Potter is another series we could go on about. The title itself tells us that Harry is the protagonist. But who are Ron and Hermione, then? Are their roles any less significant because their names are not on the covers of the books or the film posters? Even more poignantly, what about Neville Longbottom, who is as secondary as you can get? He is played off as a talentless buffoon for most of the series, but in the end it was Neville who stood up to Voldemort. It was Neville who pulled the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat and vanquished the final horcrux.
And then there is Severus Snape: dubious secondary character extraordinaire, whose entire adult life was lived as a lie to protect Harry and bring about the ultimate end of the Dark Lord. Snape sacrificed everything and lived in an endless web of deception. Snape was forced to kill the man he considered a mentor so as to maintain his cover. Snape was the silent engineer of important plot points for seven books, working with Harry even when Harry thought Snape was as bad as you could ever get without being Voldemort himself. Snape was the bravest man Harry ever knew, and he was secondary.
Can you honesty say that any of these books or films would be the same without these (and other!) secondary characters? Can you honestly say that any of these books or films would be better off without them?
Secondary characters keep the wheels spinning. They are foils for our heroes. They are catalysts for change. They encourage and they discourage; they incite and they rebuke. They stand as points of contrast and comparisons for the protagonists; they are mirrors for the primary leads, and for the audience, as well.
What would Supernatural be without John Winchester? He was certainly secondary throughout the first season. We never even met the guy till the end of the season. But his role was fixed and important. Just as the memory of Mary served as the catalyst for the Winchester’s job.
Did you know Bobby Singer only exists because Loretta Devine was unable to return to fill her role as Missouri Moseley? And his character was accepted so strongly by the Winchesters (and the fans) that he was made into a permanent secondary character. The boys needed a father figure in their lives. They needed a base. They needed a place to call home when the Impala was not enough. And Bobby gave them everything that he had, time and again.
And the Harvelles! Not only did Ellen and Jo provide insight into John that the boys would never have discovered otherwise, they also served as the substitute mother and sister figures the boys never had. Their sacrifice in “Abandon All Hope” not only gave the boys a chance to have a shot at the Devil, but also gave them the push forward that the boys needed. Like Phil Coulson in the Avengers, Ellen and Jo gave the Winchesters something to avenge.
Ash and Pamela were amazing secondary characters whose deaths provided a similar impetus for the boys’ work, but also served to place them in Heaven where they could act as the Virgils to the Winchesters’ Dantes.
There are also the darker secondary characters, like Gordon, who Dean first views as what he could have in a hunting partner. Maybe even what he needs. He soon realizes how wrong this thought is, however, when Gordon reveals himself to be a total psychopath. But Gordon’s role was important because he showed Dean what he could become if he is not careful with his choices and attitudes.
Of course, there was also Ruby. Sam would not be the Sam we know today without Ruby and her temptations, after all. Her entire motivation was to move Sam closer and closer to his destiny. Without Ruby, Lucifer would never have escaped the Cage.
And this brings me to Castiel, a secondary character, but an important character nevertheless. Castiel has given up a lot for the Winchesters. Without him, Dean would never have gotten to Sam at all in the season 4 finale. Without Castiel, Dean would have said “yes” to Michael and the Supernatural world as we know it would be over. Castiel is the third part of Team Free Will. He is a de facto Winchester; Dean said it himself, Castiel is like a brother.
Yes, Castiel has screwed up. But so have Sam and Dean at times.
Yes, his character has been used as a pawn to create a poorly written plot arc of angst. But he is (and has been since his introduction) an important member of the cast and a crucial member of Team Free Will.
He is Dean’s wingman, and Dean is his. He is Dean’s best friend. Without him, Dean was a shade of his former self throughout much of season 7. Dean mourned Castiel all season. He had nightmares about his death; where Dean once dreamed of Hell, season 7 showed him dreaming of Castiel walking into that lake. Castiel dying became Dean’s Hell.
Without the secondary characters, the boys would not be the seasoned hunters they are today. At the end of the day, the show is about two brothers, but it is also about the people who have come and gone and who continue to give the boys a reason to fight. All secondary characters are important. To assert that the show would be better off with only Sam and Dean is to completely ignore 7 seasons of history, development, and cause.
You win the internet today.
That is all.
I’m reblogging this because it sums up what I’ve always felt. I’ve had people tell me that I should just stop watching Supernatural if Sam and Dean aren’t my favorite characters. (Though I’ve been told that regarding to Castiel as well.) But I live and breathe secondary characters.
I take it as a matter of course that I like the main characters even when I don’t like them.
I live for Crowley and Gabriel and Lucifer. I love Bella and Chuck and Victor and Kali. I’m still affected by Andy and Ronald and Madison. There’s something about these characters that make-up a vivid world. Without them, to me, that world would be lacking color and depth. I would unequivocally miss them. I do miss some of them. If they weren’t there, I think the world would be a flat place.
That’s why I feel so much for the secondary characters. They’re my beautiful vistas, tacky roadside attractions, and greasy spoons on the main road of the show.
Yes to you and all that you have articulated here, m’dear. Thank you for putting into words all of the Castiel (and Bella, Bobby, and Ruby) feels that I have been carrying with me all along.
The thing is, I don’t think anyone is disputing that you need other characters. What they argue is that other characters shouldn’t get arcs of their own, that Supernatural is not an ensemble show. Which is, in a way, correct.
Suprenatural has not been an ensemble show (only two characters are in every episode). Too many of the characters named in the original post did not have proper arcs of their own. Ash, Jo, Ellen, Rufus - we never got to see their arcs play out. The show pointed at them as characters that the Winchesters care about so that they could be killed later for emotional effect. Bobby had some stuff happen to him, but you can’t say his character had a proper arc until this season. Bela and Gordon had arcs, but as antagonists they were sold short and killed off too early.
The thing is, people say “Supernatural is not an ensemble show” as if the fact is written in stone, as if it is a core part of what the show is. As if it’s a good thing, and not a flaw.
It is a flaw. The Winchester’s world could be so much bigger and filled with so many more possibilites than it is. With a couple more characters who had proper arcs and development from season to season, the themes and philosophies of the show could have been better fleshed out, we could explore different aspects of the main characters, and season 7 probably would not have been the directionless heap that it was.
People do not hate on Castiel because he’s a secondary character. They hate on him because he’s more than a simple antagonist like Bela or Gordon, he’s more than a prop for Sam and Dean’s development like Jo and Ellen, and he’s more than just a source of exposition and support, like Bobby. They hate on him because he’s a secondary character who gets story, who gets an arc, who gets to develop and change and grow along with the Winchesters. As if that’s some sort of blasphemy because Supernatural is not an ensemble show.
All I can say is that Supernatural could stand to be an ensemble show. Since the first time I watched the series (starting with season 1 on DVD and then watching season 5 onwards as they aired) I have been waiting and hoping for the show to develop an ensemble cast. I was relieved and excited when Jo, Ash, Ellen and the Roadhouse were introduced, and disappointed and confused when they suddenly stopped being used mid-season. I was excited when Bela and Ruby were introduced, and again disappointed when Bela died and Ruby’s place in the show changed, and then she died. I was excited by season 4 because we got Castiel, we got Anna, we got Ruby, as well as Bobby, and it started to feel like an ensemble show. Then Ruby was killed. And Anna was thrown under the bus. But imagine my glee when Jo and Ellen showed up in season 5! I was so hopeful that they would be regulars, but instead they were fridged.
That’s a long paragraph, so I’m going to stop there.
Point being: Supernatural has a habit of treating supporting characters badly, and that’s not a good thing.
A common complaint that I see from back-to-basics, Two Brothers fans about season 7 is that too many monster-of-the-week episodes were about supporting characters rather than the Winchesters.
And I understand this complaint. It’s true. For the first five seasons, the story was driven by the Winchesters’ struggles, which both had global consequences and were very personal. Since then, it hasn’t been. Sam and Dean’s story was resolved in “Swan Song” and from then on they’ve just had stuff happen to them instead of being protagonists. Season 6 was driven by Castiel’s arc (even if that wasn’t made clear until towards the end of the season). The problem with season 7 was that it was all over the place and not driven by much of anything, hence one-episode supporting characters carrying the plot. There are people who complain that Castiel got a better arc in his three episodes than Sam and Dean did all season. And yeah, I think that’s true. Because, contrary to what haters often claim, Sam and Dean’s story ended with season 5, but Castiel’s did not.
The problem, though, is not Cas (or other supporting characters) being on the show. The problem was that the writers didn’t find a way to open up Sam and Dean’s story to make it really about them. They could’ve done that by making Sam and Dean the centre of another prophesy and cosmic struggle. I can understand why they shied away from that route. OR the writers could do that by using Sam and Dean’s relationships with other characters. Like season 1 was about finding their father.
The thing is, to do that either one of them has to be in peril, (entailing some kind of angst or the two of them splitting up) or, Sam and Dean have to have important relationships with characters other than each other.
You know what would have made season 7 about the Winchesters? If Castiel had been the villain. Or at least if Misha Collins had played the head Leviathan, using Castiel’s relationship with the Winchesters against them in a very personal way, more than just utilizing what factual information he knows about them. But, oops, that would involve reaffirming how important Castiel was to the boys.
Since there’s no one left (besides Cas) to make the story personal, splitting up Sam and Dean like this is the best thing the writers could have done.
What gets me about the complaints about the season 7 finale, is that people who are upset are ignoring the fact that Sam actually has something to actively do now, instead of just dealing with stuff happening to him like he has for the past two seasons. Sam has a quest now. And instead of it just being “stop the bad guy”, it’s personal. He has to get his brother (and friend) back from Purgatory. And that’s a major reason why season 8 has so much potential to be awesome.