A finale unlike any other...
This is my basic finale review, written as a consciousness stream when I rewatched the episode, meaning it is neither “structured” nor “themed”. I have posted this very late, due to me being upstate with a job run and no *proper* internet for the better part of a week. I’m sure by now many people have posted many things about the finale and the season as a whole (I haven’t viewed my dash properly in a week so tomorrow will be a fun filled day of blog surfing catching up on some things). The end of this review deals with season 9 speculation and talks about where the Dean/Cas love narrative will likely go from here. Everything is under the cut.
So we start off with Sheriff Mills on an unsuspecting blind date with the King of Hell. This is curious for a number of reasons. I can’t help but wonder why Crowley would go on a “date” with Jody instead of just killing her. Surely the Kind of Hell has better things to do than amuse himself with such games. The dialogue is also very curious -
CROWLEY: “We do share something, you and I.”
JODY: “My son and my husband. How did you know?”
CROWLEY: “I’ve lost someone, too.”
Now we know Crowley has been reading the Winchester Gospels, so we know Crowley knows all about what happened to Jody’s family, but why the need to say he lost someone too? Why that move if he’s about to kill her? Why throw into question his backstory in the first place? We’ll come back to this. Jody’s fate is left unanswered as we cut to the title screen.
Next is Metatron telling Cas about what God was like and what the second “trial” is. Note the first “trial” involved killing a nephilim, the offspring of a human and angel “union”. Metatron then gives Castiel his next objective: retrieving Cupid’s bow (a device of “union” for the specific purpose of fostering love between humans). We are told the barman will be targeted within 24 hours. Castiel is still full of doubt and must be reassured that killing the nephilim was “good” and that the next “trial” does not involve “killing” (to Castiel’s relief). We then switch back to the Winchesters.
Crowley is then predictably captured by Dean with the Demon handcuffs revealed in the last episode. He is told he is the third trial.
We cut back to Cas and Metatron who are now in the bar waiting on Cupid. Carver then gives us a cute Destiel vs Megstiel joke in the form of asking the bartender which he prefers: “A partner in crime or someone who’s into nurse roleplay and light domination.” Naomi and her angels show up when a “free lance agent” (likely the guy on the curb seen when Cas and Metatron are talking in the previous scene) tells of their location. The bartender shoots at the attacking angels and they flee with the Scribe.
Sam and Dean prep for the third trial, locking Crowley in chains and a Devil’s Trap. Sam’s need for a confessional is addressed with Dean giving Sam some “pointers of the conversation”. Dean rattles off Sam’s “greatest hits”: Ruby, killing Lilith and starting the apocalypse, losing his soul (something Sam actually had no control over. Nice one Dean), and finally (the biggest) Sam not looking for Dean when he went to Purgatory. The writers and fans have been poking this “angry bear issue” all season (the latest in 8.19) so it’s finally looking like we might hear Sam’s true reasoning. Finally, Dean throwing in an offhand “opener” suggestion to Sam’s confessional: an incident in the 6th grade. Sam cuts back with telling Dean that was him not Sam. Dean is slightly taken aback, but seems to agree. In a season finale, where every second counts, Carver chooses to point out Dean’s “projecting” for some reason. We then switch to Sam’s confessional… and it is cut…
Outside, Cas turns to Dean for help on his current situation, making the decision he negated in season 6. Dean is shocked to learn Cas is completing the Angel Trials and that Metatron has been captured by Naomi.
Metatron wakes up to Naomi. In their conversation Metatron mentions the archangels and separates himself from them in the context of the conversation. His inscription in the Demon Tablet proclaiming himself as one is now given a new light. Metatron fancied himself important enough to give himself a false title when he recorded the Word of God.
Metatron tells Naomi “Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content” (its meaning is illustrated here by the lovely outpastthemoat)
Cas begins to explain things to Dean. He says “I can’t fail, Dean, not on this one. I need your help”, paralleling Sam’s story and his resolve. As Dean explains that Sam needs him more right now, Sam walks up to overhear the conversation as Dean says that Sam can not handle things on his own, to which Sam tells Dean to go and help Cas. Dean pauses as he says he is willing to send the angels back to Heaven (to the sound of ominous music) as he leaves to go with Cas. They leave with the Angel Tablet as Sam begins the third trial. We cut to Kevin being given the Angel Tablet to translate and we are given some dialogue about duty and being “out” (of the game). This dialogue serves as a reminder to the speaker as well: Cas. Cas is in a position of needing to put his duty over his personal feelings as well right now. As he reminds Kevin he’ll never be out of the game, he also reminds himself of this. Crowley sends out a distress call to any who will answer.
We now cut to the bar scene (broken down best here by sarasarai, and here by drsilverfish). While a person shooting a bow on television takes aim, Cas walks into the bar, declaring he has had no luck with finding the bartender love. Cas states that one of the females he talked to may not have been female. Cas then comments on Dean drinking on the job to which we get a lovely break of the 4th wall with “What show you been watching?”. Dean then delivers another “Talk to me” as he and Cas discuss what’s about to happen to Cas. Dean asks if the angels might kill him to which Cas basically gives a “So” reply (important since Sam does the same thing later). Dean then leaves everything unsaid between them, throwing in a pop culture reference he knows Cas will not understand (where as with Sam, Dean states how he feels about Sam leaving/dying). There is resignation in his face at the fact that Cas will never choose to stay by his side, but also affection (because Cas doesn’t get his reference). It would seem that Naomi’s words hit a little closer to home than I originally expected (the resolution of themes being thrown for a loop with the 3 year arc structure as mentioned here).
Dean understands the need for Cas to put his duty before himself, much like Dean was willing to take the trials for Sam. The difference between Sam and Cas is clear here. Dean feels he can never sway Cas into choosing them as family (and after the 8.17 crypt scene who could blame him?). Where as with Sam, Dean can easily voice his feelings towards his brother. The cupid arrives and we are treated to a “not what you were expecting scene” as the male bartender finds love with one of his frequent patrons, a male hunter named Rod. We are then treated to Dean’s disbelieving expression as he finally puts two and two together and another piece of the “Oh my God. I’m in love with Cas” puzzle is pushed into place. I think Dean already understands this to a degree, however he is pushing it down with everything he has. He doesn’t want to acknowledge it, but at the same time he’s desperate to, which is why we get scenes like we did in “Clip Show” where he talks to his brother about Cas, hoping Sam will say out loud what he yet can not. ”Because it’s Cas…” Because you love him.
As Sam gears up for the next blood injection Abaddon responds to Crowley’s call and arrives, flinging Sam out the window. Next, Cas and Dean corner the Cupid as Cas demands her bow. Abaddon then proceeds to beat up Crowley telling him it is time to talk about a regime change, to which Crowley (in good ol’ male-written Supernatural fashion) calls her a whore. Cut to Sam dousing Abaddon in holy oil and setting her on fire. Cas and the Cupid talk about the situation in Heaven, to which she willingly hands over her bow.
We are then given Metatron’s sob story (that is somewhat similar to Lucifer’s). He speaks of the “ache” of missing God’s presence and how it was unfair that he was chosen for the task of writing down the Word of God. He then blames the archangels (and Naomi) for ruining paradise and running him out of Heaven, asking if Naomi really thought they’d be no payback for that. Metatron smiles at Naomi’s information extraction tool as Naomi leaves.
Continuing the third trial, Sam resets the Devil’s Trap and injects Crowley again. Crowley then starts talking about HBO television shows and how the main character on “Girls” Hannah needs to be loved, that she deserves it, that everyone deserves it. Mark Sheppard then gives his most moving Crowley performance ever, stating “I just want to be loved”. When Sam and Crowley then look confused, it is clear that the “curing” is working. Crowley then asks Sam what he confessed so that he’ll know where to start in looking for forgiveness. This narratively points out the fact that we didn’t get to see Sam’s confessional, building up to the reveal of what Sam confessed later in the episode. Sam instead tells him that they will start with “this” holding the next injection, to which Crowley willingly tilts his head and takes it.
Kevin calls with news that none of the things Castiel described are listed under the “Angel Trials” on the Tablet. Naomi appears to Cas telling him that Metatron has lied to him. Cas comments on how she twists things as the camera focuses on Dean’s reaction (no doubt remembering his past interaction with her as she tells him in 8.19 “Castiel doesn’t feel the same way about you”). She tells him that Metatron plans to cast out all Angels to Earth. Naomi then laments about how the angels have forgotten the mission of “protecting what God created” and informs Dean that if Sam completes the Demon Tablet Trials he will die as she offers Cas a place back in Heaven and leaves. Cas says that Naomi is lying. Kevin says he can not be sure as Dean begs Cas to take him to Sam.
Cas brings Dean to Sam then leaves, telling Dean he “isn’t wrong”, that he intents to fix his home. Dean is powerless to stop him as he instead opens the doors to the church, yelling for Sam to stop. Back in Naomi’s office, Naomi is laying across a desk in a pool of blood as Metatron pulls a sword on Castiel telling him “He should have listened to the bitch”.
It is here that I would like to reference Misha’s comment about the writing of Supernatural at Asylum 10. This scene is clearly the context of his speech about the treatment of women in Supernatural. Now, as much as the fandom loved to hate on Naomi all season, most of us were under the impression that she was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons (that she had Heaven’s best intentions at heart regardless of her actions). The finale reveals this to absolutely be the case. Misha, as well as I, did not think Naomi deserved to “die”, much less be called a “bitch” while lying in a pool of blood. She should have shared the angels’ fate at least. Amanda Tapping did an excellent job in her portrayal of Naomi. Her character was strong and multi-layered and in no way deserved to be demeaned into such a common slur while being added to the ever growing list of dead Supernatural females. For all my praising of Carver and this season, I had to cringe my way through this scene during my rewatch, hoping desperately that season 9 will see some improvement in the treatment of women, but honestly I’m not holding my breath.
Finally we arrive at the climax of the season. Dean tells Sam if he finishes the Trials he is dead, to which Sam looks at him in disbelief with a “So?” (just like Cas). We then switch to Cas who Metatron has locked in the reprogramming chair. Metatron tells Castiel that these tasks Castiel has been doing are not Trials, they are parts of a spell. He slices Cas’ throat and uses a vial to remove his grace. It is the last ingredient in the spell. I elaborate on the nature of it here. If we follow that the other two ingredients follow a pattern, Cas’ fits the “union” pattern under “unspoken, unacted upon love”.
We now get Sam’s reasoning for not looking for his brother. Sam tells Dean that in his confessional he spoke of how many times he let his brother down, became someone that could not be trusted. I thought at his point we’d get a flashback to the confessional scene since season 8 was the season of the flashbacks (Hell, Jody had them at the beginning of the episode and the last episode was comprised of TONS of them), but Carver decided to cut it entirely - (I talk about it a little more here).
In the bond between Dean and Sam, love was never the issue. It was trust. In some of the best acting of his career Padalecki laments Sam’s greatest heartache, that Dean has trusted angels and vampires (supernatural beings) over him. Names are not mention because the “who” is not what Sam has issue with, though it is curious that Dean names Benny in the people who he is willing to sacrifice, but not Cas (because Cas is family). For those that still do not see Cas’ position of importance in relation to Dean, I no longer know what to say. The brotherly bond is finally reshaped with Dean’s imploring words to his brother:
DEAN: “Hold on, hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it — none of it — is true. Listen, man, I know we’ve had our disagreements, okay? Hell, I know I’ve said some junk that set you back on your heels. But, Sammy…come on. I killed Benny to save you. I’m willing to let this bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed mom walk because of you. Don’t you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I’m begging you.”
SAM: “I can’t. It’s in me, Dean. You don’t know what this feels like.”
DEAN: “Hey, listen,we will figure it out, okay, just like we always do. Come on. Come on. Let it go, okay? Let it go, brother.”
As I talked about in my meta on the mindset nature of the trials and whether or not Sam would “put down the controller” and stop “playing the game”, we see it is Dean who lets go as much as it is Sam. Together, they choose family over revenge and in doing so break “the cycle of the Hunters”… but not for everyone, as the Gates of Hell remain open…
Naomi calls the closing of the Gates “the ultimate sacrifice” and that it has always been God’s intention that the Trial Taker forfeit his/her life. Will the Winchesters revisit this goal in the next season, the final season? Will it be anything like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? That once the sacrifice is made with the “proper mindset” the person will be resurrected? For the record I thought this was what was going to happen to Sam in the finale (only the resurrection would come in the beginning of season 9). If I’m going to throw in some spec here, I’d say we might see Kevin want to take on the trials instead, considering everything he’s lost to “the Tapestry of the System”.
As Sam lays gasping for air, under the heavy cost of the trials, Dean calls desperately for Castiel. We cut to the bunker as it lights up like Christmas much to Kevin’s puzzlement, alarms blaring and dots lighting up on the Men of Letters illuminated world map. Cas, Dean and Sam watch the sky as thousands of angels fall from Heaven.
—S E A S O N 9 + S P E C U L A T I O N—
I spoke about my shock at this turn of events in the final piece of my “Grace in the Machine” meta series, where I had speculated many months ago that falling from grace may be what Supernatural would make into an angelic endgame if you will. Every time I speak about “the problem with angels” in my meta I am speaking about what Supernatural will choose to do with angels. They can’t just pretend they don’t exist anymore, since they are so heavily tied with fan favorite Castiel. In renewing Misha’s contract and pursuing a Dean/Cas love narrative, Supernatural must also, by proxy, “fix” the “problems” with the Heavenly Host (aka - the angels’ attitudes towards humanity, their mission to “protect God’s creation”, and being lead astray by the will of the archangels) through Castiel. Had the writers decided not to pursue a love narrative between Dean and Cas, I’d be willing to bet that they would have waited for this move until the show’s final year, but clearly that was not the case.
Adjusting to the understanding of the 3 year story structure, many pieces of my speculation now require repositioning in the narrative. Clearly, the narrative with Dean has been building towards Dean being able to ask Cas to stay by his side under romantic reasons (I listed this under my original finale predictions since the narrative was building towards it - this was before being thrown for a loop with the 3 year structure). Being that Cas is now “stuck” on Earth, the continuing build up of asking Cas to “stay” would indicate that there is going to be a way to “re-angelfy” the Heavenly Host and that Cas will have the opportunity to leave again in the future, to which Dean will be asking him to stay.
I’ll also say that Crowley is going to continue to play a role in some fashion next season. I’ll venture to say his reign as “The King of Hell” is most decidedly over as of the finale. I don’t see Dean (because Sam can never do the curing again right? He would inadvertently close the Gates upon completion of it?) not starting the ritual over and curing him (unless Crowley decides to help them under the premise that they cure him later). Fact remains that the writers chose Crowley’s drive as being “I just want to be loved” for a reason. Just as they threw his backstory into question for a reason. I think he may have actually felt something for Jody under all that “Hell Taint” on his soul (just as it was heavily implied he felt something for Naomi), otherwise why go on that date at all? I only say this because I believe Supernatural will continue the love parallels between Dean and Cas full force next year (and Crowley has now officially been painted into this theme - wanting and needing love). The only question is will Dean ask Cas to stay at the end of next season or the final season? It all depends on how the pacing is. No doubt Cas will be dealing with the consequences of his actions very badly (at first). VERY BADLY. I don’t see him adjusting to humanity in a healthy way at all (for the beginning of the season), although I don’t think we’ll get anything close to end!verse Castiel. I have no doubt they’ll be pieces of him in next season, but with obvious note-worthy differences (given how much Dean cares about him in this timeline vs end!verse).
Castiel’s fall is just one more check off the Vancouver “Destiel Checklist”. Dean doesn’t think angels have the equipment to care remember? Well, Cas just got the proverbial refit, so we’ll see what Dean thinks about his chances now. This will be a major focus of next season if I had to guess. I’m more excited to see what Cas does on his own though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Dean/Cas supporter… but I care more about Cas and Dean (and Sam) as separate characters than anything. Ripping out his grace is the best thing Carver could have done to Cas developmentally speaking (just as Sam’s issues needed the airing out they got this season). Cas thinks he is an angel and not a “person”. He has such a hard time seeing past *what* he is, that (more often than not) he can’t see *who* he is. Without his grace, he’ll have no choice. Castiel needs that development. DESPERATELY.
Many things were left unresolved - the biggest of which is Dean’s feelings towards Cas. Progression of the love narrative will need to see Dean become comfortable with having romantic feelings for someone of the same sex (either as an exception or in general). We should expect more LGBT+ culture to be woven into the narrative next season, as Dean continues to put pieces of the puzzle together. Most of these elements are likely to be light-hearted in nature to balance the “heavy” Cas “angst plot lines” as he struggles to adjust to being human. I also think we’ll see a case (or two) involving a false romantic lead for Cas (much to Dean’s jealousy, moreso than how annoyed Dean was every time Meg interacted with Cas - see every reaction shot of Dean watching Meg talk to Cas ever). They might do the same for Dean, but somehow I doubt it, given that they need to focus on his same-sex attraction to Cas, rather than reinforce the already established fact that Dean appreciates women.
I still think Dean will have more hang ups over the fact that Cas is an angel (grace or not). This is Dean’s biggest issue (hence the two-fold narrative purpose of Cas’ fall - the other being a writing issue). Jensen speaks of it here (to a certain degree) at JIBCon, further illustrating the narrative’s focus on it, rather than the fact that Cas is wearing “male meat” (though obviously this can’t be ignored). Season 8’s narrative focused on this issue heavily in its Supernatural/Human parallels, which is why I don’t understand the fandom’s conclusion that those parallel’s were “empty”. The romantic parallels served a three fold narrative purpose: Cas’ mind control situation in his absence, Dean’s situation (being “unknowingly” in love with Cas), and finally, they illustrate Dean’s mindset regarding love in supernatural relationships. Since this Dean “B” plot wasn’t resolved, we can expect it to continue.
At this time, that’s all I can really guess about the future of season 9, its narrative and its themes.
In the tradition of LOST (thanks a lot Carver), the finale raised more questions than it resolved. I’m very glad they addressed Sam’s mindset over hitting a dog and stopping. I hope it satisfied those who questioned the characterization of Sam over this season. I look forward to next season with much excitement. While this season’s writing was not without its problems (see every female writing post ever), Carver certainly proved he was the right man for the job. With the improved ratings system, I can only hope the show sails through next season, again securing a early renewal. With any luck, Supernatural will blow us away like no show has before.
So spread the word. If people aren’t watching Supernatural… they should be.