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The Official Christmas Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 3.08: A Very Supernatural Christmas [AUGMENTED]

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The archived page of the original Innsmouth Free Press version of this recap and review can be found here on Archive.org.

Tagline: The Brothers investigate a series of mysterious Christmastime disappearances where the victims appear to have been kidnapped from their beds and dragged up the chimney. Could it be…Santa?

Recap: No Then recap. None whatsoever. Nada. Instead, we get that spinning, multicoloured “Special” Presentation CBS intro from waaaaayyy back. Then we cut to an instrumental version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and a grandfather arriving at a house in Seattle, Washington a year ago. His beloved grandson asks Grandpa if he brought any presents and Grandpa says maybe Santa will bring some.

Later, Grandpa dresses up as Santa and mimes pulling presents out of a sack for his wide-eyed grandson, who is hiding on the stairs. But things go a bit awry when he hears something on the roof that starts to come down the chimney. The kid innocently thinks it’s Santa’s reindeer. When Grandpa goes to investigate, he is brutally yanked up the chimney and killed, right in front of his horrified grandson. As the boy says hesitantly, “Santa?” a bloody boot drops down the chimney.

Cue an exploding red-orange Christmas ornament and demon hands into some cool title cards that say, “A Very SUPERNATURAL Christmas” with the first two and last words in red, the “Supernatural” in blue, and a little red Santa hat on the first “A”, all with a frosty frame and a black background with falling snow. Not to mention the jingling bells in the background as the “Very” blinks and goes out.

Cut to Ypsilante, Michigan, present day. Dean, dressed in a suit and posing as an FBI agent, is interviewing a woman whose husband, Mike, is missing. Her pre-teen daughter stands, looking shocky, perfectly framed behind glass in the doorway. On the porch hangs a Nutcracker figure and a wreath with pinecones, a white bow and pretty white flowers. The mom says she and her daughter were asleep upstairs, while her husband was downstairs, getting presents ready. She heard a thump and scream from her husband, but then he just disappeared.

Sam comes out of the house, also in a suit, and thanks her for letting him use the facilities. Giving us a start to the episode’s timeline (that it’s now two days before Christmas), the woman asks Dean what he thinks is going on and whether her husband is still alive. Dean has no answers for her. Even grimmer, Sam just tells her, “We’re very sorry.”

As the Boys leave, Sam shows Dean what he found: a bloody tooth in the chimney. Dean points out that full-grown men can’t go up chimneys and Sam replies, “Not in one piece.” In other words, Mike is probably dead.

My God, those two look young. And poor. I first did this recap and review in 2009, but “A Very Supernatural Christmas” is even more relevant now in “Hard Candy Christmas” 2020.

Back at the motel, Sam is looking at illustrations of medieval demons with black faces and red, lolling tongues on his computer. Dean comes in from a food run and asks him how they’re doing. Dean mentions his theory about a “serial-killing chimney sweep” and Sam references Dick Van Dyke. Dean pretends to have no idea who Dick Van Dyke is. Clearly, he’s teasing Sam about Sam’s alleged Disney fetish. Dick Van Dyke about single-handedly introduced generations of children to the concept of Victorian and Edwardian era chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins (1964). There’s no way Dean wouldn’t know about him.

My mom took me to see Mary Poppins when I was very little (maybe three or four) during a revival when Disney put it back out in theaters. I liked it. My mom, not so much. Still not sure why, but the negative portrayal of the suffragette mom in the film might have had a hand in it (My mom was hugely into feminism from before I was born). Then, when I was seven, my dad took me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in the theater, with his mistress-of-the-hour, not long before Christmas. Yeah, my childhood relationship to Disney is a little, uh, different.

Anyhoo, Dean (backed by a lovely sepia-toned mural of a winter landscape while taking off John’s jacket) has done some interviewing around town. It turns out that the missing person they were just investigating (last name “Walsh”) was the second to disappear out of his house that month. No one saw him go up the chimney, but they did “hear a thump on the roof.”

Sam says he has a theory, but Dean may think it’s crazy – he thinks it’s “Evil Santa.” Dean allows that this sounds crazy. Sam says that there’s “some version of “Anti-Claus in every culture” and that this might be “Santa’s shady brother.” (No, there is no legend I’ve found about Santa’s evil brother, but there are definitely legends about Bad Santas, albeit only in cultures with a strong Christian base.) He references Belsnickel, Krampus and Black Peter as figures who “went rogue” (They’re actually working for St. Nick, not against him) and showed up to “punish the wicked” instead of leaving presents. Dean points out that this theory can’t be true because there is no Santa Claus and Sam retorts that he knows – Dean was the one who told him.

This is said with a bit of a whine (Sam blaming Dean for John’s terrible parenting for the millionth time), but then Sam admits he could be wrong (spoiler alert: He is). Dean says, “Maybe not.” He did some research of his own on the victims. It turns out that they went to the same place right before they disappeared.

Cut to a dispirited guy dressed in a furry reindeer costume as he heads out (presumably on break) under a battered Santa sign past a mom and some enthusiastic kids running in, the Brothers Winchester, and some wooden stand-ups of three Wise Men and a sheep. He says hi to the other teen dressed as an equally shabby elf, who’s manning the entrance. “All Because of Mr. Santa Claus” by Hal David and John Cacavas, from the rockin’ album In the Christmas Swing, blares on the loudspeaker throughout the scene. There is no snow anywhere, which makes the place look much worse.

The Brothers are going to one of those ugly and depressing Christmas Villages, arguing on the way whether they should celebrate Christmas or not. They don’t notice (and I don’t think they care, either) that Elf Kid is staring after them and having a discussion (presumably about two grown men walking around a place for kids) about them. Dean wants to do it up right this year (with Boston Market, no less) because it’s his last Christmas before his deal comes due and he goes to Hell. Sam doesn’t want to do it because he’s depressed for the same reason – next year, Dean won’t be there.

Also, Sam remembers that they had horrible Christmases during their childhood and doesn’t want to repeat the experience. Annoyed and perhaps a bit hurt, Dean calls him a Grinch and walks away. Sam stares at a cross-eyed plastic reindeer and we’re cued into a flashback of the Boys as kids in a truly nasty motel, alone, in Broken Bow, NB in 1991 on Christmas Eve. They’re watching the end of The Year without a Santa Claus, and “Jingle Bells” is on the soundtrack (though on the original soundtrack, it was “Here Comes Santa Claus”).

Young Sam is wrapping a present. When Dean asks him who it’s for and where he got the money (“Did you steal it?”), Sam says it’s something “special” that he got from Bobby for their father, John. Dean shrugs and throws himself down on the couch next to Sam, pulling out a Hot Rod magazine that he briefly reads before tossing it aside. He’s clearly restless.

Every wonder what kind of hunt would have John neglecting his kids on Christmas?

After Dean reassures him that John will be home from “business” (Dean claims he’s a traveling salesman) in time for Christmas, Sam keeps asking Dean questions about why they have to move around all the time, what their father John does for a living, whether John will be home for Christmas, how their mom died. Dean loses his temper and yells at Sam never to mention their mother again. Then he goes out for a while to cool down.

When Dean comes back, he’s brought Sam dinner (junk food and soda). Sam prods him some more about John, noting that Dean sleeps with a gun under his pillow (Keep in mind that Dean is all of 12 in this flashback). Dean gets mad about Sam snooping through his things, but he really gets upset when Sam (all pissy and self-righteous) pulls out John’s journal, which he managed to steal from his father. Dean (rightly) points out that John is not going to be pleased when he finds out.

Sam demands to get The Talk, so, after some reluctance and a clumsy, failed attempt at gaslighting, Dean gives it to him straight (while threatening to “end you” if Sam ever tells John Dean told him). He tries to explain to Sam about monsters and that John is a “superhero” and so on. Santa isn’t real, but most everything else is.

This only depresses Sam even more because he disappears up his own backside “that they could get us. They could get me!” He becomes convinced that the monsters will get John the way he read they got their mother Mary. Despite Dean’s reassurances, Sam goes to bed in tears (Well, kid, you did insist). Dean mournfully assures him that everything will be better when he wakes up.

Back in the present, Dean yanks Sam out of his reverie by complaining that it cost them $10 to get into the place. He then asks Sam again what they’re looking for (Obvious infodump dialogue is obvious, Show). Sam says that “the lore says” their target “will walk with a limp and smell like sweets.” Calling this “Pimp Santa,” Dean asks why and Sam says it’s to attract the kids. That really grosses Dean out (and probably half the audience).

The Boys spot a guy who seems to fit the criteria. He’s the Santa at the Christmas Village, he’s clearly an old lecher, he “smells like sweets” (though Sam thinks it’s Ripple wine), and he limps. We see a young boy on his lap who looks pretty weirded out until his mom rescues him.

A young woman dressed as an elf welcomes the Brothers “to Santa’s Court” and asks them about escorting their “child to Santa.” After Dean says that it’s been Sam’s “lifelong dream” to sit on Santa’s lap, she, very disconcerted, says that the age limit is 12 and under. Sam makes the mistake of saying “We’re just here to watch” and when the elf girl backs away, looking extremely creeped out, an amused Dean throws him under the bus by playing along with her image of Sam as a pedophile, to Sam’s discomfort.

The Brothers snap right to business, though, when Santa goes on break. As he limps past them, they argue over whether he smells like “sweets” or cheap booze, but Dean points out, “Are you willing to take that chance?” (There’s a really funny bit on the Season 3 blooper reel from this exchange.)

Later that night, they stake out his trailer, which has MERRY CHRISTMAS in huge letters on top, a sad string of lights along the edge of the roof, and three wooden stand-ups of singing polar bears out front. Dean asks Sam why he’s “the Boy Who Hates Christmas.” After citing their lousy childhood again (Dean allows they “had a few bumpy holidays”), Sam grumps that he doesn’t care if Dean has Christmas by himself. Dean grumps that it’s hardly Christmas if he’s “making cranberry molds” alone.

Long after the Brothers’ coffee runs out, Santa (dubbed “St. Nicotine” by Dean) furtively peers out and pulls the curtains. Then they hear a woman scream enthusiastically, “OH, MY GOOOOD!” That’s the Boys’ cue to sneak up to the door. Sam makes a crack that Dean may have to waste Santa, which Dean doesn’t appreciate, then they bust in.

It’s not what they think. The guy has a fifth of booze and an enormous bong, as well as a Christmas-themed porno on the TV; he’s not up to anything remotely supernatural. Caught flat-footed, the Boys don’t know what to do until Dean starts awkwardly to sing “Silent Night” and get Sam to join in. Dean’s a pretty terrible singer; Sam’s even worse (According to Jensen Ackles, Kripke actually wrote him a note reminding him that Dean was a bad singer). And neither of them knows the words past the first couple of lines. Fortunately, the guy is stoned enough to think it’s funny and they make a hasty exit.

Cut to a house later that night, where a kid is waiting for Santa while an angelic boy’s choir sings “Silent Night” on the sountrack (Man, that tree is huge). When the blonde, curly-haired tot hears thumping on the roof, he naturally thinks it’s reindeer, but what comes growling down the chimney is huge, dressed in bloody, red leather (human skin?), and terrifying.

It goes upstairs, knocks out the kid’s mother when she screams, and drags his father down in a sack. When the father struggles too much, “Santa” kills him with one crunching blow. It then pressed the terrified child back … but all it wants is a cookie from the plate set out for Santa.

The next day, Sam and Dean are doing the FBI rounds again at the victim’s house and get the kid’s story from the shellshocked mom. Sam notices a strange wreath that looks like one that was at the other victim’s house, with pine cones, a white bow, and white flowers. Both Dean (who has been expressing sympathy toward her) and the mom are nonplussed, and a tad offended when he asks where she got it. Sam explains it afterward as if Dean is stupid (that both houses has the same wreath). Dean claims to have just been “testing” him.

Some more research (and a call to Bobby) establishes that A. Bobby thinks they’re morons and B. they aren’t dealing with the Anti-Claus. Instead, they’re dealing with pagan gods – hence, why the weather has been so mild and lacking in snow, in Michigan, in December. Sam believes the god involved is “Hold Nickar,” a Teutonic sea god (which naturally would explain why he’s looking at Celtic images of the Green Man in this scene [rolls eyes]), which Sam identifies as the “God of the Winter Solstice.”

The wreath that Sam noted in one of the victims’ houses was made of meadowsweet, which is supposedly ultrapagan (no more so than holly, ivy, and mistletoe, the latter given to some of the bog people before they were killed, but whatever) and rare (also nope). Sam says it has a pleasant odor that is “like chum for their gods” in Germanic pagan lore. Anywhere you set it up, it will attract these carnivorous gods, who will then eat any human in the vicinity.

Dean logically wonders why anyone would make a wreath from such a thing. Sam pedantically goes off on a tangent that most (almost all, really) Christmas lore is originally pagan. Dean comments that “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.” Sam “corrects” him, saying that Jesus was more likely born in fall and Christmas is the Winter Solstice festival.

Neither is true. We don’t really know what month (or even year) Jesus was born. Some biblical scholars speculate that Jesus was born in the spring (because that was when shepherds would be out with their flocks at night, guarding the newborn lambs). The Roman Winter Solstice festival is different from Christmas (and celebrated on December 21 as Brumalia (“bruma” meaning “short day”), when the Solstice actually occurs). Part of the confusion derives from Julius Caesar’s calendar “moving” the Solstice date to December 25 when it reorganized the Roman year.

Christmas was coopted from the Roman festival of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), which was on December 25 and marked the birth date of at least two Eastern-influenced Roman solar gods, Sol Invictus and the Persian soldier god Mithras, as well as the Greek Dionysius, Demeter, and Cronus (who probably influenced the idea of the old year being portrayed on New Year’s Eve as an old man). The Greeks and Romans were wont to create different versions of their major deities to reflect their different place origins or functions, by giving them a follow-up adjective for a second name. So, for example, Sol Invictus came out of the original Roman agrarian deity Sol Indiges when the former began to incorporate foreign and more bellicose influences as the Roman Empire moved its focus eastward in the third century CE.

There is no big mystery why the Christians adopted this festival for Jesus. Jesus is associated with light and the Sun. In ancient mythologies going back to Egypt, the Sun is believed to “die” (either every night or every year) and be reborn in the morning. There are rituals, particularly in the north, to help the Sun return. The parallels with Jesus (even without lines like the one in “Silent Night” that goes “Son of God loves pure light”), and his death and resurrection, are pretty obvious. Because this was a festival that has been set on the Solstice rather than actually being the celebration of the Solstice, further reorganization of the calendar moved the date of the Solstice apart from the date of Sol Invictus/Christmas without much apparent concern.

So, basically, Sam’s wrong.

Incidentally, we had this year a major conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn known in the media as the Christmas Star. This very rare conjunction only happens about every four centuries (but hasn’t been visible since 1226 CE) and even more rarely on the Winter Solstice. One theory about the Star of Bethlehem that, according to the Bible, led the Magi to the Christ child in the manger, is that it was either a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn (a fall birth) or a similar conjunction between Jupiter and Venus (a summer birth).

So, the Winchester theory here is that when people hang the meadowsweet wreaths on their doors, it’s an invitation for the pagan god to come in and eat them. The question now is whether this is accidental (modern humans ignorant of what it means) or deliberate.

Bobby also speculates that pine stakes can kill these pagan gods (If they’re really gods, how can they be killed, eh?), but he doesn’t tell the Brothers until later. The Brothers go to the local Christmas shop (The Cosy Crafts? Something like that) where the wreaths were bought and talk to the owner, with a slow-tempo and rather extemporaneous version of “Deck the Halls” playing in the shop. He thinks they’re a gay couple, which Dean plays into (much to Sam’s annoyance), but still gives them the name of the woman (Madge Carrigan) who made the wreaths. She gave them to him for free (the Brothers suspect this is not quite accurate). He, of course, didn’t sell them for free. There is no evidence he is otherwise involved in what’s going on.

Back at the motel that night (so, Christmas Eve, maybe?), the Brothers speculate how much a meadowsweet wreath would cost, with Sam guessing maybe “a couple hundred dollars.” As they sit on separate twin beds, Dean then reminiscences about a wreath of beer cans John once brought home for Christmas, that he had stolen from a liquor store. Sam doesn’t remember it quite so fondly and is confused why Dean is so obsessed with Christmas now, when he hasn’t “spoken about it in years.”

Dean points out the obvious – that this is his last year. Sam says he knows that and that’s why he can’t celebrate with Dean, knowing Dean will be dead the following Christmas. On the one hand, Sam is so focused on losing Dean in less than a year that he’s not appreciating his brother right now, nor the stories Dean is telling. On the other hand, boy, John sure was a piece of work, wasn’t he?

Off they go to Madge’s house and, what do you know? It’s a Christmas extravaganza. Every possible light, do-dad and plastic deer (but no creches), with Christmas carols blasted to the outside air (It’s an instrumental with lots of flute that I suspect comes from an animated TV special, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. Help me out, Dear Readers). Dean bets they even have a plastic-covered couch (after scoping out the interior while Sam engages the Carrigans in conversation). Madge and her pipe-smoking husband, Edward, seem friendly (entirely too friendly, really) and offer the boys some peanut brittle (which Dean starts to go for before Sam slaps his hand down).

The Brothers establish that Madge only made two meadowsweet wreaths and thinks they smell divine. That’s enough for them to decide to come back later that night, much later, not least when Sam finds out the Carrigans moved from Seattle (remember the grandfather from the teaser?) the previous January, after two abductions around Christmas (including Doomed Teaser Santa). From their visual check of the inside of the house, Sam establishes that the Carrigans had vervain and mint in the house, rather than the traditional holly (It’s all pagan, anyway, Sam). Neither brother can figure out how the Carrigans are involved, with their current theory being that they’re worshipers of the god, but they need to find out. But first, they carve the pine stakes Bobby told them would kill this particular god.

As the Brothers arrive at the house that night, “O Come All Ye Faithful” is blasting out on a loudspeaker over the neighborhood. At first, I was puzzled because that’s a very Christian song, but then I appreciated the delicious irony of a couple of pagan devotees (or are they?) using a traditional Christian hymn to welcome other pagans.

After picking the lock and arriving in the living room (where the carol turns into a quieter instrumental), Dean quietly comments to Sam on the Carrigans having a plastic-covered couch, as he’d predicted. Inside is just as Christmasfied as outside, with Dean checking out some very Germanic Santas on the mantle and Sam walking past a Santa with an accordion, what looks like a Christmas penguin, and various other holiday bric-a-brac. Dean also finds snow globes and a large gingerbread house, while Sam finds an entire table of gingerbread cookies in the kitchen.

(Probably related – there’s a theory that gingerbread men started as a baked-bread substitution for actual human sacrifices. Hence why I once wrote a story called “The Gingerbread Man” about a minor pagan god from the Mesolithic who is sacrificed by Neolithic invaders as a bog body over and over again for thousands of years – until the day he escapes. FYI, if you’re wondering if my story “Zombieville” (which includes a zombie giraffe) predates the Resident Evil inspiration for the zombie baboons Andrew Dabb was so in a hurry to botch this show’s ending in order to, uh, bring to life – you’re right.)

The Brothers sneak around and eventually find a cellar door. Downstairs they go and – holy crap – it’s a completely different story. Dark, dungeon-y, blood and body parts all over the place. Lots of bones still stuck in various shop tools. Sam looks ready to throw up, while Dean is more clinical (and less fascinated than Sam).

Sam goes up to one of the red-leather sacks we saw before and touches it. Suddenly, the person inside starts thrashing around. This is a rather large plothole. The story has already established that everyone in the sacks is dead by the time they leave their houses and…well…there are too many body parts lying around for either of the two victims we know got taken to have survived. Plus, we never see or hear about this victim again, so maybe it was just a lure?

As Sam jumps back, Madge grabs him and pins him to a wall. Dean shouts Sam’s name and comes rushing to the rescue, but Edward appears out of nowhere, grabs Dean, and slams him head-first into a wall. Dean goes down like a sack of grain (Jensen Ackles does the same sexy stuntfall he does in “Scarecrow.” Not that I’m complaining).

As Madge and Edward stare up at Sam, his flashlight moves across their faces as he struggles in Madge’s grip, showing monster faces underneath. Madge is all sweetness and light as she smacks the back of Sam’s head into the wall and knocks him out cold. She then looks perkily at her husband, who sticks his pipe in his mouth.

As a clarinet-heavy instrumental version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” plays on the house loudspeaker, both boys wake up tied to chairs upstairs (Looks like the dining room, though it’s next to the table where Sam found the gingerbread cookies, so maybe the kitchen), back to back. After asking Dean if he’s okay (Dean took a really hard blow to the head in this one), and Dean says he thinks so, Sam guesses the obvious – that Madge and Edward, far from being mad worshipers, are really “Mr. and Mrs. God. Nice to know.”

Madge and Edward come in, all cheerful, and get started with the “ritual.” Edward calls them out. “You’re Hunters,” he says, indicating they’ve taken down a few Hunters in their past, as well. Dean calls them out right back as pagan gods and suggests they let him and Sam go, and “call it a day.” Edward, unsurprisingly to anyone, demurs, saying they’d “just come back with more Hunters and kill us.” Sam suggests they “should have thought of that before you went snacking on Humans,” while Dean mocks their attempts to minimize their killings by calling them “the Cunninghams” (from 1970s show Happy Days).

This precipitates a rant from Edward about how disrespectful humans are these days.

Edward: You, mister, better show us a little respect!

Sam: Or what? You’ll eat us?

Edward: Not so fast. There’s rituals to be followed, first.

Madge: Oh, we’re just sticklers for rituals.

The sickly smile, all shiny teeth, that she gives Sam is downright creepy.

As they get cracking (so to speak), Madge complains that they used to get a hundred sacrifices a year and now they only take two or three. Edward says that Sam and Dean (“Hardy Boys”) bring this year’s count up to five (which indicates a victim we and the Brothers never heard about). The gods complain that “this Jesus character” ruined their fun long ago.

Edward and Madge’s arrogance seems well-earned at this juncture (even if they’re being total hypocrites about the reason). By their own admission, they’ve killed and eaten over 4,000 humans in the past 2,000 years alone and probably hundreds of thousands before that. Granted, the timeline’s a little fuzzy. If Jesus (and not, say, pagan Roman emperors getting rid of a rival local pagan Germanic cult) is responsible for their downfall, then they’ve been out in the cold a good bit less than the two millennia Madge whines about. Northern Europe wasn’t fully Christianized until around the 11th century or so (Think Vikings. In Iceland. This will come up in the review). But even so, that would only raise their body count. So, there’s no reason for them to perceive the Brothers as threats, now that they’re tied up. Ha.

Dean tries to joke that the gods can’t get started on their rituals without meadowsweet and Madge promptly comes in with two dried wreaths of it to hang around their necks (Dean actually cringes). Edward comments that they now look “good enough to eat.” And he smacks his lips.

They slice the Brothers’ arms for blood and Edward yanks a fingernail off Sam’s right hand, commenting that young men used to “come from miles around to be sitting where you are now” (These gods seem to go only for adult men, not women or kids). When Dean yells at Edward to leave Sam alone and calls him a “son of a bitch,” this precipitates another rant from Edward (Madge chiming in) about how no one respects the gods, anymore. Once enthusiasm for “this Jesus character” came into their culture, their “altars were burned down” and they were “hunted like common monsters.” They cheerfully chatter on about how they “assimilated.” They “got jobs, a mortgage,” and “play bridge on Saturdays.” Dean tells Madge, “You’re not blending in as smooth as you think, lady!”

With unctuous glee, Madge slices Dean’s arm, causing him to call her a “bitch.” Madge schools him on using the “swear jar” and the term “fudge,” instead. Dean says, panting in agony, “I’ll try to keep that in mind!” then uses it the very next time she cuts him. Madge purrs, “Very good, dear!”

Just as Edward’s about to extract one of Dean’s molars as the final part of this first (yes, first) ritual, the doorbell rings (and Dean, still defiant, suggests that they “really should get that”). It’s an overly-nogged neighbour with a fruitcake, wanting the couple to go caroling.

In the kitchen, a hurting Dean tells a hurting Sam, “Merry Christmas, Sammy!”

Madge and Edward beg off (Edward complaining about his back) and eagerly return to their holiday meal with a roll of their eyes at the neighbor, stepping on the fruitcake on their way back to the kitchen. Unfortunately for them, said double-meat feast has got free of the chairs, fled to the living room, and locked them in the kitchen. At this point, Madge and Edward dispense with the assimilation and turn full monster.

I like the soundtrack music in this scene, which manages both to be festive and evoke rising action. Violent action. Nice job.

Dean is able to pull out a drawer from a cabinet and block his door. He goes over to help Sam, who suggests they pull out a cabinet to block that one. Dean wonders where they’re going to get more pine stakes to kill the monsters and Sam suggests the tree (another pagan lore loan). Just as they’re knocking the tree down and pulling it apart, the monsters come roaring out and grab them, Madge Sam and her husband Dean. Edward actually attacks Dean first (He sees him as the bigger threat? I dunno).

“Merry Christmas,” Sam echoes Dean immediately afterward (to Dean’s exasperation).

Madge is especially salty about what the Brothers did to her tree. After she knocks him across the room, Sam kills Madge first, twisting the stake in good, which helps Dean get the drop on a shocked and furious Edward with a branch to the face. Dean brutally stabs Mr. Grendel a couple of times and that’s it for our pagan gods. They lie side by side next to their fallen tree, equally formidable and now equally dead.

I’ve always wondered what the neighbors and the police made of Madge and Edward’s crime scene afterward. Granted, the Brothers’ blood was all over the kitchen, so they might have been tied to the killings of the Carrigans. But the carnage down cellar would have been much harder to pin on Sam and Dean, and you’ve got things like Sam’s fingernail, too. Imagine realizing that nice middle-aged couple next door were brutal, serial-killing cultists. They might have even been traced to Seattle, or further back from there.

In the flashback, it’s snowing hard outside. Young Dean wakes Young Sam up and tells him John came, but Sam slept through it. Dean has presents for Sam, but Sam quickly finds out they’re for a girl (a Barbie and a baton), prompting Dean to make a joke about John thinking Sam is girly, that has not aged well. Turns out Dean pilfered them from a house up the street that looked wealthy. On the one hand, it sucks when someone steals your Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve and I sure hope Dean brought those back. On the other, I kinda have to admire Young Dean’s willingness to trudge through the snow to the house up the street in the first place.

Sam decides that John is not worthy of his gift and his devotion. He gives John’s present to Dean, instead. This gift turns out to be Dean’s famous amulet (which we now know is a Grail object). Dean is humbled and awed at the gift and puts it on, promising never to part with it. We get a brief instrumental refrain of “Jingle Bells” on the soundtrack.

Fade to Adult Dean and his amulet coming in the door to the Brothers’ motel to find that Sam has made him Christmas after all, to a modern version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that actually has the original lyrics from the film. Thank God.

(A brief aside about that song: As you may have noticed from my IFP article on Solstice carols back in the day, I’m a big fan of Christmas carols and have strict standards for what I like. I’m a firm believer in the original “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” line over that insipid “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” line, especially in this “Hard Candy Christmas” year, and the original is far more appropriate for this episode and show, anyway. I also think the “woke” version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson) and that revolutionary elves song (the Barenaked Ladies’ “Elf’s Lament”) are hilarious. Yes, I’ve been listening to Christmas music since before Thanksgiving. It’s 2020. Don’t judge.)

Dean asks Sam what changed his mind. At a loss for words, Sam hands him some eggnog, instead. When Dean tries it, he coughs in surprise, realizing Sam spiked it heavily with rum. Dean then surprises Sam by giving him two presents. Sam surprises Dean by giving him two back. It turns out they shopped at the same place: “the gas mart down the road.”

As in the flashback, Dean is impressed and touched. Yeah, the tree is tiny and kinda pathetic-looking. Yes, the booze-laced ‘nog is nasty (Jensen Ackles insists his reaction was genuine when Dean makes a face because Jared Padalecki pranked him by spiking the eggnog with real rum – lots of real rum). Yes, the beef jerky and motor oil from the gas station down the road are a little basic (Dean got Sam “skin mags and shaving cream”). But Dean has still gotten Sam some gifts in return and is touched by Sam’s effort (He doesn’t even make fun of it, as he might have in Season 1). Dean wishes Sam a Merry Christmas and Sam returns it. He tries to add something, but can’t. After almost saying deep things to each other, the Brothers awkwardly decide to watch a game, instead. Outside, it starts to snow on the Impala (their motel door number being 12, of course), the pagan-god spell broken at last.

Credits

Review: Watching the Closer Look interview of Eric Kripke on the Season 3 DVD for this one, I probably should have not liked this episode. Kripke merrily states that he set out to smash up every single Christmas tradition he could find. As my articles on Christmas fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror show, he’s a bit late to that game, but I suppose he still had to go there. Ironically, Kripke also seems to love Christmas. I think the clincher is his story about what he went through to get that spinning “Special” intro at the beginning of the episode. A scrooge would have hated that, not remembered it fondly as a part of childhood and gone to great lengths to track it down.

That said, holy batshorts, is this one bloody, gory episode. I’m not sure if it’s the goriest, considering there are so many candidates from the show, but my God, was that R-level gore. It’s gotta be in the top five. And it’s prosecuted with such taboo-shattering enthusiasm. Kindly, Santa-clad granddads are dragged up chimneys to their deaths. Women proposition Santas in porn flicks. A pervy old Santa gets stoned and drunk after his work day is done. Sam and Dean kill two pagan gods with a Christmas tree. And then there’s that dark, grotty, chaotic cellar of horrors literally underneath the safe, sanitized, suburban festival of hearth and home.

Wow.

I hadn’t noticed this before, but the different MOTW-vs.-Doomed Redshirts (literally, here) scenes have what appear to be intentionally different tones. Originally, I thought the acting by the kid in the teaser was a bit broad, but now I think he was directed to do that. The teaser is brutally jocular satire of the kind of Very Special Christmas episode programming that usually came after that “Special” intro and that you can see in all its glory here on YouTube. The scene immediately after is much sadder and gives a more “Face on the Milk Box” feel.

The next scene where the MOTW strikes and kills the father right in front of the terrified little tyke goes right for terror along the lines of “…And All Through the House” from Tales from the Crypt (the 1972 movie and the 1989 TV episode, both of which came from the original comic, which some credit with inspiring Santa-themed slasher horror). The final battle between the Brothers and the pagan gods comes off very much like the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf. So, the tonal switches are broad-ranging and striking.

Dang it. I just remembered that Dr. Seuss’ Grinch is basically Grendel made cute for the kids, right down to his motivation for trashing Whoville.

It might seem strange for there to be an actual entire genre of Christmas horror (Christmas slashers, especially), but it’s a well-established tradition. There’s Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, of course, and other 19th century antiquarian ghost stories (such as those by M.R. James) were often set or told around Christmastime. But Christmas horror goes back even further than that.

Icelandic folklore is often cited regarding a giant Christmas cat, the Yule Cat Jólakötturinn, who first appears in Icelandic records in the 19th century. He eats anyone who isn’t wearing a new piece of clothing come Christmastime. But even more terrifying is his much-older owner, the troll mother Grýla, who eats “naughty children” (because of course she does) and is part of a group of “Bad Santa” types known as the Yule Lads that goes back to the 13th century. Icelandic lore can get seriously weird, with its emphasis on the island being populated by “hidden people” (elves, basically, but not the Santa kind) who looked just like ordinary humans (and could even take a specific human’s shape to make mischief), but who had magic powers and a generally capricious nature.

There is, for example, an entire group of stories of house maids being visited by elves on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, while they’re guarding the house (sod houses that were basically like living underground) and the rest of the family is off to church mass. The elves play tricks on these young girls, trying to get them to come dancing with them. Medieval and Early Modern Icelandic authorities were highly suspicious of dancing, since it led to, uh, other things, especially for women.

If the girl remains virtuous and resolute in tending to her sewing or other household duties, she is often rewarded. If she gives in to temptation and runs off the howl at the moon with the elves, the family may find her the next morning (“morning” being a relative term in the month-long nights of Icelandic winters), lying across the threshold with her head cut off.

There is also, in Norway, a Yule Goat. These troll characters reflected a time not so long ago when life in Iceland was nasty, brutish and short, and very, very dark in winter.

Let’s talk a bit about the Krampus type of Bad Santa, with includes (but is not limited to) the group known as the Companions of St. Nicholas. These don’t include the Icelandic Yule Lads, who appear to work independently, within their own lore, or the Swedish St. Lucia. The latter is based on both the fourth century martyr and possibly a demon/minor Diana-like Nordic deity named Lussi, or even Adam’s naughty first wife Lilith.

The Rhineland and Pennsylvania Dutch Belsnickel, the Alpine Krampus, and the Dutch Zwarte Piet (yes, that means “Black Pete”), among similar beings in Western (especially Germanic) Europe, are, according to legend, demons who were enslaved by St. Nicholas to do good on his behalf. These are the figures Sam is looking at near the beginning of the episode (right after the title credits) and mentions in passing, with Krampus, by far, being currently the best-known.

As the example “Black Pete” makes clear, these characters have some pretty messy backstory. Black Pete is a caricature of a Moor (a Spanish or North African Muslim), from whence we get the not-so-nice term “blackamore.” The people who dress up as Black Pete during Christmas celebrations in the Netherlands do so, at absolute best, in blackface.

In medieval times, people in the Mediterranean region of Europe had a lot of contact with non-Christians, both Muslims and Jews. Jews also lived in northern Europe and Muslims lived as far north as the Pyrenees in southern France, but these communities were much rarer and more isolated. While living and working next to Abrahamic non-Christians was pretty common in someplace like Spain or southern Italy, a lot fewer people in Northern Europe were likely to encounter them. In fact, for much of the Middle Ages, those regions had much larger populations of Celtic and Germanic pagans. Hence, Yule Cat.

As such, the study of monsters in the Middle Ages (a thriving field, believe me) is full of representations from that part of Europe of Muslims and Jews as inhuman, pagan, even demonic. So, you have antisemitic figures like Krampus (who looks like a Jewish caricature) and the above-mentioned Black Pete (with some color racism for added squirm). It doesn’t help that the current versions we have date to nostalgic medieval revivals from the 19th century. Yes, they represent a dark side to the St. Nicholas legend (the punishment part), but they also represent something so, so much worse. You can see why the show took a hard left outta there after a few cracks about “Evil Santa” and went straight for the “evil pagan god vibe” deal, instead.

I want to take issue with the whole “When do we tell the kids Santa doesn’t exist” thing that gets played with. According to his legend, the original St. Nicholas left presents for the poor in his community, while hiding his identity. This was a way of fulfilling the biblical injunction to take care of the widow, orphan and stranger during times of the year that were especially tough (St. Nicholas was himself an orphan, albeit a rich one).

Part of the legend is that others began to imitate him, in his name, including a bunch of medieval charitable guilds. The idea that there are different representatives of Santa around the world and that at some point, you recruit the next generation into participating, is really part of the original legend. It’s not some feel-good modernization. Becoming a better community by collectively becoming a bunch of Santas for each other is the whole point.

So, when Dean tells Sam that Santa isn’t real, but that the supernatural world is, he’s basically doing a Supernatural version of the above. That’s what The Talk is about. It’s bringing people into a world and a group that protects humans from darker forces. Hunters are basically year-round versions of Santa. With saltguns.

I know that the weeChester stuff is important and it does have some useful information for future reference, but Lord, are those flashbacks incredibly depressing, or what? How could anybody think of John as anything but a card-carrying douchebag of a father after that? I also am not sure that they do Sam any favors. Sure, Colin Ford as Young Sam is as cute as a button, but I don’t think it helps Sam to show him as a whiny, self-absorbed kid and a whiny, self-absorbed adult relearning a lesson he supposedly learned nearly two decades before, all in the same episode.

Yeah, Sam, we get it. You’re going to be alone next Christmas, so get your act together and make this Christmas happy for the person who will be in Hell next year. Life is not worse than Hell. Yes, Sam does figure it out in time (on both occasions) to make Dean’s Christmas, but having the lesson shown us twice does make him look like kind of a selfish idiot for most of the episode.

Ironically, much of the rest of “A Very Supernatural Christmas” presents us with old-style Long-Suffering Genius Sam having to put up with Dumb Hick Dean, as if the writers didn’t notice how Sam was coming across. But then, these are the folks that gave us Ruby and it can be hard to see that kind of thing ahead of time.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter in the end because both times, Sam goes against his own self-pity and puts himself out for Dean. Sam may need to make the journey twice, but he gets to the same destination each time. That’s rather hopeful, considering the events of Season 4 and early Season 5: No matter how far off the reservation Sam wanders, he always seems to find his way back to his one great compass in life – Dean. (Ah, how young and optimistic I was when I wrote this in 2009.)

I’ve heard fans complain about Ridge Canipe and how his version of Young Dean isn’t very “sympathetic.” Well, I’d say the reason why Canipe comes across as edgy and brittle is because he’s supposed to. We’re seeing Dean under the incredible pressure of a burden that should never have been dumped on his shoulders in the first place (Daddy couldn’t be home for Christmas, my ass), trying to explain the unforgivable to his younger brother a good decade before he mastered how to internalize it. The one thing Canipe didn’t use from Ackles’ older version was Dean’s sense of humor, but one could easily argue that this pre-teen Dean version was before he fully developed that defense mechanism. He does use humor, but it’s bitter and sarcastic, not as light as he later makes it seem.

What I find rather unfortunate, in retrospect, is how this entire storyline is really Dean’s, yet Kripke seemed so determined to make Dean’s story, his personal character conflict (that he’s going to Hell in less than a year), All About Sam’s grief over it (and even though Jeremy Carver wrote this episode, Kripke was clearly in charge of the finished product). The main inspiration for it, I suspect, is Ebenezer Scrooge and his sister in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. You can find two excellent versions of this that came out this year, one for free (by some local friends of mine who do it every year) and one for a nominal fee (by a cast of ghost tour guides from York in England).

In the book, Scrooge has his beloved younger sister, Fan. She acts as an emotional mediator between him and his father, who dislikes him for unknown reasons. But then his father sends him off to boarding school. His sister dies in childbirth and he comes to resent his nephew for taking her away from him (and for resembling her too much). This is when Scrooge begins to turn into the bitter misanthrope we see in the present in the book.

Obviously, Dean is supposed to be an analogue for Fan and Sam for Scrooge. And since Scrooge is the protagonist of the book, so is Sam for the episode. But that doesn’t fit particularly comfortably with the season mytharc. Scrooge’s sister must have gone to Heaven. Dean is very much not heading that way.

I’m not sure how I feel about the amulet at this point. I know I don’t like calling it the “Samulet.” There turned out to be a lot more to it than a visible representation of Dean’s devotion to Sam. On the other hand, what it did turn out to be (which was really cool up to the end of Season 14 – thanks so much for that, Andrew Dabb, jackass) was a Grail object.

Considering how things turned out with God, I can’t help wondering if the way it “just happened” to end up with Dean instead of John was intentional. And not in a good way. More like belling the cat. The amulet was supposed to be a way of locating God. But what if it was being used at this point in the story as a way of keeping tabs on Dean? That’s kind of creepy, that God may have been stalking Dean even this early on. In fact, probably was stalking Dean this early on.

This is also one of the earliest (is the earliest, maybe?) mentions of Jesus in the show. The two gods speak of him as a real person, though it doesn’t appear they ever met him. They really resent him, too. Jesus comes across as a sort of Super Hunter. So powerful was his influence that he marked a transition from a period of literal darkness, when humans were at the mercy of pagan gods and monsters, and even enslaved by them, to a period of light, when humans were able to fight back and kill the monsters as equals and even superiors.

Jesus may not be the first Hunter in the SPNverse, but he certainly appears to have been the most successful. It’s therefore notable (in light of how Dean’s story goes later on) that the Brothers kill two pagan gods responsible for at least 4,000 human deaths over the past two millennia (and who knows how many before that), and that this is a fairly ordinary hunt for them.

Back to the mythology (I discussed this as part of an article on the pagan origins of Christmas in 2009, as well as an article that discusses Sam-as-Scrooge, for Fantasy Magazine the previous year). The pagan gods in this one don’t make a lot of sense. Okay, so they kill people (who have no clue what those wreaths mean) and then they give warm weather in return. It seems to me that the only difference between Mr. and Mrs. God and your garden-variety MOTW is that they eat people and assuage any guilt or responsibility for the murders by giving their community unseasonably warm weather.

Again, the point of human sacrifice is made utterly meaningless, as in “Scarecrow.” However, unlike “Scarecrow,” those making it meaningless are the gods themselves, which doesn’t make much sense. Gods, of whatever system, represent divine principles and I’m not seeing what divine principle these two represent. Yes, their ritual is (sort of) modeled on the Swedish ritual of Midvinterblot, but Madge and Edward bear more resemblance to Saxon(ish) monsters Grendel and his mother than to Odin or Freyja, gods propitiated at the Midvinterblot. Possibly, the writers intended to echo the myth of Norse god Baldur’s death, but Baldur is killed by mistletoe, not pine, and is a gentle precursor to Jesus. And we’ll find out later these gods definitely weren’t Baldur, anyway.

The alleged connection to Hold Nickar (mentioned once and then never again) also makes little sense. Hold Nickar was a sea god who appears to have given some of his traditions to our current Santa Claus, namely: his tendency to ride through the sky at the Winter Solstice and toss down favors to his worshipers in a version of the Ancient European Wild Hunt. How this translates into a male and female god, both equally dangerous but only one of whom rides to a house to grab a victim, I don’t know. And how a Teutonic sea god is vulnerable to pine stakes is also never explained.

I suspect what really happened was that the writers watched William Friedkin’s The Guardian a few times too often and that’s why we get all of this Celtic herbal mythology of the Green Man mixed up with Scandinavian and German traditions (Those nasty druids, they really got around, ya know – she said sarcastically). Then Kripke got it into his head that the Brothers should whack an MOTW with a Christmas tree (He actually has said this), and Mr. and Mrs. God were born. Though I’m especially confused by that after reading visual effects supervisor Ivan Hayden’s interview in Supernatural Magazine. How do you use a tree to kill a tree god? Some kind of like-kills-like sympathetic magic?

Concerning the Anti-Claus, he’s not Santa’s evil brother. He’s a collection of demons in Dutch folklore enslaved by St. Nicholas to do his bidding. Maybe the writers tried too strenuously not to show that they were ripping off Santa’s Slay. Maybe they quickly realised how intrinsically racist and antisemitic those traditions are (which is why they’re being phased out). But there’s shaping the lore to your story and there’s making it mean things it’s not meant to mean, and I think they crossed a line with this one. Roared right over a few, in fact.

So, why don’t I give a crap? Because, you know what? I don’t. Sam-worship, pagan-bashing and mythology-mastication that irritated the hell out of me in the Halloween ep, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,” just make me giggle, shrug and turn the gain up so I can hear the mayhem better on “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” I think it’s because, underneath it all, this is a wickedly-funny shaggy-dog story intended to show us the True Meaning of Christmas, which is that Christmas magic is real and you can feel it even under the worst circumstances.

There’s a terrible moment in that dining room when the Brothers are hurting bad and Dean turns to Sam and says, “Merry Christmas, Sam!” And means it. This may have originally come out in 2007, but “A Very Supernatural Christmas” is the Christmas Special sendoff 2020 thoroughly deserves.

Also, the Christmas jokes, when it comes right down to it, are in-jokes and not mean, and episode writer Jeremy Carver has fun with the lore, while director J. Miller Tobin has a lot of fun with the Christmas décor. You can tell Jensen Ackles, a self-professed lover of the holiday, is having a blast as Christmas-crazy Dean. Poor Padalecki gets stuck playing the Boy Who Hates Christmas, which is a much-harder job, though he does get some great lines as a consolation.

I was also surprised to find the Christmas music for the episode, both original and soundtrack, much richer and more enjoyable than I’d remembered. I’d never paid much attention to it on watches (many, many watches) before. I hadn’t expected to find much that was new on this rewatch, so that in particular was a pleasant surprise.

Madge and Edward, with their obsessively “secular” Christmasfied home, are hysterical. Of course pagan gods would hide out under the trappings of plastic decorations and blinking lights. We all knew that in our hearts, in the same weird, secret place that still knows damned-well there’s a monster under the bed, no matter what anybody says.

And the actors they got in were perfect for the roles, especially Merrilyn Gann and Spencer Garrett as Madge and Edward Carrigan. Great job, both of them, alone together and with Padalecki and Ackles (I love the cat-and-mouse back-and-forth, where you’re not sure who’s hunting whom). Also of note are Douglas Newell as the cynical shop owner and Brandy Kopp as the horrified elf girl. See, the CW? See what you’re missing by insisting that actors on your show all be under 30 and anorexic?

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Fun lines:

Dean [to Sam]: So, what did you find [in the victim’s house]?
Sam: Stockings, mistletoe…this.
Dean: A tooth?! Where was this?
Sam: In the chimney.
Dean: The chimney?! No way a man fits up the chimney. It’s too narrow.
Sam: No way he fits up in one piece.
Dean: All right, so if Dad went up the chimney…
Sam: …we need to find what dragged him up there.

Dean [after hearing that Christmas isn’t really Jesus’ birthday]: Next, you’ll be telling me the Easter Bunny’s Jewish!

Sam [about watching the Santa talk to kids]: We just came here to watch.

Dean: Hey, Sam, why are you the boy who hates Christmas?

Sam [to Dean before they bust into “Santa’s” trailer]: Mr. Gung-Ho Christmas might have to blow away Santa.

Guy in Santa suit on porno [to girl coming onto him in a bar]: Look, I’m just not in the mood, okay?
Girl: Mistle my toe. Roast my chestnut? You know…jingle my bell?

Store Owner: Can I help you boys?
Dean: Yeah, we were playing Jenga over at the Walshes and…well, he hasn’t shut up about this wreath. [to Sam] I don’t know. You tell him.
Sam [stiffly]: Sure. [to Store Owner] It was yummy.
Store Owner[to Sam]: I sell a lot of wreaths, guys.
Sam: Right, right, but you see, this one would have been really special. It had green leaves, white buds on it. Might have been made out of meadowsweet?
Store Owner: Well, aren’t you the fussy one?

Dean: Did you sell [the wreaths] for free?
Store Owner: Hell, no. It’s Christmas. People pay a buttload for this crap.
Dean: That’s the spirit!

Dean [looking at Madge and Edward’s christmasfied house]: So, this is where Mrs. Wreath lives, huh? Boy, can’t you just feel the Evil Pagan Vibe?

Dean [to Madge after she cuts him]: If you fudging touch me again, I’ll fudging kill ya!

Edward: Fingernail…blood. Sweet Peter on a Popsicle Stick – I forgot the tooth!

Madge [to Sam]: You little thing. [head spins disturbingly] I loved that tree.

(Original) Next Week: Houses of the Holy: Sam and Dean investigate when unlikely vigilantes kill secretly-bad people and claim an angel incited them to do it.

(Original) In the New Year (January 21): Sam, Interrupted: The Brothers check themselves into a psych hospital to investigate mysterious doings there, then can’t check back out when the MOTW starts to drive them crazy.

(Actual) Next week: Ask Jeeves: We’re back to Season 10 with an episode where Sam and Dean are called to a moldy old pile for the reading of a will and the solving of a murder.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (9.23-Season Finale) Recap and Review

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

We need your help!

In response to requests for updating the links for my older reviews, I’ve set up a campaign on Ko-Fi. I am ending the year with some pretty large vet bills and really could use the help, but also, updating the links takes time and a bit of effort. This will be a progressive goal, where I will post links as I get funding (probably five at a time, so every $50).

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If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: “Carry On” recap of the season so far, beginning with some memorable kills before getting into Gadriel’s arc and Kevin’s death, Abaddon, Metatron, the angel wars (such as they were), Castiel’s “human” arc, and the Mark of Cain storyline.

Cut to Now, which begins maybe two seconds after the cliffhanger ending from last week, in which Dean tried to kill Gadriel. Dean has been restrained by Sam and Castiel, but he quickly breaks Sam’s hold and throws Castiel halfway across the room. As Sam blocks his way to a terrified Gadriel, Dean bellows, “MOVE!” at Sam, while Sam tries to reason with him. Castiel grabs Dean again from behind and Sam grabs Dean’s Blade hand. Sam manages to talk down a confused and maddened Dean, but it’s a close one.

Cut to the Dungeon, where a very wild-eyed Dean is informing Sam and Castiel that he’s “not riding the pine on this one.” Sam tells Dean that there’s “something wrong with you” (Thank you, Captain Obvious), as if Dean doesn’t already know that.

Dean insists that locking him up is a mistake. He’s the only one who can kill Metatron, especially since Castiel lost his army. The look on his face is comical as Sam and Castiel just silently close the door on him and walk away (poor Dean), but “he’s not wrong” as Castiel admits afterward.

Sam thinks he has another plan, though. Back in the Library, he’s putting the First Blade into a lockbox and talking about how having Gadriel on their side can more than make up for the lack of an entire angel army. But when they turn around, they see just a pool of blood and a blood trail – Gadriel has fled.

Meanwhile, down in the Dungeon, Dean is coughing up blood. He looks in the mirror and sees it, horrified.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Metatron typing, while an angel tries to fanboy him. It turns out the angel is setting up a PA System that will send out announcements on Angel Radio that no one else can tune out, cut in on, edit, or override. Metatron ignores the angel (named Neil) until Neil switches from calling him “Metatron” to calling him “God.” Neil thinks Metatron is writing a new “manual” for the angels, but no, Metatron is writing a “story.” And it’s a romantically tragic one. But not like The Notebook, which Neil loved, Metatron not so much.

Metatron gets up and pulls out two outfits, one a blue hoodie, the other an even-more-nondescript brown sweater, and asks Neil, “Which one makes me look more pathetic?”

Neil tries to butter him up, saying that he just reunited all of the angels back in Heaven. Metatron dismissively compares this to “winning a People’s Choice Award” (an obvious reference to the show’s recent win, at the time, of a PCA). He gets Neil to show him how the new PA system works, then uses it (after a moment of reverberative technical difficulty).

All angels on Heaven and Earth can now hear him, and they can’t block him out. As he delivers a fulsome and bogus speech about how happy he is that the angels have accepted him as their new God, we see the angels in the offices outside look up and they don’t seem terribly happy with their new boss (Welp, life is choices, folks). It also wakes up Gadriel, who had managed to get into his car and flee. But after a bit, he had to stop and has stumbled off to bleed under a tree (Dean sure got him good). Sam and Castiel are just pulling up in Castiel’s car during Metatron’s speech.

The gist of Metatron’s speech is that he is headed off to Earth for “a short trip” and is closing Heaven’s door behind him until he gets back. He insists he has a new plan and that it “will be … glorious.” Neil is upset as Metatron leaves and wonders why he’s going. Metatron says he has to “tell the rest of the story.”

As Sam and Castiel approach him, Gadriel tries to crawl away and begs for his life. When Castiel goes to heal him, though, he tells him not to because Castiel’s grace is so low. With an exasperated look, Castiel does it, anyway, but it momentarily staggers him.

Gadriel asks Castiel if he heard Metatron. Castiel says that he did and asks what Metatron’s goal is.

Gadriel: I’m afraid … Humanity.

Cut to a spa, where a red-faced Crowley is groaning, “Oh, God,” in response to a particularly deep massage. The demon masseuse, fetchingly garbed in a thin, satin, scarlet robe with lots of cleavage, is exchanging infodump with Crowley about how he should be “more relaxed” after killing Abaddon and how the demons who are flocking back to his side could use a little “direction” from their king. Crowley tells her to stow the “soapy massage,” since he’s in no mood for “Dr. Phil.” She backs off, however sultrily (‘Fraid you picked the wrong gender of host, dear).

Before she can think of some other way to dig in her claws, there’s a rumble as of an earthquake. The masseuse correctly surmises that Crowley is being “summoned” and then whispers in his ear, “It’s a Winchester.”

Now, I know Elishia Perosa only got 50 seconds in this entire show (Her character never even got a name), but she’s freakin’ hilarious in those 50 seconds and I love the way she says, “It’s a Winchester.” Kudos to making that kind of impression in so short a time and so stuffed an episode.

Cut to the Dungeon, where Dean has a box of matches and is lighting one to drop in a bowl of summoning materials. Crowley appears, commenting on the smell in the room and suddenly realizing Dean has summoned him into the Dungeon’s demon trap (not his favorite place in the SPNverse). Dean stands up slowly, glaring at him.

Dean: What the hell’s happening to me, you son of a bitch?

Crowley: Liquor before beer? Bad taco? How should I know?

Dean: I can’t turn it off! Ever since I killed Abaddon, it’s – it’s like this whole … other thing! I get this high and I need to kill. I mean, I really, really need to kill! And if I don’t –

Crowley: You yak your guts out. It’s the Mark.

Dean: Meaning?

Crowley: It wants you to kill. The more you kill, the better you feel. The less you kill, the less-better you feel.

Dean: How much less-better?

Crowley: Well, one would imagine the least-best-better.

Dean: So, dead.

Crowley makes a noncommittal moue.

Dean is confused. Cain retired and didn’t die. Crowley points out that Cain is a demon. Dean’s body is not “strong enough to contain the Blade’s power.” Dean then asks about what happens if he gets rid of the Mark of Cain, but when Crowley asks if he wants to, Dean looks conflicted and then claims he just wants to kill Metatron. In order to do that, he has to get out of the Dungeon and to the First Blade. Turning a deadly look on Crowley, he adds, “And you’re gonna help me.”

Cut to the Library, where Sam, Castiel and Gadriel are coming back to the discover the lockbox open and the First Blade missing. Again, someone (Gadriel) comments on the smell and Sam says it’s sulfur. Sam is both upset and pissed, both because he knows his brother is in the wind and he knows who helped him escape.

Damn, that took less than nine minutes, too. That’s a record, even for Dean. I’m reminded that this episode’s writer, Jeremy Carver, also had Dean make a clever escape from being locked up by TFW in his last episode (before returning as showrunner in Season 8), “Point of No Return” in Season 5. Carver likes him some Clever!Dean. So do I.

As Sam leaves a futile message on Dean’s voicemail (Is that Dean’s Other Other Phone?), Castiel questions whether Crowley really helped Dean escape. Sam says it’s doubtful Dean would summon anyone else, since he and Crowley “have been Bromancing over the Blade” for half a season. This gives Sam and Castiel a chance to catch Gadriel up that Dean had the Mark of Cain and cut him with the First Blade. Gadriel realizes that this gives them a very powerful ally and weapon.

Sam: You’re joking, right? An hour ago, we were ready to throw Dean into a padded cell and now you say he’s our best chance?

Castiel: Hear him out, Sam.

Sam: Oh, right, excuse me, sorry, guys. Sorry if I’m a little less-than-eager to hear that our ‘best chance’ is arming the warhead and hoping it hits the mark. This is not a bomb we’re talking about. This is my brother!

At this point, I rolled my eyes pretty hard. I don’t know what Sam told himself he was doing with Dean up to this point, but he had to have had some awareness he was doing just the above – using his brother as a living weapon. So, Sam protests a bit much here, methinks.

Gadriel demurs and claims that he and Castiel can back Dean up on his play. He says that he thinks Metatron is using the Angel Tablet to give himself Godlike powers (This is mentioned with a bit of dialogue in the episode’s beginning recap, but I think this is actually the point where it’s first mentioned in the show that Metatron is using the Angel Tablet – or, anyway, that TFW is aware of it). Castiel agrees, saying that if they can “break the connection,” Metatron will once again become just “an ordinary angel” (well, one with wings, which still makes him the One-Eyed King in the Kingdom of the Blind) and very vulnerable to Dean and the First Blade.

Of course, this plan won’t work, TFW, until you, like, catch up with Dean and talk him into it. Too bad he’s in the wind because y’all locked him up inside a place where he had access to all the things he needed to break out. And this isn’t the first time he did it, either.

Cut to a woman striding down the street, shouting into a phone at her ex about how their son is on drugs and said ex needs to figure it out. We won’t hear any more about this subplot, though. It’s all just a distraction to explain why she walks right in front of a car and gets killed instantly.

People gather round, wondering if she can be saved (the opinion leaning toward the negative as the driver starts freaking out). A nebbishy older man in shabby clothes shows up and says, “I’m not so sure about that.” It is Metatron.

Cut to the Impala roaring up in broad daylight to a restaurant (Wait … have I been inside that restaurant? I think I may have). Jensen Ackles looks as though he had fun doing that. Crowley is riding shotgun as Dean drives. They enter the restaurant, Dean first and carrying the First Blade in its leather wrap.

Unlike his usual self, Dean is all business, taking out his laptop to set it up. When the pretty waitress comes to take his order, he barely glances at her and orders black coffee – at first. Crowley calls him out for his rudeness in taking up a table for an order that pretty much guarantees a lousy tip (as the waitress looks dejected but then vindicted by Crowley’s point). Dean looks exasperated, but turns on a dime and orders a full-on “double cheeseburger with everything, heavy on the onions” with a smile.

Crowley goes off on a rhapsody about whether Dean ever wants to ditch Hunting for a while to “go howl at the moon,” if he ever wonders, “Is this it? Is this all there is?”

Looking disgusted, Dean non-verbally pulls him out of his reverie and Crowley insists that he “kicked human blood.”

Dean: Oh, so you’re a Full Metal Douche again. Well, that’s fantastic. Would you like a stuffed bear?

Crowley: Just trying to make conversation.

Dean: How’s Hell, Crowley?

Crowley: Hell’s fine. Hell’s like a Swiss Watch. Don’t worry about Hell. [after an uncomfortable pause] Hell’s complicated.

Dean: Game of Thrones is complicated. Shower sex, that’s complicated. Hell ain’t complicated. Your problem ain’t Hell. It’s you.

Crowley tries to turn the question back on Dean, but Dean insists that his only problem to solve at the moment is killing Metatron. Unfortunately (he’s been setting up security cam searches as he talks), he can’t find anything that looks like Metatron activity on earth and he doesn’t understand why Metatron is taking so long to make a move.

As two young men in black suits enter the diner, Crowley says, “Never fear – cavalry’s here.” Wary (because they are, of course, demons), Dean puts a hand on the First Blade. But it turns out the demons are there at Crowley’s behest. One whispers in his ear and hands him a yellow phone, while the other stands, hands clasped in front of him, exchanging glares with Dean. They seem to both want to stay, but Crowley waves them off and they leave the diner.

As the waitress brings Dean’s cheeseburger and coffee, Crowley hands the phone to Dean. It shows a video a young boy took (that his geeky friend claims was of his sister walking away while he admired her ass). He then turns the phone toward the street and happens to catch the accident from the previous scene. As the friend exclaims over it, we see Metatron come up, as in the previous scene, kneel down and heal the woman, on camera. As she sits up, dazed, Metatron whispers something in her ear.

The stunned kid with the phonecam approaches Metatron and asks him what his name is. Batting his eyes at the camera in the worst attempt ever at lamb-like innocence, Metatron smiles smarmily and says, “Marv.” It’s a really unsettling combination of a beatific mask only partially covering the pure and petty malevolence underneath. What’s problematical about the scene is that none of the bystanders appears to realize this.

Dean has two questions. First, when was it taken? Crowley says, “A couple of hours ago, Muncie, IN.” Dean then wonders aloud, “What’d he whisper in her ear?” Crowley replies with satisfaction, “Exactly.”

Dean immediately packs up to go. Surprised, Crowley asks if he’s going to eat the cheeseburger. Looking down on it with total indifference, Dean pulls out a pretty big wad of cash and tosses it down, saying “Not hungry.”

Crowley gets a considering look as Dean leaves.

Elsewhere, Castiel and Gadriel are pulling up to a playground. Castiel’s surprised that this is where the door to Heaven is being guarded. A woman is reading on a park bench while a young girl plays on a swing nearby. They are Asariel and Purah. Gadriel calls them “two of Metatron’s most loyal. I recruited them, myself.”

This puts a pretty grim spin on the hit we saw on the kid angel in last week’s teaser, if Metatron’s most loyal soldiers were inside children. Metatron was willing to destroy angels who were the most loyal to him just to discredit Castiel, just to play games with angelic lives as part of his “story.” In case you were wondering at this point if Metatron had any fellow feeling at all for his angelic brethren, this subtle detail should be a big clue that the answer is “no.”

When Gadriel asks what Castiel’s plan is, he’s puzzled when Castiel says, “Wookie.” Basically, as when Han and Luke pretend Chewbacca is their prisoner to get inside the Death Star cell block in Star Wars where the Empire has Leia captive, Castiel is pretending to be a prisoner and Gadriel his captor.

There’s a brief snag when the two guards point out what Metatron said earlier about closing the Heaven gate until he got back (which both Gadriel and Castiel should know, since they heard his announcement earlier). Gadriel sails past this by saying bringing his prisoner in is too urgent to wait. Annoyed, the guards decide they have to redraw the gate spell and Gadriel tells them to make it snappy.

Dean and Crowley are driving into a trailer park when they see Sam waiting for them beside one particular trailer (the home of the woman in the video). As he pulls up and puts it in Park, Dean tells Crowley, “I got this.”

Dean gets out, Crowley also getting out and staying way in the background (though we get reaction shots from him), and approaches Sam. Sam is all smug that he got there first without any help from the King of Hell and that he got the woman away before Dean arrived. There isn’t an ounce of concern from Sam over her welfare or fate. Granted, Dean doesn’t seem to care, either, but for Sam, there’s a real power dynamic thing going on here. The woman is just a pawn in his attempts to regain control over his brother.

Sam gets all pissy with Dean, basically calling him ungrateful for trying to kill Gadriel when Gadriel could help them and he and Castiel are risking their lives trying to back him up. Dean is, of course, a little confused about this, since it’s the first he’s heard about this plan. Last he knew, Sam and Castiel were trying to lock him up. Now Sam’s yelling him for being ungrateful for TFW’s backup? Say, what, now? He also points out that Gadriel murdered Kevin and can’t be trusted.

This is a pretty major point. Sam doesn’t have a good answer, so instead, he goes off on a Dean-blaming rant in which he deflects what Dean said (perceiving it as an attack rather than a point that, well, Gadriel does not have a good track record in the trustworthiness department) back at Dean, accusing Dean of letting Gadriel possess him, so that now Sam wakes up at night from dreams of killing Kevin and having blood on his hands.

Now, aside from the fact that it’s canon that Sam wasn’t awake when Kevin was killed (He had no idea what was going on when Crowley entered the dream world Gadriel had put him into), so he would have no such memory and this is probably just hyperbole to make Dean feel guilty, Sam’s argument does not make much sense. At least initially, Sam’s intent seems to be to persuade Dean not to kill Gadriel and to come on board with Gadriel’s plan for Dean to kill Metatron after Gadriel and Castiel have broken his connection to the Angel Tablet. But, for a start, Dean doesn’t know about this plan because Sam hasn’t explained it to him, yet. Maybe explain it to him first?

Second, Sam seems to get caught up in his usual cycle this season of blaming Dean for letting him get possessed by an angel, to the point where he loses the argument he was making and ends up, instead, reinforcing the idea that Gadriel can’t be trusted. So, wouldn’t that mean Dean is … um … right not to trust Gadriel and even not wrong in attacking him before Gadriel could pull a double-cross?

Dean just stonily rides this rant out until Sam winds down and realizes he went off on a tangent. He finishes up with a rather stiff admission that Dean is the MVP of this storyline, but that he wants in on whatever Dean does, that they are brothers, yadda, yadda, and they should be working together. He then offers up his big card – what Metatron whispered in the woman’s ear was where he was headed next.

Dean considers this offer and seems to agree. He then turns to Crowley. Crowley has been watching this exchange with keen interest and seems to think he is going to be part of whatever happens next. Instead, Dean essentially dismisses him, telling him he’s free to go howl at the moon or whatever. Disgusted, Crowley declares that he’s been “Winchestered” and vanishes into thin air, leaving Sam the field.

Cut to Gadriel bringing Castiel into Heavenly Angel HQ via a celestial elevator or something. Metatron’s Hot MILF secretary with the super-short skirt AKA Officious Bitch (because that’s the entirety of her personality) AKA Ingrid (according to IMdB) and Hannah escort them into what appears to be Metatron’s office, but turns out to be Heaven’s dungeons. It’s a double-cross and Gadriel absolutely loses his shit. Trust me – this extreme reaction will end up being a major plot point very soon.

Ingrid mocks them for a few lines before going back into Heavenly Angel HQ, while Hannah lingers outside the cells to gloat. Because that’s the way Hannah rolls. Really beginning to see why this character never caught on with the fandom.

Cut to the kind of cliched homeless encampment we saw at the beginning of the season during Castiel’s Hapless Homeless Human storyline. Metatron is wheeling a cart into it, trying his level best to look pathetic. A dippy blonde chick who has Nursing Home Flower Child written all over her still manages to recognize him as “Marv.” She asks him to come heal a friend of hers, George. He heals George’s diabetes, doing the worst fake humble act ever. Unfortunately, he raises the suspicions of a red-headed man nearby who turns out to be another angel. The other angel calls Metatron out by name, says they’re both angels, and basically calls him a monster.

Metatron is trying to smarm his way out of it, but then he starts to lose his temper. Lowering his voice to a very threatening tone, he pulls out his angel sword. Before he can expose himself as a false prophet, he’s “saved” by a dark-haired woman who goes off on a big speech about how Metatron may be an angel, but he is just as down-and-out as they are. George calls Metatron a “healer,” while the dark-haired woman calls him “Messiah” (which greatly pleases Metatron, who calls it “warmer” in terms of his intentions).

At first, the red-headed angel calmly tries to defuse the situation (while accidentally inflaming it by calling Metatron an “abomination”), but it’s not until he pulls out his own angel sword that George smacks the red-headed angel over the head with a rock, the dark-haired woman throws a sack over him as he falls to the ground (I guess to hide from themselves the enormity of what they’re all about to do), and the mob attacks him.

Simpering “They love me. They really, really love me,” Metatron drops and casually kicks an angel sword over to the mob, verbally directing George to stab the red-headed angel to death. The angel’s death light is hidden by the sack and the pig pile on top of him.

To be honest, I found this scene quite ridiculous. The whole interlude with “Marv” and the cliched homeless morons is the biggest sour note for me in this episode. Also, while the episode is very well-directed overall (The lighting that emphasizes Dean’s madness is especially noteworthy), boy, the casting in “Do You Believe in Miracles?” sure is white, especially in this scene. And the only significant female character in the recurring cast is Hannah.

As far as I can tell, the idea with this and the hit-and-run scene is that Metatron is manipulating humans by using the Angel Tablet to twist their minds and convince them to do evil things in “God”’s name. The problem is that, as with earlier in the season, what Metatron can and can’t do is so vague and inconsistent that it’s unsatisfying to watch and unnecessarily hard to follow.

Metatron seems capable of easily leading the angels in “Stairway to Heaven” and the ordinary humans in this one to do really stupid things. Yet, he can’t influence the red-headed angel or Dean, Gadriel has already seen through his act, and it’s not at all clear whether he’s having any influence over Sam. So, what, exactly, besides invulnerability and an extremely vague charisma or mind-clouding power does the Angel Tablet really give him that he doesn’t already have as an angel?

I thought this concept was much, much better done in Season 5’s “99 Problems.” We see that the Whore of Babylon, posing as a Prophet, has intentionally chosen to prey on a group of people who already had the inclination to fall into cult thinking, if isolated and threatened by an apocalyptic outside force (as the Whore and her demon minions accomplished). As a group, they claim to be strong in their faith, but internally, they’re all falling apart and desperately seeking a way out of their situation to a vaguely defined “Paradise.”

That … doesn’t come across here. Here, the characters who fall for Metatron’s blarney just seem selfish and stupid, to the point of being stereotypes rather than seeming like real people. The writers had all season to make this work. Even now, in this episode, the execution feels rushed and unearned.

Cut to that night, about a mile away from the homeless encampment. It looks as though they filmed near the metro station in Surry because you can see the metro line looming behind them. Dean is reaching into the trunk of the Impala, his hand shaking, and laying a possessive hand on the First Blade, wrapped up in its leather covering. The First Blade sings to him and he lets out a gasp, closing his eyes as the high hits him.

Sam comes up from having done a reconnaissance of the encampment and Dean draws back with a guilty look. After noting that Metatron is there and has everyone convinced he’s “the new Jesus,” Sam asks if Dean’s okay and Dean lies that he is. Sam doesn’t appear to believe it, but he lets it slide.

Sam then reaches in and takes out the First Blade (I can’t even with how problematical that is), then hands it to Dean. Dean starts to apologize for “the last couple of months” and Sam interrupts him with “I know.” Then he sort of nods his head and blinks a lot, and I guess that’s him forgiving Dean. Or something.

His tone changing to a lighter one with a smile, Sam reaches into the trunk for something.

Sam: So, before we find something else to fight about, tell me – ready to gut this bitch?

Dean smiles ruefully, then cold-cocks Sam as Sam picks his duffel off the ground. Looking pained, Dean crouches down and folds Sam’s right arm onto his chest.

Dean: Sorry, Little Brother, it’s not your fight.

He pats Sam on the chest, then stands up and walks up the road toward the encampment, to the sound of heavy drums on the soundtrack.

Up in Heaven, Hannah is busy gloating outside the cells, while Castiel tries to talk her into letting him and Gadriel out. She’s mad because Castiel didn’t stop the angel killing and doesn’t believe Gadriel, even though Gadriel was Metatron’s second-in-command, because Gadriel is a liar. She also doesn’t believe that Metatron framed Castiel by turning his followers into suicide bombers. That Metatron’s pick of Gadriel as his second-in-command doesn’t exactly speak highly of Metatron’s own honesty doesn’t seem to be getting through Hannah’s thick angelic skull.

Meanwhile, Gadriel is looking at the rubble in his cell and getting an idea.

Down below, Dean is arriving at the encampment. He’s accosted by George and Blonde Hippy Chick. She recognizes Dean by name, saying that Metatron said he’d come. She indicates with a nod of her head that Metatron (or “Marv,” as George insists on calling him) is further inside the building, saying that he is “praying for our forgiveness.” When Dean asks for what, she glances at a big pool of blood where they killed the red-headed angel. Others start to close in and Dean is like, Now, hang on here.

Cut to Dean entering an industrial area where Metatron is sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, pretending to meditate.

Upstairs, Gadriel is seriously unravelling, red-eyed and sweaty. He’s babbling about how he spent “thousands of years” in that cell, trying to understand his sin, how to redeem himself. He realizes now that he was too selfish and completely focused on his own needs and wants. Castiel tries to reassure him that he has already redeemed himself, but Gadriel isn’t listening. He says that the angels have a responsibility to protect Humanity, that Humanity must come first. Castiel starts to get seriously uneasy and tries, unsuccessfully, to talk him down.

When Gadriel turns around, Hannah is horrified to see that he has carved an angel-bomb sigil on his chest with one of the shards from his cell. He tells Castiel to back to the other side of his cell. As skittery violins go up the scale on the soundtrack, and Hannah frantically tries to open Gadriel’s cell, he says that he hopes he won’t be remembered as the angel “who let the Serpent into the Garden,” but as “one of the many” who saved Heaven. His last words are “Run, Sister” to Hannah (who wisely bails down past Castiel’s cell) before he stabs himself. The ensuing explosion blows the doors right off the cells.

Stunned, Hannah runs back to Gadriel’s cell even before the smoke clears. He is dead, lying face down in his cell. She turns as Castiel steps out of his own cell, glaring at her. In a tone of quiet, deadly fury, he asks her, “Do you believe him now?”

As Dean walks down some iron stairs to confront Metatron, he says, “You can save the humble-pie Jesus routine for someone who gives a damn.”

Metatron piously accuses Dean of being too “cynical.” He claims that most people don’t want to be cynical. They want to believe in something, someone. Dean correctly guesses Metatron wants that someone to be him.

Metatron: Why not me?

Dean: You’ve been working those people outside for, what, a day? And already, they’ve spilled blood in your name. You are nothing but Bernie Madoff with wings.

Metatron whines that it took a ton of “pancake makeup and soft lighting” to make God look good enough to interact with his worshipers. He says God hated it so much that his creations sensed it and blamed themselves: “They prayed harder and longer, and fought more wars in His name. And for what? So they could die of malaria? Leukemia?” And when God didn’t respond, they blamed themselves more (Metatron’s bitter tone implies he is one of these disappointed worshipers).

Metatron: God didn’t even know their name! But I do. Because I’ve walked among them. And I can save them.

Dean: Sure, you can. So long as your mug is in every Bible and “What Would Metatron Do?” is on every bumper.

Metatron doesn’t see anything wrong with that. He asks Dean if he can blame him for wanting such fame. This sets Dean, who is lit from below like the marble statue of a saint, but whose eyes shine with a madness almost divine in its fury, off.

Dean [while unwrapping the First Blade]: I’m blaming you for Kevin! I’m blaming you for taking Cas’ grace. Hell, I’m blaming you for the Cubs not winning the World Series for the last hundred-friggin’-years! Whatever it is, I’m blaming you.

As the First Blade is revealed and and an ominous horn blows on the soundtrack, Metatron does his best fake puppy dog look. But by the time the Blade is fully exposed, Dean is downright glowing with madness and rage, his hand shaking as he grips the Blade.

Metatron: The First Blade. Nasty piece of work, isn’t she? Okay, Dean. Let’s say you win and I die. What’s the world left with, then, huh? A herd of panty-waisted angels and you, half out of your mind with Lord knows what pumping through those veins?

Dean: You see, the only thing you said that went into my ear was that you die.

Metatron dismissively says that “fine, we’ll fight,” but you can tell he’s trying to find a way to psych Dean out because Dean is a clear threat. Then he realizes that Dean is stalling to give Castiel and Gadriel time to find the Angel Tablet. He gloats that he’s left orders for them to be locked up (unaware, of course, that this is no longer the case), so the plan is FUBAR.

Looking devastated, Dean turns away, in apparent defeat. It’s a feint and Metatron sees it coming when Dean swings back and high, blocking the Blade. But he doesn’t see the left-hand punch Dean delivers next and it staggers him.

Metatron: Well, that big blade and that douchey tribal tat sure gave you some super-juice!

Metatron cockily invites Dean to try again and this time, flings him across the room into a wall. He proceeds to beat Dean to a pulp until Dean’s slumped against a wall, telling him that he may be all high on the Mark of Cain, but it’s nothing to the “Word of God.” Meanwhile, Castiel is upstairs in Metatron’s study (Hannah has Metatron’s secretary at bladepoint, but she won’t talk), trying to find the Angel Tablet. Out in the homeless encampment, Sam is arriving. He puts some real and deserved fear into the murderous Metatron cultists by pulling a gun on them.

Dean gets a weird kind of smile right before Metatron appears to knock him out for the count and upstairs, Castiel is looking over at Metatron’s typewriter. Dean manages to call the First Blade back to him, but just as he brings it up, Metatron stabs him in the chest with his angel blade and twists it with a nasty grimace. Sam has just arrived in time to witness this and screams, “NO!” distracting both Metatron and a distressed Dean.

As Dean falls over, in Heaven, the Angel Tablet is falling to the floor of Metatron’s office and shattering (Though it’s never spelled out, these two events seem intentionally linked by cause and effect). The impact can be felt even down on earth, where Sam has rushed over to Dean and is pulling him back up to a sitting position, as Metatron looks smug. By this time, Dean is covered with blood. Metatron also looks up uneasily as the shattering of the Angel Tablet is felt as an earthquake on earth, as if being pulled out of a sinister dream. He still glowers at Sam right before Sam gets up and tries to stab him with an angel blade. Metatron flies off before Sam can strike.

He flies to his office in Heaven, where Castiel is waiting for him, sitting in his chair.

Metatron: Well-played, Castiel.

Metatron, of course, is upset. He bitterly assumes Castiel and Gadriel found some “dead-enders” to betray him. Castiel just tells him Gadriel’s dead. Metatron looks relieved and almost pleased that this is the case. But there’s still the matter of how “the Angel Tablet, arguably the most powerful instrument in the history of the universe is in pieces and – for what, again? Oh, that’s right – to save Dean Winchester. I mean, that was your goal, right? I mean, you draped yourself in the flag of Heaven, but, ultimately, it was all about saving one human, right? Well guess what? He’s dead, too.”

Castiel’s reaction, unsurprisingly, is one of shock and grief. When Metatron adds, “And you’re sitting in my chair,” Castiel appears taken off-guard when Metatron causes handcuffs to appear and cuff him to the chair.

Downstairs, Sam is desperately trying to save Dean’s life (which just causes Dean more agony), even as Dean begs him to run before Metatron can come back and finish the job.

Dean: Listen to me – it’s better this way.

Sam: What?!

Dean: The Mark – it’s making me into something I don’t wanna be.

Frantic, Sam insists they will find a way to deal with even the Mark, then gets Dean to his feet to carry him back out to get help.

Upstairs, Castiel tells Metatron, with great intensity, that he is not going to get away with it. This sparks an Evil Overlord rant from Metatron. With not-so-subtle encouragement from Castiel (which Metatron doesn’t even notice), Metatron calls the angels “frightened little sheep, following my crook wherever it leads.” He insists that even if they knew about his deception, the angels wouldn’t care because he’s taking them back “to our rightful place atop this mountain of human shame and excrement.”

Downstairs, Dean is fading fast as Sam tries to get him out of the factory.

Dean: What happened with you being okay with this?

Sam: I lied.

Dean: Well, ain’t that a bitch?

Upstairs, Metatron is gloating over Castiel, getting ready to stab him to death with an angel blade still stained to the hilt with Dean’s blood. He claims that Castiel’s biggest flaw, as his grace dwindles and his reputation lies in tatters, is that he lacked imagination. He “never read enough.”

Metatron: You never learned how to tell a good story.

Castiel [with tears of rage and grief]: But you did!

Castiel turns around and Metatron, with dawning horror, follows his gaze to the angel radio PA system he previously had set up. It’s on. And broadcasting. Castiel set him up.

Before Metatron can really react, the other angels come in from outside and grab him as Hannah says, off-screen, “Take him!”

Castiel, far from being chained to the chair, easily frees himself and grabs the blood-stained sword from Metatron. The tables have well and truly turned, but at what cost?

Downstairs, that cost is playing out. Dean can’t walk, anymore, even with help, and begs Sam to let him rest for a moment. Blood is now freely flowing from his mouth and nose, and he looks deathly pale.

Dean: I gotta say something.

Sam: What?

Dean: I’m proud of us.

Then he convulses a little and collapses, dead, on Sam’s shoulder. Sam desperately tries to revive him, then hugs him, ugly-crying, when he realizes it’s too late. Well, it’s too late for a lot of things at this point.

Upstairs, Castiel is shoving Metatron into his cell, which has been magically repaired. Hannah, standing nearby, tells Castiel he did “the right thing” by not killing Metatron as Metatron stares glumly around his cell (since his worst fear was always being imprisoned by Heaven). I roll my eyes really hard. She says it’s what “a leader” would do. Castiel insists he is not a leader. He just wants “to be an angel.” But as Hannah points out, he’ll die if he doesn’t find some new grace, soon.

Off Castiel’s pensive look, we get the beginning of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” from 1969. This was first used at the end of Season 1’s “Route 666” (yes, that episode).

To say that the difference in tone between these two scenes is vast would be a major understatement. Dean sure came a long way in nine seasons.

Cut to downstairs, back at the Bunker, where a red-eyed Sam is laying his Brother’s dead body on his bed to the opening lines:

Come down off your throne

and leave your body alone.

Somebody must change.

You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long.

Somebody holds the key.

Well, I’m near the end

and I just ain’t got the time.

And I’m wasted

and I can’t find my way home.

As the song continues to play, we get a montage of Sam having a stiff slug of whiskey in the Library before steeling himself to go down into the Dungeon to summon Crowley, using the materials Dean left behind. It appears that he blames Crowley for getting Dean “into this mess” (i.e., taking on the Mark) and he’s going to force Crowley to get Dean out of it.

Well, Crowley does appear, but not in the Dungeon. He pops up in the doorway to Dean’s room near the end of the song. Sitting in a chair across from Dean’s body and addressing it as if Dean is merely sleeping, he tells him he’s aware that Sam is trying to summon him to make a deal to bring Dean back. Calling it “all so expected” now, Crowley begins to intimate a new wrinkle this time round.

Crowley talks about “suggesting” that Dean take on the Mark. This isn’t precisely what happened in “First Born” (Crowley told Dean about acquiring the First Blade. It was Cain who told Dean he needed the Mark to be able to wield the Blade). But it’s interesting that this is how Crowley perceives it, since it shows how much deeper Crowley’s plan with Dean and that particular quest went.

Crowley insists that “I never lied, Dean. That’s important. It’s fundamental.” He then goes on to admit that he did omit something, a story (almost a legend) about Cain. It seems Cain, like Dean, didn’t want to become a killer, so he killed himself with the First Blade. But the Mark wouldn’t let go. It brought him back to life. But it was just a legend and Crowley insists he didn’t want to get anybody all excited (“Why set hearts a-flutter with mere speculation?”).

Crowley pulls something out of his coat. It’s the First Blade. He gets up and comes over to Dean, talking about how he began to realize the truth of the story when Dean summoned him and then had it confirmed when Dean showed no interest in the cheeseburger in the diner. And then he began to “believe, maybe miracles do come true.”

Crowley places the First Blade in Dean’s hand and folds Dean’s hand over his chest. If you look closely, you can see that Dean somehow looks less pale and battered than before, almost as if he were healing.

Crowley: Listen to me, Dean Winchester. What you’re feeling right now, it’s not death. It’s life – a new kind of life. Open your eyes, Dean. See what I see! Feel what I feel! Let’s go take a howl at that moon.

Dean’s eyes snap open. They are demon black.

Credits

Ratings for this episode jumped to a 1.1/3 in the A18-49 demo and 2.30 million in audience, off a repeat that got a 0.5/2 and 1.1 million. I think it’s fairly safe to say that the audience wanted to see how this storyline panned out.

Review: “Do You Believe in Miracles?” could just as easily have been titled “The Madness of Dean Winchester.” But I suppose that would have been a bit too Criterion Collection for Supernatural, as well as way too spoilery. Dean’s shaky mental health (and that of a few other characters) is front and center in this episode.

I know that I talk about the end scene in this episode quite a bit in my first essay about Jesus in Supernatural, and how Metatron wants to be Jesus, but I hadn’t realized until the recap rewatch just how extensive the metaphors were . It’s not just that others accuse Metatron of trying to be Jesus (like Sam and Dean), or even that Metatron acts the part in a general sense of wanting to appear as a kind God to humans. There is an actual moment in the episode when Metatron’s new human followers are tossing out epithets for him and he acts especially pleased when one of them refers to him as “Messiah.”

You know all those fans who kept asking when the show was going to do an episode about Jesus or when Jesus was going to appear? This is that episode. While it’s subtle in that goal, it’s not ambiguous or unclear. It’s set up with the type of plot where a fake version of a character type is shown up by the real thing. In this case, Metatron, already tired of being a distant God the Father, decides he wants to be Jesus, instead. I mean that this is literally and explicitly his goal. Then Dean shows him, pretty forcefully, who the real Jesus figure in the story is. The Jesus character is even resurrected at the end of “Do You Believe in Miracles?”

And in a classic Supernatural twist, Jesus and Judas run off together to go howl at the moon all summer hellatus.

For anyone who has seen through the end of Season 15, episode 15.18 even repeats this point. In fact, each of the eras (with the possible exception of Sera Gamble’s – depends on how you see the Season 7 finale) has a version of this. Dean’s first storyline of this type is the end of Season 3, though it more follows the central conflict of Christology than draws explicit parallels in the dialogue. But subsequent storylines of this type have been based on the Season 4 premiere, in which an angel drags Dean out of the Pit. It’s just that this episode is the one where explicit, by-name parallels are drawn between Jesus and specific characters in the story.

So, where does Metatron fail here? As I was saying in the recap, Metatron’s powers get pretty fuzzy during this season. His goals are … somewhat clearer. After (presumably) thousands, or perhaps even billions, of years on the run from angels in Heaven, he wants revenge and boy, does he get it.

But revenge turns out to be an empty Heaven, with only a hundred billion human souls he can’t touch for company. After a few months, he gets bored with this, seduces and recruits Gadriel, gets him to steal the Angel Tablet, and sets out to create a scenario where the angels flock back to Heaven, willing to live “under his thumb” (as Castiel bitterly puts it to Hannah).

But this, too, proves to be too easy (at least, with the help of the Angel Tablet), so Metatron turns his sinister, selfish attentions on humans. This part of his plan is pretty murky, but the fact that one of his first acts as “Marv” on earth is to get a mob of homeless people to murder a dissenting angel inside his vessel, and his Evil Overlord Monologue to Dean includes a lot of reference to humans killing in the name of God, we do get a pretty ugly picture.

We get more illumination in the character of Gadriel and his suicide. Gadriel is one of two Judas characters in the story. One dies redeeming himself. One … uh … doesn’t. But we’ll get to the second in a bit. Gadriel generally speaks in his Suicide Note speech about how he wanted to redeem himself after his failure in the Garden, but now realizes that this was a selfish goal. He now believes that “Humanity” must be protected at all costs, that the angels have failed in their mission to protect Humanity and that’s why they fell.

While Gadriel isn’t wrong – the previous few seasons have been a smorgasbord of cold-blooded angelic manipulation and destruction of humans to further angelic goals – his sudden focus on saving humans is puzzling and seems irrational, even a trite, last-minute motivation inserted by showrunner and episode writer Jeremy Carver into the narrative. But if you connect the dots from last week up to his suicide in this one, and the plan that he spells out near the beginning of this episode, what Gadriel means actually makes sense. By “Humanity,” he means “Dean Winchester.”

Part of the confusion lies in Metatron’s mistaking the intent of the plan when Dean comes after him. Metatron believes the plan is for Dean to stall him while Castiel and Gadriel sneak upstairs and disrupt his connection to the Angel Tablet. He’s got it exactly backwards. Gadriel’s plan is for him and Castiel to disrupt that connection so that Dean can kill Metatron.

In his speech, Gadriel is therefore saying that he needs to die so as to protect Dean from Metatron long enough for Dean to neutralize Metatron. But Dean is not supposed to be the distraction, the redshirt in the story. It’s the other way round.

By killing himself in service to this plan of acting as Dean’s bullet shield, Gadriel, it seems, hopes to redeem himself in the eyes of Dean, whom he betrayed to follow Metatron, by betraying Metatron to protect Dean. Just as Judas hangs himself after realizing the enormity of betraying Jesus to his death.

So, when Metatron accuses Castiel of his entire plan being to save Dean (from both Metatron and the Mark, one presumes), he’s not wrong, but he misunderstands that it was Gadriel’s plan, as well. But why does Dean spin it around? Is he genuinely unable to kill Metatron, or at least to hold out long enough to wait until the Angel Tablet is broken? I don’t think so. I think that Dean takes in what Metatron says about his remaining the preeminent threat after killing Metatron and understands that he must not do that. He has to go down in this fight and he has to do it in such a way that he brings Metatron down with him.

He, more than anyone (including Metatron), understands what a huge threat he is with the Mark and the Blade. He knows he can take Metatron, with or without the Angel Tablet. His smile of satisfaction when he manages to take Metatron by surprise and hurt him with that punch shows that Dean is aware he could kill Metatron if he really tried. Instead, he throws the fight, and allows himself to be beaten and stabbed to death. He would rather, to paraphrase Harvey Dent’s analogy from Batman film The Dark Knight, die a Hero than live to become a Villain.

Dean’s tragedy, of course, is that he can’t die. Death is not a solution for him. But he’s not aware of that until the very end of this episode (and we don’t see his immediate reaction). What’s interesting (perhaps to the point of being a plothole) is that Metatron isn’t, either, despite recognizing the First Blade and the Mark, and understanding their significance. In retrospect, it seems that stabbing Dean was a major error on Metatron’s part, since Dean would have come back even stronger, angrier and more deadly a few moments later. But again, we don’t see this in this episode.

What is remarkable about Dean’s act is not just that he chooses to sacrifice himself to a humiliating death at the hands of his worst enemy to avoid becoming a worse enemy, but that he does so by flipping the script and choosing to invest his faith in people who had previously failed or betrayed him or both: Gadriel, Castiel and, yes, Sam. Dean chooses to go down bloody so that these three can become the Heroes of the story. I don’t think this is his initial thought (though he’s definitely suicidal and probably has been for some time), but after his initial surprise that Metatron has guessed at the plan (albeit imperfectly) and captured Castiel and Gadriel, Dean gets a look of cunning and goes along with it. In this way, Dean redeems Castiel and Gadriel (albeit this results in Gadriel’s death), but in the process, he causes Castiel and Sam, especially, considerable distress.

The thing is that Sam and Castiel have been determined to save Dean. One could say this was their primary purpose, even over saving the world from Metatron – to save Dean from the effects of the Mark of Cain. Dean’s mental health, never good for most of the show, began to deteriorate alarmingly after he took on the Mark.

Unfortunately, Sam and Castiel’s response to this wasn’t good, either. They became too wrapped up in their own anger and guilt, and laid it on Dean, even as they tried to control him and the Mark and Blade through him. They told each other they were trying to save him, but they never told him.

In response, Dean felt (understandably) abandoned by his loved ones and fell into suicidal ideation. But he did a good-enough job of hiding this that he was able to fool Sam and Castiel into not realizing how deep his madness lay, how self-destructive it had become. They were so dazzled and frightened by the dark power overcoming Dean – and perhaps their own fantasies of what they would do with it if they had it – that they did not notice how suicidal Dean was.

Even Crowley, I think, mistook Dean’s deep depression (his lack of interest in the diner in the cheeseburger and other things he would normally enjoy) for a demonic affinity for Crowley himself. Crowley and Sam spent this episode in a tug-of-war over Dean’s attention and loyalty. By not telling Dean the story about Cain’s own failed suicide, Crowley became a Judas to him, but he did so to win Dean over and create in Dean a demonic affinity for him. In some stories about Judas, Judas loves Jesus a little too much, is a little too possessive, and that’s why he betrays him.

While the Mark of Cain is cast in the story as a metaphor for psychotic mania and rage (weaponized to a divine level), the First Blade is just as clearly portrayed as a metaphor for an addictive drug that heightens the madness the Mark creates or exacerbates, something along the lines of crack or meth. We see that Dean gets a high from using the First Blade to kill and that he struggles with this, especially after he finds out that he will die if he goes cold turkey and stops killing. By allowing Metatron to murder him, he rejects the corrupting, addictive power of the Blade in an emphatic way.

Addiction is also implied in Metatron’s relationship with the Angel Tablet. While the Angel Tablet does not seem to be addictive in and of itself, the power it offers goes to Metatron’s head. It makes victories so easy for Metatron that he begins to make sloppier and sloppier mistakes, until he finally trips over them to his downfall. Pride is his deadly sin.

Pride is also the sin of Hannah and the other Central Casting angels in the episode. Sadly, we never hear them express any guilt or gratitude over Dean’s sacrifice. He always remains to them just another dirty human with a demonic curse flowing through his veins.

In the show, unusual power of this type is always addictive and clouds morality and judgment. Demon blood was addictive for Sam. Eating souls was addictive for Castiel in Season 6. Even Crowley’s addiction to human blood is alluded to in “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (when he insists in the diner he’s kicked the habit and Dean doesn’t believe him – or care). Power is defined, not as control over your own life, but as illicit control over others. Thus, when Dean chooses to sacrifice himself to give Castiel and Gadriel the chance to break the connection with the Angel Tablet, his sacrifice is Christlike because it gives them back their Free Will and the chance at redemption.

On December 24: A Very Supernatural Christmas (Augmented Edition): Sam and Dean investigate a case around Christmas that appears to involve an evil version of Santa.

Next week: Ask Jeeves: We’re back to Season 10 with an episode where Sam and Dean are called to a moldy old pile for a reading of a will and the solving of a murder.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Stairway to Heaven” (9.22) Recap and Review

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Recap: Longish recap of Dean killing Abaddon, the angel wars, the secret portal to Heaven, Castiel’s stolen grace, Tessa, and Metatron’s boring supervillain plan.

Cut to Now.

At an ice cream shop in Dixon, MO, a Karen (she doesn’t have an onscreen name, so she’s just a stereotype) is giving a deliberately long and fussy order to the long-suffering soda clerk, while shushing her son. Seems the kid has noticed a young girl at a table, eating a very large banana split sundae with great enjoyment. Karen decides to go over and snottily ask the girl where her parents are (as if that’s any of Karen’s business, but since when has that ever stopped a Karen?). The girl tells her to buzz off and says she’s an angel.

We realize she really is an angel when a man enters the shop, pulling out an angel blade, and the girl appears to recognize him. She tells the Karen to run (the Karen doesn’t, even when the girl flashes angel eyes at her). Cut to outside the ice cream shop as the girl screams. Light flares and blasts out the windows.

Cue whining angel title cards.

Cut to Sam sleeping with a gun under his pillow (since when?) and no covers. A loud guitar cue wakes him with a start and he points the gun in the direction of the music. It turns out to be coming from Dean’s phone and it was Dean’s way of waking him up.

Dean: Nice reflexes. Better hair.

Looking at his watch, Sam comments that they got home only “two hours ago,” that he could have shot Dean by mistake. He asks, “What’s wrong with you?” Hey, remember when Sam woke Dean up in “Phantom Hitchhiker” because he wasn’t sleeping at all? Turnabout’s fair play, dude.

Dean tells him he’s “not tired” and that “we got work to do.” He tosses Sam’s boots at him and walks out. Later, as Sam comes out, showered and dressed and with a cup of coffee, into the Library, Dean is already packing up. This includes the First Blade.

It turns out Castiel called Dean and told him “something was going down” in Missouri (probably what happened to the Doomed Teaser Kid Angel). He says that Castiel wouldn’t supply any details, just wanted them to meet him there, so they are. He’d probably help Castiel, anyway, but he neatly covers it with the practical reason that Castiel has an army of angels backing him up and they’re going to need all the reinforcements they can get against Metatron.

Despite the fact that they are up against Metatron, who still has wings and could appear anywhere at any time, especially in a case that involves Castiel, Sam whines that there’s no need to bring the First Blade because it’s not a “Big Boss fight.” Sam seems to think that whether or not to bring they First Blade anywhere, even though Dean’s the only one who can wield “the Hockey Stick That Can Kill Anything” (as Dean puts it), should be a joint decision. Because Sam should get a say in that, or something. Sam insists that it’s because he’s worried about the Blade’s effect on Dean (even as Dean is protesting that he’s “fine,” which he’s not, of course), but I don’t see a whole lot of caring from Sam toward his brother in this conversation. I do see a lot of manipulative and controlling guilt-tripping. After some token protest, Dean ostentatiously leaves it behind. Bet that will be a plot point later on.

The next day, at the teaser crime scene, the Brothers arrive in their FBI suits. They are surprised when the female cop managing access to the scene greets them with alias names (for female pop stars) and ushers them right in. It turns out Castiel is waiting inside. Knowing their MO for using such aliases, he’s already primed local law enforcement to expect them. He just got the genders kinda wrong.

He immediately shows them a body with burned-out eyes in a body bag. It’s the Karen (oh, her poor son. I hope he ran). He tells them there are six dead humans in all, with burned-out eyes. And one dead angel vessel. He knew the angel, whom he calls “a good soldier.” He knew this angel wanted to go to war against Metatron, but calls what he did (presumably a suicide bombing?) “abhorrent, even for him.” But which “him” does Castiel mean?

Cut to a possible candidate. It’s Metatron in his study in Heaven, posing in a replica of Castiel’s raincoat over his sweater in front of a mirror. There’s a knock on the door. He hastily pulls off the raincoat as he calls, “Just a second!”

A second later, Gadriel enters. When Metatron complains about his barging in like that, Gadriel points out that he did ask for “a second” and that’s what Gadriel gave him. Metatron grumps about the literal-mindedness of angels, as if he didn’t already know that was in their DNA. He is, after all, an angel, himself.

Gadriel wants to “talk about tonight.” When Metatron says it will be “fine,” Gadriel protests that they are “losing.” Castiel has more angels on his side than Metatron now. They may not be going after Metatron just yet, but they were able to capture Gadriel and stop Metatron from killing Castiel. He means the angels, but it’s TFW that actually captured him and interrogated his feathery ass.

Metatron insists that they had their shot with Operation Lee Harvey (subtle), but blowing it was worth preventing Gadriel’s death. He then turns things around on Gadriel and points out that he met with the “enemy” (Castiel). Gadriel protests that he’s still loyal to Heaven and Metatron. He listened, but he knows Castiel lied to him. With that reaffirmed, Metatron grumps about Castiel’s popularity, admitting that he’s “cute” and has a sort of “simple charm.”

Metatron [about Castiel]: He’s like a mentally deficient puppy. I’m lovable … and funny. [off Gadriel’s skeptical look] I made God laugh – twice!

Gadriel points out that it was Metatron’s idea for Castiel to form a loyal opposition and notes that they have to meet tonight with the leader of the only large independent faction of angels left, an angel named Tyrus. Metatron insists he’s “got a plan” and Gadriel, a little horrified, glances at the raincoat and says, “It’s not that. Is it?”

Cut to Castiel’s headquarters, where Castiel is entering with a box of files, Sam and Dean behind him. He’s greeted by Hannah (the survivor of the peaceable angels who previously asked to follow him). After being introduced to the Brothers, and admitting she’s heard many things about them (in a disapproving tone), she does her level best to ignore Sam and Dean, especially Dean, who is snarky in response and says that “Cas is a fan.” Another angel abruptly takes the box of files, which is evidence from the crime scene.

Hannah then tells Castiel something ominous – an angel named Josiah didn’t make “roll call” that morning (when Sam questions this, Castiel admits that “they like to hear me say their names” and Dean snarks that he knows women who like that, too). Hannah (and the other angels) has immediately jumped to the conclusion that Josiah killed Ezra (the talkative angel from Metatron’s camp who was murdered the previous episode and appears in the beginning recap) and was a Metatron spy in their camp.

As Hannah looks skeptical, Sam sits down at a computer to research Josiah’s movements by looking up the dead angel from MO (Castiel identifies him as “Sean Flynn from Omaha”) and Dean points out that since angels can no longer fly, they can be tracked like humans. Sam immediately finds that someone just used Sean’s credit card. But the other angel who took the box is a jump ahead of Sam. He’s somehow found CCTV footage of the angel confrontation in the ice cream shop.

It shows an Asian American guy doing a foodie selfie video at the ice cream shop right before the incident. When the other angel enters the shop, the person filming the foodie guy turns the video in the direction of the two angels. We see the man pull open his coat to show a bare chest with Enochian symbols carved on it (as in, into his flesh). He shouts, “I do this for Castiel!” right before he stabs himself in the middle of the symbols. A bright flash of light and the girl angel’s piercing scream end the video call. Cut to Castiel, who looks upset.

Dean immediately asks Castiel, “What the hell was that?” Castiel protests that he would never ask any other angel to suicide bomb “innocents” and them quietly says, “I’m gonna be sick.”

Sam asks why an angel would be using Castiel’s name under those circumstances. Hannah corrects Sam and has the other angel rewind. She recognizes the girl as an angel named Esther, who was in Metatron’s camp. Sam realizes it’s a hit on the girl angel.

Castiel says he doesn’t know what’s going on, but Dean is skeptical (Keep in mind that Castiel did kill everyone in a political campaign office when he was Godstiel and under the influence of the Leviathan, so it’s not that illogical for Dean to be skeptical that Castiel is not acting duplicitously in creating Manchurian Candidates out of his fellow angels). Even so, Castiel is upset that Dean wouldn’t believe him. And Dean brings up the whole Godstiel incident in rebuttal, especially acting pissed off that Castiel lied to him and Sam. Dean’s not wrong. Castiel may mean well now, but he has done things just like that in the past, or worse.

Sam thinks it’s bad to air these things out in front of a bewildered Hannah and Redshirt Research Angel, but, well, surely, they know everything Castiel did as Godstiel. It wasn’t exactly a secret in Heaven. Anyhoo, once they get into Castiel’s office and Sam tells Dean to “stow your baggage,” he discovers that yep, Castiel did something dumb again, just as Dean was saying.

Castiel knows the guy in the video. He was an angel named Oren who was on a shift at the hospital. It seems Castiel has angels from his army doing minor healings and other things that stay under the radar. Castiel admits that the little girl, and the angel inside, was probably “atomized” by the blast, since the spell focused its power on her. Yay.

Dean says he and Sam are going to investigate. Since Castiel asked them in and his Manson-Family-style groupies don’t trust the Winchesters, Castiel coming along would just be a liability. Castiel firmly insists on going to find out what Oren was up to. Dean says fine, but he sends Sam along to babysit. Sam is surprised and not too thrilled to hear this.

Later that night in a stolen car, Sam and Castiel grump about being reduced to sidekick status (one neither is used to). They both figure it’s the Mark’s influence on Dean and while Castiel admits that Dean is always “a little angry,” he just seems more so of late. He’s hurt that Dean would think he would have sent angels on suicide missions that killed innocents, which is kinda hilarious when he’s done far worse in the relatively recent past, while lying to Dean about it.

When he asks Sam if he believes him capable of such things, Sam rather uncomfortably lies and says, “no,” but then hedges a whole lot about how uncomfortable the whole angel army thing is making him. I’m trying to recall if Castiel has even mentioned that this is something Metatron set him up to do in the first place. It seems like an awfully important point that no one is talking about and if he’s lying about that, then yeah, Dean is totally justified in not trusting him.

It’s also pretty uncool that Castiel is leaving Dean alone with a bunch of angels Dean has already expressed unease about – and in a position where Dean has to interrogate them. Sure, Dean sent Sam with Castiel and sure, it was Dean’s plan to interrogate them. But Castiel is the one who called the Brothers in on the case in the first place and he decided to run off on a hunt against Dean’s expressed wishes.

So, during the car ride, while referencing rock stars and L. Ron Hubbard, Sam talks about how “faith” makes people do crazy and destructive things. When Castiel protests that he feels responsible for getting his “people home,” Sam continues this rant. Said rant strikes me as quite OOC for a guy who has cited his religious faith and belief in God more than once on the show.

But we’re not quite done with the OOCness for characters this week, not by a long shot. Metatron is at a bowling alley with Gadriel playing his bodyguard, trying to persuade the aforementioned Tyrus to come over to his side. Tyrus loves bowling. Turns out he also loves being independent. And he doesn’t want to go back to Heaven. Fair enough, so far. But then he goes off on this rant about how he doesn’t respect Metatron because Metatron is a “nerd” who is losing to Castiel. When Metatron has Gadriel pull out his angel sword as a not-so-subtle threat, Tyrus is unimpressed, saying that the other angels in his group will just end up going over to Castiel. But he’s willing to reconsider if Metatron wins a game of pins against him (Metatron loses).

Now, this is an also-not-so-subtle reference to Curtis Armstrong having a lead role in 1984 hit Revenge of the Nerds. But it makes no sense in context, especially when Metatron, humiliated, starts to leave after the game, just as a suicide bomber named Constantine shows up and blows up Tyrus (and, presumably, kills a bunch of human bystanders, too).

It’s not just that when Gadriel protects Metatron from the blast, that’s not necessary. Metatron still has his wings and could fly them both out of there quite easily. It’s not even that Tyrus doesn’t really want to go back to Heaven. It’s that Metatron is the character in this interaction who has all the cards. He rules and controls all access to Heaven. He has wings. He could probably kill Tyrus himself. He doesn’t even need Tyrus’ followers, so why is he there? It’s a major plothole that is only partially explained (and not very well) by the end of the episode.

Cut to Castiel and Sam, who are talking to a cocky store clerk who talked to Oren. He didn’t catch Oren’s license plate, but he did get an address Oren asked about. He acts surprised when they ask him to write it down. Why would he mention it in the first place if he didn’t think they’d want the info?

Cut back to Angel 1 Base, where Dean is interviewing one of Oren’s angel colleagues from the hospital. She is snotty toward him (I am starting to see a pattern here and it’s not a good one), even though she is officially under suspicion and whatever he reports back could get her executed. But sure, mouth off and say bigoted things like calling him an “ape.” From the very first, when she informs him that her name is too long and difficult for him to pronounce, so he can call her “Flagstaff” (Dean just responds with a noncommittal “copy”), she’s truculent and uncooperative for no reason that makes sense for the situation her character is in. This is, bizarrely enough, the second Karen (‘Princess’ might be a better name for this variation) character in the story after the one in the ice cream shop.

By the way, if Flagstaff’s actress Kaären de Zilva looks familiar to you, that’s because she’s a frequent flyer in Canadian productions . I remembered her from two different roles in Da Vinci’s Inquest (both with titles involving ducks, for some reason) and a recurring role on its sequel series Da Vinci’s City Hall. I know she’s got a lot more range than playing bitchy and stuck-up, which she could do in her sleep and is all that’s required of her here. Sadly, I think this was just a rent-paying role for her. It’s Flagstaff’s only episode.

After Princess (sorry, Flagstaff) keeps making syrupy endorsements for her suicide bomber bud, and Dean repeatedly asks her why this saint among angels became a suicide bomber, with no response, she goes off on a rant against Dean himself. It’s a patented Andrew Dabb “Dean’s an ape” rant (I don’t think the show ever quite realized how iffy using the word “ape” in relation to humans these days really was and it’s not aged well in the past six years). She insists she’s a “healer” (who, you know, happened to work with a dude who blew up himself, along with a bunch of innocents) and calls Dean a killer with “oceans of blood on your hands. I hate men like you!” (Um … since when are angels doing gender now?)

At this point, Dean’s had enough (Thank God. So had I). With a weary sigh, he suddenly changes demeanor. Flipping the table over, he knocks Flagstaff right to the floor, still in her chair, puts an angel blade to her throat, and says, “Honey, there ain’t no men like me.” Which is not even close to an exaggeration.

At this point, Flagstaff loses all her cockiness and gives up the names of two of Oren’s friends – Constantine and Tessa. Shocked, Dean double-checks she means Tessa the Reaper and Flagstaff acts surprised that he knows her. Makes you wonder why she didn’t just give him the names in the first place.

Cut back to daytime in Pray, MT, where Sam and Castiel are arriving outside what looks like an abandoned warehouse. But Castiel insists that it “radiates power” such as he has never sensed outside Heaven. When Sam goes to pick the lock, Castiel insists, “I got this” and tries to break down the door. But his angel strength isn’t working on it, for some reason. “I don’t got this,” he admits.

Cut to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar later that night (a Christological allusion I missed the last couple of times I watched this episode). Tessa is about to enter the theater when she’s accosted by Dean. He tells her he tracked her from the hospital via the GPS in the ambulance she stole. She asks him why he’s there – just a love for musical theater? He says he only likes Fiddler on the Roof. She tries to turn around and go inside, anyway, but he grabs her and slaps angel cuffs on her, then demands to know where Constantine is (Constantine is blowing up Tyrus at that moment).

At the warehouse, Castiel is showing Sam that the building is covered in Enochian warding. There’s also a riddle.

Castiel: Why is Six afraid of Seven? I assume it’s because Seven is a prime number. Prime numbers can be intimidating.

Sam: It’s because Seven ate Nine.

As soon as Sam says it, the door opens. Castiel compliments him and mentions the “Doors of Durin in Lord of the Rings.” Sam is surprised that Castiel knows about the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Remember that Metatron gave Castiel pop culture knowledge in a previous episode, but it seems the Brothers don’t know about that, uh, gift).

Sam then gets a call from Dean, who has arrived back at Angel HQ with Tessa. Tessa tries to shout into the phone that Dean is a “psycho” (pretty rich coming from a would-be suicide bomber). This concerns Sam. Meanwhile, inside Angel HQ, Flagstaff is being predictably useless and divisive by whining about how Dean was mean to her during her interrogation. Worse, the other angels are actually listening to her.

When Dean comes in with Tessa, they’re all shocked, but for precisely the wrong reasons, even when Tessa declares that there’s “no God – only Castiel.” When Dean shows them that Tessa carved a spell into her own chest, they (led by the wishy-washy Hannah) immediately jump to the conclusion that he wounded her instead of only cutting across the spell to “defuse” it. I mean, they’re angels, with angel eidetic memories, and they’ve seen the video of Oren in the ice cream shop. You’re telling me they wouldn’t be able to confirm with their own eyes (and angel senses) that Dean did exactly what he said he did? Gee, it’s almost as if these angels are more concerned about facing the consequences of their actions than with stopping their own from hurting humans, or each other.

I’ll admit that my recapping temporarily ground to a halt because I just couldn’t even with all the angelic stupidity and hypocrisy in this episode. Lots of incompetent writing all the way round. It makes me feel a little better, knowing none of these angels will still be alive after the next couple of seasons. It saddens me that, for the most part, we don’t get to see their collective demise.

Flagstaff, of course, is right there, hiding behind Hannah and another angel, and putting her oar in. Hannah insists that only Castiel can “punish” Tessa, speaking in exceedingly tepid and academic tones about how, yeah, what Tessa planned was “horrible,” but what can ya do? She claims that only Castiel is holding these disparate angels together (after billions of years of strict obedience, they’ve discovered that much Free Will in just a few months? Really?). Other angels come in from both ends of the corridor, menacingly, to back her up.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Dean gives up his angel blade and agrees to go in with Hannah and just “talk.” As he does, Hannah looks triumphant and smug. Too bad for her she doesn’t know Dean Winchester very well. Translation: Dean doesn’t need an angel blade. He probably brought the First Blade with him.

In Montana, Sam and Castiel are wandering through the big, moldy warehouse, with no clue where they’re going. Sam suggests they head back to Angel HQ, since Dean surely must be right about Tessa (Wait, did he just admit that his brother might be right about something?! Don’t worry – it’ll pass by the end of the episode). Castiel wants to go a little farther and gets ahead of Sam. Sam has spotted something on the wall and is reading it. It says, in red letters, “Only the Penitent shall pass.”

This is, of course, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Sam even lampshades it for those of us who haven’t ever heard of Harrison Ford’s most famous and iconic role). Sam yells a warning at Castiel, just as two giant, razor-sharp, circular blades come out of the wall. Castiel ducks in time. They continue on.

Back at Angel HQ, Tessa is doing an excellent job of damaging Hannah’s inner peace. She declares that Castiel recruited her because he knew she was strong enough to make the hard decisions, unlike some people here (staring pointedly at Hannah). When Dean asks her, what about all the human innocents, Tessa says they’re collateral damage, necessary. Dean rather sadly tells her she’s wrong about that. When she goads Hannah some more, Hannah gets mad and goes after her, but Dean instead grabs Hannah and shoves her back out into the hallway.

All of the other angels have disappeared (production values, I guess). Hannah asks if Dean thinks Tessa is telling the truth. Dean says that Tessa thinks she is. With a rueful look, Hannah silently gives her consent to Dean to interrogate Tessa alone.

In the Montana warehouse, Sam and Castiel finally arrive at something interesting. It’s a door with a light on the other side that’s so bright it shines around the edges and through a window near the top. Castiel insists it’s “the door to Heaven.” He says that it’s “calling” him and rejoices in their new edge on Metatron. If they can control the door, they can “take the fight to him.”

Yep. They took that great and subtle title from that famous Led Zeppelin song and made it completely literal.

Sam warns Castiel to be careful, but all that happens once Castiel opens the door is that they find themselves inside what looks like a Party Town set for Heaven. There are regular balloons and blue mylar dolphin balloons and New Year’s Eve tinsel everywhere while a cover of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” plays on the soundtrack (Alastair was also singing this while Dean was torturing him in Season 4’s “On the Head of a Pin,” a much-better episode than “Stairway to Heaven”). I think it’s the Fred Astaire version from Top Hat (1935). Castiel is confused and even says, uncharacteristically, “What the hell…?”

Sam finds a card on a nearby table. It says, “Welcome to your personal heaven, Castiel. Good luck finding the real one.”

When Sam turns around, he’s startled to see a badly burned man, lying near the entrance, the two of them hadn’t noticed before. Castiel identifies him as the missing Josiah and says that he “reeks of holy oil.” Glancing above the doorway, Sam sees a contraption that dumped the holy oil on Josiah and then set it on fire. Sam comments that Josiah got “Home Alone’d.” Why would angels need to resort to such a trap? Castiel realizes that the entire setup was “a lie.”

Josiah wakes up suddenly. It turns out he’s not quite dead. He babbles about how Castiel was the one who supposed to be in his position (I think). He bemoans that after Ezra died (i.e., after he killed Ezra), Metatron told him that he could “come home,” which was his dearest wish. After all, he did turn traitor and murderer of his own brethren to win it.

But when Castiel offers to heal him, Josiah refuses, saying he “would rather die” than be beholden to Castiel. He goes off on a rant (There are a lot of character rants in this episode) about how Castiel thinks he’s doing good, but he’s really not. I roll my eyes hard. He claims that Castiel is no longer “one of us” and that when he looks into Castiel’s eyes, he longer can see “an angel staring back at me.” Having delivered that bitter, self-serving little pill, he dies.

Well, we finally got an angel-not-named-Metatron who didn’t think Castiel was All That. Too bad he was a minor villain and a moron, to boot. Made it pretty hard to take anything he said seriously.

Back at Angel HQ, Dean returns to the interrogation room to confront Tessa alone (No, she’s not singing “Cheek to Cheek”). Smirking, she asks where Hannah is. Dean says it’s just the two of them now.

He refers to their shared history. With a smile, Tessa acknowledges their “meet cute” moment when Dean was dying in the Season 2 premiere. Dean asks her again why she agreed to become a suicide bomber. When she mentions Castiel again, Dean goes deeper, asking what her motivations were for joining Castiel and becoming a suicide bomber. Dean claims that while he’s “been in bad shape, I have never been that low.”

Now this requires a bit of parsing. Dean is arguably the most suicidal recurring character in the show. There are times when it’s a constant battle for him to get out of bed. Near the end of Season 9 is not one of his better periods of mental stability.

But I think what Dabb is trying to say is that Dean has never thought taking innocents with him was acceptable just to end his own pain. And that’s a big line. What I don’t understand is why Tessa crossed it. The ensuing conversation doesn’t add much light to that motive.

Tessa says that she “couldn’t stand the screaming, anymore.” Those souls who were bound for Heaven are now instead trapped in the Veil. They are “confused” and in “pain,” a lot like Kevin and the other ghosts in “Captives” earlier this season. She wants, needs, to help them, but she can’t. It got to the point where she began to believe that a final death, oblivion for a Reaper, was preferable, since it was at least peaceful.

Dean asks why she didn’t just kill herself. She admits that she was “weak” until Castiel gave her a reason to die (If this sounds like a wee bit of foreshadowing for the other person in the room, well, you’re not wrong).

Dean opines that’s not the Castiel he knows. She disagrees. She points out that Castiel “raised an army” of angels without telling Dean. She also tells him that there are more suicide bombers “out there,” but when Dean asks for names, she refuses.

At that point, yup, Dean brings out the First Blade. Bizarrely enough, Tessa is actually shocked that he has taken on the Mark of Cain and asks, “Dean, what have you done?”

Dean: What I had to.

Tessa: Welcome to the club.

She grabs him by the shoulders and shoves herself up against the Blade. With a whispered “thank you,” she shoves it in deeper, and dies in a blast of white light and screaming. Dean is briefly dazzled by her death light, then, after she falls, we see him reluctantly ride a crest of a massive high (some nice acting from Ackles here).

Hannah and some other angels burst in to find Dean pretty literally red-handed. Startled out of his high, Dean gets a “Now, hold on a minute” look and puts up a warding hand.

In the next scene, he’s the one in cuffs, shackled to a chair with a piece of duct tape over his mouth and a bloody nose, looking disgusted. Castiel and Sam come in as Hannah is trying to explain that “he put up a fight.” Oh, hon, bless your heart. If he’d really done that, there wouldn’t have been any of you left.

Castiel tells her in a deadly voice, “Get out.” She and the others scurry off, sensing they have, um, crossed a big line.

As Sam goes to rip the duct tape (painfully) off Dean’s mouth and uncuff him, Castiel yells at him about killing Tessa and Sam berates him for bringing the First Blade. Gotta be honest – I had to stop the recap for a while because the way Castiel and Sam were acting was so mind-blowingly stupid and clearly a case of the writer having the characters act Dumb on Cue to further the plot.

Look at how the situation would have appeared to Sam and Castiel coming back into it. They know they left Dean alone with a bunch of angels who didn’t like him. They know said angels had at least one traitor (Josiah) in their ranks who killed at least one angel prisoner at Metatron’s behest, and that others have gone missing and turned up as suicide bombers. They know that Tessa turned up dead shortly after Dean outed her as a would-be suicide bomber and that he got the crap beaten out of him by the other angels.

Unlike the writer, they don’t know that Dean Winchester is a lead character on this show and that he has plot armor that means he’s unlikely to get killed permanently in this episode. As far as they know, he’s still human, with some augmented aggression, reflexes and maybe strength.

So, why are they automatically buying the angels’ side of the story? That makes no sense. I mean I get that Castiel feels some responsibility for his brethren’s plight (obviously), and that Sam is shocked about Tessa’s death, but Sam doesn’t even like or trust the other angels and he wasn’t that close to Tessa. It’s really out of character for Sam, especially.

Dean points out that Tessa stabbed herself. Rather than absorb this information, and try to figure out how it fits into the pieces he and Castiel found in Montana, Sam instead goes off on a controlling rant about how Dean brought the First Blade along against Sam’s express wishes. Never has Sam sounded more like Cuthbert Sinclair than in this moment. It’s not flattering.

Hannah injudiciously chooses said moment to interrupt and say that Castiel has a “call” from Metatron. Castiel comes out into the main area of Angel HQ to find Hannah has put Metatron up on a large desktop screen so everyone can hear what he has to say. Boy, these angels with no experience with or interest in Free Will sure are using it this episode.

Metatron, very predictably, is there to gloat (Metatron, alas, is very predictable). After engaging in a brief exchange of snark with Dean (which includes the usual obligatory Dabb insults to Dean’s intelligence and education), he then proceeds to unload his coup de grace on Castiel’s struggling campaign.

First, he sets up the worst frame job ever by claiming Castiel sent the suicide bomber who killed Tyrus. He also claims that Tyrus’ followers are now flocking to his side and that everything he did to cause the angels to fall was “necessary.” He did it to make them collectively stronger. And, oh, yeah, he digs the knife a bit that Castiel cares more about the Winchesters than his own angelic family.

When Castiel calls him out on his lies and Hannah whines a bit, Metatron catches Castiel in on one of his own. He lets everyone know that Castiel is only an angel again because he graced-up on another angel’s stolen grace. That’s his big play. Well, that and he offers the other angels re-entry into Heaven, no questions asked, but only if they act now. Then he peaces out.

After some pearl-clutching over how they’re only doing this because they’re now questioning if Castiel is still “angel” enough to lead them, Hannah and the others grab Dean and demand that Castiel prove himself by “punishing” Dean for killing Tessa (Hannah really throws Dean under the bus here, distancing herself from her own responsibility in the situation). I briefly entertain the wish that they’d actually tried to kill Dean, as this would undoubtedly have led to their mass demise not too long afterward. I especially would have liked to see Flagstaff go down bloody.

Sadly, Dabb’s just filling up screentime at this point. Castiel, after some woeful, conflicted gurning, refuses to do any such thing to his best friend. So, the angels take that as their excuse to bail. And bail they do, right back to Metatron.

What gets me about this plot point is that Metatron never needed to get Castiel to form an army or anything like that in the first place. He could have just offered the angels amnesty up front and most of them would have hurried right home. He even admits this in his speech when he allows that having Gadriel massacre Hannah’s group wasn’t his greatest decision as a leader ever.

So, in that light, it makes sense that they would go with Metatron. They’re sheep looking for a leader and he’s the only one with the key home. What doesn’t make sense is why they followed Castiel first, or why they all got massacred for refusing to follow Metatron beforehand. Honestly, it’s all pretty dumb.

Also, while I know poor Erica Carroll tried hard with this character, did anyone like Hannah? She constantly flip-flopped between professing great loyalty to Castiel and stabbing him in the back. And trust me on this – she only gets worse in Season 10.

Cut to Metatron’s office in Heaven. He’s coming in, while on a cell phone (really, Show? That’s cheap). He’s talking to Hannah, I guess, accepting her group’s undying loyalty and devotion. Gadriel is sitting in a chair, looking totally pissed off.

Remember Ezra’s “elite unit” info from a few episodes ago? Those were the suicide bombers. Gadriel recruited them, not realizing that Metatron intended to brainwash them into betraying and discrediting Castiel.

After imperiously telling Gadriel that that part of the plan was “none of your business,” Metatron then natters off on a tangent about how “that’s an old writer’s trick – flipping the script.” He Evil Overlords his entire plan (which we already knew about, actually, when he told Castiel). He built up Castiel as a major antagonist and then took him down. As far as I can tell, the whole point was to get the majority of the angels to come crawling back to Heaven and break the rest of their spirit. Okay. I guess.

Metatron then declares, “I am inevitable.” Which is about the moment we know for sure he’s doomed (A minor villain in Bond flick GoldenEye (1995), for example, declares “I am invincible!” right before he’s flash-frozen). Now this statement has been made famous by Avengers: Endgame (which Supernatural, Season 15, ripped off a whole lot). The film’s villain, Thanos, utters this line, believing he has achieved ultimate victory, right before his final defeat.

Curiously, though, “Stairway to Heaven” aired in 2014, five years before Endgame came out. And I don’t recall the original plot in the comics having Thanos utter that line (His motives for getting the stones are very, very different in the comics). So, it looks as though the film may actually have stolen it from this episode. Huh.

Standing up and looming over Metatron, with a look on his face as if he just encountered a really nasty smell, Gadriel then easily draws out the rest of Metatron’s rather silly plot by asking about Josiah. Metatron dismissively calls Josiah “a loose end.” He says with a naughty giggle that he did tell Josiah where to find the portal to Heaven, but then he moved it. Oops. His one regret is that Castiel didn’t fall victim to one of his booby traps.

Metatron: While everyone else is playing Checkers, I’m playing Monopoly. And I always build a hotel on Boardwalk. And I always win.

As Gadriel looks as though he’s about to throw up, Metatron sits down with a triumphant smile. If there’s one thing that’s the silliest in this pretty ludicrous script, it’s that Metatron, who just finished boasting about how he’s manipulated all the other angels into doing exactly what he wanted by staying several steps ahead of them, then lets Gadriel walk out that door. It is a classic Evil Overlord mistake that he doesn’t notice how much his right-hand angel wants to just puke on his shoes and then knife him in that moment. Sure, he probably can foresee that Gadriel’s about to betray him (as he foresaw Gadriel’s previous meeting with Castiel). But it’s still a rookie Evil Overlord mistake to let him try.

Cut to the Impala at night, in the rain, Dean driving, Sam on shotgun, Castiel in the back. We get a relative closeup of each one of them, starting with Sam’s epic bitchface, Castiel pensive and sad, and Dean looking as if he couldn’t possibly care less what Sam thinks. Right there with ya, Dean.

Back at the Bunker, Sam pushes this boundary right away by wanting to “talk about this” (translation: get Dean to apologize for bringing the First Blade along without Sam’s permission). Dean responds with one of my favorite Dean lines ever, especially with Ackles’ offhandedly snarky delivery, in which he makes it very clear he is not apologizing.

Dean: Yeah, I lied. But you were being an infant.

Now, I know Dean is already pretty bonkers at this point, as demonstrated by his next rant, where he gets angry and tells Sam theirs is no longer a partnership, but a “dictatorship,” until Dean is able to kill Metatron. But he’s not wrong, either. He’s not wrong that he’s the only one with the current means to kill Metatron and he’s not wrong that Sam was “being an infant” this episode.

Sam does not get to have mort-main control over Dean’s own Free Will. It’s morally questionable and that’s all there is to it. Sam doesn’t have to like it and Dean is certainly being scary, but neither is Dean wrong.

This is borne out by what each brother does next. While Sam stomps off in a snit (to his room, I guess), Dean comes into the Library and sits down across from Castiel, who looks woeful, to check on him. Dean asks him, “How long you got?” Castiel says he hopes it’s long enough to take down Metatron, but he’s less hopeful now they no longer have an army (which was totally useless, but there you go). Note that after hearing their friend is, essentially, dying, Sam goes off to sulk and Dean comes over to reassure him. You know, the crazy, “insensitive,” out-of-control brother.

When Dean tells Castiel that at least he has the Brothers Winchester, Castiel asks if Dean really believes he sent Tessa and the others out as suicide bombers. Now, remember that Tessa tried to sow doubt in Dean’s mind earlier about that. But just as the angels realized that Castiel cared more about the Winchesters (well … Dean) than them, so did Dean. Dean figures that if Castiel was willing to lose his army taking the high road on that score, he’s not the type to use his own brethren as suicide bombers like that.

Castiel wonders if the three of them will be enough. Dean says, “We always have been.” But it turns out they may not need to test that theory. As Sam, coming back into the Map Room, calls out a warning, Gadriel enters through … the back door? Seriously? He was there all along? How did he get back in? Yes, he was in the Bunker for a long time, but it’s supposed to be warded even against angels and the script gives no explanation about whether he copied the key or did a spell, or what. He pops up out of a literal plothole.

Anyhoo, Gadriel claims he’s there in peace. In response to Sam’s truculent, but on-point, question of how they can trust him, Gadriel says he can give them Metatron. Hmm, haven’t we heard this one before?

He appeals next to Castiel, revealing that the suicide bomber plan was Metatron’s. Then he more generally admits, “I’ve made mistakes.” Well, there’s an understatement, especially when he tries to argue the others have, too. Not a winning argument, there, Gadriel. Just saying.

He asks for a second chance. Dean, who appears to be considering his offer, glances at Sam, who gives him a half-hearted shrug. Slowly and cautiously, Dean steps down into the Map Room, approaches Gadriel, and holds out his hand. Looking relieved, Gadriel takes Dean’s hand.

But then Dean’s microexpression changes to one of cynicism and then pure rage as he whips out the First Blade in slowmo and rips a diagonal, glowing line across Gadriel’s torso. As Gadriel falls back against a pillar in horror and pain, Castiel and Sam have to restrain Dean from finishing the job, as Dean roars and puffs like a maddened and frustrated bull.

Credits

Ratings for this episode came in at 0.8/2 in the A18-49 demo and 1.74 million in audience.

Review: I didn’t retain a whole lot of memory of “Stairway to Heaven” before my rewatch, aside from the angels being annoying, Dean going after Gadriel (that “infant” line was also memorable), and Tessa’s death, which I didn’t like the first time. I didn’t like it the second time round, either.

Watching it in light of the series finale, I was surprised to see that Andrew Dabb (who wrote this episode) basically ripped off the end of Season 9 for Season 15, as well, without apparently understanding what made Season 9 popular (Hint: It was the Mark of Cain storyline and an amped-up dark Dean). We have a bored, tyrannical and capricious God character who also fancies himself a storyteller. We have the question of Predestination vs. Free Will. We have a lot of gaslighting and manipulation and handwaving of nonsense in the plot as “It was all a trick!” It’s basically the same old conflict all over again.

It also has many of the flaws in it that we’d see later on during Dabb’s showrunner tenure, not least the tendency to write an ending and then shoehorn everything toward that ending instead of building it up properly. We also got a lot of Dean-bashing in this episode, which, strangely enough, usually backfired because so many of the characters were flat stereotypes with poor motivations.

This episode is well-directed (by series regular Guy Norman Bee, whom I’ve always liked), so the pacing and production values are good. There is some original framing (particularly in contrast of character lighting and filming characters from weird angles like the ground) that increases the sense of paranoia and something’s-not-quite-right in the episode. There’s also some memorable acting from Jensen Ackles, as Dean begins to visibly decompensate. The reliably snarky Lindsey McKeon as Tessa tries hard, but it’s not a very good script and she doesn’t get a whole lot to work with. Unfortunately. I liked Tessa.

The writing doesn’t only suffer from major plotholes (like that ill-conceived decision to make Reapers into angels that the writers finally just dropped). Its subtext is also extremely chaotic. I often found following Metatron-centered episodes in Season 9 unnecessarily confusing with all the cross and double-cross and false flag crap, which was basically there just to mask underdeveloped plotting and characterization. It wasn’t satisfying.

A lot of fans blamed showrunner Jeremy Carver at the time, and he should take some licks for it, since he, at the least, allowed it to happen on his watch. But considering how badly the show went downhill in terms of mytharc after Carver left, I think it’s totally legit to call out future showrunner Andrew Dabb on trends and problems within his own episodes that would later pop up during his showrunner tenure.

The events of “Stairway to Heaven” make it pretty clear that the angels were tricked by a mean-spirited, cold-blooded plan by Metatron that brainwashed Castiel’s own troops into killing themselves, murdering innocent humans, and even assassinating Metatron’s own, most loyal forces, to “discredit” Castiel. Metatron’s motives are pretty thin and low stakes (for him). It’s not Metatron trying to win, let alone survive. It’s just Metatron being bored and messing around with pawns. He’s already won the most important battle and, without Sam and Dean (especially an amped-up Dean), neither Castiel nor any of the other angels would have a chance against him. If anything, angels, without their wings, are ridiculously depowered in this season and that hits a nadir this week.

Therefore, every time the angels in Castiel’s camp get mad at Dean or Castiel, or run off to become suicide bombers, or betray their own brethren so they can go to Heaven, they are (or should be) clearly in the wrong. And yet, Dabb can’t seem to resist casting Dean (and sometimes Castiel, when Dean’s not handy) as the bad guy. He has everyone question whether Dean is in control of his own bloodlust (because apparently, cold-bloodedly choosing to kill yourself, along with a bunch of innocents, because you’re too much of a coward to just off yourself, is so much better). This is a bizarre subtext take when Dean is (albeit struggling at it) maintaining control and doesn’t kill anyone this week (Reminder: Tessa killed herself).

Also, being in control in this context is vastly overrated, when Metatron is in clear control for most of the episode (especially after we get the reveal near the end). Yet, only Gadriel is the one who finally realizes that Metatron is the true villain here and then Dabb has him run afoul of Dean’s rage in the coda. So, Dean can’t catch a reputation break with Andrew Dabb even then.

I finally realized why later-season angels irritated me so much. They’re boring, yes, but they’re also cookie-cutter versions of the same one-or-two character types. Either they’re too robotic (and gullible) or they’re too human. Neither type is very mysterious or interesting (unlike Castiel or other memorable earlier angel characters like Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, Balthazar and Naomi).

Take Hannah. She’s not very bright. A small houseplant could fool her. It irritated me a whole lot that both she and Tessa threw Dean under the bus with the other angels by pretending he had done things without their knowledge or consent that they’d given explicit consent to. This, of course, was Tessa’s last episode, but Hannah returned for a while and I think her wishy-washy, “both sides,” genteely racist characterization here damaged her reputation permanently with the audience.

There are others on the robotic side like her, but they’re barely in the story (one infodumping dude even wears a red shirt). She professes to be loyal to Castiel and willing to follow him everywhere, but “everywhere” doesn’t seem to include putting up with Castiel bringing the Winchester Brothers in to do an external inspection of the troops.

The Winchesters – Dean especially – are like Pinkerton detectives in a Dashiel Hammett story like “Red Harvest” (Love me some Continental Op), where nobody in the corrupt town is thrilled to see this canny investigator exposing their secrets and crimes. So, it makes some sense that the angels don’t welcome Dean with open arms.

The problem here is that the angels, especially in Hannah’s group, aren’t supposed to be that peculiarly human kind of corrupt, so it’s weird when they start hypocritically ranting at Dean or Castiel or whomever for crashing their nice little racket that isn’t supposed to be running in the first place. By the end of the episode, Hannah and the others were ready to bail on Castiel for very stupid reasons.

Similarly, while it’s obvious at this point he’s been having his suspicions of Metatron for a while, Gadriel has been mighty slow on the uptake for half a season. He seems to be seeing through Metatron now, finally, but he sure did a lot of damage in his boss’ name up to this point.

On the flip side, you have angels who are inexplicably too human. Angels don’t have gender, so why does Flagstaff sound like a Men’s Rights Advocate on 4chan’s idea of what a member of a Women’s Studies Program sounds like? Why is an angel like Tyrus going around calling other angels nerds (and why is he so careless that he doesn’t even show up to a meet with Metatron with a bodyguard, who would have stopped Constantine in his tracks)? Why is Metatron acting like the bullied kid in school looking for revenge when 1. he’s an angel and 2. he currently has all the power?

While I agree that “Stairway to Heaven” intends to show us that Dean is losing control and that the angels have a legitimate reason to fear him, I disagree that it was successful. In fact, I would call it a red herring that mutated horrendously due to the writer’s dislike of Dean as a character. Dean does not lose control in the episode until the very end – we know this because he didn’t kill any angels (Tessa committed suicide and effectively framed him for it), not even when they attacked him, bloodied his nose, and tied him to a chair. He could have, rather easily, massacred them all, but he didn’t. He didn’t even injure any of them.

Yes, the Mark of Cain has made him strong enough to match ten angels (without their wings) while holding back. And yes, he is struggling. That’s definitely true. But his motives and actions make more sense in this episode than pretty much anyone else’s. That also makes him the most sympathetic character because it’s easy to see where he’s coming from.

Dean is brought in, with Sam, by Castiel to help solve a mystery. Castiel then runs off to Montana on a mission he could (and should) have delegated to one of his troops. He leaves Dean alone with a bunch of angels who already don’t like humans and who know that he is there to find a killer among their own.

Even though they can’t kill him, Dean is in a vulnerable position with the other angels. They treat him with inexplicable disdain as if he’s Frankenstein’s Creature. I mean, they’re following Castiel, who has a much higher angelic body count than probably Dean’s entire lifelong body count, but Dean is the one who freaks them out? Like, what did you think you were doing there, Castiel?

So, when the angels are getting their knickers in a wad over what Dean’s doing, ultimately, he’s doing what he was asked to come in and do (and he does find and defuse one suicide bomber, which is more than anyone else accomplishes). Seems pretty unfair to blame him for … doing what he was asked to come in and do.

Not helping their case is how little the angels care about the fact that they had at least one traitor in their midst (Josiah) who was working for the enemy, or that at least three of their number (Oren, Tessa and Constantine) had been brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers who were murdering innocent humans (and, in Oren’s case, another angel on his side) as collateral damage. I rolled my eyes pretty hard when Flagstaff was going on and on about being a healer and helping humans, while covering for her angelic comrades who were murdering humans left and right. This indifference makes the angels look more petty and hypocritical than scared.

I mean, of course Dean is going to be pissed off that angels are going on rogue suicide missions that get humans killed. He’s human. Augmented human at this point, to be sure, but still human. He’s gonna side with his own people who are getting slaughtered in the crossfire of Yet Another Stupid Angel Conflict. Karen may have been a pushy bitch, but that didn’t merit a death sentence, any more than her son wanting a version of Angel Kid’s banana split or Selfie Dude wanting to take some foodie porn of his ice cream.

What’s especially bizarre is that the angels’ don’t-cross line is finding out that Castiel stole grace to re-angel up, enough that they were willing to abandon him en masse when he refused to kill (sorry, “punish”) Dean. They then went over to the angel who had vindictively kicked them all out of Heaven and taken away their wings. Because that makes sense.

This is why all the blatant cult parallels in the script fall apart for me. In the end, Castiel doesn’t really have that kind of control over his brethren. That’s just an illusion. And the brainwashed angels were brainwashed by Metatron, with Gadriel’s inadvertent help.

Another thing that didn’t make sense to me was Tessa’s characterization in this one. In fact, if she weren’t played by the same actress and didn’t have the same name, I’d question whether she was even the same character. The Tessa we saw in previous episodes was cold and detached and even arrogant. But she wasn’t fanatical and she didn’t hate Dean. She was dedicated to maintaining the Natural Order. Becoming a suicide bomber for a rebel angel is pretty much anything but that. The saltiest we saw her get with Dean was in Season 6, when she disliked having to babysit him for a day to teach him her boss’ lesson. It was a sad and underwhelming ending to a beloved character who had been around since Season 2. I read an interview with Taylor Cole once that said that around this time, the writers were having older characters come back, but only to kill them off. Yay. Screw you, Dabb.

Then there’s how this episode continued the retcon from earlier in the season of making Reapers angels. We can probably blame the incompetent Nepotism Duo for this one, but Dabb must have liked it because he went to town with it in this episode. It. Makes. No. Sense.

There is nothing in the lore prior to Season 9 that makes Reapers angels (even the execrable “Taxi Driver” from Season 8 was ambiguous about its changes). Death is, most explicitly, not an angel. Reapers have very different powers and nature to those of angels.

Yeah, I know this season also introduced (rather limply) the idea that there were “specialist” angels with their own powers, but even those angels shared basic powers and nature with other angels. Reapers don’t. They don’t have wings. They don’t possess people, prior to “Taxi Driver.” They don’t look like angels. They can’t be seen by humans unless they choose to. They have powers of illusion and even reality manipulation. They can stop time.

There is no logical reason, for example, why Tessa would happen to possess a vessel who looks just like the pretty illusion of her previous, incorporeal form that she used to comfort Dean in Season 2. Since Reapers don’t have wings, and Death is one of the most powerful beings in the SPNverse, there is no reason they would be blocked from bringing souls to Heaven. Nor is there any mention of what happens to souls going to Purgatory or Hell (I guess they still can?).

The show spent a lot of effort developing the idea of the Veil, but never quite committed to it. Eventually, they let it drop around the end of Season 11 (when a Reaper cleared it out at one blow). It was one of those hot messes of a major dropped plot in the later seasons, like how the lack of angels in Heaven threatened to make it fall apart and land in fiery pieces onto the Earth. That one went absolutely nowhere, despite multiple chances to resolve it. The Veil did, too, and Reapers were basically back to being just Reapers by Season 15.

I have to say that I found the casual way the script treated the morality of the suicide bombers very disturbing. Suicide bombing that doesn’t care about the collateral damage of innocents just seems to be one of those things that are bad, however you slice them. Like, oh, say, murdering babies (Anakin Skywalker, side-eyeing you forever). By making all of the suicide bombers white, the show seemed to want to avoid the taint of racism or Islamophobia (since many Americans see terrorists only as non-white, Muslim, or both). Unfortunately, they then cast a woman of color as their Fellow Traveler/Apologist character.

Worse, Kaären de Zilva is of Sri Lankan descent and that casting got used as some pretty questionable character subtext. Sri Lanka is a country with a major and problematical history of organized female suicide bombers called the Black Tigers, and this plotline was obviously inspired by them (the “elite unit” bit was a major clue). This puts a new spin on Flagstaff’s self-serving rant at Dean about hating “men like you” and it’s not a pleasant one.

It also makes little sense within the context of this story. Dean, far from being a soulless government operative, is an idiosyncratic freelancer from beyond the edges of respectable society, coming in at the behest of a friend – totally different dynamic, even without the original racial one. So, the show managed to whitewash this plot for the most part without removing any of the more problematical elements. That’s some feat, Dabb.

I got the impression that Dabb thought he was doing Jayne Cobb (“Let’s be bad guys!”) from Firefly, and Jayne’s rather rough-and-ready (and not too bright) approach to things, with Dean. But Dean has been coming off all season, at least internally, a lot more like River Tam. That’s a pretty fundamental lack of grasp with a character.

Now I said that Dean loses control near the end and this is true, but even then, his motives make more sense than anyone else’s. Sure, we the audience know that Gadriel is sincere … of course, we also knew he was sincere earlier in the season, too, and see how that turned out. He means well, but he does tend to be an unpredictably murderous, gullible flake.

But there is no way for TFW to know that he’s on the level. He has already betrayed them once in the worst possible way. It’s gonna take a whole lot more than popping up uninvited in the Bunker for a cup of tea to convince them that it’s safe enough to work with him again to let him back in.

The way Sam and Castiel respond sorta, kinda makes sense, but not in a way that makes them look very good. They’ve spent much of Season 9 blaming Dean for how things turned out with Gadriel and Castiel has also had a meeting with Gadriel pretty much behind Sam and Dean’s back. Sam, meanwhile, was possessed for half a season, so he missed a lot.

But they didn’t witness first-hand most of what Gadriel actually did. Dean, on the other hand, had a front row seat to the shitshow Gadriel put him through. He’s the one Gadriel strong-armed into kicking out Castiel while Castiel was lost and still human. He’s the one who got pinned to a wall and forced to watch while Gadriel used his brother’s body to murder Kevin. It is completely in character for him to attack Gadriel. Sure, the completely bonkers ferocity with which he does it is new, but he was bound to be pissed off.

Which leads us to whatever the hell Sam thinks he gets to do here, which looks an awful lot like what Magnus was trying to do to Dean, which was calling the shots while using Dean as his personal living weapon. Unfortunately, the episode’s writing never fully acknowledges that this is precisely what Sam is doing, so it sure as hell doesn’t have Sam recognize it. Sam seems to believe that the Mark of Cain is something that Dean can – and should – share with his brother, that Dean should be consulting with Sam about when and how to wield the First Blade, even letting Sam call the shots on that.

To quote a certain Amazon princess, “Where I’m from, that’s called slavery.”

Look, it’s totally legit for Sam to be freaked out by the changes going on inside his brother, the journey that Dean is on, and say so. I mean, Dean‘s freaked out. But there’s a difference between having healthy boundaries and trying to control the other person. A big difference. And Sam ain’t on the healthy boundaries side. The Mark is Dean’s cross to bear and the First Blade is Dean’s weapon to wield. There is no team involved. Dean is not Secretariat. He doesn’t need Sam to play jockey in order to be effective.

I think I’ve already said in past reviews that the Mark seems to have an effect on the people around the bearer of it and not just the bearer, that makes the bearer a victim of their manipulation and gaslighting (so perhaps this is another way for the Mark to isolate the bearer). We didn’t just see this with Dean. It was clear in what we saw of Cain’s story, too, and even what we heard about when Lucifer had it.

Its power appears to inspire envy and covetousness (despite its being a curse and a heavy one, at that), where others, in their desire to control it, seek to turn the bearer into a living weapon, enslaved to whoever can control the bearer. But Dean is not a living weapon. He is a person. And he deserves better from those who claim to love him.

Next week: Do You Believe in Miracles? (Season Finale): As Dean unravels, Sam and Castiel struggle to find a way to defeat Metatron. But a dark horse decision changes the entire game.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Carry On” (15.20 – Series Finale) Recap and Review

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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Pretty standard recap of Chuck’s defeat and Jack Sue’s ascendance, with a brief bit about Castiel’s death.

Cut to Now. Dean is waking up to his alarm at 8am (Why would he set his alarm now? Is that supposed to mean he’s sleeping better?). As he sits up, Miracle the dog runs into the room and jumps up on the bed. Dean cuddles him. Yep. They kept the dog. Frankly, this is the best part of the episode. It’s all downhill from here.

Sam is outside running on a walkway. Both scenes are scored to Van Morrison’s “Ordinary Life.” Instead of “Carry on, Wayward Son.” He comes in and is cooking eggs when Dean strolls into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes (Since when is Sam a good cook?). We then see Sam, shirtless after getting out of the shower, but we only see Dean in his jammies and bathrobe because reasons. If you’re not a Sam fan, don’t expect a lot of fanservice coming your way in “Carry On.”

Later, Sam neatly makes his bed, while Dean half-asses it. Dean washes the dishes (and sneaks the dog some scrambled eggs), while Sam reads a book and does laundry in a rather rickety old dryer. Dean cleans a saltgun, then checks his watch. It’s 10am. He’s in his laptop in the Library, Miracle beside him, as Sam strolls in. Sam sits down and checks out his own laptop, commenting that there’s nothing of their kind of job on social media. Dean doesn’t answer at first. He’s got something.

Cue title cards.

They arrive … at the 43rd Akron Pie Festival. Dean is near tears of joy. He gets six different kinds of pie as Sam sits and waits. Sam mopes about Castiel and Jack, but Dean says that the only way to honor their “sacrifice” is to continue on. But when he offers Sam some pie, Sam pushes it into his face and exclaims that he does feel better, after all. Behind them, a very familiar looking bystander (director Bob Singer doing a cameo) laughs.

At an upscale house, a generic white dude is checking the mail, while his sons play a board game in the living room. As Mom calls them up to bed, a shadow passes behind the front door and then the doorbell rings. Dad goes to answer it, but there’s no one there. Then he’s stabbed to death from behind as he turns back. Two men in skull masks enter the house.

Mom, horrified, turns to the boys and shouts, “Run!” They race upstairs and she after them, as the two men stalk up behind them. The mother shuts the boys in their bedroom, where they hide under a bed. She screams outside as one of the skullface attackers does something to her that makes her collapses to the floor. The kids, hiding under the bed, are dragged out from under it.

Cut to the next day, with Sam and Dean coming up to the house. They talk briefly to a young policewoman, who infodumps that the dad’s throat was ripped out and his body drained of blood (kind of hard to do that to an already-dead body). The kids are missing, but Mom is still alive, albeit with her tongue ripped out. She drew a picture of the skullfaced guys.

Exit Young Policewoman.

Dean says he recognizes the drawing and Sam agrees. Back at the Impala, which is parked under a tree, Dean pulls out John’s journal. It turns out that John once went on a hunt near Akron. It involved a drawing of the same skullface, the same parental murder MO and kids going missing. He was never able to track down either the kids or the cause. Dean is convinced it’s mimes. Sam says it’s more likely to be vampires.

Using the pattern, the Brothers figure that the next target will be a house outside Canton with young kids. Later that night, the skullfaced house invaders do, indeed, show up at such a house. But before they can ring the bell, Dean beheads one and Sam shoots the other twice (once in the skull) with bullets tipped with dead man’s blood.

Once the vamp wakes back up, he’s unmasked and Dean (who is mock-disappointed not to get mimes this time) starts interrogating him. I have a good laugh remembering that time episode writer (and, sadly, final showrunner) Andrew Dabb bragging that he always tried to find the motivations for their MOTWs, what things are like from their POV, because this vamp is stupid. And ridiculously cocky. Well, at least, until the Brothers point out that they have ways of making a beheading take a very long and painful time.

So, it turns out that these vamps have a ridiculous MO, with elements (like the tongue getting ripped out) that are never explained. They kidnap a couple of kids every few years (Cocky Vamp calls it a “harvest”), feed them up well for a while – and then kill and eat them. Lovely. We segue off his once-again-smug face to the Impala arriving outside a barn (I love how no farmers ever seem to notice that shenanigans are going on inside their barns in these episodes).

Sam wonders if it’s really the place.

Dean: Dark? Creepy? Something out of Wes Craven’s erotic fantasy? It’s 100% the place.

As they arm up, Dean wants to bring in some shuriken for once (instead of just the old machete standby), but Sam firmly nixes the idea. For some reason or other. I’d think that shuriken soaked in dead man’s blood would be – oh, I dunno – useful, maybe.

Into the barn they go. It’s wide open and kinda decrepit inside, with hay bales here and there. As the Brothers move through the barn, machetes at the ready, we see they’re stalked by two vampires in skull masks. They hear a noise coming from a door. Dean pulls it open and they find the kids inside a small closet.

Dean quickly and quietly instructs the boys to come out, but just as they’re turning around, they see four vampires blocking their original entrance. Dean tells the kids to run in the opposite direction as he and Sam turn to face the vamps.

The Brothers take the fight to the vamps (Dean calmly saying “Okay”). Sam gets first blood by beheading one vamp, but then gets tackled and knocked out by another one. Dean kills another vamp and disarms one, but then gets pinned down by the two survivors. A woman strolls in, wearing black leather. Dean recognizes her. We get a final “son of a bitch.”

We also get a quick flashback to Season 1’s “Dead Man’s Blood.” In case you (like probably most of us) forgot all about Jenny, she was the victim who got turned in the episode and escaped with the Vampire King’s mistress Kate at the end.

As the other vamps yank him to his feet, Dean starts a jocular conversation with Jenny to distract his enemies from noticing that Sam is waking up and going for his machete. Dean asks if Jenny’s “the Big Boss” now and she says, no, she “just called dibs.”

If you’re expecting any more explanation of where these vamps came from or what their deal is or how Jenny is involved with them or if this is even the entire nest, forget about it. Just as she shows teeth, Sam whacks her head off from behind. This precipitates another fight as Dean breaks free. Dean takes on the bigger one and Sam the smaller one, and Sam still gets his ass kicked hard before he manages to behead the vamp.

Dean is beating pretty hard on his opponent. He’s momentarily tossed across the room past a piece of rebar sticking out of a post for some totally random reason. When he charges back in, the big vamp manages to pick him up and run him across the room again, shoving him up against the rebar.

Some fans are griping that the complaints that Dean got shoved onto a nail are inaccurate because it was actually rebar. Folks, nails and rebar are both fasteners and the set design placed the rebar as if it were just a big nail (not least because rebar isn’t usually used in wood and doesn’t stick out at an angle like that). I’m guessing the logic went something like, “We need Dean to get impaled on a nail, but nails aren’t big enough, so let’s use rebar.” Also, rebar gets rusty pretty quickly, which is a real problem in preservation of things like historic concrete.

Short version: This is not the in-defense-of-stupid-writing hill you want to die on.

Dean is still trying to push the vamp off when Sam comes up behind the guy and beheads him, too, ending the fight. Yes, that’s right – Dean only gets to behead one of the four vampires.

It takes Sam a moment, in the middle of talking about finding the boys and getting them home, to realize that Dean is not coming off the post and that this is because Dean is stuck to it. Dean has to spell out for Sam, using small words uttered past a wall of pain, that he has a piece of rebar stuck through his back. Sam reaches behind Dean and his hand comes back with blood, but Dean won’t let Sam pull him off it because he figures he’d just die sooner.

Ah, Show, you never did bother to learn about anatomy. If this thing were going through Dean’s heart, he’d be dead, already. Ditto if it were going through his Aorta. It ain’t that small. So, just what part of Dean, dear Mr. Dabb, do you think it’s stuck into such that he can’t be pulled off it and rushed to a hospital? He could survive a sucking chest wound, so the lung (which is also back there) shouldn’t be it.

Sam starts to go get their med kit or call 9-11 or do something useful. Instead, he listens to Dean, who woozily begs him to stay with him and proceeds to give a Dying Swan speech. Sure. Listen to the guy going into decompensating hypovolemic shock about his medical care.

Dean tells Sam to take the kids and get away (not that there are any vamps left, as far as I can see). He tells Sam that “you knew it was always gonna end like this. It’s supposed to end like this. Saving People, Hunting Things,” as if he hasn’t been desperately avoiding that fate for years.

When Sam insists he will “find a way” to save Dean (like, I dunno, calling 9-11?), Dean insists that Sam not bring him back from the dead (“It always ends bad”), even though he’s not dead, yet. He then says he’s starting to fade out and “there are some things I need you to hear.” Oh, Dean, even as you’re dying, you have to prop up Saint Sammy.

Pulling his brother closer, Dean tells Sam that he’s “proud” of him (even though Sam was being a total brat to him just a few episodes ago). He starts blowing smoke up Sam’s ass about how Sam was always smarter and stronger than he was, and even stood up to John when they were kids. He recaps the moment in the Pilot when he went to find Sam at Stanford. He says that he “stood outside your dorm for hours” because he was afraid Sam would reject him and it had always been the two of them (well … except the two or four years Sam was at Stanford and the year Dean was in Purgatory, and … ah, never mind. This scene is clearly intended for the Bibros).

Sam starts ugly crying and begs Dean not to leave him. In a total reverse lift from the Pilot, he says, “I can’t do this without you,” Dean says, “Yes, you can,” and Sam replies, “Well, I don’t want to.” Ugh. Reading this script, you’d think this show only ever lasted one season because they sure harp on Season 1 a lot.

Dean then tells him that he’s not “leaving” him, that he will always be with him (he touches Sam’s chest). He even uses the phrase from Jared Padalecki’s mental health charity, “Always keep fighting.” He tells Sam he loves him. He figures he didn’t anticipate this being his last day, but, hey, who does? Then, as the pain starts to overcome him, he shakily begs Sam, “I need you to tell me it’s okay,” over and over again, until Sam tearfully takes his hand and does. Sam adds, “You can go now.”

Dean smiles and lets his hand fall to Sam’s. He says, very quietly, “Goodbye.” Then his hand drops as his head falls forward and he loses consciousness, a single man tear streaming down. The camera cuts to a wide shot of the inside of the barn as Sam really cuts loose with the ugly crying.

I’m wondering why Sam is crying, since now he’ll get a version of Dean who never embarrasses him, never talks back, never argues, because he’ll be imaginary. Wasn’t that always what Sam wanted?

Jensen Ackles does a fine job of acting this slow fade-out, to the point where you can even see Dean’s eyes glazing over and he’s starting to choke for air. And those seem like real tears coming from Padalecki. But damn, the writing in this scene is bad. And it goes on forever. This scene clocks in at seven minutes. That is too damned long, Show. Also, it occurs to me that this scene is written more like a breakup scene than a death scene, in which Dean wants to move on, but feels bad about leaving Sam behind. That dissonance undercuts the emotion rather a lot.

Cut to an external shot during the day, with Sam standing next to Dean’s funeral pyre, Miracle sitting beside him. Dean is wrapped in a shroud. After some hesitation, Sam tosses the lighter onto the pyre and we get an aerial shot as it quickly goes up in a fireball. It’s a whole other long montage, y’all, this time set to Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms.” It’s a good song (about a dying soldier on the battlefield during the Falklands War), but like a lot of good songs used to shore up weak writing on the show, it doesn’t save this scene, or this episode.

Cut to inside the Bunker. Sam is now waking up at the same time as Dean (8am), rather than earlier, as he was before. We see him in the kitchen, wearing Dean’s hoodie (I think it’s Dean’s, but Sam has worn similar ones before) and distractedly cooking scrambled eggs, then moping in the Library, staring at the carved initials on the table, while poor Miracle sits between his legs, desperately trying to signal that he needs to go out and pee.

Sam then visits Dean’s room and sits on the bed, apparently really seeing the room for the first time – the two beer bottles on a nearby table, two saltguns on the wall. He starts to cry, while petting Miracle, who moans sadly, missing Dean (who would have remembered to take him for a walk). Sam then notices a paper on Dean’s desk (some have said it was an application for a job as a cop, which seems bizarre, considering Dean didn’t like law enforcement). But it turns out he’s actually noticing Dean’s Other Other Phone buzzing in the desk drawer, amid a bunch of other phones.

When he answers the call, it turns out to be a cop down in Austin, TX, asking for an Agent Bon Jovi. He’s had some bodies turn up, sans hearts, and another cop named Donna Hanscum gave him this name and number (Oh, hey, good to know she got un-dusted, eh?). While struggling to keep it together, Sam says he’s coming down. We then see him pack up and leave with Miracle (There’s something sad about the way that poor dog has to struggle up the steps), but he turns the lights out on his way out. Seems he’s not coming back. I found this the saddest scene, as in real life, they’ve since torn down that set.

Cut back to the moment when Dean’s body went up in smoke. We see Dean arriving in a mountain clearing. He immediately realizes what’s happening and says, “Well, at least I made it to Heaven.” (Someone asked the very cogent question on Twitter of which Reaper would be willing to ferry Dean’s soul anywhere but The Empty after the events of 15.18.)

Dean hears a familiar voice behind him. It’s Bobby. And he’s sitting outside a roadside bar. It is, in fact, Harvelle’s Roadhouse without the Harvelles. Or Ash. Dean is confused. He doesn’t know what memory this is. He’s even more confused when Bobby tells him it’s not a memory at all. That’s because Dean thought Bobby was still locked up in heavenly jail by the angels – also, that’s how Memorex Heaven is set up.

Bobby proceeds to infodump that Jack showed up, busted him out of “lockup,” made Heaven one big continuous place where everyone is happy (Considering these are humans we’re talking about, I doubt it’s that simple), and “set some things right.” ‘Cause the silliness in this episode was not complete without some offscreen deus ex machina from Jack Sue.

Oh, and “Cas helped.” And that’s all they say about Castiel. Apparently, all of this (including John getting let into Heaven to be with Mary, despite being an abusive dad for 23 years, and Rufus shacking up with Aretha Franklin over the next hill) was to make Dean happy.

Bobby: It ain’t just Heaven, Dean. It’s the heaven you deserve. And we been waitin’ for ya.

Bobby pulls out two beers, hands one to Dean, and says, “It’s a big new world out there. You’ll see.”

After swigging the beer, Dean realizes it’s just like the first one he ever shared with his father, which was terrible beer, objectively speaking, but evokes a wonderful experience. Dean opines that Heaven is “almost perfect,” and Bobby tells him that Sam will “be along.” Bobby adds that “time works differently here.”

[screech!] Wait, what? Okay, besides the whole timey-wimey thing being a direct ripoff of Ben Sisko inside the Wormhole at the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, what happened to Dean wanting to move on? I mean, Dean stopped Sam from getting medical help, let alone anything involving black magic. He was clearly suicidal, which means he wanted to get out of life and leave Sam. So, why is he mooning over Sam now? That makes no sense.

Also, excuse me, but what about Miracle? Is he just chopped liver? Dean clearly loved that dog and it’s been heavily implied since “Dog Dean Afternoon” that at least some animals go to Heaven (okay, maybe not that pigeon).

Bobby asks Dean what he wants to do first. Glancing over, Dean sees the Impala (with its original KAZ 2Y5 plates) sitting nearby and says, “I think I’ll go for a drive.” As he starts her up, we finally get Kansas’ “Carry On, Wayward Son” and Dean comments that he “love[s] this song.”

As Dean revs off down dirt roads and plenty of scenery, we see Sam back on Earth with a young boy (helpfully labeled “Dean” on his toddler overalls). Miracle is now gone, with no explanation. Young Dean grows up with a totally normal life, playing catch with Dad while an off-focus, nameless, dark-haired Mom character in a dress watches from a picture perfect farm house. Because Eileen Who?

Later, we see Sam, now wearing glasses, helping Young Dean with homework. We see he has a photo shrine to his family in the living room. Still later (while Dean is still having fun driving around up in Heaven), we see a much-older Sam, with a really terrible Dollar Tree wig that looks like a Senior Citizen ferret, enter a garage where he keeps the Impala under a tarp. Looking depressed and arthritic, he gets in the driver’s seat, takes off his glasses, grips the wheel, and unhappily reminiscences.

Much later, we see Sam in a hospital bed at home (so, presumably on hospice) with a heart monitor. His son, now full grown and sporting an anti-possession tattoo on his arm, comes in.

Sam has a full beard, and looks old and decrepit. He’s wearing an oxygen cannula. His son tells him the same words he once told Dean, “It’s okay. You can go now.” Sam smiles at his son, and as a much slower tempo cover of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts (not even remotely a fan), he clasps his son’s hand and dies. As his son cries, we pull back to see the photo shrine and two stained glass windows.

Cut to Heaven, where Dean is arriving on a bridge from his jaunt and a generic acoustic guitar version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts up. He’s wearing the black jacket and red plaid shirt that he wore in the Pilot. He gets out and goes to the railing, looking over the river with a wistful smile. Then he gets a look of recognition and smiles broadly. “Hey, Sammy,” he says and turns around. Sam is there, looking the way he does at the beginning of the episode, but wearing his clothes from the Pilot. They hug and look over the river.

Credits (for the showrunners)

We get a brief coda of Ackles and Padalecki in the same clothes on the bridge. They each thank the audience, then the camera pulls back to show Jim Beaver, Bob Singer, and the crew on either side of them.

More Credits (for everyone else)

Ratings for this new episode went up to 0.4 in the A18-49 demo and 0.5 in the A25-54 demo, as well as 0.2 in the A18-25 demo, and 1.38 million in audience. The retrospective leading into the show got 0.3 in the A18-49 demo, 0.4 in the A25-54 demo, 0.2 in the A18-25 demo and 1.195 million in audience. The series finale the highest audience for the show since 14.18.

Review: This is gonna be long – like, even-longer-than-my-”Swan Song”-review long. And if you loved the episode, you should probably stop here. Sorry in advance.

Okay, this episode was pretty bad. No, it wasn’t so bad that it makes me want to throw away my DVDs or not want go back and finish up the retro reviews (which is how I did feel about “Swan Song.” I hated that episode). I didn’t see it as homophobic or racist, as some disappointed fans have claimed, though there were some really questionable decisions regarding the (absent) female characters. So, it wasn’t a worst case scenario.

But Lord, it sure wasn’t good, either. I’m pretty sure that if the show had actually bothered to ask Dean fans what we wanted as a good ending for him, the collective answer to “Carry On” would have been along the lines of “Mmm, not this.”

The best I can say about “Carry On” is that it only really ended Sam’s story. For Dean, it was just another Thursday. The show basically wrote Sam out by detailing the entirety of the rest of his mortal existence. Dean, on the other hand, finally broke up with Sam (yay) and moved on to a higher plane. But then the show had him … drive around in a car in Heaven until Sam showed up. Really? What does that say about Dean that he had nothing better to do with his heavenly days but wait for Sam? He couldn’t have at least gone looking for Castiel?

That kind of passivity is totally OOC for Dean in recent years. We’ve seen that Dean gets up to lots of things when Sam’s not around. Hell, Dean downright blossomed as a person whenever Sam was absent. So, shoving him back into the eternal cubbyhole of brotherly codependency and holding Sam’s cape, while Sam went on to have a normal human life, was gross. In the end, the show insisted on going back to the obsolete idea that Sam was the only protagonist in the story and that everyone else (including Dean) existed just to get him further down the road. Wow. That’s really cynical.

And no, Show, it didn’t help that y’all made Sam look totally miserable the entire time he was having the apple pie life. How is that fair to his (nameless cipher of a) wife and son? He couldn’t even enjoy his life with them a little bit for their sake? Come on, what is wrong with y’all? I feel sorry for the writers’ families if this is truly how they perceive their loved ones. Holidays sure must be fun Chez Dabb, Kripke and Singer.

This looks like a pretty good spinoff idea to me

Now, on the plus side, that car ride concept was really vague. Bobby did say Dean could do whatever he wanted up there and it does seem that Heaven was restructured largely to make him happier (which, not-so-coincidentally, made a whole lot of other human souls in Heaven happier, too). Lots of things Dean could have been doing, while waiting for Sam to show up, for that inevitable spinoff the network still desperately wants. Singer and Dabb may have done their utmost to burn this all down as they went out the door, but they didn’t quite succeed (or maybe the network wouldn’t let them).

I think you could fit an entire series of any length in there about Dean and Castiel fixing up the SPNverse to make it a kinder and fairer place (make some arrangement with The Empty, break Benny out of Purgatory, give Kevin either a life or a free ride to Heaven, check up on Rowena, that sort of thing), so that Sam and his family and people like them could live a normal life, saf(er) from monsters. Throw in the Wayward Sisters as allies/weekly protags and for MOTWs to keep the budget reasonable. I would watch the shit outta that. In fact, if this were twenty years ago, I might have sat down and written the series, the way I wrote that Joe and Methos series after Highlander ended and Raven gravely disappointed me (and I liked Amanda, too) (https://thesnowleopard.net/arch2.html).

But this episode? Nah, I didn’t cry. I was too annoyed. It was self-indulgent and maudlin. And even with months and months for the showrunners to come with something good, it felt half-assed and slapped together, writing-wise.

A brief(ish) Master Class on endings

So, let’s carry on and carve up this turkey, and while we’re at it, let’s have ourselves a Master Class in how to end a story.

First of all, remember how Eric Kripke had his Author Insert character Chuck claim at the end of “Swan Song” that “endings are hard”? That’s a load of bollocks. Endings are not any harder than the rest of the story, if you have set that story up properly. Both “Swan Song” and “Carry On” weren’t good because the writers did not set them up properly. Not only were they not good endings, they weren’t even good episodes.

Lack of proper setup for the ending we got is the real reason why, for example, so many fans hate-hate-hated the endings for How I Met Your Mother and Game of Thrones. In How I Met Your Mother, the writers kind of resolved the central conflict of the title, but then made it utterly pointless by killing off the Mother and getting the male protagonist together with a regular female character they felt he had more chemistry with. If that’s not a big “screw you” to the entire premise of the story, I don’t know what is. It’s always a bad idea to make fans feel they’ve just wasted several years of their lives watching your show.

Of course fans felt they’d been served a bait-and-switch since that’s precisely what it was. They’d been baited with the idea they were watching a story about how the protagonist was going to meet The One, then the writers switched her out for a different character entirely.

I doubt there would have been too many objections to it turning out that Robin had been the Mother character all along, and that the audience was being shown that meeting and courtship without having realized it. That’s not a bait-and-switch. That’s a reveal. There is nothing wrong with a reveal, especially if the pairing was already popular. But, for whatever reason, the writers didn’t do that and they ended up ruining the entire series for a whole lot of fans.

The Game of Thrones showrunners managed to ruin its ending so badly that mainstream media gleefully reported on the backlash, at least one spinoff/prequel got scuppered, and the two of them went into hiding as their careers hit a massive iceberg. Now, Benioff and Weiss got their jobs thanks to blatant nepotism and White Guys Failing Upward Syndrome in the first place, so they may well have a comeback down the road. But it’s going to be a while.

So, what happened?

For a start, Benioff and Weiss badly misread the zeitgeist room. Turning a unique, heroic, popular, female lead character on a dime into a supervillain may have been sexist and misogynistic at even the very best of times, but if there were such a best time, #MeToo 2019 sure as hell wasn’t the year. It would be as if the Canadian dark fantasy show Lost Girl‘s showrunners had listened to the fans who whined that getting Bo together with Lauren as the Final Couple was too conventional and gotten her back together with Dyson, instead. Not sure where two women in a love triangle getting to run away together and live happily ever after is the conventional ending, but I’d like to live on that Planet Lesbos, please.

As far as Game of Thrones, apologists continue to maintain that the character who went nuts and burned a city always had the potential to go that way (partly because many of them were fans of her rival, who was a far more, uh, traditional Lady Macbeth type who got men to do her dirty work for her). Well, yeah, Daenerys had a dark side, but so did all the characters who survived the end. I mean, one of those survivors slaughtered an entire house and served its patriarch his own sons in a pie. Yet, they all got happy Disney endings they didn’t deserve.

Plus, the revolutionary message this character promoted that “Slavery is bad” got jettisoned in favor of yet another reactionary round of “Let’s put another ineffectual king on top for no good reason and have another civil war 15 years down the road about our choice because having a ruling queen is so much worse.” Benioff and Weiss didn’t help their cause by having pitched an alternate history series in which the Confederacy (and slavery in the United States) survived the Civil War, that HBO took its sweet time passing on. “Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss, and it’s that grand?” was not a well-received message in 2019. It’s aged even worse in 2020.

And it’s not as though it’s hard to figure out how to do an ending to either of these shows. In one, the protagonist meets Mother and we find out who she is. In the other, someone wins a throne. It’s not that hard.

Let’s look at an ending that did work (or that the fans did at least end up accepting and that didn’t ruin a franchise). Revenge was a nifty little serial on ABC about a young woman named Amanda (or was she?) whose childhood was utterly ruined when her father was arrested and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and she spent much of her adolescent years in a child’s psych prison (basically). It turned out her father David had crossed the patriarch of the most powerful family in the Hamptons by sleeping with his wife Victoria (who turned out to be the one responsible for getting Amanda sent off to the poorhouse and, if possible, was even more evil than her husband).

Amanda returned as a young woman, determined to have revenge (hence the title) on this family. In the process, she hooked up with a bunch of allies the family had also screwed over. She ingratiated herself into the family by dating the son and getting engaged to him (much to Mama Victoria’s impotent rage). She had a plan. The uncertainties lay in whether or not she’d be able to pull it off and whether or not she’d lose her soul (metaphorically, since this wasn’t fantasy) in the process. It’s no coincidence that the series finale is called “Two Graves.”

When it wasn’t clear if they would get a renewal after season three, the showrunners wisely decided to end with an absolutely brutal (but apparently final) ending. First of all, the patriarch managed to bribe his way into a prison escape (after having his crimes exposed and being handed a long sentence), only to be knifed and left dead on the road by a man who turned out to be Amanda’s long lost (and presumed dead) daddy. Meanwhile, Victoria murdered by poison a man with whom Amanda had fallen in love (I did say she was worse). Devastated by her lover’s death, Amanda managed to get Victoria committed to a private psychiatric facility, where no one believed her protestations of sanity – probably because vindictive Victoria was nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake.

It was bitter. It was apt. And frankly, it was just where Victoria should have ended up.

But then they got another season.

The show then reunited Amanda near the beginning of season four with her father in a troubled, but psychologically realistic reunion, broke Victoria out of her One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest accommodations after a few juicy episodes, set the three of them on a collision course – and, oh, yeah, revealed that Victoria’s troubled and angry daughter was actually David’s kid and Amanda’s half-sister. And they left the dead patriarch dead.

In the end, David ended up shooting Victoria stone dead when Victoria was about to shoot Amanda (who ultimately never killed anyone in the entire series, as she once bitterly pointed out to someone who got salty about her vigilante ways, in the midst of accepting her help). Amanda got married to her childhood love (the wedding allowing a logical gathering of the show’s surviving characters) and reconciled with her sister, after spending some final months with her father, who was dying of cancer. Storylines got wrapped up, questions were answered, emotional moments were properly milked, and characters got what they fully deserved.

Oh, and by the way? Both seasons three and four spent the entire season building up to those endings. Was the show overwrought? Yes. I mean, just look at all the ellipses in the above paragraphs – and I simplified a lot. Were the storylines pure nighttime soap? Quite frequently. But I can about guarantee you that if you got hooked on the show and wanted to see how it turned out, you wouldn’t be sorry.

Revenge is not unique in this respect. Breaking Bad, The Good Place, Battlestar Galactica (the remake), Defiance, Lost Girl, Smallville, Being Human (the U.S. Version), even Sons of Anarchy, all of these shows managed to stick a satisfying landing. It’s. Not. That. Hard.

Look, any of the cliffhanger endings for the first four seasons of Supernatural, as brutal as they were, would have been good endings in the “But what happens next?” sense. Ditto if the show had ended with 15.18. Sure, a lot of fans would have screamed about it for years (and can you blame them?), and it would have been bleak as hell, but it would have worked. These were episodes where central conflicts were resolved and important questions answered, even if the resolutions and answers were not happy ones. At the very least, how many fans really would have kept yelling that Dean was a homophobe if our last actual shot of him had been his ignoring Sam’s call, while weeping in despair over Castiel’s death?

On a happier note, Season 11’s ending with that London Men of Letters nonsense coda taken out would have worked fine. Just have Dean meet Sam and the rest of TFW at the bar or back at the Bunker, cue a bro-hug, and it would be all good. As for those screaming that Sam got mostly left out of the resolution of the s11 Amara plot, hey, Dean held Sam’s cape for most of Season 5, too. It’s not as though Sam has received no mytharc love in this show.

Like an hour-long music video, with commercials

So, what didn’t “Carry On” (or, for that matter, “Swan Song”) get right? I mean, aside from the fact that the writers set up this whole final confrontation with The Empty the past few episodes and then didn’t even mention her in the series finale? A major problem with both episodes is their basic structure. Whenever you think of “Carry On” (or “Swan Song”), tell me the words “really long montage” and/or “episode-long music video” never pop up.

Sure, earlier seasons had a lot of montages to Classic Rock, including “wasting” great songs on beginning recaps. And I’ve even complained in those early season reviews that there were times when the back-to-back songs from Kripke’s childhood mixtapes got a bit much. But as often as those montages could be overkill, they usually involved actual story, rather than a rushed plotline (Sam’s “happy life” after Dean, Dean driving the Impala through pretty, heavenly forests and mountains – it was pretty obvious which actor was having the most fun filming those scenes).

And it was quite annoying when the showrunners decided a while back that all that Classic Rock was no longer necessary on a weekly basis. In fact, the recent lack of Classic Rock was all the more glaring for what they shoved into “Inherit the Earth” and “Carry On,” especially when they replaced the original Kansas version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” with what some fans have called the “Evanescence version,” a horribly insipid cover that they used for the climax of the story in the fourth act for some unknown reason.

But “Carry On” and “Swan Song” were almost more montage than they were anything else. There is, for example, that self-indulgent montage about the history of the Impala at the beginning of “Swan Song” that is now somehow more infuriating for being smugly narrated by what we now know was a manipulative and uncaring God. I don’t have anything against learning more about the backstory of the Impala, but a long and boring montage at the beginning of what could have been the final episode of the series was not the time or way to deliver it.

Why is Heaven so dull?

Similarly, okay, the scenery was spectacular during Dean’s drive near the end of “Carry On,” but that whole scene felt completely out of place. It didn’t look anything like how we’d seen Heaven in past episodes (personally, I loved the nighttime nod to the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the episode of the same name, much more interesting than the Heavenly Cubicals concept in later seasons). Dean made it pretty clear when he commented that it wasn’t a memory of his (when talking to Bobby), that he had no emotional connection to it.

So, why is this now part of his view of Heaven? Why are we having this montage set to scenery that has no emotional resonance or meaningful subtext for Dean and his life journey? What is the show trying to say about him in this scene? That he always loved to live his life on the backroads of British Columbia? As usual, the writers’ intent for Dean is left too murky and subject to interpretation, while theirs for Sam is banged home with no subtlety whatsoever.

I’ve heard that the bridge where he eventually stops and meets Sam is the same one where they encountered the Woman in White in the Pilot (or, at least, is supposed to represent it since that bridge was in California and the bridge at the end is in North Vancouver). This is backed up by the show dressing Sam and Dean in the same clothes in Heaven we saw them wearing in the Pilot. Why would Dean want to remember that in Heaven?!

I have no idea why the writers hate Dean so much, but I wish they’d stop

There’s a scene near the beginning of “Carry On” that sums up for me how disrespectful the showrunners (and too many of the writers) seem to be toward even one of their own leads, let alone the show’s recurring characters. It’s when Sam shoves the pie into Dean’s face, while showrunner (and director of the episode) Bob Singer giggles in the background. As with the driving montage, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Sure, Dean loves pie (and this may have been a prank Jared Padalecki played on Jensen Ackles, per pie pranks they both used to play on guest directors who were also actors on the show), but why is it in here? And why does Bob Singer have a cameo in it?

Later, in the middle of that interminable scene when Dean dies for the final(?) time, I was struck by how they had actually fridged one of their leads to motivate the other lead. Sure, they’d fridged Dean in the past to motivate Sam, but since this was the final time, it seemed especially aggravating. Once again, they had taken all the amazing character development and mythological significance they had built up for Dean for who now knows what reason just two episodes ago and ditched it in order for Dean to be, once again, All About Sam. Even in Heaven.

To this day, I still don’t know what hair the showrunners (except for Jeremy Carver) and some of the writers had across their asses about Dean and Jensen Ackles, but I wish they’d gotten over it. Or at least grown some professionalism. The writing inside the show was bad enough, but I can’t even with all the passive-aggressive snark they slung his way in interviews for 15 seasons. It was as if Wesley from “Wishful Thinking” had been running the show these past few years.

Let’s talk about representation

This is why I have such mixed feelings about calling the show “homophobic.” Over the years, Supernatural has actually had a lot of quite-good representation. For example, people complain about the lack of racial representation (please, as if this isn’t a problem endemic to the television and film industry), but I saw other shows copy the Agent Henriksen character for years after Supernatural wrote him out (after three seasons) and Sterling K. Brown, who played Gordon Walker, went on to win a well-deserved Emmy for his work on This Is Us. That tells you something about how far ahead of the curve the show already was on that score.

I will definitely agree that shows like Black Lightning and films like Black Panther (RIP Chadwick Boseman, who would have turned 44 today) are much better representation of African Americans than Supernatural ever could be, but they also came out over a decade after Gordon Walker and Henriksen were introduced as recurring and important antagonists on Supernatural. It was a very different television landscape in 2007.

Similarly, the show has had quite-broad representation of GLBT people. When I see complaints about the show’s alleged lack of representation, I see a lot of errors. For example, complaints very often get the number of GLBT in the show and their fates wrong (Alt-Charlie and her girlfriend were alive as of 15.19; Kaia is not dead and got back together with Claire after escaping the Bad Place; the two guys from “The Chitters” were still alive and together last time we saw them, ditto the two bow-hunters who got cupided at the end of season eight). Some are simply left out, either gatekept (I can’t even with those who claim Crowley wasn’t gay, or that he surely couldn’t have had that really obvious fling with Dean during their “Summer of Love”) or forgotten (remember Jenna from the Season 11 premiere? Nobody else does). And while I had a lot of problems with what happened to the Banes clan (notably, how two women of color got fridged to motivate a male family member), the gay kid was still the only survivor.

I’d also like to point out that all of the above did confessions of love and had active sex lives (including original Charlie, who lasted four seasons of alley-catting after other girls before being fridged for totally different reasons), but weren’t killed off right after them. The show also had Godstiel declaring in the Season 7 premiere that he didn’t give a hoot about sexual orientation (God is fine with gays, homophobic bigots not so much), Charlie briefly going to Heaven with her family in the Oz episode (being gay doesn’t condemn you to Hell), alt-Charlie having the same sexual orientation as her Earth Prime counterpart (that you’re born gay, that it’s not just a “lifestyle”), asexual and gender-swapping angels and demons and even monsters, references to gay marriage years before it was made legal, and major characters like Dean being pretty okay with all that.

So, we’re really talking about Castiel and Dean, and yes, there are major problems with those two characters and their respective fates. It’s just that they were hardly the only rainbow characters on the show and the show explicitly demonstrated tolerance toward GLBT when it wasn’t yet fashionable and other CW shows certainly weren’t doing it. Credit where credit is due.

I guess Dean and Castiel weren’t protagonists, after all

Let’s talk about Dean and Castiel. Someone rather bitterly (but not inaccurately) said on Twitter that if Dean had never come for Sam at Stanford, Sam would have gone on to become a lawyer, get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean would have died by some monster, young and alone. Fifteen seasons later, Sam went on to get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean died (relatively young) by some monster. Others noted (equally bitterly) that Castiel got killed off saving Dean, only for Dean to die pointlessly two episodes later.

So, I guess Death and the Natural Order won, after all. Somewhere in The Empty, Billie is having a good laugh at the Winchesters’ expense.

These two points have merit and there’s a reason for that. The fact that the showrunners catered to fans who wanted 15 versions of Season 1 was a huge part of the problem with the finale.

First, quite aside from whether or not Dean was gay, Dean was always That Character who was a wacky, unstable, somewhat-morally-gray foil for the Traditional Hero. Basically, the showrunners always saw Dean as the Sidekick and a Sidekick’s death is what he eventually got.

Sam then got the Hero’s ending where he retired and had a Life. Yes, he was reunited in Heaven with Dean (while Dean waited around for him), but that was just re-casting Dean in the Dead Girlfriend role. Instead of Jessica waiting for Sam in Heaven, it was Dean. Castiel, of course, got killed off because he was a bromance rival for Dean’s affections (remember how viciously jealous Sam was about Dean’s friendships with Benny and Crowley? Like that).

So, it made sense that fans got salty. I remember getting into the show back in Season 2, in large part because I liked Dean and was surprised the show hadn’t yet killed him off. I guess they were just taking their time.

I’m sure the writers didn’t consciously think it was anything personal, but when you had Kripke and Dabb (who were heavily influenced by Vertigo comics), and Singer and the Nepotism Duo (who were stuck back in 1990s genre writing, at best) at the helm, it’s probably not a surprise that in the end, they never broke that mold. Annoying that they ended up fluffing Sam like a Pan Am Airline pillow? Yes. Disappointing? Definitely. But not really surprising.

It’s still homophobia, even if you didn’t mean it

This is where you get the misogyny and homophobia. I’ve talked in the past about how male script writers, despite professing to despise romance, use its tropes all the time to avoid accusations that their male leads might be gay (for each other). We see this a lot with Sam and Dean in earlier seasons. Dean snarks about Sam engaging in “girly” pursuits like theater, while Sam appears to be more ostentatiously “liberal” and socially sensitive (Dean even ruefully admits this in “Scarecrow” very early on).

But we soon find that this is just a mask for both of them. Dean quickly begins to show both bohemian and egalitarian views. There’s the snark about Sam being like the “normal” daughter on The Munsters or Dean’s handing Kat the saltgun in “Asylum” simply because she knows how to handle a gun and her date doesn’t (it doesn’t matter to him that she’s a girl). Dean is the brother who is used to “validate” the existence and experiences of gay characters and couples in the story, who learns many lessons about tolerance over the course of 15 seasons. It’s also shown that his first love was biracial and we see him bond with both Gordon Walker and, eventually, Agent Henriksen.

In contrast, Sam is defined by his desperation to fit in to whitebread, straight, patriarchal Middle America. He is very conventional in a lot of ways and either ignores or even rejects opportunities to grow beyond that. He has a rigid law-and-order side where he pretty much has no use for the convicts in “Folsom Prison Blues” and couldn’t care less if the ghost kills them or not. He doesn’t react at all to gay characters because he never has close conversations with them and therefore, we never see any growth in that area. Similarly, he only dates white girls and there’s never even a hint that he’s attracted to any women of color. If anything, his irrational antipathy toward Billie is a tad problematic.

And Sam is always … uh … more traditional, shall we say, in how he interacts with female guest stars. It’s just kind of funny how the Sam-oriented female characters always fall into the Damsel in Distress (or Femme Fatale) mode, whereas Dean meets a much broader range of girls.

This leads us to the second point. From almost the very start, one of the showrunners’ favorite online gags was to have ordinary people mistake Sam and Dean for gay lovers, no matter how much they protested that they were brothers. This trope is fairly problematic in that even characters who fancy themselves “liberal” (such as the guy in the Christmas shop in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”) can’t seem to conceive of two straight guys traveling the country together, let alone demonstrating affection toward each other. Surely, they can’t be brothers. They must be gay.

While one could argue the writers were satirizing the tendency of some Americans (particularly on the West Coast) to mouth liberal values while having loads of unexamined conservative ones under the surface, I don’t think most of the writing was that deep. As in, I don’t think that was intentional satire so much as the writers’ unexamined cultural values oozing out as unintended subtext. Ben Edlund, lookin’ right at you.

It gets yet more more problematic in the Brothers’ varying reactions. After initially trying to correct people, Dean generally just rolls with it (in “Bugs,” for example), while Sam gets suuuuper uptight. Now, admittedly, the incest angle does make it squicky, but I don’t think that’s why the writers were making Sam clutch his manpearls over it.

Remember that Sam was always show creator Eric Kripke’s Author Insert and fictional alter ego. It seems pretty clear that while Kripke wanted everyone to see Sam as tolerant (because he’s supposed to represent Kripke’s own values and to make Kripke look good), he really didn’t want anyone to think Sam was gay. After a while (mercifully), they got tired of baiting the Wincest crowd and dialed it way back. That wasn’t until after Kripke left, though.

But the writers were not done with this. We also had the cracks about the Brothers’ looks – especially Dean’s – and some really rapey stuff aimed at Dean. I mean, after all the male monsters who sexually assaulted and/or tried to kill Dean, it’s a surprise he didn’t end up homophobic.

Yeah, we had some uncomfortable stuff for Sam about prison rape from Fauxifer in Seasons 6 and 7, but most of the rapey stuff (like the infected guy threatening Dean with a good time at the roadblock in “Croatoan”) was aimed at Dean. Male characters very, very frequently commented on Dean’s looks in a hostile and condescending way, while women complimented Sam’s. We even got a shirtless scene for Sam in “Carry On,” with none for Dean.

We did have scenes like Ted Raimi’s character Wesley in “Wishful Thinking” complaining (erroneously) that both Brothers’ good looks made life easier for them. But most of the time, the show commented positively about Sam’s looks (like all the drooling various women did over Sambot in Season 6), while Dean’s good looks were often played for laughs. He was too pretty, too … you know … metrosexual to be accorded respect as a “real” man. You had things like the “It’s like staring at the sun” line from “Tall Tales” on one end and on the other, you had the mean-spirited “Ken Doll” line from “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.”

Every time such a line popped up, I’d be reminded of how often the showrunners and writers looked like trolls coming out from under a bridge whenever they appeared at cons. Sure, they’re just ordinary-looking people, and they’re getting paid for their wordsmithing not their looks. Nothing wrong with that. But they’d show up at SDCC in faded t-shirts and old jeans, frequently looking like complete slobs.

Most of them didn’t even try to dress up for media appearances (only the women, funny that). They were like That Guy who shows up to your blind date wearing the same clothes he’s been gaming in for three days. You tried to dress up a bit because you wanted to impress this dudebro, but could he be bothered to impress you? Nope. He felt entitled to your presence and attention.

The Supernatural writers, especially post-Season 11, too often acted like that – entitled to our attention, not obligated to tell us a decent story, and frequently feminizing the entire audience as “irrational fangirls,” then being patronizing about it. Yet, they also spent 15 seasons collectively looks-shaming Jensen Ackles in a pretty homophobic way. There was a whole lotta problematical going on there. Too often, the writers came off like Black Pill Incels ranting in some obscure chatroom about “Chads” like Dean. Worse, yet, they spent a lot of time slutshaming Dean, simply for liking to interact with the women he had sex with, as real people who also liked sex.

It didn’t help that around Season 6, after Jensen Ackles answered a con question about ad libbing on the show, lead showrunner Bob Singer made a bitchy comment that all the lines belonged to the writers and there was hardly any ad libbing. Then, come to find out, the writers would actually write stuff in where they’d expect Ackles to ad lib. This was not the only time Singer would downmouth Ackles in interviews. I don’t know what Singer’s problem with Ackles was, but I wish he’d dealt with it better.

Chekhov’s Saltguns on Dean’s wall

The worst part of it was the pointlessness of Dean’s death. I’ve seen the fanon excuse that it was because Chuck wasn’t writing the script, anymore, so they no longer had plot armor. First of all, we saw Hunters on the show who hunted for decades without getting killed. Yeah, it would happen eventually, but Sam and Dean were experienced Hunters and those Juggalo vampires were lame. Also, I guess I’m glad we finally know Jenny’s toast, but I wanted to see Kate buy the farm, actually. That was an underwhelming and underdeveloped final MOTW. Dean deserved a better exit.

This “Oh, Sam and Dean couldn’t possibly last for long without Chuck’s help” excuse is nonsense. Nor is it a good excuse for Dean only managing to kill one vampire while Sam killed three (and didn’t end up impaled on some rebar). It’s long been canon that Dean is a better Hunter than Sam. That he’s got far more experience. Hell, right after his defeat, Chuck was the one who called Dean “The Ultimate Killer.” So, don’t sell me this nonsense, Show, that you killed Dean off like that because it was “realistic.” Talk about violating the precept of Chekhov’s Gun.

Second, Chuck already took away the Brothers’ plot armor several episodes ago. What they had while fighting him in the final third of season was the luck they got from Fortuna. It didn’t come from Chuck, therefore it wasn’t about to evaporate once Chuck got depowered (and why the hell would Jack decide to take away any plot armor Chuck gave to Sam and Dean, anyway? Aren’t we supposed to believe Jack loved and cared for them?). So, no, it doesn’t make any sense for Dean to just die like that.

There’s a writing principle I’ve talked before about called Chekhov’s Gun (Thanks to Mandi Gordon for reminding me). This was first introduced by Anton Chekhov, a late-19th century Russian playwright. It basically states that any elements introduced in a story should have a purpose, or they don’t belong in the story. Chekhov’s analogy was that if you had a rifle on the wall, it needed to be fired at some point in the story, preferably sooner than later.

As I’ve said in the past, the show had many, many Chekhov’s Guns for Dean that they never fired. In fact, it became almost a running gag for the writers to introduce stuff for Dean that would have been momentous for Sam, or indeed any other character, and then dismiss it as not important. For example, Dean has killed two versions of Death, the latest just two episodes before the end of the show. But basically nothing came of it. You risk disappointing your audience with that kind of nonsense.

Normally, the writers were much more assiduous about making sure all of Sam’s Chekhov’s Guns got fired off, but they even left some big ones lying around for him. Notably, they built up a romantic relationship with Eileen that went nowhere (pretty literally), to the point where we never even learned her ultimate fate. But they also carefully built up this idea of Sam as the Hunter King to the alternate universe Hunters, before simply ditching all that in the series finale when he retired.

Now again, as I said before, my problem with Dean’s dying was not his death per se as the pointlessness of it. Dean was loooooonnnnng overdue (since before his Mark of Cain storyline) to leave his mortal life behind, to change state and become a fully supernatural being. He kinda had to die a mortal death for that to occur.

If, for example, the show had bothered to remember that he had once been Death for a day and have him come back as the new Death (being the first “Reaper” to die since the previous Death did). I’d have been okay with that. In fact, that would have been a great way to resolve The Empty storyline (Dean agrees to help The Empty Entity go back to sleep) and get Castiel out of there. And it would have fired off the Chekhov’s Gun of Dean subplot interactions with Death all these years.

If, when Dean first arrived in Heaven, Bobby told him that Sam would be along presently, and was having the normal life he’s always wanted, but that Heaven needed Dean now to put some things right, I’d have been okay with that, too. That would have explained the timing of Dean’s death much better. Hell, it would have been really nice for the writers to remember that Dean was the Servant of Heaven, so of course Heaven was changed on his behalf.

But the show didn’t do any of that and it never intended to do that, as far as I can tell from the cast and showrunner interviews.

Instead, we had toxic codependency taken to cosmic levels. And this is coming from someone who didn’t need a stereotypically happy ending. I wanted a good ending, one that made sense. This is a horror show and there should have been a horror ending that showed something important and final (or at least cyclical) about the SPNverse.

Disappointed actors galore

One could argue that if Jensen Ackles was fine with all this nonsense, who are we the audience to judge? Well, for one thing, I can still love Jensen Ackles to bits and still say that something he said he loved that Dean did on the show didn’t work for me. For another thing, Ackles is on record as not liking the ending.

I won’t exaggerate what he said and claim that he hated it (his exact words were “I wasn’t feeling it”), but he says that he and Jared Padalecki were called to a meeting a year ago last summer with the writers where the writers pitched them the idea for this final episode and he did not like it. He claims that after a conversation with Eric Kripke, he reconciled himself to it, but since it’s doubtful he could have backed out of it or changed anything, I suppose it doesn’t matter whether he ever started to like it or not.

So, if they could even do that to one of their leads, I guess it’s no surprise what they did to other recurring characters (and I’m not just talking about Castiel). At least Castiel got a single mention, along with Jack. I mean, I couldn’t care less about Jack. His story seemed quite finally over at the end of 15.19, but he did get mentioned.

But for the rest, it was Oh, Yeah, Donna Told Me To Call and Eileen Who? (since 15.18). Okay, so Covid had hit by the time “Carry On” was filmed, but one single friggin’ line of dialogue from Sam, a conversation on the phone where we only got his side of it, hell, a text, even, and they could have had him go off with Eileen for the rest of their lives. It felt as though the show intentionally isolated Sam and Dean from everyone else in the final episode so they could once again become codependently focused on each other for the hot minute Dean got to enjoy having total Free Will (oh, we will get into that in just a bit) before he was fatally hung up on a nail – literally hung out to dry by the writers.

Also, what was with the total lack of guest stars not named Bobby Singer? Come on, Show, you do special effects all the time. You couldn’t have greenscreened some people into Heaven? Or had them on Zoom calls or speaking from off-camera? Or at least given them some shoutouts like Mary and John and Rufus, had a bit more expositional dialogue instead of the endless montages and forcing Ackles into an interminable death scene in which Dean spends the entire time blowing smoke up Sam’s ass? What happened to wrapping things up?

Saving People and Hunting Things? Not so much

It doesn’t help that the apparent original ending (bringing back a bunch of guest stars at the end to greet Dean in Heaven) was loaded with Unfortunate Implications. I mean, I actually quite liked the final coda, where the crew appeared with Ackles and Padalecki on the bridge. That was a nice shout-out to the real heroes of the show (it definitely wasn’t the showrunners and writers, most of the time).

But.

Consider the implications of such a scene. The entire point of Saving People and Hunting Things is improving people’s lives by saving innocents from predators. If they’re all in Heaven now, that means Sam and Dean failed because everyone they saved died before even Dean did. That’s depressing.

Even more depressing is what Sam did after Dean died. He retired. Not only did he retire, but he shut down the Bunker, locked it up, and took it away as a resource for other Hunters (I mean, did he even go to that hunt in Austin?). We don’t even know what happened to Dean’s dog.

This basically erases Dean’s legacy on the earth. So, what if Sam named his son Dean (Why couldn’t the kid have been a daughter?) and gave him an anti-possession tattoo? He essentially burned down the network he and his brother had built up and just … walked away. And ended up in a nasty old wig from Dollar Tree.

Padalecki has claimed that five years actually passed between Chuck’s defeat and Dean’s death. He also claimed that Eileen was the woman in the blurry background, that Sam married her (Then why didn’t she end up in Heaven with him? And what was she doing while Sam was still living in the Bunker with Dean?).

This just makes it all the more infuriating that the script and the direction didn’t bother to make these things clear. It would have been so easy to put up a damned title card that said “Five Years Later,” or to have some dialogue. Ugh. To think that of all the possible endings they wasted over a season showing and implying, that this would be the most tedious and least interesting. No wonder Becky was underwhelmed.

And then the fans weighed in

Since “Carry On” aired, the social media response, on both sides, has turned a bit … strange. Unsurprisingly, there were those who really loved it and those who really hated it and the former (predictably) got pretty defensive (and fan shaming) about it. That might be because this finale was very obviously aimed at the J1/Bibro/Bronly fans and only them, and they have been notorious from the early seasons for being the smug, gatekeeping, tosser True Fan types in the fandom. I always found the Kripke stans especially exhausting and if I never hear “This show should have ended with Season 5” again, it will be too damned soon.

So far, anyone in between furious and furiously defensive is being rather quiet. Unfortunately, some of the cast have taken the brunt of the fan rage so far. Aside from some snark about the rebar prop, Jensen Ackles has been dead silent, even while being called a homophobe left, right and center. Jim Beaver left Twitter completely after speaking up in defense of the writers.

Misha Collins got in trouble with the fandom (please leave poor Misha alone) for trying to say that there was no network conspiracy to bury Castiel as soon as he made his confession of love to Dean (which was probably true).

Andrew Dabb, having already embarrassed himself with the claim beforehand that probably only about 30% of the fandom would be happy with the ending (he may have been overly optimistic), posted some very strange tweets that may have been mocking the fandom, or may have been promoting his next project. Either seems equally tone-deaf and I know I won’t be checking it out. Several people suggested he learn to read a room.

When head showrunner Bob Singer said right before the finale came out that it would be quiet, with not a lot of FX, I thought, Uh-oh. That sounded like a self-indulgent, mostly-plot-free clips show. Sadly, I was not wrong.

The reaction, of course, began with 15.18 and the debate over whether it was a Bury Your Gays trope. I noted at the time that the trope didn’t really fit because Castiel’s final fate was really left up in the air. Alas, the most Castiel got this episode was a single line that implied (but didn’t actually confirm) that Jack had broken him out of The Empty. And it seems that it was pitched to Misha Collins as Bury Your Gays.

But it came across more as Disappear Your Gays, in which a character declares his/her love, then vanishes from the story, even when they don’t die. Dean did beg Chuck to bring Castiel back in “Inherit the Earth,” and smiled when he was told that the reformation of Heaven was partly Castiel’s gift to him, but Castiel himself? Nah.

Then there was the weird case of the Spanish dubbing that added in an “I love you” response from Dean. Yep, it got real strange. The thlot’s been a-pickenin’ with this one.

I gotta say that if you thought “Inherit the Earth” was a white-bread sausagefest, “Carry On” was so much worse in that category. In fact, if you think the salty IMdB reviews for “Inherit the Earth” were fun, you really should check out the ones for “Carry On” because they are glorious. My personal favorite is the one entitled “It’s bad y’all!!” where the reviewer declares, “Even with the bar on the goddamn ground, I didn’t expect the writers to tunnel under it like gophers.”

I get that, as Jared Padalecki explained, it was too onerous for some of the guest stars to come up and spend two weeks in quarantine, but some (such as Samantha Ferris and Chad Lindberg) were never even asked, not even before Covid hit. The Roadhouse just ain’t the Roadhouse without the people in it.

Did they really just say that suicide is painless?

But it’s not just that the women (especially the Wayward Sisters), the people of color (RIP Billie), the gays (hey, Castiel got a line, I guess), and those with physical disabilities (Eileen Who?) were written out. What was really problematic was taking a character who struggled with mental illness, with depression and suicidal ideation and substance abuse, for 15 seasons – and killing him off just as he had reached a point in his life where he was happy. The Supernatural writers literally gave us the message that the only way Dean could ever be happy was if he was dead, that Heaven was the only escape from despair, even as they had him pimp the mental health charity the leads had created.

What kind of message is that?

I suppose it’s most fitting that the show ended, not with what was on-screen, but with the fans taking center stage on social media and cyber-bitchslapping the hell out of the showrunners. But please, guys, leave the poor actors out of it.

Well, anyhoo, this isn’t really the end of the Supernatural experience for me, since I’ve got over 40 episodes left to review. Who knows? By the time I “catch up,” we may have some spinoff news to talk about.

So, let’s get back on the road and I’ll see all y’all next week.

Next week: Stairway to Heaven: Angels are suicide bombing other angels in Castiel’s name. When Sam and Dean investigate, it gets Dean into a whole lot of trouble.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Inherit the Earth” (15.19) Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

Tonight, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Brief recap of the past two episodes. Cut to Now in Kyoto, New York City … and then they run of budget and we get British Columbia masquerading as Middle America – sorry, Hastings, MN. Sam and Jack are wandering around in a daze, looking at a wrecked car, as the Impala pulls up and Dean gets out. Boy, Dean sure made it there in record time.

When Dean gets out, Sam states the obvious: “Everyone’s gone.” Not just humans, either. There are still trees and other plants, but all the higher animals are gone, too. Sam asks Dean if he saw anyone else and Dean says no. Jack asks where Castiel is and Dean about breaks down right there. He explains what happened to Castiel in the last episode, that Billie was trying to kill them, and Castiel summoned the Empty to take her out, getting killed in the process.

Sam is in denial that everyone could possibly be gone, even though Dean tries to bring him down to earth. As Sam starts calling Jody and Garth, and getting voicemails, Dean goes to Jack and apologizes for not saving Castiel. We get a telescoping view out, up and away from the street until we can see the entire Earth in space, just sitting there.

Cue title cards.

While Jack waits outside, the Brothers enter Sammy’s Highway Cafe. Music (pretty sure it’s Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”) is still playing, food on the shelves. There’s a soccer game on the TV, but no players on the field or fans in the stands. As Dean turns off a tap (astute regular commenter here, AlyCat 22, noticed that the beer was from Jensen Ackles’ brewery, FBBC, and is called “Ghost Ale”), Sam is starting to realize that yup, everyone on Earth appears to be gone for real.

Outside, Jack forlornly and pointlessly calls out to Castiel. As he heads inside, all the plants he passes by wither and die. Inside, Sam is tailspinning. He blames himself for everything because he was stubborn two episodes ago and just had to scupper the latest Get Chuck plan to save themselves and their un-dead friends. Now everyone on Earth is dead. Dean starts to contradict him, then just lets him roll on because, well, Sam’s not wrong about that. When Sam starts to throw in the towel, though, Jack protests that he can’t just give up.

Cut to an urban night scene outside a curious building that looks like a modern ziggurat. Sam and Dean are waiting for Chuck to show up. And, presumably because he’s bored and wants to gloat, he does.

The Brothers offer him a deal – they will kill each other, just as he wants, but he has to bring everyone back, first, including Castiel (this is Dean’s request) from The Empty. Chuck gives it a microsecond of thought, then says no. As much as he savors watching them “wave the white flag,” he likes this new story better. He gets to watch them and their “pet” Jack “rot” on an empty Earth, all because “you wouldn’t take a knee.” He looks at Sam (so does Dean) while saying this and Sam looks really uncomfortable.

Cut to Jack lying on his bed inside the Bunker. Sam is wandering down the hallways with a coffee cup. He finds Dean passed out on the floor, head on top of a bottle, in the Library, and wakes him up. Dean is mighty hungover.

Jack then looks puzzled and comes out in his pajamas. He says he “senses something.” After cracking a joke about how he senses that they need to get some aspirin, Dean asks how Jack can sense anything, when he’s “powered down.” Jack says he doesn’t know, but he knows there’s a “presence out there.”

They get in the Impala and go investigate at an abandoned gas station, the Top Buz: Route 66 (a rather obvious call-out to the original inspiration for Supernatural, 1960s road show Route 66).

Dean finds the “presence” first. It’s a dog, which Chuck “somehow missed.” Immediately calling it “Miracle,” Dean picks it up and brings it out to the car. Sam snarks about Dean actually liking dogs, now (Well, Sam did sleep through half of “Dog Dean Afternoon”). As Dean puts the dog in the backseat, he comments that it’s only been a few days since the “Rapture.” But then the dog dusts out and Dean looks up to see Chuck smugly watching him from a field before vanishing.

In the car that night, while Jack sleeps in the back, Dean is upset that they “couldn’t even save a friggin’ dog.” Glumly, Sam says the lack of people left to save may be the point. You can’t save people or hunt things if there are neither people nor things left to save and hunt, I guess.

They arrive at a church, still at night. Turns out the dog wasn’t the presence Jack sensed. That presence is in or near the church, as lightning and thunder flash all around. Jack states the obvious that they may be walking into a trap. They go in, anyway, because really, what else is there to do at this point?

They pass under a crucifix to find an empty church full of lit candles that haven’t burned down (remember that it’s been a few days) and open liturgical books strewn about.

“So, you survived,” someone says behind them, from the doorway they just entered. They turn around and Sam says, “Michael?”

Michael explains that he’s been hiding out inside this church (a St. Michael’s) since “the Rapture began.” He’s been avoiding using any powers that might attract his father’s attention. Sam asks him about Adam and he says Adam got raptured, too. Dean mourns that poor Adam “could never catch a break.” Michael asks how they survived and Dean says it’s because Chuck “has a sense of humor” and wanted to strand them “on an empty planet” for funsies.

They ask him what he’s doing there. He says, “I never spent much time on Earth.” He’s been reading up on what humans think (well, thought) of God. It turns out that after Chuck left Heaven, Michael was so sure his father would return that he got all the angels and prophets to “burnish” his father’s image as much as possible. So, believers loved God a whole lot, through many religions. Unfortunately, now that his father knows that he helped Sam and Dean, Chuck’s a bit pissed off at him. Dean points out that they did “reach out to him” again before it all went higgledy-piggledy. Jack asks how he feels about God now.

Michael loses some of his arrogance and his shoulders slump. Dean glances again at Sam.

Back in the Bunker, Sam shows Michael Billie’s God’s death book. Michael tries to read it, but he can’t even open it. He tries hard, though. He does make the book all glowy and stuff for a moment.

Sam and Dean sit down for a talk on the steps to the Library (going down to the bedrooms), Dean with a beer. Sam says they need to get God’s death book open, but they have no current options about how to do it. Dean says that means they’re “screwed.” Then he gets an odd call on his phone (well, any call on his phone would be odd). It’s from Castiel. When he answers it, Castiel’s voice sounds weary and hurt, saying he’s just outside.

Still holding the beer, Dean races up the steps to the outer door and opens it to find … Lucifer.

Dean can’t slam that door fast enough. The look on his face is hilarious.

Nevertheless, Lucifer is able to fly in and land on the floor below them before Dean can get the door shut. He explains (well, infodumps) that The Empty is very, very angry with Chuck, having gotten exploding Jack all over her and killed Billie and all. She resurrected him to go find God’s death book and read it for her. His plan is that he also brought back a Reaper with him (named Betty), who appears as a chained and gagged young woman. Lucifer kills her with his archangel blade. Being the next Reaper to die since Billie, she resurrects as Death, with both the scythe and the ring.

Dean moves forward cautiously to untie her gag. She rewards him by head-butting him. She then stands up and bursts her chains. Betty is just as sarcastic as Lucifer and demands the book from the Brothers in belittling terms. When they bring her to the Dungeon, where it is, she tells them reading it is “not a group project” and shuts the door in their faces.

Michael comes into the Library, where Lucifer is making a house of cards (cheating by TKing them together). Michael is not at all happy to see Lucifer, especially when Lucifer mocks him for getting no more love out of Chuck than anyone else ever did, for all his loyalty and devotion.

Their family spat is interrupted, however, by Betty, who calls all present “asshats,” then proceeds to read from the book. She doesn’t get very far, though, before Lucifer turns her to ashes from across the room. Bye, Betty. Note that the only way to kill Death is to use their scythe on them, but considering this episode is written by the same tedious incompetents who once claimed Lucifer was the oldest son of God, it’s probably just a big plothole.

Anyhoo, Lucifer TK’s the book to him and brags about how Chuck was the one who actually busted him out of The Empty. He’s also been souped up a bit, as he easily dodges Michael’s blasts and knocks him down with his own blast from across the room – after knocking Sam and Dean across the room, too.

Lucifer then turns to Jack and suggests he join the Chuck Team, since that’s the only way he will be leaving the Bunker alive. Jack winces in pain as Lucifer mocks him. Michael then sneaks up behind Lucifer and stabs him with his archangel blade, which the Brothers had snuck to him. Jack winces again and looks dizzy as Lucifer blasts white light out of his mouth and eyes, and then bursts into embers.

Later, Dean meets with Michael in the kitchen, gets a beer, and asks how he’s doing. Michael admits to being a bit “winded,” having not fought anyone in “several centuries” (Oh, so, now, they remember that Hell time is different from Earth time? What about “Taxi Driver,” then?). He’s also hurt that Chuck chose to resurrect Lucifer from The Empty rather than “reach out to” his eldest son.

Dean speculates that Chuck is so afraid of what the book contains that he sent someone else, rather than come in person. Michael says the book is useless without Death to read it, but Dean begs to differ, now that the book is open. He says that Sam thought he recognized some of the symbols in it, that they looked like Enochian, and is trying to decipher it using the Book of the Damned (Why not ask Dean, whom we know has been able to read the Book of the Damned when he had the Mark?).

Later, we see Dean getting drowsy over research in the library. Jack is sitting nearby, reading a book. Michael comes in and fake-casually asks if Sam has had any luck in deciphering Billie’s book. Sam walks in and says that he has been able to “piece together” a spell that can create “an unstoppable force.” But it has to be done in a specific spot at a specific time of day (Conveniently, this spot is in North America). Off they drive to that spot, a secluded beach along a peaceful lake.

Sam and Dean set up three bowls, while Jack and Michael watch. Then they light them up. The bowls shoot three blasts of white fire into the sky and then fly apart. Nothing else seems to happen.

Dean asks why it didn’t work and then Chuck shows up. Chuck blasts Sam and Dean one way, and Jack the other. It turns out Michael sold them out and warned Chuck about the spell. But Chuck is still mad about the time Michael “sided with the Winchesters.” Even as Michael begs for his life, Chuck blasts him into nothingness.

As the Brothers crawl to their feet, Chuck tells them he’s bored now and is “canceling your show.” Sam figures he might as well get a lick or two in as he goes and punches Chuck. It has little effect. Chuck makes the Brothers crumple with pain, but just as he’s about to snap them out of existence, he has a better idea. He’ll just beat them to death. And boy does this scene go on for a while. Neither of them will give up or stay down, even as Chuck keeps telling them to lie down, and breaks some bones and pulverizes their faces. They get up, even when they have to support each other.

Chuck is confused about why they’re smiling. Sam says it’s because “you lose.” Chuck turns around to see Jack standing there. When he approaches him and snaps his fingers, Jack is unaffected. Then Jack’s eyes glow. He grabs Chuck’s face and kinda … sucks out all his power, basically, while sad violins loudly play. Their faces glow and get veiny. Then Jack lets Chuck drop to the ground and turns to the Brothers, still glowing. He snaps his fingers and they’re instantly healed. They approach Jack and Chuck, and Sam picks up God’s death book.

On the ground, Chuck wonders what happened and Dean replies, “We won.”

Chuck’s confused. So, this is how it ends for him? Sam drops the book in front of him and says to look for himself. But when Chuck scrabbles through the pages, the pages are blank.

Dean and Sam take turns infodumping the plan they had. It turns out that after Chuck sent Lucifer, they realized that Michael was jealous and desperate to get back into Daddy’s graces. So, they set him up with a fake spell to lure Chuck there. The real plan was to get Jack, who had turned from a bomb into a divine power vacuum (Well, Adam and Serafina did say he would turn into a black hole), to suck up enough energy to be able to defeat Chuck.

Chuck desperately tries to claim this is why they’re his “favorites.” This is the first time he doesn’t know what comes next. Will they kill him now? He’s practically ecstatic about goading them into killing him, especially “Dean Winchester, the Ultimate Killer.”

With a mix of disgust and pity, Dean says, “Sorry, Chuck,” but as Chuck is cringing at the final blow, Dean and Sam both just walk away. Dean turns around to tell Chuck that that’s not who they are. They aren’t just killers. Sam quietly asks Jack if Chuck can ever get his power back. Jack says, “It’s not his power, anymore.”

Sam and Dean tell Chuck that his ending is to die like an ordinary human. He’ll “grow old, get sick, and die.” No one will remember him. They then get in the Impala and leave him there as he runs after them, begging and pleading.

After driving back into town, Dean has Jack bring everyone back to the tune of The Youngbloods’ cover of “Get Together” (1967) – oh, look, finally some Classic Rock. Well, we get a bunch of no-name redshirts and Miracle the dog back, anyway. Not anyone we know or care about (besides the dog). And no mention whatsoever of Castiel. Sam doesn’t call Eileen, alt-Bobby, alt-Charlie, Jody, Donna, Garth, or anyone else.

The Brothers have questions and Jack answers a few of them. For example, Amara is inside him and they are “in harmony” (Even saying that out loud sounds so misogynistic; what were these writers thinking?). He then blathers on about how he’s not coming back to the Bunker because he’s now “everywhere” and people are just going to have to find their own answers.

He’s basically going full-on animistic and “won’t be hands-on.” He’s not going to make the mistake Chuck made this season of putting himself “in the story.” Nope, he’s just going to make the mistake Chuck made the previous several thousand years of buggering off and abandoning everyone, leaving the bigger fish to bully and gobble up the smaller fish in some weird and desperate attempt to get God’s attention with each new apocalypse. And bail is precisely what Jack does, in a glow of light.

He claims to have learned from the Brothers, his mother (you know, the one he murdered by being born, with no mention of Mary) and Castiel (whom he couldn’t be arsed to rescue from The Empty) that “when people have to be their best, they can be.” Which just demonstrates that he didn’t learn a damned thing in the three seasons he was Cousin Olivering this show. Also, that has got to be the most inane inspirational slogan I have ever seen.

Ironically enough, despite all the “I’ll be around” rhetoric, when he walks off and disappears in a glow of light, it feels a lot like the show just killed him off permanently. This seems to be his final exit. Too bad there’s only one episode left. Gee, I wonder how the writers will cope without this convenient deus ex machina character.

Back at the Bunker, the Brothers mourn his loss over beers. I roll my eyes really hard. They get over it quick, though, as they realize they finally have their lives back for real. “Finally free,” Dean says. Sounds like a book about lion cubs who end up getting released into the wild and killed by poachers.

Well, it seems that even with all the tedious monologuing and backstabbing and plotholing, the Nepotism Duo just plain ran out of story (looks like this recap may be shorter than usual, too!), so Sam and Dean leave behind their carved-up table (their initials, their mother’s initials, and Castiel and Jack’s names) and go off on a two-minute road trip full of clips from the show to the tune (again) of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty.” The clip show is more thematic (famous and not-so-famous scenes) than character-driven, with major recurring characters jostling for attention with barely-seen one-shots. That still doesn’t explain the extreme lack of Castiel in it. He only gets three brief shots. Jack (hell, Charlie, for that matter) gets more coverage. Frankly, they’ve done better mid-season recaps. The montage ends with Sam shutting the trunk on the Pilot episode.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode remained steady at a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo and a 0.4 in the A25-54 demo, but dropped slightly to a 0.1 in the A18-25 demo and 1.003 million in audience.

Review: “Ted Nugent called. He wants his shirt back.” That’s from Ocean’s 11, a film that was a lot better than “Inherit the Earth.”

Look, we knew it was the Nepotism Duo, so the odds were this wouldn’t be a very well-written episode. But still, damn, son. And after last week got my hopes up, too.

Sure, the Jack and Brothers-only stans were happy because they got an entire episode of those three characters (and they even ditched the “annoying” angel), but I don’t think a whole lot of other fans were. In fact, I kept seeing fans on Twitter who wondered if it was a fake happy ending engineered by Chuck and if next week would cast this episode in a whole other light. I suppose it’s possible (As infuriating as it would be that they wasted yet another hour on fake-out nonsense after poorly setting things up for the end of the series, it would be nice if this foolish episode weren’t real). But considering the show’s track record with these two writers, I doubt that will be the case.

Now, some have talked about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on filming this season. However, this was, in fact, the first episode when that was an issue. They had only filmed one day before they had to stop production for several months. So, that probably influenced the idea of doing a pared-down cast and evacuating the Earth, as it were.

But alas, a completely depopulated Earth turned out to be rather less exciting than wet toilet paper drying in the sun (the writers even have Chuck admit that right before the climactic fight). There were ample opportunities to make the set pieces with no people, in situations where ordinarily there would be a ton of people, properly eerie, but those scenes didn’t creep me out at all. They just seemed to be there to pass the time and make a point.

“Inherit the Earth” was tedious, talky, flabby, self-indulgent and just a tiiiiiny bit condescending in spots. For all the pomp and circumstance about its being the “season finale” before the series finale, not much happened in it. At the end, I was like, “That’s it?” So, a typical Nepotism Duo episode.

It also sidelined Sam and Dean’s story in order to indulge Jack Sue’s dull, subtext-free-when-it-wasn’t-totally-inappropriate-subtext apotheosis plot. And after last week’s far-meatier Christological metaphors, too. Gee, it’s almost as though Buckner and Ross-Leming had no clue what they were doing when it came to writing about religion – oh, wait. They don’t.

The idea that Jack was just going to become an animistic god-in-everything after the show hammered away at Judeo-Christian mythos for 15 seasons was faintly condescending to much of the audience on a religious level. I mean, really, Show? You’re not going to do anything truly interesting with all that mythology and set-up at all? Bad enough what they did to and with pagan mythologies over the years, but this was their central belief system in the show. And look how they dumped on it.

There are a lot of rumors that Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (especially Ackles) had grown disenchanted in recent years with the quality of writing on the show. “Inherit the Earth”’s damp squib of a payoff after 15 seasons is a pretty big hint why. The saddest thing is that these two writers are incompetent enough to think they actually did a good job.

But the wonky theology wasn’t a tenth as offensive as the dippy misogyny involved in fridging Yet Another Important Female Character (Amara) to prop up Jack Sue. I mean, they literally took away her voice and had Jack speak for her after she was transferred from her brother to Jack like a crown jewel. Or a piece of luggage. They basically turned her into Nefertiri (“I am Egypt!”) from The Ten Commandments.

I felt as though the show did a bait-and-switch with the audience along the lines of what the showrunners did near the end of Game of Thrones. To Benioff and Weiss (and perhaps George R.R. Martin), the idea of a woman ruling in her own right was so horrible that they had to demonize the only real candidate for that. In Supernatural, we get a lot of dithering and hand-waving about how Billie wasn’t worthy to become God (an attitude Sam himself admitted this week was a costly mistake on his part). We then have Amara disqualify herself from the competition, reducing herself to a princess whose nephew marries her in order to become King (I’m kinda hoping The Empty Entity steps up this week and eats Jack).

It seemed that the show promised us a story where an unjust and tyrannical monarchy would be overthrown by a revolution led by the Brothers Winchester, in favor of a kinder and more just world. Instead, we got a palace coup, nothing much changed, and the Brothers were sent off like good peasants with a crust of bread and a pat on the head. That is pretty messed up.

The idea of Jack being a hoover for divine energy was quite daft enough when Adam and Serafina explained it (and it was never explained why he would now be killing plants, but Sam and Dean were safe around him), but it must have been too difficult for the Nep Duo to grasp the implications. A black hole doesn’t release energy once it captures it. A living black hole Jack certainly isn’t likely to become a divine being due to sucking up energy. He’s liable to collapse into a highly unstable magical singularity.

But let’s be silly and assume that’s the case. In order to become more powerful than Chuck (who also had Amara inside him), Jack would actually need to suck up energy from a source outside the SPNverse. You see, Chuck created the SPNverse. Yeah, he used material from The Empty (according to him, anyway, in some now-long-forgotten canon), but the SPNverse is not more vast and powerful than he is. Jack could have hoovered up the entire SPNverse remaining and still not have been powerful enough to take on Chuck. That just made no sense.

While one could fanon that Jack killed the plants because he had sucked up enough Empty after exploding to defeat Chuck, there really wasn’t anything in his Empty scenes to indicate that. And the show banged home far more obvious points than that, while ignoring this one. After all, he lost a lot of energy exploding in The Empty and it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would have sucked up any more Empty than he lost of himself afterward.

Equally stupid and lazy was having Sam and Dean infodump the plan they used to trick Chuck. I mentioned the Ocean’s 11 quote before because they do something fairly similar (at least, we get an explanatory flashback, though the protagonist does not let the antagonist in on the plan). But in that case, much of the film had already shown us the plan, just from an angle where it wasn’t initially clear.

In this case, after wasting most of a season not bothering to set anything up, this episode just winged it. And it was such a simple plan, too. It’s never explained why Chuck never saw it coming. Did Billie’s death change his ability to predict their behavior? He just seemed entirely in the dark about what the Brothers were doing, once she died. Except that he did do that trick with the dog, so he was watching them.

What similarly made no sense (and was probably a plothole) was how Lucifer could kill Death. Yes, okay, he can probably kill a Reaper that easily, but Death? Death requires some work and her scythe. Also, why make the new Death such a bitch? Why do these two writers write women so poorly when one of them is a woman? I mean, she was the only female character in the entire damned episode and she lasted all of a hot minute. And who is Death now? Seems to me the position is wiiiiide open.

It did not help that at the end, Jack brought the world back, but he made no effort whatsoever to improve it. Chuck created the SPNverse with loaded dice. Innocents die and go to Hell. Bad people go to Heaven if they donate enough money to causes archangels care about. If you get turned into a monster, you get stuck in Purgatory forever. Heaven is just an endlessly repeating mixtape of your greatest hits. Plus, Heaven is about to fall apart and crash down onto the Earth due to a lack of angels.

Yet, Jack had no interest in changing any of that. I mean, when Eileen dies, she’s still going to go back to Hell. Kevin is still condemned to being a wandering spirit. John, if he’s not already back in Hell, will likely end up back there, too, since he can’t go to Heaven. Either that, or he and Kevin deteriorate into mad and vengeful ghosts.

Even if Dean’s not going to ask about Castiel (surely, that would be a priority for Jack), Sam would have asked about Eileen. And the other worlds that got dusted. But nope. Even worse, Jack has now shown every ambitious would-be power broker the path to displacing him and becoming God in his place. I mean, it’s not as though he’s ever been the sharpest tool in the cosmic shed. The end of this episode is supposed to be happy, but it’s just such a hot mess.

Honestly, a lot of this could have been avoided if the writers had given more seriously thought years ago to whether making the Prophet Chuck be God (the ultimate Author Insert character) was a good idea. As I’ve said many times in the past, I thought it was a stupid, self-indulgent concept, a one-trick pony with too many Unfortunate Implications for the longer haul. And that’s precisely what happened.

I mean, what was even Chuck’s motivation this season? Hell, what was his motivation for bringing back Lucifer or Lilith, or for their serving him? Okay, sure, he wanted Sam and Dean to kill each other, but why? He never clarified why he loved that ending (aside from some blather about how it was emotionally cathartic), or when he settled on it.

The way that Chuck’s various drafts in the multiverse fit together, when each was formed, how they affected each other or even how they represented the progression of his writing ideas, these things were never even touched on, let alone explained. To make God a writer, hack or no, and make it work, required much better writing than was available from the writers room most of the time.

Unfortunately, the weakest link on Supernatural has often been whoever the writers and showrunners were at any given time. I don’t think it helped that Executive Producer Kim Manners died during Season 4 and his counterpart Bob Singer appears to be stuck back in the 1970s in terms of what kinds of storytelling he’ll tolerate (plus, he’s been clearly burned out on this show for years).

Stellar acting from most of the cast, and a consistently professional and creative crew on-set, often helped to paper this over, and raise pedestrian or even childish storytelling to a much higher level. Hopefully, that care will allow Supernatural’s legacy to remain golden for years to come, even if tonight’s series finale sucks mutant donkey balls. But all-too-frequently, LA let Vancouver down.

There were a lot of unanswered questions that just plain didn’t need to be left unanswered. How complete was the Rapture? Where did everyone go? Were people dusted earlier, like Becky, brought back?

The plot made it sound as though even Hell, Heaven and Purgatory were cleared out, but no one even mentioned those realms. Whatever happened to the fairy realm(s)? Was it destroyed along with the other non-Earth Prime worlds or did it, as the Leprechaun heavily implied in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe,” exist outside Chuck’s multiverse?

Why didn’t Sam immediately call Eileen? Why didn’t Dean ask Jack to bring Castiel back? What about The Empty, which is, you know, now even more pissed off than ever? An episode this late in the game should not have so many unanswered questions, especially since it appears they will now never be answered.

Next week: Carry On: It’s the last time in the saddle for Sam and Dean.

The Kripke Years

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The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

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Season 11

The Dabb Years

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Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Despair” (15.18) Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Typica recap of the previous episode, with a focus on The Empty Entity’s deal with Billie and with Castiel, Chuck absorbing Amara, and Chuck being a dick.

Cut to a few seconds after Chuck disappeared and last week’s credits rolled. Sam is hauling Jack up to the Library (Oh, I see, now he wants to carry Jack). They set him in a chair. Dean is in a panic, with no idea what to do, and Sam is even more useless. Castiel keeps telling Jack to “breathe,” which is also unhelpful.

Jack says that he can’t stop the process (which, you know, is what Adam and Serafina already told him last week). He asks them to bring him outside. He will try to fly away as far as he can before he explodes. Castiel says no and Jack shouts at him that he doesn’t want to hurt him and the Brothers. Dean tries to think of one of Rowena’s spells. Surely, there’s something.

Billie appears at the other end of the room, seriously pissed, and says, “I think you’ve done enough.”

Dean flat-out tells her that Chuck saw her entire plan coming, but when Sam tries to back that up, by saying the plan was “doomed,” Billie looks straight at Sam and tells him he’s to blame for that. Well, somebody’s finally calling it as they see it.

Dean asks if Billie can do anything for Jack. She says she can do one thing. She TK’s his chair around, lifts his chin with one hand, and makes him vanish. Dean then gets shouty about what happened to Jack.

It turns out she sent him to The Empty. The Empty Entity is there on her throne, lazily commenting that he doesn’t look so good. After shivering and grunting and glowing, he blows up, to her horror.

Cue title cards.

In the Bunker, Billie explains that Jack is in The Empty. Since Chuck and Amara weren’t around, she needed someplace safe to send Jack that would absorb the explosion. The Empty, she says, is not as “strong” as either Chuck or Amara, but it is “vast.” Jack may or may not survive, ditto the Empty. But if the Empty does survive, it will be “pissed.” It already is angry with her, but fortunately, it can’t reach her here.

Sam unwisely decides to draw attention to himself and note that the Empty Entity can only come to earth if she’s “summoned.” Billie says that’s right, but then she focuses on Sam and says he has something of hers. Instead of being conciliatory, Sam stupidly thinks challenging Death is a good idea and pissily tells her he did it because she was going to “betray” them.

Billie shrugs and says sure, she was going to kill off everyone who was supposed to be dead, anyway, but that Sam doesn’t have any choice. Unless he gives her God’s death book, she’ll leave Jack in the Empty and “he won’t last long” there. Sam looks constipated. I’m kinda laughing at him here because Billie is really sick of his shit and so am I.

When Sam comes back in with the book, he tosses it on the map table rather than hand it to her, in a final bout of immature pique. Unimpressed, Billie picks it up. Dean wants her to bring Jack back right away, but she insists she has to read the end of the book, first, seeing as how the Brothers (well, Sam) have ruined the previous ending. What she sees, and her reaction, makes even Sam sit up and take notice at the change in demeanor and the tone of menace, but all she says out loud is “Interesting.”

In The Empty, Jack comes back into one piece. The Empty swirls around him and then reconstitutes herself. She is not happy because now he’s “made it loud.” But just as she’s about to put some major hurt on him, he disappears. Billie has called him back to the Bunker.

Billie then suddenly pulls a double-cross. She won’t let the rest of TFW near Jack because now she has a different use for him. But Dean surprises her by picking up her scythe and slashing her with it. White light spills out as she tosses him across the room, then flees by teleporting away, leaving the book and her scythe behind. Everyone then runs to Jack, Sam at the front of the herd. But it’s Castiel who comforts Jack, while Dean is picking himself up from across the room and Sam rushes to … open the book. But it’s stuck closed.

Nighttime outside the Bunker. Dean can’t sleep, so he’s nursing a bottle of whiskey in the Library. Sam comes in. He can’t sleep, either, so Dean slides the bottle over to him and Sam pours himself a dram. Dean apologizes for pulling a gun on Sam and explains that he was so tunnel-visioned about killing Chuck that he couldn’t stop himself. Sam points out that Dean did stop himself, though, that he was able to pull himself out of his killing trance as he has pulled Sam out of trances in the past.

It doesn’t occur to either of them that Dean was acting that way, perhaps, because he was being written that way, or that Sam was acting the way he was for the same reason. Or that now Sam has buggered up Billie’s plan, they have no more “heavy hitters on our side” Dean does actually point out the latter, but he’s a lot kinder than I would be and doesn’t blame Sam for it. Not even when Sam says they’ll think of “something,” which of course means Sam expects Dean to come up with it. Dean ruefully makes a toast to “something.” That finally shuts Sam up and they drink in silence.

Billie stalks into her Library. Seems The Empty Entity didn’t manage to kill all the Reapers. One survivor who is filing books, or something, tells her he’s reinforced the warding as ordered so that the Empty can’t get back in. He then asks her if “the plan has changed.” Looking back, while holding her shoulder in obvious pain, and looking mighty pissed off, Billie confirms this.

In a kitchen somewhere in Middle America, a young African American woman named Stevie is explaining how to cook scrambled eggs to alt-Charlie, who is (rather disrespectfully) ignoring said woman’s injunction against cleaning weapons at the breakfast table. Fortunately, Stevie isn’t standing for that, so Charlie has to put aside her kit in order to get breakfast, while babbling about their hunting some shapeshifters that night as a date. She is shocked to find that the eggs are really good, but in the middle of telling Stevie that she now has to make these eggs for Charlie for the rest of Charlie’s life (lovely), Stevie vanishes without a trace and her plate clatters on the floor. Shocked, Charlie calls out her name.

Cut to the outside of Stevie and alt-Charlie’s apartment house (which has the date 1928 on it). Inside, alt-Charlie is explaining to Sam and Dean how she met Stevie when Bobby asked her to help Stevie out on a djinn hunt. Turns out Stevie didn’t need the help. They bonded and hooked up. Now Charlie had no idea whom else to call but the Brothers. She doesn’t understand why this happened to Stevie and not her. Dean says they’re trying to figure that out. Sam asks her if she can think of anything that might identify the MOTW. In distress, Charlie says that she can’t.

Outside, Castiel is standing near the Impala, telling Jack that the Brothers didn’t want them to come in so they wouldn’t “overwhelm” their friend. Well, that’s one way of putting it. Castiel asks how he’s doing, saying that he’s been “quiet.” Jack asks how long he’s been waiting to “ask me that.” Castiel admits that he may not have wanted to “overwhelm” Jack, either.

Jack says that he’s not sure. He feels “strange,” but he’s not sure if it’s because of what happened to him or because his quest is now “over.” He doesn’t know what to do next, especially since dying was going to be the way he made things right.

Castiel proceeds to lie a rug that Jack never needed “absolution” from either him or Sam and Dean, that they weren’t using him as a weapon or for his powers. He claims that they only care about him for him. Excuse me while I snort at this porkie.

Jack admits that with all the heavy hitters who are angry with them, it scares him that he has no powers to defend TFW. He feels useless. Castiel admits he’s scared, too.

Inside, Dean is giving alt-Charlie the bad news about the angry heavy hitters. He and Sam admit that their biggest enemy now is Death and that she wants to send everyone from the alternate worlds back to their worlds – which no longer exist. When Dean says Stevie’s disappearance “fits a pattern,” Charlie starts to dither that she wasn’t going to fall in love again and the Brothers just consider her and Stevie “collateral damage,” and so on. As Sam is interrupted by a call from alt-Bobby, Dean apologizes to Charlie for what’s happening to her. When Sam gets off the phone, he has more bad news – alt-Bobby was on a hunt with a Hunter from Apocalypse World who just vanished. Says Charlie, “It’s spreading.”

Dean notes that everyone who came over from another world or who died and came back is now on Billie’s hit list. Sam belatedly realizes that includes Eileen. Charlie actually gives Sam her blessing to go rescue Eileen.

On the road (Dean driving, Castiel and Jack in the backseat), Sam is texting Eileen, who is confused. He’s telling her to just wait for him to get there when she goes silent. Dean notices Sam’s expression and speeds up. When they arrive at her home, they find Eileen’s car abandoned, with her phone lying nearby. It shows that she was texting him when she vanished in mid-word. Dean tries to comfort him, but Sam says he can’t “let go” or “I’ll lose my mind.”

Sam then goes into Hunter King mode and starts saying they need to get everyone in the above endangered categories together in one place, one central to where they all are, and then ward it with everything they have.

Dean says that’s fine, Sam should do that, but it won’t last forever. So, while they’re doing that, he’s going to go kill Billie. After the nonsense he pulled last week, Sam actually has the gall to protest, but Dean’s having none of it. They still have Billie’s scythe and it’s not as though it’s his first time killing Death. After Castiel volunteers to go with Dean, Dean hugs Sam and then heads to the car.

Dean: C’mon, Cas. Let’s go reap a Reaper.

As they drive off, Sam stands rigidly, tears running down his face. The next day, he’s talking to Donna (who has found a silo where everyone can hide out) on the phone, while gassing up and peering through the backseat of his ride (a nice old red car, a Mustang, I think) at Jack. Donna asks Sam if they have a plan. He says they’re “working on it.” He then asks Jack to drive, since he has to work on research along the way. They drive off.

In the Bunker, Dean is giving a plan to Castiel that he’s making up as he goes along. His plan is to enter Billie’s library with her scythe and “smoke her out” by wrecking it.

Donna meets Sam and Jack at the silo, where people are already arriving. Jack offers to set up the warding. Donna hugs Sam and says she’s “sorry about Eileen.” She says she’s alerted Garth, Jody and the Wayward Sisters, who are all ready to help. Sam figures that all of them and Donna are probably fine, since they haven’t died. But he could use Donna for backup. Donna also says that Bobby and his “crew” are inside, with more on the way. Alt-Charlie also drives up in a pickup, determined not to let the same thing that happened to Stevie happen to anyone else.

Inside, people are setting up lights and drawing sigils on the wall. Alt-Bobby blows smoke up Sam’s ass about how he’s the “big man around here.” Mmkay, Show. Sam admits he’s a bit in over his head, here. They’ve got every type of warding they know, and he has one of Rowena’s spells to supercharge it, but he doesn’t know if it will be enough. He just hopes Dean and Castiel will take care of the Billie situation quickly enough that it won’t matter.

Donna and Jack are painting sigils on the wall when Jack discovers he makes plants wither just by holding his hand over them. Yay. A shiny, pointless new power.

Dean and Castiel enter Death’s library. Dean has Billie’s scythe. With silent hand signals, they try to sneak up on Billie, Dean with the scythe and Castiel coming in sideways with an angel blade. But she sees them coming and says, “Hello, boys.” She susses out that the plan is to attack her with her own weapon, but she questions Dean’s aim, since he only nicked her last time. Dean says he wasn’t trying to kill her, then. She asks what has changed. He says that now she is killing people he cares about.

She TK’s him across the room and when Castiel goes after her, she easily grabs him by the throat and shoves him against a wall. She references, bitterly, the time he stabbed her in the back. Alas for her, this gives Dean time to come up and poke her in her wounded shoulder and then shove the scythe toward her throat. She grabs it (bleeding white light) and holds it off, just barely, teeth bared and pissed off. When Dean shouts at her to “stop killing my people!” she laughs at him and tells him he’s “in the wrong place.” Uh-oh. In fact, Billie has a pretty strong theory about the culprit – Chuck.

Cut back to the silo, where Sam is saying the super-charging spell. The sigils glow and at first, it appears to work. But then a little girl disappears. When her sister runs to her parents, all three dust at once. People start running and turning into dust. Among the last to go are alt-Charlie and alt-Bobby. But it gets worse when Donna starts to panic and also turns to dust. Sam and Jack are left alone in an empty silo full of the sound of silence and failure.

In Death’s library, Billie has another revelation for Dean. When he stabbed her before, despite it’s being just a nick, it was “fatal.” Now that she’s dying, she has only one wish left on her Bucket List – to kill Dean Winchester. She then manages to get the scythe away from Dean and knock him down. Wisely, Dean and Castiel run. But even as they go through the door to the Bunker, Death is stalking them and she has her scythe back.

In the silo, realization is setting in. When they leave, Sam starts calling Dean, but can’t get hold of him. Jack wonders if the only people they lost were inside the Bunker. Sam says he doesn’t know, but we then get some shots of empty playgrounds and roads. It appears that the entire planet is now deserted.

In the Bunker, Dean is panicking, but still trying to come up with a plan, while Castiel tries to be supportive. This is cut off by Dean doubling over in agony. Billie has appeared on the balcony above, using a withered crone hand to squeeze his heart from the inside. As she monologues, Castiel grabs Dean and hustles him deeper into the Bunker, trying to find a way to escape.

Billie: It’s you, Dean. It’s always been you. Death-defying, rule-breaking, you are everything I live to set right, to put down, to tame. You are Human Disorder Incarnate.

Castiel, reassuring Dean as they go, takes them down to the Dungeon and uses an angelic blood sigil on the door to block Billie out, at least temporarily. Billie slowly stalks them down the hallway, running her scythe along the walls, throwing out sparks, and monologuing. When she gets to the door, she starts banging on it slowly, like a gigantic drum, making the sigil glow red, but the sigil block has at least released her grip on Dean’s heart.

Castiel tries to be upbeat. Billie said she was dying. Maybe they can wait her out. And if she gets through, they’ll fight. “We’ll lose,” Dean says woefully. “I just led us into another trap.” Dean blames himself for the failure to kill Chuck, feeling he failed because he was “angry” and a killer, that killing is all he knows. The worst part is that the real MOTW “was Chuck all along.” TFW shouldn’t have split up. They should have stayed together. “Everybody’s gonna die and I can’t stop it.”

Dean: She’s gonna get through that door.

Castiel: I know.

Dean: And she’s gonna kill you. And then she’s gonna kill me. I’m sorry.

Castiel suddenly has an idea (though I’m pretty sure Dean’s not gonna like it. At all). He then tells Dean about his deal with the Empty Entity. He explains that he made it to save Jack and the price was his own life. The terms were that “when I experienced a moment of true happiness, the Empty would be summoned and it would take me forever.”

Dean: Why are you telling me this now?

Castiel: I always wondered, ever since I took that burden, that curse, I wondered what it could be, what … what my true happiness could even look like. I never found an answer because the one thing I want, it’s something I know I can’t have. But I think I know, I think I know now, happiness isn’t in the having. It’s in just being. It’s in just saying it.

Dean: What are you talking about, man?

Castiel: I know. I know how you see yourself, Dean. You see yourself the same way our enemies see you: You’re destructive and you’re angry and you’re broken. You’re Daddy’s Blunt Instrument. You think that hate and anger, that’s … that’s what drives you. That’s who you are. It’s not. And everyone who knows you sees it. Everything you have ever done, the good and the bad, you have done for love. You raised your little brother for love. You fought for this whole world for love. That is who you are! You’re the most caring man on earth. You are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know. You know, ever since we met, ever since I pulled you out of Hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you. I cared about Sam. I cared about Jack. But I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean!

By this time, Castiel is crying freely, but also smiling with joy. This is his moment of true happiness. Dean, also with tears in his eyes, very quietly asks, “Why does this sound like goodbye?”

Castiel replies, “Because it is. I love you!”

With increasingly desperation, Dean turns to see the Empty gurgle black goo out of the wall behind them and begs Castiel, “Don’t do this.”

“Goodbye, Dean,” Castiel says, as the door behind him splinters open. He grabs Dean by the shoulder and tosses him out of the way, into a corner, just as Billie enters the Dungeon. With the brand of Castiel’s hand once again on him (though now over his clothing), Dean watches, helpless, as the Empty takes a smiling Castiel and a startled Billie. He is left alone.

Afterward, Dean weeps, totally broken. Not even seeing Sam’s call on his phone motivates him to answer it. He just sits there and cries.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode rose again to a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo, a 0.4 in the A25-54 demo and a 0.2 in the A18-25 demo, and 1.024 million in audience.

Review: I’ve seen a lot of trash talked about “Despair,” and I’m not arguing it’s perfect (among other things, there’s a lot of set-up with redshirts we don’t have much emotional investment in during the first two acts and speaking of which, I couldn’t care less about any version of Charlie). But I am going to go to bat for it because I think this was possibly the best episode in the season and probably one of the greats for the series overall. Kind of a shame about the episode after this one, but there you go.

What I loved about this episode (and it really lived up to its name) is that it was all about consequences. Because of this, it was the culmination of different storylines where bad luck and bad decisions have now led to bad outcomes. It was Classical Tragedy. In Tragedy, catharsis (the release of emotions built up over the course of the story in the audience) is a big thing and this episode had a lot of catharsis, despite the sense of another shoe needing to drop with the Castiel storyline.

We always knew that in a good story, Castiel’s deal would not be forgotten. We always knew that at some point, should he be lucky enough to know true happiness, The Empty would take him. His story would not be complete without that cathartic moment. Sure, I’d like to see a final ending in the last episode where Dean returns the favor and gets him back out of The Empty, but it’s still a good ending, even if Castiel’s story stops here.

We saw a juxtaposition of Sam discovering that he could be looked up to by his Hunter crew all they wanted, but he still couldn’t protect them from Chuck, with Dean losing Castiel due to teaching Castiel a little too well about love and heroism, about what it truly meant to be human. In Sam’s case, his Hunter crew looked up to him because they expected him to protect them. It was a largely one-way dependent relationship where Sam played Big Kahuna Hunter King and got lots of ego-boo in exchange.

But he learned a harsh lesson about the limits of his power when Chuck simply snapped that crew away (an obvious ripoff of the Thanos “snap” storyline from the MCU movies, so they’ll probably all be back in an episode or two). For all his talk about saving everyone last week, Sam’s actions still led pretty directly to the same people dying this week – even worse, to the entire earth being emptied of higher animal life. “Saving” Jack had a very high price.

In contrast, Castiel sought to use his final moments to repair the seriously frayed relationship between him and Dean. Castiel had consistently chosen Jack and Jack’s welfare over Dean for years, to the point where I wasn’t too sure I wanted these two to stay as friends, let alone anything more. It was getting pretty neglectful and even abusive on Castiel’s side.

But Jack was largely absent this week (thank God) aside from the obligatory “Oh, look, he has a shiny new power in place of a personality” trope. Not even getting yelled at by The Empty Entity saved him from irrelevance. So, we were left, in the last act, with just Castiel and Dean.

Castiel had an epiphany about that relationship. He realized that forcing Dean to carry all the emotional weight for everyone else’s happiness was unfair, but that poor Dean could not truly receive the message that he was worthy of love, especially from one who had been giving him pretty much the opposite message for quite a while. What to do?

So, Castiel made it clear what his deal with the Empty entailed, what it meant when his confession of love summoned her. And this also made it possible for him to get through to Dean that when he said Dean had shown him how to love, by loving the entire world, he was being entirely sincere. By summoning the Empty through a moment of true happiness, Castiel was putting himself through the most accurate and unimpeachable lie detector test ever, right in front of Dean.

Now, the Christological elements in this were right off the scale. People were wondering if the show had finally made Destiel canon and here I was, wondering if anybody had noticed that they’d finally revealed their Jesus figure. In Judeo-Christian terms (which is the main system the show uses), the being who loves the world so much as to die for it is Jesus Christ (talking about mythology, here, not trying to proselytize). And by his sacrifice, Christ teaches everyone else how to love the world that much, too. Keep in mind that Castiel’s relationship with Dean began with resurrecting him from Hell after Dean died to save Sam from Sam’s Original Demon Blood Sin.

We also see the negative side of this in Billie’s monologue when she’s stalking them, when she refers to Dean as “Human Disorder Incarnate.” That pretty much sums up the demonic view of Jesus in the Bible and how his human enemies perceived him, as well. Jesus is Death’s conqueror, its annihilator, its eternal nemesis. Of course Death hates him.

The reason I think this works for me (as well as Dean killing Death – twice) is that, again, it’s an allegorical metaphor that evokes the emotional resonance of a deeper truth. Whereas, Jack and his shiny powers are just a convenient deus ex machina that incompetent writers use to get themselves out of a corner.

Now, as I said last week, I’m not very happy with the way the show has been killing off its most powerful female characters so that we could end up with a white-bread sausage fest next week, but it must be said that Lisa Berry knocked this one right out of the park. She brought all this subtlety of sheer rage and grief and disappointment and bitterness to Billie that certainly wasn’t there in the script. And right before she was about to have a baby, too. Give this woman an Emmy, already. Billie was scary.

And who wouldn’t be? Despite the show’s attempts to villainize her, she’s just an allegorical figure of a natural process. She’s necessary and the Brothers have been cheating her for a long, long time. Can we really consider her the villain of this story?

Let’s talk about Castiel’s death. There was a lot of talk online (whining might be the better word) that the fact that he died immediately after declaring his love for Dean Winchester not only was homophobic writing, but it meant that Dean Winchester, and even the actor who plays him (Jensen Ackles himself) was homophobic.

As an actual member of the LGBT community (Hint: I’m the B word), I’m gonna have to say “Oh, hell, no, Ghost Rider” to that one, especially the last conclusion. But let me explain.

First of all, while internalized homophobia is definitely a thing in the gay community and especially among closeted gays (lookin’ hard at you, Lindsey Graham), it’s more than a tiny bit questionable to call out a gay male writer as homophobic in his writing about two men. I’ll grant you that I haven’t loved a lot of what Robert Berens has done lately, but I’m reasonably confident that he knows a lot more about what gay men are like in their relationships than straight teenage girls who think they’re “woke” because they ship two men together.

There’s nothing woke about fetishizing gay people as your sexual fantasy. Just because what’s up on screen is not what you imagine two gay men must be like does not make that representation homophobic. Yaoi has about as much to do with actual gay experience as hurt/comfort does with hospice care or the meat grinder that is a city ER on a Saturday night during a full moon. Life is not fanfic.

This is especially important in talking about Supernatural versus other CW shows. While the CW has improved somewhat since the Dawn Ostroff era in terms of representation, there’s definitely something stale about how they go about it. It feels as though they just dusted off the WB playbook from the late 1990s and started re-doing their greatest hits.

Thus, you have women of color, but they’re young and pretty and have an older male mentor (because all the older women in the story are evil or dead). The balance of men versus women remains seriously lopsided and the women seem to be there mainly to provide relationship drama. Women with superpowers get held to much higher standards than their male counterparts and experience much harsher criticism from other characters in the story whenever they fail to meet utter perfection. You have lesbian and bisexual women in major roles, now, but they’re all young and pretty (that male gaze thing), and it’s funny how one woman in the couple always gets designated the Romantic Interest, and gets fridged, turned EVOL, or made irrelevant in some way. It all feels like something that seemed progressive in 1998. Not so much in 2020.

Supernatural never fit that mold and all attempts to make it do that came off as awkward. Contrary to what its critics claimed, this did not mean that it had no GLBT representation. Part of what makes the idea of Castiel having been fridged questionable is that his relationship did not fundamentally alter at that moment of confession, let alone reset when he said, “I love you.” There had never been anything secret about Castiel’s feelings about Dean toward Dean over the 12 years they’d known each other, any more than Dean and Crowley’s relationship (often elided by a lot of fans) between seasons had been “just” a friendship.

There was simply a difference in how Castiel and Dean expressed love for each other. Castiel said it (and so did others). Dean showed it. He trusted Castiel in Season 6 long after it was clear Castiel was lying to him. He refused to leave Purgatory without Castiel. When Castiel essentially forced him to leave without him, Dean developed guilt-driven hysterical amnesia about the event. And when Castiel was making his declaration in “Despair,” Dean was begging him, with tears in his eyes, not to do it and end up in the Empty. Dean. Loves. Castiel.

It’s not whether there is Destiel on the show. We’ve had this relationship for 12 years and the episode framed it as romantic by leading up to it with two, increasingly important relationships where Chuck dusted one of the couple. It’s how you choose to define it and interpret what you saw onscreen.

But Dean’s love for Castiel on the show was always framed as familial, brotherly, not romantic (though Castiel’s was certainly romantic on his side, just as Crowley’s had been, albeit with a noir twist). Now there’s a very logical, non-homophobic reason the show couldn’t have Dean be in love with another man. His most important relationship was never romantic. It was always brotherly. He always put Sam first and he made no bones about it.

But for Dean to fall in love with another man would not only be “cheating” on Sam (just as, say, Dean’s connection to Amara was framed), but it would imply that Dean’s love for Sam was romantic and sexual. And while the CW may be up for a gay male relationship, it’s definitely not up for one that’s first-degree incestuous (no matter how many jokes the Kripke Era made about it). This ain’t HBO.

Castiel recognized that Dean would always love Sam first and I think that was what he meant when he said he could never have what he truly wanted. What he truly wanted wasn’t just Dean’s love, but Dean’s exclusive love. And Dean’s love, as Castiel himself admits near the end of this episode, is universal. Hence why the title reflects what Dean feels right before the credits.

Next week: Inherit the Earth: On a deserted planet, Sam, Dean and Jack go up against Chuck one final time.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Unity” (15.17) Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Standard recap of the season up to this point. Cut to Now in Reykavik, Iceland. Amara is enjoying a nice hot spring bath, while reading a Japanese novel by Murakami, at night (it always seems to be night around her), when a sudden meteor shower and aurora catch her attention. Looking tense, she gets out and pulls on a robe. “Welcome home, Brother,” she mutters.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Sam in the Bunker talking to Castiel (outside in a sunny spot near some kind of industrial park). Castiel has been to the Basilica of Guadalupe to look for a spell that could, according to rumor, “wound God Himself.” Alas, it was only a rumor.

As Sam gets off the phone, Dean enters the Library and asks if he was just talking to Castiel. Sam is all pissy that Dean didn’t rush to tell him what Castiel told Dean. This entire plot irritates me immensely. If Castiel is now working with Sam to come up with an alternative to Billie and Jack’s plan, why didn’t he just tell Sam about it in the first place instead of telling Dean and then bailing? If I were Dean, I’d be mighty salty at these two using me as a go-between for a half-baked, last-minute search that probably won’t go anywhere. And indeed, Dean’s not too thrilled, especially by Sam acting like a twit for the billionth time in 15 seasons.

Dean points out that they don’t have any other alternatives if, you know, they want to save the world. Sam snottily whines that surely, Dean gets tired of “saying that” they don’t have any choice. I’m sure Dean does, but at the moment, they really don’t.

The argument is interrupted by a whoosh and a clatter in the Kitchen. They go down there to find Amara helping herself to a beer from the fridge. She tells them, “We should talk.”

Cut to the Brothers and Jack (you know, the fifth wheel this show seems determined to keep around) listening as Amara tells them Chuck is back on Earth Prime. Jack then says, “It’s time.”

Amara asks them what their plan is to “cage” her brother. Do they have four archangels? Dean says they have Jack and that he’s been getting stronger. Amara tells Jack that she regrets she didn’t get around to getting to know him better and suggests they do so afterward. Dean manages to keep a straight face through this. Jack looks dumb, but then mentions that he has one final ritual he needs to go through.

Later, Dean thanks Amara for helping. She says, “As I told you before, Dean, we will always find a way to help each other.” After she disappears, Dean looks guilty and upset.

Out in the Library, Jack guesses that Sam is “angry” or at least “disappointed” with him. Sam lies his ass off and says that of course he’s not. He does admit that he thinks what Jack is doing is wrong. Yay for respecting Jack’s choices, Sam.

It gets worse when Dean comes out into the Library and asks Jack if he’s ready. After Jack leaves to get his stuff, Sam starts tail-spinning. He refuses to come along, even though he and Castiel have no alternative plan, because suddenly, he thinks Billie’s plan is a wild goose chase. Really, Sam? You were fine with Jack eating human hearts and looking for Eden in some weird, abandoned church, but now you have a problem with this plan? Sam seems to think what is best for Jack is totally ignoring what Jack wants, refusing to support him in his final hours, and rendering his sacrifice meaningless.

The really sad thing is that it’s pretty obvious even this early in the episode that we are supposed to believe Sam is in the right – that we are supposed to forget that when Sam has gotten mulish like this in the past, he has released terrible evil (like Lucifer and the Darkness) on the world and caused untold death and destruction. In short, we are supposed to not notice that Sam not only is holding the Idiot Ball this episode, it’s practically glued to his hand for 42 solid minutes. Nope, the writers want us to believe that Dean is the problematical brother, instead. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough facepalms.

So, the Brothers have a spat where Sam talks about “fighting for Jack” (while being unwilling even to be with him in his worst moment) and how Jack is “family.” Dean has to speak the brutal truth: “Jack’s not family.” Sam bridles at this, but, well, Jack isn’t family. He’s just not. And he never has been, either. Every time he’s come close to being family, he’s found a way to screw them over and choose someone, or something (usually power) over them.

Jack pretty obviously overhears this as he comes back into the Library with his stuff. There’s an awkward moment and then Dean leaves with Jack. Note that the brother who’s saying Jack isn’t family is the one who’s willing to help him see this through. Let’s just let that little irony sink in. Sam talks a good game, but at the end of the day, I don’t see any emotional resonance in his claim to love Jack as a son. It always sounds hollow and that’s because we never see him putting in the work. The brother who does that is always Dean.

Cut to a pensive car ride at night, but Dean and Jack don’t speak to each other at all during it. Dean’s overheard statement just sits there between them.

Back at the Bunker, Castiel arrives (conveniently after causing a huge fight and rift between the Brothers at about the worst time possible) to find Sam hitting the lore books. He’s all happy that Sam is on board with trying to find another way to save the world that will also save Jack. Ugh. I can’t even with these two.

Meanwhile, Amara is sitting on a bench in a park in sunlight (oh, so, she can be out in daylight), holding a pink flower, when her brother shows up. We get a random title card that says “Amara” in white letters on a black background, for some unclear reason.

Chuck asks if she saw his meteor shower. Instead of saying yes, she calls him out on “ending worlds.” Now he’s after this one. Thing is, in order to “do a hard reset” and start a new universe after he ends Earth Prime, he needs Amara’s help. She flat-out refuses. He accuses the Winchesters of having gotten to her: “You and Dean have that whole weird thing.” Amara is surprised. She had thought it was part of his writing, but he vociferously denies it, calling it “gross.” Note that this relationship is the only thing in the entire show that we can be sure is not part of Chuck’s manipulations, so of course he’s going to have to try to break it down to nothing.

Amara claims that she’s on neither Dean nor Chuck’s side. She’s about preserving the world as it is. Setting the flower down on her bench, she has Chuck take a walk with her. Chuck does, but is restless. She notes that he “never slow[s] down.” He never takes a moment to enjoy his own creation (this is, by the way, a retcon on Season 11, when we did see that Chuck enjoyed nature).

They talk about his first tree (a fern, “I was obsessed with fractals”) and Amara calls Chuck out on wanting to “annihilate” the entire universe just because Sam and Dean won’t do what he wants. Chuck claims this isn’t so (when she’s obvious right). He says that everywhere he looks, he sees his failures and wants to start fresh. He’s especially upset at humans, whom he now claims to find “boring.”

Amara then asks about his “first children” (the Leviathan? Oops, no, she means the angels, since it seems we’ve forgotten the bit of canon that said Leviathan were created before angels). She snaps her fingers and Chuck is annoyed to find they’re in Heaven. A small group of angels we’ve never seen before shows up (where have they been?). One, Crystal, calls him, “The Truth, the Way and the Light.” Chuck likes it at first. But their fangirling over him quickly annoys him. He snaps his fingers and sends them “away.”

When he asks what the point was of bringing them in, Amara says that she wanted him “to feel their love, their perfect, angelic love.” Chuck blows a childish raspberry, then claims that in the end, “I always get what I want.”

“What about what I want?” Amara says. What she wants is “balance” between Light and Dark. She wants a stake in this one world, where creation and destruction balance each other out. But Chuck doesn’t want to share and, when she calls him a villain for it, brags, “Villains always get the best lines.” So, she snaps her fingers again and takes them to the Bunker. Where she traps him.

Furious, Chuck tells her she can’t trap him there forever. She says she doesn’t have to.

We now get a random title card for Dean. Dean and Jack are still on the road and it’s still night. Dean tries to talk to Jack about saying he wasn’t family, back in the Bunker. Jack just says that he understands and it’s okay. Dean still looks guilty.

Come daylight, they pull up in front of a tacky, Mexican-themed store called “Jim’s Gems.” As they get out, Dean asks Jack if he’s sure this is the place. Jack says, “Billie said, ‘This is where it ends.’”

As they walk up to the store, a man and a woman open it from inside and come out to greet him. The man smiles and calls Jack by name. He and the woman are dressed like hippies and are very excited to see Jack.

Inside the shop, Dean greets the man and calls him “Jim,” thinking he’s the proprietor. The man corrects him. He’s just a friend who Jim lets use the shop. He’s Adam. The Adam. And he’s been waiting 300,000 years to get back at Chuck. He and Eve figured they deserved to get kicked out of the Garden (God’s “first story”), but were less happy to watch Chuck get bored and move on to their children.

The woman, however, is not Eve (also, isn’t Eve in charge of Purgatory, seeing as how this season claimed she didn’t really die in Season 6, then promptly forgot about her?). She is an angel named Serafina. She and Adam are very lovey-dovey and she’s been keeping him alive all this time so they can kill God. Billie has been helping them.

Adam wants to take Jack into the back room for “a pop quiz. Can’t hand out the Spark of the Divine to just anyone.” Dean is hesitant, but Jack insists it’s okay. As they go back, Adam blowing smoke up Jack’s ass, Serafina tells Dean about having seen Jack in a mushroom dream in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Dean: So, you were tripping balls and you saw Jack?

Serafina talks about all the many coincidences that led to this moment, as if “it was meant to be.” In a story where Chuck is writing everyone’s decisions, that sounds a tad ominous.

In the back room, the “test” turns out to be determining, from a collection of rocks, which one holds the Spark of the Divine. Jack picks up a rock and says it’s this one. But then he says it’s all of the rocks. All of them hold something from their creator: “God is in everything.” Adam smiles and says, “Right on. Or at least, he should be.” Jack has passed the test.

Bringing Jack back out, Adam has Serafina stab him and rip out one of his ribs (then she heals him). Dean is a bit shocked by this, while Jack just stands there like a turnip. Adam says that everything may have the Spark of the Divine, but his rib has enough power to create – or to kill God.

Serafina, covered in Adam’s blood, blathers on about how this is Jack’s destiny and how preparing his mind and body, and restoring his soul, led him to this. I think I’m gonna hurl.

Adam tells Jack that consuming the rib “will start a chain reaction” that turns him into a “supernova” that will then “collapse into a living black hole” that will consume all divine energy in its vicinity, even Amara and Chuck. Yay.

Adam puts the rib into a baggie and hands it over. He warns that once the chain reaction starts, it can’t be stopped, so don’t use it until the time comes.

In the car that night, Dean is driving and Adam is holding the baggie, staring at it. Dean pulls over and apologizes to Jack for what he said before. He says that Jack deserves more support than that. Dean explains that when he found out about Chuck’s being an author, he no longer felt “free.” But now, he and Sam have a chance to be truly free. He thanks Jack for that.

Dean gets a text that “it’s time.” Jack takes out the rib and holds it in his hand. Then he dusts it (the way he did the snake last season, ’cause that’s totally reassuring) and his eyes glow briefly. Game Time.

Back in the Bunker, Sam seems oblivious to what is going on, so I guess he’s not the one who sent that text to Dean (Amara, maybe?). He’s still working on the books. And then we get a title card for him, as well (again, no idea why), as he tosses a book to the ground in frustration.

Castiel picks it up and puts it back on the table. Sam apologizes for the whatever-that-was and they commiserate on the sinking sensation that Dean may be right. Sam just can’t shake the feeling that something is off and wishes he could talk to Billie directly about (Really? Now? Not before whenever she was standing right in front of you, Sam?).

Castiel firmly nixes any summoning of Death or Sam killing himself to hang out with her. But Sam has another idea. Remember that key the Russian shaman Sergei wanted when he helped cure Jack last season? I know it was a while ago, but don’t worry, because Sam and Castiel happily infodump us up to speed. The key was to Death’s library and Sam wonders if they can 1. find it and 2. use it to sneak inside and read her books.

Cue a montage of the two of them hitting the books again. They find a lot of relics, but it’s not until Sam is messing about with the Holy Grail (yes, really) that Castiel finds a box with a death’s head on it and opens it to find the key in question.

There’s a helpful inscription on the box. When Sam reads it (his Latin pronunciation has not improved), the key glows and a glowing doorway appears in the wall, complete with a key hole. How convenient.

This is about where the episode turns seriously daft. Yes, that’s even taking into account the previous meeting with Stoner!Adam.

Castiel wants to come along, but Sam insists on going alone. He figures if Dean gets back before he does, Castiel will need to stall him. Castiel reassures Sam that he must be doing the Right Thing because reasons. Barf.

Sam steps inside Death’s Library. This is a recurring motif on the show of something that worked great with Dean, that the show insists on just handing to Sam with clumsy writing that cheapens it the second time round. Remember Sam’s romp through Purgatory in Season 8’s “Taxi Driver”? Like that.

Anyhoo, Sam arrives in the W section (convenient) and finds a lot of dead Reapers on the floor. He hears screaming and pleading down the shelves and then a death shriek. Instead of grabbing a book (as he originally intended) and bailing, he decides to check out what’s going on. I’m sure this will end well.

It turns out that the Empty Entity (in the persona of Meg) is sitting at a desk, interrogating Reapers about the location of Billie. When they don’t have the answer (and none of them does), she kills them.

Sam tries to sneak off, but the Empty senses him and snaps him into position in front of her. After calling him by name, she introduces herself when he incorrectly thinks she’s Meg and then monologues about wanting to find Billie. They had a deal. She was supposed to own the Empty, with no more Chuck interference, and Billie promised her she’d go back to sleep. But then Castiel showed up and sowed doubts in her mind about Billie’s reliability.

It turns out (according to the Empty, anyway) that Billie wants to become the new God and put everything back in its place, which includes worlds back in position, angels in Heaven, demons in Hell, and anyone who should be dead, dead. And, oh, yeah, the Empty Entity gets to go back to sleep.

Sam sees a book in front of her. When the Empty says he’s in God’s book, he realizes it’s the one he wants. He asks if she can read it. She says that only Death can do that. After some consideration, she figures that since Billie considered Sam important enough to keep him alive, maybe she’ll show up if the Empty tortures and kills him.

Though in agony, Sam can still lie. He claims that Billie sent him to get the book. When the Empty proves skeptical, he insists that Billie gave him the message to tell the Empty that she “honors her promises.” He persuades her to let him take the book after he tells her that Billie is on Earth (She can’t go there, she notes bitterly, unless she’s “summoned”), claiming that if she kills him, she’ll never go back to sleep. Reluctantly, the Empty lets him go, but I’m wondering if this conversation will come back to bite him in the ass. As Castiel found out the hard way, you don’t just lie to the Empty.

Sam returns from Death’s Library to find Castiel waiting anxiously. Castiel tells him “it’s time,” that Amara has Chuck trapped (so, I guess he sent the text to Dean). Sam then does a complete 180 from what he told the Empty and says they have to stop The Plan.

In another part of the Bunker, Chuck is growing impatient, so he starts manipulating his sister. She tries to tell him that they can still reconcile, but he tells her to shut up. He talks about Dean being “brought to the brink of doubt.” He also talks about “poor Sam, always gotta know everything.”

Outside, two storylines are colliding. Dean arrives, half-carrying Jack. Sam is trying to talk Dean out of it, saying that Death intends to become God. Castiel is shocked. Dean doesn’t care. As long as they take out Chuck (and save the world), it’s all good.

Sam then physically gets in Dean’s way and Dean gets furious. Well, think about it – Castiel just sent Dean a text saying it was time, Jack started the countdown, and now that they’ve come back, Sam is suddenly screwing everything up and endangering all existence. Dean ends up pulling a gun on Sam.

Chuck tells Amara, “This is my ending, my real ending.”

Chuck talks about “goading Death” and making outcomes go this way and that. When Amara protests that they’re only going to “cage” him, Chuck then drops the truth on her (but twisted, of course). He tells her that Dean lied to her. The plan is to kill both him and her, using Jack as a bomb. Yes, that’s right – Chuck always knew about the plan because even without his death book, he’s “omniscient.”

And he has an ace in the hole – Sam. Sam tries to disarm Dean, but Dean punches him into a wall. When Dean tries to get Jack down the hallway, Sam tries to tackle him and then tries to tell him that Billie will kill people they know and love (like Eileen). Dean says fine, as long as Chuck dies. He’d trade them all for that.

Sam then woefully asks Dean if he’d trade him, too, and when Dean says that he can’t be Chuck’s puppet forever, Sam plays on Dean’s brotherly love by going on about how Dean was always there for him. Kinda funny how Sam only remembers that when he wants something from his brother that his brother doesn’t want to give. At any rate, he gets Dean to put down his gun. Sam insists they’ll “find another way.”

Unfortunately, all of this whining and delaying gives Chuck time to get inside Amara’s head. After she starts crying at Dean’s betrayal, she agrees to merge with Chuck (“balance”), though it’s more as if he ends up eating her. One of his eyes briefly goes black as the other one glows.

It occurs to me that Sam and Chuck are a lot alike, especially in this scene. They both shamelessly use their sibling’s love for them to manipulate them into doing what they want instead of what’s necessarily a good idea. Too bad for Sam that he’s not a cosmic being because Chuck gets out and proceeds to mock the Brothers for not being quick enough to trap him. Thanks to Sam. Again.

Chuck gets mad and claims that he wanted them to … I dunno. The script gets really vague, here, since he clearly didn’t intend for them to succeed in killing him or stopping him from eating his sister (which means he can now just dust this world and create another). He complains that this version of Castiel is the only one that didn’t follow orders after dragging Dean out of Hell, and berates them all for being “stupid, stubborn, broken.” They’re the one story that never quite worked. Then he says, “I’m over it! I’m over you!”

Sam says, “Good” (Honestly, I don’t know why, since they just lost) and Dean says, “Screw you.” Chuck retorts that back at him. He doesn’t care, anymore, if the Brothers kill each other or not. He talks about throwing away broken toys and then welcomes them to watch Jack die (since Jack is about to go supernova). Then he vanishes as Jack collapses and TFW anxiously dotes on Jack.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode dropped to a 0.2/1 in the A18-49 demo and 0.1/2 in the A18-34 demo, while remaining steady at 0.3/1 in the A25-54 demo. They dropped to 908 thousand in audience.

Review: This was a terrible episode. Rushed pacing, wonky logic, manipulative and unearned emotional moments, and enough plotholes to drive about ten Impalas through. Also, I’m not sure if the irony of the title is truly unintentional.

Jack continues to underwhelm. It’s hilarious that the mytharc talks about his becoming a black hole for the divine, when he’s been a black hole for dramatic tension since his introduction as a zygote.

It’s not Alex Calvert’s fault (Okay, it was funny that someone commented on Twitter that it didn’t help that the show has him looking like a poster boy for the Aryan Youth League, but still). He was fun as Belphegor. But the thing is that Belphegor was an active character, with an agenda that he pursued. Sure, he was manipulative, but he had goals. He had a personality. Watching him wasn’t like watching paint dry.

Jack, on the other hand, is a blank slate, a passive vessel for whatever plan someone wants to execute using his Speshul Sparkly Gary Stu Ex Machina powers. He continues to be the worst possible thing a main character can be in this show – boring. And his arc is like plot kudzu, engulfing and cutting off far more interesting storylines, especially those of powerful female characters.

Speaking of which, poor Amara. She spent most of Season 11 colossally pissed off at her brother and in a very weird (and still largely unexplained) relationship with Dean Winchester. She reconciled with Chuck and then, somewhere between the end of Season 11 and when we see her again near the beginning of this season, she has become disenchanted with him. At the same time, she has grown to love his creation in inverse proportion to how much he has grown to hate it. This seems to be, at least in part, due to her strange (and still unexplained) connection to Dean Winchester.

On the one hand, it’s great to see that Amara has grown as a character (even as Chuck has degenerated into a big baby). On the other hand, there are multiple problems with how Amara’s growth has been handled and these problems also shine a light on issues involving Chuck’s characterization, too.

The biggest thing is that all that growth was infodumped in, rather than shown organically. And then, a hot minute after we were told about it, it (and Amara) got thrown under the Jacknatural bus.

We heard here and there (starting at the end of last season) that Amara had developed an interest in Keno. We saw that she was enjoying new experiences. We saw that she had calmed down a lot. We saw that she had grown disenchanted with her brother. But we weren’t shown any of that until it was all a fait accompli.

And in “Unity,” we saw her (after spending all of Season 11 trying to kill her brother) just give up and become just another jewel in his junk drawer. It. Made. No. Sense. I get that the show wanted to give each of its most powerful female characters (okay, I’m just speculating about The Empty, since 15.20 hasn’t aired, yet, but I’m assuming it’s about her. She’s the only remaining unresolved big mytharc) an episode each for her sendoff, but this still felt perfunctory, disrespectful, illogical, and more than a tiny bit sexist.

I got the sense the showrunners thought they were being respectful, but boy, did they miss the mark. This was a fierce character who took no shit in Season 11. Now she’s a passive, pacifist wimp who just gives in and lets herself be defeated. What the hell happened? Oh, that’s right – they never bothered to show us.

Similarly, with Chuck, we didn’t really find out why he was so angry and dissatisfied with his creations that he decided to destroy all his drafts. I get that he was feeling petulant, but there was never much cause given why he would do this after nearly 14 billion years. One reason I rolled my eyes so hard at Amara slapping at Dean for perceiving her as “just a woman” and Chuck as “a squirrely weirdo” two weeks ago is that the show itself failed to show either of them as anything else this season.

A signal example of this is her hurt at Dean’s “betrayal.” For one thing, how could she not know Dean was thinking that in the diner if she’s powerful enough to know what’s going on in another part of the Bunker? For another, why would she just believe her brother (who she knows is a practiced liar and manipulator)? Why not, I dunno, ask Dean about it?

Even more importantly, why does she care? The main thing I got from this shipwreck of a plot was that the whatever-it-was Dean had with her was about the only thing real in all of this because it was the only thing Chuck himself never wrote or planned (in fact, it disgusted him and he may even have been jealous of it). It existed independently of his entire creation and belonged to Amara and Dean alone.

So, you’d think that would be something we’d surely hear a lot about down the road, right? Alas, as of 15.19, it appears to have been completely spiked in favor of Jack’s storyline, kind of like what happened with alt-Michael last season. I just do not understand the incompetence of these writers, sometimes. How could they set all that up so carefully and then stick a wrench in the wheel like that? They teased it and teased it all year long and then, at the last minute, they did a bait-and-switch. Then they acted as though the audience was being unreasonable in getting salty about the lack of resolution.

This show, I swear, has always struggled with good endings. Always. Going all the way back to the Kripke Era. But all the things previous showrunners did wrong, the Dabb Era just seems to have doubled down on as if they actually thought they were good things to do. So frustrating.

Then there was Sam. Gonna be honest – I wanted to slap Sam really hard this week, even harder than last week. This is the second time this season Sam has scotched a plan at the absolute last minute, despite having nothing to replace it, simply because he didn’t like the projected results. As far as we can tell, the plan would have worked, mind you, but he didn’t want to sacrifice Jack, even though Sam has been plenty fine with sacrificing other people with whom he was probably a lot closer earlier in the show. It was selfish. It was foolish. And yeah, I get that it was kind of in-character for Sam to be like that, but I’d hoped he’d grown beyond it. But nope, Sam seems to have been handed the Idiot Ball for the rest of this show.

Also irritating was that in order to make Sam look right (in a way, of course, that was pro-Jack, because Heaven forbid we give up any opportunity to stroke Jack as a character and prop him up), the show had Sam babbling nonsense to Dean about Billie’s intentions. Now, first of all, as Dean himself pointed out, there was nothing particularly shocking about the consequences Sam was talking about. They did know they were making a deal with Death, after all.

Second, Sam’s entire thesis that Billie was EVOL was based on the idea that it was a bad thing he and Dean and their loved ones would now have the same status as everyone else, would no longer be special, and would have to deal with the consequences – in other words, they’d all be dead. It got downright bizarre when Sam was complaining that Billie would send people like alt-Bobby and alt-Charlie back to worlds that no longer existed (meaning they, too, would cease to exist), without seeing this as showing favoritism to such characters over the entire worlds that had been erased. Sam seemed to want to retire to a normal life with all his friends, rather than having Normal catch up to all of them all at once, even if the latter saved the world. Sam would rather see the entire world destroyed than make any sacrifice at this point. Ugh.

The especially bizarre part was that the show wanted us to believe that Dean was the one who was being unreasonable, just because The Plan was on a very short time frame and he was trying to get it done before Chuck and Amara found out or Jack blew up. Sam and Castiel sprang their Brand New Information on him at the last possible second, while having no plan to replace it.

People have claimed Dean acted out of character, but I don’t think so. Why would he believe Sam and Castiel, especially since he knew they opposed Billie’s plan and that Sam had already sabotaged a perfectly good plan less than half a season before? While some fans were talking about how this episode had a Rashomon-like structure (due to the random title cards), if it did, it was a failure. The Japanese film Rashomon (1950) was about different characters telling the same story from their own perspectives so that an investigator who could get to the truth of a crime. “Unity” was just your typical story structure where different scenes had different characters in them.

Sam’s delay was what screwed up the plan. What Chuck was expecting in that hallway, admittedly, was pretty fuzzy. It didn’t help that the writing degenerated into Chuck spouting the same old Evil Overlord slogans as before.

But two things were pretty clear. One was that he did not want to be trapped by his sister or black-holed by Jack, and that he was aware of what was going on out in the hallway and wanted to sabotage it. The other was that he expected to do so by getting one of the Brothers (most likely Dean) to kill the other. He was mighty disappointed when that didn’t happen.

So, the irony (perhaps unintentional on the writers’ part here) was that Sam was being manipulated by Chuck every bit as much as Dean was, if not more so because Dean would have gotten Chuck if Sam hadn’t interfered. And Sam never knew it.

Sam reminded me here of a character from Isaac Asimov’s book Second Foundation (1953). Arkady Darell appears in the second part. She seems like a bright and persuasive, strong-minded and highly independent young woman. It later becomes clear that she has been mind-controlled from birth to persuade everyone else in her society that the telepathic Second Foundation (which they had considered a major threat) doesn’t actually exist. Remember that Sam himself has also been manipulated from the age of six months old.

If I were Dean this week, I’ve have shot his bitchy ass.

Arguably the most irritating thing about the episode was how it reduced Castiel to a wallflower and made Dean the scapegoat for everyone else being stupid. Sam was a lot angrier with Dean, who was the one who actually told him about Billie’s plan (talk about shooting the messenger) than he was with Jack, who lied to everyone. At the same time, Sam wasn’t angry with Castiel for telling Dean, not him, but was actually happy to work with him behind Dean’s back to sabotage Billie’s plan.

Further, not only did Sam think it was a fine idea to sneak into Billie’s library to steal from her, but he also thought there’d be no consequences to lying to the Empty Entity, a character already mighty salty about everyone lying to her. This seemed like a continuation of Sam’s lifelong obliviousness to consequences (perhaps because Dean and John shielded him too much from supernatural realities when he was a kid).

Sam gives no consideration to the fact that in this episode, Amara and Billie will be salty with Dean, Adam and Serafina with Jack, and the Empty Entity with Castiel, for something he, Sam Winchester, did. He is getting other people in trouble, but since it’s not him experiencing the consequences, he continues skipping blithely along the banks of the River Denial. See what I mean about Sam having the Idiot Ball glued to his palms?

Let’s talk a bit about Adam (Oh, hi, there, Alessandro Juliani. Been a while since Battlestar Galactica) – and no, I don’t mean Sam and Dean’s younger half-brother. What was that little interlude all about? The show got seriously weird with that and not in a good way.

Okay, Adam’s a hippie and that’s cool, I guess. But his late introduction made unnecessary plotholes and possible retcons pop up like magic mushrooms. How does his angel girlfriend figure into the storyline of the angelic fall at the end of Season 8? Was getting kicked out of the Garden a metaphor for the exodus from Africa? Why does he look anatomically modern and so light-skinned if he’s 300,000 years old? For that matter, why did his first-born son look European? He mentions Eve. Is this the same Eve who is the Mother of Monsters in Purgatory? How did she become that Eve?

I also wasn’t quite sure how to perceive the tonal shifts in the scene. One minute, Adam and Serafina were totally fangirling Jack as a Savior figure. The next, in exactly the same “Farrr out, dude!” voice, Serafina was bloodily stabbing Adam to wrench out his rib and the two of them were making it very clear they had happily participated in a plan that was setting Jack up as a patsy to kill Chuck. And they were willing to tell him that to his face.

Also, that bit where Jack says the Spark of the Divine is in everything and Adam says that’s as it should be? That’s going to be relevant a couple of episodes down the road. Unfortunately.

Next week: Despair: Billie returns and she’s not happy with how The Plan turned out. Tragedy ensues.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Drag Me Away (From You)” (15.16) Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of the efforts so far to take out Chuck, mostly of Dean being furious about being a puppet all his life. Cut to Now, where a man is pulling up outside a very seedy establishment called “Rooster’s Sunrise Motel.” On the soundtrack is “If I Didn’t Care,” sung by The Ink Spots in 1939. There is, by the way, a lovely duet version of this sung by Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) and her devoted friend and exasperated lover (one of three), Michael Pardue (Lee Pace), in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2009) that is very much part of the plot.

The man, balding and pensive, hesitates for a moment before going inside. The young girl at the desk identifies him as one Travis Johnson. Though he’s there past check-in time (10pm), she lets him in and mentions that he requested a specific room: 214. He calls it “Doctor’s orders.” She correctly guesses that he once stayed there, but he says it was “a long time ago.”

With a duffle bag in hand, he enters a hallway with a candy and a drinks machine behind him (these will show up later). As the music plays, he nervously goes to the room and puts in the key. But he has to steel himself to do it, first. Inside, he finds a standard Supernatural motel set, with a double bed, the usual spare furniture, and a décor of geometric red-and-gray circles and squares.

Putting the duffle bag on the bed, he opens it and takes out a bottle of cheap whiskey, from which he swigs large. As he sits on the bed, his phone buzzes. It’s a text from someone named Caitlin that says, “Travis, I’m worried. Why would you go back to that place?” Rather than answer it, he shuts it off and puts it on the bed beside him.

“Just one night,” he mutters to himself. “And then, it’s over.” Why do I think things are about to get more complicated than that? Maybe because this is a Supernatural MOTW ep teaser?

Clutching an ornate gold ring on a chain around his neck, he closes his eyes and shakes his head, telling himself in an unconvinced voice, “It wasn’t real. It was never real.” Too bad, for him, that doesn’t seem to be true as the closet door opens behind him. By itself.

A shadowy figure of a young boy with dark circles under his eyes comes out of the closet and into the light. “Do you remember me?” the boy asks the man. “I remember you.”

Shocked and horrified and babbling in denial that this can’t be real, Travis accidentally knocks over the bottle and breaks it as he falls to the floor and scrambles away from the apparition. Crouching down, the child thing picks up the broken bottle, leans over Travis, and says, “Boo.”

Cut to outside Room 214 as Travis screams and then death-gurgles.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Impala at night. Dean is driving, while Sam rides shotgun. Dean asks how much longer they have for their trip and Sam says, “Seven hours.” Dean’s not thrilled. They both sound tired.

It turns out they are investigating Doomed Teaser Travis’ death. As far as they know, he “slit his throat with a whiskey bottle” (the audience, of course, suspects that’s not really true). Travis was an “old friend,” but Dean points out that they hadn’t seen him in a quarter of a century. He says they’ve “missed funerals” of much closer and more recent friends. Why are they checking this one out? Sam says it’s because they have little else to do, since Chuck is still distracted with wrecking worlds, Jack is back in his room, and Castiel just up and left (Dean looks guilty when Sam says this, so I guess he hasn’t told him whatever Castiel told him after the credits last week).

In fact, just as Sam is asking him if he knows why Castiel left, and Dean is playing dumb about it, Dean gets a text from Castiel, saying “Did you tell Sam, yet?” When Sam complains that Dean is texting and driving, Dean puts the phone away without telling him who it was from.

The following morning, they arrive at the motel. It doesn’t look any better during the day. Dean comments that “it looks smaller.”

Sam: Yeah, well, we’re bigger.

Each comments in his own way that neither ever had any intention of revisiting this part of their past. As they get out, they do so into a flashback to January 1993 (Dean’s birthday month, though that never gets mentioned). John has just dropped them off to go on a hunt and weeDean is complaining about having to hang back and babysit weeSam. After all, when he was Sam’s age (about ten, at this point), he was babysitting Sam.

WeeSam: Pretty sure that’s illegal.

Dean suggests they go practice shooting, but Sam just wants to go to the room. Dean notices Sam is hiding something and wrestles it away from him. It’s a book Sam stole from the last motel, The 1991 American College Guide. Dean scoffs at the possibility of Sam ever going to college, especially with their spotty educational record. Hunting is their life.

Dean gives him back the book and goes inside, leaving Sam standing there, looking woeful. Later, we see Sam staring at the same book, in a room with the same layout and décor as the infamous Room 214, before setting it down on the bed. He opens his duffle bag, revealing a pistol and a knife on top of a flannel shirt. Well, that sure just summed up the show’s look. He takes out the knife and handles it rather sadly, laying both it and the pistol next to the bed. This obviously isn’t the life he wants.

In the hallway, Dean is stealing from the vending machine by punching the order numbers a certain way and tapping on the side. He gets busted by a young girl in pigtails, but she’s just kidding. She wants him to teach her the trick.

She introduces him to her brother, Travis, who looks just like the ghost boy in the teaser. She says her name is Caitlin, the same as in the teaser text. So, she was Travis’ sister, not girlfriend or wife. Dean smiles and teaches her the trick. She and Dean bond over classic muscle cars, like the one he and Sam just arrived in. It turns out her and Travis’ mom works on the cleaning crew at the motel.

Cut to Now and a much-older Caitlin is sitting in a diner, lost in grieving, holding a cup of coffee. She comes alive when the Brothers enter the diner, getting up to hug first Dean and then Sam.

As they all sit down, Caitlin admits that she’s feeling guilty about her brother’s death. His life went downhill after Sam and Dean left, due to something that happened while they were there. He got into drugs and couldn’t stay employed. She urged him for a long time to get therapy. When he finally did, it helped at first. Unfortunately, his therapist had the idea that he should go back to the motel and “face his fears.” in Room 214. Obviously, that did not end well.

It turns out that Caitlin didn’t just call them for the funeral (which was last week). She thinks “she’s back.”

As we go into another flashback, we find out that whoever “she” was, she attacked Travis first. He was at the candy machine, trying to learn Dean’s trick. After some frustrating failure, he started to leave, but then the machine disgorged some candy. But when he went to get it, a grody old hand with a ring on one finger grabbed him through the slot and he saw a hideous face reflected in the plexiglass. He screamed for help, which brought Caitlin and Dean running, and the creature let him go. But he was too traumatized to tell them what happened, at least at first.

Inside the motel room, the Brothers are going over the case. Dean says there’s nothing in the coroner’s report to indicate anyone but Travis was in the room. Sam says he couldn’t find anything to indicate witchcraft, demonic possession, or anything else “that’s our kind of thing.” Dean suggests that maybe the “immersion therapy” Travis’ therapist suggested made him crack when he got to the room, but Caitlin insists her brother would not have killed himself.

Back in the flashback and in 214, Travis is freaking out and thinking they’ll believe he’s nuts, even as Caitlin tries to reassure him that she didn’t see anything there. Dean is getting off the phone with Bobby, who says that John is nowhere near a phone.

When Caitlin expresses surprise that Dean would call his father, Dean gives her and Travis The Talk and Sam backs him up. He asks Caitlin if anything weird has been happening in town. She and Travis take him and Sam to a nearby playground, where there is an impromptu shrine of Missing posters and flowers. Three kids their age have gone missing in the past few months, the latest the previous week. Dean stares at the posters as we cut back to Now.

Adult!Dean is skeptical that this is the same monster as 27 years ago. First of all, it only preyed on kids and Caitlin has to admit that no kids have recently gone missing in town. Second, Dean is certain he killed it all those years ago.

Caitlin complains that he’s “changed.” He was the one who believed Travis when they were kids. But Dean is convinced it can’t be the same monster now, even over Sam’s objections.

Cut to another flashback. The kids are in a storeroom, looking at newspapers for stories about the missing kids. They’ve got a town tourist map and are trying to triangulate (from where the kids went missing) where they might find the MOTW’s lair. The closest spot is an abandoned cannery.

Dean insists on going in alone. Sam says their dad wouldn’t like it. Dean points out that John isn’t there and would expect Dean to “take charge,” anyway.

Even though the other kids want to come along, Dean figures that since even Sam has never been on a hunt, they would be liabilities and in danger, so he leaves them behind. Caitlin shows up when he’s trying to pick the lock at the cannery, anyway. Despite her snarky distraction, he manages to pick the lock and goes in, telling her to stay behind him.

Back at the motel room, Sam is playing a word game with a box of letter dice, with Travis, and reassures him that Dean will kill the monster, “whatever it is.”

In the cannery, Caitlin is complaining that the abandoned building is “gross.” Dean points out she insisted on coming along. She picks at him, basically saying he’s scared (Who wouldn’t be?) and Dean claims he’s not.

Eventually, they find what looks like a pile of children’s clothing in a corner under a blanket. Dean finds a motel room key, but when he uncovers the rest of the pile, he recoils (we don’t see from what) and won’t let Caitlin see it. In fact, he pretends all he found was the motel room key (for #214). But he still hurries Caitlin out the door.

Back in the motel room, things are taking a turn for the bizarre, as Travis gets a message on the pad of paper he’s writing that says, “Sam kill you,” and Sam gets a similar one regarding Travis. The game pieces start to shake. They stop momentarily, only then to burst into the air as the lights go back.

Sam and Travis recoil in opposite directions, so Sam is on the opposite side of the room when the same moldy old witch from the candy machine appears behind Travis and grabs him. Sam calls out his name, just as Dean and Caitlin burst into the room.

When Dean goes to shoot the witch, she knocks the gun out of his hand. He then slashes at her with the knife, slicing off her fingers (which dissolve) and the ring on her hand. It lands underneath the bed, where we see it’s the same one that Travis was wearing on a chain in the teaser. Dean then stabs the witch in the gut. She screams an echoing cry and vanishes. The lights flicker back on.

Caitlin runs past a shocked Sam to Travis and hugs him. As Dean walks out of frame toward Sam, he reappears in frame in front of the candy machine as an adult. As he’s walking down the hallway, a figure runs behind him past the candy and coffee machines. Dean senses this and turns around.

At first, he thinks it’s Sam, then just his own imagination. But when he turns around with a shrug, he sees the figure at the end of the hallway and stops dead. The lights fritz and the figure moves down the hallway with inhuman, flickering speed. It’s weeDean, but a very dead-looking weeDean.

The figure says, “Hey, Dean,” in an angry, sinister voice. “I’ve been waiting for you.” Nodding at his knife, which he is holding, somehow, the figure tells him, “You know what you have to do.”

Dean tries to fight the hypnosis, but the figure tells him, “You failed,” with an evil smile. Dean is unable to stop himself trying to gut himself until Sam walks into the hallway unexpectedly. The figure vanishes and Dean realizes he’s not even holding a knife. When a bemused Sam asks him what he’s doing, Dean realizes that “Caitlin’s right.”

Later in a bar, Dean apologizes to Caitlin for not believing her earlier and feels bad about Travis’ death. Obviously, he didn’t kill the monster, after all, when they were kids. Caitlin admits that she didn’t have any proof before now and Sam points out that all of them had thought the monster was dead.

Either way, they now need to figure out what “she” is so they can kill her for real this time. Sam is going to hit the books. Caitlin points out one important detail about the monster – “she’s scary.” By this, Caitlin means that the MOTW is manipulative and likes to stalk her victims.

Dean mentions that “she” can also “look like other people.” She’s a mimic. More reluctantly, he admits something he didn’t tell anyone when he was a kid. What he found in the cannery was the monster’s nest and the missing children were there, dead.

As we get some quick and jagged flashbacks to what Dean actually saw back then, Caitlin realizes that’s what he was hiding from her. Sam asks why Dean never told him about it and Dean says it was because he hadn’t seen “anything like that before” and they were all kids his, Sam’s, Caitlin’s and Travis’ age. After he thought he’d killed the monster, he basically just wanted to forget all about it. So, he made a call to the police and walked away. This wasn’t very successful: “I had nightmares about it for the longest time.”

When Dean apologizes for not telling him, Sam magnaminously allows that they were kids and “we used to keep a lot of secrets from each other.” Dean looks sketchy at this, but as he’s walking away to get some food, he looks as though he’s rolling his eyes a bit at Sam’s hypocrisy.

In the motel restaurant, Dean is ordering for himself and trying to add in Sam’s “healthy” order with an unimpressed waitress. As she leaves to put the orders in, Dean gets an unexpected visitor. Billie pops up on the chair next to him.

She’s annoyed that Dean is wasting time on an MOTW case and she has bad news. She just watched Chuck burn an entire planet to ashes. Problem is, that was the last one save Earth Prime. He’ll be here soon and when he arrives, they won’t have much time to take him down. She says she’s visited Jack in the Bunker and given him the info about his final trial.

Dean lets on that he knows about the whole plan and asks how she got Jack on board. She says that she just told Jack “the truth.” She told Jack that Dean would never forgive him until he ended Chuck and “freed” Dean from the “hamster wheel” of having no choice in his life – and it’s true, isn’t it? Dean looks uncomfortable, which means she’s probably right.

In a motel bedroom (different from 214, as the circles-and-squares wallpaper is green, not red), Caitlin is asking Sam if he ever wanted a normal life. Sam responds by saying he’s sorry about Travis. He then discovers some info about Baba Yaga – she feeds on children and she has a ring that contains her “heart.” Sam wonders if the reason Dean defeated her the first time was because he separated her from her ring, not because he cut off her fingers or stabbed her.

Caitlin is shocked to realize the ring in the rather stylized illustration Sam found online looks just like a ring her mother gave to Travis after the “incident.” Her mother had found it in a vacuum cleaner and it was never claimed. The stone inside had been “busted up,” but Travis liked it and wore it on a chain around his neck: “It was his lucky charm.”

Well, not so much, I guess, considering how horrible his life turned out to be. Maybe the witch had been feeding on him all along. Caitlin says that Travis had the ring fixed a few weeks before his death.

She has some kind of realization. As Sam infodumps, oblivious, about the stone, she wanders off as if in a trance and he’s shocked to find she’s left the room. But it turns out she thinks she knows where the ring is. She goes to her car to look through Travis’ effects. But when she finds the chain, the ring itself is missing.

She’s bewildered – where did it go? When she closes her hatch, “Travis” appears next to her, holding the ring and asking if that’s what she’s looking for. She screams.

Back in the diner, Billie drops an important bit of information. She tells Dean that she isn’t in this part of Chuck’s death book, so this will be the last time Dean sees her before “the end” (Chuck’s arrival). She demands to know if Dean is still on board, even though the plan means Jack’s death and the betrayal of Amara. Though uncomfortable, Dean says he is.

She asks if Sam is, too, then is annoyed to realize Sam doesn’t know about the part where Jack dies. She tells Dean he needs to “get your house in order.” She hates “disorder” and “loose ends.” Dean says he’ll get Sam on board, too.

Dean returns to the room with food (it’s 219, by the way) to find Sam on the phone, frantically trying to find Caitlin. He found her car, but she wasn’t there, and she’s not answering her phone. Believing (accurately, of course) that Baba Yaga has kidnapped her, he quickly fills Dean in on what he and Caitlin found out.

Dean: Okay, so we track her down, junk her Precious, and it’s Game Over?

Sam says yeah. Dean asks where and Sam says she’ll have a nest, just like at the cannery, only all the recent attacks happened at the motel. So, it’s somewhere around here.

They split up to go looking (always smart – not). Sam goes down to the reception area and sees smoke coming out from a door behind the front desk. It turns out to be the receptionist getting high with a bong.

Dean, meanwhile, goes back to the hallway where the vending machine is and Baba Yaga nearly got him before. He notices and remembers the vending machine, this time. This is, by the way, the same hallway that contains Room 214. Someone is watching porn in Room 212, but when Dean reaches 214, the door suddenly opens (why the Brothers didn’t start the search in 214, when they already knew it was the problem child, I’m not sure).

Dean [pulling out his gun and cocking it]: I’ve seen this movie before.

As he warily enters the room, spidery music plays and the door slams behind him. He spins around, but when he turns back, he’s inside the old cannery. Confused, he crouches down and tries to figure out what’s going on. Then he goes down the stairs into the cannery proper.

As he’s prowling around, his breath comes out as fog. Eventually, he comes to the nest he saw when he was a kid. This time, when he pulls back the blanket, he sees weeSam dead and says his brother’s name out loud. As he staggers out into another corridor, he hears his name called. It’s “Travis” (the witch, of course), looking the same as when he went after Caitlin, dead and with his throat cut, but still standing.

Dean calls him out, saying he knows what the MOTW is now. When he points out that he’s “a little old for you,” Baba Yaga says that’s normally true, but “he” has been starving for so long that “he” will take anything and anyone. “Travis” attacks Dean, knocking him down. As the monster pins Dean, it flashes back and forth between Travis and the witch. Baba Yaga is so hyped up that she apparently can’t keep up the glamour completely.

During this attack, Sam is walking down the same hallway and goes right past 214. But he hears a faint sound of struggle and turns back. Inside, he finds Caitlin unconscious, face down on a bed, and Baba Yaga attacking Dean on the floor. Sam calls his name and attacks her, stabbing her in the back. It only annoys her and she flings Sam across the floor.

But this gives Dean the chance to grab the ring off her finger and kick her across the room. He then slams his gun butt down on the ring, just as Baba Yaga is getting up for another attack. The ring explodes in green fire and across the room, so does the witch. Caitlin wakes up just in time to watch the MOTW go up in flames.

Afterward, Caitlin thanks Dean on their way out of the motel. She asks Dean an odd question: “Were you scared?” Dean responds with honesty: “Always am.” Caitlin realizes how much he’s grown and matured, since his teenage self never would have admitted that.

Caitlin: You know what they say about getting older. You tell the truth more because the lies, they don’t make anything better.

Dean looks pensive as they hug goodbye and we segue back into one last weeChester flashback. WeeCaitlin is thanking weeDean for saving her brother. He gives her his number, in case anything weird every happens to her again, and she says she hopes she’ll never have to call it. She also says goodbye to weeSam (who is coming out to the lobby with his stuff) as she goes.

Right before John rolls up in the Impala, weeSam asks weeDean if he ever found the missing kids. WeeDean lies and says no. He figures they are just “gone.” When Sam asks what they will tell John, Dean says they’ll say that they “handled it.”

But before they go out, Dean has one more thing to tell Sam. He gives his blessing to Sam wanting to go to college, but wistfully adds, “We do make a good team, don’t we?” And weeSam agrees.

Cut to the present. The Brothers are driving home in the Impala, Dean driving. Sam is trying to call Castiel and Dean, looking uncomfortable, tells him to hang up. He fills Sam in on Billie’s diner visit, then also mentions Jack’s full role in the plan. He admits that Castiel told him before he left.

Sam is salty about it. He gets furious with Dean, while demonstrating precisely why Dean didn’t tell him, at first. Dean even says, “Because I know you couldn’t handle it!” when Sam asks why he didn’t tell him. He says that Sam has never been on board with Billie’s plan and has had all of these “ethical” questions about it (ethical questions, one might add, that are highly relative and that prioritize Sam’s needs and what Sam thinks should happen, rather than what other people want or what might be best for everyone).

After Dean says, “We don’t get a choice” and Sam yells a bit, Sam then just snaps, “Drive … just drive.”

Credits

Ratings for this new episode remained steady at a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo and dropped to 917 thousand in audience.

Review: My main objection to “Drag Me Away (From You)” is that it comes in so late. Really? Five episodes left and this is the third MOTW ep in a row? This couldn’t have aired earlier in the season in place of some of the truly forgettable dogs we had, instead?

Also, why a weeChesters ep so late in the game? It certainly hasn’t figured into the rest of the season, aside from Billie’s conversation with Dean, unless there is supposed to be something in here about things not being what they seemed and people trapped in fantasy worlds, that might explain the hot dumpster fire weirdness of episode 15.19 and isn’t just another take on “The Werther Project” from Season 10.

The episode also had some stale elements to it. It went largely the way other weeChester episodes have in the past and borrowed heavily from Season 1’s “Something Wicked,” right down to Dean’s guilt about an unfinished hunt when he was a child. The episode even obliquely references that episode when Dean mentions he was babysitting Sam at Sam’s age.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a golden opportunity to have guest kids who weren’t white and American. Maybe have them be illegal migrant farm workers, for example. Or give them a backstory where their mom was on the run from an abusive spouse. Something different from white, Middle American, small town kids.

It didn’t help that it was totally unnecessary for this near-immortal witch-ghost character (it’s actually quite common for witches to be inhuman and/or ghosts in British and mid-Atlantic lore) to be Baba Yaga. Pretty much nothing of the real Russian folklore about Baba Yaga was in here. Granted, my gold standard for a television version of Baba Yaga – from Lost Girl – is pretty high, but still. This was Baba Yaga in name, only.

I also can’t say I was thrilled by Sam’s reaction to Dean’s news about Jack. First of all, what happened to being magnanimous earlier in the episode? What happened to all that maturity, Sam? Did it evaporate again?

I kept thinking of that scene at the end of Season 1’s “Bloody Mary,” when Sam rather snottily tells his brother that he’s entitled to keep secrets, Even though, about two seconds later, he’s shocked to see an hallucination(?) of Jessica (whose murder he had dreams of, but whom he never warned), he doesn’t learn anything from it. He doesn’t open up to Dean.

And no offense, Sam, but that earlier “secret” of Dean having seen the pile of dead kids doesn’t count as one you needed to know. Sam always seems to feel entitled to keep secrets from Dean, but Dean can’t keep any secrets from Sam.

Second, Sam is furious with Dean for not telling him, but not with Jack for keeping everyone in the dark until the last possible moment when it was just about impossible for TFW to come up with another plan. Strictly speaking, Dean just found out. Why not get on Jack’s case for lying to them for so long – again? When does Sam intend to start having Jack face consequences for his actions?

And when Dean finally tells him about Jack’s real role in the plan, Sam doesn’t even take into consideration what Jack wants or how high the stakes are. It’s all about the happy ending Sam thinks he’s entitled to, which includes never facing up to the possibility that Jack may have to die, or that this might be the best thing for the SPNverse.

Possibly all this had something to do with the inexperience of the writer, Meghan Fitzmartin, whose only other credit on the show has been co-writing “Peace of Mind” (14.15).

This is Amyn Kaderali’s ninth time in the SPN director’s chair, though, and he delivers on some serious horror. Despite the clumsiness, in spots, of the writing, there was a lot to recommend in “Drag Me Away (From You).” This episode had a lot of genuinely unsettling atmosphere in it, especially in the scene where Dean finds the kids, while the witch attacks Travis and Sam. And pretty much everything in the cannery was creepy.

The witch’s attack on Adult!Dean in the hallway is also chilling. Even after 15 seasons, Jensen Ackles manages to convey the sense that Dean is in real danger, not just from the witch, but from his own guilt, his own secrets. Kaderali evokes in that ubiquitous candy machine the same kind of dread that It put into sewer holes. Every time the thing popped up, especially when someone noticed it, I thought, Oh, here we go now.

If the show had bothered to portray the ghost invasion in as creepy a manner as this episode, the first three episodes of this season would not have been so hideously dull. It’s nice to see that the show is still capable of scaring and unsettling us, this late in the game, of making us feel that Sam and Dean can be in real peril from such a mundane hunt. The way the witch stalked them and drew them in, one by one, evoked I Know What You Did Last Summer, where the characters didn’t have that kind of plot armor.

One thing the episode gets across really well is how depressing a life it is to grow up poor and transient like that. Not just poor, but dirt poor, hard-scrabble poor, drifter poor.

There’s a strong hint, when Caitlin talks about how her brother accidentally adopted Baba Yaga’s ring as his lucky charm, that his bad luck and dysfunction as an adult stemmed from her sucking off him all these years. But in this case, it’s almost a metaphor for how having a lousy start in life holds you down and back, as if there were an emotional vampire pressing you down into adulthood.

Addictions, chronic bad health, poor financial habits (assuming you manage to get any money to blow in the first place) all come into play. Since you didn’t start out with enough breaks in life, you just can’t seem to catch any later on, either. Makes me hope that Travis’ soul was able to travel on to Heaven, but it’s also possible that the witch trapped, ate and destroyed the souls of her victims.

Travis’ death could also be seen as a metaphor for the perils of ignoring reality. In Supernatural, the supernatural world is quite real. You ignore it at your peril. You can pretend all you want that the “sunlit world” (as Tales from the Darkside used to put it) is all there is, but that world is surrounded by the supernatural world that will happily eat you up whether you acknowledge (or are aware of) its existence or not. In that sense, Supernatural has always been very much a fairy tale, where the traveller would do well to arm up for any dangers lurking on the roadside when going through the woods.

Travis knew from childhood that the supernatural world was real and that it was ravenously dangerous. That’s what messed him up. But he let a clueless shrink persuade him otherwise – worse, to challenge that supernatural world in its own lair and then reject its very existence. That is like rejecting the existence of cars on a superhighway in the middle of rush hour. You’ll very quickly get squashed. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for Travis.

I was not too thrilled with how thin Caitlin’s characterization was. Yes, it was nice that she wasn’t automatically turned into a love interest (as would have happened in the earlier seasons) and that it was her brother rather than her husband or boyfriend. But she was basically there to be a cheering section, infodump some family business, and find something important before needing to be rescued. We never found out if she managed to break out of that cycle of poverty and dysfunction, about whether she was married, whether her mother was still alive, what kind of job she had, or what. The Brothers don’t even seem to have asked.

I also wasn’t overly thrilled with how she kept baiting Dean about being scared when they were teens inside the cannery. It was an extremely dangerous situation (as Dean had made abundantly clear back at the motel) and she had followed him against his express instructions that she stay behind with Sam and Travis because she had no hunting experience. Plus, the whole “Girl snarks at boy about being afraid” trope just needs to be burned down, never to be used again. It’s so freakin’ sexist, in both directions.

Speaking of the cannery scene, Dean’s PTSD really crops up here as we discover that one of his big nightmares was discovering a pile of dead kids his age in the witch’s nest. That’s got to have messed with his head, especially since he later hallucinates the scene with weeSam being the dead body in the nest.

The way Baba Yaga manipulates him later on is a lot like how she manipulates Travis in the teaser. She uses their childhood damage against them. It makes her seem especially evil, even though she is nothing on the scale of Chuck in terms of wrecking the Brothers’ lives or threat to the rest of the world. This image of an “adult” monster preying on young children (for however long; we never find out her backstory or if she was ever human), using their fears against them, has a strong emotional resonance that the Chuck apocalypse story lacks because the witch story is rooted in real childhood fears.

I’ve seen the kid actors for Dean and Sam come in for some criticism on social media, especially Paxton Singleton as weeDean. I rolled my eyes at that, particularly when the same fans held Brock Kelly up as a popular version of weeDean in Season 4’s “After School Special.” Since when? Poor Kelly got nailed left and right at the time for his portrayal in that episode.

Personally, I think both Singleton and Christian Michael Cooper (as weeSam) did just fine. And no, weeSam didn’t get that much to do in this episode, the way weeSam usually does in these flashback stories. That’s probably because this was somewhat of a retread of “Something Wicked,” which was Deancentric. Even so, we did get to find out something new about Sam, which was when he started thinking about going to college (it was pretty early) and what Dean’s reaction was to it.

Then there was Billie’s meeting with Dean. I wish I could say this led to something important for Dean, though I suppose it did (they just didn’t stick the landing afterward). But it’s quite interesting how Billie sees only Dean as the important one to deal with. He’s not just the point man in Team Free Will to her. Just as he was the leader on the hunt against Baba Yaga (both as a teen and as an adult), he’s the leader of TFW today and she doesn’t want to have to deal with anyone else. She feels it’s his responsibility to get everyone in line. We’ll see how well that all pans out.

Next week: Unity: Dean takes Jack on a final journey to complete his quest, while Sam and Castiel try to find another way to defeat Chuck.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Gimme Shelter” (15.15) Recap and Review

You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon. Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

Tonight (15.19 – “Inherit the Earth”) is the penultimate episode of the show. Showrunner Andrew Dabb has called it the “season finale” for Season 15 and next week’s the “series finale.” Reportedly, there will also be a retrospective episode first next week, so the last episode will actually air at 9pm then. This week will be the usual time slot. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.16.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Pretty quick recap of the Jacknatural plot this season, but framed by the EVOL Chuck storyline and an oddly Deancentric spin to Billy’s plan and the Amara mytharc from Season 11.

Cut to Now in a soup kitchen, where two young women are discussing “God’s creatures” in the form of a very shabby older woman who is homeless and lacking in manners. One girl hides it better than the other, who is a bit of a princess type and gets a nebbishy young man named Connor to go roust the woman. But he’s accosted by the pastor in charge, a bearded man who cautions him to go in with kindness rather than judgment (if the pastor looks familiar, that’s because he played Dr. Sexy in Season 5’s “Changing Channels”).

So, Connor brings over some soup and gives it to the homeless woman, as the pastor smiles at the first girl, who is apparently his daughter (and played by the girl who let the clown into the house in the teaser to Season 2’s “Everybody Loves a Clown”). After some hesitation, she returns the smile.

Later that night, Connor is walking down a shabby street brightly lit by neon, when he is lured into a darker alleyway by an echo-y man’s voice calling his name and shouting for help. This being Supernatural, and this being an episode teaser, we all know this won’t end well for Connor. It doesn’t.

As he gets nervous and backs up, Connor trips over something. It’s a teddy bear and when he picks it up, it says, “Hey, Connor.” Then he’s lassoed from behind by the kind of noose that Animal Control uses on stray dogs, and dragged off the street into the shadows after apparently being choked to death.

Cue Title Cards.

In the Bunker, Dean is entering the Library and asking if Sam has “found anything.” Sam brings up Doomed Teaser Connor and his death in the alleyway. He asks if Dean has “anything” and this turns out to be looking for Amara. And Dean has something.

Seems Atlantic City just had a blackout (“darkness,” Dean lampshades) right before a Keno tournament there. Dean points out that Chuck once said Amara was fond of Keno.

Sam: I thought he was kidding.

Dean: He’s not that funny.

Sam thinks it’s “weak,” to which I roll my eyes. Dean points out that’s all they’ve got. I’d like to point out to Sam that his brother’s instincts have been very good on this sort of thing. Maybe, after 15 seasons, start trusting them?

Castiel shows up and asks what they’ve got going. As they pack up, they tell him to stay back at the Bunker and watch over Jack. Castiel points out that they are looking for Amara, a god-level being, and they intend to “lie to her face.” Sam says it’s probably nothing and Dean says if they do find Amara, “we used to have a thing,” which is an epic understatement. Besides (it’s not said out loud), it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup team in case things go south.

In the Library, Jack has found Sam’s research on Doomed Teaser Connor and asks about the hunt. Sam says it’s probably nothing and not to worry about it, that it’s probably “not our thing.” Dean contradicts Sam and suggests Castiel take Jack out to investigate it, just in case, and to get away from any flashbacks to “Mrs. Butters.” Castiel doesn’t recognize who she is, so I guess Jack will fill him in on the trip out.

Dean[about the case]: You can Highway to Heaven the bitch.

At the scene of the crime, Castiel and an enthusiastic Jack are interviewing a friendly, junoesque cop. I kinda like her. I guess we’ll never see her again.

Cop [to Jack]: You look greener than Baby Yoda.

Oh, if Jack were only as fun and well-written as Baby Yoda.

The veteran cop is unimpressed by Jack and bemused by the pair’s weird questions about black magic. But she does provide some important clues. Connor had “Liar” carved on his body. Also, all of his fingers had been chopped off and shoved down his throat, presumably pre-mortem. She also shows them a photo of the teddy bear. Jack cheerfully exclaims that the bear is “Marvelous Marvin” and he has one. Obviously, this does not impress the cop, even when Jack backpedals and claims he got the bear for his nonexistent nephew, Ronald.

The cop says there was a speaker inside the bear and one nearby inside a fake rock. She also shows them CCTV footage from across the street of a short, masked figure furtively dragging Connor off. Jack opines that this all sounds almost “demonic.” So, later that night, they go to a crossroads outside town. Castiel digs a hole and puts in a hoodoo CRD summoning box with his photo inside, while Jack looks Connor up online. Castiel opines that the internet has “so many cat photos … too many cats.” (There can never be too many cat photos, Cas.)

The CRD takes a while to show up and when he does, he claims that “the shop’s closed” in a British voice. When Jack calls him out on it, he claims his name is Zach and that he “has style.”

Jack gets straight to the point and asks why Connor was killed. Dropping the accent for an American one, Zach admits that he doesn’t know. It’s not related to demons. In fact, no CRDs have been making deals since Rowena banned them. Seems Rowena feels people should only go to Hell if they truly deserve it. Well, I can get behind that philosophy.

On the one hand, Zach admits that the lack of quotas is rather nice. On the other, it’s introduced an existential dilemma for the CRDs – what’s their function these days? He’s desperate to tag along on the hunt, especially since it involves angels and he’s fascinated by the idea of teaming up with one, but Castiel tells him to buzz off. Too bad. Zach’s kinda fun.

As they walk back to the car, Jack sadly says this isn’t their kind of case, so they might as well go back to the Bunker and wait for Sam and Dean to return. Castiel demurs. This may not be their kind of case, but there is something going on. He wants to investigate further.

Cut to nighttime at the soup kitchen, called the “Patchwork Community Center” (because of course it is). A rather rode-hard-and-put-away wet redheaded volunteer is closing up for the night. As she goes out, she furtively steals from the donations box.

Out in the parking lot, she hears her name being shouted by the same male voice that lured Connor. Wisely, she decides to make a call, instead (presumably to 911), but as she turns around, she encounters someone in a mask, who growls her name. She screams.

Cut to Castiel and Jack, in their car, in front of the soup kitchen. Castiel is on the phone to Dean, telling him about Rowena’s new “lockdown” of Hell. Dean approves. Sam asks about Jack and Castiel says he is “focused” (which Dean calls “good”). He tells them about Valerie’s disappearance.

Sam calls that “a lead.” Dean warns them to be careful of the “Hallelujah Types,” saying that while “most of them play it straight,” others think “the Feds are from the Deep State.” He suggests a “divide and conquer” strategy of sending Jack in undercover to see what he can find, while Castiel interviews them as a “Fed.” Castiel says okay and asks how the “search for Amara” is going. Dean abruptly replies, “Dandy!” and signs off, leaving an exasperated Castiel looking at his phone.

Back in the Impala, Sam wonders if this lead is really such a hot one. Their plan, such as it is, is to get Amara on board as their ally against her own brother, while simultaneously setting her up for her own death. Dean insists that that’s the price they have to pay to make Billie’s plan work, the “catch.” Dean is acutely aware that when you play a game with Death, someone’s going to die. At least this time, he figures it’s good that it’s not him and his brother.

I’m not a big fan of this development and not just because I actually quite liked Amara and her relationship with Dean, and it seems like a pretty nasty thing to do to her. Yeah, it’s somewhat in character for Dean to be so much in denial (at least on the surface) about his (mutual) feelings for Amara that he would act as if he’s okay with this plan.

But it is completely out of character for Sam to demonstrate any qualms whatsoever about throwing her under the plot bus. Sam’s extreme antipathy toward Amara in Season 11, his massive jealousy of his brother’s relationship with her, and his unshakeable conviction that said relationship was toxic (when it turns out it wasn’t), were precisely the reasons why Dean lied to him about his feelings for her in the first place. Now, we’re suddenly supposed to believe that Sam cares about what happens to her? Since when?

As Jack walks into the soup kitchen, the minister is having a short remembrance service for Connor. Jack introduces himself to the daughter (nearly flubbing it right off by playing Dean’s previous joke about his “drinking the Kool-Aid”). She is bored and not terribly impressed when Jack says he wants to sign up for the ministry.

Castiel comes in and they both nearly blow their cover by acknowledging each other. Castiel then zeroes in on the pastor, who is finishing up a shared private prayer with a parishioner. Castiel introduces himself as a Fed, then shocks the hell out of the pastor by telling him Valerie Jones has been kidnapped. Seems the guy didn’t know (or he’s a really good liar).

Cut to poor Ms. Jones. She wakes up tied to a chair in a nondescript room. Her left hand is stuck in some kind of sinister contraption and she’s gagged. When she looks over at the wall, she sees the word “GREED” painted in huge red letters on it. She looks around the room and jumps when she sees the mask that was on the person who knocked her out (it’s now on a rack next a TV). She starts screaming “Help!” into her gag.

The TV blinks on and the word “Thief,” in different caps, streams across it, over and over. We then find out what the contraption is when a plunger over one of her fingers is depressed by remote and a blade inside the contraption hacks off one of her fingers. Predictably, Valerie shrieks and wails in pain and fear. Get sticky fingers and you lose ’em, I guess.

On the screen, the number 03:00:00 pops up and a countdown begins. A red light blinking on a camera overhead shows that she’s being watched and possibly filmed.

Cut back to the soup kitchen, where Jack is filling out the form. Princess is commenting the daughter, Sylvia, that he’s cute (oh, please, Show) and Sylvia is sort of shrugging it off, while also checking Jack out. We also find out that the church used to hand out Bibles rather than food, and both girls show Jack how to be totally fake and smiling when handing it out when he brings up the form.

But when he asks about Connor, Sylvia gets upset and goes to sit down across the room. When Jack comes over and sits down near her, he admits that “I’m not very good at this.” She says he’s doing okay and starts to open up to him (though when she appears to brush away a tear, she’s not actually crying). She says that she and Connor once dated, a long time ago, which most consisted of watching old movies together. She says that “he was always there for me.”

Jack says, “I lost someone, too – my mother,” without mentioning that he’s the one who killed her. Sylvia confesses that her mother died three years ago. She lets out that the pastor (Pastor Joe) is her father and he’s “a better preacher than he is a dad.” When Jack admits that he has several “dads,” and that he feels he’s always “letting them down,” Sylvia calls him “sweet” and says she feels the same. She tells him, “Put your trust in God, not people.” O the irony.

Inside the office (in the background of a wooden sculpture of praying hands), Pastor Joe is telling Castiel that he feels the church is being “targeted.” Though he refuses to call it a “church,” saying that people bring “baggage” with that name. He prefers “faith-based community.” An ekklesia by any other name ….

When Castiel asks about anyone who might have “gone missing” recently, the pastor admits that his congregation is very transient. There was one guy, Brother Rudy, who’s been gone for a few weeks, but that’s because he had “parted ways” with the community, due to wanting to worship elsewhere. Uh-huh.

Sylvia comes in to ask her dad something and he rather bruskly tells her he’ll come out “in a minute.” She leaves, crestfallen. The pastor then asks Castiel if he has any children. Castiel just says, “It’s complicated.”

Pastor Joe talks about his dead wife, saying that she grew up in this church. They were much more hardcore back in the day. Everything was “God’s will.” Castiel mopily replies that “God just doesn’t care.”

A little taken aback, Pastor Joe says that he meant that people need to watch out for each other. He then goes on to say that after his wife died, he sold the church building and came here to practice a kinder and gentler form of worship, for people with different faiths and backgrounds. When Castiel asks him what he means by “backgrounds,” Joe reveals that Connor was gay. Ah, well, that would be why Connor and Sylvia weren’t dating, anymore.

Cut to Sam and Dean on the road. Sam is gassing up the car in the snow at a Gasn’Sip. Dean is refusing to eat until they reach the buffet in Atlantic City (assuming Dean’s theory on Amara doesn’t pan out and she’s not there). Alas, Sam puts a crimp in that plan when he checks his phone and discovers that there’s a pileup on the way there and they’ll be delayed six hours. They decide to go with Plan B (“pork rinds!), but Amara pops up right in front of Dean in a pink pantsuit and says, “I think we can do better than that.”

Amara greets Dean by name and asks if he missed her. When she also asks where they’re going, Dean readily admits they were trying to find her. When Sam asks how she found them, she says, “I smelled Dean from two states over.” To Dean: “You have a very distinctive musk.” Dean is flattered. She also says she heard Castiel’s angelic prayer.

While she’s happy to talk to them, she wants to have lunch with them, first – at Pavel’s Deli. She likes “new earthly experiences.” She’s “hungry,” as they are, and “I have never had a Pennsylvania pierogi.” So, off they go.

Back to the boring B (A?) story. Valerie is losing another finger as the timer comes up. Before it restarts, the screen reads, “Time is running out.”

As Castiel enters the soup kitchen, Pastor Joe is giving a short prayer/sermon as the others stand around him in a circle. This ceremony is intended to introduce Jack as their newest member. Jack is asked to “give testimony.” Jack is taken aback, so Castiel does it, instead.

He talks about how he always followed The Plan, doing “some pretty terrible things” in the cause of “blind faith.” When that “all came crashing down” (far more literally than anyone there besides Jack realizes), he felt “lost.” How he found himself again and “rediscovered” his faith was by finding a new family and becoming a father. He exchanges a look and smile with Jack while saying this.

Cut to Jack working at the soup kitchen later that day. Pastor Joe comes over to apologize for “putting him on the spot.” As he crosses the room to go do something else, the TV on the other side flicks on. It shows the counter from the scene with Valerie, then Valerie herself. She shrieks as she loses another finger. The words “You won’t save her” appear on the screen.

Jack rushes to turn the TV off as everyone there looks shocked. But it’s not until he pulls out what looks like a wireless connection that the image flicks off. Finally, something happened in this storyline to move it forward. Took long enough. The pastor has no idea who would do such a thing, but Castiel thinks he knows.

Cut to Pavel’s (it looks like nighttime, but this could just be Amara’s effect on the local environment), where Amara is eating pierogis while Dean tries to talk her into helping him and Sam take down Chuck. Amara demurs.

Even when Sam points out that he saw into Chuck’s memories that she refused to help him with the God Wound, and Dean talks about the other universes being “snuffed out” (which Amara can sense), Amara says that helping to destroy her brother is not at all the same as refusing to help him. Even after Dean tells her about the plan for Jack to grow powerful enough to kill Jack, she says no. She won’t “betray” her brother.

She goes on to explain (in a rather condescending manner) that when Dean looks at her, he sees “a woman,” and when he looks at her brother, he sees “a squirrely weirdo.” But she is not a woman and Chuck is not how he seems, either. These are just personae, masks, for two cosmic entities of inconceivable power. She says that she and Chuck are “the same … twins, Creation and Destruction, Light and Dark, balance.”

When Sam says that the “former Death” said that she was the oldest, she says that Death “told you what you needed to hear.” She claims that she and Chuck “came into existence together and when we split apart, all this was created.” Shocked, Sam realizes she means the Big Bang.

Dean sees another angle in this – that the moment they separated was the moment that Chuck betrayed Amara – and aggressively presses it. Somewhat reluctantly, Amara allows that she “may be a fool,” but that she feels her brother’s betrayal “hurt him deeply” and that betraying him would be “an agony” for her.

Amara: I’m sorry, Dean. I can’t help you.

Off the Brothers’ crestfallen look (well, actually, Dean looks pissed), we cut to a grotty door inside a grotty appartment. Jack awkwardly busts through it while Castiel stands behind him in the hallway (I guess it’s practice?). The two of them infodump that this is Brother Rudy’s apartment, that Pastor Joe was probably lying when he said they parted on good terms, and that Brother Rudy was good with electronics (while glancing over at a desktop computer that has been turned off). So, he’s their prime suspect.

At least, until they walk into the bedroom, and find him handcuffed to the bed and very, very dead. He’s been rotting for weeks, so who’s been sending the messages? Oh, and who painted the word “LUST” above the bed?

Outside Pavel’s, we get a look through the window at Amara, still at her table, receiving a folder (either another menu or the bill) from a waitress. Inside the Impala, Sam is saying philosophically “Well, maybe it’s for the better” (“best,” Sam. You use a superlative, not a comparative) while Dean is starting the car. He’s surprised when Dean turns the car off. Dean says he still has a question for Amara and goes back inside the diner.

Amara is surprised to see him (um … isn’t she practically omniscient?) and at first misinterprets his one-word question – “Why?” – to be another attempt to get her on board the Get Chuck train. But Dean actually wants to know why she brought his mother back. Was it some kind of lesson? If so, he’s confused about what that lesson was. He fills her in that it ended badly and that his mother is now, once again and for good, dead.

Dean [angrily]: So, what is it, exactly, that you wanted to show me? What was the point?!

Amara: I wanted two things for you, Dean. I wanted you to see that your mother was just a person, that the myth you held onto for so long of a better life, a life where she lived, was just that – a myth. I wanted you to see that the real, complicated Mary was better than your childhood dream because she was real, that Now is always better than Then, that you could finally start to accept your life.

Dean [calmer]: And the second thing?

Amara: I thought having her back would release you, put that fire out – your anger – but I guess we both know I failed at that.

Dean leans forward and says with great intensity, “You’re damned right.” Leaning back with a look of contempt, he adds, “Look at you, just another cosmic dick, rigging the game. You’re just like your brother.”

Amara tries to explain that it was “a gift,” not a “trial” or a lesson or a manipulation. Dean replies that he’s “not angry, Amara. I’m furious.” What infuriates him is that his life has not been his own and neither have been his choices. He’s been “a hamster in a wheel, stuck in a story,” and her brother is responsible. Worse, he’s not the only one. All of them, even Amara herself, have been dancing to Chuck’s tune. He calls out Amara’s conviction that somehow, deep down, Chuck loves her back: “Now who’s stuck in a dream world?”

Shaken by his fury, and the hard truths he’s serving up (albeit with some furtive glances around to avoid freaking out the rest of the diner), Amara asks, “Can I trust you?” Dean replies, fiercely and with great conviction, “I would never hurt you.”

Amara finally agrees to “think about” helping them.

Outside the soup kitchen (oh, sigh, this storyline is so dull), Sylvia is on the stoop, freaking out. Princess comes out to sit down beside her, so absorbed by her phone that she doesn’t notice Sylvia’s distress (Sylvia is crying for real, this time). Pastor Joe, Princess says, is “freaking out” about the vid of Valerie getting her fingers chopped off.

When Sylvia asks (with great interest) if her father called the police, Princess says that “the FBI guys” (Castiel and Jack) persuaded him not. But Princess ignored this injunction and posted about it online (“So many frowny faces”). Princess is so self-centered and attention-seeking that when she asks rhetorically, “Can you believe it?” she doesn’t notice Sylvia’s demeanor change.

Sylvia looks at her and pulls a big old kitchen knife out of nowhere. “I believe,” she says as she grabs Princess by the neck and stabs her in the abdomen. “You never did!” The shot closes on her look of fanatical determination as Princess screams in agony offscreen.

Cut to Pastor Joe telling a terrified Princess she’s going to be okay (yeah, not so much), since the ambulance is coming. The guy he was comforting earlier is holding her head (feet up, Show. Learn some damned first aid in that writers room). But when she says her attacker was Sylvia and that Sylvia is in the “storage room,” the pastor immediately ditches her to go running after Sylvia. Okay.

Castiel comes in through the gathering crowd and tells the other guy that he’s “got this” (he subsequently heals Princess offscreen). He sends Jack after Pastor Joe, who is busting into the storage room to find Valerie tied up. Yep, that’s right – Valerie was in the same building as everyone else (I found this twist a bit daft).

When the pastor goes to help Valerie, Sylvia grabs him from behind and puts the knife to his throat. Her beef with Daddy is two-fold. First, she says that he failed their mother (even though he points out that her mother was such a fanatic that she refused to get any medical attention and kept putting her trust in God instead of science). Second, she accuses him of creating a charismatic ministry of people who now put their faith in him, not God. Which is sort of true, but, ironically, probably a lot better than praying to Chuck, anyway.

Jack distracts her by coming in. She shoves her father aside and confronts him. When Jack says he just wants to help her, she says dismissively, “Everyone’s trying to help me.” She mocks his attempts to make his “fathers” happy, then stabs him. Obviously, that doesn’t go as planned as he doubles over, but then straightens up as the wound glows and heals.

Sylvia’s shocked, but that doesn’t stop her from attacking Castiel when he enters the store room. Castiel easily disarms her and, as Pastor Joe shouts at him not to hurt her, puts her to sleep. He then comes over to Valerie’s chair. After sending Jack to call the cops, he rips the unconscious Valerie’s bonds off and, right in front of Pastor Joe, heals her chopped off fingers. She wakes up and pulls her hand out of the Saw contraption, looking at it in wonder. Pastor Joe, in awe, asks, “What are you?”

The next day, Pastor Joe is still digesting that Castiel is an angel (“Not a very good one,” Castiel admits). As Sylvia is led past them to a police car, clutching a crucifix (yeah, that’s sure gonna do her good now), Pastor Joe wonders what will happen to his daughter. He’s still under the illusion that he has a say in it.

Castiel and Jack kindly don’t state the obvious (that she’ll probably spend the rest of her life in prison), but just in case this scene weren’t already loaded with enough overt irony, we see the cop about to drive her away is the CRD Zach from earlier in the episode. So, Pastor Joe’s stated mission of now concentrating on his daughter’s spiritual and mental welfare is likely to be in vain. She’s hellbound one way or another.

On the way home that night in a nice, but beat-up, old pickup, Castiel is driving and Jack is riding shotgun. Castiel tries to tell Jack that he saw how he stalled out at giving “testimony” back at the church and guesses what the problem is. He says that Jack doesn’t have to “shoulder your burden alone.”

Jack admits that he does. There’s something he didn’t tell TFW about Billie’s plan. He’s not just going to “kill God.” His journey is to become a bomb that kills both Chuck and Amara, and he “won’t survive.” Needless to say, Castiel is most distressed by this news, especially when Jack begs him not to tell Sam and Dean: “They wouldn’t understand.” Jack is convinced that his self-sacrifice is the only way that the Brothers will forgive him for what he did to Mary. Castiel refuses to make that promise and to go along with this plan, but Jack tells him gently, “It’s not your choice.”

Cut to the Bunker, where Dean, in his MoL bathrobe, is hunting down a half-full bottle of “Johnny Labinsky’s Kentucky Whiskey” in the Library and having a swig. He turns around as Castiel enters the Library. As they exchange intel on their respective cases, Dean asks where Jack is. Castiel says he’s in his room. They got in late and didn’t want to wake up anyone.

When Dean allows that he wasn’t asleep, anyway (that chronic insomnia), Castiel admits he’s off on another mission because the plan they have in place to get rid of Chuck isn’t a good one. When Dean asks why, we get Pensive!Cas and the screen goes dark.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode dipped slightly from those for the previous episode to 0.3 in the A18-49 demo (though they were 0.4 for A25-54 and 0.2 for A18-25) and 1.070 million.

Review: While, admittedly, I was greatly distracted by all the Election drama (I apologize), I stalled out on this one for a while because the hunt story with Castiel and Jack was so damned boring and derivative that I just couldn’t. The stuff between Dean and Amara was fine, but it took them forever to get there. And yes, there was some nice gore. But poor Matt Cohen really got stuck with a dog of a script from Davy Perez.

Let’s talk for a moment about the pastor’s daughter, Sylvia. While this storyline was a ripoff of Saw and Seven (never been a fan of either franchise and this isn’t even the show’s first go-round on the Seven Deadly Sins), it was also yet another Evangelical Christians Gone Homicidal plot. I think the show just went one too many times to that well. This plot felt really stale.

The whole Evangelicals Gone Homicidal thing is borderline-cliched about mental illness. The trope doesn’t really mean that the villain is mentally ill, though (when we call them “nuts”), as that they are irrational, self-centered and completely lacking in empathy.

I felt no sympathy whatsoever for this girl. Sylvia was a near-serial killer (not for lack of trying), judgmental of the sad, broken people who came to the soup kitchen, fanatical without having the least clue what Christianity or spirituality was really about, and just an all-round brat. And it was also a little too clear that she enjoyed, even savored, the suffering of her victims.

She even murdered/assaulted people she knew and supposedly cared about (like her gay ex, Connor) because they had disappointed her in some way. It didn’t really help that the script waited until nearly the end of the second act to give her some depth, but I don’t know that she would have come off as sympathetic even if the writers had begun sooner. She was a monster with a smiling, human face, as the show had Castiel and Jack pretty unsubtly bang home to each other after she was unmasked.

No, the people who came into the soup kitchen weren’t perfect, and Connor and Valerie definitely did some dumb things that (nearly, for Valerie) got them killed, but that was kind of the whole point of the ministry. I appreciate that her father felt guilty for not giving her enough hugs or whatever, but I suspect Sylvia was a lost cause for a long time. Her dead mother sounded quite scary if this was the influence she had on her daughter. There isn’t really a whole lot of difference between Sylvia and the fanatical parishioners in Season 5’s “99 Problems.” I didn’t care that she was Hellbound. She definitely deserved it.

There was also, alas, zero attempt to tie in Sylvia’s fanatical devotion to a fantasy Sky Daddy who was better than her real daddy with the cold, hard fact that the real God, in this episode, is currently mopping up universes and getting ready to destroy this one, too. With five episodes left, I think the show should have tried harder to tie the MOTW into the mytharc. Kind of a shame they wasted a good Rolling Stones song title on it, too (though there wasn’t any decent rock music in it, anyway).

So, yeah, that happened, albeit it mostly happened for the purpose of setting up Jack’s confession at the end of the episode to Castiel about the other half of Billie’s plan. I have to say I was more pleased that the show was finally acknowledging that a Jack Saves The Day – But For Realz This Time plot wasn’t going to work, than surprised that 1. there was an actual twist and 2. this was what it was. They sure telegraphed it, but hey, at least they remembered that they needed some twists before the end. I was getting bored.

I feel that the show really wants me to feel sad and distressed about Jack’s imminent sacrifice – and upset and mad at Dean for being so callous – but frankly, I don’t. Jack’s not wrong that at this point, he’s probably going to have to go out in a blaze of glory for TFW in order for Dean to forgive him and you know what? That’s on Jack. Jack has burned so many bridges with his “family” at this point, has so consistently chosen power over them, that he really does need to do something big in the time this show has left in order to prove that he’s not going to do it again.

I don’t just mean that Jack’s guilt (now that he has it again) is holding him back. Unlike on Lucifer, where everyone who does something meriting going to Hell actually feels some kind of latent guilt about it (even Cain isn’t allowed to be mortal again until he does), on Supernatural, you go to Hell for actions. You can even go to Hell if you don’t deserve it, if you make a deal (however selfless) with a CRD or are even just in the wrong place and the wrong time (Eileen and Kevin).

What I mean is that Jack can’t be part of the family until he feels an actual emotional connection to TFW, loyalty rather than guilt, real affection rather than emotional neediness, and a willingness to learn from his mistakes. Wanting to sacrifice himself for them is a start, I guess, but it feels a bit lazy. In a way, it’s easier to kill himself and leave behind the pieces he broke without having to clean them up. In order to be part of TFW, of that family, Jack has to build the relationship on his end. He has to work at it. No one else can do it for him.

I find Dean’s response the most natural and in-character of the remaining main characters. Castiel is clearly still brainwashed (Jack brainwashed both him and his own mother from the womb). And I don’t buy that Sam has actually forgiven Jack. In fact, I strongly suspect that Sam is doing his usual shtick of acting all calm and reasonable, and pretending he’s forgiven Jack, while having very little to do with him beyond shallow interactions. He did exactly the same thing with Mary. Perhaps it’s so important to Sam that Dean forgive Jack because he can’t do it, himself.

Now, I do think at some point, Dean should probably forgive Jack, but that’s Dean’s journey, not Jack’s. Unless we’re really coming out and saying that Dean is the literal Jesus Christ figure in the show (which makes Sylvia’s clutching a crucifix at the end triply ironic), Dean’s forgiveness of Jack would not give Jack true absolution. Only Jack truly repenting of his ways and actively choosing to change them would do that.

I was glad to see Amara reunite with Dean. I was rather less glad by how little we got of it, how long into the episode we had to wait for it to arrive, and that Dean was setting Amara up. I do sort of get that Dean is willing to betray Amara because he is upset with her due to how things went down with Mary, that he blames her somewhat for that. I don’t like it at all, but I kind of get it.

These two scenes in the diner demonstrated both how deep this show can get and how shallow and mechanical. So, it’s up in the air which one we will get in the past two episodes. In the first part, we get a speech from Amara in which she monologues about the cosmic nature of her relationship with her brother, in a way that, at the very best, flirts heavily with a retcon of Season 11. It’s redolent of self-indulgent, 1970s-comics metaphysics and the writers’ apparent conviction that the MCU movies were philosophically deep. Now, I’m not slamming the MCU movies. They worked emotionally for a lot of people with good reason. But My Dinner with Andre they’re not.

The second scene is a whole other ballgame. Dean is upset because he believes that Amara was just toying with him by giving him back his mother. But Amara makes it clear (and she’s a straight shooter, so this is likely honesty on her part) that she meant it as a gift.

She then mirrors back to him his own lifelong philosophy that reality is always better than fantasy, no matter how harsh the reality and how nice the fantasy. That philosophy has saved his life (and the universe) on more than one occasion (most openly in Season 2’s “What Is and What Could Never Be,” which is pretty implicitly referenced in this conversation). But she does so in a way that, far from his usual bitter assessment, this can be a way to move on to a better and happier life, rather than being stuck in a rut. That’s actually a pretty darned good life lesson.

It’s therefore extra significant that the two of them make it clear to each other that they would not ever hurt each other and so far, a few episodes down the road, that’s proven true. I so wish that Dean could just replace Chuck and run off with Amara at the end of this show, but I have a feeling Amara’s not going to make it to episode 15.20. The writers have tied her too tightly to her brother. Ah, well.

Next week: Drag Me Away (From You): The Brothers are called in by an old friend to deal with a case they thought they’d put to bed decades ago. This is the last weeChesters episode.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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The Official Supernatural: “Last Holiday” (15.14) Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

This recap was a bit late (sorry), as I’m working on a Halloween Zoom talk about local ghost stories and legends in eastern North Carolina. It’s free and it will be October 25 at 7pm (EST), until 8:30pm. You can register beforehand (no obligation) here. I’m hoping to get the next recap and review up on time, but if not, we should get back on track after the talk.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.15.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Fairly quick (less than a minute) recap, considering the show just came off a major and final hellatus, of Cuthbert Sinclair and Abaddon in Season 9 (and to think I just reviewed those episodes), and Jack’s boring “got his soul back” storyline from the previous ep.

Cut to Now in the Bunker, where Sam is doing research, Dean is cooking burgers (in an apron), and Jack is still sulking in his room. Sam snarks about the apron, though hey, at least, we get a reprise of Dean the Great Cook. Dean has come out of the kitchen to note that the Bunker seems to be on the fritz. The pilot light in the kitchen keeps going out, and he and Sam both notice that things keep switching on and off. Dean complains that the Bunker is supposed to be “state of the art,” though Sam snarks that yes, it was, “for the Fifties.”

While that’s true, the Bunker was shut down for over half a century and possesses lower transistor tech than we have today. Low tech tends to be more durable than high tech. Also, the Bunker is magical.

Anyhoo, at that moment (after Dean asks where Jack is and Sam says he’s in his room), the air goes down. This is right after the Brothers talk about how Castiel is looking for Amara for them and they’re probably going to kill her (this still seems like a stupid plan to me. Why not talk to her, first?). Dean decides they need to do something about the air. Well, yes, since otherwise, they’re going to suffocate. Sam wonders what they can do.

Dean: We fought the Devil, okay? I killed Hitler. I think we can handle some old pipes.

Cut to the Brothers coming down into a control room we’ve never seen before and apparently, they haven’t, either. Sam found it after some research. There is a large old-time, very-active-looking control panel. This is a pretty big retcon, I gotta say, that the Brothers never even looked at this room (which was so easy to find) when they were reconnoitering the Bunker. I mean, come on, Show.

Anyhoo, Sam says all the basic stuff like water and pipes should be controlled from that panel and maybe they should call in a plumber. Dean laughs this off and makes a Mario Brothers joke. Among other controls we don’t get a good look at, the control panel has two big buttons in the lower right-hand corner of the panel. One says “Standby” and the other “Reset.” The Standby button is glowing. The Reset button is not.

Out loud, Dean notes that whenever the porn on his laptop gets too many pop-ups, he just reboots. So, he hits the Reset button right as Sam is arguing that’s not a good idea. Now, obviously, since this is the episode’s teaser, it’s a bad idea, but the writing to this point doesn’t quite justify that. I mean, you’ve got a Reset button and the system is glitchy. Wouldn’t hitting it at least be an option?

Anyhoo, everything goes dark for a moment, but then it comes right back up and the glitches go away. Crowing “Victory!” in a bad Italian accent, Dean goes back upstairs to continue cooking burgers.

Later, we see Dean enter his room with a finished “Dean Deluxe” burger (which looks very tasty). Suddenly, he looks up offscreen and backs up. Cut to his bed, where a middle-aged, red-haired woman is folding his underwear, including a pair of Scooby-Doo-themed shorts. She says, “Oh! Hello, dear.” Dean bellows for Sam.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Library, where the woman is commenting on all the dust and “filth,” and Dean is saying “Who the hell are you, lady?!” (she comments on his “language”). It takes this long for Sam to arrive from wherever he was and he’s quite startled to meet the woman, as well. He asks her name. She says her “true name is indecipherable in your tongue,” but says that “Mr. Ganem called me Mrs. Butters.”

Sam susses out that she’s not human based on the “our tongue” comment, though that’s pretty obvious at this point. She says that she’s a “wood nymph.” Dean’s reaction face is epic. When Dean asks, “Well, shouldn’t you be in the woods, nymphing?” she calls that “a young one’s game.” Also, she “lives here.”

When Sam suggests she’s a Lady of Letters, she calls herself a “helper.” She basically acted as a live-in maid and nanny for the Men of Letters, who needed, you know, a woman around the house. Even if she wasn’t human.

Dean sarcastically calls this “very progressive” (since it obviously isn’t), then tells her she can “just leave.” This prompts confusion and bewilderment from Mrs. Butters. As she said before, the Bunker is her home and Dean is basically kicking her out. After all, she’s served the Men of Letters “since before the War.”

Confused, Sam asks her what year she thinks it is and she replies in a small voice, “1958?”

Dean rather bruskly breaks the news to her that it’s actually 2020. When she asks where all the Men of Letters are (Mr. Akers and Mr. Markham, specifically), while gesturing at a photo of them on the wall, Dean says she is looking at the only two left. The others are dead. He explains that Abaddon killed them and that she was a demon. Though fluffy, Mrs. Butters is a quick study and realizes this is why the Men of Letters never came back.

In a warm-tones flashback, she explains that when they went to their ceremony (the swearing-in ceremony for Josie and Henry, where Abaddon used Josie to ambush and murder almost all of the chapter), they left Mrs. Butters behind to guard the Bunker. When they didn’t return, she put the Bunker (and herself) into Standby mode. When she hit the button, the lights went down and she turned into green smoke that was sucked up into the glowing symbols on the walls.

The Brothers try to explain that they didn’t realize she was there and that they have been dealing “with one apocalypse after another.” Mrs. Butters is very understanding. Her “boys” dealt with the same kind of schedule. She says that it must have been “an age” since the Brothers had “a home-cooked meal or a holiday.” She takes a step forward, wrinkles her nose, and comments that they haven’t washed their clothes in a while, either. Sam admits they’re not that kind of people.

Dean realizes that the Bunker has been “at half-power” the entire time they’ve been there. Mrs. Butters confirms this and, snapping her fingers, brings the place up to full power. Seems her magic is used to power the place to a higher level. The lights brighten (and turn on in the telescope alcove) and a red spot on the map starts to beep. Mrs. Butters explains that’s the “monster radar.” Pressing the red dot, she gives them the exact location of a nest of vampires 50 miles away from the Bunker. And by that, I mean she gives them the street address. She tells them if they hurry, they can clean out the entire nest and be back for dinner.

Dean is thrilled that they’ve finally caught a break, but as Mrs. Butters goes off to dust up the other room, Sam wonders if they can trust her. Dean points out that the Men of Letters would have needed a creature like her to take care of them and one way to find out is to check out the nest. If she’s telling them the truth, they can go from there.

Sam asks what happens if she isn’t and Dean prosaically says, “Then we deal with her.” Sam then asks, “What about Jack?” Oh, sigh, and things were going so well up to this point.

Cut to Jack, moping in his room. Dean knocks on the door. He tells him they’re going out for a while and gives him a heads-up about Mrs. Butters. He says she’s “probably harmless,” but in case she isn’t, to give them a call. He also says she’s baking “snickerdoodles.” Oooer. Jack just mopes, because that’s Jack for you these days.

In the car, Sam is still worrying away at whether or not Mrs. Butters can be trusted. Sam doesn’t seem to realize that Dean is trusting, but verifying, not just taking Mrs. Butters at face value. The discussion quickly turns to Whether Jack Is Okay because of course it does [sigh] after Dean points out that Mrs. Butters isn’t that big of a deal when they have “the Son of Satan living down the hall.”

Sam wonders if Jack is okay, what with Chuck “deleting worlds” and Amara in the wind. After admitting that Jack, is “a mess,” Dean says, “He’ll be fine. I mean, I’ve been through worse. Look at me – I’m the picture of health.”

Sam: Ignoring your trauma doesn’t make you healthy.

Dean [insincerely]: Sure, it does.

Boy, it’s been a while since Dean’s mental health issues have come up.

Anyhoo, they table the discussion for now.

Back at the Bunker, Jack is still moping, so Mrs. Butters knocks on his door with a sandwich. When he won’t answer, she says she’s leaving it by the door (now that Jack has his soul back, does he have regular human cycles or are we ignoring all that?).

Meanwhile, the vampire nest mentioned before turns out to be two bearded hicks watching an old vampire movie (not sure which one) on a TV in a shack, while sucking down blood from a local blood bank in their Big Swig mugs. Just as one vampire is musing why they don’t get to live in a mansion like the vampire in the film, Sam and Dean kick down the door. The two lowlife vamps helpfully whip around and thrust their heads forward, fangs bared. So, the Brothers simultaneously whack off their heads at one blow.

“Monster radar rules!” crows Dean.

The Brothers return to the Bunker to find it decorated for Christmas. There’s a giant tree in the library, with a train running around it. A big band version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” is on the soundtrack (is that irony deliberate?). Mrs. Butters comes out, giggling, with a plate of cookies. Both Brothers are nonplussed at first, but Dean starts to get into it, while Sam looks constipated.

Dean: We are so keeping her!

Cut to Mrs. Butters giving Sam some pancakes and a pep talk the next morning about his rather dour look on the world. In comes Jack and suddenly, her mood changes. She immediately recognizes him as not-quite-human, saying “What. Are. You?” in a tense voice.

Dean comes in, wearing a purple nightshirt and hat. He’s very excited about it (it was a gift from Mrs. Butters) and thanks her. A horrified Sam gets an eyeful (seems Dean is not wearing underwear beneath the nightshirt when he lifts it up) and Dean somewhat defuses the situation by off-handedly vouching for Jack.

Mrs. Butters just-as-off-handedly acknowledges Dean’s thanks, while bristling at Jack. Eventually, she stands down and appears to accept him. Whipping up a smoothie out of nowhere, she gives it to him, even as he’s protesting that he’s not hungry. When Dean shows an interest in the smoothie, she gives him a tomato juice, instead, saying she’s “worried about your cholesterol.” Jack looks amused at Dean’s crestfallen reaction.

A buggy horn goes off overhead, and both Sam and Dean run to their rooms to get dressed. As they’re coming back out past the kitchen, Mrs. Butters hands them each a bag lunch (“no crusts”), tells Sam the monster is a Lamia and that’s she’s put “blessed knives in the trunk,” and tells him to tell Dean to use the Impala gently, since she just waxed it.

Jack wants to go along, but Sam tells him to stay behind and take it easy. They’ll be right back. After saying goodbye to Sam, Mrs. Butters turns back with an edged smile and says to Jack, “Well. What shall we do with you?” Jack smiles at her, not noticing the undertones. Later, she gets him to tell her about being Lucifer’s son, how TFW 2.0 are his only real family, and how he killed Mary in a fit of pique.

Mrs. Butters says, “We all do things, things we’re not proud of.” But she adds that life is full of “second chances,” then offers him another smoothie.

Cue an adorable montage to The Bus Boys’ “Cleanin’ Up the Town” (from Ghostbusters, of course) of the Brothers running off to a hunt (excitedly grabbing bag lunches from Mrs. Butters at the kitchen on the way out), busting down doors, and having holidays (Thanksgiving, Halloween, Fourth of July, and Sam’s birthday). In the last hunt, they blow the door to a shack open and Dean comes in with a rocket launcher, while Sam is hefting Mjolnir.

We come back out of the montage to Sam’s birthday. When Dean wonders if he can have some of the same Rice Krispies treats when he has a birthday, Mrs. Butters comments that she’s surprised that he would still want to celebrate his birthday (i.e., that he’s over 40), but then says she was just teasing and there is more for him in the kitchen.

I’m not sure why the writers continue with these stupid age jokes when they are literally old enough to know better. I get that they work for a network that caters to a young female demographic in an often problematical way that involves literally fetishizing young women, but come on.

Anyhoo, life goes on and Jack gets hooked on his smoothies. One night, he’s coming out with an empty glass when he finds Mrs. Butters in the library, furtively looking at a file in one of the cabinets while dusting. Looking pensive, she puts it back, then jumps and squeals when Jack calls her name. As she comes over, he asks her for another smoothie. Instead of just whipping one up, as she has before, she takes the empty glass and goes off to the kitchen to get him a refill.

This gives him a chance to look through the drawer she was looking in. He finds an old Manila envelope with a CLASSIFIED file inside. It includes her photo and an old film reel. He sneaks off down to the projection room and revs up the film (how he knows how to do this is glossed over).

The faded black-and-white film has an opening narration by Cuthbert Sinclair (whom we briefly met in “Blade Runners” when he tried to enslave Dean, the Mark of Cain, and the First Blade). He calls it File 5150. He then reveals that “Subject B, casually referred to as ‘Mrs. Butters,’” was “retrieved” by Man of Letters Henshaw from a Thule lab. So, it seems the Thule had originally enslaved her (she killed a battallion of 200 men before they could “restrain” her) and if she has been working with the Men of Letters since “before the War,” then the Men of the Letters and the Thule must have been fighting a shadow war with each other even before WWII.

Sinclair then goes on to theorize that even though wood nymphs are normally “docile, they react- violently when home or family are threatened.”

He then turns and we see he is in the dungeon. There is a hooded prisoner in a chair and standing behind the chair is Mrs. Butters, smiling inanely. He says he’s been doing “a series of experiments” (translation: magical torture) to convince Mrs. Butters to join the Men of Letters, “for safety and security.” Pulling off the prisoner’s hood, he reveals that the man in the chair is a Thule operative. Having already extracted all info possible out of the prisoner, Sinclair instructs Mrs. Butters to pull off his head. She does, with the same cheerful smile, then asks, “Would anyone like tea or cookies?”

Horrified, Jack exclaims, “Son of a bitch!”

Jack comes running out into the library shouting for Sam (why not Dean?). Mrs. Butters is there and says Sam will be out in a moment. He’s getting ready for a date with Eileen. Sam comes out in a rather old-style waistcoat and tie ensemble. He says he feels silly. Mrs. Butters assures him he looks great (well, yeah. For the 1950s). Though she would like to cut his hair (Sam demurs).

Dean comes out in his usual flannel, saying “Wow! Somebody’s shopping at Abercrombie and Bitch,” to which Mrs. Butters scolds him: “Language!”

Sam tells them that he’s going on a date with Eileen, who is in town. They are trying to rekindle things since their disastrous kidnapping by Chuck a few episodes ago. Dean figures Sam is going to get laid. Mrs. Butters whips up a bouquet of red roses for Sam and sends him off, though afterward, she scolds Dean for being so mean to Sam. Dean is not especially repentant. But he is happy when she tells him she fixed the TV in his room and runs off to check it out.

Instead of following Dean to talk to him, Jack decides to stalk Mrs. Butters, instead. Because that’s smart.

He follows her down into the storage room and dungeon, where he confronts her. Mrs. Butters, smiling, asks him how the film made him “feel.” Jack is thrown by this question, especially when she supplies an answer – that he “enjoyed” watching her kill the Thule.

Jack realizes that she set him up, that it was a test, and that she thinks he failed (her going off to the kitchen to make him a smoothie should have been his first clue). She says that if the Brothers knew how powerful he’s become, they’d be terrified of him and they should be, that maybe they keep Jack sequestered in the Bunker to keep him from murdering anyone else the way he did Mary.

Jack protests that he would never hurt Sam and Dean, but Mrs. Butters points out that he already has in the past – a whole lot. Then she TK’s him into a wall. Jack gets up and gets angry. He starts to power up, but his eye glow fritzes and fades. As Mrs. Butters slaps a pair of magical cuffs on him (not sure if they’re demon or angel or archangel, or what), she tells him that she used the smoothies to reduce his power. Now, he can’t do anything. Seems she learned a few things while dusting in the library. She pokes him in the chest and TK’s him again into the wall.

When Jack asks her why she’s doing this, she says, “To make the Bunker safe again. To kill all the monsters!”

I know the show wants us to side with Jack and see Mrs. Butters as dangerously out of control. But Mrs. Butters actually isn’t wrong. This scene is a classic case of When the Villain Has a Point.

The show seems to want us to believe that Jack has changed permanently for the good because he has his soul back. But Jack did plenty of horrible things when he had his soul (nor was he at all forgiving about, say, rescuing Dean after Dean said yes to alt-Michael to rectify Jack’s mistake, and save Sam and Jack from Jack’s father). and he intentionally lost his soul out of a desire to get his powers back. Thing is, every time Jack has had to choose between Sam and Dean, and getting his power back, he’s chosen power every time. So, I don’t think the writers did a convincing job of setting up the conflict here.

Dean comes out into the kitchen to see that Mrs. Butters has fixed him a grilled cheese sandwich. Just as Dean is happily digging into it, she tells him the food is to give him strength to go down to the dungeon and kill Jack. Then she hands him a brass dagger.

With a sad, longing look at the sandwich, Dean sets it aside, takes the dagger, and after a comment about how unfortunate it is that she turned “Nurse Ratched” on them, says they’ll go down to the dungeon, let Jack out, and “forget this ever happened.”

That gets him locked in the dungeon with Jack. Mrs. Butters insists that Dean has been “infected” by Jack, who is “just like his father … the Serpent in the Garden” (kind of ironic considering Jack was in the Garden just last episode). Sam returns from his date to find Mrs. Butters waiting for him. When he asks where the others are, she tells him that Jack has got inside Dean’s head, where the two of them are, and that he and she now have to go kill them. She calls him “the smart one” for figuring it out.

Sam says, sure, he’s just going to go to his room for his gun and meet her down there. Instead, he calls Dean from inside his room (apparently, there is cell phone reception in the dungeon, now). When Sam asks why Dean didn’t call him sooner, Dean says he didn’t want to bother him on his date: “It’s been a while for you, man” (truer words). Dean is oddly casual about the whole thing, as if it’s a minor inconvenience.

When Sam asks him for suggestions, Dean points out that Sam was going to research ways to stop Mrs. Butters if she turned evil and suggests shooting her. Sam protests that he’s been distracted by all the celebrations (they reminisce briefly over the fabulous omelette from Boxing Day). Dean suggests hitting the Standby button in the control room (which is actually quite a good idea) to shut her back down. Sam decides to try it.

Back in the dungeon, Jack suggests that he could use his powers to get them out of there, but Dean says the amount of power Jack would need to break out of the cuffs would alert Chuck to his presence (also, Jack’s powers have been reduced by all the smoothies, but it’s not clear if Dean knows about that, yet).

Jack starts panicking a little, saying he has a “mission.” When Dean tells him to calm down and turns away (trying to think), Jack quietly asks if Dean still thinks he’s a monster. Dean turns back to face Jack and lays it all out. He’s trying to forgive Jack, but it’s hard. On the other hand, he’s not “going to let some evil Mary Poppins take you out.”

Upstairs, Sam is edging through the library, gun in hand, calling for Mrs. Butters. When she appears, he does try to shoot her, but she stops him with TK and then TK’s him into a chair. She merrily tells how Sinclair “explained” the importance of the Bunker to her and since Sam is her “favorite,” she’s not going to give up on him … yet. She then proceeds to show him how Sinclair “explained” things to him – by ripping out his fingernails, one by one. Has that happened to Sam since Season 3’s “A Very Supernatural Christmas”? I think so, but can’t recall the other episode.

No matter what Sam tries to tell Mrs. Butters about Jack being “just a kid,” she insists that Jack is a monster who will kill them and she’s already lost her previous team to a monster. She’s not doing it again.

In the dungeon, Dean has an idea, but it involves some rather brutal methods (a very old piece of soundtrack plays over this – I think it’s “Lilith Unfair.” No, sorry, it’s “Old ‘Monster Movie’”). He’s going to use the brass knife to try to break the chain between the cuffs. Jack isn’t too sure it’s going to work and Dean is cheerily unreassuring about the whole thing. When he hits the cuffs with the knife, the magical blowback tosses Jack against a cabinet, smashing it. Dean says the cuffs aren’t coming off without a key, but he’s got another idea (especially since it seems Sam is delayed in showing up).

Dean lines Jack up in front of the door. “Now remember,” he says. “Pain is just weakness leaving the body. On three.” He hits the cuffs on the two count, of course. The resulting explosion blasts Jack right through the door. They’re free, at least for the moment.

Down to the control room they go, where Dean takes a hammer and hits the Reset button (wasn’t he going to hit the Standby button?). The red emergency lighting and klaxon come on. When Dean and Jack enter the library, they find Sam alone. The problem appears to be solved.

But it’s not. In the control room, the panel rattles and the sigils above the doors begin to glow an angry red. A steam pipe bursts. Through the steam Mrs. Butters materializes with glowing green eyes and walks back upstairs. There, she TK’s all three of TFW 2.0 (present) across the room and starts to scream at them that she’s not going to fail again. She especially directs her anger at Jack. She says about him that the reason she can’t go back to her forest is “because of things like that!”

Sam tries to talk her down, saying that Sinclair (“Mr. Cuthbert”) used and tortured her. But it’s Dean who gets through to her. He says that Jack “can save the world.” He points out that that’s always been “the mission.” Confused, Mrs. Butters stands down. The emergency lighting cuts out and everything in the Bunker goes back to normal.

Afterward, she heals Sam’s hand and apologizes to all three of them. Jack says it’s okay. When Sam and Dean note that Sinclair made her leave her forest, she gets all nostalgic about it. Jack then says, “It’s settled.” The next moment, we see her in travel clothes with a purse, as she’s going back home.

She warns them that without her magic, “the Bunker will revert to Standby mode.” Dean tries to make the best of it, talking about the big telescope in the alcove. She tells him it’s not a telescope. It’s an interdimensional geoscope (in other words, a scope that can look into other worlds in the Multiverse).

When Dean comments that he’s looked in it and not seen anything, Mrs. Butters says, “Ohh. Oh, that’s not good.” (Obviously, this is a reference to all the other worlds Chuck was destroying and indicates there was nothing to see in the scope because there are no more worlds left in the Multiverse.)

Jack gives her the photo of the Men of Letters that was on the wall. Before she leaves, she tells Dean to eat his vegetables, Sam to cut his hair, and Jack to go save the world. The she snaps her fingers and vanishes. Half the Bunker shuts down, including half the lights.

Later, while they are reading or doing research or something in the library, Sam tries to get Jack to open up. Jack admits that here he is, supposed to kill God, and he got taken down by a wood nymph. He’s not at all sure he is up to the job. Sam says that he has to because he’s “the only one who can.” (ugh)

Dean breaks up the mood by coming in with a cake, wearing his apron (which Sam continues to be salty about, for some unknown reason). It’s a birthday cake for Jack. Dean has decided that Mrs. Butters was right – even though they’re busy, they should still celebrate occasions. Dean admits that the cake doesn’t look perfect the way Mrs. Butters would have made it, but Jack is happy to see it, nonetheless. Dean lights a candle and puts it on the cake. Sam tells Jack to make a wish. Jack sits for a moment, thinking, then blows the candle out.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode rose from those for the previous episode to 0.4/3 in the A18-49 demo and 1.1 million.

Review: When I first saw the commentary about this episode on Twitter, I was sure I was going to hate it. It sounded quite bad and like an entire forty-some minutes of Jacknatural. After I saw it, though, my feelings became more … mixed. I still actively disliked the Jacknatural aspect, and there were some seriously problematical things, like the entire treatment of what was effectively the Brothers’ condoning their predecessors’ enslavement and torture of a sentient supernatural being.

And yet, the entire montage of Sam and Dean hunting and being ministered to by Mrs. Butters, to the tune of “Cleanin’ Up the Town” from Ghostbusters (a decent non-soundtrack song, for once), was magic. Dean’s enthusiasm over the whole idea of having endless birthdays and Christmas and Halloween was magic. I will probably end up rewatching this montage a good bit come Christmastime.

I actually liked Mrs. Butters and felt sorry for her, far more than Jack (in fact, I think she had some excellent points about Jack). And I know I wasn’t supposed to laugh at Dean beating the hell out of Jack to get them out of the dungeon, but I totally did and I’m not sorry. If that’s all Jack has to suffer from Mary’s loved ones for killing her, it’ll be the very, very least he deserves.

I am thoroughly over and stick-a-fork-in-me done with Jacknatural. Any bit of taking him down a peg introduces some welcome balance to the show that it really needs at this point.

The show has made it seem as though Jack getting his soul back should somehow alleviate what he did to Mary, but I don’t see how something that he was basically tricked into doing should be redemptive in any real way. Mary is no less dead and Jack, for all his guilt, hasn’t done much at all to make amends. There are only so many times you can apologize before you realize that “sorry” is just a word without actions to back it up. This is not Jack’s first “Ooh, I made a really cosmic boo-boo” rodeo and his learning curve is distressing flat throughout.

I also thought his unsympathetic reaction to the old film was un-reassuring. The monsters Mrs. Butters was helping Sam and Dean hunt may or may not have been worthy of killing, but we’ve seen that the Thule invariably are. Jack also didn’t pick up at all on the many hints Sinclair gave that he had tortured Mrs. Butters into serving the Men of Letters. In that moment, he had no compassion for her and hypocritically saw her as nothing more than a monster.

The weird thing is that for all the gaslighting of Dean in-story for not forgiving Jack ridiculously soon, Dean’s the only one of TFW who is acting in character. I don’t even know what the hell Castiel is supposed to be responding to, anymore (he lost most of his remaining personality when Jack brainwashed him from the womb in Season 12). But what about Sam? There’s sort-of, kind-of some supporting canon for Sam acting so academically about Mary’s death and Jack’s role in it. He did admit in the Pilot that he didn’t remember Mary, so he lacked the primal emotional connection to her that Dean had.

Later, we saw Sam react in a similarly muted way to John’s death. Those two had a lot of mixed feelings toward each other, so I guess that makes sense. Anyhoo, it’s canon that Dean reacted a lot more violently to John’s death than Sam did.

But then there’s the flip side of this coin. In the very same Pilot episode, Sam swore vengeance for his girlfriend Jessica’s death and went on a roaring rampage of revenge, as The Bride might have put it. Even five seasons later, when he find out a demon possessed his close friend and then murdered Jessica just to put him on that road, Sam thoroughly enjoyed gutting Brady like a fish. He went completely off the rails after Lilith and then Metatron killed Dean. He had an incandescent hatred for Crowley after Crowley murdered Sarah, one that combined with Sam’s irrational jealousy every time Dean forms strong relationships with other men, that ended up in a situation where Sam threatened the entire Multiverse.

Sam’s been a lot of things, but he ain’t Spock. Either he never did develop strong feelings for his mother, despite extensive attempts by the writers in the past few seasons to show them bonding, or he’s been brainwashed like Castiel, or he’s lying to Jack’s face about forgiving him and just using him to take out Chuck.

The episode dealt clumsily with the central idea of Mrs. Butters as an enslaved supernatural being who powered the Bunker to an extra level. It doesn’t help that the name pretty obviously (though anachronistically) evokes the brand name Mrs. Butterworth, a famous American syrup brand. Rumor has it that Mrs. Butterworth was originally inspired by Hattie McDaniel’s enslaved house servant and nanny in Gone with the Wind (1939), though the brand wasn’t introduced until 1961. Its packaging has recently been revamped after criticism that the original model evoked “mammy” stereotypes. I talked a bit about that stereotype (most famously illustrated by McDaniel’s role, albeit much older) in my review of season one’s “Home,” since Missouri definitely evoked it.

While Mrs. Butters has a British accent, and it’s implied that she was originally German (Hyacinth Bucket meets the hausfrau stereotype), her name seems a pretty obvious evocation of the above minstrel show trope, as well. Whatever “Last Holiday” was trying to say about slavery seems to get tangled up in a lot of white-washed, tone-deaf Lost Cause subtext as the Brothers and Jack proceed to enjoy Mrs. Butters’ ministrations without thinking too hard about what she gets out of it. It made me wonder what other dark secrets and beings might be involved in the Bunker’s foundations. Cuthbert Sinclair really was quite the bastard, wasn’t he?

The frequently perky tone didn’t necessarily help. For example, the only time Dean appeared to take Mrs. Butters seriously as a threat was near the end, when he finally got through to her by explaining Jack’s actual function with them. While the way Mrs. Butters then stood down may seem heartwarming on the surface, I was struck by the bleak (unintended?) subtext that only when Dean pointed out that Jack was a Men of Letters weapon (like her) did she back off.

Was it because she just didn’t buy that the Brothers considered Jack family, especially after what he’d done to their mother? Or was it because Dean was finally being honest when he made it clear that Jack was a weapon and that he and Sam knew exactly what they were doing in keeping him in the Bunker (as she implied when she locked Jack in the dungeon)? Had she previously been reacting to the underlying dishonesty?

By the way, if the name Henshaw sounds familiar, he’s the Man of Letters who wrote the report about the Hand of God in Season 11’s “The Vessel.” So, think of Jack as a sentient Hand of God. Then he doesn’t seem quite so special as he thinks.

It actually makes a lot of sense that Mrs. Butters would take special umbrage to Jack. It’s necessary to remind everyone here that Jack didn’t just kill Mary. He also killed his own mother by being born. Jack is a natural born matricide, twice over. That the show had Kelly gloss over this, even in Heaven (ugh, gag), and make it seem okay didn’t improve matters.

But Mrs. Butters is a maternal figure herself, nurturing full-grown men engaged in a very dangerous profession. She would relate to other maternal figures, the real mothers of these men, more than some other characters. And she would find matricide especially unforgivable. After all, it’s a direct threat to her, as well.

I didn’t notice until the rewatch that Dean did actually free her right away. It was off-hand and he was basically evicting her from her home of three-quarters of a century, but his very first thought was not to take advantage of her, as was the impression I got on first watch. After all, he had been tortured by Cuthbert Sinclair and nearly made his slave, too.

It wasn’t until she clearly showed her intent and desire to remain in the Bunker that Dean started to get into keeping her around. Keep in mind that Sam’s very first thought was to kill her, though he eventually warmed to her, as well, and we got to see a happier Sam for a while (sad we didn’t get to see Eileen this time, though).

Perhaps the biggest problem with the suspension of disbelief here is that the episode chose to introduce and write out a key element in the Bunker’s history inside a single episode. Mrs. Butters was a lot like that Hunter character the Brothers have supposedly known for decades (but never mentioned before) who pops up for a single episode, only to get killed off (usually after having turned evil, first). I think we might have felt the sense of betrayal a bit more when she turned on them if she had been introduced at least a few episodes earlier.

Alas, with introducing such a powerful figure, so intimately connected to the Bunker, this late in the game, retcons and other questions arose. For example, when Amara invaded the Bunker near the end of season 11 and burned out the sigils in the walls, why wasn’t Mrs. Butters awakened or even killed? What about when Dorothy brought the Witch into the Bunker? Was Mrs. Butters not there, yet? Why didn’t the Brothers ever notice the control room in their thorough search of the place? Did none of the Men of Letters notice that early on that Cuthbert Sinclair never seemed to age? Were the London Men of Letters ever aware of her existence? How long a timespan did this episode even cover?

Why introduce such a powerful character (she took down Jack) so late in the game and then write her out? Is not Earth Prime her home, her woods, writ large? Couldn’t the Brothers use her as an ally against Chuck, instead of the show writers’ usual simplistic obsession with a single solution (finding and neutralizing/recruiting Amara) that we already know won’t work in the breach? I know the Nazis were obsessed with nature, but is her grove even still standing? What happens if/when she finds out it’s not? Will she turn monstrous?

Why are we even still doing MOTWs at this late date? Are all of these elements in the last seven episodes going to figure in the finale? I hope so, but they need to hurry up with starting to tie them together.

Next week: Gimme Shelter: Castiel’s back and the Brothers going looking for Amara. I’m sure that will end well.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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