What is it that makes awesome things start to suck? Star Wars, Star Trek, Western Civilization…
I mean, there’s the Sickboy Theory—“At one time, you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever.”—but that’s a mere description, not a cause, and it refers to people, not TV series or movie franchises. Though, given the example of the James Bond films—wherein the new Casino Royale is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory—you could certainly argue it applies to them as well. Which doesn’t bode well at all for Supernatural.
Supernatural started off as a monster-of-the-week TV show about two brothers (Sam and Dean Winchester) using their father’s diary to hunt down monsters and kill them. Its quality varied from episode to episode, but the byplay between the brothers, the variety and quality of the monsters, and the steadily increasing stakes season to season kept it interesting and even compelling. Starting as a couple of scruffy-looking monster killers of no particular note, the two brothers gradually became the focal point of the war between Heaven and Hell, and eventually the leading figures in the End of the World battle between Good and Evil.
Then the show was supposed to end. The creator, Eric Kripke, had finished the tale he meant to tell. The Apocalypse had been averted, Lucifer was again banished, and Good triumphed over Evil. Finit.
Enter the network, of course. Ratings had increased through Seasons 4 and 5 (corresponding to more dramatic shows as the Apocalypse neared), so the CW decided to renew the show for a Season 6. And 7. Also 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. And things got stupid.
Instead of new monsters—dug out of actual local folklore, traditional myths, and urban legends—the show focused on stuff the writers or showrunners just made up (meaning they tended to be less colorful and interesting than the creatures plundered from outside sources) or fan favorites from past seasons (mixing and remixing the same ingredients in slightly different ways). And when even THOSE rewarmed leftovers became too bland, they resorted to sheer stupidity.
The Wizard of Oz made a couple of appearances. So did the Stynes, an entire family of Frankenstein’s Monsters (that is to say, normal humans who steal body parts and use them like Street Samurai use cyberware, and are wealthier than the Rothschilds and more powerful and connected than the Illuminati). The Mother of Monsters, who created all the evil creatures that bedevil the world, was an unremarkable 20-year-old hot chick, not imposing or impressive at all (wasting what could have been an absolutely TERRIFYING character). And God’s older sister, “The Darkness”, even made an appearance as the 11th Season’s Big Bad.
Stupid as these sound, none of them—NONE—top the utter idiocy that was Season 7’s Leviathans.
Back in the deep mists of time, after God kicked his big sister out of Creation, but before he made anything else, he created the first things, the Leviathans. These things were so voracious, so ferocious, so totally horrifying that they would consume all else He created, so God made Purgatory and locked them away, forever.
Through a series of events both silly and tedious, the Leviathans were unleashed upon the world. Originally appearing as black goo, they entered the water and, when drunk, took possession of people’s bodies. They were tough, superhumanly strong, and absolutely unkillable, until the brothers Winchester discovered their weakness: Borax. Borax, or sodium borate, a key ingredient in pretty much every cleanser ever.
Yes, the primordial monsters, the first beings ever, predating angels, humans, demons, and everything else, beings that God himself found too voracious and ferocious to allow to run free, could be killed by dumping laundry detergent, floor cleanser, or gritty low-quality gas station bathroom hand soap on them. It just melted them away. Soap.
How utterly terrifying.
In their native form, the Leviathans were all mouth and they ate and ate and ate. The ultimate punishment among their kind was “bibbing”. They gave the Leviathan a bib, and he ate himself until nothing was left. No, that’s not an exaggeration.
The worst, most terrifying figures in all the show’s lore, the most ancient and primordial monsters from before the Dawn of Time itself, creatures everything else feared, and this is what we got. “Bibbing.”
What made it all worse was the political commentary. Leviathans were, at different times, used to satirize consumerist culture (because they consume everything, get it?), corporate evily evilness, and “OMG FAT AMERICANS EATS SO MUCH AND AIN’T THEY DISGUSTING AND FAT!”
Season 7 was long and painful. It wasn’t so much the show jumping the shark, or even being thrown to the sharks, as it was the show putting on a bib and eating itself until there was nothing left.
The post-Season-7 episodes haven’t ever been that bad, but that’s because the show has largely turned away from introducing anything new, instead preferring to focus on fan favorites: more Crowley, more Castiel, more angels and demons and yadda yadda yadda. Supernatural has ceased being original, and become its own self-referential fan-fiction.
Not only is this warmed-over garbage boring, it ruins what used to be great about the series. Demon King of Hell Crowley was a great character when he was ruthless, successful, and rarely seen. Since becoming a series mainstay, he’s become a self-pitying and codependent loser. He who used to strike terror into the hearts of all he met has been reduced to a sidekick and lapdog, openly crying in his beer because his man-crush on Dean isn’t reciprocated. It’s disgusting.
All this isn’t to say that they didn’t have good, or even great episodes scattered here and there through the post-Season-5 episodes. They did (the Imaginary Friends episode, S11E08 is especially noteworthy), but these were few and far between, and the necessity of trudging through a bunch of dreary crap to find the increasingly rare good ones tended to drain even them of some of their spark and luster.
Not everything is meant to last forever. There’s something to be said for going out on a high note, instead of lingering on in mediocrity. At one point Supernatural had it, but it’s lost it, and it’ll never get it back.
No matter how many times they bring back Bobby.