Collins’ Crypt: SUPERNATURAL Is Laying Its Weary Head To Rest
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
Let's rewind about a year. If you were to ask me what I was most certain about in this world at that time, two of them would have been that Supernatural would vie for Law & Order: SVU's crown as the longest-running drama of all time, and that it'd do so without Jeffrey Dean Morgan ever coming back to reprise his role as John Winchester. With the ratings staying more or less in the same spot thanks to the show's loyal fanbase, and the CW notoriously being happy to keep their existing lineup coming back year after year, why would it end? And how could John ever satisfyingly return after all of this buildup? I would have happily put money on this, in fact.
Well in case you're wondering, I'm not too successful in Vegas, either. Not only did Morgan come back for the show's gala 300th episode, but it wasn't too long after it aired that "the boys" (that is, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) announced that they themselves made the call to end the show after its upcoming 15th season. When I think about it, it almost had to be that way; again, the CW isn't one to just call it a day on any of their shows unless they're receiving literal zeroes in the ratings, and the show has had a number of showrunner turnovers (including creator Eric Kripke - in fact the show has run longer without him than with him) so any end - at least at this point in time - could only come about if the show's only actual permanent cast members decided it was time to move on.
And good for them! The show's Canadian production takes them away from their families here in the US for far too much of the year, and as a result, neither of them have taken on any other notable acting roles in a decade as they choose to spend their off time with them instead of taking on other gigs. 2009's dueling slasher remakes (Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine) provided them with their last significant opportunity to play anyone besides Sam and Dean Winchester - that's a long goddamn time for an actor. And given the show's emphasis on family, I'm sure they never even considered trying to get the production moved to Texas (where they both live) for their own convenience, knowing it would be a slap in the face to the show's loyal production side.
But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really bummed about the fact that this is going to be the penultimate Blu-ray release for me to cover. While I never have time to rewatch an entire season, I always look forward to getting the new release so I can revisit a couple of standouts ("Lebanon", "Byzantium", and the season finale "Moriah" among them for this season) with a lovely Blu-ray transfer, a huge step up from the overly compressed HD images I get from my cable box (plus, no commercials or CW's increasingly obnoxious lower-thirds). I also usually enjoy the bonus features; these are pretty much the only gag reels I've ever enjoyed as an adult, as even though I don't actually laugh too much I'm always charmed by the obvious love everyone shares, and the rampant ball-busting (they love trying to make Misha Collins break when reading their lines for his close-ups) that in its quirky way kind of proves why the show has run as long as it has - they're all genuinely happy to be working together.
(Side note on the extras though - I'll forever be confused that they always include the Comic Con panel from the previous year, as opposed to the one that most recently occurred. The sets do not come out for two months after the convention, so it seems there would be time to add it to the otherwise completed set? Because to me it'd make more sense on a season 14 set to hear them talk about how season 14 was for them and what we can look forward to in season 15, as opposed to hearing them try to talk around spoilers for the season we had already seen before non-Con attendees could watch this panel. Just always a bit "off" to me.)
One such extra this time around, unsurprisingly, focused specifically on "Lebanon", aka "the 300th episode" aka "the one where Jeffrey Dean Morgan came back and proved BC wrong". This was no quickie cameo either; John played a major part in the episode (probably equal to the most he ever appeared in any single episode before, actually), and thankfully he wasn't a ghost or alternate universe incarnation either. I mean yeah it was still hokey (time travel) and we had to just accept that the 2003 version of John that got sucked into the present for a bit looked a lot different than we remembered him since Morgan has obviously aged (and lost some weight!) since the last time we saw the character, but so what? It was wonderful, and I can't recall a time I was ever so happy to be so wrong.
And the timing worked out perfectly too, because we know Morgan's return was going to be a one time thing, and if they had "wasted" it earlier in the show's run that would mean it'd be without his wife, Mary, who was dead up until a couple seasons ago (she was revived by the Darkness as a thank you to the boys for reuniting her with her brother, God - I assure you, this show's narrative definitely sounds sillier on paper than it does in execution). So not only did John and Mary get to reunite as well, but it allowed our heroes to have - for the first time in the show - a scene with both of their parents, set around a family dinner that made me tear up in ways I'd never expect from a show I started watching because it looked like it had some cool monsters. From day one the characters have lamented that their hunter life keeps them from doing normal things, so seeing our guys as a traditional family of four sitting around a dinner table was truly wonderful.
The ironic thing about the show ending *now* is that last season was a creative upswing in my eyes, and I think it's due in part (perhaps mostly) to the fact that it was slightly shorter than usual. While the last seven seasons had 23 episodes each, this one only had 20, and while I know that doesn't sound like much it really did make a difference. They were more focused and less reliant on the sort of "Hmm there's not much going on with our world-ending villain, let's go work a random case" one-offs that have always felt strange to me, and when they did - such as the fun slasher homage "Mint Condition", it was effectively timed. Not only was it early in the season, before the shit really started hitting the fan, but Sam also brought it to Dean's attention on purpose due to its relative ease and his personal connection to the material (the killer was using the guise of the villain from a horror movie Dean loved). So while it wasn't essential for the overall narrative, it was a big part in helping the recently un-possessed Dean get back to normal, and since our main draw to the show is our affinity for these two characters, it became just as important as any Jack or Michael driven hour.
Season 15 will also be 20 episodes long (though I wouldn't rule out a two-hour finale - they've certainly earned it), and while the villain is apparently going to be God himself (!), I would love it if they took care of him by episode 5 and let the remainder play out as a victory lap. Bring back every guest star ever in some capacity (here's hoping they can rope Mark Sheppard back for a proper Crowley sendoff), load up on the Ben Edlund kind of silly episodes, and basically just have fun sending the show off into the sunset. Both characters have died at one point, so killing one of them off to make some kind of grand sacrifice to stop the villain won't have the resonance it would on any other show. Hopefully they don't even bother with such things. Our boys have earned their retirement, and we've seen them save the world a dozen times at this point - if we're never going to see them again, I want to see them relax for a while. But however they go about their final season, I'm grateful that they made the call early and thus the entire season can be appropriately geared toward the day I thought would never come, while also giving me enough time to emotionally prepare myself for when "Carry on Wayward Son" kicks off the obligatory recap on the - gulp! - *series* finale.