Supernatural Absence – Double Meanings and Iconic Things

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the last episodes of Season 14 and the entirety of Season 15 of Supernatural are going to be a master class in grief and loss. It’s impossible for me to experience the show, the conventions, the fandom or anything else related to the Show without the spectre of its ending coloring my reactions. That was very much in evidence at the convention in Chicago last weekend and in last week’s episode, the aptly  named “Absence.” Supernatural’s absence? That’s pretty much all I can think about right now!

Coincidentally, I’m in the midst of teaching a graduate course in grief and loss to a bunch of counselors in training, so I’m immersed in current research and theory about what sort of things we experience as a loss and the myriad ways in which we grieve them. In a way, that’s making what’s happening with Supernatural and its fandom easier to understand, but in another way, it’s tempting me to grab onto one of the coping strategies for grief that sometimes comes back to kick you in the butt – denial, avoidance, intellectualizing, call it what you will. I’ve been doing a lot of all three, and let me just say up front that it probably influenced my reaction to this episode. As fandom used to say all the time back in the day to acknowledge and validate differing points of view, your mileage may vary.

In fact, my friend Laurena (who helms the Winchester Family Business) and I spent the con weekend together – and boy, did we ever have different perspectives on ‘Absence’! Then again, we’ve had different perspectives on Mary Winchester all along. And while we’re both mired in anticipatory grief about Supernatural ending, that meant we had a very different experience of this episode.

Let me say at the outset that I think director Nina Lopez-Corrado (whose work is incredible) and writer Robert Berens (who has written some amazing episodes) did an excellent job of taking the story where it needed to go. The actors all did an amazing job bringing the emotions that needed to saturate the story. That said, as a viewer, I was unusually reticent to go where they wanted to take me. (Laurena, on the other hand, fell down that rabbit hole and landed HARD).

I watched the episode on Thursday night after a long day of work, and then did a re-watch when I returned from the Chicago convention on Monday night. My second viewing was also impacted by having “Sammies with Sam” at the con  – that is, a little meet and greet with Samantha Smith while we ate delicious PBJ sandwiches. I love Samantha and I loved hearing her insights about Mary and about the Show. It was quite clear that she too was grieving, and that shared grief changed my experience of the episode on rewatch a bit. Suffice it to say, this is an episode review that was extraordinarily complicated!

We start off with Sam and Dean returning from the events of 14.17, glad to be home and to share beers as they traditionally do. Dean expresses his relief about Sam being alive in typically minimizing fashion, making a joke about “another miraculous Sam Winchester survival” – when we know he was completely undone by those few minutes of Sam being gone.  But that’s Dean.

Sam and Dean acknowledge Jack’s role in saving the day and say they’re glad to have a get out of jail free card, and if you didn’t know that Jack was on his way out before, you certainly did then. No show can have a consistent character who’s a get out of jail free card for long, since it dilutes the urgency of everything that happens. RIP Jack. (sobbing)

The opening scene is well done, the sense of dread slowly growing as the boys try to find Jack and Mary, and then Mary’s phone ominously rings at the other end of the table.

The brothers call around to see if anyone knows what’s going on, hanging onto hope and optimism that we, the viewers, know is tragically not going to hold up. Dean talks to Cas on the phone, and Cas finally tells him that he thinks something is wrong with Jack, and how he killed Felix.

Cas: I was going to tell you, but…  I don’t think Jack is well, Dean.

Dean: Hangs up.

Ouch.

Nobody on this show will ever learn that keeping those sort of worries to yourself never ends well.

Meanwhile, an anguished Jack is having flashbacks of his time bonding with Mary after trying to outrun what he’s done by flying all over the world (but still carrying a cell phone lol).

Even more distressing, he’s also having hallucinations of Lucifer, much like Sam did back in the day. (Because Show will never let Lucifer be gone no matter what, apparently). It’s Hallucifer who confirms what we already mostly know.

Lucifer: You killed Mary Winchester. You can’t come back from that.

Jack insists it was an accident, but Lucifer just smirks.

Lucifer: Sure, tell Sam and Dean it was an accident. It’s not like family isn’t everything to them…

Poor Jack. Alex Calvert has done such an incredible job of portraying Jack that I came to love him even though the writing has been on the wall since the beginning that he would eventually go darkside in some way and break everyone’s hearts, including mine. Jack’s character arc has been well done, playing out organically over time so that our affection for him feels genuine and earned. I’m not looking forward to what’s to come at all – in fact, I’m dreading it. Part of me is grateful that this Show can still make me care so much, but part of me is just plain dreading it. As Laurena and I discussed at length over pancakes yesterday morning, we are already grieving so much about losing the Show in real life that additional grief over the fictional narrative almost seems unbearable. It’s not like in previous seasons, where we were joyous about the Show continuing and the cons continuing and the fandom continuing. Now we’re dealing with real loss and grief, and I’m not so sure I want my heart to be ripped out by the Show too.

Everything is different now, and I don’t know if TPTB have realized that yet. Everything.

Sam and Dean try to track down Jack, thanks to Smart!Sam’s tech skills. In the Impala, Sam tries to defend Jack, saying that he must have thought he was helping (by killing Felix). Dean is already in lashing out mode, snapping that he doesn’t care about the damn snake and refusing to see the possible human parallels. The boys find Nick’s partially incinerated corpse, and then they find an ominous and large area of scorched earth. Director Nina Lopez-Corrado gives us a beautiful crane shot, looking down on the angelically produced wasteland area illuminated by Sam and Dean’s flashlights.

Uh oh.

Meanwhile, Castiel is also having flashbacks of his own bonding time with Mary when he was hunting with her. I don’t even know when that happened (early on clearly, but did we know about it?) but it’s a nice, quiet scene in which Castiel tries to reassure Mary that Sam and Dean are glad she’s back.

Cas: They’re happy. Finally they don’t have to be so alone.

Mary: Castiel, they were never alone.

That was a beautiful little scene, showing both Castiel’s genuine empathy for the brothers and confirming what we all know – Sam and Dean have always had each other.

I wish we’d gotten to see more of Mary and Castiel, because I think they from what little we did see that they could relate in a unique way. Both were thrust into a world that they don’t quite fit in, and both had to struggle to find their place in it. It’s nice to see a flashback of that now, but it would have been a lot more powerful if we’d seen it develop organically, the way Jack’s story arc did.

Dean and Sam meet up with Cas in the cabin, and Dean says what most of us were thinking about Nick’s death.

Dean: He probably deserved it.

When Castiel comes in, Dean immediately turns his back on the angel, angry and in full lashing out mode. That’s Dean’s customary way of handling his grief at first, so I appreciated the character continuity, as well as the way Jensen Ackles makes it all thoroughly believable. Anger is a cover emotion for him, one that he’s more comfortable expressing than the incredible sadness underneath. One that he’s been socialized to express, in contrast to the sadness he feels so deeply but tries to hide.

He lashes out at Cas, needing someone to blame.

Dean: If he did something to her, if she’s…. Then you’re dead to me!

Sam looks shocked, even a bit protective of Castiel, and Dean justifies his outburst.

Dean: He knew and didn’t tell us!

Castiel looks almost as anguished as Jack himself about what’s happened, and Misha Collins does a great job showing us that.

Cas: I was scared… I believed in Jack. We were a family and I didn’t want to lose that.

Dean remains unmoved, and Cas looks close to breaking down.

Cas: I failed you. And I failed Jack, and I failed…

Dean: Don’t even say her name!

Sam doesn’t say anything here, but his anguish is just as clear. Unlike Dean, he doesn’t lash out and he struggles not to blame Cas (or even Jack), but it costs him because he has no defense, and his sadness shows on his face thanks to Jared Padalecki’s wonderful acting.  All three actors did a wonderful (painful) job in this scene.

They call Rowena, who has transitioned to 90% ally at this point (which I’m fine with), and she yanks away their last bit of denial.

Rowena: I don’t know where she is, but Mary Winchester is no longer on this Earth.

Dean loses it, picking up a chair and smashing it. Sam flinches at that, looking close to tears.

Then he does what he knows to do when he feels lost. He turns to his big brother.

Sam: So what do we do?

Dean: What we always do when we lose one of our own. Fight to bring them back.

Oh, Dean.

That is so true, but so often it doesn’t end well. And of course we know that it won’t this time, because there’s no way Mary Winchester would have so many emotional flashbacks in this episode if she was coming back.

Let me stop at this point and talk about where I was on first viewing, because by this time I was certain that the episode was Mary’s goodbye episode. Hence the black and white flashbacks. Knowing that did two things. First, it took away any suspense about whether they would succeed in bringing her back. Second, it gave me a handy dandy way to intellectualize about the episode so I didn’t have to feel too much. I usually roll with this Show and let it take me where it wants to, even if part of me knows where I’m being taken. This time, I didn’t want to go. And that meant I didn’t roll with it; instead, I felt vaguely emotionally manipulated and a bit resentful of that. It’s as though I dug my heels in and said no way, Show, I see what you’re trying to do, but I’m not falling for it!

Not the best way to watch an emotional goodbye episode, btw.

Part of my resistance was that I’ve been frustrated with how they portrayed Mary all along. I was excited by the potential of having the Winchesters’ mother back and all that would entail to explore, and I was on board with her not being the idolized version of ‘Mom’ that a son who lost her as a four year old or a son who didn’t remember her at all would have constructed. Sam and Dean struggling with Mary as a real person, flaws and all, was a great idea. Samantha Smith did a great job with a complicated character and worked hard to show all her sides. Unfortunately, Mary’s character arc sometimes went places that I absolutely could not follow, and thus I never came to love her as Sam and Dean’s mother. I see what they were going for in making her so freaked out by her abrupt return from Heaven that she couldn’t deal with her sons, but leaving them and joining up with their enemies was a bridge too far for me to travel. WHAT?

There are always practical constraints to deal with, including how many episodes Samantha Smith was hired for, and that meant constantly finding (lame) reasons for Mary not to be there with her sons and for her sons. I realize they’re grown men who don’t need to live with their mommy, but they were all  hunters, and it would have made sense for them to try to protect each other more. Anyway, I didn’t bond with Mary. So when this episode suddenly decided to throw in flashbacks of times that might have made me bond with her, I just felt like it was too little too late. The flashbacks themselves were well done, but I can’t form a bond with a character organically in one episode when I already know you’re taking her away anyway! Sigh.

(Laurena, on the other hand, was totally on board the Mary Winchester train, so she went exactly where Show was trying to take her, and ended up in a puddle on the floor.)

On second viewing, understanding my own resistance, I watched the flashbacks just for what they were, and tried to allow the understanding that they contained to seep in a little more. I also knew that Samantha had struggled a bit herself, and had worked hard to understand Mary despite her flaws, and I respect Samantha so much that I worked a bit harder too. It’s not what I want to have to do, but there you go. It’s almost the last season, after all.

The Winchesters set out for Rowena’s to try something desperate, but Jack gets there first. Once again, Alex Calvert is magnificent. As he orders Rowena to try to bring Mary back, his desperation is very clear – and that starts to make him seem truly dangerous for the first time.

Ruth Connell is also amazing in this scene – we as the viewers watch Jack through her eyes, and as she becomes more and more concerned, so do we. Rowena is another character whose evolution has been gradual and organic. I believe her transition into someone who is allowing herself to care a little bit, after centuries of walling herself off to prevent being hurt or abandoned again. She cares about Jack and she cares about Sam and Dean and Cas, and that gives her the courage to go against even a Nephilim in order to try to help both him and them. She stalls long enough for Sam and Dean to get there, but Jack whisks her and the Book of the Damned away to the bunker to grab all the ingredients – for a necromancy spell. Oh Jack.

Meanwhile, Cas tries to contact Naomi to find out what happened to Mary, but Duma arrives at the sandbox instead.

Duma: Why would you want to bring Mary back? She is at peace. In Heaven. Mary Winchester is complete. You and the Winchesters may not be, but she is at peace.

Me: Shades of Buffy! Don’t do it, Cas!

Misha again did a wonderful job in this short scene. Cas knows that’s the right thing to do, but he also knows how much it will hurt Sam and Dean – and his expression shows all of that pain as he rails against accepting that Mary is gone and should not be brought back. He lashes out at first, but it’s from grief, knowing that she’s right.

Meanwhile, Jack is having more flashbacks about bonding with Mary, this time her teaching him how to handle a knife. Samantha said this was a great scene to film with Alex, because he really was fumbling the knife and she sort of hoped that he wouldn’t get too proficient with it, so it would play out as very real – and it did!

I do believe Mary’s bond with Jack, because oddly we saw that relationship evolve more than we saw her relationship with her actual sons.

The flashback transitions into Sam’s (which was odd – I had a moment of wait, whose flashback is this?) I think all of fandom gasped in joy to see the return of Sam’s beard of brotherly grief ™ – which Jared partly grew back in a weekend and then makeup filled in a bit!

We finally see a scene between Mary and one of her boys that has her explaining/apologizing for her erratic behavior when she returned, and a touching moment with her and Sam.

Mary: Things got complicated….I got complicated. Parenting is always something you feel like you’re failing at. But then you look at them and they’re amazing. The bravest, kindest, most heroic men on the planet.

She cups Sam’s face and Samantha Smith pours all the love that I wish we’d gotten to see from Mary all along into that gesture and that look, and Sam drinks it in, and it’s a lovely moment. (One I wish we’d seen more often from time to time during the past several seasons instead of in flashback in her last episode).

I liked the next short quiet scene with Sam and Dean, because it shows where they are right now as brothers and just how well they know each other. Dean is still lashing out, wanting to blame Castiel because he doesn’t know what else to do with all that rage.

Dean: Cas should have told us.

Sam: Dean, it wasn’t just Cas. We knew too. But Jack had a good heart, a good soul… And that’s on me too, I decided for him to bring him back and you warned me…

Sam’s admission, accepting some of the blame and quietly challenging Dean’s blaming of Castiel, is so gentle that it gets through Dean’s defenses. Sam knows his brother so well that he knows what will get through to him and what will not. And Dean hears him – and instinctively defends his brother (even from Sam himself)

Dean (sitting down across from Sam): You didn’t know.

Sam: He’d become our family.

Sam regrets that his own grief didn’t allow him to be there for Jack after Maggie and the AU hunters were killed.

Sam: I dumped Jack on Cas and just left.

Dean can now, after hearing Sam take responsibility, own up to his own part in this tragedy.

Dean: I did it too. With Donatello. It was a warning, I just couldn’t see it.

I got emotional at the end of this conversation because it was such a well written and well acted scene. The psychological dynamics were complex, but played out in such a genuine way between two people who know each other so incredibly well. Thanks for that, Mr. Berens.

While Sam and Dean work through their anger and grief and blame, self and otherwise, Rowena tries to convince Jack not to go through with the spell. Unfortunately, Jack’s alter ego in the form of Lucifer keeps nudging him in the other direction. (Admittedly Mark Pellegrino excels as Hallucifer, with all his snarky manipulations)

Rowena tells Jack that the last thing they need for the spell is Mary’s body, and Jack goes to a whole other level of desperate, knowing that Mary was incinerated. He insists on doing the spell anyway, though Rowena tells him that what he brings back won’t be her.

Jack: Then help me!

Rowena: (resolute) I won’t.

Lovely Rowena moment showing both her courage and her newly directed moral compass.

Jack zaps her back to her place none too gently, and she immediately calls the Winchesters to tell them what Jack is trying to do.

Rowena: I fear your boy will bring back something terrible.

Jack tries, and special effects gets some kudos for this scene, along with director Lopez-Corrado.

Eventually Mary’s body is lying on the ground, but we all have a very bad feeling about this by this point.

Sam and Dean arrive and run to the spot, Sam calling out for Jack. Jack turns to them, defeat and sadness written on his face.

Jack: It didn’t work.

Dean runs to his mother, cradling her in his arms and saying “Mom, Mom…”

It’s clear to him, and to Sam, and to us, that she’s gone.

Dean then has his flashback, a small and silent scene of him driving Baby, Mary asleep on his shoulder. Dean looks at her fondly, then turns his eyes back to the road, his expression saying entire pages of dialogue about how satisfied he is to have his mother there and be able to take care of her.

It’s all he ever really wanted, and it’s heartbreaking in its simplicity.

In the present, Dean looks to his brother, the only other person who will understand and share his grief.

The expression on his face killed me, helpless and almost beseeching, wracked with grief.

Sam drops to his knees beside his devastated brother and wraps his arm around Dean, his other hand anchoring Mary. The little family cling to each other in their sadness, another crane shot making it a powerful tableau of loss and grief.

So much of what this Show is all about.

Jack, meanwhile, sits alone slumped on the floor, only Halllucifer for company.

Lucifer: They’re never gonna trust you again. And that means you can’t trust them…

Oh Jack Jack Jack, I hate where this is going.

Flash forward and Sam sits at the bunker table, sorting through the few family photos that the Winchesters have. There’s Mary with young Dean and baby Sam, and young Sam and Dean (which fandom knows is actually a behind the scenes photo of Jared and Jensen between takes).

Castiel joins him and tells him the truth, Dean listening from the doorway.

Cas: She’s in Heaven. And she’s at peace.

He tells them that Duma let him in, let him see. There’s a great shot of Mary’s two lifetimes on the door to her private heaven.

Cas: She’s with John. There’s no sorrow, no guilt. Just joy.

Sam also has an update. Jack apparently brought back a shell, a replica, incapable of holding life.

In other words, this is really the end.

Sam again turns to his big brother.

Sam: So what do we do now?

Dean: What we always do.

The pyre burns at the hunter’s funeral.

Sam steps forward and puts the photo of Mary he’s chosen in the flames.

Dean stands apart, stoic.

Cas tries to go to him to offer comfort, but Sam puts out a hand and stops him, shaking his head. Sam knows Dean, and when he needs space as he’s struggling not to fall apart. In a sense, Sam protects them both, also keeping Castiel from being hurt unintentionally. I never cease to be amazed by Sam Winchester and his capacity for empathy.

The camera pulls back to show the brothers and the angel and the Impala flanking the pyre.

Then we get a montage of Mary moments (which again struck me as manipulative on first watch, or maybe too over the top, even though it made sense to include them here)

The remembrance of the 300th episode did get to me – that one single night when Sam and Dean had both their mother and their father there, eating dinner like a “normal” family. It’s once again heartbreaking in its simplicity as what Dean has always wanted most.

Cut back to the bunker and a close up of the table where Dean and Sam carved their initials – and there is now another set of initials there.

MW.

I’m sure that was conceived of as the final tear jerker of an ending, but for me, that also didn’t work. The ‘DW SW’ initials are iconic to the Show and to the fandom. I know countless fans who have that tattoo. It means something, and part of that meaning is from the discussion Sam and Dean had when they carved them, about their legacy. It took on even greater meaning when Jared and Jensen said that they too were emotional during that scene, thinking about their own legacy as actors in a show that has changed people’s lives. It’s based on the initials that the brothers carved into the Impala as children, and symbolizes the way they’ve had to live their lives, with only each other to depend on for the majority of the time. I understand that Sam and Dean would want to memorialize their mother in some way, so maybe it even makes sense for them to want to add her to the bunker table as a grief ritual – but for an already grieving fandom trying to prepare for the loss of everything that’s iconic about this Show, that felt like a knife in the heart. And not in the way it was intended.

Jensen and Jared spoke about the initials a little bit at the convention this past weekend, saying that they also were surprised by that (they weren’t in the scene and so I’m not sure they knew it was going to happen). They understand that the initials are iconic as well as the fandom does, so I think it was also a bit jarring to them. At least that was my take from what they said in their panel. But after all, the actors aren’t the ones writing the show.

All in all, the episode worked better for me on second viewing, when I was in a head space that allowed me to go more willingly where Show wanted to take me. The acting was, as always, masterful. The cinematography and set dec, especially of the beautiful bunker and the gorgeous Vancouver landscape, were striking. There were moments that came through with a gut punch as intended. Even if it didn’t work completely, the sadness and emptiness — the absence — certainly came through.

I was left with a feeling of trepidation that’s way deeper and more real life than I’m usually feeling as we get ready for the penultimate episode of Season 14. Please, Show, you don’t have to mess with iconic things in order to get an emotional reaction out of us right now – we have enough real life loss to deal with already. Can we keep that in mind as we head into the final season?

I think somewhere I hear Andrew Dabb laughing…

Caps by kayb625

— Lynn

You can remember what’s so special about

Supernatural forever with a copy of Family

Don’t End With Blood, written by the actors

and the fans! Links on the home page.

 

23 thoughts on “Supernatural Absence – Double Meanings and Iconic Things

  • Show is determined to wreck us all. I was not a fan of Mary but love Samantha Smith. She brought dignity to a difficultly written part and played it with grace. RIP Mary. RIP Supernatural not quite yet

    • It was a very emotional episode
      And a very beautiful review…

      I hope though that what’s left of the show is not going to be all grief and sadness

      I hope that the humour, the ‘hope against hope’ feeling and the friendships that are so significant in their stories are going to be what we are left with at the end…

      As you said we have enough grief and loss… the show is always ‘the good thing’ to look forward to…

      • To be fair, the writing of a character is not the responsibility of the actor, we know Sam Smith is fantastic so thanks to Sam, for giving the part the best she could with what she was given. With that in mind, I accept the additional initials as a reminder of her and her contribution to the show, she will be there as part of the show to the end , even though her character will not

  • “Everything is different now, and I don’t know if TPTB have realized that yet. Everything.”
    Yes everything is different. Every episode is another nail in the coffin. Every convention is closer to the last one ever. Every little tweet or message to the fans from the cast will soon be gone forever…. and it feels different now. The J’s seem different. It’s like they have had a heavy burden lifted off of them. They are just as committed to the show and to the fans but they seem like they have emotionally moved on from Supernatural and us…maybe that is just me projecting. But everything is different now.

    I was never in favor of Mary’s return to the show. I couldn’t see how she was going to be integrated into the narrative. Unfortunately the writers couldn’t figure that out either. The direction her story went alienated fans almost immediately. So much so that those of us that weren’t fortunate enough to see Samantha in person and listen to her insights into Mary were only left with the impressions the showrunner gave us. She seemed to want a relationship with everyone besides her sons. She betrayed them and almost got them killed. She chose a group of people in an alternate world over her sons (one of which DIED in order to save her). The flashbacks of scenes we never saw didn’t make up for the ones we did see. I get that Mary couldn’t be in many episodes but she could have been used much like Charlie. A sounding board for the brothers. A confidant in their conflicts with each other. Anything but what we got. I’m glad she is back in heaven with John. I’m happy to learn that is where John is as well. But having her initials in the Bunker table didn’t seem earned. This is Sam and Dean’s story and has been from the beginning. The vision of those carved initials in the Impala helped Sam overcome Lucifer. Those carved initials in the only other home they have ever known were Sam and Dean’s legacy to all they have ever done to save humanity and maybe the only epitaph they will ever have. Mary didn’t earn a place at that table. They just didn’t belong there.

    Mary aside I did like this episode a lot. Alex was fantastic as was Ruth (I do love her evolution from adversary to aly). I was truly afraid for Rowena. Jack seemed so out of control I was afraid he would disintegrate her too. Whew! He didn’t. The rest of the story set up the final two episodes well. I am very excited to see what happens next.

    • I don’t think the Js have moved on from this show or from the fans, but I can tell you from having acted in some *terrible* original plays in my time – when you know it’s the final night and you will never have to say those horrible lines again, or do that horrible blocking again, or try to find meaning to a character or a scene where there just isn’t any because the guy who wrote the play has no business writing a thank you card, let alone a script, it’s a RELIEF. No matter how much fun you had with your fellow actors, no matter how much bonding you did, no matter whether the audience enjoyed it, no matter whether it sold out every night, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting to try to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, especially on those occasions when you know it’s not possible to do so but you’re going to do your damndest anyway, because you’re not the kind of actor who phones performances in. And they’ve been separated so much this season that for a large part of it they didn’t even have each other to lean on when they were dealing with just…absolute dreck. Not only that, but they’re going to have more control over the show next season so that the two characters they’ve poured their souls into don’t end the show as the hollow shells Dabb has turned them into these last three seasons. That in and of itself is going to have them feeling optimistic – that they’re going to have an active say over what their characters go through, the story that’s going to be told, and whether it’s worthy of their characters and their talent.

      • Your points, are so valid, not every episode has been as I would have wished, yes the actors have had to turn around certain aspects of the imperfections, I hand wave some things as I still love the show regardless. I’m doubtful that there will be any changes to current show running team , but amongst the team there are some very talented people who care a lot and perhaps they can steer the ship that is Supernatural to harbour safely. It may have imperfections, but it’s set such high standards, it’s perhaps a victim of how good it is that we will always need more and when it doesn’t meet our expectations, we are on occasion disappointed. I know that I’ll not only miss my show, but the spirited feelings and discussion it creates.

  • Thank you for summarising a pivotal episode so beautifully Lynn. I was able to get past my own misgivings about Mary to be gutted for Dean and Sam. This year has not been kind to them, Dean’s possession and battle to regain his identity, dealing with the fallout from Michael’s plans, Sam’s struggle to care for and teach the AU folks whilst facing the very real possibility his brother wouldn’t make it, Cas making a deal to save Jack and the still unknown consequences of that, Jack’s loss of grace and his life. I felt for them, the flashbacks for me gave it depth, showing how they related to Mary and how she fitted into their lives now, what possibilities the future could hold, but ,wrong show! The acting and directing were sublime, negating the need for words at times. Especially the high shot of Dean cradling Mary’s body , he looked so small and vulnerable as Sam wrapped an arm about him protectively. Sam showed real strength and tenderness, attuned to his brothers inability to process his grief appropriately. There’s a word in the Alaskan Yupik tradition, Nallunguarluku which means to pretend it didn’t happen, Dean was raised by John to think that way, he uses it in times of stress to cope and comes across badly as rude or hostile because he cannot express himself as others expect.As the older brother Dean is held to higher standards, to not whine, to be strong, to protect others when sometimes he needs to be protected. Sam, as the more well adjusted emotionally, sees that and reaches out showing how well attuned the brothers are and gives Dean the protection he needs . All season, Sam has shown such strength of character, protecting his brother both from others and from himself . Sam has really grown into himself and has much to be proud of. I’m so anxious for whatever lays down the line in the next two weeks, the whole of team free will have a lot of trauma and grief ahead I think. Hang in there guys.

    • I’m still mixed about this episode but I’m ok with Mary being gone. Dean got her back for a lot longer than I originally thought he would. He discovered she wasn’t a saint, or a good cook but she was a hunter. She was human with all the flaws that go along with it. Sam never had the same expectations so I think it was different for him.
      I always got the feeling that Mary took Jack under her wing because she never had that chance with her own boys. She missed that. She wasn’t a great mother, after that 30 year gap-not a surprise -and I hated that whole BMOL thing.
      Castiel was obviously confused as to what he should do regarding Jack and he chose wrong-again. IF he had told Sam & Dean about Felix (snakes- yech) maybe Mary wouldn’t have gone off with him?
      I feel sorry for Jack but really dislike the whole Lucifer in his head thing. Not exactly original. His reactions were spot on I thought. He is only 2 (or 3?) the frustration, bursts of anger seemed real to me.

      I wonder who we’re going to lose next?

      • Yes, agree re Mary and Jack, she spent time with him , unlike her own sons, so got to know him better and developed a bond in a more maternal way, she just spent too much time running from her sons due to her own guilt for her part in how things turned out. I think you’re spot on with assessment that more folks will be lost , they still have to do something with closing AU Bobby’s story and Cas deal with the empty, but my guess is The empty will carry over to next season

  • Beautiful, Lynn. I must say I , too, was never a real fan of Mary, but I always thought she was a product of her own difficult childhood. That helped me accept her coldness more easily. Even so, the one thing that bugged me about this episode was her initials on the table. They do NOT belong there. Yes, it would have been nice to have seen the warm Mary scenes a year ago, but at least we saw them here. Samantha Smith always did a great job portraying a complicated, not terribly likeable character , but it makes sense that Mary is now gone. We started out with just the boys and perhaps we will end with just the boys.

  • Yeah, I agree with you, Lynn. I felt emotionally manipulated too. I mean, all fictional drama is emotional manipulation, heh, but this didn’t work for me either. I’ve struggled with Mary’s writing, and I struggled with the editing of the iconic DW/SW initials too. Even though change is inevitable, not all change is in the right direction. I hope Dabb doesn’t systematically take all the iconic moments/images from the show and add his “distinctive” mark. It takes a wise man to know when to evolve, and when to respect history. I haven’t seen a lot of indication of this wisdom from him, to be honest. I’m not sure he much cares that the dedicated fandom is in mourning. His job is to provide a show.

    I have my fingers crossed that J2 will keep half an eye on stuff like this, as Jensen is clearly aware of these feelings. Though if it happens in post, he has no say.

    Well, fingers crossed. That’s all we can do.

  • Wow! Great review. I have to admit that I fell somewhere in between your’s and Laurena’s reactions. I’m usually ready and willing to let the show take me where it wants to, since I’m not actually in charge of anything (I guess that’s why I write fan fiction, lol.). Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

    In this case, it did. I haven’t been a huge fan of Mary Winchester since her return, because I seriously can’t understand how she could be reunited with her sons and then leave them like she did. With that being said, though, her death was really hard to see. I liken the experience to how I felt when Carl died on the Walking Dead. I really did not like his character, but watching Rick and everyone else go through that loss just wrecked me.

    Watching Sam and Dean lose their mother again, especially after so recently watching them lose John again, wrecked me even more. Those boys have witnessed the loss of a loved one so often that I’m really not sure how they’re still breathing. Or walking. Or not just huddled in a corner, crying and slobbering everywhere. Watching them lose Mary was what tugged at my heartstrings so hard that I was an emotional mess. And, of course, like you said, this was made so much more emotional because we know we’re approaching the end of the story so quickly now.

    The flashbacks did what they were supposed to do, I guess, although I would have rather witnessed these scenes as they played out. I think that would have given them a much more powerful impact on us, because we would have been remembering them right along with Dean, Sam, Cas, and Jack.

    I also agree with you on the rightness of how Sam and Dean dealt with Mary’s loss. Jensen and Jared know Sam and Dean better than anyone else and it shows in episodes like this. Jensen’s ability to take Dean through the stages of grief without saying a lot is so amazing to me. That man has the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen and it’s a wonder to watch him. Truly.

    And it always kills me to watch the boys try to help each other through whatever they’re going through. In my heart of hearts, I really think this show is strongest when it’s focused on just Sam and Dean. As much as I love Cas, Jack, Bobby, Rowena and others, Sam and Dean are the heart of the show. In the end, they’re all that really matters.

    Last, but not least, I agree with your take on adding Mary’s initials to the table. My first reaction upon seeing that was “Oh my gosh, that’s so sad and beautiful!” But just a few seconds later, I was surprised to find myself getting a little upset about the whole idea. That’s such an iconic image from the show and to me it epitomized the brotherly bond this show is about. Adding her initials detracts from that in a way that makes me sad. I understand that TPTB were trying to elicit a powerful emotion from us, and it worked for a single moment in time, but overall I think it failed. I wonder if they regret their decision now, lol.

    Anyway, thanks for the great review.

  • Lynn, you expressed exactly what I felt about this episode! The flashbacks, I know they were well intended, but to retcon all that in when Mary was already dead? Ugh. Why didn’t they show them in the actual show? People had a hard time getting attached to her character because she was so often absent and distant. But now that she’s died they stick the flashbacks in to try to make us feel bad. I did like the one where she told Sam how proud she was of him and Dean. But how much more would that have meant to see it when she was alive?! Bad writing!
    There has been more than one “meh” episode this season that could have been one with character development for Mary instead. I don’t know about Sam Smith’s availability, but if she was available they could have accomplished this.
    They didn’t give Mary enough time–and enough decent storyline, for her death to feel earned. She didn’t get to go down fighting. She wasn’t trying to save anyone. Jack killed her by accident during a temper tantrum for Chuck’s sake! That was not fair to her character. The Winchesters’ mom deserved better.
    Compare Mary’s death to Charlie’s, for example, or even Bobby’s. It didn’t have the same impact for me. And I did like Mary, even with her flaws (for which I blame the writers, not the actress, who is wonderful). But this death felt thrown in there just to have a tragedy tied to Jack.
    PLEASE, Dabb and the other writers, turn this around and bring us a final season we can be proud of!

  • I love your review Lynn. I look forward to them every week, you always say what I am thinking and feeling. When I saw MW carved into the table, my heart just broke, and not because Mary just died. I couldn’t believe that TPTB would eff with such an iconic symbol. and your last line of the review > I think somewhere I hear Andrew Dabb laughing… well, I think he is too. He is the worst showrunner I have ever seen. I believe that if it wasn’t for that lucifer/Michael wire thing, writing episodes that separated the boys all season and then the final nail {MW}, that S15 would not have been announced as the final season. I think that all of that broke the Js hearts too, and they just couldn’t carry on, as it wasn’t fun to go to work anymore. I am very emotional as I have grown up with this show and it has been a part of my life for 14 years. its hard to say goodbye

    • Totally agree. Dabb alone is to blame for killing this show, with an assist from the people in charge over at the CW who didn’t see any reason to replace him after the debacle of the flying scene in the Season 13 finale.

  • I’m from the same POV as Laurena and bawled thru most of the episode. This show knows grief.
    I’m okay with the loving goodbye because I wanted it canon how much she meant to the boys and how much she loved them.
    I think the MW helps Sam and Dean feel like they had a permanent change in relationship with their Mom. So I’m good with it for the emotional sake of those fictional characters.

    Excellent review!

  • So, Jared said that deciding to end this show was like deciding it was time to put a dog to sleep, but after this last run of episodes, that’s really not how it feels to me as a fan.

    This feels like watching a guy move in up the street from you years ago with a puppy. The best freakin’ puppy that has ever puppied, that he let you come up the street to play with, and you got to watch it grow up and turn into this awesome dog, and though sometimes the dog got sick, the guy who owned the dog loved it and took care of it and the dog always bounced right back.

    And then a couple of years ago, the guy moved away and couldn’t take the dog with him, but the new guy who moved into the house talked about how much he LOVED dogs and he would LOVE to take care of this dog and that way the dog could stay in the home it had always known now that it was starting to get on in years. The dog was still great and energetic, and may have lost a tiny bit of spring in its step, but the dog easily had another six to seven years in the tank – easily. This dog was so healthy despite its age that everyone on the block expected it to end up in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest dog on the planet. This dog was going to live long enough that it would be able to legally get into a bar and drink. This dog was in such great shape when the new owner moved into the house that you figured you’d be able to introduce your kids to this dog when they were just a little older and they’d get to grow up with it and love it the way you did.

    And then you watched as over the course of three years the new owner stopped feeding the dog. Stopped giving the dog water. Stopped letting it in the house. Stopped show it any affection. It spent its whole life chained up in the back yard. It developed mange. It’s claws grew out and curled under its feet. It became flea riddled. And there was nothing you could do about it, short of looking away, which many of the neighbors on the block did because they just…couldn’t stand watching what was being done to this dog that everyone loved.

    The worst part of it all is that the dog warden lived *right next door* to the guy neglecting this dog, so the whole time it’s happening, you’re thinking, “He’s got to see. He’s got to take the dog away. He MUST know how badly this dog is being abused. Any day now he’s going to swoop in and take the dog away from the owner.” But he doesn’t. He peeks over the fence at where the dog now lives in a dirty dog house with a collapsing roof and not ONLY does he go, “Yeah, that dog looks fine,” he actually considers giving this guy a puppy!!!

    And you have no legal right to take the dog from this guy. You can’t break into his house and just steal it. You are completely powerless when it comes to saving this dog. Even if you could, you have no means to care for this dog. You’re barely making ends meet as it is and your building doesn’t allow dogs. If you take this dog, the guy will sue you within an inch of your life. So you just have to sit and watch this dog that you LOVE be neglected and abused, until finally two compassionate men who live at the far end of the block and are apparently the only other people anywhere nearby who still care about this dog and who have been watching what’s being done to it show up on the guy’s doorstep and call the dog warden over from next door and go, “We’re from the SPCA and this dog needs to see a vet immediately.” So the dog goes to the vet and it turns out he has heart worm, and the only thing that can be done for the dog at this point because he is so emaciated and so dehydrated and so ill is to make him as comfortable as possible for the remainder of his life (which the vet estimates will be about a year).

    But the dog warden STILL won’t take the dog away from the guy, and the most he is wiling to do is say, “The two guys from the SPCA are going to be watching you for the next year to make sure the dog is taken care of.” And you hope against hope that knowing the two guys from the SPCA are watching him will get the guy to actually take care of the dog, but they’re limited in what they can do because the dog isn’t technically theirs. So all you can do is sit back and wait for the next year to see if the dog actually gets the kind of pampering and care it deserves in the final year of its life, or if the guy just keeps doing the same awful things he’s been doing and the dog spends the final year of its life chained up in the back yard.

    And it’s an absolute tragedy, because none of it had to happen if the dog warden had just taken the flippin’ dog away from the jackass who bought the house when it was clear he wasn’t taking care of it.

    That’s what this is like.

    But at least Mary is dead (after overstaying her welcome by a good season and a half), though her initials are now inexplicably on the table, because nothing has meaning on this show anymore, because Dabb sucks. And there’s only one episode left now this season, and I have no real reason to believe it’s going to be any good and am just gritting my way through these last four episodes and clinging to the hope that next season won’t be *this.*

    • I’m sad you feel this way, honestly though my take on Jared’s words were just he was joking , as he does when he’s nervous or anxious, but the joke came off badly. J2 and Misha do care what happens ,I believe they will do everything in their power to give the show a good send off, they love these characters as much as us, I have faith in them. Hang in there.

      • The Js have always said they would continue on the show as long as there were stories to tell, so Jared’s comment about the dog was a pretty clear statement to me that they do not have confidence that the stories they’re going to get are going to be any good. They certainly haven’t been for the last 2+ years, and quite honestly it’s something I just don’t understand. Dabb flew Jensen and Mark P. on WIRES in the finale last year like they were in a high school production of “Wicked” and yet STILL kept his job. It. Boggles. The. Mind. It makes no sense. They really couldn’t find ANYONE else qualified or willing to take on this show? To save this show? To explore monsters from all different regions around the world that they haven’t even touched? There was NO ONE out there willing to cherish and protect these characters from Dabb’s assassination plot??? Did they just not look?!?

        I’m sure that Jared and Jensen are going to do everything in their power to make sure season 15 is worthy of their characters and their show, since seasons 12, 13, and ESPECIALLY 14 have not been. I just don’t know how much power they’re going to realistically be able to exert short of demanding scripts be rewritten and writers be replaced who actually care about the show when the obvious solution to this problem was replacing Dabb and they still won’t do it. It was clear by about the 5th episode of this season that he needed to go or the show wasn’t going to survive him, and TPTB over at the CW didn’t make a move (that we know of) to get someone else in the head writer’s chair.

  • I love reading your take on episodes. Its always so insightful.

    I interpreted the scene between Cas and Mary differently though. It seemed like Mary was telling Cas that Sam and Dean had him watching over them

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