Friday, May 16, 2008

Season In Review: Supernatural S3

Once again, I find myself giving Eric Kripke credit for thinking outside the box. "No Rest For The Wicked" is likely the most shocking season finale I've ever seen, because the last ten minutes of the episode so boldly defy conventional thinking. I'll be vague for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but familiarity with the medium and its tropes leads you to expect that certain situations will always be resolved in certain ways, because "that's how things work". So it's quite jarring when those same situations are resolved differently (or aren't resolved at all, as the case may be).

I've mentioned before that I think the writers' strike had some positive fallout; given how badly "Heroes" was spiraling out of control, I shudder to think what might've happened if they'd gone on for the full twenty-two episodes. And since "Supernatural" tends to cluster the plot-centric episodes around the beginning, middle and end of the season, I doubt losing six episodes had any impact on the storyline beyond cutting out some filler.

And filler was a major problem this season, moreso than in previous years, because this storyline had a time limit attached to it: having sold his soul to resurrect Sam, Dean is given one year to live before he's dragged off to Hell. While he's determined to wreak as much havoc on the supernatural world as he can, Sam's obsessed with finding a way to break the deal. Meanwhile, loose threads from previous seasons are wrapped up rather neatly (Gordon Walker gets his due in "Fresh Blood" while the FBI and Agent Henriksen are finally dealt with decisively) and new characters - Bela and Ruby - are thrown into the mix.

Kripke was ultimately true to his word, at least where the lack of romance was concerned: Bela and Ruby were both antagonists to the Winchesters, frustrating our heroes at every possible turn. Bela even got a bit of pathos for her final appearance, though Ruby's twists and turns became so convoluted that it just didn't work for me. Still, as a way of momentarily breaking Sam and Dean away from their usual back-and-forth dynamic, both characters worked out just fine.

On average, this season was more or less consistent, quality-wise, with its predecessors: there was a lot of repetition with the boys' interactions ("I don't want to die"/"I'm going to save you") in lieu of character development, because at this point there's really nowhere left to go with them so long as they're cut off from a larger social network (whatever happened to Ellen anyway?). Episodes vacillated from "eh" to "good": the Gordon episodes were well-written, "Mystery Spot" was a highly amusing take on time loops, and "Ghostfacers" was a cute callback to the wannabes from season 1. Other than that, pretty much par for the course, and that's not a bad thing.