Wow, ok, that was Season 8.
Geez, what can I even say about this season? There was a bunch of stuff that worked well, that I really liked, and some that was THE most painfully awful stuff the show has done to this point, and then there was some stuff with good bones that was just too dumb to be satisfying.
First off, the obvious, is Sam. I can absolutely see Sam taking the chance to get out of the life and trying to have something "normal" for himself without anyone there to keep him hunting, IF he truly believed Dean was dead. I could even (not really, but just BARELY) see him rationalizing that wherever Dean was, Cas was with him, and probably represented Dean's best shot at rescue. But giving up without even taking a single step toward finding out what had happened to Dean and if it was possible to save him? No way. And even leaving aside the fact that he gave up on Dean, the fact that he made no effort to rescue Kevin, or protect Kevin's mom, or even keep his PHONE so that Kevin had SOMEONE to reach out to if he managed to save HIMSELF is just beyond the pale. Kevin was his responsibility, and that kid had literally no one else he could call for help. Remember when John went off the grid back in Season 1 and changed his outgoing voicemail message to give people Dean's number for emergencies? Sam dropped the ball so thoroughly, he didn't even kick it over to someone else to pick up. It is simply enraging. And not only was the Amelia stuff agonizing to watch for how bad it was, I was really appalled that the show waited so long to clarify HOW their relationship ended. In the premiere, it kind of looked like he was just ditching her in the middle of the night without a goodbye, which made all the flashbacks doubly painful, because their relationship sucked, AND we didn't even get the small comfort of knowing it was over, because he looked like a complete dickwad for worming his way into her life and then dumping her like yesterday's trash as soon as Dean got in touch. So their relationship AND lack of relationship were BOTH enraging for the entire first half of the season! I have never seen such thorough, ill-advised character assassination on any show before or since.
But I know this is probably EVERYONE'S number one complaint about the season, so let's move on to what did work. I had no problems with Benny, though I know he's a sore point for some (the worst thing about Benny IMO was how unreasonably against him Sam was, as if Sam didn't INVENT not killing vampires if they promised they weren't an immediate threat to humans). I was disappointed in how his story fizzled to an ending, but kind of liked the character. I really liked the Men of Letters stuff and the move into the bunker - it's great to see the boys get settled in, actually have a home base (Dean has his own room!) and geek out over the wealth of tools and information left for them. A lot of the bunker scenes were really delightful. The trials were interesting, if poorly paced. Very clumsy as an attempted redemption arc for Sam, but on their own merits, the idea was fun. I liked Abaddon a lot, even though the decision to put her back together (the most unkillable, unstoppable demon you've ever met? Really?) rather than just... summon someone else... was incredibly stupid, I am kind of willing to let it slide since it meant getting more of her. That actress was dynamite. Amanda Tapping was a fabulous guest star, and I really liked Naomi, despite the "hacking the angel operating system" concept being dumb. And while it was frustratingly obvious that Metatron was playing Castiel from the beginning of the "angel trials" nonsense, the angels falling from heaven was an awesome hook to end the season on.
But I feel like I could ramble about this inconsistent season forever, so let's move on.
I skipped Bitten and Man's Best Friend With Benefits, and I considered skipping Remember the Titans, based on recommendations in this thread, but watched it and wished I'd skipped it (boring, and a bullshit portrayal of Diana). I had planned to skip Taxi Driver, but felt like it was too important plotwise. Ugh. That episode needed to be a 2-parter, with a much higher budget and better writers. Blech.
My favourites from this season are probably all from the second half, and it looks like they match up with others' picks as well:
LARP and the Real Girl - Always great to see Charlie, and to see Dean and Sam eventually get into the spirit of things, rather than making the LARPers too much of a punchline.
Everybody Hates Hitler - Surprising lack of Hitler, given the title, but a very fun episode, and great to see the boys exploring the bunker and settling in. Nazi necromancers!
Trial and Error - This may be a controversial pick, given how interminable the family is, but I loved Dean's new room, and the surprisingly subtle treatment of the typical "be careful what you wish for" demon deal morality lesson (it's not that wishes can be corrupted, it's that the dealmaker just didn't understand what the problem was), as well as the discussion of who was going to undertake the trials. Conversations where the brothers build each other up, rather than existing in a dumb state of manufactured conflict, is my catnip. As long as you don't think about where the trials story ends, it's all good!
Goodbye Stranger - Surprisingly nice to see Meg again! (I'm repressing my memory of her ultimate fate) I liked everyone navigating their (justified) mistrust of Castiel, as well as Cas arriving at that intersection of his need to obey his brainwashing, protect the angel tablet, and also not kill Dean. I was into it!
Pac-Man Fever - Although the writers are pushing her "tweeness" a touch too much, it's still great to see Charlie and learn more about her. Solid stuff, and a fun watch!
The Great Escapist - I enjoyed this episode primarily, but not entirely, for Kevin's DGAF confrontation with Crowley. I don't know what the hell his plan was if an angel hadn't rescued him at that moment, or if he was just ready to die and let the next prophet inherit his problem, but it was so damn good to see him being smart and confident and getting the best of Crowley that I flat-out don't care.
Ok, this brings me to a personal problem I had with the series after this point. I was supremely disappointed that Sarah was brought back from her season 1 appearance, just to make sure she didn't escape the curse of Sam Winchester's homicidal penis. It reinforced that the show was committed to killing its female characters with impunity and would never learn its lesson about fridging, and I started to fear for Jody Mills. She is by far my favourite recurring character, and after this season I started to DREAD her appearances, because every time she was in an episode, I'd get that gut-twisting bad feeling that this would be it, and I'd have to watch her die, especially given Charlie's eventual fate. And once you've ruined Jody Mills' appearances for me, you've sapped my will to keep watching. (I actually remember in the High School Musical episode, there was a throwaway line when the teen actress playing Jody walked by with the script wondering if she was even in the second act, and it felt like a deliberate joke on how tenuous her survival on the show was. Once again, the writers lampshade something they should be FIXING!) So can you guys do me a favour? I didn't stick around long enough to find out (unless I've repressed it), so if Jody Mills does die, can you tell me what episode that happens in so I can brace myself appropriately and not worry in the meantime? PM me if you'd rather not get into it here, but please let me know! Thank you, friends!
Ok, Season 9! I think I remember mostly liking this one! Let's see how it goes!