November 16, 2010
If you ask me...
I'm well aware that what I'm about to say is likely to result in the internet version of tarring and feathering, but it's been on my mind for a while now, and I have to say it - the problem with Supernatural (and make no mistake, that show has a problem) isn't Sammy No-Soul, it's mopey, humorless Downer Dean.
During the first three seasons of the show, the Winchester boys' personalities were pretty clearly defined - Sam was sensitive, empathetic, smart, and desperate for a kind of normalcy that he never had growing up with a crappy, demon-hunting, wing-nut for a father; Dean was a smart-ass and a bad-ass who thought only about drinking, women, and hunting when he wasn't busy being emotionally stunted by the daddy issues that kept him desperately trying to gain the man's approval and respect. Part of what made them a good pair was that they each had different strengths and weaknesses - Dean didn't have great people skills but he could handily dispatch most anything when things came to blows, while Sam was likely to get his ass handed to him in a physical altercation but could blink his puppy dog eyes at people and suddenly they trust him with their lives. They...completed each other. Plus, they were fun to watch. Sam was the tiniest bit bumbling and Dean was all about the slightly inappropriate snarky jokes. Sam was a little awkward around the ladies and Dean ate constantly. Sam was afraid of clowns, Dean was scared to fly. They had these silly, human, FUN qualities that they ribbed each other about and that gave us something to smile at through all of the killing and drama.
Then Dean got dragged off to Hell and when he came back? He was not fun. He was the kind of not fun that their awful dad used to be before he was mercifully killed and sent to Hell himself. He rarely made jokes, he was always crying and being all secretive about how he tortured souls and kicked off the apocalypse and stuff. Yeah, I know, Sam was his own brand of no fun after his brother's untimely death - that demon blood subplot was straight from TV hell, I won't lie. But Sam was always the straight man in the relationship so when he's no fun, it isn't as noticable. That's when we came to rely on Castiel for our comedy, which is ok in it's own dry-as-a-bone way, but it would have been so much better as an addition, rather than a replacement.
It also wasn't fun the way the brothers spent all of their time lying to and keeping secrets from each other. I've gone on about it here before but it really does seem ridiculous for two people who spent EVERY MINUTE together for three years and routinely put their lives in each other's hands, to suddenly become distrustful of one another. To suddenly forget that having all the information is often their only hope of defeating whatever nefarious forces are working against them at any given moment. But again, it makes a lot more sense to keep a secret like "I drink the blood of demons, I like it and I can't stop" than one like "when I was in Hell, I was literally tortured into doing some things I'm not proud of."
I get it - burning in Hell is going to leave some emotional scars. I just wonder why Dean didn't deal with it the way Dean had dealt with every other painful thing in his life up to that point - repressing, internalizing and snarking. But he didn't, and I probably could have lived with the moping and the crying - Jensen is the king of the single, manly tear, after all - but then he started blaming his brother for the immanence of the apocalypse (which was patently ridiculous since it was DEAN who started that whole ugly mess in the first place) and that turned him all sullen and pouty and preachy and about 6 other unbearable dwarfs. Humorlessness is bad enough but when all of your other personality traits are completely grating? Ugh.
That's all stuff that happened while they were dealing with Lilith's seals and the Angel Death Match though, theoretically, things were going to get better this season - funner, lighter. They haven't. At first, the creepiness of post-Hell Sam was really bugging me, not so much because of the creepiness itself, but more because I wanted to know why he was creepy. Now that we know it's because he has no soul, it turns out that his laissez faire attitude toward all things life and death (not to mention human and emotional) is a little fun to watch. Unfortunately for us, Dean's spending all of his time whining about how his brother is soulless (and maybe a little about how he misses his girlfriend) and none of his time being snarky and fun.
To be perfectly clear, I think both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have always done the absolute best they could with what they were given. I don't fault either actor for what's become of the characters they play. But I do blame the writers who have taken well-fleshed-out characters and turned them into shaddows of the people we came to like in the first place. It is the writers who made this mess, and it's the writers who need to clean it up and make watching Supernatural fun again. The commercials for this Friday's fight to the death with fairies looks promising, but they've always been able to make funny one-off episodes. What I'm looking for is a change in the general tone of the show that brings back the old, fun Dean and sends pouty Downer Dean back to Hell where he belongs.