I started rewatching the series not just for something to do in the hours I am awake, but because while watching (and loving) Season Eight, it is very obvious how the show and the boys have changed. A lot of fans gripe about this, and the fact that the show use to be gritter, reflected even in the lighting and tones that used when filming the show, they break it up into ears. Kripke-era, Sera Gamble-era, and Season Gr8, which will eventually be called the Jeremy Carver-era, most likely.
While watching, I also understand why the series has changed with time, and rather like it. The series has changed as the boys have changed. Think about it. In season one, when we first meet the boys, they are young and plucky and quite frankly, sheltered still. They’ve seen a lot of crap and think they’ve seen their share of nightmares, but when you compare it to what all they eventually see, well, they’re still sheltered. In season one, the entire Winchester family is TERRIFIED of demons. Demons are the scariest sonsuvbitches in the entire freaking world. By the time they get to season eight, demons don’t even make the boys blink, they’re a common, easily dispensed problem, as routine as morning coffee.
In season one, the world for them is dark, nitty, gritty, and terrifying. By season eight, even the look of the show is lighter and easier, because the very things that use to terrify the Winchesters the most are no longer even really a concern. Sure, they are dangerous and not to be taken lightly, but they are something the Winchesters have faced and over come time and time again, and not something that sets them on edge anymore.
I mean, Meg was a SERIOUS threat in Season one and came back to cause a helluva lot of problems in Season Two when she made Sam her meatsuit for a week and rode him like a prize horse. Kinda naughty. Then she’s back in Season five causing problems again, gets two beloved characters and practical family members of Dean and Sam killed, horribly. By Season Seven, she’s working with the Winchesters, practically dating Dean’s bff, and is one of their allies because there are much more serious threats to the world at the moment. Season eight, she finally shows up again, and immediately joins forces with the Winchesters, because HEY! Bigger threat than me right now!
I would remind you that Meg, a demon, is the longest surviving character in the show. Dean’s first brush with death was in Season One, and only survived through strong-arming a reaper into trading his life for someone else's. He dies again at the beginning of Season two only to survive when his father makes a deal with a devil. Sam dies by the end of the second season. This almost becomes a tradition for them at that point, because they both start dying quite a bit and surviving through some miracle or demonic deal. Literally. Castiel himself has died on more than one occasion and been brought back without explanation. Meg has survived longer than anyone on this show. Girl’s good.
Back to my point, after everything they go through and are still going through, the show has shifted, gotten lighter, the boys have changed, keep in mind the show covers a ten year time period at this point. Change happens, no one is the same as they were ten years ago. The things that terrified them ten years ago are commonplace now. Some demons they’ve been enemies with for so long, they are practically friends now.
Dean once had no faith in God or angels or that both even existed, and Sam was the one with the faith and hope. Now Dean has a serious bone to pick with God, and an angel is one of the few Dean calls family. The tone of the show is lighter because the strain it puts on the boys is lighter, really, when it comes to monsters. They’ll handle it, like everything else that gets thrown their way.
The emotional stuff is actually what’s harder on them right now. Monsters are routine, they know how to handle that. They’ve never learned how to operate OUTSIDE of that though. Sam has, Sam knows there is a life outside of hunting and knows that there is a way out, or a way to adapt, that this life isn’t all there is for them. Dean doesn’t see that, because since he was four years old, monsters have ruled his life. He started being trained in firearms at age six. His life was protect Sam, obey Dad, fight the monsters.
He can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel because he’s never really been taught how to operate outside of what is now a comfort zone for him. He really knows nothing outside of it. Even in S6 (which we won’t talk about) he’s clinging more to an idea of that light at the end of the tunnel, a true happy ending. He’s clinging to what he thinks he should want and wonders why it isn’t making him happy like he thought it would.
Sam and Amelia… is another one of those things I don’t want to talk about. I think Sam did the exact same thing Dean did in Season Six, he found a life raft and he CLUNG to it. Sam clearly wasn’t actually happy, but he as keeping his head above water and not focusing on the fact that water was still trying to pull him down. It’s like survivors of a traumatic experience trying to put on a act, maybe if I convince myself I’m fine and things aren’t all fucked up, then other people will believe it too.
I like the current season and how the show has evolved and changed and the fact that the boys are having to deal with emotional stuff now and that they are struggling with it. That the monsters are commonplace and routine problems at this point, but still so much and bogging down on the boys that they don’t really see a way out. It makes sense that Dean has obvious PTSD and depression, shows symptoms of untreated childhood PTSD, that he can fight a war and kill monsters and stand toe-to-toe with demons and angels and not bat an eye, but it’s a life outside of that that scares him, because he doesn't know how to deal with the unknown, doesn't know how to let go of something that has been his entire life since he was four years old.
Sam sees a way out, and granted sometimes he doubts, but they are both running headlong through a forest at night, tripping and stumbling and striving for that light in the distance that will get them out and get them home. Sam saw the light, keeps picking up Dean and forcefully tugging him along behind him when Dean is tired and wants to give up, because Dean didn’t see the glimpse of light in the distance through the trees. In Dean’s mind, they are running on faith toward something that could have been the figments of Sam’s hopeful thinking, a mirage.
At this point too, Dean is fighting to bring Cas along with them. This friend that they’ve made that, I think the show has proven, Dean can’t live without anymore than he could live without his brother. Dean is never willing to fight for himself, though, but Dean will fight for the sake of others, so if and when Cas comes back, Dean will drag him along with them, fighting to get them to that light the same way Sam is fighting to get Dean there. So they stumble and crash through the underbrush and trees for something they can’t see but have a waning faith might actually exist.
The show started out about revenge; now it’s about hope, and I like that.