I feel that I should preface this opinion column with a disclaimer, before the horde of angry comments start rolling in about the headline: I am obsessed with Supernatural. I love the series, as evidenced by my recent reviews, and it’s easily the best thing on television for me at the moment, barring, perhaps, my curious and previously hidden fixation on Masterchef. As such, please do note that I’m writing this as a fan of the series, a concerned fan no less, who is less than enthusiastic about the news that The CW is probably going to renew Supernatural for a sixth season.
Let’s be honest, ever since Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki told a convention (and by extension, everyone on the internet) that their contracts were for six years, we knew that the network would want another year out of the show, which has been a consistently good performer by CW standards. The fact that creator Eric Kripke’s previously-militant stance toward a five-year run has softened of late made the announcement, or at least the rumoured announcement, somewhat inevitable. Kripke has told this magazine in various interviews that he will only keep the main storyline running for five seasons however, regardless of whether or not a sixth is commissioned, so we have to wonder what will happen to the quality of the writing when this does happen.
I say this because, as anyone who’s watched the show from start to finish knows, the five-year plan has been more than evident. Seeds are sown in the first season that don’t become apparent until the fifth, characters that seemed minor in the initial episodes turn out to have an indelible impact on the boys’ quests later on, and although there is certainly an element of improvisation to the major arcs, there’s definitely some planning there. That’s been the beauty of the fifth season, which has undoubtedly been the best to date – these huge reveals, the constant theorising, the retention of the show’s soul in dire circumstances, all of this makes Supernatural great. It’s tightly plotted, deftly characterised and more than anything, there’s a sense that all along it was chuckling quietly to itself as accusations that it was simply a monster-of-the-week show came in from all critical angles.
Where, then, would a sixth series go if the Apocalypse is averted? Every season there’s been an increasingly huge problem for the Winchesters to tackle – the first season was their confrontation with Azazel and the death of their father, the second was the killing of the aforementioned demon and the opening of the Hell Gate that released so many demons into the world, which set the stage for Dean’s death at the end of season three. Season four released Lucifer into the world, and season five is set for a showdown of quite literally cataclysmic proportions. How can you really top facing off against Lucifer and meeting God?
All this, of course, assumes that the Winchesters will avert the End Of Days, but given Kripke’s promises that the story will be tied up (and the fact that the show simply doesn’t have the budget to spend a season in Armageddon), it’s likely that they will. A sixth season runs the risk of lessening the show’s editorial focus, and bloating it to the point that similar series like the X-Files suffered, where it becomes an ambling, directionless mess. Sure, there could be a return to a monster-of-the-week format, but wouldn’t it seem a bit like taking a step back after so many significant leaps forward?
I say leave it at five. Let the storyline resolve itself, and let the show finish at its natural endpoint. Don’t milk it for all that it’s worth, because it deserves more than that.