Monday, June 6, 2016

Supernatural Season 11 Review (SPOILERS)

I've been with Supernatural for six years now. I was introduced to the show back in 2010 and it didn't take me long at all to get caught up to where they were on TV. I've really enjoyed watching this journey that the Winchester brothers have been on for these past 11 seasons now. As with every show, it's had its ups and downs, but I've enjoyed how every season has been a new adventure for the brothers and I've enjoyed the formula each season has followed. We have an overall story arc that crosses the whole season, but at least half of each season becomes dedicated to individual monster-of-the-week episodes. Speaking of those, we've had all kinds of different monsters and supernatural creatures show up on the show from your typical vampires, werewolves, and evil spirits to other things that are completely out of the box and unique to the show. We've also dove into tons of different mythologies in the show, both religious and non-religious, all of which has had its own unique Supernatural spin to it. It's been quite the wild ride that's apparently not ending anytime soon. I've personally committed to being with them to the end, whenever that is, so you should continue to see these Supernatural reviews for as long as the show runs. With that in mind, let's dive into season 11! Spoilers ahead, of course.

Speaking of ups and downs for this show, the first five seasons all built on each other, which led to an amazing climax in season 5. That was initially supposed to be the final season, but they decided to continue and threw in that one final scene at the end of "Swan Song" which opened the door to a season 6. I don't want to hate on season 6 too much because I still enjoyed it, so let's just call it my 11th favorite season of Supernatural. Season 7 took a step forward as did season 8 and I was thinking that eventually we'd get back to the season 5 high point in terms of quality. But then season 9 crashed a bit which then led to a season 10 that was, well, let's just say that season 10 would probably be my 10th favorite season of Supernatural. Thus I wasn't expecting anything amazing or epic heading into season 11, especially since I thought they were going to end things at season 10 and thus I got the feeling that the show was beginning to wander aimlessly, which can be a bad thing. Perhaps it's time to wrap things up? That's what I was thinking anyways. But holy freaking cow, I was very pleasantly shocked at how fantastic this season was. When all was said and done, I honestly think this ranks as high as my second favorite season of Supernatural, behind only the epic and perhaps insurmountable season 5.

There's a lot that I could say about this season and I could dive chronologically into this review like I have done in some of my other TV show reviews that I have done recently, but we're going to cut right to the chase and talk about the huge elephant in the room right off the bat instead of saving it for the end. Season 11 finally did something that I have been anticipating ever since season 5. They introduced God. We learned back in season 5 that the angels decided to start the apocalypse because God was M.I.A. There's more to the story there, but that's the gist of it. That sparked a lot of questions. Where is God? Why did he go missing? Why isn't he coming off the sidelines to help people? And is the prophet Chuck actually God? It was confirmed by Rob Benedict, the actor who plays Chuck, that the intentions were for his character to become God, but the show itself never confirmed it. All we knew is that Chuck was a prophet who was writing the Winchester gospel, the Supernatural books, helps out a bit in season 5, and then vanishes at the end of "Swan Song." He then shows up for a brief second in season 10 at the end of their 200th episode, "Fan Fiction," which was a huge tease that he would be showing up in the near future. But when?

"Don't Call Me Shurley" was the episode. On IMDb, it's rightfully the highest rated episode of season 11, just barely ahead of "Baby," the episode towards the beginning told from the perspective of the Impala, and the mid-season finale, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" In fact, "Don't Call Me Shurly" is in a three-way tie on IMDb for the highest rated episode ever with "Swan Song" and "Changing Channels," both from season 5. This episode is where all the suspicions and rumors were confirmed. Chuck is God. Rob Benedict has officially joined the ranks of actors who have portrayed God in a movie or TV show. Naturally this has sparked a lot of controversy, especially among Christians. A lot of people have stated that they didn't want Supernatural to bring God onto the show. They said it would be better for them to talk about him, but not actually show him. I understand that viewpoint, but I had an opposite viewpoint. I wanted God to show up and I wanted Chuck to be God. Now that Chuck is God and has shown up, there were a lot of people that were offended by how the show portrayed him. I mean, I created a message board on IMDb defending his portrayal and a week later I showed up and that board had 15 pages of responses, most of which were Christians saying how displeased they were and atheists calling those Christians crazy. So yeah, this has been quite controversial, which is to be expected when it's God we're talking about.

Yes, as you could tell, I'm going to once again defend this portrayal, because I liked it. This time, though, I've had longer to think about it and it's on my own blog instead of an IMDb message board. Call that other post me testing the waters and reading what other people had to say before giving my final statement here. The first thing that I should mention is that what I am about to say, I say as someone who considers himself an active Christian who believes in God. This is not the place to dive into those specific beliefs, but I feel that's worth mentioning so that you know where I'm coming from. I don't think this is a situation where the only people to like this portrayal have to be non-Christians. I don't think Supernatural writers were trying to offensive and I don't think it comes off that way, either. This show is not trying to be religious or spiritual. They didn't have some sort of secret agenda to try to convince people to believe in God or to try to persuade believers that their ideas of God are wrong. This is all about story-telling here. Much of Supernatural's lore has had a biblical base. Angels, demons, Heaven, and Hell have been the meat of Supernatural. And all of those aspects have had their own Supernatural twist to it. They've taken real ideas an mythologies and used them to create their own unique universe. Their version of God fits their universe perfectly.

Is this an accurate portrayal of God? Well, that's a bit of a tricky question. It's safe to say that a lot of people who have lived on this earth have subscribed to the idea of a supreme being or creator. But there have been thousands if not millions or more different ideas throughout history of who this being is and what he does. I have my personal beliefs. No, Supernatural's portrayal of God doesn't match my beliefs of God at all, but one of the things I've really enjoyed in my life is the study of religion and I've found it fascinating to learn all the things that other people believe. Each different religion, sect, or set of ideas believes in something slightly different about God. You have everything from God doesn't exist to God does exist but he doesn't care to God exists, cares, and is involved in every aspect of every person's life. Even in the Christian denomination, there are so many different religions that teach different things about God. When it comes to Christianity, most of them use the Bible. It's interesting how one book can be interpreted a hundred different ways and have so many different translations. So if you say that Supernatural's God is an inaccurate portrayal of God, what are you basing your arguments off of? They did with God what they've always done. They've taken a belief or a mythology and they put their own Supernatural spin on it. If you understand it from that perspective, this can be a very enjoyable season.

With God, Supernatural has decided to take the angle that God is the creator. The earth and the people on it are his creations. I would say that's the basis of this character. That's not necessarily blasphemous. That's just the direction they've decided to go. In a way, it's more in line with what we've seen in Greek or Norse mythologies. In Supernatural, God is not human. God never was human. Humans aren't God's children. Humans are just God's creations. These creations became super rebellious and God got tired of stepping in and trying to fix everything, so he decided to let things play out in a normal, natural way. And that's why he's been on the sidelines this whole show. Honestly that's different than I expected and not how I see things personally, but it's not blasphemous. It's just different. And adding to that, Supernatural has decided to play with the pre-creation story. We have God. God had a sister named Amara. God also has an army of soldiers, which are the angels. The lead angels are the archangels -- Michael, Lucifer, Gabriel, and Raphael. A war broke out between God and Amara, which ended by God and his archangels locking her up. To keep her locked up, someone had to hold a mark, which later comes to be known as the Mark of Cain. God trusted his favorite archangel with the Mark, that being Lucifer.

Man this is some good stuff. The reason I loved season 5 so much is because they dove so deep this mythology. I was fascinated by it. Thus it should be no surprise to you that the season where they finally bring it back and dive even deeper into the mythology is the season that becomes my second favorite season. All of this fits together so well with what they have already set up. As our story goes, Lucifer, who God trusted and loved most, ends up becoming corrupted by the Mark and turns against humanity. This makes God even more sad after he had to lock up his own sister. So Lucifer gets banished to Hell, where he becomes the father of Hell and the demons. The Mark was passed by Lucifer to Cain. Cain eventually gives the Mark to Dean Winchester thousands of years later in season 9. Just like Lucifer and Cain, the Mark starts to corrupt Dean as well and so a lot of time in season 9 and 10 is spent on Dean and Sam trying to figure out how to get rid of the Mark, not knowing the consequences of doing so. At the end of season 10, they finally get rid of the Mark, which then unleashes the darkness onto the earth, which we soon learn in season 11 is in fact Amara, God's sister. Being that she has been locked up for thousands of years, she is legitimately angry and wants to destroy all of God's creations as revenge.

This is why season 11 is fantastic. All this story that I've recapped for you is what we learn in season 11. We had pieces throughout the previous seasons. We knew that God was on the sidelines. We knew that Lucifer had been banished to Hell. We see the story of the apocalypse in season 5 when Lucifer is accidentally unleashed at the end of season 4. We see the archangels also trying to start the apocalypse. We see the death of Gabriel and Raphael. We see Lucifer and Michael getting re-trapped in the cage in Hell thanks to Sam and Dean. We see the stuff about Cain and the Mark in season 9. But season 11 is where this all comes together. The first part of the season was all about Amara. She gets unleashed and they have to figure out how to stop her. On my blog, I've talked a lot about what makes a good villain. There's a lot of elements to this, but the best villains in my opinion are the ones who have a good backstory, are relatable to a degree, and have good motivations for what they are doing. Amara has all of this. The backstory that I've told is phenomenal. Her anger, rage, and desire for revenge is very relatable. You don't agree with what she does, but you can understand why she is doing it. On top of this, she is menacing and powerful, but yet also super attractive and has incredible romantic chemistry with Dean, which makes him conflicted the whole season. He wants to stop her, but he can't.

Amara's plan in this season is to destroy the earth. I've stated a lot recently that this is a very cliche villain plan that didn't work for me in The Flash, Arrow, or X-Men: Apocalypse. In fact, I said I was kinda done with this specific story arc. But I loved it here in Supernatural season 11. Why does this work? Motivations. With each villain that decides to destroy the earth, you have to ask what the earth did to them to deserve being destroyed. Why does Zoom in The Flash decide to destroy the earth? Why does Damien Darhk in Arrow decide to destroy the earth? Why does Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse decide to destroy the earth? I'm not going to spoil any of those in case you haven't seen them, but needless to say, their motivations are all pathetic. The earth didn't do enough to them to deserve being destroyed. Magneto in X-Men: Apocalypse? Yeah that worked. They didn't do enough with that, but I bought the idea. Amara's motivations? Why is she trying to destroy the earth? Because her brother, God, locked her away for thousands of years, claiming she was a horrible, destructive force that would destroy the earth. She of course claims she wasn't as destructive as God made her out to be, but after being locked away for so many years, she's back and the idea of her wanting revenge by destroying God's creations makes perfect sense to me.

I was really intrigued by all the Amara stuff from the beginning of the season. All the young actresses who played her were amazing and when we finally got to adult Amara played by Emily Swallow, she was fantastic. But Amara wasn't the only big baddie from this season. We also have the biggest baddie of them all. Lucifer. When it comes to a formula for how good to make a good villain, Lucifer is the perfect example. Biblically speaking, he was an angel of light who fell from Heaven and is out to deceive humanity. He knows he is on the losing team, but he's out to drag as many people down with him as possible and he'll do whatever he can to accomplish that. That's the real Lucifer I'm talking about in the Bible. Supernatural follows that pretty good. As I've already stated in my recap in my review, Lucifer was an archangel who God loved most and trusted with the Mark. The Mark was his downfall and he refused to obey God and worship humanity. This is the best villain backstory you can get. What I really love about Lucifer this season is that he's cunning and smart. When he's talking to Sam, he makes a dang good case as to why Sam should help him get out of the cage because he claims he is the only one who can stop Amara. After all, Sam came to him in the first place because he thought he was receiving visions from God to recruit Lucifer. Nope, those were from Lucifer.

At the mid-season finale, when I saw "guest starring Mark Pellegrino," I knew I was in for a treat. Mark Pellegrino played Lucifer on Supernatural in season 5, which coincidentally was going on at the same time as his role as Jacob on Lost, who was the ultimate good guy on that show. He nailed both parts perfectly and thus immediately become one of my favorite TV actors. It was great seeing him back in this and he really stepped up his game as Lucifer. When some people think of Lucifer, they think big, evil, ominous, and scary. When I think of Lucifer, I think cunning, smart, and dangerous because it is easy to fall in his traps. Lucifer in this is the latter and I loved it. In addition to a win for Mark Pellegrino, the other actor who deserves so much praise is Misha Collins. After a few episodes of Mark Pellegrino, Lucifer convinces Castiel to take on his mantle and Castiel agrees. Thus Castiel becomes Cassifer or Lustiel. I prefer Cassifer Honestly I've loved Misha Collins throughout this series. He's phenomenal. Him as Cassifer this season is perfect. He captures all of the isms of Mark Pellegrino and even sometimes sounds like him. Cassifer "joins" the team to help stop Amara and ends up getting banished in the finale, bringing Castiel back. We don't know where he is and I don't think we're done with him. But Misha Collins proved this season that he might be the best actor on this show. Round of applause from me.

After the events of Mark Pellegrino's Lucifer and him being accepted into Castiel, we go on a string of monster-of-the-week episodes, which I always enjoy. Following those episodes, we are onto the final act of the season. The last four episodes. These episodes are all fantastic and put a nice, pretty bow on this season. I've talked plenty about God, but the end of the season is God showing up because Amara needs to be stopped and we have God, Metatron, Crowley, Rowena, Cassifer, Sam, and Dean all teaming up to take down Amara. This makes for quite the dynamic with a team of villains, heroes, and anti-heroes (Crowley) uniting for one important cause. Save the earth from God's angry, powerful sister. Can they kill Amara? God says no. Light and darkness have to both exist. You can't have one without the other. That's a profound statement right there that I loved. They have to trap her. Before, it took God and all the archangels to stop her and even then that barely worked. With two archangels dead and another in a horrible state (Michael), that's not an option this time. God reveals that archangels can be rebuilt (more on that in a second), but there's no time. God at first says he's going to sacrifice himself. That made me worried, but thankfully they didn't go through with that. Cassifer was actually trapped by Amara, but they save him. Metatron has a heroic ending to his character's arc, which was cool. Then they recruit Crowley and Rowena along with Cassifer to make one final assault.

It fails. Lucifer is banished somewhere. Castiel is back. God is severely injured and apparently dying. Everyone else is depressed because the sun is dying and they all assume it was Amara's doing. They're depressed. But in the finale, a plan is formed to create a bomb out of souls strong enough to kill Amara, which is a final move of desperation. Honestly I was worried about how this was going to finish, but it turns out it was great. Amara wasn't killing the sun. That was caused by God dying. If God dies, the universe dies with him and everyone will cease to exist. This I liked. Killing God would've crossed a line for me, so this reveal made sense. When Amara realizes this, that's the turning point for her character. Then we have a classic Supernatural ending that teaches the importance of family. At the heart of this show, that's what this is about. Family. Two brothers that will do anything for her. And now Amara realizes that despite her anger towards God, he's still her brother. God feels the same way about her. She's her sister. Following a great speech by Jensen Ackles, Amara teleports God over, heals him, and they depart as a happy family after getting rid of the bomb in Dean. Family. Topping things off, Dean kindly asks God why he feels comfortable leaving earth and God gives a great response. The earth has Dean. Boom!

Lets finish this review off with an outlook towards the future. Season 12 got renewed along with the rest of CW's lineup. Word is Jensen and Jared have also signed contracts for season 13, so I have a feeling that season 12 will not be our final season and I have no idea what will. But the other thing the finale did was setup a duel against the Men of Letters. Or the Ladies of Letters? A woman from that organization approaches Sam and is not happy with everything that's gone on. If this is the direction they're planning, I don't know if I'm totally sold. But I'll still be with them. I do like the out of left field return of Mary Winchester, brought back by Amara as her thanks to Dean. "Mom?" That's our final line of the episode. I really hope she's here to stay. And I also hope that their Dad can come back somehow, too, but I'm at least super happy with Mary Winchester on the show. Please keep her around, writers! Make her a regular that is here to stay. That would be so boss! I also want an eventual return of the archangels, because God said they can come back. Now he has time to rebuild them. The return of Gabriel, aka the trickster? Yes, please! Maybe this show will end with a final archangel battle with God, Lucifer, Crowley, and all the archangels. Doesn't that sound like a great idea for a final season, whenever that final season is? Anyways, that's all have. Till next season!

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