(Spoilers for through the end of Season 9 below.)
It's not so much the storyline - I think Carver does a better job at overall arcs than Gamble did, though Gamble was a master at characterization - but Carver's characterization has been horrible. Sam not looking for Dean, not even trying? I had no problem with him trying to start over and escape his pain. That is what Sam does. He runs away. I don't buy that he never looked. We saw that Dean was looking in Season 6. A throw away line or a flashback of Sam giving up would have done it for me. Then when Dean was super upset over the whole thing, they could have revealed that Sam had tried.
In Season 9, we had Sam possessed by Gadriel. Not a terrible idea, but poorly executed. Again, I had issues with Sam's characterization in that he just decided he wanted to live in the S8 finale when he and Dean had that great moment before the angels fell. And then all of a sudden he wants to die? I can't make sense of that. It was just a poor excuse to have Dean do whatever it takes to save Sam. Then, in the second half, when we had the cool Mark of Cain arc building up, the brothers acted like they couldn't stand each other. I didn't sign up to watch them be so...cold.
The show has fallen into this bad habit of manufacturing tension between Sam and Dean. Sam didn't look for Dean. Dean took away Sam's agency. But it's not just been Carver. With Gamble, we had Dean kill Amy behind Sam's back. We had Soulless!Sam, though that made more sense. Kripke did it too. The big problem is that as the series has aged, the tension has moved from something organic to inorganic. It doesn't work. Why not have a season with Sam embracing the Men of Letters and Dean more aligned with Hunters? We saw crazy MOL collector. Could Sam become THAT obsessed? You could easily use their different personalities to highlight this split and show how much stronger they are when they work together. This past season, the possessed!Sam could have opened up some interesting doors - even though I was sour on the idea because I prefer Dean aligned with heaven (I blame fanfic). Spending more time on Sam's awareness of Dean's descent and heck, even making Dean's unraveling a little more coherent would have worked.
Anyway, it sounds like I'm ranting. In many ways I am. This is my show. This, apparently, will always be my show, surpassing the love I've had for Star Wars and X-Files and SG-1 combined. So I've been upset when I see the potential wasted and I sit in front of the TV anxious what more damage will be done to the characters in the name of tension and drama.
But these past two months, I've been thinking about the remaining potential in the show. I think about how invested the cast and crew still are. I've thought about some of the valid problems I've had, and maybe the not so valid ones. I am not a writer on the show. I can't will the show to take the direction I want. I have to let go and just watch. I can't control everything.
I've been rewatching old episodes and remembering just how much I love the family themes in the show, the themes of sacrifice and love and doing the right thing. I really still do love this show and I'm excited for when Season 10 begins in October. Seriously, this new season could be amazing. Then again, I could be fooled again.
Do I think everything will be perfect? No. I've been burned too much by false hope before. But I still do have some hope. Cautious hope? Whatever happens, I know that this show will always have a place in my heart and that I won't give up on it until I have no more hope to spare.
Even if I am all alone.