Supernatural  season 5 – not very good, really

5 August, 2011

These are just some brief comments after having finished watching the fifth season of Supernatural on DVD.

After the fine season 4 (possibly due to good stories held back from season 3 due to the writers’ strike?), this was definitely a disappointment. Season 5 was supposed to be about the Apocalypse, but the season structure gave no great feeling of this taking place, with many episodes taking on trivial sidestories, and even allowing that these can be done well, the writing was frequently mediocre.

The producers also allowed budget constraints to trivialise their supposedly world-shaking plot, with apocalyptic figures like the Whore of Babylon and the Four Horsemen appearing sporadically to terrorise rural towns with populations of up to two dozen (!), and then be easily defeated. The quality noticably increases towards the end of the season, first with a humourous and dramatic episode about the pagan gods being miffed at the presumption of the Christian Apocalypse, and then with a defined quest to obtain the four magic rings of the Horsemen. But the pagan story was completed in one episode, and there were only a couple of episodes for the ring quest before the final episode.

In the grand finale, they again trivialised the events, with the confrontation between Archangel Michael and Lucifer amounting to nothing more than a scuffle in a field.

There was also the problem of the heroes following the advice and direction of the demon Crowley, when the previous season had emphatically made the point that allying with a demon is a no-win move. This precedent was mentioned once, in the second last episode, and I think they were just hoping no-one would notice the inconsistency.

Apart from the major structural problems, it was also disappointing to see some fine performers and interesting characters given only cursory screen time – in particular the Four Horsemen (perhaps excepting War). Max Headroom fans would have been gladdened to see Matt Frewer appear as a wonderfully disgusting Pestilence, but as I said, the character is treated as a plot device and quickly dismissed from the story.

What they should have done:

After the first few episodes resolving Sam and Dean’s relationship issues (for the most part), the finding and using of the Colt should have been done in a couple of episodes, rather than spread over half the season. At the same time, we should have been made aware that the Apocalypse was definitely happening – lots of stock footage of floods, famines, wars, other natural disasters. Our heroes should have observed that these events were widespread and definitely of supernatural origin. This should have been a constant element through the series.

The Four Horsemen and the Whore of Babylon should have been named sooner, and made active, if unseen, players in the Apocalypse. The heroes could have observed the Horsemen and the Whore’s activities forming a predictable pattern as they created disasters across the globe, this providing sense of scale without expenditure, and giving the heroes a better reason to encounter their enemies than sheer good luck. (It would also have helped to do this with the angel armies too, rather than have them “sit on their hands”.)

The quest for the rings should have started much sooner, at least from the beginning of the last third of the season, and getting the ring from each horseman should have been a mini-arc of 2 to 5 episodes. The above method of predicting the movements of the Horsemen would be used to justify the small scale of the encounters on the basis of minimum collateral damage.

The pagan gods’ opposition to the Christian Apocalypse could also have profitably been spread across the season, providing contrast and humour. Also, after Sam was possessed by Lucifer, there should have been at least 1 to 2 episodes in which Dean is uncertain how strong the possession is, and what effect Sam might have on Lucifer’s actions, as well as trying to figure out the site of the showdown.

Finale, the showdown: it should have been in a more spectacular location. Michael and Lucifer should have fought in some exciting manner (it wouldn’t cost that much to have them blast some energy beams at each other, toss a car or two, or even fly around a bit). They and Dean should at least have moved around a little. The conclusion of the fight, with Lucifer and Michael falling into the hole, should have been more spectacular, with exciting camera angles, flashing lights, crazy sound effects, and screaming. And Cas healing Dean afterwards should have been a bit less easy.


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