Happy 300th Episode Supernatural! Five Reasons ‘Lebanon’ Brought The Tears

 

I watched the milestone 300th episode of my favorite show of all time, Supernatural, with a horrendous case of the flu and no voice at all. I couldn’t live tweet and I didn’t have the stamina to read what anyone else thought of the episode, on twitter or anywhere else, so I missed a bit of the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling that I relish when the Show has a special episode like this. I watched it on DVR later that night, curled up under a blanket with lots of tissues (for multiple purposes) and a cup of hot tea with honey instead of the wine and cherry pie I’d been planning. It’s taken me almost a week to finally find the strength to sit down at a keyboard and write out my thoughts. But you know what? I was as emotional as I’ve ever been about an episode of this Show that consistently makes me VERY emotional. And that’s really saying something.

Now that I can think a little more clearly, I’ve come up with five reasons why this episode worked so well for me (and I think for most people), but to do the episode justice, let’s start at the beginning. I also note a few things that shouldn’t have worked so well, but those mostly got lost in the shuffle of OMG FEEEEEELINGS that characterized my viewing experience.

The emotional hooks start immediately – we’re vaulted right back to the start, the boys (babies!) uttering the iconic lines “Dad’s on a hunting trip” and “We got work to do.”  For someone like me who has been watching from the start, it meant everything that the ‘Then’ went all the way back to the beginning and reminded me of just how long this Show has been a big part of my life.

Then we’re rolling, and instead of guest stars of the week, we get to follow the Winchesters right away, so color me happy. Sam and Dean in a pawn shop searching for something specific, buying their way into the secret back room where the occult items are shelved. Sam surprised me by being the one to mess with an ominous looking teddy bear (it’s usually Dean who can’t keep his hands off things like that and Sam doing the eyeroll, though Dean does get his chance later with the dragon’s breath thingy).

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And then with a twist, it turns out the boys are tracking down the shop owner who killed a hunter and stole all this dangerous stuff. He makes the mistake of attacking Sam with a giant scimitar and threatening him, with a speech that ends with “You’re a big boy…” so of course Dean kills him.

Dean: They always talk too much…

I laughed out loud – or I would have if I was capable of making any actual sound. So this is going to follow the Show’s tradition of being a little self referential and a wee bit meta then, and that makes me very happy indeed. The Robbie Thompson-penned 200th episode, Fan Fiction, one of my favorites of the series, was more than a wee bit meta and I loved every minute of it. It seems fitting that the Show should give both its fans and its cast some wink wink nudge nudges in a milestone episode, and that’s Reason No. 1 that this episode worked for me. There were numerous call backs to previous iconic scenes, plus a whole bunch of Easter eggs scattered throughout, from items we’ve seen in past episodes to Family Business Beer signs. I loved every one of them! Thanks, Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb, for working so hard to get them all in, and so organically.

The boys head home in Baby, driving past the “Lebanon, Kansas” sign.

When the showrunners and EPs teased this episode at Comic Con, they mostly told us that the 300th would be an episode about the Winchesters and their home town. I was excited about this, as I told Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb at the time. It almost sounded like one of my favorite types of fanfic – the intriguing “outsider pov” fic, which paints a rich picture of my favorite characters through the eyes of someone else who doesn’t have the same perspective as we all do. I love the characteristics that are foregrounded by that change in perspective and the opportunity to see my favorite characters differently, perhaps even changing my own understanding of them. So I was looking forward to that aspect of “Lebanon” and the title certainly matched my expectation. I’ll make that Reason No. 2 that the episode worked for me, though it didn’t pan out to be quite what I was anticipating in this regard.

We meet a trio of local high school kids who have apparently been studying the Winchesters for some time, and are a bit fascinated by the “mystery men” who live nearby.

Eliot (in the hushed tones that say he’s trying to impress his friends but is also a bit impressed himself): People say they’re brothers…

This leads into the local bar owner greeting them.

Bar owner: The Campbell brothers! The usual?

This tells us a few things. First, that Sam and Dean are regular enough customers to have a “usual”. Second, that they go by “Campbell”. That, of course, is their mother’s maiden name, so that makes sense.

This is an episode that was seen by some fans as following the tradition of subtle ship shout outs, much like the 200th, so there was some surmising that it’s also a call back to the episode that mentions the Campbell brothers, who were apparently not brothers but instead “very close” and living an “alternative lifestyle”. One could argue that the Winchesters’ life of hunting is every bit as alternative, or one could argue that it’s a wink wink nudge nudge about something else. Who knows, but I like it when the Show is subtle enough to let fans take it any way they want. If you hate the ship, there’s another explanation; if you love the ship, here’s a subtle shout out. Same with the Destiel maybe-shout-outs later in the episode. Whatever floats  your boat.

Anyway, Eliot (Cory Gruter-Andrew) has catalogued all four of the bunker’s residents, rather hilariously, as the Campbell maybe-brothers and  “their weird sidekick with the trench coat and that kid with the dumb Bambi look on his face all the time.”

Meanwhile, new-in-town Max (Skylar Radzion) and Stacy (Zenia Marshall) are starting an adorable teenage flirtation, so when Stacy admires the Impala, Max decides to “borrow” it to impress her. That means we get to see Dean’s face as his Baby drives by the window – because you can’t have a 300th episode without paying some homage to Dean’s love of his Baby!

Sam and Dean (adorably distraught) approach Eliot across the street, who responds with alarm and a “Please, I don’t wanna die!”

Jared Padalecki’s gift for comedy was much in evidence as Sam reacts with a stuttered “Die? Why would…”

I again laughed out loud (silently…)

Sam attempts to get the surly post office lady to tell him Max’s address, but she just looks at him like he’s a creep trying to get an underage girl’s address (puppy eyes definitely not working this time, Sam). Dean to the rescue, turning on that patented Dean Winchester charm and supplementing it with remembering her grandson and with a gentle hand on top of hers, which immediately flusters her into telling him Max’s mother’s address. (Not sure that’s very different, but I appreciate the attempt at hanging onto your ethics, post office lady).  And look, if you’ve ever had Jensen Ackles lay his hand over yours, you know damn right well that it’s difficult not to agree with whatever he happens to be saying at the time!

What makes this scene so priceless is Sam’s disapproving scowl at what Dean’s doing, which again had me trying to laugh and more or less just making incoherent almost-sounds.

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We couldn’t have a milestone episode without a reference to Dean’s flirting skills either (though Sam’s puppy eyes would be quite effective with me, gotta say)

The Winchesters arrive just in time to save the day (and the local kids) from all the cursed stuff that was in Baby’s back seat, with Dean crooning an iconic “Oh Baby, Baby, please tell me you’re not hurt…”

But not in time to avoid confronting the clownish ghost of John Wayne Gacy.

Dean to Sam: This is like the best worst thing that could happen to you, Sam, serial killer…but clown…

Score another reference to iconic Supernatural – Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb really packed them in there!

Eliot, Max and Stacy run back in to help, so they get an eye full of exploding clown ghost. Interestingly, instead of making up a story, Sam and Dean tell them the truth about who they are and what they do, and then ask them to keep it a secret so everyone else won’t freak out.

This was a head scratching moment for me in spite of my love for this episode. I guess maybe we’re setting these kids up to be recurring locals or something, since Show seems hell bent on bringing in teenage regulars because god forbid a show on the CW be about people who aren’t sixteen…. The wisdom of that aside, two grown men telling a bunch of high school kids to keep a secret seems like a shady decision at best.

Thus ends the “Outsider pov” part of this episode. We didn’t get as much as I’d hoped for in that aspect, and I almost wonder if originally this episode was supposed to be only about Lebanon and the locals’ perspective, but when Jeffrey Dean Morgan became available, we ended up with part of the original story and part the family reunion that became the heart and soul of the episode. It almost seemed like that’s what happened, but I suppose we’ll never know unless Glynn or Dabb want to share. Meredith? Andrew?

Back to the bunker, where Sam gets to be smart (throughout this entire episode, Sam gets to be the version of Sam I love most, Smart!Sam, as he figures things out time and time again). He realizes that one of the artifacts they have is the magic pearl that grants your heart’s desire – as in, getting Michael out of Dean’s head once and for all. Dean impulsively wants to do that right away, and so he holds the pearl. Immediately the bunker goes dark, and we get some great music cues, and then there’s a shadowy figure there with them and a fight ensues.

We hear the familiar sound of a shotgun cocking, and Sam and Dean freeze and look up at who has them at gunpoint, their expressions astounded.

Dean: Dad?

This was a beautifully done scene, but I have to digress to think about what it would have been like if the network hadn’t decided to spoil literally everyone for the return of John Winchester and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I understand that from a marketing perspective it probably made sense, but I can’t help but ponder the incredible unprecedented emotional impact that scene would have had if nobody had known. Can you even imagine? I was already feeling pretty sick, I probably would have passed out. Maybe it’s a good thing I was spoiled along with everyone else! But seriously, imagine how that scene would have played if we didn’t know. I can’t help but be a little bit sad about that missed opportunity.

John Winchester looks as shocked as his boys, asking brokenly what happened to them (15 years…) and why Sam isn’t in Palo Alto, and then Dean realizes and asks John what year it is.

John: 2003.

Me: Whoa.

Let’s think about that for a minute. It’s 2003. Sam and John have had their knock-down-drag-out fight that culminated with Sam leaving for Stanford and John telling him if he leaves to stay gone, thereby breaking everyone’s heart and kickstarting 6 million heart wrenching Stanford era fics on Archive of our Own.  Dean and John have started hunting together while Sam’s away. None of the things that have happened on the Show itself (other than flashbacks) have happened between John and his sons. That’s….pretty mindblowing.

Very minor head scratch for the decision to let Jeffrey Dean Morgan look like 2019 Jeffrey Dean Morgan instead of what John Winchester looked like in 2005 when the show began airing, including keeping the gray in his hair and beard. He doesn’t in fact look like he did 14 years ago, but I don’t really mind hand waving that because clearly nobody was going to play John Winchester in this episode but JDM and so I’m cool with however that had to happen.

Sam and Dean catch their Dad up, mostly.

John: And now you live here, with an angel and Lucifer’s kid.

There’s mention of Henry Winchester (shout out to Gil McKinney!) and how happy he would be to know that John was there.

John is clearly moved by who his sons have become and how they have (literally) saved the world. Repeatedly.

John: (wistfully) I just wish I’d been there to see…

The Winchester family theme (Americana, by composer Jay Gruska) starts to play, because of course it does, it’s not like I wasn’t already off the charts emotional or anything, and then John mentions Mary.

Sam and Dean: About Mom…

And then we hear (and John hears) Mary’s voice in the background.

Mary: Sam? Dean?

OMG the look on John Winchester’s face when he hears her. Look, I’ve raved a lot about the acting chops of the actors on this Show, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan knocked it so far out of the box in this episode, I can’t even put words to it. John absolutely breaks in that moment, his face crumpling, and we see the exact second he realizes.

John: (brokenly) M—Mary?

All the kudos to Samantha Smith for this episode too, because she brought it every bit as much as the other three Winchesters did. Mary rounds the corner and sees her long-dead husband sitting there staring at her, the smile on his face so full of elation and love that it seems to knock her off her feet almost. They’re swept into each others arms and kiss, and Sam and Dean are transformed into two little boys, awkwardly reminding each other that they should leave and give their parents some privacy.

Sam, again the smart one, tries to warn Dean that messing with time never goes well, but Dean is so heartbreakingly thrilled to have his entire family together that he can’t hear his brother. He begs Sam to stop and just let him have this, just one family dinner together.

Dean: It’s all I ever wanted, since I was four years old. Can you just give me that?

OMG my heart. Seriously, just shatter it into a million pieces, Show.

Ackles looks about four years old, in fact, so joyful is Dean at having his family back together again. A little boy’s dream, suddenly come true.

This is a good time for me to say that Reason No. 3 that this episode worked for me is the incredible acting. These actors are always good, but all of them elevated their game for this episode. And that, I think, isn’t a coincidence. After all these years, it would be understandable if any of them wanted to phone it in, especially Jared, Jensen and Misha. Instead, they have all grown to care about this Show and its fandom and each other so much that they’re doing the opposite – they all brought their A game and more to ensure that this episode was the celebration of the Show that it deserved.

Show was not done with breaking my heart yet, not by a long shot. Sam finds John in the library, and we get the scene that Jared Padalecki has said he’s been waiting for and hoping for, for over a decade. Sam and his Dad finally have a Talk. The last few episodes have really given Padalecki some incredible material to sink his teeth into, and he has stepped up to the plate like WHOA. In fact, he was in the Top Ten in Nielsen TV Talent Social Media ratings for this week, the only actor who made the list!  And he was also Spoiler TV’s Performer of the Month! Give these guys incredible material, and they will SHINE.

As John and Sam talk, Sam brings up a memory from the past that Dean talked about in just the last episode — that time he and Dean tried to make “Winchester surprise” and it didn’t go so well. It was a reminder of the times that John Winchester wasn’t a good parent, when he left his sons to fend for themselves too often and lost his temper too often and probably scared the hell out of Sam and Dean sometimes. It’s something that’s hard for John to hear, because this John is still in the midst of all that and has never seen it from his sons’ perspective before.

Sam: Dean and I tried to make that once…

John: I remember. I screwed up a lot, didn’t I?

This episode took a real chance and walked a fine line, trying to acknowledge the things that John Winchester did wrong and the very real trauma that caused his sons, while also trying to allow a one-time guest spot for Jeffrey Dean Morgan to be time enough to make some amends for all that. There was no way they could entirely do that justice, but the compromise this episode made did work for me.

Sam: That’s okay.

John: No, it’s not.

Sam eventually admits that yes, John did mess some stuff up, but says that when he thinks about his Dad now (and he thinks about him a lot – oh, my heart!), he doesn’t think about the fights.

Sam: I think about you dead, and that I never got to say goodbye…

At this point, Jared is crying for real and so is Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And so am I. Real tears, rolling down my cheeks.  Because their tears? Just as real. Sam is so overwhelmed with emotion, he has to keep looking away from his father, a touch of realism that got to me every time it happened.

John: Sam. Son. I am so sorry.

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Here’s Reason No. 4 why this episode worked. It’s great acting, no doubt about it. But it’s so much more. It’s a very real and much needed catharsis for these characters, and for these actors too. It’s a meshing of fictional story and real life that can only happen when a show has been on the air for fourteen years and its cast has become a true family.

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I know some people questioned Sam’s ready forgiveness of his father, but everything about that was realistic to me. Sam knows that they probably don’t have all the time in the world, even before they get the proof of a temporal paradox. To him, his fights with his father are ancient history, and something he’s come to terms with over the twelve years that have passed since his father’s death. This is a Sam who has also come to terms with who he is and the role that his past has played in shaping him into that person. This is a Sam who wishes he got to say goodbye to his father.

What a gift, to have that person in front of  you again, and to be able to SAY those words to him. What a gift to hear his apology and see that he means it; to see his love and see that he means that too. Just to hear John call Sam “son” made me break into ugly crying, because Sam needed to hear that so badly. Does it make it all okay that John said he was sorry? No, of course not. But where Sam is right now, that was what he needed.

All three actors have talked about their wish for some sort of conversation to clear the air between father and sons before the Show ends. Ackles perceptively said at one of the Rome conventions a few  years ago that he understood that at a young age Dean thought hunting with his dad was more interesting than a normal life, but later he realized that his childhood had essentially been stolen from him, and hoped Dean would one day have that conversation with his father. We know Dean still thinks about those days, from his conversation with Sam in the car in the last episode. But when it comes to actually having his father right there with him, it’s not anger that Dean and Sam feel for John – and I think that’s probably realistic. It doesn’t excuse all the things John did to his sons, it’s just that in this moment, they are sons whose lives have been defined by loss, clinging to the only conversations they will ever get with their father.

It struck me too, in a real life sense, that Jared and Jeff (and Jensen) are in such different places than they were back when Jeff was last on the Show. They are fathers themselves now, and that changes your perspective on what it means to be a dad and what it means to be a son. I can’t help but wonder if some of that incredible, overflowing emotion that both Jeffrey and Jared brought to this scene was enriched by their personal understanding of what it means to be a parent. How hard it is, how imperfectly most of us do it, and how easily we can hurt the children who depend on us.

I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan needed John Winchester to say he was sorry, and for Sam and Dean to hear it and believe it. He’s talked about how much a part of his life this Show has remained, and how difficult it has been to have the story of John Winchester go on without him, sometimes in directions he didn’t agree with. Getting to show the softer side of John and letting viewers really see his love for his sons and for his wife set something right for Jeff, and I think some of his emotionality was about that catharsis.

After that talk, Sam stops Dean as he’s heading out to buy groceries for Winchester Surprise.

Sam: Dean, hold on. You were right. You want some company?

The smile on Dean’s face shows exactly what that means to him.

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Of course, as Smart!Sam predicted, their messing with time has already changed things. Dean’s back on the FBI Most Wanted list (call back to the iconic early seasons FBI poster) and Sam is a law firm genius giving TED talks on the benefits of eating kale (wink wink to Misha Collins’ love of that particular vegetable) and decrying the value of hobbies — or having a family.

Wait, what? Not valuing family??

That right there was enough to convince Dean that they have to change things back. Much like in “What Is And What Should Never Be”, Sam not valuing their family bond is the game changer for Dean. Life is literally not worth living if they’re not brothers. This is the message of so many episodes, from “The French Mistake” to “WIAWSNB” to this one.

Shallow shout out to Jared in black turtleneck and glasses though.

As soon as Smart!Sam puts out his temporal paradox theory, we see just how messed up the timeline has become. Zachariah (the wonderful Kurt Fuller) appears in Lebanon to investigate a shift in the space time continuum, along with a super serious version of Castiel, who is essentially there to murder everyone if they don’t provide information.

Zachariah: Come on, Constantine.

Castiel: I don’t understand that reference.

Me: Nice call back, Show!

Other than the incredible catharsis this episode provided on multiple levels, the take-away from “Lebanon” is a celebration and a reminder of the evolution of its beloved characters. The next scene shows us, more subtly than the Winchesters’ story line here but no less vividly, the evolution of Castiel. I often miss the badass scary version of the angel who was introduced a decade ago, but here we get a reminder of just how scary that version could be (and how impressive). In a call back to his powerful introduction scene, Cas fixes the frightened Lebanon residents with a grim stare and announces:

Castiel: My name is Castiel. I am an angel of the Lord.

Boom boom boom! The lights explode, just as they did in that iconic scene, and we see the shadow of Castiel’s wings unfold behind him. I love when the Show references its iconic scenes, so including this one was wonderful to see. I’ve missed you, Badass Cas!

Unfortunately that also means that he blindly follows Zachariah’s orders and attacks the innocent townsfolk. When Sam and Dean burst in, they call out to Cas, but he coldly says he doesn’t know them.

Ouch.

Dean killed Zachariah in the 100th episode, so it’s fitting that Sam gets to kill him in the 300th. Meanwhile, Cas and Dean have a bit of a reprise of their other iconic scenes where Cas beats the crap out of Dean and Dean tries to get through to him to convince him to stop – and succeeds by reminding Castiel that they’re family. It doesn’t work this time, but one could see it as a subtle ship shout out if one wanted to. And again, if not, it’s easily seen as not that at all.

A bloodied Sam zaps Cas away before he can choke the life out of Dean, and the Winchesters race back to the bunker. They now realize that they need to change the timeline back before they too become their alternate selves, and in order that their version of Castiel returns and Mary doesn’t fade away.  It’s absolutely soul crushing that they can’t have even one family dinner that’s just a celebration, but tragedy is as much what this show is about as family, so Sam and Dean break the news to John and Mary.

John understands immediately.

John: Me or your mom, that’s not even a choice.

The heartbreaking thing about that is that for Sam and Dean, it IS a choice. They have missed their father more painfully than their mother, perhaps, after having much more time with him growing up. That’s not John’s perspective, and Dean doesn’t disagree with him, but we the viewers know what this is costing Dean to let his Dad go.

Samantha Smith is masterful as Sam tells Mary and she struggles to take it in. John and Mary had that kind of meant-to-be (literally) soul mate thing that makes them more to each other than most couples, and Mary’s agony at having to say goodbye to the husband she just got back is difficult to watch. Samantha Smith lets the tears overcome her, her voice breaking as she tries to do the right thing. Jared looks equally agonized, having to tell his mother that John needs to go back.

Dean and his father also get a heart-to-heart, and it’s every bit as emotional as John’s moments with Sam.

John tells Dean that he never meant for this, that his fight was supposed to end with John and Yellow Eyes. Then he says something that Dean Winchester has waited his entire life to hear. Something that seemed so out of character for John Winchester to say to his son that it was how Dean knew he was possessed and not himself back in Season 1, as heartbreaking as that is.

John: I am so incredibly proud of you.

Dean’s face in that moment, as he hears those words. It heals something in Dean’s soul, something deep and profound and terribly broken. And Jensen Ackles lets us experience every second of that. It sinks into our psyches as it sinks into Dean’s, healing something there as well.

That’s Reason No. 5. Not only was this episode cathartic for our beloved fictional characters and for the actors who play them, it was cathartic for us as fans too. When something is healed in Dean and Sam, something is healed in me – that’s how important and how real these fictional characters are to me. I didn’t even know I needed that sort of healing until Show gave it to me on a silver platter.

John and Dean are letting each other see all their emotion on their faces onscreen, tears in their eyes.

John: I hoped you’d get yourself a normal life, a peaceful life. A family.

Dean: I have a family.

That was it, I lost it. I had mostly lost it already, but I really lost it there. That little piece of dialogue was so important, so critical. The reason this episode was so cathartic is because it showed us how far our favorite characters have come, and how okay they are with where they’ve ended up. You talk about character development and evolution? That’s it, right fucking there.

The Winchesters sit down to dinner, all four of them. Such a simple thing, but something that hasn’t happened since Dean was a hopeful four year old and Sammy was a six month old baby. Such a simple thing, but the embodiment of Dean Winchester’s fondest wish and heart’s desire.

It’s John who plays head of household and sets the tone, giving all of them the permission to just enjoy the moment and not think of what’s coming next – to be grateful.  There’s cheers, and food, and music and a montage of the Winchesters like we’ve never seen them. Happy.

“I’ve been too long on these islands, I’ve been far too long alone, I’ve been too long without summer in this winter home. Still if we can make the effort, If we take the time, maybe we can leave this much behind…Till it shines…” the lyrics say, as Mary and John share laughter and Sam and Dean are quintessential siblings telling stories about each other, complete with pointing at each other to punctuate them. It’s so beautiful that it’s painful, because we – and they – know it’s temporary and fleeting.

After dinner, in a scene of heartbreaking normalcy, Sam and Dean wash dishes. And Show manages to break me yet again. Sam laments that it’s not fair to get to have all this, just to have to throw it away, and Dean stops washing, asks Sam if he wishes things would be different?

Sam: Don’t you? Can you imagine — Dad in the past, knowing then what he knows now? I think it would be nice.

Dean: Yeah. I used to think that, too. But, I mean, look, we’ve been through some tough times, there’s no denying that. And for the longest time, I blamed Dad. I mean, hell, I blamed Mom, too, you know? I was angry. But say we could send Dad back knowing everything. Why stop there? Why not send him even further back and let some other poor sons of bitches save the world? But here’s the problem. Who does that make us?

The family theme begins to play again, and Dean turns to Sam.

Dean: Would we be better off? Well, maybe. But I gotta be honest — I don’t know who that Dean Winchester is. And I’m good with who I am. I’m good with who you are. ‘Cause our lives — they’re ours. And maybe I’m just too damn old to want to change that.

Sam’s face relaxes as he takes that in, agreeing with his brother.

I had no idea how much I needed to hear that until I did. Evolution. Not the kind of evolution that makes a character someone I don’t recognize or someone who is not the character I fell in love with, but the kind of evolution that makes sense. Sam and Dean are who they are, flaws and traumas and codependence and all, and I love them because of that. But over these fourteen years, they have moved from struggling against who they are and trying to be something else, to being genuinely and truly okay with who they are. From railing against their pasts and their parents to an understanding of what shaped them, and while much of that will never be “okay”, they can still value where they ended up – and who they ended up. That Dean openly shared with Sam that he’s okay with who he is was a gift to both of them; that Dean shared with Sam that he’s okay with who Sam is was beyond a gift to Sam, who will never have to wonder if he’s lived up to his big brother’s expectations ever again. They are good with who they are.

And so am I.

That was the catharsis for me, and I’m so grateful.

While it was shown differently, I think the call back to Castiel’s origin story on the Show, and the stark contrast to who he is now, was meant to be a similar testament to the character’s evolution. He has changed immensely, and sometimes I miss the original version, but this reminder also showed us the best part of those changes by comparison. Cas is no longer cold and unfeeling. He may not be as badass, but he’s also not the good soldier who just follows orders and thus does hurtful things. It’s a trade off, like all evolution, but it’s a good one. Castiel has learned to care, and has become his own “person” in the process. Like Sam and Dean, he’s come to terms with his own history and discovered who he is, even if that makes him a fish out of water no matter what universe he’s in. That’s part of his beauty, after all.

As Sam and Dean come to the understanding that they’re good with themselves and with each other, we cut to two clasped hands and for a split second I thought it was Sam and Dean holding hands and said “awwww” sort of out loud. Turns out it was John and Mary, but the edit definitely made a lot of people do a double take. Deliberate or not, brothers in arms or something else, take your pick, whatever floats your boat.

The Winchester family theme plays as John and Mary say their goodbyes. His voice breaks again as he looks at her, smiling through his tears.

John: My girl. I love you so damn much.

They kiss goodbye, and John turns to his sons.

John: You two, you take care of each other.

Sam: We always do.

I was a puddle on the floor at that, at the deliberate call back to John’s life-defining order to Dean to “take care of Sammy”, his recognition that his sons are grown and that they now take care of each other. Another incredibly healing moment for Sam and Dean – for Dean to be relieved of any thoughts of that being a one way street, and for Sam to have their father’s recognition that he and Dean are equally responsible for each other. And an incredibly healing moment for me as a viewer, a testament to the fourteen years of evolution that I’ve been privileged to witness.

John: I am so proud of you boys. I love you both so much.

He embraces his sons, all of them openly sobbing. Jensen has tears flowing down his face as he holds it together just enough to say “Love you too” against his father’s shoulder. Jared is struggling not to lose it completely, pausing to wipe at his eyes and unable to utter a word, just nodding.

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John goes back to stand with Mary, and nods at Sam, still smiling.

John: Sammy.

It’s permission, acquiescence, and a testament of faith in his youngest son.

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Sam smashes the pearl, and Dean flinches like it’s a gun shot. It’s those small moments that make all this so heartbreakingly real, a call back to Sam flinching as the door slams and Mary leaves them, a call back to Dean flinching as Sam has to shoot Madison. Just like those times, it breaks me.

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The timeline readjusts, John fades away, and Max and Stacy hold hands as they walk down the street. Castiel returns to the bunker, alarmed at Sam and Dean’s bloodied and tear-streaked faces.

Cas: What happened?

Dean: Well, there’s a story…

It’s a small moment, but a reminder that this is a Cas who does care, and that feels good.

Cut back to 2003, as John Winchester wakes up to his flip phone ringing in the Impala, her license plate KAZ2Y5 clearly visible. It’s Dean. Sam is at Stanford.

John: I just had one hell of a dream. No, it was a good one…

And we wonder if anything from that dream will stick with John, perhaps just a subtle suggestions that his boys are destined to be great men. I don’t know, but in that moment, we can hope.

I want to add my thanks to writers Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb, director Bob Singer, and the incredible cast of this Show for never letting me down. I may not love every single episode that comes along, but when it counts, this Show always delivers.

Congratulations on 300 episodes, Supernatural! And here’s to many more!

Caps kayb625

–Lynn

Read the actors’ own stories of how Supernatural

has changed their lives in Family Don’t End With

Blood, details on the home page

 

 

40 thoughts on “Happy 300th Episode Supernatural! Five Reasons ‘Lebanon’ Brought The Tears

  • As usual…you reviews are spot on! I cried reading it…although I don’t understand why they still had the bruised fades since the chairs and tables got back up. But this really is the only thing that bothered me in this magnificent episode. I don’t need all of the sidekicks and all the big storylines, I don’t need nicks story…I just need the boys solving problems and taking care of each other!

  • You always have the words to express how I feel. Thank you again for sharing. I cried during the episode. I cried reading your review. I think I’ve lost 10 lbs. from crying. When Dean and Sam went to the store and left John and Mary alone it got me to wondering. I know it can’t happen on the show, but what if in 9 months, there was another Winchester Surprise.

    I do hope you are feeling better Lynn.

    • Whoa, I didn’t even think of that! Oh boy, I really hope that doesn’t happen…. I’m finally starting to feel a tiny bit better after more than two weeks of being deathly ill. Thanks for asking!

  • Everything you’ve mentioned is spot on Lynn, it was a masterful episode in so many ways on so many levels, the best thing about this show is that when the writing is layered and complex, the story breathes, allowing us to see things with more clarity, interpret them our way and find what we need in the story, even if we don’t know we need it.

    I’d like to say a big thank you to Jerry Wanek and the crew for so many visual cues to fill the gaps for things they had no time to cover, from the Monkey that used to be in Harvelle’s through to John’s flip top phone in the final scene, layer upon layer of visual iconic history, as a fan from the beginning, those things matter so much to me.

    It was good to take time to reflect on the impact of this episode, the good and the bad; and one day the powers that be, may grant us a movie where the story could really have full justice done, but, until then, I for one, happily embrace the things which didn’t quite work (e.g. John’s 2019 look) because, on reflection, they didn’t detract enough to matter, they rarely do in the grant scheme, because this show is so much better than the sum of its parts.

    John coming home now was the best possible time for many reasons, Mary hasn’t been the greatest of parents, I think she knows it, but seeing John wasn’t perfect either may give her chance to re-evaluate who she wants to be to her sons.
    For Sam it was the chance to say goodbye that he has clearly needed for so long, more than that it, seems to have cemented who Dean really is to him and why his brother matters so much too him. I couldn’t help but notice the little look he cast toward Dean as John faded out, his first though went to his brother, checking on him.
    For Dean it was more than a life time dream come true, it was coming of age in the best sense. In getting his life dream Dean had the presence of mind to see that in fact, he has already achieved what he wanted from the dream in his real life and no longer needs to be bound to that dream. Dean Winchester knows exactly who he is, who he wants to be and is as last, comfortable in his own skin. That’s a miracle,right there!

    It was a moment for us, the viewers to pause and reflect on what we have, not what we wish have, to recognise those we have loved and lost shape who and what we are, even when they are gone, we carry them with us and we can be alright without them, we can find the strength to move on.

    The acting was off the charts, hard pushed to say which scenes affected me the most, but I loved the quiet, respectful way Jeffrey Dean Morgan played John. A John that, but for circumstances, could have been a better Dad and got the chance to show it, as he talked to each of his sons separately. Understanding Dean and Sam were way past needing to be told what to do, instead he found what he could do for them. John, as parent, heard the inner monologue Dean often has going on in his head and understood Dean was not ready, or able, to let go of his Mom quite yet, even though Dean never said a word. Fresh still from their fight, 2003 John set about trying to make amends, he heard Sam out, even though it hurt, accepting his part in their difficult relationship without recrimination, his sincere apology allowed Sam to move on, it was exactly what a good parent would do. A brief but worthy visit, showcasing the man John could have been and the Men Dean and Sam have become.

    And for the record, any episode in which Dean says “I Love you” out loud to anyone, proves beyond doubt how much he has grown, but couple it with “I’m good with who I am” just knocks it out of the park for me.

    • Well said! I love your analysis here, especially that this episode showed the man John COULD have been and the men that Dean and Sam really ARE. I too was able to hand wave the things that I knew weren’t quite realistic, so I could appreciate that things that I really needed to see and hear (just like the boys). Was it a perfect episode? For sure, no. But it really hit the spot for me, for all the reasons you listed.

  • I was so involved with watching the show-all 4 or 5 (?) times that I skipped any notes or thought of notes. That’s a good thing.

    I too, was a little confused as to why John didn’t look more like 2003 John but a minor quibble.

    I deliberately skipped most of the spoilers (I did know about JDM though) but not Zachariah so that part was fun. Still as snarky and unlike able as he ever was. I think I tweeted hi Zachariah… oh bye Zachariah. Short scene but there he was!

    I was thinking afterwards that Sam and John’s talk was just about perfect. Sam acknowledged that John screwed up but that it didn’t matter anymore. After hell, soulless -ness and everything else, it really doesn’t but the line about seeing John on the hospital floor-that ! That one hurt. Not being able to say goodbye. Ouch!

    All the scenes with the Winchester’s, together or separate were gold. I think if there were any doubts about Sam abandoning Dean, those are gone. The fact that it was dad acknowledging that means more to Dean than Sam saying it-because it’s dad.

    The alternate version of Sam was so cold and distant that I don’t think I would have liked him but if there’s a gag reel of that scene-I’m in!!

    Back to the realities of Michael, etc. This week . Uh oh. It was nice while it lasted.

    • You make such a good point – Dean needed to hear how sure Sam is about who they both are and what they’re doing, and he could believe it seeing it through their father’s eyes. I feel like John being there and everything that he said to his boys brought Sam and Dean’s relationship to a new stability and trust as well, and that feels like the best type of evolution.

  • I cried so much during this episode, and I cried again just reading your review. this is my show and i’m so proud of it and of all of the actors. the writers came thru for us. its in my #1 for now.

  • A really well written review!!! Good balance of your over-the-top squee and some snarky frustrations about our little show that could — and has done. You hit all the highs and lows of the episode, even the disjointed parts. Talking among friends in simplest reviews A-plus for feels; C for story concept. However, this paragraph
    <>
    that made me laugh out loud! That has become my battle cry about the CW as sometimes I feel like the network is trying to alienate loyal viewers from before the CW was born. — Glad you are feeling better.

  • It was a tear-jerker of an episode, and for all the right reasons, as you point out.
    You include a photo of the one scene that bothered me–it’s evidently so beyond the pale for us to see Mary eating anything at their one family dinner that they show her putting an empty fork up to her mouth. We see that she’s admirably slim, but really. They could do better.

    • There is an earlier picture in the review, which clearly shows something green on Mary’s fork, hope that puts your mind at ease a little…

    • Once again an excellent recap, Lynn. Just reading it brought tears to my eyes again. This show always manages to get me right in the feels. Can’t wait for episode 400!

  • Well, I was really hoping your review (which is excellent, btw) would make me feel less despondent about this episode and sadly it did not. Even though it was an excellent review. I definitely respect that most viewers loved this episode, but honestly…I don’t understand why. I just don’t. Despite your excellent review detailing your feelings. 🙂

    It was every bit chock full of terrible Dabb writing as I feared it would be, and after the opener almost nothing worked, not least of which because it was obvious two people wrote it together and that they changed their mind for what the plot was going to be as soon as they knew they could get JDM, but refused to let go of what they had already announced. I actually turned my back on the television at one point so I could cry about what has been done to this show, because this was so…not good. And let’s be real – if we’re lucky we’ll get to episode 350, and if we’re lucky Dabb won’t still be running the show by then, but this was probably the last REAL milestone episode we’re going to have and it was so far below the great heights this show is capable of reaching – and reached in just the last three episodes – that I still haven’t quite recovered from the heartbreak.

    I’m glad you seem to have recovered from your flu, however.

    If anyone is really happy with this episode, just skip over this, because I don’t want to bring anyone’s enjoyment down, but I have Things To Say and this is one of the few forums I’ve found where people seem to genuinely care about the show and want the best for it that doesn’t simply devolve into fangirling or saying, “They should have ended it at season 5”.

    A list of the oh so many things wrong with this episode that just make me want to punch Andrew Dabb in his stupid, stupid face (I have rheumatoid arthritis and am physically incapable of punching anyone, please do not send the FBI to hunt me down):

    1) Not-Claire and Not-Either-Kaia. There have been exactly TWO instances in the entire history of this show where I felt like characters were just randomly gay so the CW can say they are all about InclusionTM and being WokeTM. Both of these instances have occurred under Andrew Dabb’s tenure. The first was Claire and Kaia. The second was Max and Stacy (I’m glad you learned her name because I never did and didn’t care to). Perhaps it was poor casting or weak acting, but it seemed, at least to me, that these two random teenage girls – one a pale skinned blonde and the other an olive skinned brunette – were an explicit callback to Dabb’s failed launch of his very own show and nothing more. This is the 300th episode of SUPERNATURAL, not the never-ending funeral procession for Wayward Sisters, yet Dabb seemed to feel it necessary to put in a shout out *to himself.* He must never have read the story of Icarus to know what happens to people so full of hubris (who am I kidding – Dabb knows nothing of the Greeks). If that is not what they were intending, they should have cast actresses who did not so clearly look like Claire and Kaia. I have *never* before Dabb felt like any other none-straight character in this show was thrown in randomly for RepresentationTM as opposed to them being, I dunno, actual PEOPLE populating the world. Damien and Barnes, though a bit of a surprise at the end, were terribly sweet when you realized they were a couple brought together by their shared love of the Supernatural books, and every time I rewatch The Real Ghostbusters I picture them cuddling on the couch and making dinner together and it’s lovely. I loved Jesse and Cesar being on their last hunt so they could retire and live happily ever after on a ranch they’d been saving up for; it was beautiful and I honestly wish Sam and Dean would visit them to see how they’re doing. I *loved* them. Loved loved loved loved loved them. LOVED them. Charlie, while never my favorite character for so many reasons, never seemed like someone they introduced as a lesbian to be trendy. She was just into chicks and that’s who she was. Even Not-Charlie, while I really don’t care about the fact that she was in a loving committed relationship in the AU, felt real in relating the story about how Kara/Cara/Supergirl (yeah, I caught the blatant reference) smelled like cupcakes. The two teenage girls in the 200th episode, even just off in the distance holding hands, were adorable and it added something to the plot. Chuck swinging both ways felt not only real but logical. Crowley swinging in every direction possible was a “duh.” Even the mom in Safe House who mentioned that her wife was returning from a business trip felt authentic. Max Banes casually mentioning he had a date with a guy felt real. NONE of those characters felt forced into the plot for the sake of representation, but Dabb’s do, because Dabb spends too much time on Twitter interacting with fans who complain about the lack of gay characters on Supernatural, and instead of creating full characters who just happen to be gay, he creates one dimensional walk-ons who are as randomly gay as they are random. Representation is literally meaningless when you obviously do not care about your gay characters coming across as REAL, just that they are gay. Hence we had Claire and Kaia “randomly” falling madly in love after a single conversation in Wayward Sisters and Not-Claire and Not-Either-Kaia “randomly” shooting googly eyes at each other in furtherance of a frankly wildly unbelievable plot. Specifically:

    2) You REALLY want me to believe a tiny 16-17 year old girl is going to watch those two HUGE men get out of their car and then in the span of time it takes Dean and Sam to walk into a liquor store jimmy the lock, hot wire it, and take off? Or that Elliott, who clearly thinks the Campbell brothers are dangerous, wouldn’t try to stop her? What, does she walk around with a coat hanger up her sleeve for just such an occasion? If I am really not supposed to believe this scenario, then:

    3) YOU WANT ME TO BELIEVE DEAN AND SAM LEFT BABY UNLOCKED???? WITH BOX LOADS OF CURSED ITEMS IN THE BACK???? WHEN will the writers stop dumbing down the two deadliest hunters on the planet to make some random Mary Sue look like she outsmarted them???? They do this ALL THE TIME! It’s a running theme particularly since Dabb took over! You need a woman, especially a young one, to look StrongTM? No problem, just make Sam and Dean look like morons! My boys are not morons!!!! Stop disrespecting their intelligence and skill!

    4) Yeah, the post office scene was adorable and showed that Dean knew the locals, and it PROBABLY would have worked if the episode had been about how the locals see the Winchesters like it was supposed to, but I have a super hard time buying that they wouldn’t have just said, “She stole our car.” If Marta and Dean talk regularly, which they must if Dean knows about her grandson and they have such a warm rapport, then they have discussed that car because Marta is old enough to really appreciate a 1967 Chevy Impala (and may even have some stories about them) and you can bet your boots she knows how much that car means to Dean. There is literally no reason for them not to say, “Look, she stole my Baby and I’d rather not get the police involved because she’s just a kid and I don’t want to ruin her life, but SHE STOLE MY BABY.” You want to show how much Marta really, really likes Dean? Have her care that his car has been stolen.

    5) Where’d they get the truck to go to the party? That was a classic truck. They didn’t just walk back to the bunker to get one of the vehicles out of the garage, so where the f#*& did it come from? Did Max’s mom lend it to them? WHERE DID THEY GET THE TRUCK????

    6) Sam’s lighter doesn’t work. Fair enough. But I’m really supposed to believe Dean is just going to hang out on the couch like a damsel in distress while the ghost bears down on him when HE WAS PLAYING WITH A BOTTLE OF DRAGON’S BREATH THAT IS IN ONE OF THOSE BOXES???? THE BOXES THAT ARE RIGHT NEXT TO HIM ON THE COUCH THAT HE SHOULD BE ROOTING THROUGH??? It would have been much cooler if the kids came back while Sam was using actual f*&^ing dragon’s breath to light a fire to gank a ghost. Again, dumbing down our boys so that the kids can make it back in time to see them waste John Wayne Gacy.

    7) If those kids ever show up again just because they know what the Winchesters do, I am sending every last bit of currently frozen dog poop in my back yard to Dabb’s house when spring hits and it all starts to thaw. The only one of the three kids I liked was Elliott. Stacy was a jerk for no clear reason and Max stole BABY, and Dean’s just like, “Hey,” when they walk in??? No. Sorry, just no. I have a crappy late model Toyota Camry and if someone flipping stole it and took it for a joy ride I would take it personally and they would at least get a severe tongue lashing, not let in on the fact that I’m Batman. CLEARLY the only reason Sam and Dean told them the truth is so at the end they could walk by going, “They hunt monsters. That is so cool!” Possibly the WORST concept to be introduced in the Dabb era besides the idea that everyone is randomly family and the boys should put up with their gaslighting mother just because she’s their mother.

    8) JDM’s entrance was awesome, I’ll definitely allow for that. It was probably the only moment of real joy I felt in the entire episode, and then it all went downhill. Why? Because DABB WAS INCAPABLE OF PICKING A PLOT. I understand that JDM was only available for two days of shooting, but in that case SCRAP THE IDEA OF THIS BEING AN EPISODE ABOUT HOW THE PEOPLE IN TOWN SEE THE WINCHESTERS AND WRITE MORE SAM AND DEAN SCENES. GIVE MORE TIME TO JOHN AND MARY. SOMETHING. *ANYTHING* THAT DOESN’T MAKE THE EPISODE FEEL COMPLETELY SCHIZOPHRENIC. The drastic shift in plot gave me flipping whiplash. What the hell do the kids who stole the car and Marta and the guy at the liquor store have to do with John coming back outside of not having JDM long enough to really build an episode around the Winchester family? Lord, they could have done so much rehabilitating of Mary’s character if they had written scenes for her instead of wasting all the time on the people in the town who were ultimately completely inconsequential to the story of John coming back. It goes back to PICKING A PLOT AND STICKING WITH IT.

    9) I’m shouting a lot. I’m sorry. I am so upset by the lost potential for this episode that I just…can’t. I am honestly heartbroken that they allowed Dabb to even touch this episode (and Glynn really disappointed me too).

    10) I know for a fact I’ve read the “This is what we’ve been up to since you’ve been gone” scene on Tumblr, and it was better written by a handful of bloggers just messing around. Much better written.

    11) WHY ON EARTH would John disappearing in 2003 change the timeline and have Dean being a lone hunter who has turned into some kind of twisted serial killer while Sam has completely eschewed the idea of a wife, two kids, a dog, and a picket fence that he wanted in 2005 when Dean came to get him, turning into some robot talking about avoiding coffee? How could that possibly happen???? If John disappeared in 2003, am I really supposed to believe that Dean wouldn’t have gone to try to get Sam to come help him find Dad? I could *almost* allow that Dean and Sam hadn’t talked for 2 years in the pilot specifically because Dean called up Sam when Dad went missing in 2003, except that Dad didn’t go missing!!! He was gone less than a day! No way would Dean have been bugging Sam about John being missing after a day. And even if Sam wouldn’t go with Dean in 2003 to help him find Dad because the whole “Don’t you ever come back” was too fresh for him, Sam STILL would have the demon blood in him, and he would STILL presumably watch Jessica burn to death on the ceiling of their apartment in 2005. I’m just supposed to buy into the idea that Sam wouldn’t have called up Dean and said, “Look, I know I wouldn’t go with you last time but my girlfriend just burned to death the same way Mom did and I need help”? Am I supposed to believe Dean would have been so pissed off that Sam wouldn’t come with him to help find Dad in 2003 that he would just say, “No” to Sam? When has Dean EVER said “No” to Sam??? Dean was desperate to have Sam back in 2005. There is no reason to think that if they hadn’t reunited to look for Dad then, that Dean wouldn’t have dropped everything to go running to Sam when he called about Jess’ death. It would have made sense if Sam had died in the apartment fire in 2005 without Dean there to come rescue him if he hadn’t gone with Dean to find Dad in 2003, and that would have actually introduced serious stakes into the episode. If Dad doesn’t go back, Sam burns to death in 2005 AND Mom is gone. Dean would then get his heart’s desire of the whole apocalypse never happening, never going to hell, never saying “Yes” to Michael, AND he gets his dad back. Sam, (a crappy) Mom, a boatload of trauma, and an archangel trying to break out of his head vs. a lot of avoided trauma, no archangel pounding away on a freezer door, and Dad – probably Bobby too, because the Leviathans wouldn’t have been freed and he wouldn’t have gotten shot in the head – THOSE are actual stakes. Presuming Sam didn’t burn to death in 2005, I’m just supposed to go along with the idea that Azazel, a flipping Prince of Hell, wouldn’t have found the Colt regardless of John’s involvement and dropped his “special children” thing of season 2???? That Sam’s psychic powers wouldn’t have presented anyway? That Sam and Dean wouldn’t have ended up together eventually out of necessity either because Sam needed his brother after Jess died or because he started dreaming things that came true and needed Dean then? Literally nothing about that story line was dependent on John being there, since John was either already dead or just gone and not answering his phone, and Sam had the demon blood in him from six months of age. Do these people not watch the show? Do they not understand character? Do they not consider for two seconds how something would realistically change if something happened like John vanishing in 2003? Was it really worth throwing away 14 years of CANON characterization for a joke about SAM AND KALE?????

    12) I am thrilled that Sam got to have closure with John, especially since the last time they saw each other they fought *right* before John died. There is no question that has weighed heavily on him ever since. It’s the kind of regret that you just don’t get over when something like that happens, and Sam desperately needed it, so I’m glad they gave us that scene and I’m gald it was so well written (Glynn wrote that, I have no question about it). HOWEVER – John’s statement to Dean that he hoped he’d get out and have a family shows such a complete lack of self-awareness on the part of John that I had to leave the room for a second. This is what happens when you decide to blatantly ignore canon because you have an actor, no matter how good, who refuses to return if you don’t treat his character with kid gloves. HOW on earth is Dean going to have ever been able to have any kind of “normal” life after the way John raised him? Even when he was with Lisa he was drinking all the time and she knew he was white knuckling it trying to be “normal.” I fully understand that it was not the time for them to bring Dean’s many CANON issues with how John raised *him,* *specifically,* since they knew John was going to have to go back, but if they weren’t even going to address it I wish they hadn’t had them talk alone at all. I mean that sincerely. The last two episodes they JUST talked about how John got upset with Dean for stinking up the apartment trying to make dinner for Sam (NOT DEAN’S JOB, BY THE WAY) and then deliberately sending him away when he was older and pissed John off. Sending Dean away was *huge,* and completely new information. Did Dabb not read those scripts to know those lines were in there? If the answer to that question is “yes” then it explains a lot of the continuity problems during his tenure, but if he’s not actually reading the scripts to make sure things are consistent from one episode to the next then WHAT IS THE POINT OF HIM???? They could have had a beautiful scene between John and Mary in the place of the John and Dean scene, and quite honestly it would have made me feel better about Dean’s arc through this episode if he specifically decided he didn’t need to talk to his father because they didn’t have time to really talk about the multitude of damage Dean carries around with him because John effectively made him raise Sam when he was just a kid himself, and he would have rather just had a nice family dinner with him than have to swallow it all and say, “I have a family” (I groaned out loud).

    13) I’m pretty sure Dean’s wanted poster would have been updated to show what he really looked like now, no matter how nice the nod was to the earlier seasons. It was just another absurd thing that showed me Dabb and Glynn didn’t feel much pressure to actually think about whether the story they were telling made any kind of sense so long as they got in enough nods to light up Twitter with happy squeals.

    14) I was glad to see Zachariah back, but it was so completely random that it felt like it was the only way they could figure out to shoehorn in Cas. Also like they realized they wouldn’t be able to come up with enough time to cover for only having JDM for two days of filming. I would have preferred to have Sam and Dean talking about Dad than the fight in the diner. Or an additional Zachariah/Cas scene to flesh that out a bit, rather than just having them show up and then be in the diner and go, “What have you done to the timeline?” Which, again, none of that made sense. None of it. It could have if they hadn’t wasted so much time with all the stuff in town.

    15) There was slow motion at some point in the episode. I think it was when Zachariah and Cas were fighting with Sam and Dean (I can’t bring myself to rewatch it), and I distinctly thought that if I never have to see another slow motion scene in this series it will be too soon.

    16) The kids walk by at the end stating how cool it is that Sam and Dean hunt monsters. I know I already said this, but it bears repeating because it’s just…everything that is wrong with this series.

    17) Maybe John of 2003 would have picked up the phone when Dean called – I don’t know. What I do know is John in 2005 couldn’t be bothered to return Sam’s phone call when Sam left him a voicemail that Dean was sick and the doctors couldn’t do anything for him, nor could he ever be bothered to ask once they were reunited what had happened with Dean and was he really okay now.

    18) Cas coming in at the end and asking what happened and someone (I think it was Dean) saying, “It’s a story.” I’m sorry, Jensen gave up soap opera acting a loooooong time ago. Do not put soap opera lines in the script. I almost threw up in my mouth.

    19) The episode title, “Lebanon,” made zero sense when they half changed the plot from how the people in the town see the Winchesters. It just didn’t work. It really didn’t. Too much screen time got eaten up because Dabb wasn’t willing to scrap his original idea when we could have had a longer scene of Sam and Dean washing dishes and discussing their father and their lives and how okay they are with them, because that was lovely, and what I thought we were supposed to get anyway – an episode where we just get to watch them do laundry and other normal things (which I would watch the HELL out of, by the way).

    I commend these men for their professionalism (well, Jensen and Jared anyway). Because they COULD be phoning it in at this point, and they don’t. On a script like this, they SHOULD have phoned it in. I understand they had a lot of input with this episode, but short of taking a pencil and completely rewriting it there was really nothing anyone could possibly have done to save it when faced with Dabb’s utter incompetence and the fact that he blatantly does not care and is pathologically incapable of sticking to one plot and one plot only. Plus, he’s never willing to throw out an idea or think of how it could be reworked. He does not care to pay attention to canon. He does not care to think deeper about these characters than the surface level. He does not care if something makes sense, as long as it’s good for a joke or is expedient to one of the four plots he has running at any given time. The only thing he cares about is how he’s perceived on social media, and most people who spend a great deal of time on social media don’t care either.

    It isn’t hard to care about the story you’re telling. I’m writing a flippin’ 600,000+ word novel over on AO3 and I frequently go back to check my work to make sure I’m staying consistent, and I’m doing that for free, just out of joy for the craft, in my limited spare time. Dabb is getting PAID – presumably quite well – to churn out plots that fall apart under the tiniest bit of scrutiny or when even the smallest amount of logic is applied. This is his JOB. And he doesn’t CARE. He shows up, collects his paycheck, and goes home. If he continues as show runner after this utter disaster of a milestone episode it will be clear that TPTB don’t care either, and that perhaps the only people who continue to truly care about this show are J2 and the fans, who ultimately aren’t responsible for the direction the show takes or whether the writing is any good.

    Which it hasn’t been for a long time, including this episode.

    I’ll stop now. Sorry for the rant, but this episode gutted me for entirely different reasons than most of the fandom. I’m glad there’s a month long hiatus because it’s probably going to take that long for me to recover from my utter disappointment.

    • Ha ha, I read your reply after I wrote mine, and it sounds like we had many of the same issues. I also did not like Dean’s “I have a family” line, though I felt like John’s desire for Dean to have a family did match what he’d said back in season 1. At one point he was lamenting their lives and he said, “I want you to go to school. I want Dean have a home.” It’s possible he had deluded himself into thinking that after yellow eyes was dead that he could just give up the fight.

      I also wanted a better scene between Dean and his dad. John is finally beginning to understand the damage he did to Sam, but I don’t think he even recognizes that he also damaged Dean.

      • I definitely felt that John’s talk with Dean was a throwback to season 1 where he said he wanted Dean to have a home, but the fact that he was able to see so many years later what he did to Sam and not have any *clue* what he did to Dean showed his character in such a bad light. Too bad JDM wouldn’t agree to come back if they totally sugar coated John’s character, because him being able to realize how he raised his youngest son was messed up while being oblivious to what he did to his oldest son made him look far worse, in my opinion. And yeah, he had that whole, “I put too much on you” deathbed scene with Dean at the end of In My Time of Dying, but that’s why I think it would have made more sense not to have any kind of heart-to-heart with Dean. He already admitted he knew he screwed up with Dean, and JDM didn’t want the show to acknowledge just how much it was revealed John screwed up with Dean after his death – even as recently as the last episode – so it would have been better not to have a heart to heart at all as far as I’m concerned. Have John and Mary talk about how they’ve BOTH screwed up as parents so that Mary can be shown to at least be slightly self aware and try to salvage the parent that we’re (sadly) not getting rid of any time soon.

    • I enjoyed your rant! Was good to see such a different view of the episode. Thanks for pointing out stuff that I missed! 🙂 This will not end up as one of my favorite episodes.
      Also, what is your own story about? Can I get a link?

      • I really went into this episode with very, very high hopes because everywhere I looked on social media (much as I avoided any specific spoilers) people were saying, “Omg the feels! I’m crying! I cried and then I cried some more and then I cried again! Such a good episode!” and then it was just…ugh ,what it was.

        If you search Eilonwy_the_white on AO3 mine’s the top result. Though you’d probably figure out which one it was pretty quickly. It’s…complicated. I’d recommend reading the tags and the synopsis (which is very simplistic) because it may not be your thing – or it may.

    • The funny thing is, I don’t disagree with most of your quibbles about this episode (and lightly touched on many of them in my review), and yet I got so much that I needed from the episode that I ended up loving it anyway! I don’t know what that says about how I watch the show, though it probably says something about prioritizing the emotional satisfaction over any sort of logical satisfaction for sure! Agreed about Dabb’s inability to let go of what he wanted in Wayward Sisters (or more likely what he simplistically believes the viewers want – just tossing in some teenage girls holding hands is what I think they believe will placate the fans who were disappointed about WS, but as you point out, that’s such a cardboard version of representation. Not much about the trio of local kids really worked, nor did it have anything to do with John’s return.

      I did also initially roll my eyes when not-Kaia stole the Impala (and that the Winchesters would leave it unlocked with an entire store full of dangerous occult objects in it). I admit I didn’t think to ask where they got that truck, but now that you mention it… And I also have no clue why Dean didn’t just appeal to post office lady’s affection for him by capitalizing on how well she does indeed know them. Also, oddly, she didn’t seem to know Sam at all. I had also noted the same thing you did, that clearly this was originally intended to be one episode and then when JDM was willing to return, it became another. It was a clunky juxtaposition at best, and I really wish we’d gotten two separate episodes.

      My head started to ache just reading your quibbles with what the 2003 time ripple should have or could have done, so I handwaved all of that immediately while watching. (I’ve gotten alarmingly good at handwaving recently…) I wondered in my last review how they would deal with Dean’s revelation to Sam in the previous episode about being sent away multiple times by John, and about John’s temper outburst over Dean and Sam so sadly trying to cook on a hotplate – I too was headscratching over most of that being swept under the rug in this, the very next episode. I assume that you’re correct, that JDM asked for and got some creative control as to how John was portrayed, but it made the set up of the week before seem really odd.

      Also, it was clear that Cas had to be in the 300th episode or there would have been a rebellion, but that was a bit of a shoehorn and could have been alot more organic. Basically, smushing two episodes together for such a milestone was never going to be anywhere near smooth. And yet, here I am, still loving some of the emotional progression that we got from a flawed episode anyway!

      • I really, *honestly* wish I could watch the last three seasons and either not see all the random holes in the plots or just ignore them, but Dabb’s show running is just so atrocious that I can’t. I’m a logical thinker to begin with, and when you start dealing with things like, “Well, what would happen if X was changed” then I *immediately* apply logic to the situation, no emotion. I can see, in my head, Dabb and Glynn sitting together trying to decide how the timeline would change if John disappeared in 2003 and Dabb (because it would have been Dabb) going, “Oh! I know!!! Dean will become this crazed serial killer and we can have Sam doing a TedTalk! It’ll be fantastic, you should see all the serial killer Dean fanfic there is out there, people are gonna LOVE it!” And Glynn either not objecting because that’s her boss or objecting and just being ignored. Yes, Sam ending up a single, kale-loving lawyer while Dean was wanted by the FBI for a string of multiple homicides might have happened if they were doing a version of this that was like The Butterfly Effect, where they kept going back to try to fix things and it just kept spiraling more and more out of control. In fact, that *might* have been really effective, and a better way to make use of JDM’s time, until Sam and Dean finally gave up and realized the past couldn’t be fixed any other way than by sending John back.

        Which is the kind of plot they could have come up with if they had someone who cared to think creatively about this show, or who would have been willing to drop the “Lebanon” plot all together (or save it for another episode). But it’s Dabb, and Dabb is a genuinely terrible writer. I don’t know how he went from Hunter Heroici to *this,* or why they decided to start letting him write episodes solo, or why they promoted him to show runner, or why they even let him try to write a second spin-off for Supernatural that he now just won’t let go of when Bloodlines was so dreadful. It is deeply distressing, because everything he has done is now CANON. It can never be undone. We can never have a 300th episode that makes logical sense. We can never have a 300th episode where the huge issues between John and Dean that were *just reinforced* are in any way addressed. We can never have a 300th episode that has one, clear plot surrounding Dean, Sam, John, and Mary and doesn’t feel rushed. Unless they promote Yockey or Perez next season, we will continue to have this kind of terrible writing, inattention to detail, and utter disregard for established characterization that can *never* be undone.

  • Maybe I am emotionally dead inside but this episode didn’t make me feel anything. To me it showed how damaged dean is that his greatest desire is a dinner with family who at the drop of a hat will leave him. The last couple of episodes have gone out of their way to show how horrible John was to dean and we are just meant to forget about that? Therefore all I got from this episode was that dabb was only concerned with giving sam the closure that Jared desired

    • Thank god I’m not the only one who was left almost completely unmoved by this episode. This should have been a celebration of Jensen and Jared’s achievement as Dean and Sam and instead it felt like a total capitulation to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s ego, completely ignoring many of the things revealed about John’s character that he didn’t like after he left (which were introduced BY KRIPKE) the second they knew they could get him back.

    • Agreed that what we learned in the episode just before this got dropped – in a way, I loved this episode for what it showed us about the evolution of Sam and Dean and who they are, more than anything it showed us about their father. I’m hanging onto that!

      • A quick thought jumped in my head reading your comments again,a long long way back,Bobby Singer forcefully pointed out that Dean was a better man than his father for trying to reach out to Sam. Maybe the point of dredging up how Dean has been treated wasn’t to vilify anyone specifically, but to show the important differences between the Father and Son, that no matter how bad it got, Dean has so much capacity for love and forgiveness, that just sort of faded out of John?

  • Excellent review. I appreciate how you broke down each scene with so much thought. I loved the episode and so enjoyed all the nuances of storytelling and craftsmanship (acting, writing, directing, set design, lighting, makeup, etc…). This is damn good television and I’m thrilled to be a part of the fandom.

    Are there nits? Sure, but minor only and not worth fussing over in my book. Watching the BTS documentary, you could tell how important this episode was for everyone. That’s the stuff of legends in my book.

    Speaking of legends, how much do I adore that Sam and Dean have become an urban legend themselves! Poetry.

    Thanks for the review! Hope you feel better soon.

    • Finally feeling a little better! I do think that the real life relationships and emotions about this show and about each other played a large part in how this episode turned out, for better or worse. And that made me more emotional because, canon aside, this Show is about more than just what’s onscreen – again, for better or worse!

  • Apparently, JDM is now 52 years old. According to super wiki, John was 52 years old when he died, which would make John from 2003 only 49. So ironically, Jeffery Dean Morgan is much closer in age to how old his character was now than he was back when the show first aired. That might be why they decided to leave him looking his age.

    I had mixed feelings about this episode, which is why I didn’t comment until now. I’m not sure if my viewing was affected by all the spoilers, but the episode felt rushed to me, which made it hard for me to really get into it. I felt like they should have either left out the Lebanon stuff and saved it for another episode, or they should have made this episode a two-parter.

    There was a lot I wanted to see that we didn’t, and the way they did a few scenes was pretty disappointing to me. Even though this was supposed to be our Zachariah, it wasn’t. It was as much as alternate Zachariah as anyone from apocalypse world. I wanted the Zachariah who remembered the Winchesters and what they had done to him. That was the plot I was most looking forward to. I loved Zachariah as a villian and the way they handled him was a let down for me.

    I liked the awkward boy teen, but I personally found the two girls obnoxious. They were very self-absorbed and they didn’t have any personality aside from the fact that they were lesbians. The reason I liked Charlie was because she was a fun quirky person who just happened to be lesbian. Her defining characteristic wasn’t the fact that she was lesbian. She wasn’t defined solely by her sexual orientation. I was also disappointed that the POC and the girl that chased after him weren’t in more scenes, because I was actually concerned when he almost died.

    I didn’t really feel anything until the very end when the boys were saying goodbye to John, and then I did shed a few tears. The acting there was very well done. It wasn’t a terrible episode, but it just didn’t leave me stoked for the next one. The momentum that had been happening over the last few episodes was kind of stalled for me.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as you did. I just had a different viewing experience this time.

    • I’m with you on every single point. In fact, what you say about Zachariah is why those scenes probably felt flat to me. It wasn’t *our* Zachariah, so the whole angel thing just felt weirdly out of place. If they’d ignored the whole beginning, they could have fleshed that out more, and had the fact that Zachariah was back AND Cas had no idea who they were be the, “Wait a minute…” moment that had them googling themselves to see what changed, rather than have Dean seeing a freakin’ wanted poster of himself and then just *standing the flip around in the wide open for anyone to see him while he googled Sam.* It would have made so much more sense and we could really have gotten a feel for Zachariah being the same dude we knew nine seasons ago.

      I didn’t even think about where the kid who ran from the ghost (LIKE ANY SENSIBLE PERSON SHOULD WHEN THEY SEE A GHOST) went because I was really getting tired of the two random lesbians, but I agree that I was genuinely concerned for him and glad he ran like a sensible person. The way Dabb handles people who aren’t straight makes me wonder if he actually knows any gay men or lesbian women, which…I mean, he’s gotta, I did theatre for close to two decades and I know many more LGBT people than the average bear, so I can’t imagine he doesn’t, but if he does he must only know them in passing because he doesn’t write them as PEOPLE. He sticks some names of two dimensional characters he plans to insert in an episode up on a wall, decides, “Hey, it would be good to have a couple of lesbians in this episode,” and then pulls out his darts, like all you need to make the audience care about a character these days is to have them be a pair of lesbians. “Wow, look at Dabb! Soooooo hip with the times!” Never mind that there’s nothing real about them, he’s checked off the “gay” box. It’s really disgusting that he thinks making a character’s sole defining characteristic be their sexuality is somehow proof that he’s enlightened. There was absolutely nothing to Max or Stacy in terms of who they were as people aside from being lesbians.

      Also, I specifically avoided all the spoilers, except seeing that everyone seemed to love the episode, so I went in *really* expecting it to just be great, and all my criticisms and concerns about Dabb to be proven wrong, and as soon as I saw the Claire/Kaia stand-ins my hope began to fade. How big of an ego does it take to put a reference to your crappy failed spin-off into the 300th episode of the longest running Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror show in U.S. history, and how does everyone in charge of the show go, “Yeah, that’s great, that will TOTALLY make people think we’re sensitive! We’ll be sure to drop that ‘We welcome everyone’ spot right before it and people will stop screaming at us about this being a show about a pair of straight white dudes (whose utter dedication no matter how terrible the writing has sometimes been is the only reason the show has lasted this long).” And I too felt like the episode was over way too quickly. It got to the end and John was gone and I thought, “That’s it????” Not that I wanted the torture to continue, but it felt completely rushed because Dabb wouldn’t pick one f*cking plot.

      • I like hearing your thoughts on episodes. I agree that the difference that came from John disappearing didn’t make sense, though I didn’t see Dean as a crazed serial killer. He said, “A lot of beheadings.” I assumed that meant he was just an amazing hunter still who the law misinterpreted as a serial killer.

        Either way though, it didn’t make sense that the angels and demons would drop them because their dad disappeared. They are perfect vessels because of who they are, not because of what happened with their dad.

      • “They are perfect vessels because of who they are, not because of what happened with their dad.”

        EXACTLY THIS. Dabb has spent the last three seasons trying to rewrite the entire series in his image. It’s like he thinks everything before he took over as head writer is just background noise that he doesn’t really need to pay attention to, like he’s a small screen J.J. Abrams rebooting the show, except his reboot is genuinely terrible. Forget that Mary was a wonderful, loving mother who wanted out of hunting. Dabb wants her to be a Strong WomanTM so now she was hunting behind her husband’s back even after she had Dean, and she can’t be bothered to show any maternal affection towards her children whatsoever. Dabb wants the show to be an ensemble rather than having two leads, so BAM – everyone is suddenly part of the Winchester family and the super secret bunker is open to anyone who wanders by on the street. Dabb wants to appeal to the *very* small segment of the viewing audience, primarily millennials and teens, who spend their lives screaming on Twitter and voila – random teenage lesbians everywhere, and any teen who isn’t a lesbian automatically wants to be a hunter! He doesn’t want to have to think about how his stories would be impacted by canon facts because he prefers to ignore canon, period.

    • I can understand everything you said here – and always welcome dissenting viewpoints here, so never feel heistant about expressing yours! I really enjoy all the thoughtful analysis that fans do, whether it lines up with my own or not. I think we all agree that this was probably originally ‘Lebanon’ and then JDM got added and it became…something else. Something that should have been two separate episodes! And I don’t think the ‘local kids’ worked for many people either, too cardboard and feeling like a “here you go, fandom” lame addition. I still managed to love what I loved despite those quibbles, but they are definitely there!

      • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I did too, but for me it was more, “eh,” and less, “Wow!” Everyone enjoys the show for different reasons and I don’t think you should let your enthusiasm be diminished by my or anyone else’s criticisms. I am grateful you’ve created a safe place for people to express their opinions. Twitter is too polarized and negative for me, and many other sites have views that are too far from my own to really feel like I belong. So thank you.

        I usually agree with you on many things, but you’ve also invested much more time until this show than I have. I heard of it back in 2005, but I don’t generally watch things that are still airing, because I like to binge shows. My younger siblings kept telling me to check it out, and finally, at the end of 2017, I did, assuming that there was no way it was still running. Whoops. Now I’m addicted but it’s been difficult to find fans who think similarly to myself. My husband watches it with me, but the current writing has really lessened his excitement. We spend quite a bit if time lamenting various plots that were dropped and could have been really interesting.

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