When someone asks about Supernatural, you usually get people who recommend only the first five seasons. It’s a little trickier with me. The Season 5 finale does have a clear off-ramp for anyone who wants to leave Supernatural behind. The sixth season arc isn’t completed in the finale, it leads directly into the Season 7 premiere, which IMMEDIATELY makes some huge mistakes that future seasons never fully recovered from. By the time Season 8 is done the most talented and important voices to the series (Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, Ben Edlund) have stepped away, and anything that came later was only ever going to be an approximation of what had come before.
There’s a perception among many past and current fans that the first five seasons of Supernatural tell the main story, and all the rest is just postscript. It’s unfortunate that Season 6 gets lumped in with them, because I think it’s incredible. Very underrated, and the best of the series, hands down.
At this point in the show, the Supernatural machine is well oiled. There’s no sign of creative fatigue. If anything, the show feels untethered. Season 4 and Season 5 got so dark and so apocalyptic, dealing with Lucifer, despair, and the exhaustion and spiritual emptiness of the characters. Though that’s often compelling stuff, an overwhelming gloom had taken over the show, and the presences of a few lighter episodes made the tone feel downright schizophrenic.
In Season 6, the stakes were a bit lower and there was more room for some really fun, case-of-the-weeks. We get episodes focused on beloved surrogate father Bobby Singer, vampires who dress up like Edward Cullen and feed on teenage girls, an evil Tinkerbell, and a full on Western. To say nothing of “The French Mistake.” The series could now be really dark, really fun, or really both, and it never felt out of place. I think the season has an incredibly high batting average, there’s about a dozen great episodes and a large handful of good ones.
And I love the overall story arc, even if it has detractors. Although you can’t disguise that Season 6 is about aftermath, it feels like a logical extension of everything that’s happened before. There’s a huge power vacuum following the foiled apocalypse, pre-destination is a thing of the past, and some major players are trying to take advantage of the chaos. There are a number of seemingly disconnected stories involving Heaven in turmoil, monsters behaving erratically, Purgatory, the mysterious revival of more than one Winchester, and the power of human souls.
For better or for worse, the full scope of the story isn’t revealed until very late in the season. Before it all comes together, heroes and villains alike are set up as huge players, then are ruthlessly taken off the board. One particular character seems like a villain, then is revealed as a red herring, then is revealed as the REAL villain only to become a red herring for real. There were a lot of people who criticized the season for being scattershot, but once the dots were connected, I personally thought it was really satisfying and cool. Especially on a second viewing.
Season 6 of Supernatural should, in my opinion, serve as a model for all TV shows like this. 22 episodes of an overall high quality, all of them distinct and yet serving a massive long term storyline, driven by strong characters. It should get more love than it does.
If I Had to Nitpick…: As the season begins, we find Sam and Castiel acting very strangely. Both characters, as it turns out, are harbouring some huge secrets, and their early scenes play on a different level entirely on a second viewing. But considering there was a lot of skepticism about the idea of a sixth season and Eric Kripke standing down as showrunner, it was easy to believe that the characters were being badly written.
And “Mannequin 3” is a legit contender for the weakest episode of the first six seasons. Luckily, “The French Mistake” aired the next week.