We have finally made it through the second season of the best show of all time (imho) in our Supernatural rewatch! Settle in as we revisit one of the most emotional episodes of the entire series – and one that stands up remarkably well to the test of time. As in, it still made me cry and I still think it’s one of the best hours of television ever as I write this almost exactly sixteen years later. Buckle up!
The season finale of the second season of Supernatural was a two parter that almost destroyed me.
Being uncertain whether Sam Winchester would survive – and whether the brothers and the show I’d fallen in love with would survive too – was excruciating. The level of emotionality I felt watching this episode broadcast live back in May of 2007 was off the charts. Remembering it today, and rewatching it all these years later, I still found myself tearing up. I bet you will too.
The Road So Far recap is a surprise to anyone watching now, who would expect Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ to be played for the penultimate episode instead of the finale, but in Season 2 it first graced our screens in this season finale. The voiceover reminds us that back in 1835, Samuel Colt made a special gun… and then there is such a badass recap OHMYGOD. The Impala screeching, a reminder of the crossroads and what desperate people do there, the Yellow Eyed Demon trying to recruit Sam. Andy’s bloody horrifying death, Jake and Sam’s fight, and then Dean screaming “Sam, look out!”
We see once again Sam fall, Dean holding him as the lyrics reach “Don’t you cry no more” and Dean yells out desperately, “SAM!”
And then, it’s NOW.
Sam lying dead on an old mattress, the camera slowly spinning to show us Dean staring at his brother, his face flat, almost frozen. As lifeless as Sam’s body.
Bobby comes in with food, encouraging Dean to eat something, but it’s clear Dean could care less about nourishment – or living.
Dean: I said I’m fine.
It’s striking how he can barely tear himself way from staring at Sam’s body, perhaps a little Ackles added touch that makes it crystal clear how far away Dean is from acceptance or letting go.
It’s also striking how otherwordly beautiful both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are in this episode. It quite literally takes my breath away.
Bobby: Dean, I hate to bring this up, I really do. But don’t you think maybe it’s time we bury Sam?
Dean is so full of rage at that suggestion that he looks like he could kill Bobby on the spot.
He asks Bobby to cut him some slack, refusing to come with him even when Bobby insists he shouldn’t be alone and that he could use Dean’s help.
Bobby: Something big is going down, end of the world big.
The rage coalesces on Dean’s face and he suddenly erupts, lashing out at Bobby, practically roaring at him.
Dean: Well then let it end!
Bobby: (shocked) You don’t mean that.
Dean leaps to his feat, confronting Bobby, infuriated. His eyes are black rimmed, haunted. Dead. He’s lost everything.
Dean: You don’t think so? You don’t think I’ve given enough? Paid enough? I’m done with it, all of it. And if you know what’s good for you, you’d turn around and get the hell out of here.
He shoves Bobby, yelling at him to go, then turns desperate when Bobby actually looks afraid of this boy who’s like a son to him.
Dean: I’m sorry… I’m sorry… please just go.
Bobby leaves, and mournful music starts to play.
Dean clutches the back of the chair like it’s the only thing keeping him upright, looking like a scared and broken little boy, breaking my heart.
A single tear drips down his face.
That will become an Ackles trademark – and for good reason.
It’s never faked, and it wasn’t here.
The title card appears as we all hold our breaths for what comes next.
Jake falls asleep at a campfire, suddenly confronted by the YED – the amazingly talented Fred Lehne. He somehow managed to make the YED both appealing in his snark and simultaneously terrifying, those old school actual yellow contact lenses making him look almost reptilian. (Poor Fred told me once about how he couldn’t see a damn thing and had to be led around the set when he had them in).
YED: Howdy, Jake. Well, congratulations, you’re it – last man standing. The American Idol.
Jake tells him to go to Hell, but the YED has the perfect comeback.
YED: Been there, done that.
The YED tells Jake he needs him, now that (to his surprise) Jake is the strongest. Jake at first threatens to wake up and hunt him down, but the YED threatens his mother and little sister, saying he’ll make sure they live long enough to know the chewy taste of their own intestines.
Jake backs down.
Jake: What do you want me to do?
The YED pats his cheek.
YED: Like I said – genius.
Cut to Dean sitting next to Sam’s corpse. We see him from the side in the dark, in a closeup so beautiful it once again takes my breath away.
When we went to the Supernatural set and talked to director of photography Serge Ladouceur in early Season 4, he told us that Jensen and Jared were so gorgeous that he could do extreme close ups of them, lighting them like he would a beautiful woman.
It works, and it never ceases to amaze me.
Kim Manners’ directing is brilliant here, as he keeps taking us back to Dean’s perspective, showing us what he sees as he looks at the most important person in his life lying dead on a dirty mattress, in shock and wanting to cling to denial. Dean talks to Sam, as most of us would want to talk to the person we are slowly realizing we will never get to talk to again.
His expression changes as he addresses his little brother, the fondness Dean feels for Sam evident on his face – a devastating reminder of just how life altering and unbearable this loss is for Dean Winchester.
Dean: You know, when we were little – you couldn’t have been more than five – you just started asking questions. How come we didn’t have a mom? Why do we always have to move around? Where’d Dad go when he’d take off for days at a time? I remember I begged you, quit asking Sammy, man you don’t wanna know.
The camera slowly pans around him as he talks to Sam, Ackles so emotional that his Texas accent is thick, obvious. It somehow adds to the emotionality of the scene.
Ackles has said he knew he wasn’t going to be able to get through that scene more than a couple times, and he told director Kim Manners that he didn’t think he had it in him to go that deep too often. Manners, incredible director that he is, understood.
Dean: I just wanted you to be a kid, just for a little while longer. I always tried to protect you, keep you safe. Dad didn’t even have to tell me. It was just always my responsibility, you know? It’s like I had one job…
His voice wavers, the sobs threatening to choke him, but he soldiers on.
Dean: I had one job… and I screwed it up.
He leans in, looking closely at Sam. He shakes his head, rueful.
Dean: And I screwed it up. I blew it. And for that, I’m sorry.
Tears drip from both eyes; he wipes them away.
Dean: I guess that’s what I do, let down the people I love… I let Dad down. And now I guess I’m just supposed to let you down too. How can I? How am I supposed to live with that?
He scrubs at his face, on the verge of falling apart.
The camera gives us a close up of Sam, equally beautiful even lifeless.
Padalecki has talked about how hard it was for him to lie there and listen to Jensen in so much pain, unable to do anything to help him.
Dean: What am I supposed to do, Sammy?
He sobs, trying to hold it together, lower lip quivering.
Dean: What am I supposed to do?
He stands up, whole body trembling.
Dean: WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!
The Impala peels out, roaring through the dark, tires spinning out and skidding, Dean behind the wheel looking like a man possessed.
He drives to the crossroads and fills a box, putting in his ID, and buries it there, on his knees.
Dramatic music plays.
When it’s done he looks to the right, and then to the left, seeing nothing.
You can see the panic on his face, the desperation. How badly he needs this to work.
Dean: Show your face, you bitch!
And when he looks back, there’s the demon.
She looks at him lustfully, saying his name, how sweet it is that he’s gotten his family killed and is all alone in the world now.
Demon: Sometimes you gotta stop and smell the roses.
She circles him, looks him over, a predator who’s also objectifying him.
It’s something that often happens on Supernatural with Dean, as monsters and evil humans alike recognize his attractiveness and take great pleasure in taunting him, violating his boundaries, creating forced intimacy to enjoy his discomfort.
Dean: I should send you straight back to hell.
Demon: Oh you should, but you won’t, and I know why. Following in Daddy’s footsteps – you wanna make a deal. Little Sammy back from the dead, and let me guess, you’re offering up your own soul.
Dean does, saying it’s all hers if she brings Sam back, just give him ten years – that’s the deal she gives everybody else.
Demon: You’re not everybody else.
She gets way too close to him, violating him again as he has to stand there and endure it, whispering in his ear in a parody of a lover.
Demon: Why would I wanna give you anything? Keep your gutter soul, it’s too tarnished anyway.
He agrees to nine. Eight. Five years, as all of our hearts break seeing the desperation on his face, the way he doesn’t value his life at all. At five, he manages to say that’s his last offer, five years or no deal.
The demon leans in like she’s about to give him the kiss to seal the deal, then pulls away, saying no deal.
Dean tries to walk away, but she taunts him, reminding him to make sure he buries Sam before he starts stinking up the joint.
It’s such a low blow – one that Dean Winchester cannot stand. He flinches, and she sees it. He looks so beaten, so desperate.
Demon: It’s a fire sale, everything must go…
He asks what he has to do.
Demon: First of all, quit groveling, needy guys are such a turn off.
She says she shouldn’t do it, but he’s got a blind spot for him – he’s like a puppy, just too fun to play with. She offers him one year and one year only, and I remember how sick to my stomach I felt when he agreed.
She comes in close, almost kissing him, warning him that if he tries to weasel his way out of the deal, it’s off and Sam drops dead, back to rotten meat in no time.
Dean struggles for a second, then grabs her and kisses her.
The demon leans into the kiss, her hand on his head, possessive, pulling him in even closer.
Sam’s eyes pop open and he struggles up, looking shocked and confused.
And then I’m sure we cut to a commercial and I probably sat there gobsmacked for the entire duration of whatever ads played on the CW in 2007.
When we return, Sam is on his feet, trying to see his back and the wound there in the mirror.
It looks mostly healed already and he’s clearly confused about that. We see the large blood stain on the mattress….so much it doesn’t look like a person would have survived…
Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur again giving us these spectacularly beautiful shots with interesting perspective, Sam’s body looking both very attractive and somehow vaguely monstrous in the mirror, making the scene even more powerful.
The whole scene has been candlelit, adding to the ethereal beauty, making it all seem surreal.
Dean comes back, and his mouth falls open in shock to see Sam up.
Dean: Sammy? Thank God.
Dean grabs Sam for a hug, Sam grimacing in pain as Dean clutches him, overwhelmed with joy and relief.
Dean: I’m sorry, I’m sorry man, I’m just…happy to see you up and around, that’s all.
He helps Sam into a chair, asking him what he remembers. Dean confirms that Jake did stab him in the back and that he lost a lot of blood, saying it was pretty touch and go for a while.
Sam is confused, protesting that you can’t patch up a wound that bad, but Dean insists that Bobby could and changes the subject back to Jake.
Sam gets angry at the mention of Jake and how he escaped, saying they have to find him.
Sam: (getting to his feet) And I swear I’m gonna tear that sonofabitch apart!
Dean: Whoa whoa whoa, easy Van Damme. You just woke up, all right? Let’s get you something to eat, huh? You want something to eat? I’m starving…
Sam goes from a six and a half foot tall very intimidating man in a rage to a little brother meekly going along with his big brother’s suggestion that he have something to eat. Padalecki is amazing at showing us how much of Sam is tied up in being Dean’s little brother – how they’re both tied up in being brothers, how much a part of their identity it is.
They chow down on the pizza that we’ve all seen in the gag reel, Jared and Jensen cracking up repeatedly trying to do that shot. I wonder if it was all the emotion of the previous scenes, suddenly relieved and so the giggles just bubble out.
Sam tells Dean about Andy’s death, and what the YED said about only one of them making it out of there – and how he doesn’t understand then how both he and Jake got away.
Dean’s evasive, keeping the conversation going so Sam can’t think about it too long and too hard.
Sam again insists they’ve gotta get out there and stop Jake, Dean encouraging him to hold on, saying that he needs his rest. He’s shaken badly by the fact that he actually lost Sam, unwilling to see him walk right back out into danger. But of course that’s what Sam Winchester is going to do.
Dean: You need your rest, we got time.
Sam: No we don’t.
Dean tells Sam about the Roadhouse burning down and Ash… and probably Ellen. (Yes, I needed all of these Dean-drinking-from-the-bottle screencaps in here. For reasons.)
Sam: (tearing up) Demons?
Sam jumps up again, determined to head to Bobby’s and figure this out right away. Dean grabs Sam by the shoulders, trying to slow him down, still emotional.
Dean: Whoa whoa, stop Sam, stop, damn it! You almost died in there. I mean, what would I have…
He pauses, almost giving himself away.
Dean: Can you just take care of yourself for a little bit huh, just a little bit?
Sam: I’m sorry, no.
Jesus, look at them. Have mercy, Show.
Dean shakes his head, resigned.
The Impala speeds to Bobby’s.
Bobby’s face when he sees a smiling Sam walk into his house is beyond priceless – all the kudos to Jim Beaver on this episode, because his every appearance is perfection.
Dean, for his part, avoids looking at Bobby as much as possible.
Bobby: Sam. Uh, good to see ya up and around…
Sam: Yeah, thanks for patching me up.
Bobby stares at Dean like WTF??!
Sam watches the weirdness between Dean and Bobby, perceptive as always, trying to figure it out.
Sam and his big big brain. And that gorgeous profile, long hair in his eyes.
Bobby makes an excuse of asking Sam to look at some lore and asks Dean to help him lug some more books in from the truck. Dean is clearly reluctant but follows, and as soon as they’re alone, Bobby turns on him, pushing Dean and getting in his face.
Bobby: You stupid ass, what did you do?
He grabs Dean by the lapels of his jacket. Dean doesn’t fight him.
Bobby: You made a deal, for Sam, didn’t you? How long did they give you? How long??
Dean: One year.
Bobby: Damn it, Dean.
Dean insists that’s why they have to find the YED, so Dean can kill him – since he’s got nothing to lose now. Bobby is furious, hating to hear Dean talk like that. He grabs Dean again, by the collar, shoving him roughly.
Bobby: I could throttle you! You, your dad, both itching to throw yourself down the pit.
Dean protests that’s his point, that he’s not even supposed to be here, that maybe at least this way some good could come of it, his life could mean something.
You can see the truth sink into Bobby, just how little Dean Winchester values his life. Himself. Bobby’s rage morphs into agony, and sadness.
Bobby: What? And it didn’t before? Have you got that low an opinion of yourself? Are you that screwed in the head?
He grabs Dean again, shaking him, as Dean’s face crumples.
Dean: (nearly sobbing) I couldn’t let him die, Bobby, I couldn’t. He’s my brother.
Ackles’ Texas accent is evident again as his eyes water and he gets choked up.
Bobby: How’s your brother gonna feel when he knows you’re going to hell?
Dean begs Bobby not to tell Sam, to take a shot at him, do whatever he’s gotta do, but please don’t tell him.
Bobby, that gruff hardboiled old hunter, is crying now too. He grabs Dean’s face, anguished.
Then there’s a noise and their hunter instincts kick in as they duck down behind a junker car.
Dean: Ellen? Ellen, Oh God.
He grabs her and hugs her tight. They give her some holy water as a test, and then some whisky as a request, and she tells them that she escaped the Roadhouse fire because she went to get some pretzels – that Ash called her panicked and told her to get something from the safe. She did, and she shows them – a map with lines and Xs on it. Of Wyoming.
Dean: What does that mean?
Somehow Bobby figures out that Samuel Colt built a bunch of frontier churches that are connected by private railway lines – to form a giant devil’s trap of iron lines that demons can’t cross.
Dean: What if Colt wasn’t trying to keep the demons out? What if he was trying to keep something in?
No demon can get across it, of course.
Sam: No. But I know who could.
Cut to Jake at the railroad tracks, at an old railroad crossing. He’s joined by the YED, who finally tells him what he needs to do – open the crypt in the cemetery inside the tracks. Jake is angry at being manipulated, though, saying screw you and your freaky orders, go do it yourself.
We find out that Sam was right, he can’t. He needs that special human to do it for him.
Fred Lehne is brilliant as the YED here, snarky and unafraid, knowing at this point he holds all the cards. A master manipulator.
He shows Jake the gun and confides that it’s the only gun in the universe that can shoot him dead.
YED (cocky): Here, take it.
He hands the Colt to Jake, who immediately aims it at the demon.
YED: Oh my, I’m shocked by this unforeseen turn of events.
He’s like the smarmiest real estate salesman, and it’s brilliant. He reminds Jake that if he shoots him, his life can go back to normal, but…. Actually he’d be AWOL and would have to go back to work at his factory job – as opposed to he and his family having health and wealth, every day an ice-cream sundae. He insists he’s talking about a better world, one in which Jake and his family will be protected – will be royalty.
Jake, his hand shaking, lowers the gun and the YED grins.
That night in the cemetery Jake walks to the crypt, our heroes already there waiting for him. Dean hides behind a tomb, gun ready, probably dying to blow away the man who killed his baby brother.
Sam: Howdy, Jake.
Jake looks at Sam like he’s looking at a dead man, as Bobby, Ellen and Dean all train their guns on him too.
Jake (shocked): You were dead, I killed you. Cut clean through your spinal cord, man. You can’t be alive, you can’t be.
Sam looks at Dean, who looks down, evasive.
Bobby tells Jake to take it easy, and Jake is cocky now.
Jake: And if I don’t?
Sam (threatening): Wait and see.
Jake taunts him, saying Sam had his chance to kill him and he couldn’t.
Sam: I won’t make that mistake twice.
Jake laughs, and you can see on Dean’s face how desperately he wants to shoot him, take some revenge for the incredibly awful mess the Winchesters are now in.
Dean: What are you smiling at, you little bitch?
Aldis Hodge is chilling here as Jake, as the lure of his powers seems to take him over and turn a good man into a manipulative killer. Jake uses his powers, turning to Ellen.
Jake: Hey lady, do me a favor. Put that gun to your head.
Ellen, hand shaking, does. She manages to plead with the boys to shoot him anyway, even as her voice wavers.
Jake: Everybody, put your guns down. Except you, sweetheart.
Dean looks SO pissed but he does it. Sam and Bobby do too.
Jake isn’t thinking very clearly though, because he doesn’t pick the guns up off the ground when he turns around to stick the Colt in the crypt lock.
Dean takes the gun from Ellen and we see Sam, looking as menacing and as pissed as we’ve ever seen him, raise his gun and shoot Jake in the back.
Jake falls to the ground, and Sam stands over him.
As Jake pleads for his life, Sam shoots him again at close range, looking nothing but determined and furious, three times. It’s both terrifying and badass.
Close up of Sam as he wipes the droplets of Jake’s blood from his face as Dean looks at him, perhaps a bit shocked at Sam’s ferocity.
It was intended at the time, I think, as planting another seed of doubt, for both Dean and the audience, about just how stable Sam came back from the dead. Nothing really came of that, but it was an intriguing idea for a while in Season 3. That was the year of the writers’ strike, the season cut short, so who knows if it would have gone anywhere if that hadn’t happened?
Unfortunately Jake did manage to open the door, as we see the engravings start to spin, unlocking it.
Bobby (ominously): Oh no.
Ellen: Bobby, what is it?
Bobby: It’s hell.
Dean grabs the Colt from where it’s stuck in the crypt and they all run for cover as the doors blast open and a black cloud of demons bursts out and disperses. Wind swirls violently, lightning flashes in the dark sky.
Ellen, Bobby and Sam rush to try to close the gate, while Dean checks the Colt for bullets and looks at it thoughtfully.
Dean: If the demon gave this to Jake, then maybe…
Suddenly the YED is there, making the Colt fly out of Dean’s hand into his, as Dean gapes.
YED: Boys shouldn’t play with daddy’s guns.
He throws Dean, who hits his head against a headstone and crumples on the ground. Sam sees Dean go down and the YED approaching him, and calls out to his brother, giving up on trying to close the devil’s gate and running towards Dean, because Winchesters.
The YED pins Sam against a tree, helpless.
Dean is struggling on the ground, trying to get up, but the YED keeps him on the ground with a cocky ‘sit a spell’. The YED says he has to thank Dean for putting Sammy back in rotation, since demons can’t resurrect people unless a deal is made.
YED: I liked him better than Jake anyhow. But tell me, have you ever heard the expression, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is?
Dean scoffs, saying you call that a good deal?
YED: Well, it’s a better shake than your dad ever got.
He gets close to Dean and crouches in front of him, right in his face, talking softly, the scene disturbingly intimate as villains often do to Dean, violating him by getting in his space just to taunt him and make him uncomfortable. He reminds Dean of what he just saw Sam do, how he killed Jake in cold blood.
YED: How certain are you that what you brought back is 100% pure Sam?
Sam is watching, though probably not close enough to hear, immobilized and horrified for his brother.
YED: You of all people should know that what’s dead should stay dead. Anyway, thanks a bunch, I knew I kept you alive for some reason, until now anyway…I couldn’t have done it without your pathetic, self loathing, self destructive desire to sacrifice yourself for your family.
Oh, touche, YED.
He points the gun at Dean, and as we all held our collective breaths, something appears behind the demon, slowly materializing.
It’s John Winchester! He grabs the demon from behind.
There’s a struggle, and the YED drops the gun – which Dean grabs.
When the demon stands up again, he’s confronted by Dean Winchester, pointing the Colt right at him.