When Sera Gamble finally left Supernatural as showrunner, everyone rejoiced. Finally, everyone thought, the reign of (mostly) horrible story lines would be over. And, okay, they were – for the most part. Some story lines we’re stuck with because of the special kind of hell that was left over from season six and season seven. However, the guys promised us something during the summer between season seven and season eight – and they didn’t really deliver. In fact, there are certain staff writers who, when I see they’ve written an episode, I cringe and prepare myself for their lack of understanding of the world, the characters, and their audience.
Season eight was a promise, and it fell short.
Now, don’t let that dramatic sentence make you think I hated this season. I actually liked it quite a bit. So, sorry if that surprises you. But the fact is that the guys promised us that they’d try to fix the gender inequality that was so prevalent in the show since the beginning. Now, we all knew that was a big promise, and it was something that would take seasons to completely reverse, but we thought they could do it – that they would do it. Or at least I did, because I have faith in Ben Edlund, Jeremy Carver, and Robert Singer. It’s funny, though, that faith can be utterly destroyed by staff writers, allowed
to write some of the things they wrote by the people I love and respect. What I’m saying is that this might have been the worst season for the treatment of female characters – with the exception of Charlie Bradbury and I’ll get to her in a moment – that has ever gone to air. Which is saying a lot, considering Eric Kripke’s problem with vaginas.
First, though, let’s talk about faith as it pertains to the characters during the end of this past season. Given that we’re dealing with angels, demons, and fathers, faith has been really important to the base story of Supernatural since its inception. The constant search for a father figure, and the failures of those father figures, are important to all our boys – even the ones with wings. To me, faith is the most interesting part of Supernatural because of how true the show is with the idea of it. The Winchester’s faith in their father and Castiel’s faith in God have been put to the test over the last eight seasons and their relationships have been found wanting. That being said, I don’t think the test of Sam, Dean, and Castiel’s faith in each other was done well this season. In fact, it was haphazard and often painful to watch the writers stumble over it.
Again and again, Dean has no faith in either his brother or his best friend. And yes, that is very much in Dean’s self destructive nature, but it has almost felt like the writers are deconstructing Dean and leaving him broken on the sidelines. Which I, honestly, wouldn’t mind because I think it’s interesting as part of a character study, but they haven’t been doing it particularly well, with great care or concern, and it seems likes he’s in a totally different place by the beginning of every new episode. All in all, Dean’s story line and his relationships with with Sam and Castiel are jumpy and not well put together this season. Which hurts me, as an avid Dean Winchester fan, because Dean is a character with so much to offer, and the writers have consistently let him down. Castiel’s faith in Dean was, again and again, brought down. Dean’s relationship with Castiel was ever fluctuating throughout the season and not in a good way. So Castiel put his faith in Metatron, and was punished for it. I did think the turn of Metatron was great, though. Not as strong as Ruby’s turn, but still quite fantastic.
Now, let’s talk about the ladies. Female characters on Supernatural have never been treated particularly well. I mean, exhibit A is in “Pilot” when not one, but two, important female characters die brutally just to serve as the catalyst to the Winchester boys’ story. And it didn’t stop there. Female characters don’t get to live, have agency, and they usually serve as a catalyst for at least one of the boys. There are two female characters, specifically, that I want to mention who break at least one of those standards epically – though no single female character will probably ever break all three without a catch.
Let’s talk about Charlie Bradbury first. Felicia Day returned as one of my favorite minor characters, and both of her episodes in this season were utterly fantastic. Charlie is the beautiful and shinning example of the writers treating a female character with respect. But, to be quite fair, it’s really only one writer. Robbie Thompson has written all three episodes that Charlie has been featured in, and epically so. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it forever and always: Charlie and Dean are basically male and female versions of each other. So, if you’re ever wondering what a gender!swap version of Dean would be like…here’s your answer. Let’s tally everything up, shall we? Charlie gets to live. Charlie has her own agency, for the most part, she gets to make a lot of choices on her own – even if some of them are ultimately, “Hey, I kind of need help!” Charlie doesn’t actually serve as a catalyst for the boys’ overall story either. Well, it looks like she’s ticked off all three boxes. Except there’s an inherent Catch-22 in her existence. Yes, she has agency and she’s not killed or made to be a catalyst of Dean and Sam’s story line overall, but there’s only a single reason for any of that. Charlie’s a lesbian. The inherent gayness of her character means that she was never, not ever, going to be a romantic interest for any of the boys, specifically Dean since that’s the person with whom she has really bonded. Female characters on SPN are either open for sexual encounters with our boys and then generally killed, or they’re allowed to be exactly as they are. The writers are hiding their killing of anyone who could be sexual with our boys behind the guise of, “The boys can never be happy, so we have to kill off all the people who have the capacity to make them so.” Which is utter bullshit, and the writers know it.
The second female character I want to talk about is Meg Masters. Meg was the longest surviving character in SPN history up until her death this season. She’s had a few bodies, but she had been the same character – for the most part. Honestly, I really don’t like season one Meg because I really never understood her. Once she got her new body, though, I feel like the writers re-imagined who she was as a character, and I loved her after that. Meg is her own agent. She has agency – she had agency. And do you know what? Meg didn’t die for any of our boys. Not for Dean. Not for Castiel. And certainly not for Sam – the first one she got to meet. I love her flirtation with Castiel, because I like to imagine what their life was like while Castiel was in the asylum, taking on Hallucifer, not because I imagine some truly great romance. Plus, I’ve always been fond of a good angel/demon friendship (Good Omens, I’m looking at you). Meg was a character who was beaten, tortured, and basically left for dead by literally everyone in the entire cast who matters. The “good” guys, the “bad” guys, you name it and they’ve gotten their teeth into Meg Masters. Do you know why, other than Eric Kripke was a fan of torturing female characters? Because Meg was her own fucking person. Meg had agency to decide which battle she wanted to fight, and which side she wanted to fight for. And do you know what the Winchesters gave her in return? Nothing. Not a thought. They watched Crowley bury a knife in her, killing her dead, and they drove away. No one has mentioned her since. So, quite honestly, with how shitty the show treated a character as amazing as Meg I refuse to say she died fighting for the Winchester cause. Meg died for herself. The Winchesters – and thereby the writers – made damn sure we all knew it.
And please do not even get me started on the racist, sexist episode that was “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits.” I want, more than anything, for Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming to not be on staff anymore. Also, I feel like if this show weren’t on network television, the boys wouldn’t use the word “bitch” as much, because they’d be allowed to say literally anything else. So, it’s always fun to have to listen to Dean spit out the word bitch over and over, when I really don’t think his character is particularly sexist.
Overall, though, I really liked this season – as a larger part of the story of the Winchesters. I think the finale episode was pretty fucking awesome and I can’t wait to see what has happened to the angels now that they’ve all fallen. Are they dead, or are they just human? Is everything going to be like it was in “The End” and Castiel is going to be a drugged out human? Did Crowley actually find his humanity? Are they going to ever let a female demon find hers? (Abaddon, perhaps?) Is Chuck (God) ever going to show up (again)? We’ll just have to wait until next fall to find out.
I give this season of Supernatural seven falling angels.
– Emily Frances Maesar