Only one more episode of Season 3 of The Boys to go, and I don’t think anyone is ready for this wild ride to be over! This week’s episode, ominously titled “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed” brought one of the biggest revelations of the series, and delivered it in a way that ensured it left a powerful impact. I know some people guessed what was coming, but I wasn’t one of those people, so it left me gobsmacked and repeating WTF more than once. Luckily I love it when this show can surprise me, so this is far from a complaint.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD, SO BE SURE YOU’VE WATCHED THE EPISODE FIRST!
It’s been amusing, as a long time Supernatural fan, to watch the rest of the world discover Jensen Ackles’ acting brilliance as they watch this season of The Boys. He gave a tour de force in this episode, once again making me feel a ridiculous range of emotions that shouldn’t be possible for one character – especially one like Soldier Boy. And yet…
Look, even the official accounts can’t help but get a little heart eyed over this character (and the guy who so vividly portrays him).
More than anything, this episode was about agency and choice, as many of the characters confront their own fears and make decisions about their trajectories in life that acknowledge those fears but refuse to be constrained by them. Homelander and Vought (as now personified by Ashley) continue to hold power by wielding that fear, Ashley utilizing their voicepiece Cameron Coleman to cast doubt on Annie’s accusations. Surely no one can take her seriously when she’s clearly just a woman scorned, and oh by the way, doesn’t she have ties to known terrorists and human traffickers? No wonder she started a home for runaway girls! Imagine a world where the real bad guys take the moral high ground to silence a voice for change and people just believe it…oh wait.
Maeve is one of the characters who has faced the worst case scenario and decided she’s willing to lose it all to go up against Vought and Homelander. He visits her to see if he can find out where Butcher and Soldier Boy are, trying to scare her by saying that Soldier Boy has already killed seven supes and fried the power out of others – reminding her that could happen to any of them. His fear mongering doesn’t work on her anymore though.
Maeve: That’s the difference between you and me. You need to be a supe; I can’t wait til it’s over.
In one of the many parallels in this episode, Homelander recalls almost fondly that at one time he wanted to have kids with Maeve, just as Soldier Boy recalled the same about Crimson Countess previously. In an eerily prescient theme for what’s going on in the real world right now, Homelander assures her that he’d never force himself on her – but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t harvest her eggs against her will to make himself some kids. It’s a shocking attempt to control her body and her reproductive decisions and how the hell are Kripke and this show always so good at predicting the dystopian future?
Maeve refuses to give him the upper hand though, saying that the day is still a top three for her, because she saw him scared. Touche.
Later, Homelander speaks at a rally and attacks Starlight once again when he’s supposed to be rallying in support of candidate Robert Singer (Supernatural’s own Jim Beaver). Homelander is losing it a bit though, hallucinating Soldier Boy in the crowd, his eyes glowing for a second before he gets himself under control. Walking it off, he ends up in a nearby barn where a cow is plaintively mooing. As ‘Crimson and Clover’ starts to play, the scene goes surreal, Homelander milking the cow and looking positively orgasmic while doing it and then drinking the milk right out of the bucket.
Only on The Boys, seriously.
Neuman catches him at it and tells him to pull himself together, offering him some information and a working alliance. That should go well.
A Train wakes up in the hospital with a new heart and an Ashley-written fake news story about how he got it that involves Soldier Boy killing Blue Hawk just as he and A Train were getting along again. Nice cover story, tying up all the loose ends. A Train is ambivalent about going along with all this, but you get the feeling he’s going to cave, drawn back in by the fame and fortune – and Ashley knows it.
Black Noir, on the run and hiding from Soldier Boy, also faces his fears – with the help of Buster Beaver and his cast of cartoon characters. Nathan Mitchell somehow manages to convey all kinds of emotions without saying a word, and it’s a brilliant use of cartoons to depict Noir’s backstory (as this show has done before). Much like Homelander’s heart to heart with his own mirror image, Black Noir’s dream sequence in his head gives voice to his own self doubt and trauma without him having to utter a thing.
It has been an intense 48 hours in The Boys fandom. For those of us who were Supernatural fans before discovering the wonder that is The Boys (back in the first season for me), this season is extra special – because it has Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles joining in the fun as Soldier Boy. The first three episodes of the eight episode season had flashbacks of Soldier Boy, but as far as the boys knew, the original supe was killed back in the 1980s by some mysterious weapon. If it’s a weapon powerful enough to kill Soldier Boy, the boys figure it might be powerful enough to kill Homelander – and by the fourth episode, they set out to find it.
Of course, all of us know that Soldier Boy is more or less alive, thanks to Jensen’s casting and the teaser trailers that show him awakening in some kind of chamber and ripping off a mask and medical equipment and breaking his shackles. All sans clothing. If you’ve ever met an Ackles fan, you know that amped up the anticipation for this episode exponentially.
Ackles made the rounds of talk shows leading up to his character’s memorable entrance this week, chatting with Good Morning America, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and Late Night with Seth Myers. There was so much buzz about Soldier Boy that he even got his own hashtag emoji – with Ackles own face!
Prime Video, The Boys TV and showrunner Eric Kripke made it worse (better?) by teasing the reveal of Ackles’ bare ass, showing off their fandom savvy by using the popular peach emoji and even a photo from the actor’s own Instagram of his backside in a revealing wet bathing suit. Well played, everyone.
Of course, fandom has been using that photo to anticipate this day for a very long time.
The fandom didn’t really need any assistance getting worked up over Episode 4, however. So by Thursday evening, anyone who was able to had logged into their Prime account and was breathlessly awaiting the drop of the new episode. And waiting. And waiting. The hours ticked by and no Episode 4! Some lucky fans found the episode on their Fire sticks, but others had to wait a while – which caused a lot of teeth gnashing, understandably. And a lot of memes.
Kripke and company were using the hashtag #TheHuntForSoldierBoy and suddenly it was literally that! Eric also quipped that Jensen Ackles’ ass had broken the internet, which I guess we all should have seen coming.
Friday morning Prime had fixed the glitch, so I spent the day grinning as my social media feeds posted screencaps and gifs in appreciation of Soldier Boy’s various assets (and argued about them too because…fandom.) There was also, to our credit, a lot of gushing about Ackles’ acting, because even in his first scene, he shows us so much about Soldier Boy and who he is, – and he is so obviously NOT Dean Winchester or any other character that Jensen has played. Ackles manages to convey a formidable sense of power and at the same time clear twinges of vulnerability, confusion and hurt. As soon as this episode ended, I wanted to know MORE.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Not all the spoilers, but there are some coming up since this is the recap article. So if you haven’t watched the episode yet, be warned!
Prime Video has a nifty feature that allows you to see (and hear) longer versions of some of the musical numbers peppered throughout this season, many of them by the brilliant Chris Lennertz, who also enriched Supernatural. This episode starts out with Mother’s Milk watching old video footage of Soldier Boy on ‘Solid Gold’, remembering happier times with his family before it was violently torn apart. As someone who has been a big Blondie fan since back in the day (and remembers Solid Gold and the Solid Gold dancers), it was an absolute treat to see Soldier Boy destroy Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ – and I do mean destroy. Ackles (who I’ve seen sing live many times and impromptu rap to some Ice Ice Baby) managed to make it hilariously bad, while letting Soldier Boy be his cocky ridiculous self and eat up the adoration of the scantily clad dancers fawning over him. If you haven’t watched the extended version yet, do it!
It may have been an… unusual…version of ‘Rapture’, but it did get the official seal of approval on twitter from Blondie’s Debbie Harry herself, so pat yourself on the back, Jensen!
This little scene also gave us more insight into Soldier Boy – how much he’s already addicted to the celebrity status that being a supe has brought him, and how much he’s buying his own hype. He’s affected by the adoration of the dancers who are of course paid to fawn over him – he needs it, and he doesn’t seem to have a clue that it’s not genuine. We saw that in his interaction with young Grace too, in a previous flashback – how hard it hits him when she shatters his illusion that people like him and want to sleep with him. It’s just a little flinch, a little quiver of the lip, a dropped gaze as the bravado slips – but Ackles makes it pack a punch.
Other than that kind of little interlude, this is a dark dark episode. Written by Supernatural alum Meredith Glynn, every single character has an evolution that plays out in this episode, and none of them are going in a positive direction. The sense of hopelessness is pervasive, broken only by some dark humor and some moments of mirroring things that are dark in the real world, which always feels therapeutic to me.
Butcher’s evolution from trying to be a father figure to Ryan and stay on the straight and narrow, to being sucked right back into revenge being all that matters and willing to make himself a monster to achieve it, was heartbreaking to watch. The parallels between Homelander and Butcher get more glaring all the time, and it’s terrifying.
It’s not just taking the Temp V either – it’s Butcher’s willingness to muscle everyone and anyone into doing what he believes needs to be done, no matter the cost to them. Wielding power means getting other people to do what you want, even if it destroys them in the process. He sends Kimiko on a murderous mission as pay for Little Nina’s help, even though she does not want to go and Frenchie tries to stand up for her.
Kimiko: I’m not your fucking gun!
Butcher: That’s exactly what you are. In case you two forgot, I tell you what to do and you fucking do it.
Hughie following the same path into prioritizing revenge over everything else was even more heartbreaking. Completely demoralized from finding out that the year he spent working with Neuman was just him being manipulated by one more dangerous homicidal supe, all he cares about now is bringing them down. And doing whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it means putting Annie’s mental health on the line by asking her to play along with Homelander. I felt sick to my stomach when she had to kiss him for the cameras, hand clenched into a fist behind her back just like she had to do at those long ago pageants her mother forced her to fake some love for. Hughie, who had managed to hang onto his moral compass, letting so much of it go – that hurt.
I figured it was coming, but when Hughie finds out that Butcher is shooting up Temp V (with the show purposely looking exactly like he’s shooting up heroin), he is far enough down the road of revenge-at-all-costs that he wants some too.
Butcher: It’s poison. I have to do this, you don’t.
Hughie’s reason for wanting V also has to do with power, but for him the compelling reason has to do with his own masculine identity and how that gets mistakenly tied up with specific notions of power and strength. He wants it in part because Homelander humiliated him in front of Starlight. He felt weak and helpless, flashing back to being a kid at school, bullied unmercifully and just taking it. The fact that Starlight had to save him is intolerable to him – and we’re right back to themes of toxic masculinity. Hughie says he’s so angry that he can’t even breathe, and doesn’t that sound frighteningly familiar?
Butcher: Oh Hughie. This shit, it’s not power – it’s punishment. You don’t deserve it.
That’s a recurring question on this season of The Boys. Is Compound V something that makes you powerful and potentially keeps you safe, or is it a curse that turns you in to a weapon to be controlled and wielded by others to keep their own power? Multiple characters struggle with that question by the mid point in the season.
Frenchie and Kimiko, by this episode, are tired of being wielded as weapons. Frenchie is increasingly fed up with being treated like a dog by everyone – as Little Nina points out, starting with his father, continuing with her, and now playing out with Butcher. There’s a pointed moment when Butcher literally pets him like a dog to calm him down and to insist that he go along with what Butcher wants him to do – you can see him bristle at it. Such good, subtle acting by both Tomer and Karl.
Kimiko is fed up too, reluctantly obeying Butcher when he orders her on that mission – which gives her the chance to take out the bad guy in an epic fight scene with The Seven-themed dildos as her weapon of choice – but realizing that to the prostitutes she just saved, she’s more terrifying than the bad guy was. She and Frenchie grow even closer as they share their frustration and disillusionment.
Kimiko: I can’t do this. Those girls, they were bought and sold, same as me. Butcher sold me. He doesn’t treat any of us as people. We only have each other. It’s you and me.
Supernatural fans recognize that line as a Kripke-ism, one of the main themes of that show. There’s a reason I love all of Kripke’s shows – the themes he tackles are universal ones, and I invariably relate. It’s always a compelling story when it’s you and me against the world.
The truly astounding PR for The Boys Season 3 has included a complex multi-platform in-world and real-world intersection of all kinds of content, from the fictional Vought social media as well as The Boys. The various Prime Video accounts also got into the act. There was a website for The Deep’s new book and an Audible version, and yesterday I stumbled on a website with The Seven themed sex toys like the ones Kimiko used to kill the bad guy. It’s mind blowing how much they’ve done and how brilliant it all is.
Mother’s Milk hangs onto some sense of morality for a little longer, Butcher’s treatment of Kimiko and Ryan prompting him to say what I might have been muttering – what an asshole Butcher is. We get more of Marvin’s backstory as a result, Butcher confiding that the reason they picked “some gruff Marine stuck in the brig” for the team was because every single person he went through basic training with said he was the one who held their platoon together. Butcher pulls MM back in, telling him he’s the one that is here to look after the boys. Butcher’s manipulation may sometimes be more subtle than Homelander’s, but they are both damn good at it.
There is just as much chaotic evolution on the supes side.
Homelander continues his downward slide, buoyed by the realization that he really can do whatever he fucking wants – including being his powerful, violent, vengeful self. He’s now discovered that his followers will continue to follow him even when he overtly expresses his violent, racist, misogynistic side – especially when it resonates with theirs. Does this sound familiar?? He’s a master at manipulation, constantly using the “lighten up, I’m just kidding” excuse after overt threats. He has a key to Starlight’s apartment, insinuates that he’s been watching her sleep, signs his name on Hughie’s cast like he owns it, knowing it’s unwanted. It’s chilling.
A Train’s desperation to be relevant again leads him to try to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement and claiming he wants to explore his background. His motivation is mostly selfish, but his brother convinces him that there is a very real problem in their neighborhood (reflecting real life) and A Train actually tries to convince Ashley to do something about it.
A Train: He’s brutalizing black people in Trenton, and Vought has a responsibility here.
Ashley: (laughing then pausing) Oh, wait, you’re serious? Oh, of course, social justice is so important around here. Black Lives Matter is my favorite hashtag. My Insta? Nothing but black screens.
Priceless exchange skewering every disingenuous social media post ever. (Also we get more priceless Ashley content in this episode, including Homelander demanding to know “is your idiot brain getting fucked by stupid?” and Ashley turning that around on Cameron Coleman, who seems happy to say yes if it will get him fucked for real by Ashley’s impressive Homelander themed strap on. Powerful corporation in bed with news station…)
Vought’s response is an ad for A Train’s Turbo Rush energy drink in which he joins a march and gives a can to an officer confronting the protestors – and suddenly everyone is smiling and dancing. It’s a deliberate reflection of the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, and it was one of those dark humor moments that I so appreciate.
A Train even gets up the guts to talk to Homelander about the racist supe Bluehawk and the over patrolling of black neighborhoods, which is quickly foiled by The Deep parroting Cassandra’s message of “don’t we need more supes, not less?” which Homelander is much more receptive to. A Train is furious at the sabotage, and he and the Deep end up in a fistfight in the hallway, trading threats and then punches. Homelander breaks it up and gives the Deep a hand, leaving A Train on the ground and telling him to “rest those useless fucking legs.”
Queen Maeve, after giving Butcher the lead on Soldier Boy and the weapon that supposedly killed him, has also been on the straight and narrow – constantly training instead of sex and drink and drugs – hoping to at least buy the boys a second or two to get in a good shot at Homelander. Starlight confronts her about her hopelessness and willingness to sacrifice her own life for that shot at revenge.
Starlight: You really care that little about yourself?
Supernatural fans recognize that as another Kripke-ism, an iconic line from Supernatural in similar words when Bobby confronts Dean about his determination to sacrifice himself to save Sam.
Starlight pulls an informal team together against Homelander, with her supe ex boyfriend Supersonic, Queen Maeve and even A Train seeming like they’re on board with the take down. I won’t spoil exactly how that goes, because it packs a gut punch and needs to be seen and experienced.
Meanwhile, no one can be trusted not to betray anyone else, and I don’t think anyone saw it coming that Homelander would ally with Neuman and she would turn on her father figure/mentor Stan Edgar. It’s a recurring theme that when you manipulate people and use them as a weapon, they will eventually turn on you – Edgar learns that the hard way. Homelander echoes the same theme that Kimiko and Frenchie recognized.
Homelander: You’re not his daughter, you’re his weapon. That’s what they do, all of them.
He leaves Neuman with some original recipe V, saying he’s glad she chose “your own kind.” What do you suppose she wants that for? I won’t spoil it, because it made me gasp.
Edgar is defiant even if he’s no longer in charge, forgiving Neuman since he’s the one who taught her to “play all sides”. When Homelander tries to gloat, Stan retorts that if he gave Homelander respect it would just go into that “bottomless pit of insecurity you call a soul” and calls him out for looking for Edgar’s approval “like I’m your daddy.”
Edgar: You’re not a god, you are simply bad product.
And that constant dehumanizing has taken a toll, that’s for sure. Also this show is all about the daddy issues, just saying.
But those weren’t the scenes many of us were waiting for with so much anticipation. Soldier Boy’s dramatic entrance scene did not disappoint – and could not have been more iconic. The boys break into the lab to hopefully find the weapon that killed Soldier Boy. Instead they find a harmless looking hamster in a cage. Frenchie makes the mistake of talking to cute little Jamie, who turns out to be a supe hamster who goes suddenly crazy, bouncing off the walls and breaking the glass of his enclosure to escape. That brings guards and an epic fight scene ensues. Jamie helps out by flying through the air like the Monty Python rabbit in The Holy Grail and eating a guard’s face, but the boys run out of ammo and the guards are still coming.
The scene gets even more epic then, as the rest of the boys find out about Butcher’s temporary powers in a dramatic way. In a scene reminiscent of Castiel’s dramatic entrance in Supernatural, Butcher walks through the lab as the guards fire at him repeatedly, bullets shattering glass all over, flashes of light from the shots illuminating the room, rock music playing, laser eyes glowing green. We also get unexpected naked Hughie in this scene, for reasons I won’t spoil but you can probably guess and that also result in him punching one of the guards so hard it has a….dramatic result. They take out all the guards, and then Butcher turns to a large container.
He pulls the door off with brute strength.
The boys all gather around as steam pours from the opened container with a hissing noise, and slowly we see there’s a person inside, oxygen mask on and tubes keeping him alive. Naked. He wakes slowly, raising his head, looking confused, disoriented, gradually figuring it out.
He takes off the mask, rips off the tubes and sensors.
Snaps the restraints that are holding him down like they’re butter.
Butcher stares, whispers “Soldier Boy.”
Much of the fandom also stares and whispers, more like “omfg those shoulders holy shit”…
The others gape, Mother’s Milk looking horrified and Laz Alonso making his expression memorable.
Soldier Boy staggers out, holding onto the sides of the container, then turns toward the boys.
We get a full shot of Ackles in his birthday suit, most of us shocked into silence by that point just like the boys who are staring too.
Steam billows around him as he faces the people who have inadvertently freed him.
Here, have a screencap too, this is a pivotal moment.
This is one of the steamier ones – not that kind of steamy, though it is undeniably that kind of steamy too! Steamy to preserve a little blurriness and leave something to the imagination…
Soldier Boy stumbles, and energy starts to gather, the room humming with it.
He clutches his midsection and Kimiko realizes what’s about to happen, throwing herself in front of Frenchie just as a ball of energy explodes out of him, sending Kimiko flying backwards with such force that she breaks through multiple concrete walls.
Supernatural fans gasped a little extra at the exposed rebar protruding from the concrete, remembering all too vividly how Dean Winchester died.
Soldier Boy staggers out of the building, and the boys put a badly injured Kimiko in the van, Frenchie exclaiming over and over again that she’s not healing, Mother’s Milk trying desperately to save her.
Mother’s Milk turns to Butcher as he drives, Butcher and Hughie still frighteningly focused on their revenge mission instead of the gravely injured Kimiko.
Mother’s Milk: It’s over, Butcher. Ain’t no team for me to hold together anymore. You made sure of that.
If that scene doesn’t pack enough gut punch for you, the final one that I won’t spoil most certainly will. Hang on tight.
The fandom has been busy doing what fandoms do best ever since the episode aired – giffing and screencapping the Soldier Boy scene from every conceivable angle and discussing the relative merits of Jensen Ackles’ ass. It’s not an unfamiliar discussion for Supernatural fans – way back in Season 1 of the show, this shot of Dean Winchester’s backside resulted in what the fandom called the Ackles Ass Equation. It popped up on my timeline again today, 16 years later – some things never change!
All the fuss about his ass notwithstanding, even without any dialogue, Jensen Ackles made Soldier Boy a compelling character right from the start. He has always been able to convey more with a facial expression than many can with a page of dialogue, and we could see his confusion and vulnerability as he wakes up from what looks like it must have been a pretty horrific captivity. Shades of Dean Winchester thrown into hell for 30 years!
The scene was also beautifully filmed and directed, the steam everywhere making everything surreal, and if possible, making Ackles look even more beautiful. He has talked about how intimidating it was to have your very first day on set involve you in a robe and then the director saying okay, take off your robe now, and then the only thing between you and your new coworkers is a sock! (Karl Urban posted this bts photo from that day with a robe-clad Jensen -and that scary looking rebar!)
I can’t even imagine how intimidating that is, but you’d never know that by looking at the expression on his character’s face – he is in the moment, and embarrassment is the last thing he’s feeling. I guess that’s the mark of a good actor!
Jensen has told the story of that first day on set several times at recent Supernatural conventions, along with Supernatural costar Jared Padalecki – who has been waiting for those revealing scenes right along with us.
Let me just say that if you were fascinated by Ackles’ performance and by Soldier Boy in this episode, you won’t be disappointed by next week’s episode of The Boys, which drops once again at some point between Thursday night and Friday for where I am in the US. Just another reason to look forward to Fridays!
And here’s some more good news that dropped yesterday just to make the day even better – not that we were doubting it, but The Boys is renewed for Season 4!
We’ll have to wait and see if Soldier Boy returns, because much like Supernatural, anything can happen – fingers crossed!
I have long said that the music of Supernatural has had a significant impact on the show – making it memorable and especially giving it the emotional resonance that it had for all fifteen seasons. That’s not something that every genre “horror show” can say, and I’m not sure any can say it with as much pride as Supernatural. The music added so much to the emotional impact of the series finale, so I was excited to talk to composer Jay Gruska about scoring that episode and the emotional episode ‘Despair’, as well as his fifteen years working on my favorite show.
As with many of the people working on SPN (and another thing that made it so unique and wonderful), the same two composers worked on the show for its entire run – Christopher Lennertz (now working with Eric Kripke on ‘The Boys’) and Jay Gruska. I’ve talked to Jay several times over the course of the show – he contributed to ‘Supernatural Psychology’ for the chapter on music in the show – so I know how insightful he is about how music is used on the show. Chris and Jay tend to alternate episodes, so Jay scored all the even numbered episodes of Season 15, including the final episode, ‘Carry On’, and episode 15.18, Castiel’s goodbye episode, ‘Despair’.
The week before we spoke, I had done a Supernatural music panel at the Southwest Popular Culture Association conference with two friends and colleagues devoted to the most recognizable musical theme in the show, ‘Americana’, which Jay composed. We had invited him to do the panel with us, but he was unable to make it due to a family party. Luckily he and I were able to coordinate our schedules for a phone chat afterwards though.
Jay: That’s amazing about the panel, and kinda flattering and sweet. I’m so bummed that I missed it, I would have loved to share my experience from my end.
Lynn: I don’t think that many composers get an entire panel devoted to one single piece of music at an academic conference – but that’s how important ‘Americana’ is to Supernatural fans.
The Emotional Rollercoaster of ‘Carry On’
Lynn: I know you read my review of the series finale so you know that I loved the barn scene even though it was incredibly painful to watch, but it was such a masterful scene. I was talking to Jensen about it recently and said that he and Jared killed it, and also that the music makes it so much more emotional. That whole piece, the piano then the strings, and then the most familiar part of Americana in the middle…
Jay: Right. As you know more than anyone, I try my best to not use Americana just at the drop of a hat. I try to really respond to when a scene is asking for it. I’ve probably made a misstep or two along the way as far as some fans are concerned – I used it once with Jack, but boy, I heard from people right away like hey, he’s not family! And I was like well yes he is to me! But don’t mess with the Supernatural fandom.
Lynn: So true. We’re passionate, that’s for sure. And some people would definitely agree with that and some wouldn’t.
Jay: But let’s start with those performances (Jensen and Jared). Because I’m gonna be crude right now and say that without performances like that, which don’t come along often, if there’s a scene where someone is not pulling it off? You’re basically polishing a turd with the music.
Jay: My job and particularly that scene, which I count as in the top two or three if not the most emotional, well acted, just hearts-on-their-sleeves as actors and as humans moments in the whole run of the show…
I don’t know why I ever entertained the thought that Supernatural might go out without all kinds of emotions and reactions, since the show has always inspired those in its fans – so why should its last few episodes be any different? The week before’s episode (Despair) brought intense and varied reactions and saw the loss of Castiel; this past week’s episode was very different but it somehow managed to engender varied reactions again. We didn’t lose any of the remaining three major players, however, and I’m still shocked about that. I had convinced myself, in an attempt to somehow prepare myself for the anguish, that either Sam or Dean or both were going to die in 15.19. I was so on edge I could barely think of anything else on Thursday (which makes work challenging) and I had my box of tissues and glass of wine at the ready. Slice of pie too, and fuzzy blankie, just in case. Not that any of that is going to be all that helpful next week, probably. But I was so convinced that we were losing at least one of them, that I spent most of the episode hyperventilating and hypervigilant, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And then…. it didn’t.
Until the moment the credits rolled, I was half hiding my face behind my hands certain that something horrible was going to happen and take all the good feelings away. I sat there in shock for a good few minutes after, probably muttering out loud “is that… it?”
It was also confusing because this penultimate episode (forgive me, but everyone in this fandom is using that word because it holds special meaning to us and how often do you get to use it properly?) – anyway, this penultimate episode felt so much like the end. Like the series finale, not just the season finale. There were lots of “let’s just leave it right here, okay?” posts on Thursday night. This fandom does not get to have feel-good endings. It just doesn’t happen. Not as a season finale, that’s for sure. We’ve been so conditioned to tragedy befalling us if we let our guard down, I think there was a collective “HUH?” from all over the world when this episode ended and Sam and Dean were still alive – and Jack was… Well, Jack. But also, for all intents and purposes, God.
The writers of this episode are not fandom favorites, which also made me nervous. They’re known for episodes that have so much going on, it makes your head spin, and this episode wasn’t an exception to that. There were things that made me scratch my head, but they also managed to tie up a ridiculous number of loose ends in a relatively satisfying way, so I’m not going to quibble too much. Maybe I just desperately needed something that felt like a happy ending, because I’m willing to just let myself feel good about this one. There is only one more episode left, and I want to hang onto any good feelings I can find about my favorite show EVER, for five days longer.
Special kudos for the amazing music in this episode, which really enhanced the story and made me feel more than I might have. Christopher Lennertz and Jay Gruska have knocked it out of the park so many times for so many years, making Supernatural so much more powerful and emotional than it would have been without their talent and how much they care about the show. I’m so appreciative. This episode was Lennertz; the series finale will be Gruska.
How many boxes of tissues will I need when the Winchester family theme plays for the last time? I don’t think there are enough in the universe.
The episode picks up pretty much where ‘Despair’ left off, Sam and Jack realizing the world is empty as we see scenes of empty streets in cities all over the world, mournful music playing that makes the scene so much more cinematic than it would have been otherwise.
Dean drives up to join them, finding a shell-shocked Sam and Jack.
Sam: I couldn’t save anybody…
Jack: (looking stricken already) Where’s Cas?
Dean: He saved me. Cas is gone. Jack, I’m sorry.
Dean still looks in shock, barely able to meet Jack’s eyes, his jacket still bearing Castiel’s bloody handprint.
Jack gasps, heartbroken. Sam looks even more shocked and guilt-stricken than before. He calls people, getting only cell phone answer messages. That little detail seemed so real, like exactly what any of us would do, unable to believe that everyone is really gone.
The three walk down the deserted street, mournful eerie music playing, into a deserted diner with the beer tap still running, like the best apocalypse fanfic. (With a little homage to Jensen’s Family Business Beer Co)
The diner itself is called “Sammy’s” and it resulted in some amusing tweets about bringing all the boys to the yard, because fandom knows how to have fun even in the midst of an apocalypse.
Jack calls to Castiel, but gets no response. As he walks dejectedly by some plants and trees, they wither and die as he passes.
Sam can’t shake his guilt.
Sam: I did this. We didn’t give Chuck what he wanted, we tried to rewrite him and the whole world paid the price…
Dean and Jack disagree, and Jack is the one who speaks the message that will always be inextricably linked with this show for me.
Jack: You can’t just give up.
Always Keep Fighting.
The Winchesters do seem to give up, though. They meet up with Chuck and tell him he’s won, that they’ll give him what he wants.
Sam: We’re giving up.
Dean: I’ll kill Sam, he’ll kill me. We’ll kill each other. But first, you have to put it back – the people, the birds, Cas. You gotta bring him back.
They are willing, both of them, to sacrifice themselves to save the world – as they have always been.
Chuck really is sadistic, though. He doesn’t find that story ending as compelling as he thought, deciding to leave the Winchesters and Jack wandering through a deserted world, dealing with their overwhelming guilt.
Chuck: Knowing it’s this way because you wouldn’t take a knee.
Three more episodes of Supernatural to go before the show comes to an end, so my highly emotional investment in every episode continues. Everyone is different in their way of coping with the show ending – some are pulling away, trying to protect themselves from the impending loss. Some are more invested than ever, determined to savor every last moment with their favorite characters. Some are just trying to hang on until the end. I’m clearly doing a terrible job of protecting myself or pulling away, since near the end of this episode I ended up bursting into tears and simultaneously screaming at fictional characters on my television as though they were standing in my living room. With gun drawn.
I’ve never loved a show that I knew so well that I had different expectations for an episode depending on who its writers were – until Supernatural. I like Meredith Glynn’s writing a lot, so I was already emotional knowing this was her swan song episode for Supernatural (though I’m excited she’s joining the SPNFamily who are over at The Boys next season!) Of course it’s not the writer who decides where the story arc goes, though, especially at this point in the series. I guess all that is to say I went into this episode with both anticipation and trepidation – and came out with a lot of feelings (and also profoundly emotionally exhausted). Mostly the episode worked for me, even if I had to do a fair amount of thinking about it to be okay with all of it. But I used up a lot of tissues in the process.
The episode title (“Unity”) tells us what will happen in it, which was inevitable considering there are only three episodes left. On each side, those who were ostensibly on the same team but at odds needed to come together so we could go into those final episodes with the battle lines clearly drawn. Sometimes that means plot comes before character in order to get from Point A to Point B, and that never makes me the happiest, especially with a show that I watch for the characters more than for the plot. Ideally the two goals aren’t antithetical. So with the title, we already knew where we were headed – it was just a matter of how to get there and would I enjoy the ride?
The first scene was very pretty. Amara in a pool in Iceland (which according to Emily Swallow was filmed in frigid weather, so argh poor Emily). Shooting stars fill the sky, reflected in her eyes as she looks up, and she says softly, “Welcome home, brother.”
Supernatural really is a sibling story, and Amara’s feelings for Chuck are as deep and complicated as Sam and Dean’s for each other. She’s a sympathetic character in this episode, which made me feel very bad for her throughout.
Much of the episode unfolds simultaneously, so they used chapter title cards of ‘Dean’ ‘Sam’ and ‘Amara’ to let us know that – which hasn’t been done before, so it pulled me out of the story momentarily. I don’t think we needed them, but I guess I see what they were going for.
At the bunker, Sam calls Cas, both of them frustrated at running into dead ends as they desperately try to ‘find another way’. Sam gives Dean the cold shoulder, things between the brothers strained and chilly after their car argument last episode.
Dean: So this is how it’s gonna be, you giving me the silent treatment?
They fall right into another argument, Dean insisting that “this is the only way” and Sam snapping back, “Don’t you ever get tired of saying stuff like that? Our last chance, our one shot…”
He’s so angry he’s ridiculing Dean, making fun of him for his sincerity and insistence.
Although both have a point here, really, since other times when they’ve let themselves be talked out of making a sacrifice, there have certainly been consequences, whether AU hunters being slaughtered by Michael or releasing the Darkness or Billie becoming Death or whatever. There are no simple answers on Supernatural.
Dean insists that they don’t have to like it – and he clearly doesn’t like it – but “you and me, we gotta get it done.”
The “you and me” theme runs through the episode, for both pairs of siblings, as they struggle to get back on the same page. I really like Meredith’s examination of the bond between siblings and how deep it runs, and how complex it can be – something the show has always had as an underlying theme.
Amara interrupts their argument to let them know Chuck is back, and to ask how they’re planning to cage him (which of course, they aren’t.)
Amara: When God caged me, he had four archangels. Do you have four archangels?
Dean: No. We’ve got one Jack.
It was possibly the only humorous beat in the episode that made me snicker – much of the episode was more about reaching for the tissues than laughing. Emily Swallow can pull off both the snarky and the sad, and she does both in this episode.