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?
I watched the milestone 300th episode of my favorite show of all time, Supernatural, with a horrendous case of the flu and no voice at all. I couldn’t live tweet and I didn’t have the stamina to read what anyone else thought of the episode, on twitter or anywhere else, so I missed a bit of the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling that I relish when the Show has a special episode like this. I watched it on DVR later that night, curled up under a blanket with lots of tissues (for multiple purposes) and a cup of hot tea with honey instead of the wine and cherry pie I’d been planning. It’s taken me almost a week to finally find the strength to sit down at a keyboard and write out my thoughts. But you know what? I was as emotional as I’ve ever been about an episode of this Show that consistently makes me VERY emotional. And that’s really saying something.
Now that I can think a little more clearly, I’ve come up with five reasons why this episode worked so well for me (and I think for most people), but to do the episode justice, let’s start at the beginning. I also note a few things that shouldn’t have worked so well, but those mostly got lost in the shuffle of OMG FEEEEEELINGS that characterized my viewing experience.
The emotional hooks start immediately – we’re vaulted right back to the start, the boys (babies!) uttering the iconic lines “Dad’s on a hunting trip” and “We got work to do.” For someone like me who has been watching from the start, it meant everything that the ‘Then’ went all the way back to the beginning and reminded me of just how long this Show has been a big part of my life.
Then we’re rolling, and instead of guest stars of the week, we get to follow the Winchesters right away, so color me happy. Sam and Dean in a pawn shop searching for something specific, buying their way into the secret back room where the occult items are shelved. Sam surprised me by being the one to mess with an ominous looking teddy bear (it’s usually Dean who can’t keep his hands off things like that and Sam doing the eyeroll, though Dean does get his chance later with the dragon’s breath thingy).
And then with a twist, it turns out the boys are tracking down the shop owner who killed a hunter and stole all this dangerous stuff. He makes the mistake of attacking Sam with a giant scimitar and threatening him, with a speech that ends with “You’re a big boy…” so of course Dean kills him.
Dean: They always talk too much…
I laughed out loud – or I would have if I was capable of making any actual sound. So this is going to follow the Show’s tradition of being a little self referential and a wee bit meta then, and that makes me very happy indeed. The Robbie Thompson-penned 200th episode, Fan Fiction, one of my favorites of the series, was more than a wee bit meta and I loved every minute of it. It seems fitting that the Show should give both its fans and its cast some wink wink nudge nudges in a milestone episode, and that’s Reason No. 1 that this episode worked for me. There were numerous call backs to previous iconic scenes, plus a whole bunch of Easter eggs scattered throughout, from items we’ve seen in past episodes to Family Business Beer signs. I loved every one of them! Thanks, Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb, for working so hard to get them all in, and so organically.
After thoroughly enjoying the Supernatural panel in Hall H (see part one of my epic Comic Con report here – Part One) we had an hour to rush to the press area and download some photos and eat a hot dog (you eat WAY too many hot dogs at Comic Con, just saying…). Then it was off to the Hilton Bayfront for the Supernatural press room. This is my second year in the press room, so I wasn’t quite as nervous about my technology failing me (though it did…) and more able to just enjoy the chance to chat with everyone. We had a great table of press, some of whom I already knew, and everyone had great questions. Press rooms can be stressful things, since there’s a very limited amount of time and no guarantee that every cast member will get to your table – which means I actually did get anxious anyway. But big kudos to Warner Brothers’ Holly Ollis and Nikki Calderon, who managed to make sure that every single table got some time with every single one of the cast and producers. Phew!
Executive producer and showrunner Bob Singer was the first to come to our table – which is why I was so nervous I didn’t even manage to take a picture of him!
Our table asked what he could tease about Season 14?
Bob: Oh nothing, we have strict instructions…
We laughed, but he relented.
Bob: I think Season 14 is gonna be a little less broad in scope and a little more emotional, with more personal stories about the guys. We’ll look at what Jack’s going through with losing his powers, and if and when Dean comes back from Michael, what it will be like with his relationship with Sam. We also have a lot of fan favorites who will be back – Bobby, Charlie. I think it will be a little more low key but it will still be Supernatural, just more personal and emotional.
(That literally had me bouncing with happiness because yay for more personal and emotional! Okay, maybe not literally bouncing, but it was a near thing)
It’s no secret to anyone who has ever read one of my Supernatural books that I love Comic Con – my first year there was 2007, when you could still drive your rental car right up to the convention center, park in the underground garage and stroll up to get in the (very small) line to get in. It was Supernatural that brought me to Comic Con back then, and it’s still Supernatural that brings me back now, and every year in between. The Show has gone from Room 6BCF to the larger Ballroom 20 and finally for the past few years, the gigantic Hall H. Like many loyal fans, I’ve followed along and celebrated the Show’s success as it defied the odds and refused to be cancelled. Last year saw a triumphant celebration of that tenacity, with Kansas appearing to play the Show’s unofficial theme song, Carry On Wayward Son, live on the Hall H stage.
Nobody expected Warner Brothers to top that amazing feat this year, and yet anticipation was high for our first glimpse of Season 14 – and Supernatural (as always) did not disappoint.
My Supernatural-centric Comic Con began on Thursday night with the Wayward Cocktails party in the Gaslamp district’s Analog Bar. Jules Wilkinson (better known as admin of the SuperWiki) and friends throw this party most years, and it’s a great place to meet up with all your fellow Supernatural fans. It’s also a charity event, so I brought along some copies of Family Don’t End With Blood to donate, benefiting Random Acts and Public Counsel, a legal services advocacy organization. All the television screens in the bar were playing episodes of Supernatural, there were Supernatural themed drinks, plenty of food, and of course pie for dessert. Ruth Connell joined us at our table for a while, and I had a chance to chat with Scoobynatural writers Jeremy Adams and Jim Krieg, who would love nothing more than to reprise that amazing episode.
I also got to hug some of the people who keep the Show awesome, like the always adorable post coordinator Mary Manchin and showrunner’s assistant Meghan – and to talk Season 14 a bit with writer Davy Perez. He’s excited about the upcoming episode written by Meredith Glynn and that makes ME even more excited! More on that later, because SQUEE!
Friday stayed Supernatural-focused with the Warner Bros. party at Float, the rooftop bar of the Hard Rock Hotel. My friend M. Night Shyamalan was also at Comic Con, premiering the trailer for his new film Glass (more about that coming up!) so I invited him to come by the WB party – because it’s always a fabulous party! He stayed long enough to chat for a little while, and then ran into Jensen Ackles as he was leaving, so they got to reconnect too. That’s what makes Comic Con so awesome!
Along with my good friends Laurena and Alice, I chatted Season 14 of Supernatural at the party with producer Jim Michaels while we sampled the delicious food and drinks, including the pros and cons of a reduced season of 20 episodes instead of 23. I was thrilled to hear that Jim’s optimism about the Show continuing for a while matches my own. We also were happy to run into showrunner and director Bob Singer and his wife, writer and executive producer Eugenie Ross-Leming. Both are excited about the new season, even if Bob did try to retire a few years ago – but we all know how that turned out!
Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Alex Calvert joined the party a short while in and stayed until they literally turned the lights on to try to convince those of us who were having way too good a time to finally leave – sorry, Float employees! My chats with Jensen were about his singing prowess and whether he’d run into Night before Night had to leave (he had, in the elevator!), with Jared about his recent birthday, and with Misha about politics – and whether I need a new phone (I do).
My chats with Alex were a bit more substantial – I can’t say enough about what a lovely person Alex is and how thoughtful about this unique situation he finds himself in. Needless to say, he was nervous about being onstage at Hall H in front of 8000 people on Sunday, but as I told him that night – the rest of the cast have his back. And so does the fandom.
I’ve watched every Season finale except for Season 1 live when it aired – I love watching it live with so many other fans, because it’s always a time of great anticipation. This year it was overshadowed a bit by the CW Upfronts being the same day, which for Supernatural fans meant lots of great footage of Jared, Jensen and Misha but also the confirmation that the Supernatural spinoff Wayward Sisters was indeed not picked up. Nevertheless, in spite of their disappointment, the entire cast of the spinoff took to twitter to show their support for the show that brought their characters to life. The fact that the Wayward Sisters characters were included in the Road So Far recap seems to suggest that there were lots of people who, like me, thought the spinoff was going forward. Seeing them in the season recap just made me more emotional – and believe me, I was already there.
Thursday also kicked off Wizard World Philly, where I had several Supernatural panels, so that meant I got to watch the finale with my friend Alana King (@_KingBooks_). Alana does Supernatural reaction videos after most episodes, so we decided to film one during the finale. Let’s just say that I never realized how…. dramatic…I am while watching Supernatural. (This is probably a surprise only to me.) But hey, this was the season finale after all! I think I can be forgiven.
Alana set up the video camera and we settled in on my couch to watch, both of us bouncing with that unique mix of anticipation and abject terror that Supernatural finales always bring. We and pretty much the entire fandom were a little bit spoiled in that we knew that Jensen Ackles was going to be playing a different character by the end of this episode. When that was first announced (for some reason I can’t fathom because WOW would it have been nice to be shocked and surprised by that reveal), speculation was mostly that Dean would be the archangel Michael. After all, Dean is “the Michael sword”, his perfect vessel. In Season 5, he repeatedly refused to allow Michael to possess him, but perhaps AU!Michael would find a way? Then there were some articles that insinuated that no, it wouldn’t be Michael, it would someone we hadn’t seen for a long time. So Alana and I went into the episode with a lot of “OMG who is it gonna be??”
The first notes of Carry On Wayward Son always make me emotional, but this time we began with a bit of Winchester history instead – and then Rowena in the backseat of the Impala.
Rowena: Boring… Is there music?
Carry On Wayward Son begins to play and Alana and I turned to each other grinning. What an awesome beginning! Well played, Show!
‘Let The Good Times Roll’ was penned by showrunner Andrew Dabb, as per tradition, and directed by showrunner Bob Singer. Once the episode itself begins, Sam is explaining the state of the non-AU world to some of the new inhabitants, using an old school pin board and sounding very smart indeed. Once he’s finished his recap, Bobby scoffs.
Bobby: The ice caps are melting, a movie where a girl goes all the way with a fish wins Best Picture, and that damn fool idjit from the Apprentice is president? And you call where we come from apocalypse world?
Alana and I laughed and then felt a bit depressed because wow, Bobby, good point. (Except the movie, but maybe that’s just us)
Sam gets a call from Dean, who just says “Hey Sammy, got something” and then Sam, Dean, Cas and Jack are…hunting? I was totally confused. There was no sense that there had been a time jump so I didn’t know if they thought Lucifer was in that cabin or what the hell they were doing. There’s a bunch of werewolves hanging out there and honestly they don’t seem to be hurting anyone and one even makes the exact same joke that Dean just did about Kardashian preferences and I keep thinking about Garth as the foursome swoops in and kills them all. I mean, I know, werewolves, but….anyway, that was a weird scene.
Me: I guess they’re teaching Jack to hunt? Saving people, hunting things, the family business?
Alana: (shrugs – aka I got nothin’)
Back at the bunker, Dean and Sam have a hallway conversation about Jack’s progress.
Dean: The kid did great. Hey, you remember when you asked if we could stop it? All the evil in the world? If we could really change things? Well, maybe with Jack, we can.
Sam: Maybe you’re right. But then what will we do?
Dean: (holding up his beer) This. A whole lot of this. But on a beach somewhere, you know? Can you imagine? You, me, Cas, toes in the sand, couple of them little umbrella drinks. Matching Hawaiian shirts, obviously. Some hula girls.
[I wondered if that was partly an ad lib, since for the Supernatural convention in Hawaii earlier this year, Jensen did in fact buy him, Jared and Misha matching Hawaiian shirts…]
Sam: You, talking about retiring? You?
Dean: If I knew the world was safe? Hell, yeah. And you know why? ‘Cause we freakin’ earned it, man.
Sam: I’ll drink to that.
It sort of breaks my heart to hear Dean allowing himself a little bit of hope that they might finally get the upper hand. Because this is Supernatural, so you know that hope is about to be horribly shattered.
Dean hears a sound from Jack’s room and goes in to investigate, waking Jack from a nightmare.
Jack: I’m sorry.
Dean: You don’t have to apologize. I have ‘em too, all the time.
Jack: What do you see?
Dean: Depends…mostly people I couldn’t save.
Oh Dean. He is always so tormented by his failures, and has such a hard time remembering all the good he’s done in the world, all the people he HAS saved.
Dean sits down on the edge of the bed and is so gentle with Jack, reassuring him that he is strong but that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect.
Dean: But we can get better. Every day, we can get better. I don’t know what you went through over there, I know it was bad. But we’ll figure out a way to deal with it. Together. You’re family, kid. And we look after our own.
I think it’s rather brilliant how the Show has managed to give the Winchesters and Cas a son, which is not something I anticipated. But all three of them have come to love Jack and to think of him as a son, as family. I loved this glimpse of Dean as a parent figure, because it’s always been such an integral part of him. He raised Sam, was mother and father as well as brother – and it’s clear that has been a defining part of his identity. Having the chance to do that with Jack is something I think Dean takes to naturally – once he finally decided that Jack was not going to go darkside. I love Jack’s quiet nod as he accepts what Dean says as genuine. Alexander Calvert was superb in this episode – but more on that later.
At some point in here, we went to commercial and I muted the television, only to quickly umute it when Alana and I noticed who was on screen.
Alana and me: GIL MCKINNEY!!!
A+ product placement, CW.
And back to our Show. Mary and Bobby are strolling through a rainy Vancouver woods that does not look at all like Kansas, but their conversation is kinda adorable. Ketch is apparently off doing his Ketch thing (and Mary seems to have gotten past her awful history with Ketch, oddly), and Rowena and Charlie are roadtripping.
Bobby: Ginger trouble.
It’s clear now that indeed there has been a time jump, because the AU people are “settling in”. Bobby included. He looks kinda shyly over at Mary.
Bobby: I like it here…
There’s a bit of flirtation going on between Mary and Bobby, which is…interesting. I’m not opposed to it, though I wonder what Jeffrey Dean Morgan will have to say about it when he finally returns to the show for the last episode (no, I have no idea if this will happen, I just like to believe it).
Their romantic interlude is spoiled by a trail of blood on the ground, because this is, after all, Supernatural – and no one gets to be happy for more than 0.5 seconds.
It’s Maggie from the tunnels (who half of fandom didn’t remember and thought it was a brand new character).
Jack clearly feels responsible and guilty as they ask a friend of Maggie’s what happened, trying to figure out how she was killed. Turns out there was a boy named Nate from the convenience store who Maggie had a crush on and snuck out to meet the night before…
Anddddddddddd poof! Jack is gone.
Me: Oh no, he’s going after Nate.
Sure enough, Jack finds hapless convenience store clerk Nate and pins him up against the wall.
Me: Wait, how do we know that’s even Nate? What if that’s not Nate?? What does it say on his name tag? OMG I think it says George! That’s not Nate, it’s George!
Alana: (deadpans) It’s Nate.
Cas, Sam and Dean show up (very quickly so the convenience store must be in the bunker’s backyard, which is handy for beer runs) and try to stop Jack. Jack tosses poor Cas off like he’s not even there and ignores Sam and Dean. So Dean pulls out his gun, and shoots him.
Me and Alana: What the hell, Dean??
Sam: (silently): Same.
Jack: (dropping Nate) You shot me!
Dean: To get your attention.
Remind me never to ignore Dean Winchester. (Like that is even the remotest of remote possibilities, says everyone who has ever met me)
Jack is distraught and feels even more like everything he does is wrong. He runs out of the store. Cas tries to follow, but Dean holds him back and tells him to let Jack go.
Poor Jack wanders the nearby woods in anguish.
Jack: I keep hurting people…
He’s so angry with himself, so frustrated and feeling so guilty, that he erupts in self hatred, punching himself as he asks over and over, “why do you keep hurting people??”
It was so heartbreaking I had to grab Alana and cry out “Jack OMG Jack” repeatedly. Poor Alana.
Luckily we are both big Jack fans, so we pretty much got upset together. Once again, Alex Calvert absolutely killed it in this scene – he made it 100% believable that Jack was feeling all those emotions and was overwhelmed by them. It’s exactly what people do when they have no way to deal with self hatred, and it’s horrible to watch.
Back in the convenience store, an ear splitting sound paralyzes Sam, Dean and Cas. And ME! Alana and I had the volume turned up to about 80 on my television so we could hear it on the video, and that meant that our ears were in almost as much pain as the characters onscreen. Ouch!
Dean grabs Sam and the three of them run outside just as the windows of the store blow out. Michael makes a grand entrance, leaving Sam and Cas on the ground.
Dean runs behind the car and throws open the Impala’s trunk and quickly lights a holy oil bomb and throws it at Michael, giving them time to get in the car.
Me: Run faster!!
They get away as Michael stands behind a line of holy oil that’s about ten yards long.
Me and Alana: Um, how come he couldn’t just walk around it?
No time to conjecture, because Lucifer has also come through the rift and appears to Jack. Jack is understandably confused, since Sam told him that Lucifer was dead (which I’m sure he assumed was the truth).
Lucifer: Sam’s a big fat liar, and a bad person. And freakishly tall, so…
He tells Jack that Sam left him behind, which clearly disturbs Jack. Then he goes on to pretty much tell Jack everything he wants to hear, the way any master manipulator would. You need me…we’re not human… we can escape our past and our sins and start over…
Of course that’s seductive for Jack – he is desperate for a do over, so he can make up for his perceived wrongs and failings. Lucifer plays on that, and also on Jack’s youth and naivete.
Jack: What do we do?
Lucifer: We leave… explore the stars, the planets, the galaxies…
Jack: Like Star Wars?
Me and Alana: Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!
Lucifer: (taking advantage of every opportunity) Want a light saber? A Wookie?
He calls Jack affectionate nicknames like ‘buddy’ or ‘kiddo’, again playing on his longing for his father’s love – a universal thing that seems to persist even when people know that their parent is unable to give it.
And Lucifer does it – he wins Jack over. But first, Jack wants his dad to bring back poor dead Maggie. Lucifer is reluctant. He says it’s not a good idea, that people sometimes come back…different.
Jack: Sam didn’t.
Lucifer: Well, Sam has always been different….
Me and Alana: Damn right!
Sam proves that his “different” is awesome by being smart enough to ask Maggie more about her attack. He’s so gentle as he’s questioning her, so empathic. Both Winchesters, in this episode, are a mix of totally badass when they need to be and strikingly gentle with others who are hurting. Sam knows how disconcerting it is to be dead one minute and then alive again the next, and his conversation with Maggie reflects that understanding. And because of that, Maggie does share what she remembers.
Maggie: I didn’t see his face…but I saw his eyes…
Me and Alana: Lucifer!
The boys try all avenues to figure out where Lucifer is, including “putting Jody on it” – another reminder that the Wayward Sisters characters are staying prominent in the Supernatural universe – and Cas attempting to get information from Angel Radio, which apparently is just static. Not helpful.
There really is never a dull moment in this episode, because Michael (who woke up and walked around that line of holy fire) breaks down the door of the bunker without much trouble. Perhaps he let himself pause behind the holy fire because he knew that he could just stroll into the bunker anyway?
Michael seems to be the kind of guy who likes to put on a show (is it something with archangels?), because Asmodeus got into the bunker too but much more quietly. Michael not only blasts the door open and flashes all the lights, but he theatrically floats down to the floor instead of using the stairs. Christian Keyes can totally pull off dramatic and makes Michael a figure of some majesty (and some fear), which I really appreciate. Inexplicably, Sam and Dean start shooting at him and Cas tries to angel blade him – both of which they had to know weren’t going to do a damn thing. I guess it felt better than just standing there though.
I loved the small moment when Sam tells Mary to run and take Maggie out of there, and Mary looks at him incredulously.
Mary: What?! No!
Me to Alana: Yes! Good response, Mary! I like that she didn’t want to leave her boys behind.
Michael, again going with the theatricality, physically beats up Sam, Dean and Cas even though I’m sure he could have killed them all instantly. With Cas and Sam incapacitated, Michael picks Dean up by the neck and begins to slowly choke him to death, telling Dean that he should be honored to be the first soul that Michael has taken in this new world.
Michael: I could’ve done this quick, but I wanted to enjoy it.
Dean, almost unable to speak, nevertheless chokes out a typical Dean response.
Dean: As Shakespeare once said, eat me, Dickbag!
Oh Dean, I do love you. Defiant til the end. And kudos to Andrew Dabb for putting in that line of explanation, so I didn’t have to wonder why Michael was conveniently dragging it out long enough for something to intervene.
Meanwhile, Smart!Sam is trying desperately to save his brother’s life as Dean is slowly asphyxiated. On his knees and barely able to speak, Sam prays to Jack, telling him, “we need you.”
Jack and Lucifer are having a bonding time looking at the stars, with Lucifer already making some missteps talking about how he’s planning some “improvements” to the world, when Jack hears Sam’s prayer.
Boom! He’s back in the bunker, eyes glowing, hand raised and facing Michael.
Jack: You hurt my friends…my family…
And just like that, Jack takes Michael down.
Me and Alana: Whoa, Jack can do that??
Lucifer (watching from safely behind Jack): Whoa.
Michael falls to the floor, yelling at Lucifer: We had a deal!
Jack immediately starts to realize that the lovely father-son bonding story that Lucifer spun for him may not be quite true. He demands to know what Michael meant, and Dean and Sam fill in the blanks, telling Jack that Lucifer killed Maggie and what he plans for humanity. Lucifer of course denies it, trying to pull Jack back to his side, but Jack has way more power than any of us suspected. He stretches out his hand toward Lucifer, and as Lucifer’s eyes turn into glowy starbursts (very cool, VFX wizards!), Jack demands that Lucifer tell him the truth.
And he does! Lucifer confesses that he killed Maggie.
Lucifer:… So I crushed her skull with my bare hands, and it was warm and wet… and I liked it…
Jack is horrified.
Jack: You’re not my father, you’re a monster!
Lucifer, realizing that his ploy has failed, breaks into a ROAR of pure rage. He knows he’s lost and he is probably also realizing that Jack is so much more powerful than him that he wouldn’t have had the upper hand for long.
And in that moment, we see once again the true face of the devil.
The show chose to portray Lucifer as an almost likable character at some points in this season. At times, I’ve complained about that, questioning whether a redemption arc was coming and very much opposing that. In a recent episode, Lucifer seemed truly hurt in his conversation with Gabriel, so much so that a tear slipped out – and Gabriel was no longer there, so it wasn’t even a ploy. I’m still a little confused about that. I felt like my emotions were being manipulated at the time, and I didn’t know what to make of it or what to expect from the rest of Lucifer’s arc this season.
Now that it’s all played out, I think I’m going to give Show the benefit of the doubt and say that it was brilliantly done. There’s a thing that psychologists recognize called ‘parallel process’, which means that sometimes the things that are challenging your client in their lives start playing out similarly in the therapy relationship. I feel like that’s sort of what happened here. Lucifer, the master of all master manipulators, lured me in at the same time as he lured Jack in. I started to doubt whether all of him was evil, or if at his core he was a wounded being who despite the horrible things he’d done (because I could never put those aside), genuinely wanted a relationship with his son. I started to doubt, and of course that’s exactly how a master manipulator gets under your skin.
The beauty of Lucifer’s arc playing out that way is that in this episode, when Lucifer shows his true nature and his true colors once again, I felt a small version of that same sense of betrayal and foolishness and fury that Jack felt. It feels horrible to be played, to be fooled. To let yourself start to believe in someone’s good intentions and then to find out that they were just using you all along. In this episode, as Jack learns the awful truth about his father, my own emotions about that betrayal made witnessing Jack’s pain all the more powerful. So kudos to Mark Pellegrino and to the writers for taking me on that unwanted journey, because even when it’s unpleasant, that’s good storytelling.
Once Lucifer gives up the pretense of wanting to be the good guy, he returns to the sadistic, cold, cruel being that he was when we first met him. I was horrified by how he treated Jack, how quickly he turned on a dime and showed absolutely no remorse. Not even a lingering ambivalence when it came to his son, which I couldn’t help but see as the same as the coldhearted rejection of so many parents of abandoned or abused children. I literally sat there with my hand over my mouth in horror. And again, as much as I hated that feeling, that is good story telling. I CARE about Jack, so it was excruciating seeing his father turn on him.
Lucifer: I tried with you… I told you what you wanted to hear, man. We could’ve been better gods than Dad.
Lucifer denigrates humans, and Jack protests that he too is part human.
Lucifer practically spits the next insult at him: You’re too much like your mother.
It’s so clear what he’s doing, how he’s already labeled Jack as “other” so he can destroy him. So that any real affection he did have for Jack is eradicated. It was so painful to hear, because for Jack, who is struggling with his identity development and figuring out who he is, his own father just rejected him as an unworthy, unlovable, worthless person. It happens in real life too, and it’s no less heartbreaking.
Lucifer makes the rejection explicit. And devastating.
Lucifer: I don’t want you, I just need your power.
Me: OMG, Jack!
He slices Jack’s throat and steals his grace, leaving Jack weak and helpless.
Sam, who really does love Jack as a son, leaps forward to try to save him.
Cas tries to intervene, and is thrown to the floor.
Lucifer, Jack and Sam disappear, leaving Dean yelling “Sammy!” again, to no avail. He looks devastated.
Me: OMG what just happened?!
Dean: What just happened?!
Me: That’s exactly what I just said!
Michael (crumpled on the floor): The devil won.
Archangels are the shiftiest most manipulative dicks ever, because I think Michael knows just how to goad Dean into doing something he might regret.
Michael: Lucifer has all the power now. He’ll kill the boy – and your brother. This is the end…of everything.
Anyone who knows Dean Winchester even a little bit knows that is the thing to say to get Dean to do whatever it takes to stop that outcome. Sam is in mortal danger, and Dean has proved again and again that he will go to the ends of the earth to save his brother. Jack, who Dean considers family, is in danger. And to top it off, the whole world will probably be ending. How can he NOT do something?
Dean looks anguished, and Jensen Ackles shows us every moment of his agonizing decision. When he turns his gaze to Michael, you can see Dean’s resolve – and his heartbreak.
Dean: What if you had your sword?
Castiel: Dean, no!
Michael is the only one who looks suddenly a lot less hopeless. He regards Dean like he’s looking at the thing he wants most in life.
Michael: Oh I know what you are.
Of course he does! He probably knew all along.
We get a flashback to Season 5, Zachariah and then Gabriel telling Dean that he is the Michael Sword – that Sam and Dean were always meant to be the perfect vessels for Lucifer and Michael.
I usually don’t like flashbacks because I remember the show too well, but in this case, I thought the flashback really worked to emphasize the gravity of this decision. Dean refused so many times, for so long, and now he feels he has no choice. It was also a wonderful feeling of the show circling back around and remembering its own past, which was powerful – it made it all seem like a destiny that you can’t outrun, and that felt BIG.
Cas again begs Dean not to do it, but Dean whirls around, his expression desperate.
Dean: Lucifer has Sam! He has Jack! Cas, I don’t have a choice.
He tells Michael this is a one time deal, and that he’s in charge.
Me and Alana: This isn’t gonna end well…
I think everyone knew that, but I also thought that it was totally in character for Dean to make that decision in that moment, and for him to at least try to make it on his terms.
Meanwhile, in a beautiful church (which is where epic things often go down in Supernatural) Lucifer flings poor Sam around, punching him ruthlessly and leaving him helpless on the floor. There are alot of caps of this moment floating around for some reason…
Lucifer drops a weak and helpless Jack right on the stone floor without a thought, so carelessly it made my blood run cold, then punches Jack just as brutally as he did Sam – with his fists and with his words.
Lucifer (with disdain): I can make more kids…
Sam tries to intervene, and Lucifer scoffs at him.
Lucifer: Daddy Sam coming to the rescue.
Alana (screaming from my couch): He’s more of a dad than you ever were!!
The dialogue in this episode, I swear – OUCH. Kudos Andrew Dabb, it really cut.
Archangels all seem to share that love of drama and theatricality, and more than a little dash of sadism and hubris, because Lucifer also does not opt for a quick death for Sam or for Jack (who he may want alive to keep drinking from…) Instead he tosses an archangel blade onto the floor between them and sets up a mini Hunger Games contest, telling them if one of them kills the other, he’ll give the survivor a chance to stop him from remaking (ie destroying) the world.
This scene was so well done and so tense that Alana and I screamed through most of it, clutching each other and yelling NO NO NO NO NO and various other exclamations as Jack and Sam faced each other. Sam finally picked up the blade, which made me terrified that Sam was just going to kill himself so Jack could live.
Me: NO NO NO Sam, what are you thinking? What is he thinking? OMG Sam, what are you thinking?? Use your words!!
(Yes, I unfortunately know just what I started babbling because alas, it’s all on Alana’s youtube episode reaction video…)
Sam hands the blade to Jack.
Sam: Kill me. You can stop him, Jack.
Jack looks horrified – so do Alana and I.
Jack: No, I can’t beat him. But you can.
Now Alana and I are screaming NO NO NO NO JACK WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOOOOOO!
Jack looks at Sam, his face heartbreakingly sincere and open, full of emotion (because Alex Calvert effing rocks)
Jack: I love you. I love all of you.
And with that, he stabs himself with the archangel blade.
Me and Alana: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
I would have preferred something other than “I love you” – it would have been more powerful if it conveyed that sense in another way. One of the things I loved about Supernatural from day one is that Sam and Dean never had to use those words to show each other how they felt. Bitch-Jerk is a million times more powerful than “I love you” and a lot more in character, and it didn’t seem entirely organic when Jack said it either. I don’t think Cas needed to say it out loud either when he thought he was dying – they know. That’s what makes it so emotional. I wish they would use both those three words and the “family” designation more sparingly to preserve the impact, but maybe that’s just me.
As Jack tries to impale himself with excruciating slowness, the church is lit up in a flash of blinding light, and Jack pauses with the blade only a little in. They all shield their eyes, and across the room, we are all open mouthed at what we see.
Michael!Dean appears, and slowly and majestically his black wings unfurl behind him. It was such a gorgeous shot, Dean’s familiar bow legs juxtaposed with those angelic wings. Jensen plays it perfectly, right down to the roll of his shoulders as the wings slowly unfurl.
Dean: Hiya Sammy.
And so we know that it is in fact Dean.
Then we get an epic fight scene with Rob Hayter’s always amazing fight choreography. Show tackled a huge undertaking by having the fight occur not only on the floor of the church but near the ceiling, which was strikingly high up. I can’t imagine how much work that was for both Ackles and Pellegrino, who had to be in harnesses and wires and still remember their fight choreography – or for the crew who had to film it and make it look believable. I appreciate that they wanted to make it epic, and it was, though I have to admit that wire work often throws me out of the moment. I mean, we do know that Ackles and Pellegrino can’t fly, so obviously we know there’s wire work happening, but I was distracted by the mechanics of it. I would have preferred that same epic fight on the ground, but I guess it makes sense that archangels don’t feel earthbound.
The backdrop of the beautiful stained glass windows and the arched roof of the church made this a truly spectacular scene, so kudos to all the set dec and VFX and many many crew who made it look like it did.
Lucifer, with the help of Jack’s grace, gets the upper hand and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go for a while there, which I did enjoy. His sadism once again lets him take it slowly to savor the moment as he punches Michael/Dean repeatedly. Dean is near unconscious, his head lolling backwards, when Sam picks up the archangel blade and calls to his brother.
Even near death, Dean hears his brother call his name and that Winchester ability to be in sync, honed over all those decades of fighting together, kicks in. Dean’s hand finds the blade Sam has tossed up into the air and wraps around it just as his eyes are starting to glow white.
He plunges the blade into Lucifer.
Lucifer drops Dean, who falls to the floor, and Alana and I watched open mouthed as Lucifer flames out – literally. Flames shoot from his eyes and mouth and his wings start to burn. Again, so many VFX kudos! He crashes to the floor, the outline of his singed wings spread out behind him.
Me and Alana: OMG
Sam and Dean share a moment of unbridled joy and relief – they effing did it. They killed Lucifer.
Dean: Holy crap.
Sam (grinning): You did it.
Dean: (starting to smile too): No. No we did it. We did it.
They grin helplessly at each other, Sam nearly doubling over and laughing with the sheer power of the relief he’s feeling. Jared Padalecki has taken us right along with him portraying Sam’s trauma at the hands of Lucifer and his resulting PTSD, his struggle to cope with and survive it, his empathy for others who have also been traumatized, and finally his tremendous relief at vanquishing his abuser and securing a sense of safety for himself. His acting has never been more nuanced or more powerful than in telling this part of Sam’s story, and I’m so grateful. It made this moment incredibly powerful.
Let me pause a second to say that Dean’s line correcting Sam to emphasize that they did this together was very important – to Sam, I’m sure, but to the fandom. The story of Sam and Lucifer goes way back, and is the main reason most of us could never have been on board with a redemption arc for Lucifer. The damage he did to Sam, the cruelty with which he tormented him and broke him, was too much, too horrible. So many of us wanted to see Sam have this win – to see Sam finally best his abuser and end it. On the other hand, I’m very aware that Dean was traumatized by the extent of his brother’s trauma, and thus holds a special hatred for Lucifer and a burning desire to see Sam’s abuse avenged and to know that Sam no longer feels vulnerable with Lucifer still in the world. Dean, I don’t think, has ever forgiven himself for not being able to keep Sam from plunging into the Cage with Lucifer – for not being able to keep him safe. So for both brothers, killing Lucifer was a monumental victory. They did it TOGETHER. And for me, that made it even more satisfying.
I am also happy with the way this played out because it allowed the full circle of Dean becoming Michael that they averted in Season 5, but it also made Sam just as integral a part of the victory over Lucifer as Dean. I’m going to assume that the reason the entire world wasn’t obliterated in the process once Michael and Lucifer finally had it out had something to do with Lucifer not being in his proper vessel (Sam). Otherwise that whole terror over their showdown having to be averted or else apocalypse now doesn’t make much sense.
I’m not sure exactly what Jack is feeling, because the rollercoaster of emotions he’s been on in the last few hours is…well, I have no idea what it is actually, because WHOA. But he’s still standing, and he’s with the Winchesters, so that’s good.
Alana and I were grinning at each other too, and we all savored that 0.5 seconds of happiness for… well, 0.5 seconds.
Joyous moment comes to an end as Dean doubles over.
Dean: (anguished) We had a deal!
He straightens, and Sam knows immediately. We all know – because somehow Ackles looks not at all like Dean suddenly.
Michael!Dean: Thanks for the suit.
You know what broke me? The way Sam hangs his head as he realizes his brother is gone. To go from that moment of joy to this devastation in such a short amount of time must be … again, I don’t even know. It reminded me of the end of Season 7, when Dean disappeared and Sam had no idea how to get him back. I felt Sam’s heartbreak then, and I felt it again now.
In some ways, I feel like Season 13 was a season of the Show trying to fix some blunders of the past. The killing off of Bobby and Charlie were arguably significant miscalculations of fandom’s affection for those characters, and the AU seems to have afforded a way to bring them back to this world (in AU versions, admittedly, but those versions seem to be getting more and more like the original versions every day). Sam moving heaven and earth to find his brother would make up for the hit-a-dog-and-shack-up-with-Amelia story line that neither Jared Padalecki nor most fans enjoyed. This time Sam has Cas and Jack with him, so hopefully that means he won’t hit a dog and stop looking – that was perhaps my least favorite story line ever because of course Sam would look for Dean.
Which brings us to Season 7 and Dean lost in a different kind of way – inside Michael.
Back at the bunker, Mary and Bobby return to find a devastated Castiel. That close up on Misha Collins’ face as he sits there faced with the knowledge that of course Michael will not keep his side of the bargain, and that Dean is lost to him, was so well done – it hurt to see the pain in his eyes. Cas turned his back on Heaven back in Season 5, it was so important to him that Dean not say yes to Michael. This must be a terrible blow, although I suspect there’s also a part of Castiel that understands why Dean did it. Jack is like a son to him too, after all.
We end with Michael suited up all Peaky Blinders style strolling down a city street. I almost expected something from Saturday Night Fever to play, but instead we get Michael!Dean looking around in wonder at this big world full of possibility – which does not bode well for humanity. Or Dean.
I wish they had ended there, with Michael!Dean looking around curiously. It was so obvious to everyone that Michael was 100% in control, and we didn’t need any further evidence.
As cool as the blue glowy eyes are, I didn’t need to see them. And why we got a close up, then a freeze frame, then a zoom in on the freeze frame, I don’t know. Alana, film maker that she is, immediately was like ‘What the hell?!’
I’m not gonna go on about it, because it was one small thing, but I wish we could have left it out and not diluted the impact of the possession with that last shot.
So that’s the set up for Season 14. Jensen Ackles has said that he had some input into the wardrobe for Michael!Dean, so I can’t help but think that Ackles’ love for Peaky Blinders was influential – and that the actor is probably loving the opportunity to dress up and stretch his acting muscles by playing a different character. On the other hand, nobody loves playing a character as much as Ackles loves playing Dean, so I think he would miss it if the Michael!Dean story line goes on too long. I’m in agreement that the Demon!Dean story line ended way too soon (as are Jared and Jensen), but that was an exploration of Dean and his psyche – he was still Dean. If Michael is in complete control, that means Dean isn’t really on our screens for a while, and I wouldn’t want that to be the case for too long. I’d love to see Dean’s battle to take back control, though, so I hope we’ll see that – and that would mean we’d get some of both Dean and Michael.
We don’t honestly have a clear idea of what Michael even wants, other than the typical villainous “I’ll make over this world and it will be better than it ever was” which invariably means the opposite, and I think he mentioned something about “purifying” which is never EVER a good thing. I mean, he’s clearly not a nice guy, having tortured Mary and Jack and countless others – but I’m not sure what his plan is. For now, he just seems to want to wear stylish clothes and enjoy a world that doesn’t look quite so apocalyptic.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Sam look for Dean this time (unlike Season 8), and to seeing what lengths Sam and Cas and Jack will go to in order to get him back. We’ll get more exploration of Sam and Castiel’s relationship, and also of Castiel’s bond with Jack. All those things are good, but I will probably be longing for them to be reunited with Dean too. I guess that brings me right back to the power of parallel process, doesn’t it?
I am so grateful that Supernatural is still on the air and still telling stories that I’m invested in – I feel incredibly lucky that this is the Show I fell for so many years ago. A big thank you to the amazing hard-working cast and crew who bring the show to life week after week, year after year.
Stocking up on tissues now for Season 14. Who’s with me?
Caps by @kayb625, who has been a rockstar all season grabbing screencaps of all those moments that make this show so special. Much love and gratitude!