The show chose to portray Lucifer as an almost likable character at some points in this season. At times, I’ve complained about that, questioning whether a redemption arc was coming and very much opposing that. In a recent episode, Lucifer seemed truly hurt in his conversation with Gabriel (Richard Speight, Jr), so much so that a tear slipped out – and Gabriel was no longer there, so it wasn’t even a ploy. I’m still a little confused about that. I felt like my emotions were being manipulated at the time, and I didn’t know what to make of it or what to expect from the rest of Lucifer’s arc this season.
Now that it’s all played out, I think I’m going to give Show the benefit of the doubt and say that it was brilliantly done. There’s a thing that psychologists recognize called ‘parallel process’, which means that sometimes the things that are challenging your client in their lives start playing out similarly in the therapy relationship. I feel like that’s sort of what happened here. Lucifer, the master of all master manipulators, lured me in at the same time as he lured Jack in. I started to doubt whether all of him was evil, or if at his core he was a wounded being who despite the horrible things he’d done (because I could never put those aside), genuinely wanted a relationship with his son. I started to doubt, and of course that’s exactly how a master manipulator gets under your skin.
The beauty of Lucifer’s arc playing out that way is that in this episode, when Lucifer shows his true nature and his true colors once again, I felt a small version of that same sense of betrayal and foolishness and fury that Jack felt. It feels horrible to be played, to be fooled. To let yourself start to believe in someone’s good intentions and then to find out that they were just using you all along. In this episode, as Jack learns the awful truth about his father, my own emotions about that betrayal made witnessing Jack’s pain all the more powerful. So kudos to Mark Pellegrino and to the writers for taking me on that unwanted journey, because even when it’s unpleasant, that’s good storytelling.
Once Lucifer gives up the pretense of wanting to be the good guy, he returns to the sadistic, cold, cruel being that he was when we first met him. I was horrified by how he treated Jack, how quickly he turned on a dime and showed absolutely no remorse. Not even a lingering ambivalence when it came to his son, which I couldn’t help but see as the same as the coldhearted rejection of so many parents of abandoned or abused children. I literally sat there with my hand over my mouth in horror. And again, as much as I hated that feeling, that is good storytelling. I CARE about Jack, so it was excruciating seeing his father turn on him.
Lucifer: I tried with you… I told you what you wanted to hear, man. We could’ve been better gods than Dad.
Lucifer denigrates humans, and Jack protests that he too is part human.
Lucifer practically spits the next insult at him: You’re too much like your mother.
It’s so clear what he’s doing, how he’s already labeled Jack as “other” so he can destroy him. So that any real affection he did have for Jack is eradicated. It was so painful to hear, because for Jack, who is struggling with his identity development and figuring out who he is, his own father just rejected him as an unworthy, unlovable, worthless person. It happens in real life too, and it’s no less heartbreaking.
Lucifer makes the rejection explicit. And devastating.
Lucifer: I don’t want you, I just need your power.
Me: OMG, Jack!
He slices Jack’s throat and steals his grace, leaving Jack weak and helpless.
Sam, who really does love Jack as a son, leaps forward to try to save him.
Cas tries to intervene, and is thrown to the floor.
Lucifer, Jack, and Sam disappear, leaving Dean yelling “Sammy!” again, to no avail. He looks devastated.
Me: OMG what just happened?!
Dean: What just happened?!
Me: That’s exactly what I just said!
Michael (crumpled on the floor): The devil won.
Archangels are the shiftiest most manipulative dicks ever, because I think Michael knows just how to goad Dean into doing something he might regret.
Michael: Lucifer has all the power now. He’ll kill the boy – and your brother. This is the end…of everything.
Anyone who knows Dean Winchester even a little bit knows that is the thing to say to get Dean to do whatever it takes to stop that outcome. Sam is in mortal danger, and Dean has proved again and again that he will go to the ends of the earth to save his brother. Jack, who Dean considers family, is in danger. And to top it off, the whole world will probably be ending. How can he NOT do something?
Dean looks anguished, and Jensen Ackles shows us every moment of his agonizing decision. When he turns his gaze to Michael, you can see Dean’s resolve – and his heartbreak.
Dean: What if you had your sword?
Castiel: Dean, no!
Michael is the only one who looks suddenly a lot less hopeless. He regards Dean like he’s looking at the thing he wants most in life.
Michael: Oh I know what you are.
Of course he does! He probably knew all along.
We get a flashback to Season 5, Zachariah and then Gabriel telling Dean that he is the Michael Sword – that Sam and Dean were always meant to be the perfect vessels for Lucifer and Michael.
I usually don’t like flashbacks because I remember the show too well, but in this case, I thought the flashback really worked to emphasize the gravity of this decision. Dean refused so many times, for so long, and now he feels he has no choice. It was also a wonderful feeling of the show circling back around and remembering its own past, which was powerful – it made it all seem like a destiny that you can’t outrun, and that felt BIG.
Cas again begs Dean not to do it, but Dean whirls around, his expression desperate.
Dean: Lucifer has Sam! He has Jack! Cas, I don’t have a choice.
He tells Michael this is a one time deal, and that he’s in charge.
Me and Alana: This isn’t gonna end well…
I think everyone knew that, but I also thought that it was totally in character for Dean to make that decision in that moment, and for him to at least try to make it on his terms.
Meanwhile, in a beautiful church (which is where epic things often go down in Supernatural) Lucifer flings poor Sam around, punching him ruthlessly. He drops a weak and helpless Jack right on the stone floor without a thought, so carelessly it made my blood run cold, then punches Jack just as brutally as he did Sam – with his fists and with his words.
Lucifer (with disdain): I can make more kids…
Sam tries to intervene, and Lucifer scoffs at him.
Lucifer: Daddy Sam coming to the rescue.
Alana (screaming from my couch): He’s more of a dad than you ever were!!
The dialogue in this episode, I swear – OUCH. Kudos Andrew Dabb, it really cut.
Archangels all seem to share that love of drama and theatricality, and more than a little dash of sadism and hubris, because Lucifer also does not opt for a quick death for Sam or for Jack (who he may want alive to keep drinking from…) Instead he tosses an archangel blade onto the floor between them and sets up a mini Hunger Games contest, telling them if one of them kills the other, he’ll give the survivor a chance to stop him from remaking (ie destroying) the world.
This scene was so well done and so tense that Alana and I screamed through most of it, clutching each other and yelling NO NO NO NO NO and various other exclamations as Jack and Sam faced each other. Sam finally picked up the blade, which made me terrified that Sam was just going to kill himself so Jack could live.
Me: NO NO NO Sam, what are you thinking? What is he thinking? OMG Sam, what are you thinking?? Use your words!!
(Yes, I unfortunately know just what I started babbling because alas, it’s all on Alana’s youtube episode reaction video…)
Sam hands the blade to Jack.
Sam: Kill me. You can stop him, Jack.
Jack looks horrified – so do Alana and I.
Jack: No, I can’t beat him. But you can.
Now Alana and I are screaming NO NO NO NO JACK WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOOOOOO!
Jack looks at Sam, his face heartbreakingly sincere and open, full of emotion (because Alex Calvert effing rocks)
Jack: I love you. I love all of you.
And with that, he stabs himself with the archangel blade.
Me and Alana: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
I would have preferred something other than “I love you” – it would have been more powerful if it conveyed that sense in another way. One of the things I loved about Supernatural from day one is that Sam and Dean never had to use those words to show each other how they felt. Bitch-Jerk is a million times more powerful than “I love you” and a lot more in character, and it didn’t seem entirely organic when Jack said it either. I don’t think Cas needed to say it out loud either when he thought he was dying – they know. That’s what makes it so emotional. I wish they would use both those three words and the “family” designation more sparingly to preserve the impact, but maybe that’s just me.
As Jack tries to impale himself with excruciating slowness, the church is lit up in a flash of blinding light, and Jack pauses with the blade only a little in. They all shield their eyes, and across the room, we are all open mouthed at what we see.
Michael!Dean appears, and slowly and majestically his black wings unfurl behind him. It was such a gorgeous shot, Dean’s familiar bow legs juxtaposed with those angelic wings. Jensen plays it perfectly, right down to the roll of his shoulders as the wings slowly unfurl.
Dean: Hiya Sammy.
And so we know that it is in fact Dean.
Then we get an epic fight scene with Rob Hayter’s always amazing fight choreography. Show tackled a huge undertaking by having the fight occur not only on the floor of the church but near the ceiling, which was strikingly high up. I can’t imagine how much work that was for both Ackles and Pellegrino, who had to be in harnesses and wires and still remember their fight choreography – or for the crew who had to film it and make it look believable. I appreciate that they wanted to make it epic, and it was, though I have to admit that wire work often throws me out of the moment. I mean, we do know that Ackles and Pellegrino can’t fly, so obviously we know there’s wire work happening, but I was distracted by the mechanics of it. I would have preferred that same epic fight on the ground, but I guess it makes sense that archangels don’t feel earthbound.
Lucifer, with the help of Jack’s grace, gets the upper hand and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go for a while there, which I did enjoy. His sadism once again lets him take it slowly to savor the moment as he punches Michael/Dean repeatedly. Dean is near unconscious, his head lolling backwards, when Sam picks up the archangel blade and calls to his brother.
Even near death, Dean hears his brother call his name and that Winchester ability to be in sync, honed over all those decades of fighting together, kicks in. Dean’s hand finds the blade Sam has tossed up into the air and wraps around it just as his eyes are starting to glow white.
He plunges the blade into Lucifer.
Lucifer drops Dean, who falls to the floor, and Alana and I watched open mouthed as Lucifer flames out – literally. Flames shoot from his eyes and mouth and his wings start to burn. Again, so many VFX kudos! He crashes to the floor, the outline of his singed wings spread out behind him.
Me and Alana: OMG
Sam and Dean share a moment of unbridled joy and relief – they effing did it. They killed Lucifer.
Dean: Holy crap.
Sam (grinning): You did it.
Dean: (starting to smile too): No. No we did it. We did it.
They grin helplessly at each other, Sam nearly doubling over and laughing with the sheer power of the relief he’s feeling. Jared Padalecki has taken us right along with him portraying Sam’s trauma at the hands of Lucifer and his resulting PTSD, his struggle to cope with and survive it, his empathy for others who have also been traumatized, and finally his tremendous relief at vanquishing his abuser and securing a sense of safety for himself. His acting has never been more nuanced or more powerful than in telling this part of Sam’s story, and I’m so grateful. It made this moment incredibly powerful.
Let me pause a second to say that Dean’s line correcting Sam to emphasize that they did this together was very important – to Sam, I’m sure, but to the fandom. The story of Sam and Lucifer goes way back, and is the main reason most of us could never have been on board with a redemption arc for Lucifer. The damage he did to Sam, the cruelty with which he tormented him and broke him, was too much, too horrible. So many of us wanted to see Sam have this win – to see Sam finally best his abuser and end it. On the other hand, I’m very aware that Dean was traumatized by the extent of his brother’s trauma, and thus holds a special hatred for Lucifer and a burning desire to see Sam’s abuse avenged and to know that Sam no longer feels vulnerable with Lucifer still in the world. Dean, I don’t think, has ever forgiven himself for not being able to keep Sam from plunging into the Cage with Lucifer – for not being able to keep him safe. So for both brothers, killing Lucifer was a monumental victory. They did it TOGETHER. And for me, that made it even more satisfying.
I am also happy with the way this played out because it allowed the full circle of Dean becoming Michael that they averted in Season 5, but it also made Sam just as integral a part of the victory over Lucifer as Dean. I’m going to assume that the reason the entire world wasn’t obliterated in the process once Michael and Lucifer finally had it out had something to do with Lucifer not being in his proper vessel (Sam). Otherwise that whole terror over their showdown having to be averted or else apocalypse now doesn’t make much sense.
I’m not sure exactly what Jack is feeling, because the rollercoaster of emotions he’s been on in the last few hours is…well, I have no idea what it is actually, because WHOA. But he’s still standing, and he’s with the Winchesters, so that’s good.
Alana and I were grinning at each other too, and we all savored that 0.5 seconds of happiness for… well, 0.5 seconds.
Joyous moment comes to an end as Dean doubles over.
Dean: (anguished) We had a deal!
He straightens, and Sam knows immediately. We all know – because somehow Ackles looks not at all like Dean suddenly.
Michael!Dean: Thanks for the suit.
You know what broke me? The way Sam hangs his head as he realizes his brother is gone. To go from that moment of joy to this devastation in such a short amount of time must be … again, I don’t even know. It reminded me of the end of Season 7, when Dean disappeared and Sam had no idea how to get him back. I felt Sam’s heartbreak then, and I felt it again now.
In some ways, I feel like Season 13 was a season of the Show trying to fix some blunders of the past. The killing off of Bobby and Charlie were arguably significant miscalculations of fandom’s affection for those characters, and the AU seems to have afforded a way to bring them back to this world (in AU versions, admittedly, but those versions seem to be getting more and more like the original versions every day). Sam moving heaven and earth to find his brother would make up for the hit-a-dog-and-shack-up-with-Amelia story line that neither Jared Padalecki nor most fans enjoyed. This time Sam has Cas and Jack with him, so hopefully that means he won’t hit a dog and stop looking – that was perhaps my least favorite story line ever because of course Sam would look for Dean.
Which brings us to Season 7 and Dean lost in a different kind of way – inside Michael.
Back at the bunker, Mary and Bobby return to find a devastated Castiel. That close up on Misha Collins’ face as he sits there faced with the knowledge that of course Michael will not keep his side of the bargain, and that Dean is lost to him, was so well done – it hurt to see the pain in his eyes. Cas turned his back on Heaven back in Season 5, it was so important to him that Dean not say yes to Michael. This must be a terrible blow, although I suspect there’s also a part of Castiel that understands why Dean did it. Jack is like a son to him too, after all.
We end with Michael suited up all Peaky Blinders style strolling down a city street. I almost expected something from Saturday Night Fever to play, but instead we get Michael!Dean looking around in wonder at this big world full of possibility – which does not bode well for humanity. Or Dean.
I wish they had ended there, with Michael!Dean looking around curiously. It was so obvious to everyone that Michael was 100% in control, and we didn’t need any further evidence. As cool as the blue glowy eyes are, I didn’t need to see them. And why we got a close up, then a freeze frame, then a zoom in on the freeze frame, I don’t know. Alana, film maker that she is, immediately was like ‘What the hell?!’
I’m not gonna go on about it, because it was one small thing, but I wish we could have left it out and not diluted the impact of the possession with that last shot.
So that’s the set up for Season 14. Jensen Ackles has said that he had some input into the wardrobe for Michael!Dean, so I can’t help but think that Ackles’ love for Peaky Blinders was influential – and that the actor is probably loving the opportunity to dress up and stretch his acting muscles by playing a different character. On the other hand, nobody loves playing a character as much as Ackles loves playing Dean, so I think he would miss it if the Michael!Dean story line goes on too long. I’m in agreement that the Demon!Dean story line ended way too soon (as are Jared and Jensen), but that was an exploration of Dean and his psyche – he was still Dean. If Michael is in complete control, that means Dean isn’t really on our screens for a while, and I wouldn’t want that to be the case for too long. I’d love to see Dean’s battle to take back control, though, so I hope we’ll see that – and that would mean we’d get some of both Dean and Michael.
We don’t honestly have a clear idea of what Michael even wants, other than the typical villainous “I’ll make over this world and it will be better than it ever was” which invariably means the opposite, and I think he mentioned something about “purifying” which is never EVER a good thing. I mean, he’s clearly not a nice guy, having tortured Mary and Jack and countless others – but I’m not sure what his plan is. For now, he just seems to want to wear stylish clothes and enjoy a world that doesn’t look quite so apocalyptic.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Sam look for Dean this time (unlike Season 8), and to seeing what lengths Sam and Cas and Jack will go to in order to get him back. We’ll get more exploration of Sam and Castiel’s relationship, and also of Castiel’s bond with Jack. All those things are good, but I will probably be longing for them to be reunited with Dean too. I guess that brings me right back to the power of parallel process, doesn’t it?
I am so grateful that Supernatural is still on the air and still telling stories that I’m invested in – I feel incredibly lucky that this is the Show I fell for so many years ago. A big thank you to the amazing hard-working cast and crew who bring the show to life week after week, year after year.