We’ve never had a Supernatural episode named after a Bible verse before, but considering how this season is shaping up to be all about God, I guess it’s appropriate. Proverbs 17:3 was the swan song episode for writer Steve Yockey, who has written some of my favorites, and another directorial stint for Richard Speight Jr. With that combination, it’s not surprising that I liked it a lot – but it was an unusual episode in many ways. Proverbs 17:3 is all about how “the Lord trieth the hearts”, and that’s certainly fitting for what happened to the Winchesters in this episode. But it’s not that simple; this entire episode worked on multiple levels, so it’s equally fitting for what keeps happening to the fans. My heart is definitely being tried!
Let’s dig in, shall we? (There’s nothing I love more than feeling like I have a lot to dig into the day after an episode airs, and for the millionth time I have to say that I’m going to miss this day-after-conversation-speculation-discussion SO much)
The episode starts off with a quintessential Supernatural opener, three young women (who look so much alike half the fandom thought they were triplets) on an ill-advised camping trip and one of them being silly enough to go OUTSIDE the tent when they hear scary noises. Only one survives, and the case of the week is kicked off.
Meanwhile, Sam has been texting Cas (which he erroneously spells Cass like everyone on this show) and it’s sort of heartbreaking. I understand why Cas left so abruptly, but I doubt Sam really does despite whatever explanation Dean gave him.
Dean returns with supplies, including ghost pepper jerky, and we get a pricelessly funny brothers scene which I loved. Only Supernatural can seamlessly transition from people getting murdered to Jensen and Jared making us laugh over ghost pepper jerky. I think most of us suspected that we were seeing as much Jared and Jensen as Sam and Dean in that scene, and wondered if Jared was reprising his spike-the-eggnog-and-not-tell-Jensen bit from the Christmas episode, this time with super hot actual jerky. There’s a moment when Jensen definitely does his half hidden OMG laugh, and the throwing the water all over himself felt a lot like his ad libbing too. Meanwhile, Sam’s knowing taunting of his overly macho brother by withholding the water was so perfect – and could have been Jared too.
It’s wonderful to have a familiar and beloved colleague directing so much for the final season, and Richard Speight Jr. does a great job with this one. He understands the fandom differently than any other director would (except Jensen himself and another of this year’s directors, Matt Cohen) thanks to doing so many conventions for the past decade. He knows what gold Jared and Jensen are when he gives them some free rein and I think that’s what he did here. He also recognizes that gold when he sees it, and knows how to edit to make sure that comes through. I’m grateful!
On the other hand, Speight also knows how to make a moment visually stunning and powerful, perhaps thanks to his love of Tarantino and film in general. That fits well with this last season, when much of the show is subtext and meta, and when there are call backs to earlier seasons that have impact thanks to the way they’re presented. Speight has a unique style, and occasionally it jars me, but I think that also works most of the time. We’re supposed to jarred at this point, just like the Winchesters, our collective footing swept out from under us.
And lastly? Speight understands just how beautiful we think these characters are. Like Kim Manners, he’s not afraid to linger on their expressive faces, up close and personal, or to showcase their fighting as the oddly erotic thing it can sometimes be. He also is very aware of how demon Dean and Lucifer Sam affected the fandom, and just how powerful it will be to see them again. And see them we do, gorgeously.
In this moment, he knows what to linger on.
From those light hearted moments at the start of the episode that felt like a balm to the tortured fangirl soul, we careen right into heartbreaking with one of those gorgeous shots — of Sam as Lucifer. From behind, his broad shoulders in that white suit are striking, instantly recognizable.
Dean enters, gun raised, his face the picture of torment, and we know right away what he’s here to do.
Dean: Please forgive me….
He fires, and I literally jumped and gasped, because it’s not really happening in this universe but it looks real and it’s not Sam but it’s still Sam. And OMG I just wasn’t prepared for that. Sam slumps onto the table, Dean looks utterly devastated at what he’s done, and I have a moment of extreme empathy for this character I love so much who has just done the thing he cannot possibly live with. And then Sam sits back up, calmly heals the hole blasted through his head, and that telltale Lucifer smirk curls his lip.
What made it even more upsetting for us is that we’d all seen a tiny clip of what comes next in the preview for the season. Jared looked so beautiful, lit from behind, his hair like a glowing halo. Many of us admired his beauty even though we realized it was Lucifer. Now we realize with horror that the glow in which Lucifer!Sam is basking is the fire that’s consuming his brother. It made me feel briefly sick to my stomach, to have been complicit in not knowing and in feeling anything but horror. It was that upsetting.
Jared knocked it out of the park as Lucifer!Sam once again, reprising his role so perfectly it was like all those years hadn’t gone past, like we’d just been zapped right back to the episode The End when we first ‘met’ this version of Sam. I am loving the call backs this season, for the last one. It’s just so appropriate and so moving and Speight and Jared nailed it here.
Sam wakes up with a start in our reality, having fallen asleep in the car. He has to look several times to be sure his brother is there and okay and driving.
Dean: You okay?
Sam insists he is, that he just had a dream.
Dean: Tell me about it, I’ll Freud you.
Sam says no, but I love that Dean offered. I wanted to hear his dream interpretation!
The Winchesters reprise their Fish and Wildlife ranger identities, using the same badges they did way back in Season 1 as Agent Ford and Hamill.
There’s a running gag about Dean insisting he looks exactly the same and Sam scoffing at him every time, which keeps making me giggle, partly because is such a brothers thing to do and partly because fandom regularly hypothesizes that Ackles is an alien who doesn’t age.
The sheriff plays right into it, asking Dean with skepticism, “that you?”
Sam: scoffs affectionately
The sheriff is the same woman who played Tara, John’s old fling (Rachel Hayward). I liked her then and I like her now, she’s no nonsense and unimpressed and clearly good at her job. We learn that the triplety girls’ hearts were ripped out, which seems like a nod to exactly what this episode will do to the Winchesters – and what this season will do to all of us.
Before we leave this scene, Speight lingers deliberately on the hats that Sam and Dean are wearing – with a clearly depicted salmon on them. It’s a fandom in joke that everyone calls the brothers “SamandDean” which when you say it fast sounds like “Salmon Dean”. That became a thing one year at the Rome convention I was at, and Jared and Jensen have made fun of it ever since. So Dean and Sam wearing that cap? Yep. Salmon Dean.
I love all the shout outs, I can’t help it. Also Sam looks freaking adorable in that cap.
I mentioned that this episode feels odd sometimes though, and the next scene is one of the odd ones. Dean and Sam visit Ashley (Anna Grace Barlow) in the hospital, and Sam goes outside to talk to the doctor so Dean can question her. Uncharacteristically, he almost immediately sits down on her hospital bed – and then holds her hand! I was like, huh? Is that really Dean? Not that he’s not always empathic, but she’s a stranger and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him reach out like that so quickly. He also tells her monsters are real just like that, though he looks sad to see her so upset after. Weird.
Apparently Lilith was already possessing the girl at that point, so let me just say that Lilith is one damn fine actor!
Sam and Dean find the werewolves’ very werewolfy looking house in the middle of the woods and are smart by asking them to write down their phone number with a silver pen, but the werewolves don’t bite (haha see what I did there?) saying they don’t have a phone. Oddly, Sam and Dean just leave, and the werewolf brothers have an argument. This scene was also odd. The big brother/little brother dynamic is clearly meant to mirror Sam and Dean, but the older brother’s (Luke Camilleri) protectiveness is almost a parody of Dean’s protectiveness of Sam. He assures his brother that if he wants them to stop killing, they will. Little brother (Markian Tarasiuk) protests that he’s lying, but he insists “I don’t lie to you.”
Then he tenderly cups his brother’s face and tells him, “I look out for you.”
It’s a clear shout out to many Sam and Dean scenes over the years, with even the same words and familiar gesture used, but it also doesn’t ring true. We don’t believe the big brother, and neither does the younger one. So it’s not really like Sam and Dean at all. At the time, I scratched my head. Now I wonder if we were meant to wonder, because as Lilith points out, Chuck’s writing ain’t all that good. It’s like he’s been watching Sam and Dean all these years, but he doesn’t really understand them at all. Or he refuses to believe their devotion to each other is genuine.
Which, if that was the intent, is kinda brilliant.
Ashley calls Dean, saying she has nowhere to go, and the Winchesters give her their room at the aptly named Sleepy Bear Inn (a shout out to writer Steve Yockey, whose twitter handle is @SleepyPanda76). Nothing makes you feel safe and welcome more than a statue of a giant bear holding a ‘Welcome’ sign.
Shout out to Jerry Wanek’s set dec wizards too, so many nice touches.
Ashley asks Dean to stay with her, which struck me weird once again. Ashley is dressed as a school girl even though we know she’s a recent college graduate, and Dean is behaving entirely fatherly and protective and not at all lascivious (yay), but still, it’s weird. Sam goes out to get food or something, but not before noting that the case feels weird to him also, like too easy.
Dean: I like easy.
Clearly Sam is sensing the same weirdness we all are. Meta.
Ashley and Dean have a bit of a heart to heart, which is surprisingly revealing.
Ashley: Do you like your job? Monsters…
Dean: Do I like my job? I do. There’s bad, a lot of bad. Still, it feels good to help people.
Ashley: Have you ever wanted to be anything else?
Dean: Jimi Hendrix. No, not really. I’m where I’m supposed to be.
I do believe that’s true for both Winchesters. They are doing what they want to be doing – they just want to be doing it of their own free will. This conversation is extra heartbreaking in view of where we leave Sam and Dean at the end of this episode though.
Ashley wonders if it wouldn’t be easier if everything was all planned out for you, but Dean disagrees. At the time I thought wow, that was way too on the nose. Which, of course, it was!
Next thing we know, Dean is sound asleep and Sam is back, wondering what the hell happened.
They go after Ashley, who is now tied up at the werewolves’ house about to be de-hearted. The Winchesters burst in just in time and an epic fight scene ensues. Beautiful directing by Richard Speight and choreography by Rob Hayter I’m sure, and Jared and Jensen and the guest stars all pulling it off flawlessly. Eventually younger bro has a gun on Sam and older bro is about to kill Dean as poor Sam can only sit there watching helplessly.
I think we all guessed that younger bro was going to shoot older bro in desperation, which again, really a little too on the nose, right? Right.
Younger bro: He was my brother…but he was never gonna stop. And he turned into a monster. And I’m a monster too!
He shoots himself, and Sam and Dean look at each other like Huh.
Sam to Dean: You good?
Dean: That was weird…
He reaches out to console Ashley and she uncharacteristically says “don’t touch me” and pulls away, trips over the antlers that Dean took off the wall to use as a weapon and falls on them, impaling herself theatrically.
Dean and Sam (and all of us): gobsmacked
Ashley: Well, this is a bitch.
Gotta say, I did not call it that Lilith would be one of the characters coming back.
My timeline: Who had Lilith on their back-from-the-dead Supernatural S15 bingo card??
Sam looks horrified. He killed her, after all, after a season that ripped all our hearts out. It did not go unnoticed by fandom that Jared portrayed Sam’s horror flawlessly, even when he wasn’t speaking, clenching and unclenching his fist as Lilith keeps talking as though to ground himself, the way he did back when he was never sure what was real and what was Lucifer. His PTSD is all about Lucifer, and Lilith is a brutal reminder of that.
Lilith, it turns out, was in the Empty (score one for Show for remembering that’s where demons go) until God yanked her out (but didn’t someone say that God had no power in the Empty so maybe take away that score, or…?). Anyway, apparently she was supposed to seduce Dean.
Me: In that outfit?
Now that that isn’t happening, she wants the gun.
Dean: The Equalizer?
Lilith: I’m not calling it that.
I actually laughed out loud at that line. Anna Grace Barlow did an amazing job portraying Lilith as smartass and oddly appealing while also scary and horrifying. For a second, Sam and Dean think they have the upper hand with the demon blade and the angel blade, saying they’ll never give up the gun, but she tosses them both across the room. As Dean gets up, she’s advancing on Sam menacingly, and he instantly panics.
Dean: Wait, wait, no, don’t touch him! I’ll show you where it is.
Me: Yes, that’s my show! What makes it so compelling after all these years. And what drives Chuck absolutely crazy.
Meanwhile, Sam is out cold – and has another vision. Each one of the visions has been some of the most amazing Supernatural ever, and this one – OMG it was maybe the most amazing one yet. We have all lamented again and again how we wish we’d had more of demon Dean, and how sad it was that we’d never get it again. But that’s exactly what we got in this vision. Mark of Cain Dean fighting his brother, throwing him through the railing on the bunker landing! Stunt coordinator Rob Hayter confirmed that Jared did this scene himself, plunging down to land on the map table (a cushion I’m sure in real life). Apparently in one planned part of the scene, Dean jumps down to join him – hence the released still. That didn’t make the cut, but wow, what a scene!
Dean pursues Sam and continues to throw him around, clearly way stronger than his brother and ruthless in his pursuit.
Rob Hayter’s choreography here was masterful, and Jensen plays demon Dean with just as much overt menace and unfettered sensuality as he did the last time. Jared and Jensen have said many times that they love doing fight scenes with each other, because they’re so comfortable with each other and can make it more real than with a guest actor. They wrestle regularly in real life, and that physical comfort shows. They also trust each other, so they can go harder than they would otherwise, as they’ve said at several conventions.
Dean finally gets Sam pinned against the wall, lifting him clear off his feet and choking him as he holds him there, helpless, dangling. The trust they have allows Jensen to seemingly really hold Jared pinned there and to really choke him, which means the scene comes across as startlingly, terrifyingly, real.
Sam desperately chokes out, “Stop, this isn’t you,” but Dean doesn’t listen. Jensen channels the exact energy and personality he used for demon Dean seasons ago, and he looks just as incendiary doing it as he did then. The way he looks up at Sam, savoring the moment, virtually leering at him, tongue poking out, made my breath catch as he slowly raises the first blade so Sam can see it.
Then his eyes go black and he thrusts the first blade into Sam, watching like he’s looking at the most exciting spectacle ever, then slowly pulling the blade out and letting Sam’s body crumple to the floor.
It definitely shouldn’t have been hot, but I don’t think anyone told either of the actors or the director. There’s just something about demon Dean. Damn.
My timeline: So Sam’s visions (and Chuck’s endings) are just Sam and Dean’s hottest bad guy moments? Same, buddy.
Sam wakes up as his body hits the floor, to find himself lying there in real time, Lilith and Dean gone. He rushes outside, grabs the werewolf brothers’ truck and goes after them. Dean and Lilith have another interesting conversation as they drive back to the motel. It’s increasingly meta, as Lilith complains about God being a bad writer, not exactly Shakespeare – and reveals that for Chuck, it always ends the same, with one brother killing the other.
Lilith: He likes that one. I guess that’s why you had to see the werewolf brothers die. You know, foreshadowing.
We’re deep into the meta now, and it’s a bit dizzying to sort through it. All that really was way too on the nose, but that’s because it was Chuck being a bad writer? The interesting thing is that WE, the fans, have now been drawn into Chuck’s writing too. If things don’t feel right, maybe it’s not the writers, it’s the Writer. Wow, that is seriously meta.
Also, Chuck apparently has “a very weird and very pervy obsession” with Dean.
Me: Like just about every other monster on the show ever. Oh, who am I kidding? Like pretty much everyone.
Lilith isn’t exactly blind to Dean’s charms either. They get to the motel room and she confronts him.
Lilith: Now be a good boy and show me that big gun of yours.
(Oh, Chuck, really?)
Lilith threatens to torture Dean by “death from 1000 cuts” and begins to slash him, but he remains resolute despite being in obvious pain. Suddenly Sam bursts in, shooting Lilith with a devil’s trap bullet. It seems like a wonderful moment for a second, Sam getting a chance to save his brother from the demon who was responsible for his horrific death by hellhounds. Sam feels about Lilith the way Dean feels about Lucifer, because of what each of them did to their brother.
Sam to Dean: Dean, you good?
Sam to Lilith: I’ve killed you before, I can do it again.
Me: Mmmm BAMF Sam.
Unfortunately Lilith breaks out of the trap and traps Sam and Dean as they try to flee, freezing them in place while she looks for the gun. It’s conveniently in the glove box of the Impala, which makes little sense. I mean, at least couldn’t it be in the warded trunk? She destroys it before their shocked eyes, melting it into a puddle as director Speight gives us some truly spectacular closeups of the stricken Winchesters. Then Lilith is gone.
The last scene of the episode was devastating in its quiet heartbreak. Sam tries to call Cas again, but it goes straight to voicemail. Dean and Sam sit down, looking broken.
Dean: He was supposed to be gone. So we’re stuck in his maze still? What’s he gonna do, throw our greatest hits at us?
(Exactly what the first few episodes of this season were. Meta meta)
Sam: Why doesn’t he just kill us?
Dean: It’s not what he wants. Lilith said Chuck only likes one kind of ending – you kill me or I kill you. Well, that’s not happening.
Sam is shocked, clearly, and he opens up to Dean, to my great relief.
Sam: My visions…they all end the same way.
Dean: And you’re just telling me now?
Sam: I thought they were just my PTSD…
(Oh, Sam. And we’re finally getting some clarification that yes, that’s exactly what Sam has which feels SO good. Jared has played it like that for a long time, but it seems that was mostly Jared and not the writers giving Sam’s trauma acknowledgement. It feels good to have it clearly stated in canon. And what a statement, that it’s so bad that Sam just assumed these horrific dreams were his customary PTSD-related nightmares.)
Sam: But what if somehow I’m seeing Chuck’s endings? Because of this (the God wound). It wasn’t a bullet, it was a piece of me, right? Maybe it created a link of some sort, like I’m somehow in his head?
(Exactly what fan theories have been for some time now)
Dean: (sounding hopeless) This was supposed to be over. We were done. Free. And now… What are we supposed to do, man? Keep running in a friggen’ hamster wheel, until we die – or get boring?
Sam: No. We fight.
Dean: (looking at Sam almost imploringly, like he desperately needs Sam to be the reassuring big brother right now) Fight God? Without the gun? It’s God, Sam! And he’s coming for us. How the hell are we supposed to fight God?
And there it is. The set up for this last season that we knew was coming. The last scene killed me because Jared and Jensen brought so much emotion to it that seeing the Winchesters so lost and so hopeless was incredibly painful. But hearing the overt set up itself felt oddly anti-climactic, since we’ve known all along that’s the set up for this season. (Is this Chuck’s not so perfect writing again? More like the way television works these days.)
Speight closed out the episode with a brilliant shot, the Winchesters framed by what look like theater curtains, the helpless puppets in a show of God’s design, beautiful but tragic.
Kudos to Steve Yockey on his final episode – we will miss you! All the guest actors were top notch, even the ones we only saw for a short time. And kudos to Speight’s direction and Jared and Jensen for making me feel so damn much. I love you all for making me reach for those tissues.
Much of my timeline reacted by screaming about Sam being Chuck’s horcrux. Will Sam’s ability to see inside Chuck’s head allow them to stay ahead of Chuck and make their own choices beforehand? Does Chuck have any idea that Sam is seeing into his head and all his endings? Somebody should probably “Freud” Chuck, and the sooner the better! The psychologist part of my brain is actually fascinated with who they’ve turned him into. I still think it’s a retcon of sorts, but they did lay the groundwork that would explain him being obsessed with the Winchesters. He has a big chip on his shoulder thanks to his troubled past (putting it mildly) and sense of betrayal with his own sibling. Does it drive him insane that Sam and Dean are as devoted to each other as they are? Someone smarter than me pointed out that in the demon Dean vision, Sam doesn’t have his arm in a sling, which means in that version, Sam never went crazy searching for and determined to save his brother. Is that what allows them to kill each other each time?
Is his own troubled sibling history why Chuck is so obsessed with driving the ultimate wedge between Sam and Dean? And if so, will it be that same dogged devotion and loyalty that allows them to defeat his plan for them? I like that idea a lot. We’re right back to free will versus destiny and it goes right along with Kripke’s original vision for the show’s ending from Swan Song. They chose family; and isn’t that the whole point? I’m guessing that Cas will too eventually, his chosen family.
I’m beyond thrilled that, in this last season, the show is actually ABOUT Sam and Dean (and Cas when he returns). Because really? I don’t care about anyone else. Just focus, Show. It’s your last chance!
Caps by @kayb625
Gifs by jaredandjensen
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