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

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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: “Moriah” (14.20 – Season Finale) Live Recap Thread


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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

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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

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.

on.

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.

Credits.

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.

Review

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

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


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The Official Supernatural: “Let the Good Times Roll” (13.23 – Season Finale) Live Recap Thread


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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 and is on sale through this Friday. 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.

Yeah, yeah. I skipped ahead. Don’t worry; I’ll do the others. It’s just that this one is a-buzzin’ and I want to watch/live recap it all the way through.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Recap of the season so far with, of course, “Carry On, Wayward Son,” which begins with a quick voiceover by Dean (and segues into a quick request from Rowena for music). ‘Cause that’s never ominous in a season finale, or anything. The recap ends with alt-Michael and Lucifer being left in the alt-SPNverse.

Cut to Now, with Sam in the Bunker explaining to the alt-SPNverse refugees how our world sucks so much more normally than theirs. There’s a joke about Trump and alt-Bobby gets to deliver it.

Sam gets a call from Dean, who is with Castiel and Jack near a harbor. It seems to they are celebrating getting everyone (they care about) back from the alt-SPNverse by Hunting some dockside werewolves because … reasons. As you do. Just roll with it, I guess.

Castiel starts off the carnage by stabbing one werewolf who’s outside on a smoking break. The Brothers and Jack then bust into the shack, where two other werewolves are discussing the Kardashians. Jack freezes the werewolves, while Dean and Sam fill them full of silver.

Meanwhile, alt-Bobby (now dressed just like “our” Bobby) is taking a nice walk in the rain with Mary. They infodump that Ketch has taken off, while Rowena and alt-Charlie are on a road trip (as long as anything involving Charlie stays off my screen, I’m good, but I sure hope this doesn’t mean the writers are now going to ruin Rowena to make alt-Charlie Sue look fabulous). Anyhoo, alt-Bobby admits that while they can’t go back home without an archangel, he’s not sure he even wants to. It’s nice here (he says as he makes cow eyes at Mary, who looks flattered).

Sadly, this is Supernatural, so the mood is immediately shattered by their discovering Maggie (remember her? The refugee the Brothers helped through a tunnel a few episodes back?) in the path with her head smashed on a rock.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the sneak peek where the Brothers talking about retiring. Sam is surprised that Dean would want to retire. Dean says that if he knew people were safe from monsters, he’d do it, happily, then go live on a beach with Sam and Castiel, and some umbrella drinks. Yeah, that sort of conversation never ends well.

After Sam goes off to do whatever, Dean hears Jack in his room, having a nightmare. Apparently, this is one of the rare times when Jack sleeps. It turns out Jack has nightmares about people he couldn’t save in the alt-SPNverse. Dean wakes him up (Jack wakes up in a less scary mood than Dean does) and reassures him that he has those dreams, too. Jack said he promised to save those people, but wasn’t “strong enough.” Dean tells him it’s not about being strong. If Jack weren’t strong, he wouldn’t have made it back. You just have to keep going and understand you’ll make mistakes some times. But Jack’s family and that’s all that matters.

Hmm. This is getting a bit worrisome. These are the kinds of conversations main characters have right before they get written off.

Sam comes in with a phone call. It’s about Maggie, whose dead body we see next, still on the ground in the rain. Jack is upset, saying he couldn’t protect her. Everyone tries to figure out what’s going on, since all the usual suspects are back in alt-SPNverse. They interview her friend who came over with her from the alt-SPNverse. The friend is shocked to hear she’s dead, saying she expected they would be safe here. She says Maggie had snuck out the night before to see a boy at a local quickie mart she was sweet on (so, I guess a fair bit of time has passed, then). As soon as Jack hears this, he flies off to the quickie mart. Uh-oh.

At the quickie mart, the kid in question is just putting stuff away, minding his own business, when Jack comes in and slams him into one of the freezer shelves. He starts choking the kid, demanding to know why he killed Maggie. The kid has no idea what he’s talking about. Castiel shows up and tries to stop him, but Jack slams him into some shelves. Sam and Dean come in, and an exasperated Dean shoots Jack to snap him out of it. They quickly show him that the kid didn’t kill Maggie, especially when he looks devastated at finding out she’s dead.

Jack runs back out into the woods and starts hitting himself, crying and wondering why he always hurts people. Then he hears angel wings and Lucifer appears behind him. Jack asks if he’s real and Lucifer hedges about how he got there. Lucifer claims that Sam left him behind and lied when he said alt-Michael killed him. Lucifer is all sweetness and light to Jack, but Jack cuts to the chase and asks how Lucifer got through the closed rift. Lucifer dances around this, too, and tries to tell Jack he’s not really human, that they have a lot in common. Ewww. Jack, I know you’re a baby, but jeez. It’s sad when Lucifer is so obvious that he can only fool an infant.

Lucifer suggests they go to some other planet. Jack compares it to Star Wars, but isn’t so sure about leaving Sam, Dean and Castiel behind.

Back in the quickie mart, the Brothers and Castiel try to cover up what happened with the kid by calling the incident “a training exercise” and saying they’re FBI. This is working pretty well until they hear the whine of an angel. A very, very powerful angel. An archangel, in fact. They tell the kid to run (hate to break this to you, kid, but I think your job’s about to go belly up) and he does.

The whining increases and then they see the impossible. Dean tells them to run outside, just as the windows on the quickie mart blow out. Alt-Michael stalks after them, smug as ever. Dean is already pulling some holy oil out of the trunk, lighting it, and tossing out at Michael’s feet. This makes Castiel’s incipient suicide run at alt-Michael unnecessary, since it temporarily stops the archangel, and they flee in the Impala.

Mary and alt-Bobby are discussing who could have killed Maggie when Jack walks in with Lucifer. It’s not a happy reunion, to put it mildly. Lucifer calls alt-Bobby “Longmire.” Lucifer tries to shmooze everyone by healing Maggie and bringing her back from the dead (while continuing to insult Sam to Jack and in front of Mary), his eyes glowing. Jack is impressed by this, enough to leave with Lucifer. Meanwhile, Mary has sent alt-Bobby to call the Brothers. How does alt-Bobby know how to use a cell phone if he’s been living in an Apocalypse World most of his life?

The Brothers come in, but Jack and Lucifer are already gone. Dean goes to call Jody and the other Hunters (alt-Bobby is impressed that Dean has an entire network of Hunters on speed-dial), while Castiel goes to see if there’s any angel chatter, even though they’re almost all locked up in Heaven now. Castiel later reports that it’s all silent on that front, which is unnerving.

Sam talks to Maggie, who is reluctant to talk at first. Then she says she didn’t see her killer’s face, only his eyes. Cut rather obviously to Lucifer and Jack, ostensibly getting ready to leave on their cosmic voyage.

In the Bunker, things go rapidly downhill as someone “knocks” on the door with an enormous boom. Dean insists Mary and alt-Bobby take Maggie and escape through the garage (overriding Mary’s protests), then he and Sam pull out their guns, as they and Castiel turn to confront alt-Michael busting the door down (dammit, gonna have to fix that door again).

Bullets and attempted angel-blade stabbings have no effect. Alt-Michael tosses Sam and Castiel aside, and focuses on Dean, saying that Dean will be the first soul he purges in his great crusade (this seems like rather a large plothole, considering “our” Michael was well aware of who Dean would be as his chosen vessel long before Dean was born). Dean insults him back, even as alt-Michael chokes him slowly, enjoying it. In the process, alt-Michael admits he made a deal (in flashback, we see it’s with Lucifer) to come through the doorway.

On the floor, Sam desperately prays to Jack, hoping Jack can hear him. Jack is temporarily distracted by Lucifer’s star-trekkin’ BS, though a sour note creeps in when Lucifer slips up and mentions wanting to make some “improvements.” But then Jack hears Sam’s prayer and comes back, just in time to stop alt-Michael from fully choking Dean to death.

Jack slams alt-Michael into a post. Lucifer flies in after him, as Jack starts doing Very Bad Things to alt-Michael, making him bleed from his eyes and ears. But Lucifer gets outed as the villain he is by alt-Michael, who screams, “Lucifer, we had a deal!”

Awkward.

Even Jack can see this red flag. As everyone compares notes, Sam tells Jack that Maggie saw the “red, glowing eyes” of her killer. Yep, it was Lucifer. Jack forces Lucifer to tell the truth. Lucifer killed her because she saw him “scouting out the Bunker.” He “crushed her skull” and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Disillusioned, Jack says, “You’re not my father. You’re a monster.” Lucifer is too weak to do much besides roar impotently and whine (alt-Michael is still hurting too much to do more than let his head loll). At least, until Jack lets him get too close. Then Lucifer springs on him, cuts his throat (not fatally) with his archangel blade, and drains his considerable grace (which takes remarkably little time). I’m honestly not sure from the dialogue, but considering his track record, I’m guessing this was Lucifer’s Plan A all along.

Lucifer then heals up the wound (there’s still some grace there, but Jack looks semi-conscious, at best) and disappears with him in a flash of light. As they do, Sam and Castiel both rush forward to grab them. Castiel is tossed back, but Sam disappears with them. To where, no one knows.

Lucifer lands them in a church, where he beats up first Sam (talking about how they’re going to “break up” permanently now) and then Jack, when Jack tries to stagger to Sam’s aid. Lucifer informs Sam (as if Sam didn’t know) that Jack has killed quite a few people. Sam says it doesn’t matter. As Dean said before, Sam says that Jack is “family.”

Lucifer, always disloyal to his own kin, is unimpressed. He tells Sam that “family blows.” To prove it, he drops his archangel blade in front of them and tells them that one of them can walk out, but not without killing the other (it’s doubtful he intends either of them to survive, but first things first). Lucifer also Evil Overlord monologues about how, if one of them lives, in the seven-to-ten days it would take him to “unravel the universe,” the survivor might figure out how to stop him. Or not. Lucifer fully intends to destroy everything and recreate it in his image.

Sam picks up the archangel blade and hands it to Jack, telling Jack to kill him. Instead, Jack starts to stab himself, telling Sam “I love you. I love all of you.”

Meanwhile, Michael is informing Dean that Lucifer is “juiced up” on Jack’s grace and now powerful enough to destroy the universe. All of the universe (“And you thought I was bad?”). He’s actually all for going to kill Lucifer, but his meatsuit is incapacitated and Lucifer is now much more powerful than before.

Dean has an idea, a horrible, no-good idea that alt-Michael may (or may not, considering he was fully willing to kill Dean before) have already been angling for. What if Michael had his Ultimate Weapon, the Michael Sword? Alt-Michael admits he knows who Dean is (which is a bit puzzling, considering he was just trying to kill Dean and was fully intent on killing Dean first, implying he saw Dean as the greatest threat in this new universe) and further admits that yes, it might be possible, the two of them together, to kill Lucifer.

Castiel starts to protest, but Dean says, “Lucifer has Sam. He has Jack. Cas, I don’t have a choice!”

Ah, but it’s Dean, so Dean has conditions. And before we protest that alt-Michael doesn’t have to honor these conditions, remember Death’s ongoing grumpiness about broken deals. Deals for a major supernaturally powerful being are a big deal in the SPNverse and breaking them has major consequences. So, when Dean calls it “a one-time deal” and flat-out says he will be in charge, with alt-Michael having no say and only providing the power, somewhere, someone with more power than alt-Michael is taking notes.

Just as Jack is slowly, agonizingly stabbing himself to death, a bright light appears behind him. It is DeanMichael (Hunterwings, maybe?), his own archangel sword in hand, just landed and unfolding his wings.

I gotta say, this is a pretty damned awesome image that will surely be copied over and over again this summer. Too bad about the way-over-the-top Ten Commandments music that accompanies it.

Anyhoo, Sam calls Dean’s name and Dean responds in kind, cueing us that this is Dean and not alt-Michael in charge.

Lucifer says, “You let my brother in.”

Dean acknowledges this, saying they had a common goal – “we both want to gut your ass.”

Lucifer charges like a bull and Dean starts off well by kicking him across the room. Unfortunately, the rest of the fight goes less well for Dean, especially once they start flying at each other, though he does quite a bit better than Sam and Jack.

Dean drops his sword and Lucifer starts beating on him in mid-air. Then he decides that stabbing’s too good for Dean (Michael doesn’t even get a mention; Lucifer clearly sees his true nemesis as Dean Winchester) and starts to smite him.

Sam then decides to grab the sword and toss it to Dean in one of the cheesier (and more literal) “wind beneath my wings” moments the show’s produced. Dean grabs it and stabs Lucifer, then falls back to earth as Lucifer blasts light out every orifice, then literally crashes and burns.

Afterward, Lucifer lies amidst the charred and glowing remnants of his wings. Sam and Dean and Jack share a bring “It’s Miller Time!” moment, made temporarily sweeter by Dean correcting Sam’s “You did it!” to “We did it!”

But this is the season finale and we’ve got a few minutes of airtime left, so of course this does not end well.

Dean suddenly doubles over in pain and screams, “We had a deal!” (Remember when alt-Michael screamed that at Lucifer and how that worked out for Lucifer? Just saying.) Then, he straightens up, only what straightens up is no longer Dean.

Sam rather unnecessarily supplies who this new/old being is: “Michael.”

Alt-Michael glances around appraisingly (some really nice acting from Ackles here), then, looking straight ahead, says in a cold and taunting tone to his vessel, “Thanks for the suit.” He flies off, leaving a horrified Sam and Jack.

In the Bunker, Mary and alt-Bobby rush in to find a devastated Castiel.

Later, on a rainy street corner, we see a man walking down the street in 1920s gangster garb (as much as I didn’t care for the Ten Commandments musical cue in the previous scene, I love the hell out of the Untouchables musical cue in this one), looking around him in wonder. He looks like Dean, but … isn’t. Right before the credits roll, the camera freezes on his sinister smile and glowing blue eyes. Michael.

Credits


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The Official “Who We Are/All Along the Watchtower” (12.22-12.23 – Season Finale) Live Recap Thread


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Recap of recent events and a mention of Walt and Roy.

Cut to Now, with Mary killing her way through a list of people to get to Jody.

In the Bunker, Dean suggests murdering the Twat to save air. I’m all for it, but she claims she’s the only one who can undo Mary’s deus ex machina conditioning. They then try searching through the lore (on Sam’s suggestion) and Sam finds a spell that requires virgin’s blood (they have to purify their blood, since no one is a virgin), but it doesn’t work because Ketch put a dampening spell on the Bunker.

On the second day, Dean suggests breaking out, but the walls are too strong. Sam is for giving up and mopes about having been stupid about the LoL. Little late, there, Sam. Sam says he “followed because it was easier than leading.”

Dean’s not for giving up. Annnnd, Genius Dean gets an idea.

He’s gonna use the grenade launcher. The Twat thinks it’s stupid. Well, sure, but desperate times….

Dean fires in the hole.

It’s still dark. Sam looks for Dean, but can’t breathe. And then, the lights turn on. And the air comes back. Dean enters the Bunker, wounded but alive.

So, Mary shows up at Jody’s. The Brothers go through the dead and then rush to Jody’s house. Jody and Alex have her tied up in a chair.

Dean gets all the booze he needs, while Mary digs in the knife. They bring in the Twat, who admits she lied. Mary’s gone. Dean is going to take her out into the cornfield (okay, Jody’s backyard) and the Twat thinks that

Walt and Roy come in and it’s totally anticlimactic. Damn, the writing has sucked this season.

Sam gives a Big Speech about fighting back. He’s going to be a leader now because apparently, these writers can’t even allow Dean that.

Sam wants Dean to come along, saying Dean is better than any ten Hunters. Dean pleads being wounded and that Sam is “ready.” But Sam senses Dean has an ulterior motive. Dean admits he’s going to try to save Mary. They hug.

Jody has a moving moment with Alex, whom she’s sending out of the fight. Jody is going with Sam.

At the LoL Quonset Hut, Henchbitchstress is marshaling the forces of about a handful of LoL to attack … all of America. I facepalm. Really hard.

Ketch asks a redshirt tech to locate and track Mary. He’s a little horrified to discover she’s back at the Bunker. For many reasons.

Dean doesn’t trust the Twat, but she claims all she wants is a “head-start” to go see her son again. I’m sure hoping this is meant to make her a good guy, so we’ll “feel bad” when Ketch or somebody kills her. Because I sure don’t want her to make it out of this episode alive.

Anyhoo, Dean goes into the dreamworld with his mother. Mary is tending to Baby!Sam (of course she is) and feeding Toddler!Dean. It’s a totally different house layout from the Pilot teaser, where Sam had his own room. Really, show? You were too lazy even to recreate that?

Dean tries to talk to Dream!Mary, but she ignores him.

Sam and the other Hunters storm the LoL – in broad daylight, ’cause that’s smart. They start cold-bloodedly taking out the LoL. You know, the human LoL.

I like the new blonde Hunter. I don’t expect her to make it, but I’ll hope, anyway.

Inside, Henchbitchstress in her matching two-piece and pearls, belatedly and over-confidently orders a counterattack. But the Hunters are already inside.

Dean realizes his mother is intentionally choosing to stay in her dreamworld. As she tells Dream!Dean she says she won’t let anything happen to him, Dean says the words fans have been waiting for all season: “I hate you.”

Dean pours out his anger and resentment about the deal she made. He talks about his abandonment and how he got parentified. How Mary’s promise never came true.

Do you think Jensen is selling this? Of course he is.

Annoyingly, Dean still kinda makes the pain All About Sam, but at least he talks about his own pain first. He repeats that he hates Mary. He says he also loves her. Obviously, he’s very confused. He says he can’t help but love her because she’s his mother. He admits he made deals, too (I think that hurts her the most), and that he forgives her. While crying. He insists they can start over, but she has to fight back (clearly, someone watched the season finale of The Exorcist). He says he needs her to “see me.”

Finally, she turns around and looks at him. She recognizes him.

Back in the Bunker, the Twat is trying to escape. Of course. But it’s too late. Dean is yanked of the dreamworld – by Ketch.

The Twat’s already dead. Dammit, I wanted to see that!

Chez LoL, Walt and Roy are getting killed and Sam is confronting Henchbitchstress. Who fleas into a locked

In the Bunker, Ketch is beating up Dean because Dean’s still got that bum leg.

But Dean’s got some moves left. After all, he survived Purgatory. He does some serious damage to Ketch.

Dean: “When you left us alone in the Bunker? Man, I knew you were psycho, but I didn’t think you were stupid.”

Ketch decides to cheat a little further and pulls a gun. But he gets shot first. By Mary. Dean goes to her, kicking Ketch’s gun out of the way.

Ketch [to Mary]: “I knew you were a killer. You both are.”
Dean: “You’re right.” Mary shoots Ketch.

Henchbitchstress tries to get someone from LoL Central to get her out, but they ignore her. The Hunters blast their way in and Henchbitchstress tries to talk her way out by telling Sam (she mistakes him for Dean, I kid you not) Lucifer got out and Crowley’s dead. LoL Central try to back her up. Sam shoots out the LoL commlink. Jody shoots Henchbitchstress. Yay, Jody.

Sam & Co. blow up the LoL Quonset Hut. Well, there’s a kind of satisfaction to blowing the shit out of a storyline that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I’ll give them that.

Dean finds some mega-pain pills (so he’ll be stoned for the rest of the finale). Mary feels really guilty and apologizes to Dean for being a cold, distant bitch. She says she couldn’t face what she’d done to her sons.

Dean tells her her deal didn’t make them “who we are.” They made themselves heroes who “save the world.”

Mary fears Sam will hate her, but Sam returns at that moment. Group hug. Credits.

So, that ends 12.22.

12.21 doesn’t start too well.

So, we get a recap to “Carry On, Wayward Son” of the season so far. It wasn’t very good.

Cut to Castiel and Kelly at a pretty mountain lake. Kelly is trying to build a Swedish crib and mourning that she will never see her child’s face.

Is anybody else mightily offended by this whole woman-as-walking-womb storyline?

Oh, and in case the misogyny wasn’t high enough, when TFW try to contact Rowena, they get Lucifer, who just incinerated her. Because apparently, she wasn’t worth an onscreen death.

To add insult to injury, Crowley’s “rat” resurrects his usual body in a parody of Dean’s resurrection in “Lazarus Rising.”

TFW bemoans about how the writing won’t let them kill Lucifer or send him back to Hell.

Some ball of light is stalking Castiel and Kelly. In case anybody cares. Castiel finds it as a line of light on the beach. When he touches it, he’s transported to a dark place, where a monster attacks him. Somebody shoots the monsters. Castiel recognizes the person and says, “You?”

Trying not to get excited but PLEASE LET IT BE MICHAEL.

More offensive crap with Kelly talking to the naphil, calling him Jack. Show, she’s got a vicious monsters inside her, not cancer.

Crowley shows up and gets punched by Dean. Dean’s going to kill him, and Mary’s on board, but Sam suggests they find out what Crowley knows, first.

Crowley tells them how he escaped inside a rat. They tell him Rowena’s dead. He admits he wanted to keep Lucifer as his personal nuke (because that worked so well with Demon!Dean).

Sam asks why he’s back in the Bunker. Crowley admits they always come out on top, so he’s throwing in with the winning team. Crowley offers to make it worth their while. He’ll seal the gates of Hell.

Back to Kelly wondering where Castiel is. He’s kinda busy, dummy.

Castiel doesn’t tell her where he was. She says her contractions are starting. Castiel goes on a long, boring thing about a doula course he took.

Meanwhile, TFW is heading out to find Lucifer and Dean leaves Crowley Spork-spiked to a table.

Castiel goes to look out the window at the glowing line of light. Kelly thanks him for helping her (pretty sure that’s because he’s brainwashed).

Outside, we get another look at the light.

Recurring The Originals promo for tomorrow night’s ep that reminds how much worse Supernatural could still be.

Kelly asks what vision Castiel had when he joined up with her and he confirms the show is completely ripping off the Jasmine storyline from Angel.

The lights flicker and he goes downstairs. TFW is there. They tell him Lucifer is out and they’re there to help, at least for now.

Dean groans about his knee. An exasperated Castiel heals him. Sam finds the line of light outside.

Castiel says it’s a “tear in space and time.” He calls it an “alternate reality.” Sam and Dean talk about “The French Mistake.”

It’s a manifestation of the child’s power. The Brothers insist on going there with Castiel.

He says it’s an alternate reality of Heaven and Hell fighting forever. He says a “friend” brought him up to speed.

I foresee a whole lot of retconning to get the writers out of the corner they wrote themselves into.

Castiel says he has faith the Naphil won’t hurt anyone. Dean calls Castiel a “dumbass.” Because Castiel is.

In the other world, they meet a Bizarro!Bobby. I so wish I were joking.

Mary gets stuck helping Kelly, while the Brothers find out the alt-world is one where Mary never made a deal to save John (and continued hunting) and the Brothers were never born. So, they never saved the world.

Bobby kills angels for fun, but sensed Castiel was different. Oh, and Rufus is alive.

C’mon, Dean, angel-killing bullets are not new on your world.

Kelly asks Mary if she’d die for her boys the way she will die for “Jack.” Barf. So much barf.

Crowley shows up.

Damn, we could have gotten a final Rowena scene in half the time this freakin’ baby is taking to get born. So dull.

Castiel comes in to talk to Kelly. He seems to be having second thoughts.

Downstairs, the Brothers are gearing up. What happened to all those Hunters that survived from last episode?

Dean talks about TFW and rather reluctantly includes Crowley.

Lucifer shows up. Finally. Took him long enough.

Sam warns Lucifer that Chuck will show up. Lucifer begs to differ. Dean contemptuously asks if Lucifer really intends to “smash all His toys?”

Castiel attacks Lucifer and gets tossed aside. The Brothers flee. Lucifer, like a moron (has he learned nothing?) pursues and finds them going into the rift.

Lucifer likes the new world he arrives in.

Sam tells Lucifer this is the world he wants.

Sam scampers off as Dean lights him up with angel-killing bullets. Dean gets his ass kicked as Sam and Crowley make a spell to trap Lucifer there.

Crowley says they need one more “ingredient – a life.”

Crowley comes out and challenges Lucifer. Sam grabs Dean and gets him back to the rift.

So, are we gonna lose Crowley, after all?

Crowley pulls out an angel blade and stabs himself.

Yep, looks like we’re losing Crowley. Castiel appears for no damned, good reason and attacks Lucifer. Sam drags Dean back through the rift as it closes.

Oh, and the baby is born.

Hmm, diving movie that demonizes sharks. Not-yay.

Castiel stabs Lucifer and comes back through the rift, but then gets stabbed. Lucifer comes through and it was all for nothing.

Just about certain at this point we’re getting a magic reset plot. They’re not gonna kill off this many fan favorites for real.

Mary beats up Lucifer with the magic brass knuckles. He drops his sword, but drags her through the rift.

Oh, and the boring-ass baby is being born. Sam runs inside. Dean mourns over Castiel and looks up at the sky.

Inside the house, Kelly’s dead (yeah, I know. Nobody cares). Sam sees burning baby footprints and follows them into the nursery.

He sees he Naphil. It looks like Lucifer and has glowing eyes.

And that’s the really annoying cliffhanger on which we are left.

I’ll also be simul-recapping on Wayward Children.

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