Supernatural Pre-finale Roundtable Discussion
This Supernatural pre-finale roundtable features Geekiary administer Angel, frequent contributor Emily (blog), and special guest blogger Dot (blog). We dive into some of the questions regarding themes from the seasons, thoughts about the finale, and what we hope to see in season 10.
Question 1) What are your predictions for the finale?
Emily: I think we’ve been watching Dean fall all season, from the first decision on Sam’s behalf through the lies to maintain it, and on to the Mark of Cain. Dean’s been increasingly isolated, and this season has been about deconstructing this character that, for all his flaws, is frequently the emotional center of Supernatural. In that regard, what we’ve had is essentially Dean’s “The Man Who Would Be King,” but unlike TMWWBK where we witnessed Castiel’s fall all at once in flashbacks, we’ve seen Dean’s slide playing out over all of Season 9.
Where does it end? I think Dean is going to hit rock bottom. I think we’re going to see him violent, unhinged, and reduced to something that in past years Dean would have had no compunction in hunting. This is a very Nietzsche season for him; the man who hunts monsters is going to become one. Whether Castiel and Sam can call him back to himself by the end of the finale, I don’t know. I expect, like Godstiel, it will carry over into the start of the next season. I hope that the finale doesn’t rely on the same ‘then one of TFW hurts the other to show how far they’ve fallen,’ because the fans have generally predicted that since the start. We’re used to our characters dying and hurting each other (man, what kind of show is this we’re addicted to?!) so I hope for something more novel in that regard. And like Sam throwing himself into the maw of hell, like Cas with taking Sam’s mental and psychological damage upon himself, I anticipate self-sacrifice as redemption–because this is a Winchester story, and that’s how they’re all programmed.
Angel: Death is really overplayed on this show so if Sam, Dean, or Castiel die I feel like there’d have to be a unique spin on it. I’m guessing that Dean will either kill or attempt to kill either Sam (going to the Cain/Abel parallels) or Castiel. If not that, I feel like Sam or Castiel will have to kill him to stop him from doing something horrible. Beyond that, I don’t really know what’s in store. The fact that Jared said that the last five seconds were some of the most intense of the entire show has me worried. Jensen was surprise that they were going “there,” too, so both of them are pretty stunned. I’ve seen a lot of muttering about demon!Dean, so maybe that’s what we’re in for.
Dot: Going by the promo, the preview clip, and the hints we got at the CW Upfronts, we have Dean falling apart and downspiraling while Sam and Cas scramble to find a way to pull him back from the brink. I don’t think Dean will kill Sam or Castiel. I think we’ll have some meaty confrontations between Sam and Dean where Sam tries to talk Dean down, with some advancement in terms of insight and honesty. What’s going to save Dean ultimately will be Dean realizing within himself he deserves to be saved, but he’ll need some help getting there and a fall back into the same harmful cycles that lead to conflicts in the first place won’t get him there. I think Cas will play a role in reaching out to Dean as well and I’m wondering if Metatron captures Castiel, using him as bait to draw out for some plan of Metatron’s (no ideas on specifics). Ultimately Sam and Castiel won’t succeed in defusing Dean in S9, I predict the cliffhanger will carry this into Season 10. Final image of the season may be a fully dark Dean, seemingly lost–but he isn’t. To be resolved early next season.
Question 2): What are you hoping to see in season 10?
Dot: Season 9 had an extended family theme, with the bunker as a home base but its “family” constantly scattered. Separations were a big theme for Season 9. So I think the follow-up to that for Season 10 would be reunions. We see Cas move into the bunker at the end of 9.22 (Dean is carrying his bag, which implies a long stay), and I think we’ll head into Season 10 with Castiel living in the bunker. Dean may be off the rails and the one who this time has scattered to the winds, with Sam and Cas using the bunker as a home base to search for him. I hope SPN doesn’t draw out the separation, so fairly early in Season 10, we close out the MoC Dean story. I think this arc is to take Dean to rock bottom in order for him to regain a sense of self, and would really like to see him reach some kind of epiphany and then we deal with aftermath and recovery.
My hope is for Sam and Dean reaching a better level of understand of each other, acknowledging the differences and then building from there, which I think would make them closer in the end than both of them constantly flinging themselves back into the same hurtful fire. I want to see them enjoy being brothers and reach a more equal partnership. They probably won’t be conflict free, but before they can reunite, there are things they have to face. With Castiel, I think his grace is going to burn out, and in Season 10, we’ll see him struggling to live powerless, only this time instead of being out on his own, he’s in the bunker with the Winchesters. Further development on the Dean and Castiel relationship I also hope is on the table, wherever the writers ultimately decide to go. Castiel may never stop being pulled between two worlds and his dual nature, but I’d like to see him with his human family more often and learning how to become a hunter. And I really hope the show isn’t done with Kevin, that somehow he is resurrected and a part of Season 10.
Emily: My hope is that by tearing these characters and their relationships apart, they intend to rebuild them. I hope for Dean and Sam in a relationship of equals, not codependency of Dean revolving around Sam, or a Deantatorship of Sam having to bow to Dean’s calls. I want them brought back together–the love is still there (however often they toss around ‘we’re not brothers,’ everyone watching knows better) but the trust needs a chance to rebuild. Outside of the brothers, my biggest hope is that Castiel becomes human: this is something they teased us with, but basically squandered by having him vamp an angel’s grace, something that I still have story issues with. Cas is a character that has been our eyes on the Winchesters and their world, a fresh perspective. I hope that the writers find a way to integrate him into the daily lives of the Winchesters, not merely hauling him out for Mytharc episodes on his own, as we’ve predominantly seen throughout Season 9. I want a balanced story, that involves all three of the regular characters as pivotal to the story arc.
Angel: I’m hoping for Team Free Will to be a united front again. I’m hoping that Sam and Dean settle their issues and that Castiel’s story intertwines more with the brothers than it did this season. More importantly, I want the writers to have some strong female characters and more closely analyze the disturbing consent issues that cropped up this season. There’s been a lot of criticism on both of these things from both this website and more mainstream press, so I hope that they’ve been listening.
Question 3) What do you think about the role that women have played in the narrative this season?
Angel: The role of women on Supernatural has always been somewhat precarious. We started off the entire show with two “fridgings” (aka the “Women in Refrigerators” trope) and have continued that theme throughout the shows run. This season many of the new female characters that had potential to be recurring have been killed in the episode the were introduced in (Hael, April, Tara, Tamara). They also brought back the recurring character, Tessa, and killed her. They also killed recurring female villain Abaddon. The list goes on and on. While many men have been killed as well, the women’s deaths are significantly more notable as the number of female characters on the show is so incredibly small when compared to the men. Every one of these deaths lowers the ratio of men to women even more significantly.
The women in season nine that are still alive are pretty incredible, though, and it’s unfair to not elaborate on them. Charlie continues to be one of my favorite characters. She not only brings in some much needed female representation, but queer representation as well. Though she was last seen skipping off into Oz with Dorothy, I’m hoping we’ll see more of her in upcoming seasons. Jody is another recurring female character that I hope we get more of. She appeared in two episodes this season and brought a much needed female energy to the set. Mrs. Tran also deserves a mention for not only coming back after we all suspected she’d died, but for being one of the most devoted, determined, badass mothers on TV. I doubt we’ll see much more of her going forward, but I would absolutely love to be proven wrong.
Emily: While I love Jody Mills and Charlie Bradbury for being strong female protagonists who can hold their own among the boys, and enjoyed the glimpse we had of Josie Sands and that they unfridged Linda Tran, I have to say I haven’t been any more thrilled with Supernatural’s take on women this season than in past ones. Like so many things within the narrative these days, it seems like it falls on individual writers to maintain any standard of quality, and in this case the strong female roles have fallen to either Robert Berens or Robbie Thompson, and have been lax outside of those writers.
We saw women reduced to sexual objects by the narrative (“Rock and a Hard Place”), killed off to advance the story of men (including being the premise behind the failed “Bloodlines” spinoff), and then the nightmare of consent that was April (“I’m No Angel) and the subsequent frat-boy back slapping in the narrative about how great it was that Cas lost his virginity to the hot reaper who then killed him. Even Abaddon, our one consistent female voice (as consistent as she could be, given she was criminally underused in the smorgasbord of villains this season) they nearly reduced her motivations to jealousy (see “Firstborn”), then killed her off. While she was the villain, and I do think she needed to die for the narrative, it still rankles a little how everything played out this season. Add to that killing off Tessa: we killed Meg last season (introduced Season 1), brought back several women to kill them (see “Clip Show”), and now Tessa (introduced Season 2).
It seems all women have an expiration date on Supernatural, and I can’t in good conscience celebrate that we get to “keep” a scant few and rarely used female characters when it’s the exception to a misogynistic unspoken rule in the Supernatural narrative that drives me crazy.
Dot: Supernatural keeps having highs and lows in its handling of female characters. From the get-go, this was a narrative about men losing women they care about and an absence of regular female presence. However it’s always bothered me that there haven’t been more mainstay female characters on the show. Supernatural doesn’t have a single regular female character and I think that weakens the overall story.
Season 9 had good and bad on its handling of female characters. We had Charlie Bradbury return, but then she left for Oz, effectively removing her from the story (although I appreciate they didn’t kill her off). In the early part of the season, the angels Castiel interacts with are mostly male. There is Hael, who turns out to have hostile intent. Castiel meets an ally female-vesseled angel later but she gets killed off immediately. Season 9 hit a low with April the Reaper who seduces and then tortures and kills Castiel, more due to the unaddressed, unacknowledged consent issues than because a female character shouldn’t be a villain. But late in Season 9, we have the angel Hannah, who so far has survived. On the down side again, Season 9 brought back Tessa, among the show’s longest-running female characters, only to kill her off.
On the upside again, it turned out Linda Tran was alive, and as tough and appealing as ever. And we’ve had Jody Mills hunting with the brothers, being a badass. The outstanding “Alex Annie Alexis Anne” had two female characters as the main focus, Jody and Alex, gave them both pov, passed the Bechdel test, and was in fact about the relationship between them. Jody had character development, Alex was saved, and we had a sense of their stories continuing on after the episode, even though we don’t know when we’ll see them again, but they aren’t shelved characters. Abaddon also played a key role in Season 9, and was more than a match for Crowley and a formidable, interesting villain to watch. I felt she was killed off too quickly, however. We also had flashbacks to see Josie, the woman Abaddon eventually possessed, in action, a Woman of Letters holding her own in a very sexist time period. I’m not sure how I feel about her sacrificing herself for Henry’s sake, becoming Abaddon’s host willingly. Sacrifice is a major theme on the show, for both women and men, but with regular female characters so rare, I’m not completely comfortable with this plot point for Josie. However, there is a lot of room here for further flashback episodes about the Men of Letters and I’m hoping to see more of Josie as herself, Woman of Letters in training, and her partnership with Henry Winchester.
In some ways later SPN has had greater female presence and been better in its treatment, and in other ways, SPN hasn’t really changed in what’s troubling about how it handles female characters. in Season 9, as during the show’s whole run, female characters are both positive and harmful, heroes and villains. So on the whole, I think some of Season 9’s lows were balanced by the good, and female characters are interwoven as part of the story, but I would like to see them more frequently and play a larger role. Bring back Charlie, bring back Jody, bring back Linda, give us Josie flashbacks, have another recurring female-vessel angel like Anna Milton, only with a better outcome this time, and not as a love interest, but with an arc of her own that impacts the plot.
Question 4) What are your thoughts on the conflict between the Winchesters and the evolution (or lack thereof) of their relationship?
Dot: Supernatural has gone to the well of brother conflict for drama one too many times, although I think conflict has always been a component of the relationship, right from the very beginning. Sam and Dean are very different people, and a lot of what drew me to the brother relationship has been them figuring each other out, how to work together, how what worked when they were kids won’t work now, but also the love and history between them and why that’s important. Season 9 has dug into the underlying reasons for the conflicts between them farther than before, and they haven’t just come back together via a crisis and soldiered onward because there’s work to do, brushing things off with a “so are we okay” and beer drinking on the Impala (usually against a beautifully filmed sunset). Season 4 was an incredibly painful split between the brothers, but usually the problems and difficulties at the root don’t get thoroughly shaken out beyond moments of confession before they’re right back to doing the job.
There are decades of issues, familial roles, and how they view the world, themselves, and hunting itself differently. Sam has given Dean conflicting messages. He wants to be independent, he’s an adult and doesn’t just follow Dean without question, he’s not 12 any more, yet Sam trips over his insecurities and that contradicts his assertions of independence. We’ve seen him almost literally living and dying by Dean’s good opinion of him, and at the end of season 8 Sam confesses that he felt his greatest sin was how he let Dean down. This means that while Sam genuinely wants and needs to be his own person, in many ways he also can’t quite let go of certain things, in a different way, as much as Dean does. On Dean’s side, from the time he was four years old, he was told to look after his little brother, and John drilled into young Dean’s head that his mission in life, his one job, was to protect Sam. Dean put his own needs aside, again and again, and with all the trauma the Winchesters have been through wearing him down, Dean lost his sense of self outside of that mission. He has no idea who he is if he’s not Sam’s big brother/protector.
In Season 9 he had to make a terrible decision to save Sam’s life, something that took away Sam’s choice and agency. Dean’s need to protect and Sam’s need to make his own decisions directly clashed in a big way. While harsh words have been said, and it is painful to watch, I feel like this arc was absolutely necessary in getting the brothers to better ground with each other, and be more equal partners. Although long-standing familial roles don’t vanish, more awareness and insight on both brothers’ parts will only make their bond stronger, rather than weaken it, and this conflict isn’t destruction. It’s examining things that needed airing, at the root, and if they went on without addressing it, the rifts between them would only get worse. Sam and Dean are two distinct, strong-willed people, and Season 9 so far has delivered on Jeremy Carver’s promise to explore for all the major characters the question “who am I?”
So I’m hopeful this is headed to better understanding and less conflict, not more, for the brothers.
Angel: I’m on the side that views the conflict between the Winchesters as an incredible frustrating addition to the plot. I feel like we revisit the idea of them fighting practically every season and it never actually goes anywhere. The only difference is that this season their conflict has extended beyond just a couple of episodes and has taken up a large percentage of the season as a whole. I’m not sure that that difference actually means that it’s an improvement on the storytelling or not. To me it feels like they’re just stretching out the manufactured drama between the two original leads. I could be proven wrong and we could pop out the other side of this plot with an improved, stronger, more stable relationship between them, but right now I don’t feel like that’s what we’re going to get.
Emily: The boys have fought and bickered since the start of the show, and not just minor spats resolved within the span of an episode. I still truly hope that this season has been about ending the codependency and bringing the brothers to a healthier place. I think that the constant blatant parallels, like the Ghostfacers and the pishtaco, were intended to show us that the writers are doing something with this and we’re meant to trust them. I know a lot of viewers are having trouble putting that trust in them this season, and can completely empathize with that.
It’s also harder in part because of those constant parallels, because even the Monster of the Week episodes served to keep the spotlight on how strained their relationship is, and because at this point we’ve dragged the typical Winchester inability to communicate openly into wanting to smack them both upside the head and tell them not to stow their crap, but to put it out on the table and get the conversation over with already. Clearly they’re expecting each other to see their side without fully stating it.
Season nine took this struggle between the brothers, and created a rift between fans on it; we’re left inserting our own rationale for Dean and Sam, and that makes the fight more personal to us, leaving fans defending their favorites for them.
Question 5) How do you feel about Castiel’s relationship with Dean and Sam this season?
Angel: Castiel has been off on his own story for much of the season, which is disappointing to me because I love it when he interacts with the brothers. Thankfully the last episode brought him back into their plot and highlighted two of my favorite aspects about his relationship with them. We get to see Cas and Sam bonding over how much they care about Dean and we get to see Castiel once again giving up something enormous on behalf of “one man.” His relationship with each brother is different, but important in their own unique way.
I feel like Castiel and Sam don’t get much screen time together, but they definitely should. As I mentioned in my last review, this is probably because both Jared and Misha are massive pranksters so having them on set together would slow down production. It’s unfortunate, though, because Sam and Cas have so much in common. As mentioned, they both care for Dean greatly and I feel like their shared interest in his well being unites them. Beyond that, though, they are also both, well, quite nerdy. I can imagine them talking way into the night about lore and mythology and history while Dean begrudgingly cleans his weapons nearby.
As far Castiel’s relationship with Dean, he once again gave up something massive in order to save him. Though he was a very reluctant leader of the army of angels, it was still a huge advantage in his fight against Metatron. Still, he gave it up for “one man,” just like he turned his back on heaven to stop the apocalypse in season four, molotoved his brother in season five, and fought Naomi’s brainwashing in season eight. Each time the benefit was for humanity overall, but the catalyst for him was Dean Winchester. Castiel is in love with ‘humanity’ and it’s all thanks to Dean.
Emily: I wish we’d seen more of it. I love Castiel as a character in large part because of his interactions with Dean and Sam, and this season put him on a separate road. Like the fights between the brothers, this felt more and more a contrivance. It seemed a little clumsy; we were seeing the strings and reminded that these characters we’ve fallen in love with are pushed and pulled by writers, not driven by their own motivations. And so, as much as I looked forward to interactions between Sam and Castiel to make up for a past lack of it, I knew that they were doing it because of that. And when Castiel wasn’t on the screen, he often seemed to fall out of the minds of our heroes, which was frustrating.
What we did get, though, was lovely. I enjoyed Castiel building bridges with Sam over their past failures–Sam and Castiel do have a lot in common, to the point where they’re troped “Birds of a Feather” with each other. I’m glad that Castiel, who as of last season was voicing suicidal sentiments to Dean (“I’m afraid I might kill myself.”) was able to be there for Sam (who voiced his own in Sacrifice with “So?”) when he was risking his own life again out of guilt. I’m glad Castiel was able to be there for Dean, when he was tearing himself apart for his decisions (“I prefer trusting. Less dumb, less ass.”). Castiel, in Season 9, has been there for both brothers in a season when they’re emotionally separated from each other. He’s also, once again, proved that he is first and foremost not Heaven’s agent, but their friend. He sacrificed his own mission in order to protect the people he loves–that’s pretty ‘Winchester’ of him.
I just wish that the season didn’t rely on keeping Castiel separate entirely in order to drag on the fight between the Winchesters and leave them isolated.
Dot: It was disappointing when it became clear that Castiel was going to be separated from the Winchesters yet again. The Men of Letters HQ has been presented as a place where Sam and Dean grant shelter to others, as well as it being their new-found home, and I think it was significant that because of Gadreel, Dean had to tell Castiel to leave. Season 9 had major themes about separation and isolation (even among characters who were still physically together) along with identity. While Castiel’s story showed a struggle towards a new sense of identity, it’s also emerged as a search for home, and the importance of his relationship with Sam and Dean has been highlighted despite the separations. The bond between Dean and Cas endured despite the early season split-up. At mid-season, we had Road Trip, which showed Dean and Cas reach a moment of understanding, and the relationship advancing farther, where we saw how Dean and Cas have become steadying presences for each other, able to pull each other back from the brink in moments of anger or distress. Castiel’s wisdom helped save Sam, and we saw Castiel’s worry for Sam as well in this episode, followed by First Born which was the first Sam and Castiel-centric episode the show has done, although we’ve had some good Sam and Cas scenes, and the seeds of an interesting friendship.
We’ve since had more of Sam and Cas working together, and how they care about each other. We learn that Castiel talks about the Winchesters a lot to the other angels, which is consistent with what we’ve seen of his regard for them in the past, and other moments showing the link between the three even when one or even two out of three are not present. We also saw Castiel give up his angel army for Dean’s sake, and choosing his human family. Season 9 has shown Sam and Dean and Cas as a team/family unit, and I was glad to see Supernatural doing less compartmentalization.
As Dean downspirals, the significance of the trio’s bond grows. In past seasons we’ve had Dean and Cas teaming up to save Sam, we’ve had Dean and Sam witnessing Castiel’s late season 6 implosion and the brothers looking after Castiel, now we have Sam and Cas teaming up and sharing their worry for Dean. So while “The Profound Bond” between Dean and Cas remains a potent story, and Dean and Sam relationship despite their problems is the show’s anchorstone, it’s been good to see Sam and Cas emerging as well, and the furthering of these team/found family dynamics.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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