We need your help!
Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patre
We need your help!
In response to requests for updating the links for older reviews, I’ve set up a campaign on Ko-Fi. I am starting 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 (about every $50/5 links).
Same deal for this one as for Seasons 12 and 13.
My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.
Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Longish recap to “Carry On Wayward Son” that teases us with a bit of Dean!Michael before boring the crap out of us with how terrible the entire Jack storyline was.
Cut to Now and that cliffhanger some optimistic fans were all abuzz about last week, with Jack busting out of the Ma’lak Box. Yeah, about that. Jack whines that TFW lied to him, tosses them into some bookshelves (I really hate that he trashed their archive, but at least the library upstairs is intact), and … anticlimactically flies off.
Yeah. I know. That’s what you waited a week for. Sorry.
In the aftermath of getting themselves up and dusting themselves off, and handwaving why Jack was able to bust out of the unbustable box (I doubt we’ll get anything more satisfying than that), Dean recovers first. He says they need to find Jack fast before he hurts anyone (else) and gank him. As far as locating Jack, Sam says that praying’s out now, for obvious reasons (I dunno, Sam. Jack’s pretty gullible. He might actually fall for that one twice).
Castiel gets pissy and tries to pick a fight with Dean (the world is not Twitter, Cas), but Dean shuts him down cold. Dean gives Castiel some much-needed home truths about how he always thought raising Jack was too dangerous, but no one listened to him. How Castiel knew Jack had broke bad, but he chose to stay quiet because he wanted the fantasy of a happy family so badly. After the past two weeks, Dean doesn’t have to add, “And now Mom’s dead.”
Furious, but unable to come up with a blistering retort (I’m sure he’ll think of one a week from now), Castiel shoves past Dean and stalks out the door.
Sam is upset, but Dean points out to him that as much as they cared about Jack, he’s a monster now and he’s hurting people. They have to stop him. Yeah, Sam. Starting thinking like a Hero again, for once. Save some people. Hunt some things.
Where’s Jack? He’s in a crowded public place. People are sitting around having inane conversations, in which he detects (or thinks he does, anyway) a lot of lies. He gets the “brilliant’ idea of making everyone tell the truth. Because that’s bound to end well.
Meanwhile, Sam is following up (by phone) on Dean’s idea of recruiting Rowena for a locator spell. She thinks it’s “dangerous,” but she’s in.
Dressed as FBI agents, the Brothers enter a tech company for facial software. This somehow leads to Sam responding to Dean’s usual grumping about “nerds” that Dean is the biggest nerd of all and he even watches Jeopardy every night. Which, okay, cute, I guess, but it seems very out of place.
Dean then introduces himself to the receptionist and says he’s looking for “the Devil’s son.” So, I guess that anti-lying mojo is working on Dean now.
Dean scampers off to Sam, who is being puzzled by two coworkers admitting to each other that one is sleeping with the other one’s wife and the other one doesn’t care. Dean asks Sam who his favorite singer is (Sam always says Elvis, but Dean knows that’s a lie) and Sam is shocked when he’s forced to admit it.
At that moment, all Hell breaks loose in the office as various people start admitting their biggest grievances to each other. I kinda like the lady who’s going around, stealing staplers and gloating, “I’m the Stapler Queen!”
The Brothers quickly step into a conference room, where a TV announcer on the wall is reporting on Trump having just made a full and public confession about his tax records and connections to Russia. Also, seems he made a deal with Crowley. Oh, and her co-anchor confesses his love or her. Seems the spell in question is universal.
Now that he’s been forced to confess that his favorite singer is Celine Dion, Sam’s fully on board with tracking Jack down before he does any more damage.
Meanwhile, Castiel is in an alley, trying to talk to a demon about going to Hell and studying the Cage. The demon refuses, but a voice behind Castiel changes and ups the entire game. When he turns around, he sees Chuck. Chuck allows that TFW might just be boned.
Chuck says he came because of Castiel’s prayer (in the warehouse, when he found Joshua’s new version of the Amulet). And because Jack has become “a problem.” Because of course he did. [eyeroll]
Meanwhile, Jack is knocking on his grandmother’s door and barges his way in. He doesn’t notice the signals that she doesn’t want him around. He says he wants to talk more about Kelly. Well, he gets a lot more than he bargained for when his grandmother reveals she knows he lied to her before (karma sucks, doesn’t it, Jack?). She screams at him, demanding to know what he did to her daughter and is Kelly dead?
Jack, still having no learning curve, gets mad. His eyes glow yellow and he shouts, “STOP!” Because of course he does. Why would he accept any consequences for his own actions? He’s miserably failed at that so far.
Back at the tech office, Dean is discovering that the internet has gone awfully quiet, save for those folks admitting their lives aren’t nearly as neat as they claimed. Sam is using face recognition software to locate Jack. Out in the office, mayhem continues as Castiel and Chuck show up.
Chuck goes into a little rant about how people need to lie. “It keeps the peace.” He says he’s a writer and writers lie, so he should know. In case that sounds vaguely familiar, that’s this episode’s writer, Andrew Dabb, riffing on the late, great Ursula K. LeGuin (“a novelist’s business is lying“) and sucking hard at it.
Chuck and Castiel come in to a shocked Dean and Sam. Ignoring Dean’s questions at first, Chuck sits down with a guitar for a song. Dean, channeling half the audience (at least), grabs the guitar and smashes it, Pete Townshend-style, on the floor. When Dean gets in Chuck’s face, Chuck gets mad, but it doesn’t let him off the hook. In fact, it unites Sam and Castiel remarkably quickly at Dean’s back, especially once Chuck snaps them back to the Bunker.
Chuck starts burbling on about being a deus ex machina, but it falls on stony ground. Sam says he’s with Dean – he wants answers. And Castiel just looks pissed off. Yes, he looks like that a lot this episode.
Chuck is “charmingly” vague about questions where he’s been. When Dean asks him about Amara, he claims she was with him, at least most of the way, and is currently in Reno. No one believes him. Finally pinned down (or so it appears) on the question of why he’s here now, he says he only shows up for actual apocalypses, not ordinary stuff (like the Leviathans, or the “weak” LoL) and Jack is an apocalypse. For proof, Chuck waves a hand and we hear a lot of paranoid radio chatter from around the world.
By the way, we just saw Jack exit his grandmother’s house in a hurry, leaving the door wide open and Grandma nowhere to be seen.
Castiel asks if Chuck can fix it. Chuck says sure. He snaps his fingers and says, “Fixed … like it never happened.” Dean tests it by saying “Celine Dion rocks” and then assures everyone that yep, they can lie again. Back in the tech office, all is normal again, and a guy is ranting about someone stealing his yogurt while another guy is sitting at his own desk, eating said yogurt.
Chuck then fangirls Jack and his powers a bit (because of course he does). He then says Jack has to go, but Chuck can’t do it (for reasons), though the Brothers can. And he has just the thing. A silvery, rather creepy-looking pistol appears on the map table.
Chuck says the gun will kill anything. He says he’s thinking of calling it “The Equalizer” or “The Hammurabi.” The stony silence from the other side of the room deepens. Dean picks the gun up as Sam asks why Chuck didn’t bring it to them before. He says he just invented it, that’s why. Sam asks how do they know it will work? Chuck says of course it will work. He made it.
Dean says there are no bullets. Chuck technobabbles about “balance” in the universe and quantum bubbles and stuff. Sam (who is just so very done at this point with Chuck, after fangirling him for near a decade and a half) tells him to “get to the point.” Chuck says that whatever happens to the person/being you shoot, also happens to you. And since he can’t die without the entire Multiverse dying, he can’t use it on Jack.
Castiel asks why Chuck can’t just give Jack his soul back. Chuck claims it’s complicated, that souls are complicated. Castiel says, well, maybe they can just put Jack in the Cage until they find another solution (because I’m sure that would work as well as the Ma’lak Box).
Dean cuts him off by saying there’s no other way, while holding the gun. Castiel snarls that Billie said that Dean had to go in the Ma’lak Box, too, and look how that turned out. You know, I get that Dabb thinks he’s acknowledging that loose end here, but that somehow makes it worse that he knew perfectly well he was dropping that plot and chose to give us this load of horseshit, instead.
Also, we’re halfway through and so far, almost nothing has happened except a whole lot of infodump.
Chuck starts muttering angrily about how the previous Death was much more hands-off and Billie is too active for his tastes. That makes me just a little bit suspicious because why would he care?
Anyhoo, Dean tells Castiel to suck it up and deal or “walk away.” Castiel walks away. Meanwhile, Jack is walking down the street, remembering that he probably killed his grandmother.
In the next scene, Sam comes in on Dean drinking. Dean has already decided he will be the one to pull the trigger and die, along with Jack. Sam starts to whine that Jack is still saveable, that he did all those things because he didn’t have a soul. But Sam doesn’t seem to get that Jack can’t get that soul back, so that’s irrelevant. Really, how many people – how many women who are mothers to him – does Jack have to murder before Sam admits that maybe Jack needs to face some fucking consequences for once?
I mean, I really hate Sam in this scene. He is so casually misogynistic, so casually dismissive even of the death of his own mother, just so long as he can play Daddy to Jack. And on top of that, he’s busy guilt-tripping Dean about killing himself to kill Jack, because he’s “already lost too much.” Wow. Sam is breathtakingly selfish, isn’t he?
Anyhoo, Castiel has driven to some cemetery, where Jack flies in behind him. Castiel turns and hugs him. I am so very over Jack. Can’t he just go away forever now?
Back at the Bunker, Sam comes out into the Library to find Chuck playing with the archangel blade. Chuck asks Sam where he got it (as if Chuck wouldn’t know) and Sam just says, “Another world.” Sam asks Chuck about the other realities. Chuck says he’s “lost count … one’s in reverse. One’s in all-yellow. And one is just all squirrels.” So, all Deans, then?
Sam brings up that alt-Michael claimed Chuck made and discarded these worlds like “failed drafts.” Chuck claims that this Sam and Dean are the “most interesting” of all the Sams and Deans in the Multiverse.
Back to the cemetery, Jack is telling Castiel about his visit to his grandmother. He says she told him he killed Kelly, which he did. He says that used to bother him, but he doesn’t feel anything, anymore (except that both the script and the acting Show him feeling all sorts of things). We get the rest of the flashback, in which she saw his glowing eyes and exclaimed, “What are you?!” In the flashback, Jack has a moment of clarity and “runs away,” instead of hurting her. Castiel is all proud of him, because I guess the many other people Jack’s killed don’t matter.
In the Library, Sam asks if Chuck is watching them all the time and Chuck gets all creepy-nostalgic and says, “Yeah.” With a smile. Like his smile when Castiel stormed out. I don’t like that smile. Chuck says, “You’re my favorite show.”
Sam says that if he had Chuck’s power, he’d … well, what, Sam? Your track record with superpowers blows chunks, dude. Chuck says he can’t intervene. Only Sam and Dean can: “You’re my guys.”
Then he says something really humiliating for Sam, even as Sam guesses (but is it accurate?) that Chuck is afraid of Jack and knows where Jack is – he points out that Dean has already left to go kill Jack.
At the cemetery, Jack is still claiming that killing Mary was an accident. He claims to try to “do the right thing,” except for being “led astray” by Duma. He admits that whenever he tries to do things right, he screws up.
Castiel, like the kind of indulgent parent who needs a good talking-to from Supernanny, keeps saying that if only they could go away somewhere and “fix this.” This show has done such an excellent job of ruining Castiel this season, all in favor of blowing sunshine up Jack’s ass.
When Dean shows up with the gun, though, Jack tosses Castiel across the cemetery and kneels down so Dean can shoot him.
Castiel gets up and starts yelling at Dean, even as Sam is running through the cemetery, yelling at Dean (there doesn’t see to be any concern from either of them for Dean, just Jack), and Jack says, “I understand.”
Jack admits that he’s a “monster,” even as Chuck shows up and Sam realizes that Chuck is “enjoying this.”
But Dean hesitates and then, he tosses the gun aside.
At that moment, Chuck gets mad. It’s not how “the story” is supposed to go. This is a case of Abraham and Isaac, “of a father killing his son … it’s epic!” At that moment, Sam voices all of his growing misgivings throughout the episode about Chuck – “He’s been playing us, all our lives.”
Chuck: Dean, no offense, but your brother is stupid and crazy.
Castiel is pretty pissed (yes, I know, but he actually gets angrier in this scene), but it’s Dean who gets a really ugly look as he realizes he was being set up for assassination. That’s probably the most interesting part of the episode – that Chuck wanted Dean to die, but couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do it himself.
As he’s losing control over the situation, Chuck tries to bully-entice Dean into picking up the gun and shooting Jack by offering to bring Mary back and claiming that “the kid is still dangerous.”
Dean, realizing he’s been played, steps back from his greatest temptation, saying “No. My mom was my Hero. And I miss her. And I will miss her every second of my life. But she would not want this. And it’s not like you even really care.”
Dean gets a good rant going (why not? Everyone else got one this episode) about how Chuck has always known what was going on even back to the first apocalypse. He could always change it, but chose not to. Sam backs Dean up, though he does kinda step on Dean’s groove a bit.
But what happens next is interesting because Chuck basically ignores Sam and tries to shmooze Dean. It’s only when Dean tells him to go the Hell that Chuck decides he’s done. He snaps his fingers. And guess what? He’s totally capable of smiting Jack by remote. Easy as pie.
Dean tries to stop him, but gets knocked through a tombstone. Sam picks up the gun and shoots Chuck (the Dramatic Reenactment we get after commercial is embarrassingly cheesy), but it just bounces off Chuck and hits Sam in the shoulder like a real bullet.
Chuck: Fine. That the way you want it? Story’s over. Welcome to the end.
And Dean finds himself in the dark in the graveyard. It’s suddenly night. Sam and Castiel are still there. Sam’s still been shot, though he’s okay. Jack is dead, his eyes burned out of his head.
Dean says, confused, that Chuck said only the gun could kill Jack. “He’s a writer,” Castiel says, kneeling by Jack. “Writers lie.” Watch out for those anvils, kids. They’re heavy this week.
But alas, we’re not done with Jack Sue. To the tune of Motörhead’s “God Was Never on Your Side,” Jack wakes up in the Empty to meet the Empty Entity itself (which makes a benediction over him and chuckles) and Billie flying in for a chat. Because of course they do. [eyeroll]
Back on earth, the Brothers and Castiel witness souls blasting out of of glowing rifts in the ground. Castiel infodumps that they are souls from Hell. Shouldn’t they be demons, then? But instead, we have the Woman in White (from the Pilot) accosting a motorist, John Wayne Gacy’s ghost showing up at the door to a kid’s party (even though his thing was young gay boys), and Bloody Mary (also from season one) appearing in a mirror in the room of two young girls. Which, again, is nice and all, but the WiW and Mary really ought to be demons by now. Really.
Also, in the midst of exploding tombstones, zombies appear to menace the Brothers and Castiel. It’s all epically stupid as Castiel pulls out his angel blade and Dean grabs some iron from a rusty gate, handing some to Sam. All to Classic Rock we apparently couldn’t afford most of the season. The zombies converge on the three of them.
Ratings for this week were pretty bad and didn’t experience the usual season finale bounce, with a 0.3/2 and 1.30 million. Even so, the show still far outstripped most of the other shows on the CW, which can’t even muster 1 million at this point.
No preview for next week, obviously, since that won’t be until October.
Well, this was quite terrible, wasn’t it? Not to mention dull. There was a great deal of talking and very little action. One character (Rowena) was mentioned for a bit and then dropped. Another character who had been prominent the past few episodes (Fauxifer), and who should have been around, was simply forgotten. You may have noticed that almost everything (except for the office set) occurred in the Bunker or that graveyard. I guess Classic Rock and some zombie makeup’s too expensive to justify the cost of any decent fight choreography, or, hell, anything happening beyond a whole lot of infodumpy dialogue. Don’t bother to get excited about the biblical implications of the title, since they were spelled for all of a hot minute.
On Twitter, I compared it to a mess of moldy spaghetti tossed at the wall. They actually started the season with a good premise (Dean possessed by alt-Michael), but then floundered because they basically didn’t know what to do with it. I can pretty much guarantee you that if they flubbed the Michael storyline, the same writers will flub the EVOL!Chuck storyline because the problem will remain the same – the Big Bad is too Big and too Bad for Our Heroes to vanquish. It was actually easier with Michael because they had Dean and Dean was fighting from within, but nope. They went the very stupid Soulless!Jack route, instead.
Also, those who have been crowing about getting to see the same old MOTWs the Brothers had previously vanquished, again, think very hard about how well it’s gone of late with this current writing crew and old, iconic characters – very old and very iconic characters – that they brought back. For example, those who were looking forward to seeing Chuck again, just how happy are you today?
This show needs new showrunners and new writers, stat, but it’s probably not going to get any at this point in the game. And that’s too bad. The show deserved a better final season than it’s probably going to get. I really hope I’m wrong, but … well … it’s not as though this season finale was good. It also actually managed to make “Swan Song” look even worse. Didn’t think that was possible, but there you go.
But before we get into why, let me just put forward this spec. Let’s say that those of you who are thinking Chuck wasn’t really Chuck this episode (as opposed to written completely out of character, though both things can be simultaneously true) are correct. Who is this Chuck, then? Could it be he’s the Empty Entity? His characterization is more appropriate for that character, last we saw it, don’t you think?
But, you may ask, who was the being (beside Death) who greeted Jack in the Empty? Some have speculated that it was Gabriel, but I have another idea. What if it was Chuck?
This would explain a lot of things and might even make Jack less of a Gary Stu (since he’d be the first of TFW, such as he is, to arrive in the Empty, so Chuck and Billie are just taking what they can get). It would explain why “Chuck” was so much more nihilistic than before. Mind you, I think he always had that potential, and that’s why I hated the idea of his being God in the first place, but his demeanor and attitude toward the Brothers has either changed or he’s just being more honest. Or he’s not Chuck.
It explains why he would play mind games and try to get TFW to kill Jack when he could have done it at any time (you could argue that he killed Jack because Jack was the biggest threat to him, but if Jack were any kind of threat, Chuck wouldn’t have been able to smite him like that). It explains why he had a beef with Jack in the first place. There’s never been any indication Chuck gave a rat’s ass one way or the other about Jack, seeing as how he did nothing about his birth, the alternate universes, or any of that.
The Empty Entity, on the other hand, wanted Jack in the Empty just a few episodes ago. It explains why he was so moody (Chuck was a lot of things, previously, but moody was never one of them). It explains why he was so not-so-secretly sadistic (which we know the Empty Entity is). It even explains the nature of the new gun, the rant about “balance” (since when did Chuck care about that?), the strange absence of Amara, the changing Jack’s spell of compulsive honesty back to quotidian lying, and the sudden rage toward Billie and her “meddling.”
What it doesn’t explain is why Chuck (or “Chuck”) wanted Dean dead, too, because that was as cold-blooded an assassination attempt (of Dean) as this show has ever done. Or why Chuck didn’t just flat-out kill Dean when Dean refused, but had no problem killing Jack. And alas, even if the above theory is correct, that doesn’t mean the writers will do it any justice, whatsoever.
Which brings us back to the review.
There was some nice acting, especially from Jensen Ackles. And Jared Padalecki got something substantial to chew on with Sam’s growing realization that Chuck was a rotter. This particular journey actually fitted Sam best, since Sam is the brother who has had the most faith in God, has prayed to Him, and has had the most faith in Him. Dean has always been angry with God (and even began the series as a sort of atheistic pagan who didn’t believe in a universal deity, let alone a benevolent one). There’s more dramatic charge in Sam coming to this conclusion after a lifetime of belief and devotion, than Dean, since Dean’s already naturally inclined toward it. I mean, Dean was right all along about Chuck. Go figure.
Unfortunately, the acting can’t save the writing (or the direction). You’ll note that I didn’t mention Misha Collins or Alex Calvert. It’s not because they’re bad actors, but because they basically get nothing of substance to do here. As I said in the recap, Castiel spends most of the episode pissed off (usually at Dean) and poor Calvert is once again stuck with Telling the audience that Jack has no emotions (because he has no soul) while clearly Showing (due to the writing and probably the direction) that actually, Jack’s biggest problem is his emotions and his utter failure to control them without hurting someone. Over and over and over again.
I continue to believe that Jack is unsalvageable as a character. This episode just drove home why. So, no, I wasn’t thrilled to see his Speshul Sparkly Self waking up in the Empty and being visited by two Very Important People. I think he has just gone too far as a character, trampled too many moral lines, killed too many people, to come back from that.
Even Jack’s biggest stans implicitly acknowledge he has something he’s done to the main characters that may not be forgiveable when such fans try instead to transfer that moral charge onto blaming Dean (who is the current surviving victim of Jack’s rampage least likely to indulge him with a forgiveness he really doesn’t deserve). Somebody’s gotta pay, so if it’s not Jack, it’s got to be his “unreasonable” victim. Essentially, it’s just an extension of fans who bought the idea (put forward by Jack himself) that Mary caused her own death by making Jack mad (which, as I said a couple of weeks ago, is Abuser Logic).
Unfortunately, the show itself is at its most emotionally dishonest when having other characters deal with Jack (there’s also that bullshit “Writers lie” thing, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Dean’s character is the least muddy in his emotional arc, though we see his actions through a glass darkly and he has a last-minute change of heart that’s poorly mapped. Having Jack have a sudden and unlikely epiphany (after nearly fridging yet another biological mother figure) that he’s EVOL is, of course, emotionally manipulative, intended to woobie Jack, handwave Jack’s crimes (and they are crimes) to this point, and make Dean look like a big meanie. Again, Abuser Logic.
Less understandable are Sam’s (and especially Castiel’s) overly indulgent attitudes toward Jack, even to the point of ignoring the horrible things Jack has done, including to people they loved. It doesn’t help that the show has written Sam and Castiel for two years as invested in fostering Jack as much as for reasons of pride and ego as for altruism. But even that low bar doesn’t excuse their throwing over a 14-season and 10-season obsession (respectively) with Dean in favor of a character they’ve known for a hot minute, relatively speaking, and who is the son of their worst enemy. I don’t buy that and the show doesn’t even try to make it look plausible. Dabb & Co. just Cousin Oliver it all the way down the line.
So, let’s wrap up with that idiotic “Writers lie” theme. As I said before, it probably comes from a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin, “A novelist’s business is lying,” which this quite-thoughtful essay on her speculates comes originally from Picasso’s quote, “Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth.”
Now, Picasso was, by all accounts, a pompous asshole (and probably an emotional vampire), but he was a talented asshole and in this case, he’s quite right. Great writers don’t just lie to lie. They lie to get at important truths they might not otherwise be able to articulate. I’m going to quote myself from Twitter again (sorry), this time in response to Andrew Dabb’s nonsense about how “writers lie.”
Me: Bad writers lie. Average writers lie pretty. Good writers engage audiences with the truth. Great writers inspire others with the truth.
Also, in context, Le Guin isn’t just saying that writers (well, novelists) lie. She said it in her forward to The Left Hand of Darkness (not my favorite of her books, though I did love some of her others), in response to the idea that science fiction writers should write predictions of the future in their stories. Le Guin was saying that we writers actually are using science fiction to comment on our present. We’re not seers. Don’t put us on a pedestal. We can only present our own, personal truth.
Which is pretty much the opposite of writing a show where the God character is a douchey alter ego to the shallow and self-indulgent writers. That is a cheat, a mean spirited prank on the audience, and poor repayment for our support of the show. Don’t forget that these writers see us all as Becky Rosen.
See you next week with a retro review.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years