Just in case anyone is actually reading this, a reminder that this is all opinion only, based on one viewing, and as such should be taken with whatever sized grain of salt you deem appropriate.
First off, I didn't stop writing my weekly rambles because of the Show; I stopped because of life. When I started these reviews back in S2 (posting them to LiveJournal in S3), my daughter was an infant, my husband was still working full time, and my hours much more manageable. Fast forward through S12 and I have a ten year old, my husband is a stay-at-home dad, I travel a lot, and work 12hr days on a regular basis. Watching the show when it actually aired has become a rarity; writing a review before the next episode air a pipe dream. But! I never stopped watching.
*me to Show: I can't quit you!*
All that being said, I've had mixed feelings about this season. There were some good episodes—none as stand-out as, say, Baby, or packing the emotional punch of any episode from Seasons 1-5—but good none-the-less. There were also some episodes that had me thankful that I wasn't writing a weekly review because I wouldn't know how to spin the positive well enough.
I'll start with a broad sweep of reactions to primary storylines, then get into reactions to the two-part finale. And let me know if I miss storylines/plots that you think should be included.
British Men of Letters. Wasn't a big fan of that whole storyline, to be honest. I thought Mick was interesting and had hope for his redemption (until, of course, they killed him), but even when Ketch was hunting with Dean, he made me snarl. The tech bored me—it was too easy, too efficient. Too black and white. If there is one thing we'd learned over the last decade plus it's that the supernatural exists in the gray area. There is not clear right or wrong. The boys killed Madison because she was a werewolf who couldn't control her urges, but let Kate go because she was one who could. For years on end they worked closely with a demon—scratch that, not just a demon, the King of Hell—and his mother, a witch...and they have also killed witches for their evil deeds. Angels are both good and bad, and hunters can become vampires.
There was no way those nuances, those allowances were ever going to be shown to a group of people sitting behind a screen in a pristine room pointing at blinking dots on a map and determining not if they lived or died, but how quickly to kill them. They were pompous and arrogant and had me rolling my eyes multiple times. When Mary teamed with them, I saw her reasons even though I disagreed with them, and knew that it would end badly. And don't get me started on Mary actually sleeping with Ketch. I mean. Standards, girl!
Mary's return. This storyline intrigued me. One of the things that Supernatural has always been able to do to me is grab at my heartstrings (no plucking, it's a full-on grab) when it comes to the sometimes complicated relationships between parents and children. I am the oldest of five, and I've always had a complicated relationship with my mother. For so many years in the Supernatural verse, the parental angst was reserved for John, for obvious reasons. And while I connected much better on a personal level with my own father, I was also put into a position of authority over my four siblings when I was young (12) and there were things that Dean experienced because of John's parental choices that resonated deeply with me.
With Mary, though, the game board changed. She'd always been this perfect memory for Dean, this almost angelic image in his mind. He shoved his brother against the side of a bridge in the Pilot episode for daring to speak negatively in any way about Mary. Then, she's returned to him and she's this actual...person. Flawed and real and confused and afraid and angry and lonely and heartbroken. He—well, they, of course, but my view gravitates to seeing things through my perception of Dean—is suddenly forced to reconcile his memories of a mother he last saw when he was four to the women now basically the same age as him.
They really could have done a lot more with the Mary storyline and the emotional connection and ramifications of her return—and I think that is the crux of my basic meh feeling about the season as a whole: they could have done a lot more with the emotion, the humanity, the connection of characters and instead they went for the glitz and glam of the BMoLs and a "let's put other people and characters in several episodes to give J and J a break from being in every scene" approach—but with the (major) exception of her beer goggles with Ketch, I actually liked what they did with Mary.
I both hated and loved that she left them—it left me feeling delightfully conflicted. As a mother, I got it. I understood that need to figure out who she was now, as a person and a woman and a hunter. I could see her needing to be more than just this perfect memory of a woman who really never existed in the first place. The image that Dean had from his childhood and Sam had from the stories he was told was of the Mary she wanted to be, not the Mary she was. And she didn't have enough time as their mother and John's wife to figure out how to balance Mary Campbell and Mary Winchester. Her need to figure out who she was on her own before she could figure out who she was to her now-grown up boys resonated with me as a mom, a wife, a woman.
However, as a daughter, I hated it. It brought back all the hurt and resentment I felt toward my own mother when she checked out on me when I was twelve, turning me into a caretaker and confidant and not giving me space to be a child. It made me angry at Mary. And it made me protective of Dean. It made me think about all the ways I would never do that to my own daughter, no matter what.
And I really liked that they were able to make me feel two polarizing emotions with one storyline.
The Nephilim. This was a season where The Big Bad seemed to be constantly shifting. Was it the BMoLs? Was it Lucifer? Or was it the arrival of the son of the Devil? I mean, for a little bit there, it could have even been Mary. And I’m not quite sure “Jack” is bad. His impending arrival certainly left us thinking he would spell trouble for everyone. I don’t know if I really have any fully developed thoughts about this storyline quite yet. The search for Kelly and Daegon’s ‘protection’ and all of that kind of bored me, so I think I’ll have to wait to S13 to figure out what I think about this concept of Lucifer’s son existing on Earth.
The Boys. The reason I watch, full stop. I’ve always been a Dean girl—I mean, if you’ve read even one of my past Ramble’s you’d pick up on that pretty fast. I really liked how together they were this season. They were aligned, no secrets, no betrayal, no “it’s for your own good” crazy plans that didn’t involve each other. They had each other's backs. They were family. Whenever they were on the screen, I enjoyed the episode. Especially the finale, which I’ll get to in a minute.
The biggest problem for me, to be completely honest, is that…they really didn’t do much. I mean, with the BMoLs running around with all their high-tech savvy and Cas doing his angel thing, and the increase in connecting with additional hunters this season, it felt like a 60/40 split of the Winchesters actually making a difference in the outcome of the story and taking a knee so that someone else could step up. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I get that after 12 years and 3 kids each, the actors need some downtime. I can completely appreciate that. But if I think about why I didn’t enjoy parts of the season or parts of an episode, it’s because it was Winchester-lite…or focused on things that, quite frankly, I didn’t care about.
It’s hard to care about everything all season long for the 12th season in a row. I used to do that—think about every little seemingly dropped line or wayward plot devise and wonder how it would ultimately all play into the end game. But either the writing has relaxed enough that I can’t be bothered to engage that deeply, or I’ve gotten numb to the hand-waving and just watch for the parts that have Dean and Sam in them. Because those parts shine.
Okay, of the two episodes, I enjoyed Who We Are better than All Along the Watchtower (although 12.23 gets points for a kick-ass title). Taken as a whole, however, this finale was hands-down better than last seasons on so many levels. In fact, it was one of the better finales in quite some time, I thought.
I’m going to do the love, liked, and not so much thing I used to do to keep this from becoming a tome. I just hope I can keep from blurring the lines between the episodes.
12.22 - Who We Are
- The fact that the brothers did not kill Lady Whatshername, even though she deserved it not only for what she did to Mary, but for what she did to Sam. These guys are some of the most forgiving souls on the planet, able to find a way to work with people who have tortured them or someone they loved.
- The ‘blaze of glory’ conversation between the boys as they were attempting to “Shawshank” the bunker. I adored that whole scene—Dean in the black shirt, the goggles comment, the way they kind of just sank down, side-by-side, exhausted, the musing of how they each thought they would end, the mention of Butch and Sundance. It was a perfect scene.
- The fact that Mary had taken out something like 7 hunters but couldn’t kill Jody Mills. I <3 Jody so hard.
- Dean’s “you got this” speech to Sam about leading the charge to take out the BMoL base. Especially the, “C’mere,” command where they stepped into the mutual hug after Dean said he was staying behind. That little command had me rubbing my heart. As did the, “You come back,” tag to his command.
- The whole scene with Dean talking to Mary inside her mind after he realized she was choosing to stay safe in her make-believe, memory world. The moment he said, “I hate you,” I felt my breath catch. And then when he listed all the reasons why, I came dangerously close to mimicking those big ol’ tears that were running down his face. And then the “I love you,” chaser he tagged on just because she was his mom, I just…. *sniff* And don’t get me started on the fact that all the reasons he ‘hated’ her were because of what her choice had done to Sam. He didn’t once mention himself—the years he spent alone and scared, the fact that he went to both Hell and Purgatory and became a demon, the people he'd had to kill, the people he'd lost, the times he’d nearly died, or felt enough pain he wanted to. He didn’t bring any of that up, and it made me hurt for him more.
- The Winchester family hug. I mean, come on. You can’t tell me that didn’t grab some of your heartstrings right there. *sniff again*
- Dean’s John McClain impression with the grenade launcher. And the fact that he royally messed up his knee (what? I’m a h/c junkie…give me a break) with that explosion.
- The ‘bitch’ and ‘jerk’ farewell before Sam took off with his Hunter Squad.
- Alex’s “kick it in the ass” good luck wish to Jody.
- The super-fast way Dean handcuffed Lady Whatshername to the table before she put him under to try to save his mom.
- The fact that Lady Whatshername was killed by Ketch—I know, it sounds sadistic, but her story was done, she really needed to die after what she’d done to them (despite the fact that she reminded us she was a mother there at the end), and I didn’t want it to be one of the boys. It needed to be one of her own.
- The entire fight between Dean and Ketch—that was a full-on brawl, ya’ll.
- The fact that Mary saved Dean and killed Ketch (he needed to die, too).
- Sam taking a ‘pass’ at having the BMoLs help with Lucifer and Jody shooting the boss lady. Done and done.
- Walt and Roy being two of the Hunter Squad and Dean and Sam being all 'bygones' with them. I mean, huh? What happened to I’m gonna come back and I’m gonna be pissed? I know I said they were forgiving, but damn.
- Basically anything to do with Lucifer—I’m just kind of over him.
- All three Winchesters working together—and Mary and Dean’s simultaneous, “Seriously?” when Sam stopped Dean from killing Crowley.
- Kelly’s frustration with trying to put the Ikea-like crib together. I feel your pain, sister. Truly.
- Having Alt!Bobby show up in that Mad Max Earth where the boys had never been born. I did not see that coming—had no clue even from social media. So that was well played. I have to admit when I saw the boots of the guy who saved Cas, I was hoping for John Winchester…but it makes sense that it would be Bobby because in an alt reality like that, John would never have become a hunter.
- Dean still in pain and limping from his grenade launcher wound…and Cas noticing and healing him. I mean, I kinda liked that he healed him. *shifty-eyes*
- Crowley, full stop. I’ve always had a soft spot for this demon, I can’t explain it. I liked that he made a ‘deal’ with them to help stop all of this, that he admitted they were in this pickle because he’d wanted to win, got to them even when they’d demon-knifed him to the table, played his part in the whole spell/trap thing, and ultimately took the biggest hit for the team ever by sacrificing his life for the sake of the spell. This was the climax of Crowley's book, “How a Demon Becomes a Hero: The Long and Twisted Path.”
- The moment both brothers took off running around the house when facing off with Lucifer. I know it was part of their plan, but it was timed so well that it got a laugh out of me.
- The last shot of “Jack” huddled in the corner…and the fact that he was a half-grown child, not an infant. Made the glowing eyes and weird Peter Pan grin that much creepier.
- Gonna start with the biggest one: Cas’s death. I’m not opposed to main characters dying—I mean, both Winchesters have a few times, so…I’m kind of immune to it. But I’m totally over seemingly pointless deaths that appear designed simply to rip our hearts out and leave us gaping at the screen. It seemed contrived that there would be enough time between spell completion and the space/time tear-healing that Cas was able to go through, stab Lucifer (but not kill him because he’s the Energizer Angel), get back out and get himself stabbed – not to mention having Mary beat up Lucifer with her magic brass knuckles and then the tear closes. Cas’ death was sudden, leaving us no time to really even react, and felt wasted. All it really did was gut Dean (and Sam) even further after just watching their mother get hauled through a tear in the space/time continuum. While I do think Cas’ storyline had kind of tapered out over this season, there had better be some kind of emotional payoff in S13 for this death after they had us so invested in him.
- Dean able to stand and run out of the tear after the beat-down Lucifer gave him. I mean, that was vicious and looked like one of those kick/stomps broke things and he’s still able to get up?? If I ruled the world, I would have had Sam have to literally haul him up, arm across shoulder, and drag him out of there so that Mary’s defense would have been more necessary and less “I have something to prove,” and Sam running inside to see what happened with the Nephilim would have left a truly beaten Dean sitting next to the shadow of Castiel’s wings.
So what are we left with? The BMoLs Stateside are done—and their base of operations is blown up (though, anyone else think it might have been a good idea to grab some of those weapons before obliterating it?)—so we don’t have to worry about them…but the “old guys” or whatever across the pond could prove to be problematic. The bunker has a giant hole in it, so not sure if that’s still a viable, warded safe zone any more.
Lucifer is stuck in the Thunderdome, so yay. But Mary’s there, too, which, not yay. So, some of next year’s storyline will inevitably be figuring out how to save their mom from being one of the figures impaled on those weird metal spires.
Crowley and Rowena are both gone, so no more “Hello, Boys,” popping out of nowhere—I’m really going to miss that—and no ‘in’ with the underworld. Oh, and there’s probably going to be a power vacuum in Hell with both the King and Lucifer AWOL. So, there’s that. Castiel is dead for no good reason, Dean was beaten half to death by Lucifer, Kelly is dead, and Sam is in the same room with man-child Jack, son of the Devil himself.
This year’s cliffhanger is actually one I could see going somewhere next season. I might actually be looking forward to what they do. (Aside from the animation/Scooby Doo crossover. Just…no. I mean, puppets didn’t work for me with Angel, cartoons aren’t going to work for me with Supernatural.)
Bottom line for me is that these brothers keep me coming back for more. Every episode where they were engaged and connected was entertaining. Dean’s tears trigger my tears and Sam can give a pretty great Rudy-esque, we can take these guys speech when he knows his brother has his back. After twelve years of stories, they keep showing us that they still have it in them to be original (on occasion), entertaining, and emotional. Not a bad way to keep folks hooked.
I hope you have a good hiatus. And thanks for reading.