I'm glad to be seeing Show discussion at all (even though I can't seem to find time to read any of it *fail*) considering that I've felt like a lot of LJ has closed down and/or people (like me) have stopped commenting/posting because of general Show malaise and not wanting to stomp all over everybody else's parade. So I’m going to add my 2 cents, which may be totally out of step with the general consensus (or not) and is probably after the fact (but I wouldn’t know bec. I’ve been sadly missing out on my frolic-on-the-internet time … somebody give me a respite grant!) Here are some probably highly unorganized thoughts about this season:
With Sam in the know it seems like this season has finally started, or at least it feels like the story is finally moving forward instead of circling around itself in a wait-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop holding pattern. Thankfully now Sam is actually a contributing part of The Plot instead of just being a vehicle for The Plot. Having Sam in the dark about Gadreel made for good tension, but that necessitated half of the emotional story (Sam's half) was in stasis for almost half of the season. In many ways this wasn't completely dissimilar to Robo!Sam in S6 except, unlike Robo!Sam, Sam wasn't privy to his possession (The Plot), so he couldn't effectively react to the story the rest of the characters were a part of. Therefore, Sam wasn’t an active participant in his own emotional story and couldn’t affect outcomes based on his own informed decision and actions. This resulted in the bizarre feeling that Sam has just now joined the show mid-season (like “OMG, welcome back Sam!!!! I’ve MISSED YOU!”) even though he's physically been around and has been arguably the most important player (or of equal importance as Dean) being Gadreel’s vessel. I felt there was a definite expiration date on how long Dean's deception and Sam's basic cluelessness could continue until it became untenable and ridiculous. I feel like we were reaching that point, so I’m relieved to have that plot point be put to rest and excited to see the fall out of all these messy emotions and questions decisions. Show let’s cover some serious ground and move things forward! :)
Crowley galloping around freely adds to the newly found momentum, too. But it's too bad that moving things forward was at Kevin's expense. I liked his character and felt he could’ve been used better as a foil for the Winchesters with his history of tragic sacrifices and heroic choices. I thought Kevin could've deepened Sam and Dean's emotional story, but being a prophet had him painted into a corner where he was too important to just "let go" into the SPN world to live a normal life, but his presence was creating issues with all those tablets lying around. In many ways, Kevin’s role in the story was very similar to Castiel’s: both fulfilled very specific, individual roles no other character could substitute for, had powers that provided the Winchester’s strategic advantages, and both verged on becoming convenient solutions but in doing so required (sometimes convoluted) explanations as to why Sam and Dean didn’t just them in to magically fix everything, and/or strange absences and/or difficulties to stall the plot. But unlike Cas, who could just fly off and do whatever the writers needed him to do off-screen, Kevin was stuck in Sam and Dean’s back pockets, and tablet deciphering can only be stalled so long before it became poke-yourself-in-the-eye-with-a-spork boring. With Kevin’s death and the tablet(s?) back in Metatron’s hands, it seems like Carver and Co. may be ready to put all or most of the tablet plot to rest and instead redirect the story to the battles between would-be Hell and Heaven rulers with TFW sandwiched in between. Which brings me to my next point….
I find the fight over Heaven and fight over Hell fascinating. Not necessarily the individual demons or angels (although I enjoy Abaddon), but the fact that the battles have the potential to provide Sam and Dean storylines that could play out more independently. I wouldn’t mind Sam and Dean separated for a time as long as we got to actually see what both of them were up to instead of a time jump or a string of single POV episodes and then sparse back flashes of what the other brother was doing. I think it would provide for some much needed breathing room (hello, it’s been 9 seasons!), give each of them (*hehem* Sam) a chance to interact with other characters and for the audience to actually see it, and therefore delved into each of their characters in ways that we haven’t seen before. It would also be an economic and interesting way—at least for SPN, which has failed at separating Sam and Dean on-screen for more than an episode or so—to efficiently and simultaneously burn through two major mytharcs (the Hell plot an the Heaven plot) and inject some forward momentum to the season.
Speaking of the Hell and Heaven mytharcs, at the opening of 9x11 I was surprised that the writers had Dean pursing Abaddon and Sam (and Cas) searching for Gadreel because it would make sense solely from a character-motivation perspective that their roles would be reversed. Of course, by the end of 9x11 it became apparent why the writers had Dean running after Abaddon; the Mark of Cain will catapult Dean into a Dean-centric mytharc that will have ramifications that will be a huge driving force next season. But to me it would’ve made more sense that Dean would be primarily consumed with pursuing Gadreel and, by default, Metatron (the Heaven plot). Dean’s issues with Gadreel hit visceral and emotionally powerful places in Dean’s psyche and countered Dean's prime directive since day 1, save Sam at any cost. And I feel that Abaddon—although she did kill Grandpa Henry and resulted in John growing up fatherless and feeling abandoned—is more of a target due to Dean’s dogmatic belief that demons are evil and all evil things must be destroyed. We’ve seen both Sam and Dean invested in fights that have become deeply personal, but Gadreel’s betrayal goes deeper than that; like Ruby, Gadreel’s motives paired with one of the brother’s repeated choices have driven a wedge between Sam and Dean. In many ways, Gadreel has become to Dean what Ruby was to Sam.
Similarly, solely from a character-motivation perspective it would make more sense to have Sam helming in the Hell mytharc being that he feels guilty and takes personal responsibility for not closing the Gates of Hell in 8x23. For Sam, finishing the job he started and, in his mind, a job he feels he failed, would be of utmost importance, I think more so than getting revenge on an angel that possessed him. Sam’s perceived sense of failure seems to be a rapidly growing driving force for him since last season, one that feels like it has picked up momentum and superseded his need for revenge/justice (S1-S3), power (S4/S5), and a light at the end of everything (mid-S8). This isn’t to say that Sam isn’t pissed that he was used and deceive again, but it’s my sense that the angel possession story from Sam’s POV should have more personal ramifications between Sam and Dean than anything else, and Sam’s beef rests more with Dean and his repeated choice to keep Sam from the truth than with Gadreel. Because supernatural beings on Show do not act in accordance with Winchester law and are not to be trusted (even Cas), so an angel betraying anyone’s trust is totally unsurprising, almost expected (who’s the sucker, Dean?). And, therefore, I think in Sam’s eyes, Dean bears the greater share of culpability, making it logical that Sam would have a greater personal investment in buttoning up Hell than solely sticking it to Gadreel.
Anyway, that’s it for now. SPN still manages to hold my attention even if sometimes I end up groaning into a throw pillow and/or making faces at the TV. There’s potential, but it’s yet to be seen if Carver and Co. are doing to actually be able to create a smooth, logical, and satisfying path between the plot points they’ve laid out or careen around corners and jerk us back and forth over a train wreck of a story. It’s all in the execution. *crosses fingers*