My last post explored seasons 1-5 of Supernatural and which characters represented the protagonist in each season. As discussed last time the protagonist is the person with the most to lose in the story line. The one we, the audience, are expected to most identify with on an emotional level. I’d like to also discuss who the antagonist is this time.
The antagonist isn’t just the villain, they can be anyone who impedes the protagonist from reaching their goal. Their goal can be the same or the complete opposite. They may not even be aware of the protagonist’s existence, yet they prevent them from easily getting what they want. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be another person, it could be nature or the protagonist themself (man vs. nature; man vs. self). As I said, anything that keeps the antagonist from potentially reaching their goal.
So who has which roles when we start season 6?
We start with Dean, having taken Sam‘s advice and given up the hunting life. He is our protagonist. He thinks he is acclimating well to his new life and family. Yet he is going to be faced with the choice he once gave Sam and for him it, as it was for Sam, is really no choice at all. He knows what he was truly meant to do and he leaves his pseudo-family to once again become a hunter. He remains a protagonist for the entirety of the season as they look for ways to get Sam’s soul back and keep one step ahead of Crowley. Crowley is the main antagonist this season with Castiel once again a mirror protagonist to Dean. Both are looking for more power and ways to get that power and both are played by Crowley. At the end of Season 6 it seems as though Castiel has made the jump from protagonist to antagonist, having gained more power than he’s capable of safely wielding and declaring himself the New God.
Season 7 rolls around with our sexy New God in full on cleansing mode. He is the new antagonist that Sam and Dean must find a way to stop. It turns out that Castiel belatedly realizes he’s compromised himself and goes to them to set things right before he loses complete control. Sam and Dean as the protagonists are forced to watch someone they care for and call family implode. After this they must combat the real antagonists, the Leviathan that had been controlling Castiel. They both remain the protagonists for the rest of the season as they each are proactive and aggressive in their hunting. Once Castiel is returned to them he becomes a protagonist once again. As Emmanuel he has to confront what he was and accepts what he did and tries to make amends. Dean and Sam remain protagonists throughout the rest of the season. Castiel for his part ceases to be a protagonist once he takes on Sam’s mental illness. He is no longer proactive, but reactive, a victim as Sam had struggled with previously. It’s not until the last two episodes that Castiel once again becomes a protagonist taking an active, if somewhat reluctant role in combating the Leviathan.
The next season is a bit more complicated. We will break this season down a bit more thoroughly.
Dean is back from Purgatory and pissed as hell (pun intended). Sam is torn between helping his brother and wanting to continue his life with Amelia. Both brothers are protagonists as they are each forced to confront truths about themselves and their relationships. Both have left people they love behind. Sam leaving Amelia and Dean (believing) he left Castiel in Purgatory. Both are trying to come back to an understanding with each other and at times act as each other’s antagonist. We are also introduced to Kevin Tran who will be the primary protagonist in the first several episodes as he is forced to leave his old life behind and become a prophet. He at first may seem like a victim, but his character quickly shows that he is too smart and resourceful to allow this to happen. Crowley remains the main antagonist for the season.
Once Castiel does reappear he is not a protagonist, in fact due to Naomi’s interference he is delicately balanced between simply being a secondary supporting character and becoming an antagonist. He is reactive and unable to make decisions for himself. He goes from helping to hindering the brothers based on how Naomi wishes things to go in the interim. However, from episode 17 on Castiel is once again a protagonist along with Sam, Dean and Kevin, Dean having helped break the mind control. He is proactive and working to keep Dean, Sam and Kevin safe. His decision to trust Metatron is based on Metatron’s status as an angel and the fact that Dean and Sam were prepared to trust him as well.
Sam is a clear protagonist in that he makes the decision to leave behind his life and complete the trials outlined on the Demon Tablet in an attempt to redeem himself for his past sins. Dean remains a protagonist in that he must help Sam and keep him safe while at the same time dealing with what seems to be yet another betrayal by Castiel. He is proactive, finding ways to help Sam complete the trials and also trying to figure out what is wrong with Castiel.
By the last two episodes it’s clear that all three have reached their individual ‘darkest hour’ in the season arc. Sam is dying from the effects of the trials. Castiel is betrayed and loses his most precious possession and Dean is faced with the prospect of losing the two most important people in his life.
So, who will be the protagonist come season 9? It’s a pretty good bet that Castiel will once again join Dean and Sam as the primary protagonists. The changes wrought on him in the season 8 finale demand nothing less. Dean and Sam will have their own major struggles and the new antagonist could be one of several characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out. Or doesn’t. This show has a pretty good track record of breaking hearts and stomping on feelings.
Oh and in case you didn’t get the ‘gonist’ in the title: