Supernatural Season 11 Finale Roundtable
Another season of Supernatural has concluded and The Geekiary has rounded up a panel of fans to talk about the finale and season as a whole.
Tami: Reviews for the Geekiary are my only current project, although I’m working on several fanfic in various stages of planning/completion. I’m primarily a Cas girl since he walked into the Barn in 4.01, but was a Dean girl from the Pilot till then. Destiel shipper since the aftermath of season 6.
Lyda: I’ve contributed reviews of Supernatural to Blogcritics since season nine. I love each member of Team Free Will; I started out as a Dean girl and am especially fond of Cas. A forever-and-always appreciator of the DeanCas Profound Bond. Also a fan of Wayward Daughters and V-Club.
Jessica: Jessica writes for The Geekiary.
Emily: Geekiary writer-at-large, moderator for SPN Antibullying, and a general Destiel-spreading menace. I’m a Team Free Will fan who was hooked by a message of found family, and stayed for the cast and characters.
Renne: Personal projects include co-author of multichapter fanfic Supernatural: Next Generation (pre-s10; no longer canon compliant); local fangroup founder-organizer Seattle Supernatural with twice monthly meetups and annual campout Camp Chitaqua; and more recently founder-chair of Ladies of SPN Convention. Sam girl since September 13, 2005. Unapologetic nah-shipper. V-Club fangirl.
What are your thoughts on the cliffhanger? Does it stand up to past seasons?
Renne: Oh my goodness, those last few minutes. I’m still reeling in shock. Was it just a warning shot? Where did Rowena and Crowley go? Does this mean Dean is getting on a plane to the UK to find Sam? IS MARY GOING TO LEAD THE FAMILY BUSINESS?!
While the action of the episode felt lacking, it wasn’t in a bad way. I was a little relieved, actually. It held a different sort of resonance with me, akin to season eight with Sam and Dean going back on the plan with the demon tablet and the angels falling.
Tami: If she really shot Sam and there’s evidence of it in the Bunker, the pure fury he feels should be enough to get Dean though his plane ride to the UK. I’m mostly curious to see how Mary reacts to everything. The current situation is pretty much her worst nightmare when she was young: her family is dead, she’s just skipped 33 years, and her children grew up to be hunters and hang out with all manner of supernatural beings. Hopefully, she takes it well. I’m also really wanting to see what happens when she meets Cas. I’m crossing my fingers for a Charlie-like reaction on that score.
The finale felt kind of like a slow slide to a stop. You can tell that they’re attempting to change gears, which is a good thing. After all, how do you go bigger than the sister of God? It’s not possible. You can only blow more air into a balloon for so long before you either have to let it deflate a bit or explode. So just letting it wind down and turning to follow a much more human path next season feels right. In Supernatural, the humans are as dangerous as the monsters, so I look forward to a villain that hits a little closer to home.
Renne: Gods, I hope so. I’m just glad that we got a redemption ending rather than a kill everything ending for a change. That’s pretty much the one thing I’d been ranting about quietly with anyone who would hold still long enough to listen.
Jessica: I liked it better than some of the previous seasons. Obviously Sam isn’t dead. At the most injured. Castiel will make his way back, he always does. Ultimately the first episode or so will be spent with Team Free Will trying to find each other. What I’m most intrigued about is Amara bringing Mary back for Dean. Is she back as human again? I kind of hope so. I’d love to see hunter Mary in action again. I’d love to hear her thoughts on how John raised Sam and Dean. The interaction between Dean and Mary alone could be gold.
Lyda: I appreciate it more after rewatching. Like others have already said, there’s a distinct shift in tone and storytelling style, and I’m curious to see how S12 develops from here. I did not want a finale that ended in sacrifice, so I’m very glad that all of TFW lived, though they don’t all know that. (Castiel appears weakened in x23, so perhaps that’s why he doesn’t know that Dean’s alive? And I firmly believe that even if Toni did shoot Sam, it’ll be a flesh wound. After all, the “old men” want him brought in.) I’m intrigued by the possibilities, particularly if Dabb & Co decide to shake up what’s become the rather formulaic season structure.
Emily: I look forward to seeing how things play out with Mary, and I’m always happy to see a fridged woman defrosted, but I felt that the Toni aspects of the show felt a bit shoehorned in. The cuts to her didn’t feel natural at all, and it really felt like the ‘cliffhanger’ was telegraphed by the show by the sudden inclusion of this new character in the finale. While I appreciate that they were attempting to wrap the Amara story up and shift to a less over-the-top conflict in the coming year, it didn’t give me any real sense of suspense for the next season.
How do you feel this season held up in regards to the representation of women?
Renne: Better than expected, but still needing a bit more improvement. We definitely got more assertive women who can take care of themselves, but we also dealt with some sketchy issues involving sexual expression and positions of power in relationships to the overarching story and other male characters.
Tami: Fairly well, I feel. We managed to keep a lot of strong female characters by the end of the finale, much to my surprise, and many of them played vital roles in winning the various battles over the season. I do wish Amara in particular had been written better in the episodes leading up to the finale, though. She was good in that, but was kind of flat and one-dimensional up until that point. They made some unfortunate character choices with her.
Jessica: Definitely better than last season. They brought Rowena back and didn’t kill off a ton of women for the man pain or just senselessly. Even Amara made it through. None of this takes back what was done to Charlie though.
Emily: While Supernatural certainly learned a lesson post-Charlie about not arbitrarily killing off their women and claiming the story took them there, I still don’t exactly see many relatable women within the story stepping up to take her place. Claire, Alex, and Jody have been neatly packed away into Sioux Falls, and while I truly hope to see them again and often, the rare ‘this is the ladies’ episode’ within Supernatural does little to actually integrate the remaining badass women into the overall story. Rowena, for as amazing as Ruth is, isn’t really someone I find myself able to cheer for (the manipulative witch mother isn’t exactly relatable, particularly when they often use the character to hand off the idiot ball to our protagonists), and Amara was… problematic, given her paper-thin motivation and sexualization even when depicted as a minor. I can see where they’ve tried to improve, but there’s a lot of ground to make up.
Renne: Admittedly, it felt to me like the only reason Rowena came back was because they saw fandom’s reaction. The whole “witch death fail-safe” thing was incredibly slapdash.
Lyda: I agree that there’s been an effort to improve on this front, and I’m glad to see so many female characters have lived (and/or been resurrected). I was not happy with Rowena’s apparent death mid-season, so her return was a very welcome plot twist. The sexualization of Amara, particularly when she was depicted as a teenager, was distasteful, and I spent much of the season uncomfortable by the undertones some episodes gave to the Darkness’s “bond” with Dean. I‘m so glad that x23 focuses on Amara’s motivations and finally gives the character some much-needed depth. If the finale is indicative of what’s to come, then I’m hopeful that we’ll see more good things from Rowena, Billie, and other characters.
How do you feel about other forms of representation this season?
Renne: Again, much better than previously. Am I the only one who sighed in relief when Jesse and Cèsar were allowed a resolution as well as the chance to ride off into the sunset?
Tami: Not at all. Everything they did with Jesse and Cèsar was inspired. Frankly, I think they did amazing this season with LGBTQ+ characters. They made sure to include a number of diverse characters in many episodes, and I loved that none of them felt like that was the specific reason they were there. They were a logical part of the story, and their sexuality just happened to be a part of the story. They weren’t the token inclusion to try to calm us all down and make up for Charlie, they were just the characters of each episode, just like every other character. From Jenna to the couple in “Safe House” to Jesse and Cèsar… they were all amazing.
I was fairly impressed by their attempts to diversify their casting choices as well. I love that the big impressive new Reaper is a WOC with charisma. They made sure to diversify the angels this year, and the ones scripted to act and draw attention to themselves varied wildly in appearance, despite the angelic tendency to dress like they have an office dress code. Even the showcased demons this year included a varied assortment of POC. Hopefully, they keep up the attempts to be more inclusive next season. The UK MOL hopefully aren’t all stuffy old JRR Tolkien types, right?
Jessica: It was a lot better this season. The Powers That Be should really pay attention. Jesse and Cèsar were very well received. Supernatural actually did better with not killing off women and lesbians compared to much of TV this year. Considering the show’s history, it’s kind of surprising, but very welcome.
Lyda: After “The Chitters” revealed that Jesse and Cèsar were married, I spent the rest of the episode anxious that one might die. That both survive — and leave the episode with the expressed goal of pursuing a happy post-hunting retirement — still makes me so happy. (I absolutely sighed in relief too, Renne!) I agree with Tami that there seems to be a clear attempt to diversify in S11, especially when we look at earlier seasons for comparison. I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to see progress.
Emily: I love Billie, and have from her first appearance: she’s an exciting new addition to the cast, and I look forward to seeing more of her (even if it likely won’t end well for our boys). I agree about Jesse and Cèsar, and I love that they were allowed a hopeful ending. And it’s obvious they were making some attempts at inclusion, at least in generally background or one-episode roles. I may still be angry about Charlie, though–because I’m still not leaving those episodes fully satisfied. The lesbian couple in Safe House was a clear positive nod, but does that balance out slaughtering Jenna in the very episode they revealed her as queer in? And does Crowley really count as positive representation, when their way of revealing it (taking it out of just subtext, at least) was a non-consensual murder orgy while cracking menopause jokes about his female meatsuit? Like with women in the show, I can recognize that they’re working on the problem, but still cringe sometimes at how individual writers execute those attempts.
Who was your favorite guest star or character this season?
Renne: Toss-up between Reaper Billie and Eileen Leahy. I’ve seen Shoshanna in other works so I was beyond thrilled to see her show up as a badass hunter who could handle herself. Lisa Berry is also incredible, not only as an actor but as a person to aspire for. I started tracking her Twitter after her first episode aired and everything she posts is wonderful.
Emily: While I love Chuck and Lucifer, their returns were unfortunately bogged down by a weak season arc. Honestly, I think this may be the season where the other guest stars stole the show. Bobby and Rufus in “Safe House” were a delight to see again, and Robbie Thompson made it fit beautifully into the current arc, without resorting to giving the revolving door of death another spin. Eileen was a wonderful new addition to the show, and I hope we see her again soon. Billie was captivating from her very first appearance, hauntingly introduced with ‘O’ Death’ reminiscent of Death’s own first appearance. Claire, Alex and Jody were badass and endearing in equal parts in “Don’t You Forget About Me”, and Donna is always a delight. While I have major issues with the entire Amara arc, the episodes where we were allowed to focus on the extended cast were a welcome distraction from that, and these episodes held the season together in my opinion.
Tami: I have to choose? But there were so many! Billie the Reaper and Eileen are certainly high on my list, but so are Jesse and Cèsar, Mildred Baker and Delphine Seydoux. And that’s not even including the returning guest stars, like Jody, Donna, Claire, Alex, Bobby and Rufus. The season was full of delightful characters, people who made positive impacts on their episodes and that I’d be pleased to see again. So this year, I really can’t choose a favorite. I simply can’t narrow it down.
Jessica: I would say Eileen Leahy. I love that there is a deaf hunter. (Thank you, Robbie Thompson!) I certainly hope we see more of her. I especially loved her interactions with Sam. Not gonna lie, I kind of ship it.
Lyda: There were so many great guest stars/characters this season! I’m always happy to see Jody and Donna return, and it was a treat to see Alex and Claire as well. Bobby and Rufus were a happy surprise. Eileen and Mildred were a fun duo, and like Jessica, I totally saw a spark between Sam and Eileen. Lisa Berry’s Billie steals the scene whenever she appears, and Jesse and Cèsar were a welcome addition to the hunting world. If Rowena still counts as a guest and not a regular, then she’s one of my favorites too. Sully and Sparkles were memorable, and of course, Chuck’s return was happy-making. The scene of Chuck singing “Fare Thee Well” as Metatron reads his manuscript remains a haunting one. Robbie handled Metatron’s return in that ep so well; it’s a shame the character’s end wound up rather anti-climactic. If Misha’s take on Lucifer counts as a guest character, then I’ll add that he was also a favorite because of Misha’s portrayal. His transitions between Lucifer and Castiel in “Hell’s Angel” still give me chills.
Which of the main characters do you think had the strongest story arc this season? Which character do you feel should have had a stronger arc?
Tami: They all had fairly strong story arcs this year, but the one with the strongest one had to be Dean, primarily because it directly involved the main antagonist. Since she was so important, we ended up naturally spending more time on Dean’s development than the others. Sam and Cas were fairly equal, likely because the driving force for Sam’s story arc ended up becoming the same person running Castiel’s arc. If I’d suggest any improvement, it’d have been that the guys notice and address Cas’s possession earlier than they did. More about Sam’s feelings after he found out Lucifer had a direct line into his head would also have been welcome.
Renne: I definitely felt like Sam’s arcs kept getting shafted. And I was expecting a lot more from the whole Rabids mini-arc, but then it did have a lot of similarities to the Croatoan so maybe we dodged a recycled plotline bullet there.
Jessica: I agree with Tami. Dean probably had the strongest arc, but none of the characters stories were all that amazing this season. To see Dean be more open about his feelings and more truthful was good to see. However, it breaks my heart to see him throw his life away still. Every time it looks like he might have some self-worth, it gets thrown away. I know this show thrives on codependency, but I’d love Dean to find some value in himself.
Sam needed a stronger arc. He reacted to things most of the season. Which is some ways is nice, because we get to see more about how he feels. But there was so much more that could have been explored with him. Especially having to face and even assist Lucifer who abused him in the cage.
Castiel wasn’t really around too much this season, was he? We saw him depressed and not feeling valued at all. Then he gives himself to the devil. There was a little bit of resolution between himself and Dean, but I feel like there’s more to be done to let Castiel know that he is truly valued.
Lyda: Oh, this is a hard question for me. Despite the season’s strengths, I still see the overall arc still as uneven. So while Dean, Sam, and Castiel all contribute to the arc in significant ways and have scenes and moments that showcase those contributions, the unevenness has an impact. For example, we saw Castiel sequestered in his mind, a victim of Lucifer’s emotional machinations, yet that’s not really revisited again. Assuming S12 picks up immediately where S11 leaves off, perhaps we’ll see resolution on that point, among others.
I liked seeing more of Dean’s vulnerabilities and witnessing his character growth. In the finale, he admits to liking “chick flicks” and he validates Castiel’s decision to say yes to Lucifer, even though we know that an episode or so ago, he was still struggling with accepting that decision. I really enjoyed seeing how Sam handled himself in “Red Meat,” an episode that makes it glaringly obvious that he and Dean have/had different perceptions of their world. (I still take issue with Dean not being able to “tell” that Sam is, in fact, not dead, but that’s another point for another day.) Both Dean and Sam exhibit personal growth, particularly in the area of respecting others’ personal choices, by season end, and I can only hope we’ll see more of that. Castiel’s arc centers on his place in the world, and while it’s made clear in x23 that he’s a Winchester and belongs with the brothers, his emotional turmoil isn’t resolved — so he feels acceptance, but did he grow in his understanding of his self? For all three, I feel like season 11 opens a lot of avenues for character development, but we haven’t seen the full resolution yet.
I nearly forgot to mention Crowley, who’s often featured as the fourth in show promotional materials – and I think that says a lot about his arc this season. We see him fail in his attempted manipulation of Amara (and please, Show, never revisit “uncle Crowley” and his creepy van again, okay?), lose Hell to Lucifer, and in the finale, he mostly contributes snark. Even after re-considering, I’m not sure how to define Crowley’s arc.
Emily: I don’t think anyone really had a good arc this year, unfortunately. At least, very little with a satisfying resolution to it. While one could argue that Dean had the strongest arc this year, unfortunately his own motivations really took a back seat when he was practically puppeted by Amara’s own ambitions, literally losing his own will in her presence in a very disturbing way. After asking for a storyline for Dean to carry for years, this storyline used Dean until the very end with the discussion with Amara (which because of the narrative structure of the finale, you could argue that win is as much due to the Mary Poppins-esque ‘feed the birds, tuppence a bag’ moment). It was far more the story controlling him than him guiding the story.
There was opportunity for at least satisfying character development, if not a mytharc, for Sam: however, after establishing that Sam was still rightfully traumatized by what Lucifer did to him in Hell, they ignored that entirely once he was on the board again, and with it seemed to ignore Sam’s characterization in favor of propelling the story regardless of his own history. It had the unfortunate side-effect of telling a story about God and Lucifer that actually completely overlooked what their conflict has done to the main characters of the show. Sam had a few shining moments in individual episodes, but overall, I don’t feel the story this season did him any favors either.
Meanwhile, Castiel went from being Rowena’s attack dog, to being understandably sidelined by PTSD and debilitating lack of self-worth, to essentially committing suicide by giving himself over to Lucifer, to being completely overlooked in the finale by the writers, when in the same room as God. I recognize that Misha was on our screen and was doing exceptionally well with what he was given for Lucifer… but I’m a Cas fan, not just a minion, and so for me the Lucifer plot lost its novelty long before it was done.
Crowley, as Lyda said, had a rough go of it in the story this season to, and not really in a way that was compelling for the character. Unfortunately, Supernatural has a tendency to fall into villain decay: the more they show a villain, the less competent or compelling they are written.
What’s been your favorite fandom activity this season? What activities have you personally participated in?
Jessica: I think what meant the most to me this season is YANA and Jared’s newest AKF campaigns. Both charities have meant so much to me personally in the last so many months. The importance of a network of support and to love yourself first. On paper, the latter sounds selfish, but it’s not. To truly be able to help others, we have to be kind to ourselves first and practice self care. The happiness that we’re able to create from within can then be spread to those around us. The love and care that the cast have for the fans is inspiring and amazing.
Lyda: I have a special appreciation for Random Acts and the united front that brought about YANA. It’s lovely to see the AKF, RA, and other campaigns combine forces. The Wayward Daughters campaign is also near and dear; I love the energy that Kim, Brianna, and everyone else gives to WD, whether the goal is a petition for a spin-off or a t-shirt charity campaign.
Renne: Pretty much this entire year was spent planning and executing Ladies of SPN Con for me personally. I got really excited about Jim Beaver’s shirt campaign and jumped right on it the moment it was announced. Occasionally helping Jodi Zulueta with her webseries “So Get This.”
Honestly, it feels like all the projects not fronted by J2M2R2 don’t have nearly the same amount of love given to them. I have so much appreciation for fan projects these days – SPN Survivors; Carry On SPN; Attitudes in Reverse; the charity focus in SewGeekAustin, Heavenly Wrapped, and Eldwenne’s Fantasy; Natalie and Ryan’s shortfilm Homeowners; the work that the Internity folks were doing – if I had one wish from fandom, it would be to spread the word and love more evenly across the many projects that the SPNFamily has to offer.
Emily: Thanks to Angel, I’ve fallen fairly deeply into GISHWHES as a year-round community, with my awesome teammates (Team Subtext!). Outside of that, the You Are Not Alone campaign resonated with me deeply: I love the idea of the SPN Family Crisis Support Network, as something that I think is truly needed in this community. Through SPN Antibullying, I came to know a lot of people who unfortunately have had a rough time of it both in the fandom and in their home lives, and it’s my hope that the network will be an excellent resource for them and an ear when they’re in need. On a lighter note, as a massive fan of Kim, Briana, and Kathryn, I’m very fond of Wayward Daughters, and looking forward to their next campaign in a few days!
What are you going to be doing to get yourself through the hiatus?
Renne: This might be the first time since I started watching the show that I might just take a break from anything too big. Aside of Camp Chitaqua, anyway. Ladies of SPN Convention sucked a lot of energy out of me and I’m still trying to recover from the redline. I just finished putting up a bunch of merch in the redbubble store I use on occasion, but I hate how small their profit margin is.
Tami: I’ll be writing. I’ve got a bunch of fanfics and some original writing I’ve had on the back-burners for a while, and hiatus is the perfect time to kick it into gear. I’ve also got a fanfic reading list all ready to go, for rest breaks. And then there’s also GISHWHES.
Jessica: Read fanfiction, like I do every day! And of course, GISHWHES. I also have about eleven hundred shows on my DVR to catch up on. I’ll be plenty busy!
Lyda: Thank Chuck for Ao3!
Emily: GISHWHES! While it technically only takes up a short period of time in the hiatus, the community aspect and preparations are already ramping up!
What do you need wrapped up in the first 10 minutes of the season 12 premiere?
Tami: Only that Sam is fine, just captive, and for Cas to meet up with *someone* to go rescue him. I’d prefer him to run into Dean and Mary, but as long as they talk on the phone so that Dean finds out what happened in the Bunker and they meet in person during the first few episodes, I’m good with him running into someone else instead or it taking longer than 10 minutes in. Other than that, I’m up for anything next season.
Jessica: I want to see the interaction with Dean and Mary first. I’m impatient! I can’t wait to see that pan out. But I’ll be so upset if she turns out to be fake or super judgemental toward Dean.
Lyda: I want confirmation that Sam and Castiel are okay, and I want them both to learn that Dean’s alive. I’d also like to know if Mary’s back as a human and if her memories are intact. I doubt I’ll get all of that in the first ten, though!
Emily: Like Lyda, I have a lot more that I need to see than they can cover before the title screen! If I have to pick just that first scene, though, I’m hoping they open with Dean and Mary: I’m counting on the show to remember that, while John may have raised them, it was Mary–not her husband–who was raised in that life to begin with.
Renne: I just don’t want them to ”jump forward” a la Dean Back From Hell. I want to see the new storylines unfold slowly. Hell, maybe even a multi-season myth arc, like back in the old days. I’ve learned to be careful with my expectations for season openers since Kripke left.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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