I was so exuberant over Supernatural’s penultimate episode of the season that I went into the finale episode already an emotional wreck – in the very best of ways. I honestly sort of wanted a while to just savor all those wonderful warm feelings, but of course, Show just couldn’t let me do that. I barely had time to grab another glass of wine before the familiar notes of Carry On Wayward Son were making me even MORE emotional. There are so many things that happen that are special when a television show has been on this long and had this much impact – even the band Kansas, who recorded that classic, tweeted about the season finale, knowing that every single fan was going to go nuts when Supernatural’s unofficial theme song was played.
The recap took us through a season of ups and downs, through a lot of episodes that were painful to watch and a few story lines that didn’t work for me like I think the show intended, and ultimately ended up where the last episode left off – a Winchester family hug.
Then boom, we’re torn away from that and things get a lot more tense. We catch up to Castiel and Kelly, who ran off and left Sam and Dean behind, and yes, I’m still annoyed by that. But, as Dean says, we’ll get past it. We always do.
Kelly Kline (Courtney Ford)’s storyline was one that didn’t always work for me this season, but in this episode, I finally had empathy for the character. Trying desperately to put together a crib (and if you’ve ever attempted to put ANYTHING from Ikea together, you have to empathize with her on that…), Kelly is frantic to just be able to do something for her child. Even knowing that giving birth to him is going to kill her, she truly does love her baby, and I can relate to that. She paints him a mural, makes him a heartfelt video.
The last Cas-centric episode also left me completely unsure whether Cas was actually sincere about believing that the Nephilim would be born good and might save the world, or if he was being manipulated and fooled. This episode took away all those doubts, even if that’s not really what I was expecting. Cas does believe, and he is in control. (Which made me a little more cranky about him leaving Sam and Dean unconscious in a playground). In this episode, however, Misha Collins shows us Castiel’s softer side. I came to enjoy the bond between Cas and Kelly – there’s a sweetness to it, almost an innocence. They have clearly come to an understanding, and there’s genuine caring there. They are united in their faith that this child can create a different world, a better one. And that means Cas is there for her, holding her hand and trying to comfort her, and buying a crap ton of diapers for a child who will never need them.
The entire Kelly Kline story is invested with emotion for me in this episode because we know she’s about to die – and she knows it too. She accepts it even as she’s frightened, and I’m a bit in awe of her bravery and her faith and her complete love for her unborn child – even if it is the Devil’s.
Cas gives voice to the gravity of the situation with some nice Andrew Dabb dialogue.
Cas: I understand…that’s a lie. I have no idea how hard this is for you.
That rang so true, because I don’t think any of us can imagine. Kudos to Ford for her portrayal of Kelly in this episode; I was surprised at how much I felt for the character. And those labor pains? Oh yes, I could empathize. It’s a big lie that you forget that pain!
My only tiny quibble about the Kelly and Cas story arc in this episode is that the fake pregnancy ball was so fake looking that it kept distracting me. Nobody carries a baby that way, Show!
Anyway, I felt for Kelly, and I felt for Cas too. He’s clearly sincere in his determination to raise the child and keep him safe, which means so much to Kelly.
Then something unanticipated happens, which always makes me happy. I love that Show can still surprise me after all these years! The about-to-be-born Nephilim’s energy opens a portal and Cas, fearless and curious being that he is, walks right through it. (If I were him, one thing I would have learned is NOT to expect an unknown portal to lead to anywhere remotely good…)
It turns out my doubts are well founded, because Cas ends up in a bleak and desolate post-apocalyptic world (amusingly, both the portal and the structures in it are full of sexual imagery which was not lost on much of the fandom – we’re a Freudian bunch, what can I say?) Cas is immediately attacked and then saved by someone we don’t see, but who he clearly knows.
Then we jump to a commercial and don’t return to find out WHO he’s referring to for a very long time, which made me keep yelling at my television, “Who was it, for godsakes??”
Meanwhile, the other major story line is the Crowley and Lucifer showdown. It’s been brewing for a long long time, and it feels like the right time to end it, but I have to say I was really hoping this wouldn’t be the way that happened. It’s no secret that I love Mark Sheppard and would be truly sad to see him gone. I have to hand it to Show for throwing me a curveball, thinking that the Crowley death that we were worried about had already happened a few episodes ago and Crowley had come back from it – that false sense of security made his eventual for-real death all the more devastating.
I’m not sure why we had to be shown the entire Crowley-smoked-into-the-rat-and-here’s-what-happened-next chain of events. Honestly, Show, we’re smarter than that. Everyone knew Crowley was in the rat, you made it very obvious. Sigh. Anyway, Crowley gets out of the rat and back into his buried body, and we get to see him thrust his hand up through the dirt with a nice call back to Dean doing the same in season four. I loved the way Bob Singer directed that scene. Crowley’s back! My relief, as we all know, was to be short-lived.
While all three Winchesters try to figure out what to do next about Lucifer, they call Rowena, and here’s where I start to get very upset. Because her phone just rings and rings, and there’s blood everywhere, and WTF there’s Lucifer holding a strand of unmistakable red hair and stepping over a charred body.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! This is clearly meant to be Rowena and she is clearly supposed to be dead, but I’m having a hard time believing that the show would write off the longest-running female character ever with an OFF SCREEN death! That can’t be right, can it??? I really hope not, because a) I adore Ruth Connell to the moon and back and b) I love love love the character of Rowena. She’s immensely popular among the fandom – a nuanced, badass, unpredictable character who I wanted to know so much more about. Please tell me that she manages to escape this death like she’s escaped others?
Mark Pellegrino was right, by the way. He kept saying that if we hated Lucifer, we’d hate him a lot more after the finale. Yep.
Crowley has decided to throw in with the Winchesters, showing up at the bunker. Dean, understandably pissed about Crowley diverting Lucifer from the Cage, tries to kill him, but Sam talks him out of it. Temporarily at least.
They tell Crowley that Rowena is dead, and I admit I was hoping to see a flash of hurt on his face at that news. That relationship was fascinating to me, and I always felt there could be so much more to it if we saw more of the love that was there, buried under all the hurt and anger and betrayal. If both characters are truly gone, I feel like there was wasted potential there, which makes me sad.
Crowley tells the Winchesters that he’s tired of being King of Hell. He hates his job, and besides, he just wanted to win. So now, when it comes to facing a world-ending scenario, he knows where his best chance is.
Crowley: I place my bets with you, you big beautiful lumbering piles of flannel.
Me: Aaaaah, who else will ever say lines like that???
Crowley offers to seal the gates of hell if they do win, and so the Winchesters settle in to figure out where Castiel took Kelly.
Crowley: Is this what you do when I’m not here? Type??
We get a bit of smart Winchesters, and then they’re off to track down Cas and Kelly, leaving Crowley behind with his hand knifed to the table by Dean. Ouch. But also, badass Dean, mmm.
Cas isn’t exactly happy to see them.
Sam: That was a stupid move, Cas.
Me: Yay for Show having characters actually address the things that have happened!
Dean: We’ll work through our crap, we always do.
Me: That’s what I said…
Cas heals Dean’s injured leg and then shows them the portal.
Castiel: It’s a doorway to another world.
Dean: Like Narnia?
Sam: Or a bizarro world?
They give a little French Mistake shout out, ending with Dean’s reminder “and you were Polish…”
A small moment of humor in a not-very-funny-at-all finale. Sam and Dean get the run down on this other world from a surprising character, the one who Cas recognized on his first trip through the rift. It’s Bobby!
I have to hand it to Jim Beaver, who I spent time with just a few weeks ago at the book release party for Family Don’t End With Blood (he wrote a kickass chapter and you can buy it here). He kept insisting that he was miffed that the show did not have him on Season 12, the first season he hadn’t been on. He’s so damn good at being convincing, he had everyone fooled! (I know, I know, he’s a great actor, not really a surprise…)
Bobby explains that in this world, the earth is locked in eternal war between angels and demons, both of whom are dicks, with the humans who are left caught in between. It’s a bombed out, bleak, apocalyptic world where John Winchester died forty years ago and Mary Campbell grieved him for thirty and then was killed by Azazel. It’s a world where Sam and Dean Winchester were never born.
Cas: It’s a world you never saved.
And that, right there, makes this both important and brilliant. So often the Winchesters don’t realize the extent of what they’ve done, of how they have literally saved the world, again and again. They don’t always see themselves as the heroes they are, or realize the difference they’ve made. That’s what makes all their loss and suffering and sacrifice worth it, but they need to SEE it. This alternate universe allows that, and I love that. Kudos, Mr. Dabb.
The other reality is also a place where Bobby kills angels with a gun he calls Rufus, and with bullets he’s made out of angel blades. Smart, Bobby. Damn, it’s nice having Bobby back, even if he doesn’t know who the hell Sam and Dean are!
Sam, Dean and Cas return to their world, where Kelly is about to give birth and Mary is acting as doula (though it was sweet that Cas took an online doula course to be prepared).
Kelly gives us a bit of ominous foreshadowing.
Kelly to Mary: I’m dying. But that’s okay. Because wouldn’t you die for your sons?
Mary says that she would and I’m immediately going uh oh. I’ve been ambivalent about Mary being gone until now, but her death just when she’s finally connected with her boys would be so painful. Nail biting commence.
Sam and Dean arm up, anticipating the arrival of Lucifer.
Dean: Cas has faith in this kid. But me? I have faith in us. You, me, mom, Cas. And Crowley, sometimes.
When Lucifer gets there, Cas makes a run at him and is tossed aside. In another bit that surprised me, Sam and Dean exchange a look – and then run away! I actually laughed, and so did Lucifer, before he went after them. But don’t underestimate Team Free Will, because the Cas diversion and the running away was just to get Lucifer over to the rift. They go through, and as they assumed, Lucifer follows. I guess angels can’t avoid being too curious about these things.
Dean is ready for him, armed with Rufus and the angel killing bullets.
Dean: Say hello to my little friend.
Dean sprays Lucifer with bullets, buying Sam and Crowley time to work a spell. Dean runs out of bullets and Lucifer starts to pummel him (poor Dean has really taken a beating these last two episodes!) as Sam frantically tries to finish the spell and save his brother.
Sam: That’s the last ingredient.
Crowley: Not quite. We need one more minor ingredient. A life.
And then I knew. Crowley appears before Lucifer, stopping him from killing Dean.
Sam slides in to grab his brother (which must have been the time that Jared accidentally punched Jensen that we heard them talk about), and Lucifer is delighted to have the option to kill Crowley twice.
Crowley: You’re right, it is personal.
Lucifer: You know that whatever you try, you’ll lose.
Crowley: You’re right.
Crowley looks over his shoulder, one last time, at Sam and Dean.
Crowley: Bye, boys.
I for real burst into tears at that moment. It was a perfect mirror of his “Hello, boys” that has become his trademark, and as Crowley plunged the angel blade into his own heart and flamed out, I couldn’t help but feel like it was the end of an era.
There was no time to even process that loss, though, before Castiel came through and stalked right up to Lucifer, giving Sam and Dean time to get back through the portal.
At the same time, Kelly says a final “I love you” and explodes in a flash of light as she gives birth, knocking Mary backwards. And holy crap, the hits just kept on coming.
Cas makes it back through the portal, Sam smiling a greeting with a relieved “Cas!”, only to see Castiel be stabbed through the chest with an angel blade by Lucifer behind him.
I was so in shock that I had to rewatch to get straight what happened next, because I honestly didn’t think they were going there. As Lucifer advances on the shocked Winchester brothers, announcing menacingly that play time is over, their mother appears and steps in front of them.
Mary: Get away from them.
She pummels him with the enspelled brass knuckles, knocking him backwards again and again, and then turns and looks at her sons.
Mary: I love you.
Me once again: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Lucifer disappears through the portal, dragging Mary with him like Adam and Sam falling into the cage in another devastating season finale. The rift closes behind them.
Dean: (heartbroken) No. Nonononononono.
Sam looks down aghast at Castiel’s body, then back at the house behind them, which is lit up with energy from the birth, and runs inside, leaving Dean standing there in shock, Cas dead and his mother locked in another world. He drops to his knees, grieving, then looks up at the sky, perhaps in a silent plea to a missing Chuck.
Inside the house, Sam finds Kelly dead and closes her eyes, and then follows a trail of bloody footsteps through the darkened house. He gasps as he sees the glowing yellow eyes of the Nephilim sitting hunched in a corner.
And that was it for Season 12.
It took me quite a while to work through that boom-boom-boom ending and be able to make sense of it. This episode was oddly paced in that it was almost leisurely for the first ¾ and then the last fifteen minutes were nonstop, full of twists and turns and shocks.
The fandom was understandably devastated – as Jensen joked on the weekend at the Rome con, so many people died it was like The Red Wedding! There are many fans for whom Castiel is tremendously important on a personal level, so the possibility that he might indeed be dead caused some serious anxiety in the fandom. Misha had posted an emotional video celebrating Castiel’s 100th episode earlier in the day, which just stirred up the possibility even more.
It’s a testament to how fearless this show can be that I wasn’t absolutely certain that Misha would be back in Season 13. However, I was about 90% sure. Maybe 95%. So I wasn’t as devastated as some, but I certainly felt the anxiety and sadness swirling around me online. It’s usually a great idea to have a fandom on the edge of their seats for a hellatus, not knowing whether a beloved character will return. But in this case, I think that unique reciprocal relationship that the actors have with the fans made it hard for them to let people suffer like that. Misha and Jared both hinted that Cas wasn’t gone for good, though neither would say it outright and both tried to make a joke of it. But I think we all felt that they wanted to make people feel better, so that at least there’s hope for the four months we have to wait. What other show do the actors feel so much for the fans that they can’t quite keep the big hiatus cliffhanger hanging?
For Crowley and Rowena, however, I just don’t know. And that is making me very very sad. I love both those characters, and I feel like there was still a lot to explore, both between them and with them and the Winchesters. Also, I love Ruth and Mark, so wahhhhh!
On the other hand, I’m excited about the idea of an Alternate Universe, which is such a fannish trope that it makes me extra happy. That provides a lot of potential, including AU Cas and AU Bobby and maybe even AU Crowley and Rowena, though I’m not sure exactly how that would work. And who knows what will happen with Mary and Lucifer over there?
So now we wait. I should be good at this by now, having endured eleven hellatus marathons. But it never gets easy. I love my Show, and already I want it back!
That does give the fandom time for a lot of Supernatural reading though. You’ll feel better if you read all the inspiring stories that the actors and the fans wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, promise.