I don’t know why I ever entertained the thought that “Supernatural” might go out without all kinds of emotions and reactions, since the show has always inspired those in its fans – so why should its last few episodes be any different? Last week’s episode brought intense and varied reactions and saw the loss of Castiel; this week’s episode was very different but it somehow managed to engender varied reactions again.
We didn’t lose any of the remaining three major players, however, and I’m still shocked about that. I had convinced myself, in an attempt to somehow prepare myself for the anguish, that either Sam or Dean or both were going to die in 15.19. I was so on edge I could barely think of anything else on Thursday (which makes work challenging) and I had my box of tissues and glass of wine at the ready. Slice of pie too, and fuzzy blankie. Not that any of that is going to be all that helpful next week, probably. But I was so convinced that we were losing at least one of them, that I spent most of the episode hyperventilating and hypervigilant, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And then…. it didn’t.
Until the moment the credits rolled, I was half hiding my face behind my hands certain that something horrible was going to happen and take all the good feelings away. I sat there in shock for a good few minutes after, probably muttering out loud “is that… it?”
It was also confusing because this penultimate episode (forgive me, but everyone in this fandom is using that word because it holds special meaning to us and how often do you get to use it properly?) – anyway, this penultimate episode felt so much like the end. Like the series finale, not just the season finale. There were lots of “let’s just leave it right here, okay?” posts on Thursday night. This fandom does not get to have feel-good endings. It just doesn’t happen. Not as a season finale, that’s for sure. We’ve been so conditioned to tragedy befalling us if we let our guard down, I think there was a collective “HUH?” from all over the world when this episode ended and Sam and Dean were still alive – and Jack was… Well, Jack. But also, for all intents and purposes, God.
The writers of this episode are not fandom favorites, and they’re known for episodes that have so much going on, it makes your head spin, and this episode wasn’t an exception to that. There were things that made me scratch my head, but they also managed to tie up a ridiculous number of loose ends in a relatively satisfying way, so I’m not going to quibble too much. Maybe I just desperately needed something that felt like a happy ending, because I’m willing to just let myself feel good about this one. There is only one more episode left, and I want to hang onto any good feelings I can find about my favorite show EVER, for five days longer.
Special kudos for the amazing music in this episode, which really enhanced the story and made me feel more than I might have. Christopher Lennertz and Jay Gruska have knocked it out of the park so many times for so many years, making “Supernatural” so much more powerful and emotional than it would have been without their talent and how much they care about the show. I’m so appreciative. This episode was Lennertz; the series finale will be Gruska.
How many boxes of tissues will I need when the Winchester family theme plays for the last time? I don’t think there are enough in the universe.
The episode picks up pretty much where ‘Despair’ left off, Sam and Jack realizing the world is empty as we see scenes of empty streets in cities all over the world, mournful music playing that makes the scene so much more cinematic than it would have been otherwise.
Dean drives up to join them, finding a shell-shocked Sam and Jack.
Sam: I couldn’t save anybody…
Jack: (looking stricken already) Where’s Cas?
Dean: He saved me. Cas is gone. Jack, I’m sorry.
Jack gasps, heartbroken. Sam looks even more shocked and guilt-stricken than before. He calls people, getting only cell phone answer messages. That little detail seemed so real, like exactly what any of us would do, unable to believe that everyone is really gone.
The three walk down the deserted street, mournful eerie music playing, into deserted diners with the beer tap still running, like the best apocalypse fanfic. (With a little homage to Jensen’s Family Business Beer Co)
Jack calls to Castiel but gets no response. As he walks dejectedly by some plants and trees, they wither and die as he passes.
Sam can’t shake his guilt.
Sam: I did this. We didn’t give Chuck what he wanted, we tried to rewrite him and the whole world paid the price…
Dean and Jack disagree, and Jack is the one who speaks the message that will always be inextricably linked with this show for me.
Jack: You can’t just give up.
Always Keep Fighting.
The Winchesters do seem to give up, though. They meet up with Chuck and tell him he’s won, that they’ll give him what he wants.
Sam: We’re giving up.
Dean: I’ll kill Sam, he’ll kill me. We’ll kill each other. But first, you have to put it back – the people, the birds, Cas. You gotta bring him back.
They are willing, both of them, to sacrifice themselves to save the world – as they have always been.
Chuck really is sadistic, though. He doesn’t find that story ending as compelling as he thought, deciding to leave the Winchesters and Jack wandering through a deserted world, dealing with their overwhelming guilt.
Chuck: Knowing it’s this way because you wouldn’t take a knee.
Next day, at the bunker. Sam finds Dean passed out drunk on the floor. (Nobody but Sam Winchester looks that good roaming the halls in their PJ’s and bare feet, and nobody but Dean Winchester looks that good after passing out drunk on the floor)
Jack starts hearing voices and realizes there’s something else out there, so the three head out in the Impala. They stop for gas – at a gas station set paying Homage to Route 66, a Winchester origin story per Eric Kripke. There Dean finds something alive – a dog! He’s overjoyed, names it Miracle, and carries it back to the car to show Sam. We should all have known things weren’t going to go well, but like Dean, I so wanted to believe there was other life, and I so wanted to see Dean Winchester have a moment of happiness.
Sam: You’re gonna let a dog sit in the Impala?
(Which is weird because Sam is the one in canon who has always wanted a dog, and in all the best fanfic too. Huh.)
Dean happily puts Miracle in the car, stopping to bestow some affection, and he’s so happy and it’s just heartbreaking (also the dog right now is everyone who’s ever been the object of Dean Winchester’s affection)
For a second. Then, as Dean grins, POOF. Dog gone, Chuck standing in a field nearby smirking.
Dean looks so wrathful I don’t know how Chuck wasn’t scared, God or no God.
Dean: I can’t even save a friggen’ dog.
Sam: There’s no one left to help.
Poor boys, their whole sense of purpose is taken away. Chuck really is a cruel, cruel capricious god.
They push on and find the source of the message Jack is hearing in a church, which gives us a gorgeous scene. Really, everything about that scene is amazing and belongs in a feature film. The lighting is beautiful thanks to Serge Ladouceur’s genius, rows and rows of candles and flashes of lightning through the stained glass windows, the music is a mix of suspense and drama, almost sounding gothic – everything combines to keep my heart in my throat but also make me want to sigh with the perfection of it.
It turns out to be Michael, who tells them that Adam is gone.
Dean: Poor bastard, he never caught a break.
Damn, that is really true. I loved that the show had Michael and Adam both existing, and I was sorry to hear Adam was no longer there – and instantly a little suspicious of Michael without Adam’s long-time counsel. Michael expresses surprise that humanity so embraced the idea of God as benevolent, and says that he was part of how that happened, leaving behind instructions for angels and prophets to “burnish his image on Earth”. That was an interesting little speech to add to “Supernatural’s” unique take on God and religion.
Dean: Daddy’s boy.
It’s apparently where Sam and Dean got a clue about where Michael’s eventual loyalty would lie, but at the time I didn’t put the pieces together, so kudos to the writers for that.
They bring Michael back to the bunker to see if he can read the God book (he can’t).
Sam and Dean sit together on the stairs in the kitchen, feeling defeated.
And at that very low moment, Dean’s phone rings – the display reads “CASS”.
Dean gasps and picks up, asking hopefully “Cas?”
Castiel’s voice says he’s hurt, can they let him in?
And, of course, Dean bounds up the stairs and opens the door – to find Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) standing there.
That was a difficult moment, to say the least – for Dean, obviously, and for Sam – but also for a fandom still grieving Castiel’s death the week before. That brief moment of hope was snatched away, and a character that many either love to hate or just plain hate was there instead. It was – a lot.
Lucifer: What’s up?
What followed was a series of events I think I described as ‘boom boom boom boom’ in my live tweet of the episode. Lucifer says the Empty booted him and sent him to find God’s book, he brought Betty the reaper with him, then ten seconds later he kills her so she becomes the new Death and can read God’s book.
Betty: Hand over the book.
Sam and Dean: Huh?
Betty: Wow, slower than they look.
Death aka Betty goes off to read the book.
Michael and Lucifer have a nasty brotherly spat in which Lucifer taunts “Mikey” that their dad had no love to give anyone, including him.
Betty reads the book, opens it and confirms that yep, the way to kill God is in there.
Betty: I know how God ends.
Dean: Are you sure?
Betty: I’m Death.
Dean: You’ve been Death for like an hour!
Oh, Dean. Never change.
Betty’s sassiness is at an end though; Lucifer snaps her out of existence.
Me: Huh? I didn’t think he could do that.
Lucifer can’t resist crowing about his victory, saying that actually “Pop let me out of the Empty, said Mikey’s a cuck.”
I had to go to Urban Dictionary to figure out the exact meaning of that word – which, btw, there isn’t one. But the top definition is a man who’s desperate for acceptance, approval and affection (usually from a woman apparently, but whatever). At the time, I thought, what a weird thing to say. I guess Sam and Dean paid attention though.
A man who lets his wife or girlfriend have sex with other men. Often the man lets her do whatever she wants and treat him like shit.
(Short version of cuckold)
John watched his wife get fucked by another man. What a cuck!
Lucifer tries to convince Jack to come with him and team up with his father and grandfather, but a jealous and pissed off Michael grabs an archangel blade and stabs him to death. Lucifer dies (again) and Jack absorbs the energy released, though we don’t realize it at the time.
Sam and Dean (and the rest of us): But will it really take this time???
Michael confesses to being a bit winded from that fight, which was amusing because he got tossed across the room once and then stabbed Lucifer. Dean is empathic, though, so Michael lets his guard down a little, complaining sadly that Chuck “didn’t even reach out to me”.
Dean notices, though again, we don’t know it at the time.
This is a Smart Winchesters episode, and that always makes me happy.
Smart Sam takes a stab at figuring out what’s in God’s book, since it’s apparently in Enochian (why can’t Michael read it?) and reports back that there’s a spell that can finish Chuck, but it requires a specific location and time. They head to the beautiful Vancouver beach that we saw lots of behind the scenes filming at – and Jake Abel’s brilliant short ‘Bravelecki’ – and they perform the spell.
Which doesn’t work.
Chuck appears in a white suit (Rob Benedict looks handsome, what can I say?).
Chuck: Son. I appreciate the heads up.
Me: Uh oh.
Chuck, however, says it’s too little too late, he can’t forgive Michael the earlier betrayal. Boom, goodbye Michael. And Jake Abel, who fandom has come to love very much indeed.
Jack once again, unbeknownst to us, absorbs all that energy.
Chuck gets a little meta, because Dabb and company can’t resist.
Chuck: That’s it, I’m cancelling your show.
Sam: (matter of fact) Well, one for the road, then.
He hauls off and punches God right in the face. Sam Fucking Winchester, folks! (Sure, it doesn’t hurt Chuck, but it was still a badass moment)
Chuck raises his hand to snap the Winchesters out of existence and then says what the heck, “I can get my hands dirty.”
Smart smart Sam, goading him into it. Chuck proceeds to beat the crap out of the Winchesters. Some lucky fans got to watch these scenes being filmed and shared some of the bts photos, which saw Jared and Jensen’s stunt doubles literally being launched into the air! Chuck beats them bloody, breaks their bones. And yet again and again, the Winchesters keep getting back up.
Chuck: Cmon guys, give it up now.
He breaks Sam’s arm.
Chuck: Stay down.
He breaks Dean’s leg.
The music is mournful and sad, the Winchesters bloodied but not broken. As hard as it was to watch, it was also such a perfect scene for “Supernatural.” This is what Sam and Dean are all about. They always keep fighting, they never give up, they are flesh and blood and human, and they hurt and they bleed and their lives are never easy – but they fucking never stop getting up. It’s such a big part of why I fell in love with this show and these characters.
Chuck: Fellas, give it up.
Sam and Dean, faces ground into the sand, blood everywhere. Sam half crawls to Dean, pulls him to his feet and supports him as they stagger together, bloody – but smiling.
Chuck: Why – why are you smiling?
Sam: Because you lose.
Behind him, Jack is angry. VERY ANGRY. Chuck tries to snap Jack out of there, but nothing happens. He snaps again. And again. And Jack steps forward, grabbing Chuck and using his newly absorbed power to take the rest of Chuck’s power and energy away into himself. Chuck collapses to the ground, and Jack snaps his fingers, healing Sam and Dean.
Sam and Dean: We won.
There’s a lot of exposition, which is something these writers also seem to end up with, but this time we’re learning along with Chuck that this has been a heist all along, planned by Smart Sam and Smart Dean as soon as they realized that Jack was a ‘power vacuum’ sucking all the energy into himself. They were wise to Michael and expected the betrayal – counted on it. (How they figured all this out from dying plants I don’t really know, but I’m going with it anyway)
Chuck: This is why you’re my favorites! For the first time, I have no idea what happens next. So this is where you’ll kill me? To die at the hands of Sam Winchester. At the hands of Dean Winchester, the ultimate killer. It’s kinda glorious.
But the Winchesters have had enough of Chuck writing their story. They’ve got free will now, and they know who they are.
Dean: Sorry, Chuck. See, that’s not who I am. That’s not who we are.
I think he’s known it for a while, I’m good with who I am and good with who you are, and Castiel’s heartfelt insistence that he knows who Dean is in the last episode cemented that awareness even more.
They walk away, leaving Chuck to be human. To grow old, get sick, die.
Dean: And no one will care, or remember you.
It’s the worst fate imaginable for a narcissist, which is pretty much what Chuck was.
Rob Benedict does an amazing job here, because he actually made me feel for Chuck as they drove off, scrabbling in the dirt and pleading “Guys, guys, wait, wait!” and then quietly sobbing as the Impala roars off, the music turning even more tragic.
I couldn’t help but feel bad – it was Rob Benedict, I mean!
Sam, Dean and Jack stop at Showalter’s gas station (an homage to their director and long-time “Supernatural” crew person John Showalter).
Jack quietly restores the world, bringing back the people and the animals and the hustle and bustle, as the song “Get Together” plays. I happen to love that song, and it evokes such a different and hopeful time, that it made me start to cry instantly. I love a montage! Even the dog is back. Miracle!
Jack is changed, but Jack is also still Jack, and Alex Calvert does a great job as always showing us both. Dean wants him to come back to the bunker with them, wants to buy him a big screen tv, but Jack says no, he’s not “coming home.”
Jack: In a way, I’m already there. I’m everywhere.
Sam: So you are him.
Jack: I’m me. But I know what you mean. I’m around. I’ll be in every drop of falling rain, every speck of dust that the wind blows, and in the sand, in the rocks, and the sea.
He says that Amara is with him, that they’re in harmony. And when Dean protests that people will have questions and need answers, Jack lays out the way he’ll be God.
Jack: And those answers will be in each of them. Maybe not today, but someday. People don’t need to pray to me or to sacrifice to me. They just need to know that I’m already a part of them and to trust in that. I won’t be hands on. Chuck put himself in the story, that was his mistake. But I learned from you and my mother and Castiel that when people have to be their best, they can be. And that’s what to believe in. I’m as close as this.
He holds his hand over his heart.
And then, Jack says goodbye, the same hand raised that he always used to say hello, and I can feel the tears well up again.
Sam: See ya, Jack.
He walks away, disappears as the Winchesters watch. I think they’re gonna miss him.
I got even more emotional going through the screencaps for that scene to include them here, seeing the sadness on Sam and Dean’s faces as they know they need to say goodbye to Jack. Alex Calvert once again did such a brilliant job with this scene, turning Jack into a benevolent and otherworldly being while still retaining the essence of what made him Jack. As a parent, it struck me as a depiction of that moment when you know you’ve raised your child the best way you can, when you’re filled with pride and you know you have to let go and let them be their own person, but it makes your heart ache to say goodbye.
A part of you just wants to buy them a big screen tv and have them come back to the bunker, but you know that’s not what’s best for them. Sometimes “Supernatural” is so quietly brilliant; the expressions on Sam and Dean’s faces encompass all those mixed feelings, the pride and the sadness. So much of this show has been about loss – its inevitability, how we face it, how it shapes us. How we incorporate it into our lives and keep moving on. The loss of the show itself, one final lesson.
The last two scenes killed me in a different way, and are what I’ll always love about this episode. They felt like a series finale, and maybe we’ll always see them that way.
Sam and Dean sit together in the bunker, drinking beers. A scene as iconic as any in this show.
Dean: To everyone that we lost along the way.
Sam: You know, with Chuck not writing our story anymore, we get to write our own. Just you and me, going wherever the story takes us. Just us.
Dean: Finally free.
It’s obvious in the take they used that it wasn’t just Sam and Dean getting emotional at that moment – it was Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, returning from the long unexpected hiatus and becoming Sam and Dean again, knowing they’re nearing the end of the road for these characters who have meant so much to them. Jared’s visibly tearful and choking up. Jensen notices, as attuned as they always are, and throws an arm around him, squeezing his neck in reassurance – so unscripted that Jared startles, and then sees the reassuring look and returns it. The Winchesters always have each other’s backs – and so do Jared and Jensen.
With a soft look at the people behind the cameras, the beloved crew who’s like family to them, they get up from the table and head out.
And we see that behind them they’ve carved two new names into the table – along with the SW, DW and MW, are ‘CASTIEL’ and ‘JACK’. The most fitting remembrance the Winchesters could give, a part of their legacy.
Jackson Browne’s ‘Running on Empty’ starts to play, another of my favorites, the quintessential road song, full of longing and acknowledgement of the difficulties but also the thrill and freedom of the open road. We get a montage of scenes from all fifteen years of the show, from baby Sam and Dean in the pilot, through so many of the people they’ve met along the way. People who have become important to the fandom in real life too, through social media and conventions and all the reciprocal interactions that have made this truly the SPN Family.
I started sobbing as soon as Sam and Dean got up from that table and didn’t stop until long after the credits had rolled – and the Impala and her boys had driven off into the sunset.
It’s the exact ending I’ve always imagined for the show – the one that’s on the cover of There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. It felt so right, and so much like the end.
I’m still a little shell shocked that we have another whole episode before “Supernatural” is over. I’m grateful, but I can’t help but worry that this feeling of satisfaction is going to be blown to the high heavens.
On screen, Sam and Dean close Baby’s trunk.
Eerie without the “we’ve got work to do” though, that I wish I would hear, because even after fifteen years, I’m not ready for this journey to end.
There was a lot that I liked about this episode and a lot that many fans liked, but also some things that left people wanting more. With the prior episode ending with Dean sitting crumpled on the floor, sobbing over the loss of Castiel, it was a quick progression to a ‘happy ending’ within one episode for sure. The loss of Cas was acknowledged by Dean, Sam and Jack, but the episode had so much packed into it that there wasn’t a lot of time to process that loss, either for the characters or for the fandom.
The bait and switch phone call was particularly painful for fans who were hoping for Castiel’s return. I’m in the group that still thinks, despite what we’ve been told, that Misha Collins and Castiel will be back in some way in the final episode (and if so, that will be the best job of keeping a secret the powers that be have ever done!)
So, the rushed wrap up wasn’t what I tend to hope for from my television shows, with so much packed into one episode, but the story was a satisfying one nevertheless. This show has always been about fate versus free will, and its characters have all had their own journeys toward refusing to color within the lines and stick to the script, instead fighting to (in the words of Dean Winchester), make our own future. They did that.
Castiel rebelled when the other angels couldn’t even conceive of going against God’s plan, for the love of humanity that was inspired in part by his love of one man. Jack went against his own destiny – the very idea of a Nephilim as so evil that Castiel once killed one just for what they were – and defied both his own father Lucifer and his grandfather to do what he thought was right. What he learned from the example of his human mother and his father figures, Cas and Sam and Dean.
And then there’s the Winchesters. Pawns in a story that God himself took a liking to, the people they cared about taken away for their entire lives, eventually their very reason for living – saving people, hunting things – taken away by the revelation that Chuck was pulling the strings, so they were left with nothing. And yet, they never gave up. When Dean struggled to accept Jack’s potential for goodness, Sam refused to give up on it, pushing his brother to do the same and modeling from the very moment they met that he believed in Jack and loved him. Castiel and Sam and Dean didn’t have the best role models of how to be dads from their own fathers, but they stepped up to the plate and all helped raise Jack – who defied expectations and found his own moral compass.
It was a literal and figurative F you to the idea of fate and the helplessness and hopelessness that come with it, and it was the message that most of us have taken to heart from the show: Always Keep Fighting. That mantra saved the world from Chuck’s destruction as Castiel sacrificed himself, Jack tapped into his inner goodness, and Sam and Dean Winchester literally refused to stay down and give up for as long as it took to set up Chuck’s downfall. Bloodied and bruised and broken, but still fighting. That was the most iconic Winchester moment possibly ever and embodied what the show has been all about.
I’m trying to stay away from meta readings at this point and just enjoy the end of the show within its fictional world, but there’s something satisfying too about the idea of my favorite fictional characters ever breaking free and reclaiming their own narrative. As a psychologist, I can’t escape the parallel that this is what we all do as we work through our own challenges and traumas and choice points.
We take a flawed narrative that’s keeping us from being who we are and finding our own happiness, and we rewrite our own story. We break free from the constraints of the problematic one that’s keeping us stuck, and we start from a point of freedom to craft our own narrative. Sam and Dean driving off into the sunset will forever be in my head now as the perfect metaphor for what it feels like to rewrite our own stories and take ownership of our own lives.
And that is pretty damn hopeful.
Of course, there’s one more episode left. I spent most of this episode waiting for the other shoe to drop – for something horrible to happen that negates the unlikely victory that we just witnessed. I’ve been a “Supernatural” fan for a long time, and I know the show giveth and then it taketh away. When the credits rolled, I let out a gasp of shock and disbelief – a happy ending? What??! There’s speculation that none of it was real, that someone will wake up and find it was all a wishful thinking dream, but I don’t think so.
That said, I don’t know what will happen next week. I’m not in the know or spoiled for it any more than anyone else. But I have my guesses. I think we’ll see Cas again, and a few other important people. I think we’ll have to watch one or both of the boys die at some point in some way, and no matter how that happens, it is going to destroy me. I’m not even opposed to it story-wise, but I’m not going to be able to watch it without falling apart. They’re too important to me. I do think, though, that ultimately we will get some version of a happy ending anyway, somewhere, somehow. I’m not counting on it, but I’m hoping.
Still, when Carry On starts to play next week, I just hope I can still see through my tears. (The show will end on November 19, 44 years to the day from the original release of the Kansas classic, Carry On Wayward Son. “Supernatural,” unique and special to the end).
With that, the lyrics to mull over until next week…
Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more
Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher
But I flew too high
Though my eyes could see, I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think, I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I’m dreaming
I can hear them say
Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more
Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means that I don’t know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about, I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say
Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more no!
You will always remember
Nothing equals the splendor
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you
Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry
Don’t you cry no more