Supernatural send-off: Season 7 confronted a different kind of evil
Season 7 begins with Castiel (Misha Collins), Sam and Dean Winchester’s (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) angelic friend-turned-enemy, freeing the Leviathans — the unkillable, voracious beasts God created before humans — from their prison in Purgatory. At first, the Winchesters assume they’re just like every other monster they’ve faced, both in that they can be defeated and that they simply want to destroy the world. But, it turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As the season progresses, Sam and Dean discover that the Leviathans want to be at the top of the food chain, with humans being their primary source of sustenance. To that end, the shape-shifting monsters infiltrate a large corporation, with their leader assuming the identity of its CEO, Richard “Dick” Roman (James Patrick Stuart), and use its resources to engineer the perfect herd. First, they buy several fast-food chains and release a burger that makes humans complacent and fat. While that experiment initially fails (a small percentage of people became cannibalistic zombies), they eventually perfect the chemical’s recipe and release it through a high-fructose corn syrup found in junk food, which turned anyone who ate the food into a mindless drone. The Leviathans also create a dairy cream to exterminate anyone with undesirable qualities, a.k.a. “the slickest genocide in human history,” according to Dick.
For Dick, the plan only works if the public doesn’t become aware of what’s happening (“Don’t make the papers,” he says). That’s why he initially terminates the turducken burger project; people eating people would draw the wrong kind of attention. As his minions handle the nitty gritty, Dick deploys his scary charisma and plays the PR game. The company starts investing tons of money in cancer research, and Dick spins his acquisition of a company like SucroCorp as him wanting to create healthy food. (Of course, their intentions are far from noble — a cancer-free population means better food.)
The entire storyline was blatantly commenting how ruthless, greedy, and sometimes evil corporations can be. While they often purport to be forces for good and put the consumer first, they actually don’t care about people and are only out for their bottom lines. Of course, this wasn’t news when the season aired in 2011-2012 and it’s not now either; however, it resonates even more for me now given everything that’s happened in the intervening years, but especially in the past seven months. As the COVID-19 death toll surpasses 225,000 and millions remain without jobs because of the economic impact of the pandemic, the country’s billionaires have somehow become even richer. But it’s not just the pandemic. Look at how much money ride-sharing apps have put behind California ballot Proposition 22, which would exempt them from a law ordering they classify their drivers as employees and thus make them eligible for state-mandated protections and benefits. It’s not hard to find a reminder of how cold corporations can be, and Supernatural did as good of a job as can be expected in depicting that reality in season 7 — especially since the Leviathans weren’t just vanquished after Dean and Cas sent Dick to Purgatory.
Season 7 is an outlier in Supernatural’s history. Throughout its run, it has always known what kind of show it is (give or take several missteps here and there). It’s not about exploring big social and political issues through genre. It’s about two brothers who travel the country in their very American car fighting monsters, because it’s their family’s burden. While it has done some amazingly weird things within the confines of this premise, it generally stays in this lane. Each season, Sam and Dean juggle their share of monster-of-the-week cases with saving the world from any host of biblical threats, and the fate of the world is often directly tied to the fate of the family and their messy yet devoted bond. At the end of the day, escapism is the goal, and the hyper-focus on the Winchesters serves that. This is why season 7 stands out: It’s one of the few times when the show tries to broaden its perspective and engage with the real world beyond a thinly veiled quip about our current president.
That being said, that might be one of the many reasons why it’s not as beloved — because the story feels somewhat detached from the Winchesters. Supernatural lives on Ackles and Padalecki’s performances and the brothers’ dynamic, which is one of the reasons why it has struggled to launch a spin-off. While season 7’s use of the Leviathans is interesting, the resulting conflict isn’t nearly as emotionally engaging as some of the show’s previous big bads (Yes, corporations are bad, but what about Sam and Dean?). Nevertheless, it’s still nice that the series tried something new even if we don't talk about it.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.