This was it for Supernatural, this was the big season, the one that the show had been leading up to for four years. This was the projected end point for the show and for a lot of the season it sure felt that way. Sam and Dean were up against the apocalypse, the end of days and all the rest of that shit. There's no coming back from that (although as Season 6 has shown, the writers are trying). This was the season they were going to deal with the religious tales of the end of the world. Hell, Satan himself is a major supporting character for the majority of the season.
Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles continued to be great as Dean and Sam Winchester, as did Jim Beaver as Bobby and Misha Collins as Castiel. Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Dexter) was also a great addition to the show playing Lucifer. But I think everyone knows that Jared and Jensen are exceedingly charismatic and great in every single scene they're in. I don't need to go on about that, but just reinforce the fact that these two put in a damn good performance every single week. It's not award worthy but they're just consistently great.
So what about the season as a whole? Coming off of the superb Season 4, my hopes were set extremely high for Season 5, to the extent it was almost impossible for the show to reach them. Which sadly the show didn't reach. That's not saying it was bad, and more often than not it was great even! Occasionally however (particularly in the early portion of the season) the show was putting out some really weak episodes, 'Fallen Idols' and 'Children Are Our Future' were definitely not all time great episodes. They weren't bad but when it's coming from a show that has delivered episodes like 'On the Head of a Pin' and 'In Our Time of Dying' they were definitely disappointments.
Most of my disappoint in Season 5 however didn't stem from the occasional weak episode but from the pacing of the season. The apocalypse was so huge that it just took over the whole show. The urgency that the Winchester's were facing the apocalypse just wasn't there in some episodes. It felt a lot like Season 3 which suffered from similar problems. Dean was supposed to die within a year but some episodes ignored this fact and went on like nothing was wrong. Of course I'd say Season 5 was probably a stronger season than that one, but it suffered from a lot of the same flaws (but luckily no Bella). When we go through entire episodes about Paris Hilton murdering people and not focusing upon the pressing matter that Dean and Sam are the vessels for Satan and Michael, then something is very wrong with the pacing.
Overall though the apocalypse story was exactly the kind of thing Supernatural does well. We got to meet the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with great performances from Titus Welliver as War and Julian Richings as Death who of course had the natural creepiness needed for that role. Then there was 'Hammer of the Gods' where the show branched out into other mythologies such as Norse and Roman, making the Supernatural universe that much larger (even if Lucifer did come in and decimate all of them). But for every 'Hammer of the Gods' or 'Abandon All Hope...' which featured the deaths of both Jo and Ellen, we got an episode like 'Children Are Our Future' which focused on the anti-christ and had absolutely no long standing consequences on the season.
But I'm not going to focus on the misgivings of the season, When everything was right, Supernatural did exactly what it does so well, a horror movie with a twist every week. Of course there were the occasional funny episodes such as the terrific 'Changing Channels' which wrapped up the Trickster trilogy with an episode riffing on TV shows that was not only hilarious but also tied wonderfully back into the main conflict of the season. Then there was more traditional fare such as the fantastic premiere, 'Sympathy for the Devil and two time travel episodes with 'The End' and 'The Song Remains the Same'. When Supernatural went for a story relating to the apocalypse it didn't hold back, it gave it's audience nearly every single trope relating to the biblical tales of the end of days even on it's very minimal budget, fuck, they even took Sam and Dean to heaven in 'The Dark Side of the Moon'.
All of this ambition though was for a reason, this was originally going to be the show's final season and it really shows. The 100th episode of the show 'Point of No Return' might not have had the world falling apart, but there was a pervading sense of doom and exhaustion that consumed the Winchesters. Kurt Fuller as Zachariah put in another great performance in this 100th episode trying to convince Dean to give his body to Michael which of course was never going to happen. 'Point of No Return' was where the season hit double speed and started the ball rolling for the epic final string of episodes and the finale, and boy, what a finale it was.
'Swan Song' was so obviously meant to be the show's final episode that in many ways the obvious changes made in light of the Season 6 pick-up weakened it (both Bobby and Castiel coming back to life, Sam appearing outside of the pit all of 5 minutes later) but it was still a superb cap to those first five seasons. Whilst the end of the apocalypse story wasn't as epic and crazy as many people expected it to be, it did stay true to the shows roots. It was emotional, with great acting from all involved and that sense of familial love that this show does so well. It was an utterly satisfying finale for the show and would have been a perfect series finale if the show had ended. I'm not upset that we have at least one more season of this show because I do love it, but I can't help but feel that any future series finale might not be able to top this one.
Overall, Supernatural 5 wasn't the perfect season of the show, but it did what the show does well. The pace might not have been spot on and it definitely wasn't as consistent as Season 4, but it still delivered more often than it failed. Supernatural was as ambitious as ever and more or less stuck the landing. Whilst this would have been a perfect point for the show to bow out, you can't really complain when you're getting essentially an extra season of a great and amazingly fun show. Hell where else could God be a white guy that orders hookers?
It might not have been the swan song for Dean, Sam and that Impala, but in the end it was just a great season of television and that's all we really ever wanted.