The emotional content of this season is extremely well acted and powerful as well as being a higher scale than last season, It’s interesting to see all of these emotional dramas managed as the Winchesters suffer more and more losses and shocks to their confidence and sense of self – they do build up as you’d expect and is reasonable. And they’re treated respectfully, the brothers never start wailing, but there are plenty of strong scenes that really carry the weight of the pressure and pain they’re having to endure. In this season we not only have the fallout of their father’s death, but the pressure of Dean’s deal with the demon to bring Sam back to life. The nuances in this are really well done – from Dean embracing hedonism (well, more than usual) as a denial, to his poorly hidden and suppressed fear. We also have Dean’s fear that if they try to break the deal it will end up reversed and Sam will die again which causes him to battle against Sam. We have some excellent portrayal of Dean’s extremely low self-worth, how he has been moulded always to follow his dad’s orders or to protect his brother – they were the valuable ones and, from his low self-esteem, he exists only to serve and protect (and sacrifice for) the others.
Then there’s Sam’s guilt, his need to indulge Dean in his hedonism and then his anger that Dean made the deal and saddled him with that guilt as well as his frustration at Dean’s unwillingness to stop the deal. There’s his fear of having to stand alone when Dean is gone and whether he is as hard and ruthless as Dean is. And, of course, there’s his ongoing fear of what being one of Azazel’s Special Children means, especially with Ruby pushing him to explore his power’s more.
That’s a lot of emotional content. Most programmes covering this much heavy grief and worry would have episode after episode of angst and moping – lots of moping. Again, Supernatural resists the urge to give us scene after scene of woe is me while, at the same time, giving us the full emotional impact of what the Winchesters are enduring. And these scenes are important, considering the pressures on them there should be an emotional cost, they shouldn’t be the big bad heroes who don’t worry or get scared or grieve and they should have strain on their relationship. In fact, the strains on their relationship are then used perfectly to show just how strong that is
Most of the episodes worked really well for me in terms of enjoyment, even that dire Christmas episode with the Pagan gods. I think the groundhog day episode managed to redeem itself – and I am so very tired of this gimmick – by having the Trickster teach Sam a lesson – what he will become without Dean, what he is trying to become and what that will cost. The Ghostfacers, silly amateur hunters, just get on my nerves though.
The ongoing meta plot is epic and engaging – with the dual threads of trying to save Dean from Hell at the end of the year after he made a deal with a demon to bring Sam back from the dead and the plot of the threat of Lillith, the new big bad demon who has stepped into Azazel’s shoes as the demonic leader. Sam is also a leading contender for that title – which puts him on Lillith’s hit list.
Lillith is built up as a terrifying enemy. And yes, the whole spooky child thing has been done – it doesn’t change the fact that the spooky child is still so extremely terrifying at times. She is a threat whose menace is both maintained and slowly built throughout the series – even without the Winchesters focused on her, she’s always there in the background and with Ruby constantly rising up to push them towards the goal.