Last week was the Season 14 finale of my favorite show, Supernatural. The last Supernatural season finale, ever; the next one will be the series finale. As season finales have done for over a decade, the ‘Road So Far’ was accompanied by the song that’s become the unofficial theme song for Supernatural, Kansas’ Carry On (Wayward Son). I immediately burst into tears, which isn’t the first time. I don’t even want to think about the state I’ll be in when Carry On starts to play a year from now and we all know it’s the last time.
Two days later, I’m still conflicted about the episode – and damn, do I have a lot of questions! I was not alone in my split opinions. My timeline literally alternated between “Genius OMG!” and “Stupidest episode ever how dare you!” I had whiplash just trying to skim through Twitter. The confusing thing is, I get it. I get both reactions. As often happens to me, I’m caught somewhere in the middle instead of being firmly all in with one group or the other. You can look at this episode from multiple perspectives, and each sends me to a different emotional space. One thing is for certain – I still care about this Show just as much as I always have, because it kept me awake half the night and was the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning. That in itself is pretty amazing.
So let’s walk (or run, really, because this was a fast paced episode) through ‘Moriah’, and see what worked and on what level – and what didn’t.
I love ‘The Road So Far’ in every season finale. This one recapped pretty much all of Season 14, from Michael to the return of John and the epic family reunion in the 300th episode. There was some epic VFX and some emotional moments, and then we pick up right where we left off – with Jack having blown up the Ma’lak box and escaped.
He confronts Sam, Dean and Cas, eyes glowing ominously.
Jack: You lied to me!
He throws them across the room, but at least he didn’t incinerate them. And then he’s gone.
Dean and Castiel are still very much at odds in this episode, Dean arguing that Jack is dangerous and needs to be stopped.
Dean: Now he’s just another monster.
Cas: (shocked) You don’t mean that.
Dean: The hell I don’t.
Fandom was still split about Jack and whether he’s still a misunderstood nougat loving boy trying to do the right thing or a soulless dangerously powerful being who’s killed people. Logically I think it’s pretty clear the latter is true, but emotionally the Show keeps making sure we remember the former version of Jack and thus feel for him. So Dean still comes off as pretty harsh, and very very angry.
Director Phil Sgriccia makes the emotional scene between Dean and Cas jump off the screen with its intensity, and Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins both bring it. They are both angry, both convinced they are right and the other is wrong – and that the stakes are high because someone (Jack or other people) will die if they don’t do what they feel they need to. Sam is the emotional core of the audience in much of this episode, cringing as the two people he’s so close to have it out but unable to intervene.
One of the things I haven’t liked in Season 14 is the lack of interaction between Dean and Sam, which is why I started watching the Show in the first place. In this episode, they actually get to talk, so that goes in the win column (though their conversation is uncharacteristically awkward). Dean wants Sam to know that he realizes how hard this is for Sam and what Jack meant to him.
Dean: Hell, he meant a lot to me too, he was family. But this is not Jack anymore. We have to do the hard thing, the ugly thing. Not like it’s the first time though, right?
At the time I thought that was an odd thing to say. In retrospect, I see that Andrew Dabb (who is both the showrunner and the writer of this episode) was trying to foreshadow the eventual reveal that the Winchesters have been manipulated their whole lives into doing all kinds of hard and ugly things – for the amusement of God. I mean, Chuck.
It was interesting that Dean continued to refer to Jack as “the kid” throughout this conversation with his brother, even as he’s trying to convince Sam that he needs to be killed. I saw this as evidence of Dean’s ambivalence. I said in my last review, Dean is not as certain about this course of action as he seems. It’s there in little tells like that. He likes to bluster and present his decision as something he’s absolutely certain about, but Dean is a much deeper thinker than that – and he feels things more deeply than he lets on too.
Meanwhile, Jack is hurt that he was lied to by the father figures he trusted, and hypervigilant for all the lying that humans do all the time – which of course he finds evidence of everywhere. Jack’s temper gets the better of him again, and he orders everyone to “Stop lying!”
Which they do.
Sam and Dean put on their fed suits (momentary detour to say that yes, the boys do look damn good in their fed suits) and head out in the Impala to look for Jack. They drive to a company called Mirror Universe which looks like it must be in California (and seems like some sort of call out to every science fiction episode ever that had one, including arguably Supernatural’s own AU). Either that or it’s a hint about what eventually happens in this episode.
Dean scoffs at the “nerds” but Sam isn’t having it. (Because Sam Winchester as we head into the last season has had it up to here with not speaking his mind, and he’s doing it – and I am here for it!)
Sam: Takes one to know one.
He proceeds to prove it by rattling off all the totally nerdy things that fanboy Dean does, including watching Jeopardy every night just like me; Dean doesn’t deny any of them. Jared and Jensen were gold in this entire scene, their expressions on point and their brotherly chemistry lighting up the screen.
Dean beelines for the attractive woman at the desk, assuming he can charm her (not a bad assumption).
Dean (flashing his badge per usual): I’m Dean Winchester and I’m looking for the Devil’s son.
He tries to correct himself and blurts it out again, ending with “And this badge is fake.” Ackles and comedy never cease to amaze me.
The formerly peaceful employees of Mirror Universe are also suddenly unable to lie, which results in confessions of affairs (and unexpected voyeurism), accusations of yogurt theft with resulting violence, and someone walking around exclaiming “I hate everyone!”
Dean proves that they can’t lie either by demanding that Sam tell him who his favorite singer is, because he knows Sam is lying when he says Elvis. (In fact, I’m pretty sure he knows what the real answer is, he just wants to hear Sam say it).
Sam says Celine Dion every time he tries to say Elvis, which I admit annoyed me. Celine Dion? Oh come on, really, Show?
That part fell flat for me just because I can’t believe it (though perhaps this is my own prejudice). But why not a shout out to Jason Manns, who we’ve seen Sam listen to before? Opportunity wasted.
It was a funny scene though, and Jared also nailed the comedy.
Also I’m a little in love with the Stapler Queen.
It’s odd to have so much humor in an episode that is going to end up anything but; however, Supernatural has always excelled at being a roller coaster of feelings. The humorous part of the episode is the first thing to go meta, another thing Supernatural has always excelled at. The episode nudges at the border of real and fantasy with some social commentary.
Dean: No lying makes the internet really quiet.
From a show that has had a sometimes contentious relationship with its outspoken and opinionated online fandom, that was a pointed reference.
Dean can’t lie and also can’t seem to stop talking, telling Sam all about a mommy blogger who he’s apparently read before, taking great pleasure in the fact that she’s had to admit that her children are not so perfect and her gluten free popover tastes like crap…
Sam: (WTF look)
Dean: I’ll stop talking.
Sam: Probably a good plan.
That was a weird little inclusion because in real life at least one of the extended cast family has a “mommy blog”. But then again, there’s a fair amount of research that suggests that because we all try to portray ourselves as “perfect” online, every time we peruse social media, our self esteem takes a hit.
And then there was the political meta, as Sam and Dean catch a bit of a news program in which it’s reported that “the President” has finally handed over all his tax returns and fessed up to ties with Russia and North Korea – and making a demon deal with someone named Crowley. I admit I laughed out loud at that one – they really went there!
In the midst of the chaos at poor Mirror Universe, a woman sits on the floor amidst the carnage and laments “I just want to be loved”. Callback to Crowley when he was in the throes of his human blood addiction or social commentary on internet fandom, I wasn’t sure.
Meanwhile, Castiel attempts to talk his way into Hell to examine the Cage (presumably to see if it would hold Jack). The demon guarding the door refuses, but Cas turns around to find – God!
Chuck: (shakes his head)
Castiel: (eyeroll) Chuck.
He tells Cas that he answered his call, and that he’s also here because of Jack. Much of fandom was spoiled for Rob Benedict’s return, including me, so I wasn’t shocked to see Chuck. But I was shocked to see Chuck so early in the episode. Most of us assumed he’d show up at the eleventh hour, the veritable Deus ex Machina to save the day and take Jack with him or something. But here he is, already.
Chuck and Cas meet up with Sam and Dean at the chaotic Mirror Universe, and they have a rather tense conversation.
I feel like Cas was skeptical about Chuck from the start, hence this priceless expression courtesy of Misha Collins.
Dean demands to know where Chuck has been (as their lives have been turned upside down and Michael let loose and Lucifer wreaking havoc and their mother killed etc etc etc).
Chuck: (takes out his guitar to tell the story)
Dean whirls on him, furious.
Dean abruptly grabs the guitar and smashes it to the ground, and Chuck goes from harmless seeming nerdy guy to terrifying when he screams “DON’T!”
I actually jumped during that scene. You wouldn’t think that Rob Benedict would be able to pull off that kind of powerful and scary, but oh yes, he can. It’s the Chuck we saw glimpses of with Metatron, in Robbie Thompson’s brilliant ‘Don’t Call Me Shurley’. The powerful and frightening God who Metatron recognized instantly.
Chuck zaps them all back to the bunker and tries to placate them.
Chuck: I get it, I’m the Deus from the Machina and you have questions…
Another veer into meta, and fandom’s frequent criticism of all the Deus Ex Machinas that Show has tried to pull off over the years, right down to our assumption that Chuck might play that role in this finale.
I like when Show goes meta, and I smiled at that – but it was also meta with a bite. Kripke always seemed to pull off that delicate balance of tossing in meta that let fandom know he saw us. Sometimes he didn’t quite understand what he saw, but he always poked fun with evident affection. I’m not 100% sure that was the case here, but it certainly made a point.
Chuck says that Amara is in Reno, that they’ve been together. The whole conversation – and Chuck himself – are by this time starting to sound pretty off. Not the first time Chuck has been far from a benevolent loving supreme being, but he still seemed different. When Castiel expresses surprise at Chuck pointing out that lying is helpful (hence the chaos in the Mirror Universe), he shrugs.
Chuck: I’m a writer. Lying is kinda what we do.
It’s a theme of the episode, and it’s also more of that meta that might not be very affectionate. It’s also a cynical way to look at writing. Writers create fictional worlds, sure, but I’ve never connected that to lying in quite the way Chuck (Dabb?) does. It’s all kinds of ominous, which I suppose is the point.
Sam and Dean confront Chuck for not helping out when they’ve been through so much hell (literally and figuratively) but Chuck reminds them that he’s “hands off.”
Chuck then goes very meta, recounting some of the things the Winchesters have confronted, from the multiple apocalypses to “going up against the British Men of Letters – a little weak, but okay”.
It’s in the tradition of Kripke’s jabs at early episodes that were also criticized by fans like ‘Bugs’ and the ghost ship episode or the monster truck one, and it’s cute and funny but I’m still not sure if that affection which makes it all okay is there as much as I want it to be.
Chuck makes it clear that Jack is a danger.
Sam: So Jack is apocalyptic?
Chuck: The world just went insane.
We hear evidence on all the radio systems, ending with the Queen of England being a lizard, which is a shout out to Misha Collins and another little meta tidbit.
Chuck snaps his fingers and fixes it.
Dean: Celine Dion rocks. Yeah, we can lie again.
Chuck insists that Jack has to be stopped, and that he can’t do it – but Sam, Dean or Castiel can.
He puts a gun on the table, suggests some over the top names like “The Equalizer” or “The Hamurabi” with its eye for an eye connotations, and tries to explain that existence is all about balance. Which means if you shoot someone with it, you die too.
Dean looks resigned.
Dean: This is the only way.
Cas points out that they thought the only way to defeat Michael was the Ma’lak box, and that didn’t turn out to be true, which, good point, Cas.
Cas: There has to be another way.
Dean is determined.
Dean: Either get on board or walk away.
Cas: (walks away)
Chuck looks after him, an unusual expression on his face.
Was this Cas going off script? Hmmm.
One of my favorite scenes of the episode comes next, as Sam goes to Dean’s room looking for him.
Dean is sitting at a table in the corner, drinking.
This scene is a perfect example of how gorgeous Supernatural is, the cinematography and the lighting and the set dec and the direction and the acting. All of it. I want to roll around in this scene forever, it’s that beautiful and that full of brimming emotion that tears me apart and makes me love these characters with all my heart.
Dean is sprawled out, looking strangely vulnerable. He invites Sam to sit down, and tells him he’s glad he’s there, that he has something to say to him, and we all know that’s not good. Sam knows too.
Sam sits down on the bed, but he doesn’t even let Dean go on.
Sam: This is where you tell me you’re gonna be the one to pull the trigger?
Dean: We don’t have a choice, Sam.
But like I said, Sam Winchester is DONE with not speaking his mind.
Sam: Of course we do. Don’t we always? I mean, isn’t that the point of everything we’ve ever done, that we always have a choice?
It’s a conversation about killing Jack (and sacrificing Dean), but it’s also the theme of the whole episode – and more than that, of the entire Show. It’s a call back to Swan Song and the point Kripke was trying to make all those years ago. Making your own choices, free will versus destiny. It’s what Supernatural is all about.
The room is dark, and the lighting makes the scene even more dramatic; it also makes Jensen and Jared look unearthly beautiful. There’s so much emotion there between the brothers, but they are heartbreakingly far from being on the same page. Dean doesn’t feel like they have a choice, and he is always going to be willing to sacrifice himself to keep Sam and everyone else safe. Sam wants to believe that they do have a choice, and he’s hanging onto that belief and that hope.
Sam protests that they haven’t even tried to save Jack (which is what much of fandom has been screaming).
Sam: He doesn’t’ have a soul! I brought him back, because he’s family. And he burned his soul off to save us! So you want my permission? You want me to say that I’m cool with losing him and losing you all at once? Because I can’t say that. I won’t say that. I’ve already lost too much.
Sam is anguished, the thought of Dean killing Jack – and of Sam losing Dean – too much to even consider. He takes a stand; he refuses. Jared Padalecki is brilliant in this scene, letting us see Sam’s desperation, his deep sadness. His fear. He lost it a few episodes ago when faced with Dean going on another suicide mission to trap himself forever in the Ma’lak box. Now Dean is determined to sacrifice himself again, and it’s too much for Sam.
Sam walks out and Dean sits alone, literally backed into a corner. Jensen Ackles says volumes with the expression on Dean’s face, tormented and equally anguished. So much pain in his eyes, and so much determination in the set of his jaw as he downs a stiff drink. We know, in that moment, that he hasn’t changed his mind and that it’s killing him not to have Sam on his side this time.
Also I apologize if those caps made you need to take a break and get a cold drink.
Meanwhile, Jack is still trying to figure out how to reconnect with his human side. He visits his grandmother, but Mrs. Kline doesn’t want anything to do with him. She did some digging and realized Jack lied to her, that he’s not who he says he is (theme, theme, theme…) She realizes that her daughter is probably dead. Anguished, she lashes out at Jack, asking him what he did to her daughter.
Jack gets angry and, eyes glowing, yells for her to “Stop!”
Break away to commercial, and it seems like Jack has probably burnt his grandmother to a crisp now too. Maybe.
Castiel goes in search of Jack, and finds him in a cemetery (or they find each other). Cas approaches Jack, and for a moment we don’t know what he’ll do – then he takes the next step and sweeps Jack into a hug. Cas really does love Jack, as much as an angel loves – maybe more. Cas was human for a while, after all. Misha seemed to channel all his own fatherly instincts, portraying Cas as absolutely unwavering in his loyalty to Jack.
They have a heart to heart, Jack admitting that he’s trying so hard to do the right thing, but that he keeps failing.
Jack: I killed my mother just by being born. I used to feel bad about that, but now I don’t feel anything.
It’s heartbreaking and also frightening, because both Cas and Dean are right about Jack. But we do learn that at least he didn’t kill his grandmother. He’s clearly made a little bit of strides in keeping his powers in check. Instead he ran.
Sam is back at the bunker as Cas and Jack are talking. He and Chuck have a conversation that gets very meta again, about the various other realities that Chuck created – some all yellow, one with all squirrels….
Sam: Michael said you create these worlds and then toss them away like failed versions of some book. Is that what you’re doing to us?
Chuck: No! Of all the Sam and Deans, you’re my favorites. So interesting!
That is a chilling admission. (It’s also confusing, because I thought at some point we learned that Sam and Dean were only in this world, not in the others).
But most of all it’s meta as hell, because we’re back to talking about Sam and Dean purely as characters. As pawns in a fictional story that Chuck is writing. With story lines tossed away and never followed up on, a frequent criticism by Supernatural fans to the current showrunner who also happens to be writing this episode. That is definitely meta.
Back in the actual story, Sam is getting a clue.
Sam: (clearly also a bit creeped out) Do you watch us, when you’re not here?
Chuck: Yeah. I mean, you’re my favorite show…
Depending on your fic preferences, that probably put some interesting images in your head of what exactly you think Chuck is enjoying watching, just saying. I’m not so sure that wasn’t the intent of the meta commentary, in fact. We watch them too, our favorite show, for our own selfish and voyeuristic reasons. I hear you, Show. I’m just still not sure you’re speaking with affection here.
Sam: Why does it always have to be on us?
Chuck: Because you’re my guys!
Sam: You’re scared of him, aren’t you? [Jack]
Chuck: Aren’t you?
Sam (getting even more of a clue) Do you know where he is?
Chuck: I do.
Sam: Then what are you waiting for?
Chuck: (downright sinister smile) Oh, nothing. Dean’s already gone.
That moment was incredibly well done, so kudos all around. I was shocked, not realizing that Chuck was distracting and delaying Sam on purpose. I think my mouth literally hung open.
From here the tension amps up into overdrive and doesn’t let up for the rest of the episode. Castiel and Jack continue their talk but now we know that Dean is on his way to them with the gun that can kill Jack – and Dean.
Jack laments that he keeps trying to do the right thing but it never goes right, and that all he ever wanted was to be good.
Jack: Now I’m empty. I know you love me and I want to love you back, but I can’t.
Cas: We just need time to fix this, we need to get you somewhere safe…
But it’s too late. We cut to Dean, standing a few yards away, holding the gun.
Castiel stands between them.
Dean: Cas, step aside.
He doesn’t, defying Dean and telling Jack to run away.
Jack refuses, saying he won’t run anymore.
He zaps Cas out of the way and faces Dean, dropping to his knees on the grass and waiting for his fate.
It’s a beautiful, sad scene, a statue of an angel or maybe Mary (meta…) watching it play out in the graveyard.
At the same time, here comes Sam, driving a big blue boat of a car (not sure why he didn’t take one of the fancy cars from the bunker that would definitely go faster…). Sam leaps from the car and starts running, Jared’s long long legs eating up the ground as he practically flies toward his brother, yelling “Dean! Dean!”
I was bouncing on my chair because this isn’t just Sam trying to save Jack, it’s also Sam trying to save Dean!
Jack: I understand. I know what I’ve done.
It’s a callback to other memorable season finales – Swan Song with one brother driving up to try to save the other, and the Season 10 finale when Sam drops to his knees and waits for Dean’s execution in a similar state of acceptance (a bit of foreshadowing there as to the outcome).
Dean raises the gun and takes aim.
Sam sprints through the cemetery, yelling “Nonononono, Dean, hey” which is just so very Winchester that it nearly made me cry.
Jack: You were right all along. I am a monster.
Sam arrives, but Dean tells him to stay back. Chuck zaps in too, and Cas runs up to join them. Everyone holds their breath waiting for Dean to pull the trigger.
He cocks the gun.
And Sam looks at Chuck.
Sam: Are you – are you enjoying this?
He is, clearly, and we the audience begin to get a sickening feeling in the pit of our stomachs.
Jensen Ackles shows us a whole dictionary of emotions on Dean’s face as he struggles with this decision, with Jack’s granting of forgiveness and understanding even without a soul.
Then he slowly lowers the gun, and tosses it aside.
Chuck: No! Pick it up! This isn’t how the story ends – this is Abraham and Isaac, this is epic!
But Sam has figured him out.
Sam: He’s been playing us. This whole time. Our entire lives. Mom, Dad, everything, this is all you. Because we’re your favorite show.
Chuck offers to bring their mother back if Dean will get back to killing Jack, and for a moment it looks like Dean will cave.
Dean: No. No. My mom was my hero, and I’ll miss her forever, but she wouldn’t want this.
Me: (thrown out of the moment) What? His mom was his hero??
Dean loved her, and came to terms with all the water under the bridge they had between them, but his hero? I don’t think he’d call her that.
Anyway, Sam goes OFF on Chuck, and Jared Padalecki is hotter than hell in this scene, just saying.
Sam: Where were you? Sitting back and watching us suffer? Losing people we love?
SO ANGRY AND SO HOT.
I love how the Winchesters do not give a fuck that who they’re going up against is God himself. They are gonna tell it like it is and let you know just how few fucks they give that you’re a supreme being, whether you’re Lucifer or Chuck or Amara or whoever.
Dean: This isn’t just a story, this is our lives! And god or no god, you go to Hell!
Chuck: (clearly pissed) Have it your way.
He smites Jack, who falls to the ground, Cas leaning over him desperately trying to heal him but unable to.
Dean: Stop it!
Chuck throws Dean across the graveyard like the Yellow Eyed Demon did in a similar graveyard all those years ago.
Sam (grabbing the gun): Hey Chuck!
He fires the gun, and my heart stops.
Me: Sam, nooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Jump to commercial. I sat there gaping throughout the break. What did Sam do? If Chuck is dead, so is Sam…
When we resume, Sam shoots Chuck in the shoulder (and gets a wound to the shoulder too, though the gun doesn’t shoot bullets but whatever).
Chuck is now beyond pissed.
Chuck: Fine. That’s the way you want it? Show’s over. Welcome to the end.
I teared up at that moment, because that was way too on the nose. The Show really is going to be over. It really is ending. And that makes that meta moment incredibly cruel.
Everything goes dark. Dean checks on Sam, so all is right with the world in that aspect.
Dean: Hey, you okay?
Sam: Yeah, I’m good.
Jack, on the other hand, really is dead, the outline of his wings singed into the ground.
Chuck had said he couldn’t do the killing, but clearly that wasn’t true.
Cas (bitterly): He’s a writer. Writers lie (theme, theme, theme…)
Jack wakes up in The Empty, with the Entity approaching him, drawing a creepy smile on its face. And then Billie is there (hello Lisa Berry!).
Billie to Jack: We should talk….
Motorhead’s “God Was Never On Your Side” starts to play, a perfect song for this ending that made the last scene so much more powerful. As Sam, Dean and Castiel watch, souls begin to rise out of Hell, a call back to the souls escaping hell in All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2 in another graveyard (as was the close up gun cock as Dean prepared to shoot).
Then the souls falling back to earth recalled that incredible scene of the angels falling in the Season 8 finale, ‘Sacrifice’, one of my favorite episodes ever. This time they’re the evil things that the Winchesters have killed come back, from the very first Woman in White to the John Wayne Gacy evil clown to Bloody Mary in the mirror.
In the graveyard, the newly released souls animate the dead bodies buried there. Hundreds of them approach Sam, Dean and Cas. Part of me couldn’t help but see it as a shout out to The Walking Dead and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and another part kept hearing Jensen and Jared making fun of fighting zombies because they walk so slowly that anyone could get away.
This time there are too many of them, though, and they have the threesome trapped. Cas pulls out his angel blade. Dean breaks off two rusted iron spikes from the cemetery fence and gives one to his brother. The three stand in the middle of the gathering horde, weapons raised as they all swarm in attack.
Fade to black as Motorhead sings “God was never on your side.”
There’s no question that making God himself the Big Bad for the last season of the Show takes guts, and that it pulled off a twist that most of us didn’t see coming. That’s no mean feat for a show in its fourteenth season. And turning what we assumed would be the Deus Ex Machina on its head while making explicit reference to it in the story itself? Pretty effing cool.
There’s no question that was an epic ending. There’s no question it was a hell of a bold move, essentially trying to wipe the slate clean and make the Winchesters start over “saving people, hunting things.” Many fans have wanted a return to the Show’s roots, myself included, and this might be a way to focus more on ‘monster of the week’ episodes, since there will be no shortage of monsters for hunting. A post-apocalyptic setting for this Show is intriguing (apocafic is one of my favorite flavors, after all) so that might also be yummy – and maybe we’re even going back to the dark palette that the Show used in its first seasons. Fingers crossed on all that.
Supernatural has always been a show about free will, questioning whether that exists at all. In this episode, the Winchesters and Castiel defied God himself to demonstrate that yes, free will does exist. Cas and Dean and Sam all showed it when they went against each other as well as Chuck, each trying to do what they were convinced was the right thing. Chuck’s assertion that he’s omnipresent and in complete control of the narrative didn’t pan out – the Winchesters refused to play their part once again. I like that. It meshes well with Swan Song and that ending I cherish.
Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well… isn’t that kinda the whole point?
It didn’t have the same emotional punch as that episode, but it still revolved around ‘they chose family.’
All three of Team Free Will got to be a hero in this episode – Dean by being willing to make the hard (ugly) decision and sacrifice himself, Cas by staying steadfastly loyal to his ‘son’, and Sam by listening to all sides and making his own decision and having the balls to go up against even God to do what he felt was right, trying to save everyone he cared about in the process – a call back to Sam’s early seasons protest to his dad, “No sir, not the most important thing”.
So from one perspective, that was a rollercoaster of an episode, kept you on the edge of your seat, gave you surprises you never saw coming, and tugged at your heartstrings a bit for good measure. (I would always prefer more heartstring tugging, but that’s just me).
From another perspective, what the ever loving fuck have they done? Erased and undid everything that made the Winchesters heroes? Turned on its head the very premise of the show – saving people, hunting things? If they never sent those monsters to hell, who are the Winchesters and why are we watching this Show? What’s their legacy now – what do those initials carved into the bunker table mean? I don’t want the last season to destroy what’s iconic about this Show. I don’t want to have its legacy destroyed. I reacted strongly to Mary’s initials being added to the bunker table because that SW-DW is so iconic and so meaningful. In this episode, what at first reaction it seems they might have (sort of?) destroyed was much bigger – Sam and Dean’s legacy itself.
So I understand that if you look at it from that perspective, you were pretty upset about this episode.
Does this destroy what makes the Winchesters and Castiel so special? Could you say they might as well never have existed if they haven’t made a difference in the world? It’s such a core theme of the show, and one that’s been adopted by the fandom as well. What does it mean if ‘always keep fighting’ turned out to be a mantra that made no difference? To some fans, it felt like they invalidated fourteen seasons, erased all the meaning that the Show has held and left their accomplishments meaningless.
I didn’t read it like that, but I understand where they’re coming from and I have tremendous empathy for that sort of hurt. I’ve written before about how important this show is to its fandom – I’ve written entire books about that, in fact. If you feel like you’ve lost the very reason you love the show, that’s a terrible and real pain indeed.
My reading is different, especially after I’ve spent the past two days doing little but thinking about this episode. For one thing, unless I’m reading this totally wrong, Chuck’s do-over didn’t erase everything they’ve done. He let the bad things they’ve killed out of hell, but he didn’t strike dead all the people they’ve managed to save. It’s only the ‘hunting things’ part of the mantra that got smashed – the ‘saving people’ is still intact as far as I can tell. At least I hope that’s the correct assumption! All the people they saved from those things the first time around, they’re still living their lives. (Though now there will be a lot more monsters that might take them out in the future). Chuck also didn’t open up Purgatory, I don’t think, so we probably won’t have Leviathans and Dick Roman around to muck things up, so that’s also a win they get to keep. Same goes for Eve and all the dickish power-hungry angels we’ve encountered, since they’re not in Hell either. Everything that has already happened, really did happen. All the things that made Sam and Dean and Castiel who they are. So it’s not everything that’s been overturned. I mean, it’s enough to be traumatizing, for sure, but I’m taking solace where I can find it.
Some fans were also understandably upset that God seems to be turning out to be the Big Bad of Season 15 – or at least that’s how it looks right now. If that’s the case, it’s a bold move, Show. I immediately went back over some of the other Chuck episodes, struggling to make sense of them. Was Chuck ever actually a “good guy”? Was he really put off about Sam and Dean going against their destiny in Swan Song, or did his smile at the end mean that he approved of that story line all along and was enjoying all the drama? Can any of us really hate a character played by Rob Benedict??
There were clues all along that Chuck wasn’t entirely a stand up guy, that’s certain. Metatron recognized him most when he was selfish and throwing a tantrum, as the God who the angels were all afraid of. He locked up his own sister for all eternity, and while she was pretty awful when she finally got out, I mean, who could blame her?
I was on set when Rob Benedict filmed his very first episode as Chuck. It was called “The Monster At The End of This Book”, and everyone was teasing me and Kathy that the episode was “all our fault”. We were writing our first book about the Show, and that meant that we’d been talking to Eric Kripke a lot – and he now knew a whole lot about his show’s fandom. His way of dealing with that knowledge was to go meta and take it right into the show, poking fun at us and him and the Show itself, but always with affection and a self deprecating sense of humor that allowed me to love every minute of it. This episode came full circle, in a weird way. Rob returned, in an episode that went very meta indeed – and he returned as literally the monster at the end of this book (ie this show).
I don’t know yet how I feel about that. It might be brilliant; it’s certainly dangerous.
Is this Chuck, who we see be so cold and manipulative and narcissistic, the same Chuck we met back then? He did say he was “a God, a cruel and capricious God”. Maybe he has been all along.
Some fans weren’t so sure, and I’m not entirely sure. Is Chuck really Chuck? Lying and people not being who they appeared to be was a repeated theme in this episode. They made it a point to bring up Amara, and the balance of light and dark. Did Chuck and Amara somehow meld together, and now Chuck is a whole lot darker than he was? The world that Sam, Dean and Cas were thrown into was certainly – literally – dark. Someone else tweeted that when Chuck first appeared, they thought he was Lucifer. Someone else wondered if the Entity from the Empty was just making itself look like Chuck. Or is Chuck really just a dick, despite Rob’s adorable face that we all love?
If you look at the episode from a purely meta perspective, it’s both fascinating and maybe disturbing. Is Chuck in this episode standing in for showrunner (and writer of this episode) Andrew Dabb? Chuck has long been considered an avatar of creator Eric Kripke, but Kripke hasn’t been the puppeteer for these characters in a while. This fandom is well known for speaking its mind (and its complaints). Some fans wondered if this was Dabb saying to fandom, “Oh, you don’t like what I’m doing (or the spinoffs that were attempted)? Then I’ll burn it all down!”
I don’t think so, but I can understand that reading. Any time the show goes meta, there are messages to everyone in there – other writers, the network, the creator, the actors, the fans. I want to believe that most of them were affectionate, but there were surely some barbs in there too.
We’re left with so many questions as we head into Supernatural’s last hiatus.
Where do we go now? Fandom, in its infinite wisdom, has already remembered that back in the day, the Original Death (Julian Richings) told Dean that someday he’d reap God himself. Is that where Billie comes in, now that she’s returned? Will she and Jack be the only ones who can stop Chuck? That makes me a little nervous. The thing that I like the least is when Sam and Dean are not the focus of their own story. This is the last season. I want – need – the Winchesters, along with Cas, to be the ones to save the day. I need the story to be about them. I fell in love with this Show because I fell in love with Sam and Dean, and if the show isn’t about them, it’s not the Show I love. I get that the current team created the original character of Jack, unlike the other three from Kripke’s tenure, so they have an understandable affection for Jack and I think Alex Calvert is incredible, but I need the characters we’ve loved for so long to be the focus of the story for these last twenty hours we get to spend with them. It hasn’t always seemed that way this season.
And what about the overt theme of lying in this episode? What exactly is the lie in “Moriah”? What is Chuck lying about? Is that not really Chuck? Is this not really the same Earth that Sam and Dean and Castiel were standing on, or the same monsters that they killed? Something is a lie, that’s for sure, but we have no clue what it is.
What it comes down to for me is a couple of burning questions, and I’m still conflicted about them. Is this a perfect set up for Season 15, a way to get ‘back to basics’ and see more old school MotW Supernatural, fighting monsters and saving people and hunting things? Or is it another way to bring back lots of characters as that dreaded thing called ‘fan service’ that didn’t work well at all last time they tried it with the AU, and will leave even less focus on the main characters? (Ohgod, does that mean Lucifer? Again??).
Will the apparent reset that we got mean a return to saving people and hunting things, or will the Show retcon every iconic thing that has meaning in the Show and leave us without all that to hang onto when it leaves us? Nothing feels safe and it suddenly feels like nothing is sacred. And that scares me – not just for the fictional narrative, but for the meaning that this Show has in the real lives of so many fans. We wrote Family Don’t End With Blood because Supernatural has meant so much to so many – it has literally saved people’s lives, both actors and fans. I can’t even let myself think about the things that are iconic and integral to the Show, which have made it able to do that, being destroyed.
For now, I’m going to hang onto my relentless optimism that I’ve managed to mostly retain through fourteen years of this Show. I’m going to look forward to one more season of the Winchesters, back to back and together as always, fighting against impossible odds, of Castiel rebelling against the powers that be to help Sam and Dean save the world.
Please, Show, don’t let us down.
Caps by kayb625
Gifs by itsokaysammy
You can read the moving chapters written by
the Supernatural actors and fans in Family
Don’t End With Blood, links on the home page