‘Supernatural’ mid-season finale does not bode well for show’s future

The eleventh season of “Supernatural” has been more than a rocky so far, with the writers and creators missing the mark as often as they’ve been hitting it. Though they seem, thankfully, to be trying to get back to the basics, making each episode its own little monster-hunting story a la seasons one and two, the show has been tired, played-out and laughably ludicrous (see episode 7, “Plush”) as often as its been smart, funny and wonderfully engaging (see episode 4, “Baby”).

It seems to have lost its uniquely “Supernatural” touch of self-aware irony, along with any talent it once had for making epic, apocalypse-scale stories seem reasonable and relatable. So the show really needed pull out all the stops for the mid-season finale, if for no other reason than to reassure viewers that there was still something in the show worth sticking around for.

Unfortunately, they failed.

For an episode that was supposed to offer us at least a few answers to some of our more pressing as-yet-unanswered questions, the ninth episode of the eleventh season of “Supernatural,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” gave us depressingly little in the way of useful plot points.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with keeping the audience in the dark. Suspense is television’s bread and butter. But in order for suspense to work, it has to be accompanied by action. For every hint you’re dropping that something interesting is going to happen in the future, there needs something interesting happening now. Otherwise it’s just a 45-minute trailer that no one wants to have to sit through.

Sure, there were some bright, witty moments with the return of our two favorite supporting characters, Rowena and Crowley, but for the most part this episode was slow, passive and over-dramatic. Most of the dialogue is pointless meandering that leads nowhere, with the exchanges between Dean and the Darkness coming off bewildering, unmotivated romance rather than prompting the audience to ask about the nature of their relationship. I can only hope that the writers intend to clarify that particular “bond” in the future because seriously, vague, inscrutable hints about destiny are really not doing it for me right now.

The two threads of plot that the mid-season finale actually manages to pick up—the idea of the minions of Heaven and Hell standing united against the Darkness, and the question of who has been sending Sam visions—are based on things that happened so long ago in the season that we need reminding of why we care with flashbacks to the initial set-ups for these storylines.

Even then, Dean and Sam’s conversations about the meaning of Sam’s visions, who’s been sending them, and what they should do about it have become stale by now. The stakes are too repetitive for us to understand how high they really are: we’ve already heard about what might happen if Rowena escapes with the Book of the Damned (hint: it’s nothing), what might happen if Crowley betrays the Winchesters (which he’ll never do) and what will happen if Dean finds out what Sam’s planning (a lot of yelling).

I didn’t dislike this episode, despite the fact that the music “Supernatural” uses during Sam’s scenes with Lucifer make me want to tear my hair out. Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer) does some great acting, I still love Rowena and I’m eager to see what’s next.

There are hints of greatness everywhere—in a line here or there, in a plot point that’s not developed fully… but despite the fact that I think the basic plot of this episode does have some integrity, the execution of the ideas was actually pitiable. As much as it pains me to say this as a fan, I can’t say I’m looking forward to the season finale.