Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

SPN S6: Did Gamble Get a Bad Rap?

Dean thinks he's in heaven

Of the nine and half seasons of Supernatural that have aired, I think that fans tend to disagree most on Season 6. Naturally, there were bumps in the road. It was the first season without Eric Kripke at the helm. Kripke had an over-arching plan for the first five seasons, and showrunner Sera Gamble went into Season 6 without that guidance. Fans gave her little leeway, certainly not the kind of wiggle room that Jeremy Carver got despite a much weaker beginning to Season 8. It was pretty obvious that the vitriol hurled at Gamble was not only out of line with the work she was doing but misogynistic and irrational.

I’d argue that while Season 6 has its weak points, it is overall a solid season. So what was it that fans hated so vehemently in S6? Some fans disliked Soulless!Sam as he’s come to be called. I think that what was upsetting about S!S was that he dashed expectations of the brothers finally coming together and rebuilding the kind of bond that existed in S1-3. That was legitimate disappointment. We’ve seen brief glimpses of that bond since but we’re still waiting for that bond to truly be reforged, and it has become a long-running frustration for many fans.

bloody sam

It was clear from the first episode of S6 that something wasn’t right with Sam, but fans and Dean didn’t know what. It made us uncomfortable that Sam wasn’t behaving with his usual empathy. He was cool toward Dean in a way that made no sense, and yet Sam wanted to be with Dean. He recognized that he was a better hunter with his brother as he’d always been. I admit that after the reveal that Sam’s soul was missing, I was on board with the character. Sure, I wanted Sam to get his soul back, but it was fascinating to get that look at Sam without the ego to control all that id. Seeing the snarky, violent, lustful person beneath showed just how much control Sam exerts over those impulses. And he was funny. All the snark and sass that we’d seen previously was given free rein. I can certainly understand the writers and Jared enjoying that version of Sam. Most of all what it confirmed is that underneath it all, Sam is a stone cold killer. He’s a hunter, and what keeps him fighting that is his fear of it, that belief that he’s tainted. S6 showed us that Sam is much more like Dean than we would have formerly been led to believe.

The second half of the season, Sam was trying not to scratch at the wall in his head and coming to terms with the guilt over the things he did when he was soulless. I didn’t care much for the guilt trip he put himself on. It was undeserved and illogical. I don’t like it when they make Sam irrational, but there it is. He also guilt trips himself. It’s who he is. Dean worried about the wall, only visibly for a couple of episodes, but I think we were meant to know that it was always there. It was a welcome respite in a sea of angst that the boys worked and lived together as a team during that second half of the season. They were a well-oiled machine. In The French Mistake when Dean suggests that Sam could stay in the alternate universe and be that rich actor with a hot wife, Sam rejects the idea out of hand. They weren’t even brothers there, he said.

In Frontierland, Sam tells Samuel Colt that there’s no getting out of the life. Sure, it’s resignation, but I for one welcomed Sam’s pragmatism on that point. If there was one thing that S6 taught the boys it was once a hunter, always a hunter. In the finale when faced with reintegrating all the broken pieces of his psyche, Sam makes the declaration, “You know me, you know why – I won’t leave my brother out there alone.” Bless you, Eric Kripke.

you know me you know why

I know that a lot of Dean fans started off hating S6 because his relationship with Lisa Braedon. Many thought it went against his character, and they never believed that he loved her. I disagree. He may not have been in love with her and certainly he went to her because it was a promise he made to Sam, but he loved both Lisa and Ben.  And credit where credit is due, Gamble did a better job of showing Dean’s life with Lisa and Ben in a three minute montage at the beginning of Exile on Main Street than Carver did showing Sam and Amelia in all the flashbacks in S8. We saw both the happiness and the grief that Dean felt during that year. He had real affection for Lisa and Ben while being haunted by the loss of his brother. I don’t even want to think about S8.

Lisa and Dean

Seeing the boys not connecting at the beginning of in S6 was difficult. Dean chose to stay with Lisa at first, and that felt off, but I think that he had good reason. He was hurt and felt rejected by Sam and Bobby not telling him that Sam had been alive for a year, and he did care for Lisa and Ben. He felt responsible for them, and we know how strongly Dean feels that sense of responsibility. Many fans hated Lisa. I fault her more for taking an alcoholic with strong violence issues into her home with her son than for the way she treated him later. She admitted knowing that it was over the minute Sam returned, but she tried to make it work even when Dean was on the verge of making them prisoners in their own house. That some fans found their relationship unbelievable from the get go? Dream a Little Dream set it up. He’d long dreamed of a normal life with her, a family, and a son. It is what it is.

Many fans criticize Dean’s treatment of Castiel in S6 as well. They didn’t like the “put downs” as they perceived them like “baby in a trench coat.” It was S6 though that Castiel was supposed to become like family, and Dean had a history of similar teasing or putdowns of Sam – Samantha, red-haired woman, etc. So, I think those jibes may have been more a matter of perception than actual meanness. On the other hand, Castiel played a part in Sam coming back soulless, intentionally or not, and he ignored Soulless!Sam’s prayers. It’s possible that those comments were Dean’s passive-aggressive way at getting back at CastielCastiel knew there was something wrong with Sam, he admitted, but said he couldn’t help, so he ignored him. I’ve always wondered, if he didn’t know what was wrong with Sam, how could he have known he couldn’t help him? Castiel is another area where fans have criticized S6, and while I think that his overall storyline was really interesting, there are issues left unresolved. For example, just how much did Castiel know about how Crowley was using Soulless!Sam and Samuel Campbell? Did he perhaps know and turned a blind eye to it because they were useful?

Godstiel

Godstiel

Admittedly I need to sit down and rewatch the entire season, and I’m sure that readers will refresh my memory on some of the details, but I think that we should reconsider the criticism that has been heaped on Sera Gamble and on Season 6. Yes, Eve was a wasted opportunity. Her storyline was cut short in favor of making Castiel and Crowley the villains of the story, but it had to go one way or the other I think. Having Castiel break Sam’s wall was out of character and ultimately a futile gesture. If Cas knew Dean at all, he’d have known it wouldn’t stop him. Maybe that was the point. Cas really didn’t understand Dean. I still love the gesture of Dean leaving a gun and note with Sam’s comatose body – the faith that showed that Sam would wake up and join him in the fight was beautiful. We haven’t seen the boys like that again. Kripke hasn’t written for the show since, and it is all too evident.

Season 6 had its rough spots Like a Virgin and Mannequin 3, but it also gave us Clap Your Hands If You Believe, Frontierland, Mommy Dearest, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. There hasn’t been a season since with as many stand out episodes. Season 6 also set up an interesting character in Godstiel, which should have led to a satisfying redemption arc for Castiel in Season 7, had it not been aborted in favor of the leviathan. But I think that considered beginning to end, Season 6 hangs together well, it’s packed with really enjoyable episodes, and gave us some of the best team Winchester episodes since S1-3. And oh yeah, Balthazar, Crowley, Death, Jody, Rufus, and Bobby. Good stuff there too.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at S6. It’s just some thoughts that have come up in light of recent discussions with other fans and a place to start discussion. I’d like to hear others’ thoughts on S6.

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10 responses

  1. lkeke35

    I see your point. I’ve watched season six a couple of times since. Sometimes my opinion of a season changes over time and my opinion has changed about season six. Now to be fair I’m still not fond of it but some good episodes were had that season and it was focused and on point in a way that season seven wasn’t.

    Season seven had far too many problems for me to ever really like it and season eight just barely passes on the strength of its second half. (In particular two episodes really captured me in the second half of eight -EHH and Torn and Frayed.)

    Season seven had almost half of the season as non focused filler and I have no idea what the overarching theme was of that season other than loss. I consider it the worst season because it doesn’t hold together well for me and I hate the theme I do see .(Even though it brought the nearly perfect Plucky Pennywhistle and Born Again Identity.)

    Btw, “baby in a Trench coat ” is one of my all time favorite phrases.

    December 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    • Season 7 was really uneven and lacked direction, I thought. The worst season IMO as well.

      December 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm

  2. Nope, I’ll still take S7 over S6 because they at least had an arc and some idea of what they wanted to do with it as well as try some effort at reinforcing. 😉

    As I usually say (though I’ll admit I probably should watch them again): S6’s best episodes were better than S7’s best episodes. However, S6’s WORST episodes were far worse than S7’s worst.

    Though I do admit S7 gets a lot of brownie points from me for at least trying something new and striking out on new ground.

    I may have to write a larger response to this post but this part I have to comment on:

    and he ignored Soulless!Sam’s prayers

    I sometimes wonder if he could even hear Sam’s prayers, but that’s just my WMG theory. XD

    March 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    • Ack, I meant to say, maybe Castiel couldn’t hear Sam’s prayers BECAUSE Sam was soulless.

      I’m going to bed now.

      March 5, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    • I think he could hear Soulless!Sam’s prayers because, if I remember correctly, when S!S called him out on not doing so, his response was that he couldn’t help him. I’ve always found that interesting because supposedly, Cas didn’t know that Sam was soulless until later. If he didn’t know what was wrong, how did he know he couldn’t help?

      See I like film noir, so I appreciated the red herrings and not knowing which side anyone was playing on. I think that too much went unexplained though because they were trying to make Cas look not so bad by the end of the season.

      I was disappointed that the Mother of All wasn’t utilized better. I thought she was a cool villain and that storyline could have been great. Season seven was disappointing to me especially with Castiel’s storyline. I kind of wish they’d left him dead after getting rid of Godstiel — another cool opportunity that was dropped.

      March 6, 2014 at 6:09 am

      • I think he could hear Soulless!Sam’s prayers because, if I remember correctly, when S!S called him out on not doing so, his response was that he couldn’t help him.

        Well and there’s a scene where Cas shows up after Sam has “prayed” the plot to Raiders of the Lost Ark. I should have made clear it’s more of a head!canon than actual canon.

        I’ve always found that interesting because supposedly, Cas didn’t know that Sam was soulless until later. If he didn’t know what was wrong, how did he know he couldn’t help?

        See I like film noir, so I appreciated the red herrings and not knowing which side anyone was playing on. I think that too much went unexplained though because they were trying to make Cas look not so bad by the end of the season.

        Well all that’s easy when even the writers don’t know what they’re doing. Yes I do have to confirm behind-the-scenes stuff but it’s pretty clear from the structure of S6 that they had NO plan or idea for the entire season and only ductaped it all together with “The Man who Would be King”.

        I was disappointed that the Mother of All wasn’t utilized better. I thought she was a cool villain and that storyline could have been great. Season seven was disappointing to me especially with Castiel’s storyline. I kind of wish they’d left him dead after getting rid of Godstiel — another cool opportunity that was dropped.

        See above. To me after S6 S7 was a welcome improvement as they clearly had direction and a fairly solid plan. But like I said, I might write a post…

        March 6, 2014 at 8:10 am

        • That’s why “The Man Who Would Be King” felt like retconning to me. If I remember correctly, Edlund insisted on an episode to explain Castiel’s behavior because he thought he came across too negatively.

          I can understand liking that there seemed to be a plan with season seven. The leviathan was a strong central plotline, but I didn’t find them scary. None of the “monsters” are scary anymore — even the ones that used to be. They’ve all been humanized. As I said, I didn’t like Castiel’s characterization. First, Dean had to talk him into fixing Sam’s head and then the whole “crazy Cas” thing … I found that as frustrating as Dean did. Dean’s reaction to Sam having Hallucifer in his head as though that was Sam’s fault was pretty shitty and inexplicable. On the one hand, he was all worried and taking care of Sam, and on the other, he was punching him in the face for taking the Impala. I loved Frank though. He was a great character. Killing off Bobby may have been the single greatest mistake in the show because now there’s no one with any authority to call the boys out on their shit. Things never would have gotten where they are between them if Bobby had been around when Dean disappeared at the lab. “Death’s Door” is an awesome episode though.

          March 7, 2014 at 4:57 am

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