'Supernatural' Season 11 Is a Battle Between Good and Lackluster

Jessy Krupa

As the Winchesters fight an all-powerful yet boring villain, the show is redeemed by its stand-alone episodes.


Distributor: Warner Brothers
Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard
Length: 970 minutes
Subtitle: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, French
Network: The CW
UK Release Date: 2016-10-10
US Release Date: 2016-09-06

At any given time, Supernatural is one of two very different shows. Some episodes are like shortened horror movies, in which brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) travel across the United States in a 1967 Chevy Impala on a mission to salt, shoot, and burn whatever goes bump in the night. Others feature another show, in which these same two brothers join up with various supernatural entities (angels, demons, etc.) to solve a major crisis: avenging their mother's death (season one), preventing the apocalypse (seasons four and five), closing the gates of Hell (season eight), or stopping a leviathan-led plot for world domination (season seven), to name a few. Fans of the series argue about particular seasons stand-alone to mythology-heavy episode ratios, but perhaps those differences were never more present than in Supernatural's 11th season.

In season 11, the various monster-of-the-week episodes are exciting (just try watching "Red Meat" without caring who lives or dies), and just plain likable ("Baby", filmed entirely from the perspective of the Impala, turns what could have been just a clever gimmick into the best episode in recent memory). These episodes, which are mostly unconnected to the main plot, will be the ones that you'll actually remember and want to re-watch over and over again.

Season 11 also dealt out more fan service than any other season before it. There are cameos from fan-favorite characters (Bobby Singer [Jim Beaver], Kevin Train [Osric Chau], and Jody Mills [Kim Rhodes]); detailed references to the series' mythology (most of "The Devil In The Details" requires a thorough understanding of past seasons; half of "Safe House" takes place in season four); and playful exploration with its main characters (Misha Collins' gleeful portrayal of a Lucifer-possessed Castiel, Dean and Sam's childish love of professional wrestling in "Beyond The Mat").

Further, after much speculation, I can reveal without spoiling anything that fan favorite Chuck the prophet (Rob Benedict) is indeed God. (It's printed on the back of the DVD box.) While I was initially one of those fans who thought that the slacker hack writer was just too imperfect to be God Himself, I eventually got the in-joke that He was an allegory of the series creators, and accepted the different take on the character. His introduction even breathes new life into the role of evil angel scribe Megatron (Curtis Armstrong), who gets the best moments in his entire character arc here.

What's not to like? Season 11's promising yet ultimately useless villain: The Darkness. Beginning as a dark cloud filled with a (too easily cured) virus, she evolves into a soul-sucking infant named Amara. Aging at warp speed, she becomes a spoiled child (Yasmeene Ball, Gracyn Shinyei) and a Dean-obsessed teen (Samantha Isler) before assuming her adult, little-black-dress-wearing self (Emily Swallow), all within five episodes. All of these actresses showed some great talent; it's just bad writing that made the character especially unlikable. Most of the Darkness' screen time is spent awkwardly walking around city landscapes, screaming for God's attention, vowing to destroy the entire universe, and having long, rambling conversations with Dean about how they're destined to be together.

Later, as we learn more about just who or what she is, we're supposed to feel bad for her, but after seeing her devour the souls of countless people and angels, it's hard to care. The best thing about the character is that her all-consuming power eventually requires the core trio of Sam, Dean, and Castiel to join forces with God, Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard), a Reaper (Lisa Berry), Rowena (Ruth Connell), and a coven of witches. Yet this epic end-of-season showdown eventually fizzles out into a disappointingly simple ending. Still, there's enough action in the final moments to pique interest for season twelve's main plot.

Supernatural also occasionally suffers from quickly resolved plots (such as in the not-really-about-Lizzie Borden mess that is "Thin Lizzie", and the forgettable "Love Hurts") and general tackiness (the goofy gore of "Just My Imagination", the implausibilities of Amara's character), but chances are, if you like Supernatural, then you'll at least love half of season11.

On Blu-Ray, Supernatural's nighttime scenes are more visible and the various special effects look better than it was during initial TV airings. As for the special features, there's the standard gag reel, deleted scenes, and audio commentaries, but there’s also the nice surprise of another hour of additional bonuses. Most of these featurettes explore the effort that goes into making the series, but one particular half-hour documentary follows the winners of a "Become A Hunter" contest, and we also get to meet fans who are so enamored with the show that they break into tears at the mere sight of the Impala prop car. Is Supernatural: The Complete 11th Season worthy of such devotion? I would say yes, but only about half of the time.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.