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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Recap: Pretty standard recap of Chuck’s defeat and Jack Sue’s ascendance, with a brief bit about Castiel’s death.
Cut to Now. Dean is waking up to his alarm at 8am (Why would he set his alarm now? Is that supposed to mean he’s sleeping better?). As he sits up, Miracle the dog runs into the room and jumps up on the bed. Dean cuddles him. Yep. They kept the dog. Frankly, this is the best part of the episode. It’s all downhill from here.
Sam is outside running on a walkway. Both scenes are scored to Van Morrison’s “Ordinary Life.” Instead of “Carry on, Wayward Son.” He comes in and is cooking eggs when Dean strolls into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes (Since when is Sam a good cook?). We then see Sam, shirtless after getting out of the shower, but we only see Dean in his jammies and bathrobe because reasons. If you’re not a Sam fan, don’t expect a lot of fanservice coming your way in “Carry On.”
Later, Sam neatly makes his bed, while Dean half-asses it. Dean washes the dishes (and sneaks the dog some scrambled eggs), while Sam reads a book and does laundry in a rather rickety old dryer. Dean cleans a saltgun, then checks his watch. It’s 10am. He’s in his laptop in the Library, Miracle beside him, as Sam strolls in. Sam sits down and checks out his own laptop, commenting that there’s nothing of their kind of job on social media. Dean doesn’t answer at first. He’s got something.
Cue title cards.
They arrive … at the 43rd Akron Pie Festival. Dean is near tears of joy. He gets six different kinds of pie as Sam sits and waits. Sam mopes about Castiel and Jack, but Dean says that the only way to honor their “sacrifice” is to continue on. But when he offers Sam some pie, Sam pushes it into his face and exclaims that he does feel better, after all. Behind them, a very familiar looking bystander (director Bob Singer doing a cameo) laughs.
At an upscale house, a generic white dude is checking the mail, while his sons play a board game in the living room. As Mom calls them up to bed, a shadow passes behind the front door and then the doorbell rings. Dad goes to answer it, but there’s no one there. Then he’s stabbed to death from behind as he turns back. Two men in skull masks enter the house.
Mom, horrified, turns to the boys and shouts, “Run!” They race upstairs and she after them, as the two men stalk up behind them. The mother shuts the boys in their bedroom, where they hide under a bed. She screams outside as one of the skullface attackers does something to her that makes her collapses to the floor. The kids, hiding under the bed, are dragged out from under it.
Cut to the next day, with Sam and Dean coming up to the house. They talk briefly to a young policewoman, who infodumps that the dad’s throat was ripped out and his body drained of blood (kind of hard to do that to an already-dead body). The kids are missing, but Mom is still alive, albeit with her tongue ripped out. She drew a picture of the skullfaced guys.
Exit Young Policewoman.
Dean says he recognizes the drawing and Sam agrees. Back at the Impala, which is parked under a tree, Dean pulls out John’s journal. It turns out that John once went on a hunt near Akron. It involved a drawing of the same skullface, the same parental murder MO and kids going missing. He was never able to track down either the kids or the cause. Dean is convinced it’s mimes. Sam says it’s more likely to be vampires.
Using the pattern, the Brothers figure that the next target will be a house outside Canton with young kids. Later that night, the skullfaced house invaders do, indeed, show up at such a house. But before they can ring the bell, Dean beheads one and Sam shoots the other twice (once in the skull) with bullets tipped with dead man’s blood.
Once the vamp wakes back up, he’s unmasked and Dean (who is mock-disappointed not to get mimes this time) starts interrogating him. I have a good laugh remembering that time episode writer (and, sadly, final showrunner) Andrew Dabb bragging that he always tried to find the motivations for their MOTWs, what things are like from their POV, because this vamp is stupid. And ridiculously cocky. Well, at least, until the Brothers point out that they have ways of making a beheading take a very long and painful time.
So, it turns out that these vamps have a ridiculous MO, with elements (like the tongue getting ripped out) that are never explained. They kidnap a couple of kids every few years (Cocky Vamp calls it a “harvest”), feed them up well for a while – and then kill and eat them. Lovely. We segue off his once-again-smug face to the Impala arriving outside a barn (I love how no farmers ever seem to notice that shenanigans are going on inside their barns in these episodes).
Sam wonders if it’s really the place.
Dean: Dark? Creepy? Something out of Wes Craven’s erotic fantasy? It’s 100% the place.
As they arm up, Dean wants to bring in some shuriken for once (instead of just the old machete standby), but Sam firmly nixes the idea. For some reason or other. I’d think that shuriken soaked in dead man’s blood would be – oh, I dunno – useful, maybe.
Into the barn they go. It’s wide open and kinda decrepit inside, with hay bales here and there. As the Brothers move through the barn, machetes at the ready, we see they’re stalked by two vampires in skull masks. They hear a noise coming from a door. Dean pulls it open and they find the kids inside a small closet.
Dean quickly and quietly instructs the boys to come out, but just as they’re turning around, they see four vampires blocking their original entrance. Dean tells the kids to run in the opposite direction as he and Sam turn to face the vamps.
The Brothers take the fight to the vamps (Dean calmly saying “Okay”). Sam gets first blood by beheading one vamp, but then gets tackled and knocked out by another one. Dean kills another vamp and disarms one, but then gets pinned down by the two survivors. A woman strolls in, wearing black leather. Dean recognizes her. We get a final “son of a bitch.”
We also get a quick flashback to Season 1’s “Dead Man’s Blood.” In case you (like probably most of us) forgot all about Jenny, she was the victim who got turned in the episode and escaped with the Vampire King’s mistress Kate at the end.
As the other vamps yank him to his feet, Dean starts a jocular conversation with Jenny to distract his enemies from noticing that Sam is waking up and going for his machete. Dean asks if Jenny’s “the Big Boss” now and she says, no, she “just called dibs.”
If you’re expecting any more explanation of where these vamps came from or what their deal is or how Jenny is involved with them or if this is even the entire nest, forget about it. Just as she shows teeth, Sam whacks her head off from behind. This precipitates another fight as Dean breaks free. Dean takes on the bigger one and Sam the smaller one, and Sam still gets his ass kicked hard before he manages to behead the vamp.
Dean is beating pretty hard on his opponent. He’s momentarily tossed across the room past a piece of rebar sticking out of a post for some totally random reason. When he charges back in, the big vamp manages to pick him up and run him across the room again, shoving him up against the rebar.
Some fans are griping that the complaints that Dean got shoved onto a nail are inaccurate because it was actually rebar. Folks, nails and rebar are both fasteners and the set design placed the rebar as if it were just a big nail (not least because rebar isn’t usually used in wood and doesn’t stick out at an angle like that). I’m guessing the logic went something like, “We need Dean to get impaled on a nail, but nails aren’t big enough, so let’s use rebar.” Also, rebar gets rusty pretty quickly, which is a real problem in preservation of things like historic concrete.
Short version: This is not the in-defense-of-stupid-writing hill you want to die on.
Dean is still trying to push the vamp off when Sam comes up behind the guy and beheads him, too, ending the fight. Yes, that’s right – Dean only gets to behead one of the four vampires.
It takes Sam a moment, in the middle of talking about finding the boys and getting them home, to realize that Dean is not coming off the post and that this is because Dean is stuck to it. Dean has to spell out for Sam, using small words uttered past a wall of pain, that he has a piece of rebar stuck through his back. Sam reaches behind Dean and his hand comes back with blood, but Dean won’t let Sam pull him off it because he figures he’d just die sooner.
Ah, Show, you never did bother to learn about anatomy. If this thing were going through Dean’s heart, he’d be dead, already. Ditto if it were going through his Aorta. It ain’t that small. So, just what part of Dean, dear Mr. Dabb, do you think it’s stuck into such that he can’t be pulled off it and rushed to a hospital? He could survive a sucking chest wound, so the lung (which is also back there) shouldn’t be it.
Sam starts to go get their med kit or call 9-11 or do something useful. Instead, he listens to Dean, who woozily begs him to stay with him and proceeds to give a Dying Swan speech. Sure. Listen to the guy going into decompensating hypovolemic shock about his medical care.
Dean tells Sam to take the kids and get away (not that there are any vamps left, as far as I can see). He tells Sam that “you knew it was always gonna end like this. It’s supposed to end like this. Saving People, Hunting Things,” as if he hasn’t been desperately avoiding that fate for years.
When Sam insists he will “find a way” to save Dean (like, I dunno, calling 9-11?), Dean insists that Sam not bring him back from the dead (“It always ends bad”), even though he’s not dead, yet. He then says he’s starting to fade out and “there are some things I need you to hear.” Oh, Dean, even as you’re dying, you have to prop up Saint Sammy.
Pulling his brother closer, Dean tells Sam that he’s “proud” of him (even though Sam was being a total brat to him just a few episodes ago). He starts blowing smoke up Sam’s ass about how Sam was always smarter and stronger than he was, and even stood up to John when they were kids. He recaps the moment in the Pilot when he went to find Sam at Stanford. He says that he “stood outside your dorm for hours” because he was afraid Sam would reject him and it had always been the two of them (well … except the two or four years Sam was at Stanford and the year Dean was in Purgatory, and … ah, never mind. This scene is clearly intended for the Bibros).
Sam starts ugly crying and begs Dean not to leave him. In a total reverse lift from the Pilot, he says, “I can’t do this without you,” Dean says, “Yes, you can,” and Sam replies, “Well, I don’t want to.” Ugh. Reading this script, you’d think this show only ever lasted one season because they sure harp on Season 1 a lot.
Dean then tells him that he’s not “leaving” him, that he will always be with him (he touches Sam’s chest). He even uses the phrase from Jared Padalecki’s mental health charity, “Always keep fighting.” He tells Sam he loves him. He figures he didn’t anticipate this being his last day, but, hey, who does? Then, as the pain starts to overcome him, he shakily begs Sam, “I need you to tell me it’s okay,” over and over again, until Sam tearfully takes his hand and does. Sam adds, “You can go now.”
Dean smiles and lets his hand fall to Sam’s. He says, very quietly, “Goodbye.” Then his hand drops as his head falls forward and he loses consciousness, a single man tear streaming down. The camera cuts to a wide shot of the inside of the barn as Sam really cuts loose with the ugly crying.
I’m wondering why Sam is crying, since now he’ll get a version of Dean who never embarrasses him, never talks back, never argues, because he’ll be imaginary. Wasn’t that always what Sam wanted?
Jensen Ackles does a fine job of acting this slow fade-out, to the point where you can even see Dean’s eyes glazing over and he’s starting to choke for air. And those seem like real tears coming from Padalecki. But damn, the writing in this scene is bad. And it goes on forever. This scene clocks in at seven minutes. That is too damned long, Show. Also, it occurs to me that this scene is written more like a breakup scene than a death scene, in which Dean wants to move on, but feels bad about leaving Sam behind. That dissonance undercuts the emotion rather a lot.
Cut to an external shot during the day, with Sam standing next to Dean’s funeral pyre, Miracle sitting beside him. Dean is wrapped in a shroud. After some hesitation, Sam tosses the lighter onto the pyre and we get an aerial shot as it quickly goes up in a fireball. It’s a whole other long montage, y’all, this time set to Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms.” It’s a good song (about a dying soldier on the battlefield during the Falklands War), but like a lot of good songs used to shore up weak writing on the show, it doesn’t save this scene, or this episode.
Cut to inside the Bunker. Sam is now waking up at the same time as Dean (8am), rather than earlier, as he was before. We see him in the kitchen, wearing Dean’s hoodie (I think it’s Dean’s, but Sam has worn similar ones before) and distractedly cooking scrambled eggs, then moping in the Library, staring at the carved initials on the table, while poor Miracle sits between his legs, desperately trying to signal that he needs to go out and pee.
Sam then visits Dean’s room and sits on the bed, apparently really seeing the room for the first time – the two beer bottles on a nearby table, two saltguns on the wall. He starts to cry, while petting Miracle, who moans sadly, missing Dean (who would have remembered to take him for a walk). Sam then notices a paper on Dean’s desk (some have said it was an application for a job as a cop, which seems bizarre, considering Dean didn’t like law enforcement). But it turns out he’s actually noticing Dean’s Other Other Phone buzzing in the desk drawer, amid a bunch of other phones.
When he answers the call, it turns out to be a cop down in Austin, TX, asking for an Agent Bon Jovi. He’s had some bodies turn up, sans hearts, and another cop named Donna Hanscum gave him this name and number (Oh, hey, good to know she got un-dusted, eh?). While struggling to keep it together, Sam says he’s coming down. We then see him pack up and leave with Miracle (There’s something sad about the way that poor dog has to struggle up the steps), but he turns the lights out on his way out. Seems he’s not coming back. I found this the saddest scene, as in real life, they’ve since torn down that set.
Cut back to the moment when Dean’s body went up in smoke. We see Dean arriving in a mountain clearing. He immediately realizes what’s happening and says, “Well, at least I made it to Heaven.” (Someone asked the very cogent question on Twitter of which Reaper would be willing to ferry Dean’s soul anywhere but The Empty after the events of 15.18.)
Dean hears a familiar voice behind him. It’s Bobby. And he’s sitting outside a roadside bar. It is, in fact, Harvelle’s Roadhouse without the Harvelles. Or Ash. Dean is confused. He doesn’t know what memory this is. He’s even more confused when Bobby tells him it’s not a memory at all. That’s because Dean thought Bobby was still locked up in heavenly jail by the angels – also, that’s how Memorex Heaven is set up.
Bobby proceeds to infodump that Jack showed up, busted him out of “lockup,” made Heaven one big continuous place where everyone is happy (Considering these are humans we’re talking about, I doubt it’s that simple), and “set some things right.” ‘Cause the silliness in this episode was not complete without some offscreen deus ex machina from Jack Sue.
Oh, and “Cas helped.” And that’s all they say about Castiel. Apparently, all of this (including John getting let into Heaven to be with Mary, despite being an abusive dad for 23 years, and Rufus shacking up with Aretha Franklin over the next hill) was to make Dean happy.
Bobby: It ain’t just Heaven, Dean. It’s the heaven you deserve. And we been waitin’ for ya.
Bobby pulls out two beers, hands one to Dean, and says, “It’s a big new world out there. You’ll see.”
After swigging the beer, Dean realizes it’s just like the first one he ever shared with his father, which was terrible beer, objectively speaking, but evokes a wonderful experience. Dean opines that Heaven is “almost perfect,” and Bobby tells him that Sam will “be along.” Bobby adds that “time works differently here.”
[screech!] Wait, what? Okay, besides the whole timey-wimey thing being a direct ripoff of Ben Sisko inside the Wormhole at the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, what happened to Dean wanting to move on? I mean, Dean stopped Sam from getting medical help, let alone anything involving black magic. He was clearly suicidal, which means he wanted to get out of life and leave Sam. So, why is he mooning over Sam now? That makes no sense.
Also, excuse me, but what about Miracle? Is he just chopped liver? Dean clearly loved that dog and it’s been heavily implied since “Dog Dean Afternoon” that at least some animals go to Heaven (okay, maybe not that pigeon).
Bobby asks Dean what he wants to do first. Glancing over, Dean sees the Impala (with its original KAZ 2Y5 plates) sitting nearby and says, “I think I’ll go for a drive.” As he starts her up, we finally get Kansas’ “Carry On, Wayward Son” and Dean comments that he “love[s] this song.”
As Dean revs off down dirt roads and plenty of scenery, we see Sam back on Earth with a young boy (helpfully labeled “Dean” on his toddler overalls). Miracle is now gone, with no explanation. Young Dean grows up with a totally normal life, playing catch with Dad while an off-focus, nameless, dark-haired Mom character in a dress watches from a picture perfect farm house. Because Eileen Who?
Later, we see Sam, now wearing glasses, helping Young Dean with homework. We see he has a photo shrine to his family in the living room. Still later (while Dean is still having fun driving around up in Heaven), we see a much-older Sam, with a really terrible Dollar Tree wig that looks like a Senior Citizen ferret, enter a garage where he keeps the Impala under a tarp. Looking depressed and arthritic, he gets in the driver’s seat, takes off his glasses, grips the wheel, and unhappily reminiscences.
Much later, we see Sam in a hospital bed at home (so, presumably on hospice) with a heart monitor. His son, now full grown and sporting an anti-possession tattoo on his arm, comes in.
Sam has a full beard, and looks old and decrepit. He’s wearing an oxygen cannula. His son tells him the same words he once told Dean, “It’s okay. You can go now.” Sam smiles at his son, and as a much slower tempo cover of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts (not even remotely a fan), he clasps his son’s hand and dies. As his son cries, we pull back to see the photo shrine and two stained glass windows.
Cut to Heaven, where Dean is arriving on a bridge from his jaunt and a generic acoustic guitar version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts up. He’s wearing the black jacket and red plaid shirt that he wore in the Pilot. He gets out and goes to the railing, looking over the river with a wistful smile. Then he gets a look of recognition and smiles broadly. “Hey, Sammy,” he says and turns around. Sam is there, looking the way he does at the beginning of the episode, but wearing his clothes from the Pilot. They hug and look over the river.
Credits (for the showrunners)
We get a brief coda of Ackles and Padalecki in the same clothes on the bridge. They each thank the audience, then the camera pulls back to show Jim Beaver, Bob Singer, and the crew on either side of them.
More Credits (for everyone else)
Ratings for this new episode went up to 0.4 in the A18-49 demo and 0.5 in the A25-54 demo, as well as 0.2 in the A18-25 demo, and 1.38 million in audience. The retrospective leading into the show got 0.3 in the A18-49 demo, 0.4 in the A25-54 demo, 0.2 in the A18-25 demo and 1.195 million in audience. The series finale the highest audience for the show since 14.18.
Review: This is gonna be long – like, even-longer-than-my-”Swan Song”-review long. And if you loved the episode, you should probably stop here. Sorry in advance.
Okay, this episode was pretty bad. No, it wasn’t so bad that it makes me want to throw away my DVDs or not want go back and finish up the retro reviews (which is how I did feel about “Swan Song.” I hated that episode). I didn’t see it as homophobic or racist, as some disappointed fans have claimed, though there were some really questionable decisions regarding the (absent) female characters. So, it wasn’t a worst case scenario.
But Lord, it sure wasn’t good, either. I’m pretty sure that if the show had actually bothered to ask Dean fans what we wanted as a good ending for him, the collective answer to “Carry On” would have been along the lines of “Mmm, not this.”
The best I can say about “Carry On” is that it only really ended Sam’s story. For Dean, it was just another Thursday. The show basically wrote Sam out by detailing the entirety of the rest of his mortal existence. Dean, on the other hand, finally broke up with Sam (yay) and moved on to a higher plane. But then the show had him … drive around in a car in Heaven until Sam showed up. Really? What does that say about Dean that he had nothing better to do with his heavenly days but wait for Sam? He couldn’t have at least gone looking for Castiel?
That kind of passivity is totally OOC for Dean in recent years. We’ve seen that Dean gets up to lots of things when Sam’s not around. Hell, Dean downright blossomed as a person whenever Sam was absent. So, shoving him back into the eternal cubbyhole of brotherly codependency and holding Sam’s cape, while Sam went on to have a normal human life, was gross. In the end, the show insisted on going back to the obsolete idea that Sam was the only protagonist in the story and that everyone else (including Dean) existed just to get him further down the road. Wow. That’s really cynical.
And no, Show, it didn’t help that y’all made Sam look totally miserable the entire time he was having the apple pie life. How is that fair to his (nameless cipher of a) wife and son? He couldn’t even enjoy his life with them a little bit for their sake? Come on, what is wrong with y’all? I feel sorry for the writers’ families if this is truly how they perceive their loved ones. Holidays sure must be fun Chez Dabb, Kripke and Singer.
This looks like a pretty good spinoff idea to me
Now, on the plus side, that car ride concept was really vague. Bobby did say Dean could do whatever he wanted up there and it does seem that Heaven was restructured largely to make him happier (which, not-so-coincidentally, made a whole lot of other human souls in Heaven happier, too). Lots of things Dean could have been doing, while waiting for Sam to show up, for that inevitable spinoff the network still desperately wants. Singer and Dabb may have done their utmost to burn this all down as they went out the door, but they didn’t quite succeed (or maybe the network wouldn’t let them).
I think you could fit an entire series of any length in there about Dean and Castiel fixing up the SPNverse to make it a kinder and fairer place (make some arrangement with The Empty, break Benny out of Purgatory, give Kevin either a life or a free ride to Heaven, check up on Rowena, that sort of thing), so that Sam and his family and people like them could live a normal life, saf(er) from monsters. Throw in the Wayward Sisters as allies/weekly protags and for MOTWs to keep the budget reasonable. I would watch the shit outta that. In fact, if this were twenty years ago, I might have sat down and written the series, the way I wrote that Joe and Methos series after Highlander ended and Raven gravely disappointed me (and I liked Amanda, too) (https://thesnowleopard.net/arch2.html).
But this episode? Nah, I didn’t cry. I was too annoyed. It was self-indulgent and maudlin. And even with months and months for the showrunners to come with something good, it felt half-assed and slapped together, writing-wise.
A brief(ish) Master Class on endings
So, let’s carry on and carve up this turkey, and while we’re at it, let’s have ourselves a Master Class in how to end a story.
First of all, remember how Eric Kripke had his Author Insert character Chuck claim at the end of “Swan Song” that “endings are hard”? That’s a load of bollocks. Endings are not any harder than the rest of the story, if you have set that story up properly. Both “Swan Song” and “Carry On” weren’t good because the writers did not set them up properly. Not only were they not good endings, they weren’t even good episodes.
Lack of proper setup for the ending we got is the real reason why, for example, so many fans hate-hate-hated the endings for How I Met Your Mother and Game of Thrones. In How I Met Your Mother, the writers kind of resolved the central conflict of the title, but then made it utterly pointless by killing off the Mother and getting the male protagonist together with a regular female character they felt he had more chemistry with. If that’s not a big “screw you” to the entire premise of the story, I don’t know what is. It’s always a bad idea to make fans feel they’ve just wasted several years of their lives watching your show.
Of course fans felt they’d been served a bait-and-switch since that’s precisely what it was. They’d been baited with the idea they were watching a story about how the protagonist was going to meet The One, then the writers switched her out for a different character entirely.
I doubt there would have been too many objections to it turning out that Robin had been the Mother character all along, and that the audience was being shown that meeting and courtship without having realized it. That’s not a bait-and-switch. That’s a reveal. There is nothing wrong with a reveal, especially if the pairing was already popular. But, for whatever reason, the writers didn’t do that and they ended up ruining the entire series for a whole lot of fans.
The Game of Thrones showrunners managed to ruin its ending so badly that mainstream media gleefully reported on the backlash, at least one spinoff/prequel got scuppered, and the two of them went into hiding as their careers hit a massive iceberg. Now, Benioff and Weiss got their jobs thanks to blatant nepotism and White Guys Failing Upward Syndrome in the first place, so they may well have a comeback down the road. But it’s going to be a while.
So, what happened?
For a start, Benioff and Weiss badly misread the zeitgeist room. Turning a unique, heroic, popular, female lead character on a dime into a supervillain may have been sexist and misogynistic at even the very best of times, but if there were such a best time, #MeToo 2019 sure as hell wasn’t the year. It would be as if the Canadian dark fantasy show Lost Girl‘s showrunners had listened to the fans who whined that getting Bo together with Lauren as the Final Couple was too conventional and gotten her back together with Dyson, instead. Not sure where two women in a love triangle getting to run away together and live happily ever after is the conventional ending, but I’d like to live on that Planet Lesbos, please.
As far as Game of Thrones, apologists continue to maintain that the character who went nuts and burned a city always had the potential to go that way (partly because many of them were fans of her rival, who was a far more, uh, traditional Lady Macbeth type who got men to do her dirty work for her). Well, yeah, Daenerys had a dark side, but so did all the characters who survived the end. I mean, one of those survivors slaughtered an entire house and served its patriarch his own sons in a pie. Yet, they all got happy Disney endings they didn’t deserve.
Plus, the revolutionary message this character promoted that “Slavery is bad” got jettisoned in favor of yet another reactionary round of “Let’s put another ineffectual king on top for no good reason and have another civil war 15 years down the road about our choice because having a ruling queen is so much worse.” Benioff and Weiss didn’t help their cause by having pitched an alternate history series in which the Confederacy (and slavery in the United States) survived the Civil War, that HBO took its sweet time passing on. “Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss, and it’s that grand?” was not a well-received message in 2019. It’s aged even worse in 2020.
And it’s not as though it’s hard to figure out how to do an ending to either of these shows. In one, the protagonist meets Mother and we find out who she is. In the other, someone wins a throne. It’s not that hard.
Let’s look at an ending that did work (or that the fans did at least end up accepting and that didn’t ruin a franchise). Revenge was a nifty little serial on ABC about a young woman named Amanda (or was she?) whose childhood was utterly ruined when her father was arrested and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and she spent much of her adolescent years in a child’s psych prison (basically). It turned out her father David had crossed the patriarch of the most powerful family in the Hamptons by sleeping with his wife Victoria (who turned out to be the one responsible for getting Amanda sent off to the poorhouse and, if possible, was even more evil than her husband).
Amanda returned as a young woman, determined to have revenge (hence the title) on this family. In the process, she hooked up with a bunch of allies the family had also screwed over. She ingratiated herself into the family by dating the son and getting engaged to him (much to Mama Victoria’s impotent rage). She had a plan. The uncertainties lay in whether or not she’d be able to pull it off and whether or not she’d lose her soul (metaphorically, since this wasn’t fantasy) in the process. It’s no coincidence that the series finale is called “Two Graves.”
When it wasn’t clear if they would get a renewal after season three, the showrunners wisely decided to end with an absolutely brutal (but apparently final) ending. First of all, the patriarch managed to bribe his way into a prison escape (after having his crimes exposed and being handed a long sentence), only to be knifed and left dead on the road by a man who turned out to be Amanda’s long lost (and presumed dead) daddy. Meanwhile, Victoria murdered by poison a man with whom Amanda had fallen in love (I did say she was worse). Devastated by her lover’s death, Amanda managed to get Victoria committed to a private psychiatric facility, where no one believed her protestations of sanity – probably because vindictive Victoria was nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake.
It was bitter. It was apt. And frankly, it was just where Victoria should have ended up.
But then they got another season.
The show then reunited Amanda near the beginning of season four with her father in a troubled, but psychologically realistic reunion, broke Victoria out of her One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest accommodations after a few juicy episodes, set the three of them on a collision course – and, oh, yeah, revealed that Victoria’s troubled and angry daughter was actually David’s kid and Amanda’s half-sister. And they left the dead patriarch dead.
In the end, David ended up shooting Victoria stone dead when Victoria was about to shoot Amanda (who ultimately never killed anyone in the entire series, as she once bitterly pointed out to someone who got salty about her vigilante ways, in the midst of accepting her help). Amanda got married to her childhood love (the wedding allowing a logical gathering of the show’s surviving characters) and reconciled with her sister, after spending some final months with her father, who was dying of cancer. Storylines got wrapped up, questions were answered, emotional moments were properly milked, and characters got what they fully deserved.
Oh, and by the way? Both seasons three and four spent the entire season building up to those endings. Was the show overwrought? Yes. I mean, just look at all the ellipses in the above paragraphs – and I simplified a lot. Were the storylines pure nighttime soap? Quite frequently. But I can about guarantee you that if you got hooked on the show and wanted to see how it turned out, you wouldn’t be sorry.
Revenge is not unique in this respect. Breaking Bad, The Good Place, Battlestar Galactica (the remake), Defiance, Lost Girl, Smallville, Being Human (the U.S. Version), even Sons of Anarchy, all of these shows managed to stick a satisfying landing. It’s. Not. That. Hard.
Look, any of the cliffhanger endings for the first four seasons of Supernatural, as brutal as they were, would have been good endings in the “But what happens next?” sense. Ditto if the show had ended with 15.18. Sure, a lot of fans would have screamed about it for years (and can you blame them?), and it would have been bleak as hell, but it would have worked. These were episodes where central conflicts were resolved and important questions answered, even if the resolutions and answers were not happy ones. At the very least, how many fans really would have kept yelling that Dean was a homophobe if our last actual shot of him had been his ignoring Sam’s call, while weeping in despair over Castiel’s death?
On a happier note, Season 11’s ending with that London Men of Letters nonsense coda taken out would have worked fine. Just have Dean meet Sam and the rest of TFW at the bar or back at the Bunker, cue a bro-hug, and it would be all good. As for those screaming that Sam got mostly left out of the resolution of the s11 Amara plot, hey, Dean held Sam’s cape for most of Season 5, too. It’s not as though Sam has received no mytharc love in this show.
Like an hour-long music video, with commercials
So, what didn’t “Carry On” (or, for that matter, “Swan Song”) get right? I mean, aside from the fact that the writers set up this whole final confrontation with The Empty the past few episodes and then didn’t even mention her in the series finale? A major problem with both episodes is their basic structure. Whenever you think of “Carry On” (or “Swan Song”), tell me the words “really long montage” and/or “episode-long music video” never pop up.
Sure, earlier seasons had a lot of montages to Classic Rock, including “wasting” great songs on beginning recaps. And I’ve even complained in those early season reviews that there were times when the back-to-back songs from Kripke’s childhood mixtapes got a bit much. But as often as those montages could be overkill, they usually involved actual story, rather than a rushed plotline (Sam’s “happy life” after Dean, Dean driving the Impala through pretty, heavenly forests and mountains – it was pretty obvious which actor was having the most fun filming those scenes).
And it was quite annoying when the showrunners decided a while back that all that Classic Rock was no longer necessary on a weekly basis. In fact, the recent lack of Classic Rock was all the more glaring for what they shoved into “Inherit the Earth” and “Carry On,” especially when they replaced the original Kansas version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” with what some fans have called the “Evanescence version,” a horribly insipid cover that they used for the climax of the story in the fourth act for some unknown reason.
But “Carry On” and “Swan Song” were almost more montage than they were anything else. There is, for example, that self-indulgent montage about the history of the Impala at the beginning of “Swan Song” that is now somehow more infuriating for being smugly narrated by what we now know was a manipulative and uncaring God. I don’t have anything against learning more about the backstory of the Impala, but a long and boring montage at the beginning of what could have been the final episode of the series was not the time or way to deliver it.
Why is Heaven so dull?
Similarly, okay, the scenery was spectacular during Dean’s drive near the end of “Carry On,” but that whole scene felt completely out of place. It didn’t look anything like how we’d seen Heaven in past episodes (personally, I loved the nighttime nod to the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the episode of the same name, much more interesting than the Heavenly Cubicals concept in later seasons). Dean made it pretty clear when he commented that it wasn’t a memory of his (when talking to Bobby), that he had no emotional connection to it.
So, why is this now part of his view of Heaven? Why are we having this montage set to scenery that has no emotional resonance or meaningful subtext for Dean and his life journey? What is the show trying to say about him in this scene? That he always loved to live his life on the backroads of British Columbia? As usual, the writers’ intent for Dean is left too murky and subject to interpretation, while theirs for Sam is banged home with no subtlety whatsoever.
I’ve heard that the bridge where he eventually stops and meets Sam is the same one where they encountered the Woman in White in the Pilot (or, at least, is supposed to represent it since that bridge was in California and the bridge at the end is in North Vancouver). This is backed up by the show dressing Sam and Dean in the same clothes in Heaven we saw them wearing in the Pilot. Why would Dean want to remember that in Heaven?!
I have no idea why the writers hate Dean so much, but I wish they’d stop
There’s a scene near the beginning of “Carry On” that sums up for me how disrespectful the showrunners (and too many of the writers) seem to be toward even one of their own leads, let alone the show’s recurring characters. It’s when Sam shoves the pie into Dean’s face, while showrunner (and director of the episode) Bob Singer giggles in the background. As with the driving montage, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Sure, Dean loves pie (and this may have been a prank Jared Padalecki played on Jensen Ackles, per pie pranks they both used to play on guest directors who were also actors on the show), but why is it in here? And why does Bob Singer have a cameo in it?
Later, in the middle of that interminable scene when Dean dies for the final(?) time, I was struck by how they had actually fridged one of their leads to motivate the other lead. Sure, they’d fridged Dean in the past to motivate Sam, but since this was the final time, it seemed especially aggravating. Once again, they had taken all the amazing character development and mythological significance they had built up for Dean for who now knows what reason just two episodes ago and ditched it in order for Dean to be, once again, All About Sam. Even in Heaven.
To this day, I still don’t know what hair the showrunners (except for Jeremy Carver) and some of the writers had across their asses about Dean and Jensen Ackles, but I wish they’d gotten over it. Or at least grown some professionalism. The writing inside the show was bad enough, but I can’t even with all the passive-aggressive snark they slung his way in interviews for 15 seasons. It was as if Wesley from “Wishful Thinking” had been running the show these past few years.
Let’s talk about representation
This is why I have such mixed feelings about calling the show “homophobic.” Over the years, Supernatural has actually had a lot of quite-good representation. For example, people complain about the lack of racial representation (please, as if this isn’t a problem endemic to the television and film industry), but I saw other shows copy the Agent Henriksen character for years after Supernatural wrote him out (after three seasons) and Sterling K. Brown, who played Gordon Walker, went on to win a well-deserved Emmy for his work on This Is Us. That tells you something about how far ahead of the curve the show already was on that score.
I will definitely agree that shows like Black Lightning and films like Black Panther (RIP Chadwick Boseman, who would have turned 44 today) are much better representation of African Americans than Supernatural ever could be, but they also came out over a decade after Gordon Walker and Henriksen were introduced as recurring and important antagonists on Supernatural. It was a very different television landscape in 2007.
Similarly, the show has had quite-broad representation of GLBT people. When I see complaints about the show’s alleged lack of representation, I see a lot of errors. For example, complaints very often get the number of GLBT in the show and their fates wrong (Alt-Charlie and her girlfriend were alive as of 15.19; Kaia is not dead and got back together with Claire after escaping the Bad Place; the two guys from “The Chitters” were still alive and together last time we saw them, ditto the two bow-hunters who got cupided at the end of season eight). Some are simply left out, either gatekept (I can’t even with those who claim Crowley wasn’t gay, or that he surely couldn’t have had that really obvious fling with Dean during their “Summer of Love”) or forgotten (remember Jenna from the Season 11 premiere? Nobody else does). And while I had a lot of problems with what happened to the Banes clan (notably, how two women of color got fridged to motivate a male family member), the gay kid was still the only survivor.
I’d also like to point out that all of the above did confessions of love and had active sex lives (including original Charlie, who lasted four seasons of alley-catting after other girls before being fridged for totally different reasons), but weren’t killed off right after them. The show also had Godstiel declaring in the Season 7 premiere that he didn’t give a hoot about sexual orientation (God is fine with gays, homophobic bigots not so much), Charlie briefly going to Heaven with her family in the Oz episode (being gay doesn’t condemn you to Hell), alt-Charlie having the same sexual orientation as her Earth Prime counterpart (that you’re born gay, that it’s not just a “lifestyle”), asexual and gender-swapping angels and demons and even monsters, references to gay marriage years before it was made legal, and major characters like Dean being pretty okay with all that.
So, we’re really talking about Castiel and Dean, and yes, there are major problems with those two characters and their respective fates. It’s just that they were hardly the only rainbow characters on the show and the show explicitly demonstrated tolerance toward GLBT when it wasn’t yet fashionable and other CW shows certainly weren’t doing it. Credit where credit is due.
I guess Dean and Castiel weren’t protagonists, after all
Let’s talk about Dean and Castiel. Someone rather bitterly (but not inaccurately) said on Twitter that if Dean had never come for Sam at Stanford, Sam would have gone on to become a lawyer, get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean would have died by some monster, young and alone. Fifteen seasons later, Sam went on to get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean died (relatively young) by some monster. Others noted (equally bitterly) that Castiel got killed off saving Dean, only for Dean to die pointlessly two episodes later.
So, I guess Death and the Natural Order won, after all. Somewhere in The Empty, Billie is having a good laugh at the Winchesters’ expense.
These two points have merit and there’s a reason for that. The fact that the showrunners catered to fans who wanted 15 versions of Season 1 was a huge part of the problem with the finale.
First, quite aside from whether or not Dean was gay, Dean was always That Character who was a wacky, unstable, somewhat-morally-gray foil for the Traditional Hero. Basically, the showrunners always saw Dean as the Sidekick and a Sidekick’s death is what he eventually got.
Sam then got the Hero’s ending where he retired and had a Life. Yes, he was reunited in Heaven with Dean (while Dean waited around for him), but that was just re-casting Dean in the Dead Girlfriend role. Instead of Jessica waiting for Sam in Heaven, it was Dean. Castiel, of course, got killed off because he was a bromance rival for Dean’s affections (remember how viciously jealous Sam was about Dean’s friendships with Benny and Crowley? Like that).
So, it made sense that fans got salty. I remember getting into the show back in Season 2, in large part because I liked Dean and was surprised the show hadn’t yet killed him off. I guess they were just taking their time.
I’m sure the writers didn’t consciously think it was anything personal, but when you had Kripke and Dabb (who were heavily influenced by Vertigo comics), and Singer and the Nepotism Duo (who were stuck back in 1990s genre writing, at best) at the helm, it’s probably not a surprise that in the end, they never broke that mold. Annoying that they ended up fluffing Sam like a Pan Am Airline pillow? Yes. Disappointing? Definitely. But not really surprising.
It’s still homophobia, even if you didn’t mean it
This is where you get the misogyny and homophobia. I’ve talked in the past about how male script writers, despite professing to despise romance, use its tropes all the time to avoid accusations that their male leads might be gay (for each other). We see this a lot with Sam and Dean in earlier seasons. Dean snarks about Sam engaging in “girly” pursuits like theater, while Sam appears to be more ostentatiously “liberal” and socially sensitive (Dean even ruefully admits this in “Scarecrow” very early on).
But we soon find that this is just a mask for both of them. Dean quickly begins to show both bohemian and egalitarian views. There’s the snark about Sam being like the “normal” daughter on The Munsters or Dean’s handing Kat the saltgun in “Asylum” simply because she knows how to handle a gun and her date doesn’t (it doesn’t matter to him that she’s a girl). Dean is the brother who is used to “validate” the existence and experiences of gay characters and couples in the story, who learns many lessons about tolerance over the course of 15 seasons. It’s also shown that his first love was biracial and we see him bond with both Gordon Walker and, eventually, Agent Henriksen.
In contrast, Sam is defined by his desperation to fit in to whitebread, straight, patriarchal Middle America. He is very conventional in a lot of ways and either ignores or even rejects opportunities to grow beyond that. He has a rigid law-and-order side where he pretty much has no use for the convicts in “Folsom Prison Blues” and couldn’t care less if the ghost kills them or not. He doesn’t react at all to gay characters because he never has close conversations with them and therefore, we never see any growth in that area. Similarly, he only dates white girls and there’s never even a hint that he’s attracted to any women of color. If anything, his irrational antipathy toward Billie is a tad problematic.
And Sam is always … uh … more traditional, shall we say, in how he interacts with female guest stars. It’s just kind of funny how the Sam-oriented female characters always fall into the Damsel in Distress (or Femme Fatale) mode, whereas Dean meets a much broader range of girls.
This leads us to the second point. From almost the very start, one of the showrunners’ favorite online gags was to have ordinary people mistake Sam and Dean for gay lovers, no matter how much they protested that they were brothers. This trope is fairly problematic in that even characters who fancy themselves “liberal” (such as the guy in the Christmas shop in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”) can’t seem to conceive of two straight guys traveling the country together, let alone demonstrating affection toward each other. Surely, they can’t be brothers. They must be gay.
While one could argue the writers were satirizing the tendency of some Americans (particularly on the West Coast) to mouth liberal values while having loads of unexamined conservative ones under the surface, I don’t think most of the writing was that deep. As in, I don’t think that was intentional satire so much as the writers’ unexamined cultural values oozing out as unintended subtext. Ben Edlund, lookin’ right at you.
It gets yet more more problematic in the Brothers’ varying reactions. After initially trying to correct people, Dean generally just rolls with it (in “Bugs,” for example), while Sam gets suuuuper uptight. Now, admittedly, the incest angle does make it squicky, but I don’t think that’s why the writers were making Sam clutch his manpearls over it.
Remember that Sam was always show creator Eric Kripke’s Author Insert and fictional alter ego. It seems pretty clear that while Kripke wanted everyone to see Sam as tolerant (because he’s supposed to represent Kripke’s own values and to make Kripke look good), he really didn’t want anyone to think Sam was gay. After a while (mercifully), they got tired of baiting the Wincest crowd and dialed it way back. That wasn’t until after Kripke left, though.
But the writers were not done with this. We also had the cracks about the Brothers’ looks – especially Dean’s – and some really rapey stuff aimed at Dean. I mean, after all the male monsters who sexually assaulted and/or tried to kill Dean, it’s a surprise he didn’t end up homophobic.
Yeah, we had some uncomfortable stuff for Sam about prison rape from Fauxifer in Seasons 6 and 7, but most of the rapey stuff (like the infected guy threatening Dean with a good time at the roadblock in “Croatoan”) was aimed at Dean. Male characters very, very frequently commented on Dean’s looks in a hostile and condescending way, while women complimented Sam’s. We even got a shirtless scene for Sam in “Carry On,” with none for Dean.
We did have scenes like Ted Raimi’s character Wesley in “Wishful Thinking” complaining (erroneously) that both Brothers’ good looks made life easier for them. But most of the time, the show commented positively about Sam’s looks (like all the drooling various women did over Sambot in Season 6), while Dean’s good looks were often played for laughs. He was too pretty, too … you know … metrosexual to be accorded respect as a “real” man. You had things like the “It’s like staring at the sun” line from “Tall Tales” on one end and on the other, you had the mean-spirited “Ken Doll” line from “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.”
Every time such a line popped up, I’d be reminded of how often the showrunners and writers looked like trolls coming out from under a bridge whenever they appeared at cons. Sure, they’re just ordinary-looking people, and they’re getting paid for their wordsmithing not their looks. Nothing wrong with that. But they’d show up at SDCC in faded t-shirts and old jeans, frequently looking like complete slobs.
Most of them didn’t even try to dress up for media appearances (only the women, funny that). They were like That Guy who shows up to your blind date wearing the same clothes he’s been gaming in for three days. You tried to dress up a bit because you wanted to impress this dudebro, but could he be bothered to impress you? Nope. He felt entitled to your presence and attention.
The Supernatural writers, especially post-Season 11, too often acted like that – entitled to our attention, not obligated to tell us a decent story, and frequently feminizing the entire audience as “irrational fangirls,” then being patronizing about it. Yet, they also spent 15 seasons collectively looks-shaming Jensen Ackles in a pretty homophobic way. There was a whole lotta problematical going on there. Too often, the writers came off like Black Pill Incels ranting in some obscure chatroom about “Chads” like Dean. Worse, yet, they spent a lot of time slutshaming Dean, simply for liking to interact with the women he had sex with, as real people who also liked sex.
It didn’t help that around Season 6, after Jensen Ackles answered a con question about ad libbing on the show, lead showrunner Bob Singer made a bitchy comment that all the lines belonged to the writers and there was hardly any ad libbing. Then, come to find out, the writers would actually write stuff in where they’d expect Ackles to ad lib. This was not the only time Singer would downmouth Ackles in interviews. I don’t know what Singer’s problem with Ackles was, but I wish he’d dealt with it better.
Chekhov’s Saltguns on Dean’s wall
The worst part of it was the pointlessness of Dean’s death. I’ve seen the fanon excuse that it was because Chuck wasn’t writing the script, anymore, so they no longer had plot armor. First of all, we saw Hunters on the show who hunted for decades without getting killed. Yeah, it would happen eventually, but Sam and Dean were experienced Hunters and those Juggalo vampires were lame. Also, I guess I’m glad we finally know Jenny’s toast, but I wanted to see Kate buy the farm, actually. That was an underwhelming and underdeveloped final MOTW. Dean deserved a better exit.
This “Oh, Sam and Dean couldn’t possibly last for long without Chuck’s help” excuse is nonsense. Nor is it a good excuse for Dean only managing to kill one vampire while Sam killed three (and didn’t end up impaled on some rebar). It’s long been canon that Dean is a better Hunter than Sam. That he’s got far more experience. Hell, right after his defeat, Chuck was the one who called Dean “The Ultimate Killer.” So, don’t sell me this nonsense, Show, that you killed Dean off like that because it was “realistic.” Talk about violating the precept of Chekhov’s Gun.
Second, Chuck already took away the Brothers’ plot armor several episodes ago. What they had while fighting him in the final third of season was the luck they got from Fortuna. It didn’t come from Chuck, therefore it wasn’t about to evaporate once Chuck got depowered (and why the hell would Jack decide to take away any plot armor Chuck gave to Sam and Dean, anyway? Aren’t we supposed to believe Jack loved and cared for them?). So, no, it doesn’t make any sense for Dean to just die like that.
There’s a writing principle I’ve talked before about called Chekhov’s Gun (Thanks to Mandi Gordon for reminding me). This was first introduced by Anton Chekhov, a late-19th century Russian playwright. It basically states that any elements introduced in a story should have a purpose, or they don’t belong in the story. Chekhov’s analogy was that if you had a rifle on the wall, it needed to be fired at some point in the story, preferably sooner than later.
As I’ve said in the past, the show had many, many Chekhov’s Guns for Dean that they never fired. In fact, it became almost a running gag for the writers to introduce stuff for Dean that would have been momentous for Sam, or indeed any other character, and then dismiss it as not important. For example, Dean has killed two versions of Death, the latest just two episodes before the end of the show. But basically nothing came of it. You risk disappointing your audience with that kind of nonsense.
Normally, the writers were much more assiduous about making sure all of Sam’s Chekhov’s Guns got fired off, but they even left some big ones lying around for him. Notably, they built up a romantic relationship with Eileen that went nowhere (pretty literally), to the point where we never even learned her ultimate fate. But they also carefully built up this idea of Sam as the Hunter King to the alternate universe Hunters, before simply ditching all that in the series finale when he retired.
Now again, as I said before, my problem with Dean’s dying was not his death per se as the pointlessness of it. Dean was loooooonnnnng overdue (since before his Mark of Cain storyline) to leave his mortal life behind, to change state and become a fully supernatural being. He kinda had to die a mortal death for that to occur.
If, for example, the show had bothered to remember that he had once been Death for a day and have him come back as the new Death (being the first “Reaper” to die since the previous Death did). I’d have been okay with that. In fact, that would have been a great way to resolve The Empty storyline (Dean agrees to help The Empty Entity go back to sleep) and get Castiel out of there. And it would have fired off the Chekhov’s Gun of Dean subplot interactions with Death all these years.
If, when Dean first arrived in Heaven, Bobby told him that Sam would be along presently, and was having the normal life he’s always wanted, but that Heaven needed Dean now to put some things right, I’d have been okay with that, too. That would have explained the timing of Dean’s death much better. Hell, it would have been really nice for the writers to remember that Dean was the Servant of Heaven, so of course Heaven was changed on his behalf.
But the show didn’t do any of that and it never intended to do that, as far as I can tell from the cast and showrunner interviews.
Instead, we had toxic codependency taken to cosmic levels. And this is coming from someone who didn’t need a stereotypically happy ending. I wanted a good ending, one that made sense. This is a horror show and there should have been a horror ending that showed something important and final (or at least cyclical) about the SPNverse.
Disappointed actors galore
One could argue that if Jensen Ackles was fine with all this nonsense, who are we the audience to judge? Well, for one thing, I can still love Jensen Ackles to bits and still say that something he said he loved that Dean did on the show didn’t work for me. For another thing, Ackles is on record as not liking the ending.
I won’t exaggerate what he said and claim that he hated it (his exact words were “I wasn’t feeling it”), but he says that he and Jared Padalecki were called to a meeting a year ago last summer with the writers where the writers pitched them the idea for this final episode and he did not like it. He claims that after a conversation with Eric Kripke, he reconciled himself to it, but since it’s doubtful he could have backed out of it or changed anything, I suppose it doesn’t matter whether he ever started to like it or not.
So, if they could even do that to one of their leads, I guess it’s no surprise what they did to other recurring characters (and I’m not just talking about Castiel). At least Castiel got a single mention, along with Jack. I mean, I couldn’t care less about Jack. His story seemed quite finally over at the end of 15.19, but he did get mentioned.
But for the rest, it was Oh, Yeah, Donna Told Me To Call and Eileen Who? (since 15.18). Okay, so Covid had hit by the time “Carry On” was filmed, but one single friggin’ line of dialogue from Sam, a conversation on the phone where we only got his side of it, hell, a text, even, and they could have had him go off with Eileen for the rest of their lives. It felt as though the show intentionally isolated Sam and Dean from everyone else in the final episode so they could once again become codependently focused on each other for the hot minute Dean got to enjoy having total Free Will (oh, we will get into that in just a bit) before he was fatally hung up on a nail – literally hung out to dry by the writers.
Also, what was with the total lack of guest stars not named Bobby Singer? Come on, Show, you do special effects all the time. You couldn’t have greenscreened some people into Heaven? Or had them on Zoom calls or speaking from off-camera? Or at least given them some shoutouts like Mary and John and Rufus, had a bit more expositional dialogue instead of the endless montages and forcing Ackles into an interminable death scene in which Dean spends the entire time blowing smoke up Sam’s ass? What happened to wrapping things up?
Saving People and Hunting Things? Not so much
It doesn’t help that the apparent original ending (bringing back a bunch of guest stars at the end to greet Dean in Heaven) was loaded with Unfortunate Implications. I mean, I actually quite liked the final coda, where the crew appeared with Ackles and Padalecki on the bridge. That was a nice shout-out to the real heroes of the show (it definitely wasn’t the showrunners and writers, most of the time).
Consider the implications of such a scene. The entire point of Saving People and Hunting Things is improving people’s lives by saving innocents from predators. If they’re all in Heaven now, that means Sam and Dean failed because everyone they saved died before even Dean did. That’s depressing.
Even more depressing is what Sam did after Dean died. He retired. Not only did he retire, but he shut down the Bunker, locked it up, and took it away as a resource for other Hunters (I mean, did he even go to that hunt in Austin?). We don’t even know what happened to Dean’s dog.
This basically erases Dean’s legacy on the earth. So, what if Sam named his son Dean (Why couldn’t the kid have been a daughter?) and gave him an anti-possession tattoo? He essentially burned down the network he and his brother had built up and just … walked away. And ended up in a nasty old wig from Dollar Tree.
Padalecki has claimed that five years actually passed between Chuck’s defeat and Dean’s death. He also claimed that Eileen was the woman in the blurry background, that Sam married her (Then why didn’t she end up in Heaven with him? And what was she doing while Sam was still living in the Bunker with Dean?).
This just makes it all the more infuriating that the script and the direction didn’t bother to make these things clear. It would have been so easy to put up a damned title card that said “Five Years Later,” or to have some dialogue. Ugh. To think that of all the possible endings they wasted over a season showing and implying, that this would be the most tedious and least interesting. No wonder Becky was underwhelmed.
And then the fans weighed in
Since “Carry On” aired, the social media response, on both sides, has turned a bit … strange. Unsurprisingly, there were those who really loved it and those who really hated it and the former (predictably) got pretty defensive (and fan shaming) about it. That might be because this finale was very obviously aimed at the J1/Bibro/Bronly fans and only them, and they have been notorious from the early seasons for being the smug, gatekeeping, tosser True Fan types in the fandom. I always found the Kripke stans especially exhausting and if I never hear “This show should have ended with Season 5” again, it will be too damned soon.
So far, anyone in between furious and furiously defensive is being rather quiet. Unfortunately, some of the cast have taken the brunt of the fan rage so far. Aside from some snark about the rebar prop, Jensen Ackles has been dead silent, even while being called a homophobe left, right and center. Jim Beaver left Twitter completely after speaking up in defense of the writers.
Misha Collins got in trouble with the fandom (please leave poor Misha alone) for trying to say that there was no network conspiracy to bury Castiel as soon as he made his confession of love to Dean (which was probably true).
Andrew Dabb, having already embarrassed himself with the claim beforehand that probably only about 30% of the fandom would be happy with the ending (he may have been overly optimistic), posted some very strange tweets that may have been mocking the fandom, or may have been promoting his next project. Either seems equally tone-deaf and I know I won’t be checking it out. Several people suggested he learn to read a room.
When head showrunner Bob Singer said right before the finale came out that it would be quiet, with not a lot of FX, I thought, Uh-oh. That sounded like a self-indulgent, mostly-plot-free clips show. Sadly, I was not wrong.
The reaction, of course, began with 15.18 and the debate over whether it was a Bury Your Gays trope. I noted at the time that the trope didn’t really fit because Castiel’s final fate was really left up in the air. Alas, the most Castiel got this episode was a single line that implied (but didn’t actually confirm) that Jack had broken him out of The Empty. And it seems that it was pitched to Misha Collins as Bury Your Gays.
But it came across more as Disappear Your Gays, in which a character declares his/her love, then vanishes from the story, even when they don’t die. Dean did beg Chuck to bring Castiel back in “Inherit the Earth,” and smiled when he was told that the reformation of Heaven was partly Castiel’s gift to him, but Castiel himself? Nah.
Then there was the weird case of the Spanish dubbing that added in an “I love you” response from Dean. Yep, it got real strange. The thlot’s been a-pickenin’ with this one.
I gotta say that if you thought “Inherit the Earth” was a white-bread sausagefest, “Carry On” was so much worse in that category. In fact, if you think the salty IMdB reviews for “Inherit the Earth” were fun, you really should check out the ones for “Carry On” because they are glorious. My personal favorite is the one entitled “It’s bad y’all!!” where the reviewer declares, “Even with the bar on the goddamn ground, I didn’t expect the writers to tunnel under it like gophers.”
I get that, as Jared Padalecki explained, it was too onerous for some of the guest stars to come up and spend two weeks in quarantine, but some (such as Samantha Ferris and Chad Lindberg) were never even asked, not even before Covid hit. The Roadhouse just ain’t the Roadhouse without the people in it.
Did they really just say that suicide is painless?
But it’s not just that the women (especially the Wayward Sisters), the people of color (RIP Billie), the gays (hey, Castiel got a line, I guess), and those with physical disabilities (Eileen Who?) were written out. What was really problematic was taking a character who struggled with mental illness, with depression and suicidal ideation and substance abuse, for 15 seasons – and killing him off just as he had reached a point in his life where he was happy. The Supernatural writers literally gave us the message that the only way Dean could ever be happy was if he was dead, that Heaven was the only escape from despair, even as they had him pimp the mental health charity the leads had created.
What kind of message is that?
I suppose it’s most fitting that the show ended, not with what was on-screen, but with the fans taking center stage on social media and cyber-bitchslapping the hell out of the showrunners. But please, guys, leave the poor actors out of it.
Well, anyhoo, this isn’t really the end of the Supernatural experience for me, since I’ve got over 40 episodes left to review. Who knows? By the time I “catch up,” we may have some spinoff news to talk about.
So, let’s get back on the road and I’ll see all y’all next week.
Next week: Stairway to Heaven: Angels are suicide bombing other angels in Castiel’s name. When Sam and Dean investigate, it gets Dean into a whole lot of trouble.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years