This is a mostly spoiler-free review of Supernatural: Season 12, which is now available on Netflix. That is, until the end of the piece, where a spoiler warning will be provided.
After the huge cosmic scale of Supernatural’s Season 11 (that wound up being a strange, zero-sum game by the end), Season 12 brought things back down to earth in a effective, emotional way that involved the miraculous return of Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) and the shady-turned-diabolical dealings of the British Men of Letters.
Through this arc, the season was able to focus in on a handful of more nuanced themes involving family, wasted potential, and lingering resentment over abandonment. Mary’s return was both joyful and painful – for both her and the boys. They welcomed her back warmly, but their relationship was still strained because of how old they were when she was killed and what their childhood was like because of her absence. In particular, Dean and Mary’s struggles were more notable because of the fact that he was old enough to remember her being his mom and old enough to take the brunt of John’s special form of rearing.