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Friday, 12 December 2014

Supernatural Series 10 (First Half)

Midseason finale is a strange term. By definition, it's not a finale, after all.

Series 10 (First Half)

When last I reviewed Supernatural, I expressed a deeply held belief that it should have died a dignified death several years ago, rather than lumbering clumsily ahead into double digits. I was, however, excited by the idea of a demonic Dean, and I was hoping that they wouldn't just resolve that problem in the first episode.

So you can imagine how deep my disappointment with this series is.

Continuing in its quest to become the absolute most tired and hackneyed television show, Supernatural's tenth series starts with Sam searching for his brother Dean, now a Knight of Hell in the service of Crowley (who remains the most entertaining character in the series, and is a joy to watch). Except that, after three episodes, that particular plot is done away with, presumably so that the series can return to safe territory of retreading the same ground they've covered many times before. 

If it sounds like I'm bitter and exhausted, it's because I am. I am bitter and exhausted, because this show should have ended by Series 7 at the latest, and instead it has just continued dragging itself along, like a man with two amputated legs, a broken arm, and conjunctivitis insisting that he can still complete the London Marathon.

'I have a bunch of great ideas,' Supernatural's writers lied.

But, fine, let's try to judge this series just on its own merits. Because even if something's getting tired and old, it can still provide entertainment for forty-five minutes a week: Clearly, Supernatural still does just that for many, many people.

I'll be honest, it's still not impressive. The demon Dean plot (termed the 'season of the Deanmon' in commercials, which is odd as it is neither a full season nor about a Digimon) was a mess of wasted potential, with the writers seeming incredibly reluctant to have Dean do anything actually evil. His darkest act, murdering a man who had made a deal to have his wife killed, is morally dark grey at best given the man's eagerness to have the denizens of Hell torture and dismember his spouse. Oh, and he tries to kill Sam, too, but the two have done that often enough that it really holds no meaning any more. 

This was one instance where social media's predictions of what would happen were more entertaining than what actually happened. People seemed to be envisioning a series of cheerfully evil Dean still hunting monsters with Sam for no other reason than brotherly affection, slipping into the role of 'entertainingly evil member of the team' sometimes filled by Crowley. That sounds a lot more fun than what we got, which I can really only describe as 'a darker shade of beige', so well done, social media. 

He wears bright colours now and has neater hair, because a
physical change is the only way we can show that he's become evil.

The remaining six episodes of this half have just been there. No real plot to speak of, unless you count the introduction of ancient witch Rowena, an entirely ineffectual villain whose first encounter with the protagonists ends with her being captured, escaping due to unforeseen circumstances, and then being captured by demons. The episodic plots are of varying but mostly low quality, ranging from 'this forty-five minute episode feels like an hour and a half because I'm so bored' ('Paper Moon' and 'Ask Jeeves' spring to mind) to 'this forty-five minute episode feels like three hours because it's actually painful' ('Fan Fiction', which was unspeakably awful, but did have a very nice rendition of 'Carry On My Wayward Son.') 

That we have just gone on hiatus and, at the moment, very little in the way of actual plot has yet to appear (even the midseason finale focused predominantly on Castiel attempting to bond with his host's now teenage daughter - a domestic drama whose biggest monsters were loan sharks, and not even literal loan sharks at that - with 'Dean seems to be becoming a demon again maybe possibly' simmering in the background) would be a travesty any year, but it stands out particularly this year, since a lot of shows have upped their game in regards to their midseason finales: Sleepy Hollow had the death of a major villain, while both The Flash and Arrow gave us our first proper encounters with their respective villains. Supernatural gave us the dangers of irresponsible borrowing and a plot lifted pretty much wholesale from last year. 

Oh, and a flashback to when I enjoyed the show.

I'm just extremely disappointed, and I don't see the next half of the series assuaging that disappointment any, because I haven't been given any reason to see that. What are they going to do? Bring back demon Dean, despite having bungled that plot once? Try to make Rowena, who does not strike me as a credible threat at all, into a series Big Bad? Have Castiel spend more time with someone else's daughter?

Frankly, at this point, the only thing I can see that would elevate this series above dross is to have Dean and Castiel enter an official romantic relationship with each other. It probably wouldn't draw my attention back much, because at some point I stopped liking either of those characters, but it would be something new, something not really being seen anywhere else on US television. It would mean that Supernatural has something that sets it apart from its peers, and I don't think anybody can claim that it wouldn't make sense as a plot development.

But they won't ever do that. 

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