'Supernatural' needs flexibility to grow in Season 8 and beyond

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"Supernatural" began with a satisfying mixture of self-enclosed episodes featuring a creepy monster of the week and broader mythology-based episodes. This combination allowed the Winchesters to defeat a variety of baddies while building to an uncertain season finale with a killer cliffhanger. Although this formula worked well for many seasons, recent story arcs fizzled.

Eve and Dick disappoint

"Supernatural" essentially pushed the reset button after it unleashed the apocalypse in Season 5 and later decided to extend the show. That sloppy change was necessary, but recent seasons were inexcusably messy. The show cannot continue asking for a do over every year and expect fans to invest in disposable plots.

Overambitious premises locked the show into disappointing routes and lacked the payoff worthy of season-long anticipation. Season 6 lauded Eve as the mother of the Alphas, leading viewers to expect a terrifying creature fueled by maternal instincts. Her mystique and evocative speeches were more interesting than her final showdown.

Dick Roman used his supernatural powers and business sense to launch his plan to breed humanity as a food supply for the Leviathans. He seemed unstoppable until a simple bone through the neck turned him into a pile of black goo. The Season 7 finale ended with a compelling cliffhanger, but Dick's lackluster last stand was anticlimactic.

It is possible these big baddies will return or figure into a larger story arc in the future. However, viewers deserve a show that works in the short term, as well. The villains must live up to their menacing reputations instead of serving as utilitarian springboards to the next bad guy. "Supernatural" needs to tighten its focus and return to the strong, cohesive themes creator Eric Kripke used in the early years.

Jeremy Carver returns

The general premise of "Supernatural" is flexible enough to support a variety of episodes ranging from silly to dramatic, but the broader arcs are too restrictive. This often forces the show to close the chapter then desperately attempt to move forward.

Sera Gamble stepped down as co-showrunner and Jeremy Carver returned for Season 8. The return of Carver, who was present for amazing episodes like "A Very Supernatural Christmas," is a promising development. However, he faces a major challenge that will determine if "Supernatural" uses compelling stories to draw viewers or lazily exploits the fandom's commitment to the show and love of its characters.

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