(Mild spoilers for episodes already aired)
Hope is an interesting thematic element in television shows. Throughout most of (Joss Whedon's) series Angel, hope (for Angel's redemption) was a major driving force--but some would argue it never paid off, given the Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid ending of the series. Ron Moore's and David Eick's Battlestar Galactica is undoubtedly the darkest television show I've ever watched, but hope was a predominant element (the hope to find Earth, the hope for survival). And then we have Supernatural. It's always had its dark moments (see: death, demons, hell), but before this season, I never would have thought to characterize it as bleak (and even this season, I cracked up during Monster Movie and Yellow Fever), yet looking back, I wonder if maybe it's always been bleaker than I realize. (The reason I didn't truly think last season was bleak was because I was just certain Dean would find a way to escape Lilith. At least, I hoped he would.)
Courtesy of Merriam-Webster online, bleak: "not hopeful or encouraging."
Yep, that's Show all right.
In the pilot, Sam had the gall to hope for, to actually try to build, a normal life. Dean mocked that wish in a fight, basically telling Sam to give it up because he was never going to be normal, he was a Winchester. And then fate (well, actually, Azazel) took if a step further and killed Sam's girlfriend. Although none of us knew it at the time, this cycle dated back to Sam's mom, Mary, who'd been raised a hunter. She wished for a normal life, to marry John and settle down peacefully--but wound up having to make a demonic pact with Azazel to save John's life. Eventually, she gave up her own life for it and set the boys on their current course.
In season 2, we got the episode "What Is and What Should Never Be," where Dean gets his wishes (sort of) at a cost. He almost decides to stay in the dream world, even though his dad is dead there, too, and Sam is contemputous of him (but successful and healthy and engaged to Jessica) but to do so would have meant sacrificing himself to the Djinn. So, thumbnail hypothesis: wishes equal death? Well, certainly Sam's wishing for a normal life, and Mary doing so before him, ended in flaming-ceiling-death for various parties. This season brought us "Wishful Thinking," which also characterized wishes as potentially dangerous--and even though some people I know thought it was pretty funny, I thought that the suicidal teddy bear (brought to life by a little girl's wish) was disturbing. He tries to blow his head off and ends up sobbing because he can't die.
Throughout the entire series, there's been the possibility that things will "end bloody" for the boys. But even the alternative (growing old naturally) was painted as bleak and bitter in "Criss Angel is a Douchebag." Um, okay, Show, you really don't want us to have any hope for the boys' future, do you?
But wait! There's always the Buffy-esque season 5, the boys may die in the fight against good and evil (make that, die again, since they've both been down that particular road), may have to sacrifice themselves, but perhaps then they can save the world and move on to a better place. Ha, Krikpe, I've found at least a small smidge of something to hope for...haven't I?
Alas, no. In "Death takes a Holiday," a Reaper talks about the better place being a lie we tell ourselves for comfort and hope. And then, as a final tire iron to the kneecap, in "On the Head of a Pin," an angel utters the statement that God doesn't exist. Well, alrighty then. Dean Winchester by the end of that episode was a bruised and bloody portrait of despair. He told Castiel that he can't do it, he can't fight the apocalypse, and on one hand, I kind of think he's right. After all, without hope, how can you pick yourself back up and go on? Even though Dean himself once mocked Sam's hopes for a normal life (which Sam reiterated right back to him in "Death Takes a Holiday") Dean has hoped for things along the way--to find his father (which they did, only to lose him when John traded his life for Dean's), to protect Sam (which Dean sacrificed his own life to do--only to risk losing Sam in a different way now that he's sleeping with Ruby and swilling demon blood), to be a good man slaying demons and a son his father could be proud of (only to learn that while John never broke, Dean was down there torturing people and breaking apocalpytic seals). You see where I'm going with this, yes? Wishes and hope for the future end very badly.
Which makes me wonder, how is our show going to end? Will the boys be able to rediscover enough optimism to get back into the fray, enough hope in love and each other to at least repair their own relationship even if they can't save the rest of the world?
I wish I knew.