Feb. 4th, 2012

ailiet: (union station)
One of the things I miss about seasons 4 and 5 of Supernatural is the structure of Sam and Dean’s involvement in the Apocalypse. They were dealing with incredibly powerful beings but, due to the rules those beings played by, the Winchesters were able to meet them on relatively equal footing. Their power came from their humanity, their free will, and their sheer Sam-and-Dean-ness. It made sense that they were at the centre of everything, because everything in their universe had been planned to orbit around them. I never found myself wondering why War was in the mid-west, because where else would he be, but within driving distance?

Seasons 6 and 7 have lacked this narrative trick. There’s nothing connecting Sam and Dean to the actions of the Leviathan or to the civil war in Heaven, beyond their own private interest. When Dean told Cas that they could have helped him fight Raphael I couldn’t help but wonder how. In this case, Cas was right when he told Dean that he was just a man. Dean’s humanity is his source of power and it’s let him triumph over some incredible obstacles on Earth. However, Heaven is a different setting entirely, and neither he nor Sam have any real power there. Their souls merely turn them into objects of power that others can wield with permission.

The vessel story-line gave Sam and Dean a direct connection to the Apocalypse, the angels’ need for their consent gave them a measure of power, and the heavenly imitation of the Winchester family dynamic (absent father, devoted older brother, rebellious younger) gave them a personal connection to the narrative and turned their own story into something universal. It was a clever, practical way to make the central characters of the show also the centre of the show’s wider universe. Of course, the problem with this is, how do you go back from it? The writers have brought in lesser gods and leviathans, but they haven’t brought in anything that mimics the effect of the vessel plot. There’s no clear, useful connection between the Winchesters and the enormous forces they’re fighting against (at least, not yet), and no real effort has been made to bring those creatures down to Sam and Dean’s level- or to raise Sam and Dean up to theirs.

Or, in other words:
-The first three seasons focused on smaller, Monster-of-the-Week stories, with a seasonal plot-arc centred around the decisions made by the Winchester family and their repercussions.
-Seasons 4 and 5 took the same basic plot (Things Winchesters Do) and applied it on a universal scale.
-In the last two seasons the writers have tried to retain the grand scale of the apocalypse story, but they’ve gotten rid of the machinery that allowed that story to be told. In attempting to have the best of both worlds they’ve ended up with something worse.

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