So what are our choices for best season finale and worst season finale in "Supernatural's" history?
Nate’s Best SPN Finale
Really anything from Kripke's five years is worthy of being called the best finale. For five years every season's conclusion was top notch and any complaints one can make are incredibly minor. So I won't certainly argue against anybody who picks any finale out of those five. But for myself if I had to absolutely pick one (say because my redheaded editor was twisting my arm) I would have to edge it out to S2's "All Hell Breaks Loose" - even if you want to consider only part 2 instead of both.
Everything the show has been establishing and building come to head in this episode as well as layers of poetry. The season starts with a Winchester sacrificing himself for another and here we see it again. The main villain's plot is (seemingly) revealed and makes both logical story sense and in character sense. This episode also holds one of the show's strongest temptation scenes with Azazel swaying Jake to his cause. This also brought about the shock as we see John crawling his way out of Hell and the men coming together to actually avenge their beloved Mary. Most shows like this, the Yellow-Eyed Demon would be a villain one could get even more seasons out of (oh how little we knew...) yet we watch him get taken out in a beautifully filmed shot (pun intended) followed by one of the best lines of the show, "That was for our mom, you son of a bitch."
Just everything works here and to bring previous storylines to a mostly satisfying conclusion. Heck it could almost serve as a series finale with us imaging the brothers continuing the job, cleaning up after the release. Even Dean's deal we could imagine him perhaps dying but Sam going down into Hell through that gate and dragging his brother back out. It brought a lot of chapters to a close while leaving open juicy possibilities.
Alice's Response: “All Hell Breaks Loose” was intended to be a series finale. “Supernatural” at the time only had a 50/50 chance of renewal. Kripke was told to wrap it up but leave a door open in case they were renewed. He went big because WB promised him that if they were renewed they would pay for his demon war. Except they were renewed for a third season with a reduced budget and WB reneged on the deal! The only reason it doesn’t make my top finale list is because it wrapped things up in a tight package in a rather clunky way. That whole graveyard scene was spotty and borderline hokey. The slo-mo of the bullet was too predictable (and rather comic book-ish) and don’t get me started about the smiling and approving John Winchester disappearing in a trail of fairy dust. The rest of it was mind-blowing and a great setup for the next season.
Nate's Worst SPN Finale
If I were to pick any finale as the worst... none have left a worst taste in my memory (or been a better harbinger of what's to come) than S8's, "Sacrifice."
I mean, Dean finds out Sam is going to die from the trials and runs gives an impassioned speech - which might have worked except the show has spent several years now making death meaningless for the brothers. In fact, the preceding scene which leads up to this is Dean talking to some angels who are known for being able to bring people back from the dead. Given also that in said scene the angel in question talked about how she wanted Sam to complete the trial, it seems less like Dean should be talking to his brother and more talking to Naomi about making arrangement for his brother to be brought back once the ritual is completed. As it stands, the scene of Dean pleading to Sam comes off as less like a heartfelt plea and more like a whiny toddler who doesn't want his brother going away for a weekend. Heck, Castiel took him to the church, he could have stayed on hand to rez Sam once the ritual was done, THEN gone to Heaven to take care of business.
The revelation of the confession comes off as rather flippant given everything we've seen Sam do for the previous 4 years. "Disappointed Dean?" Really? Not something like, "I let Lucifer out of his cage, I'd really like to close Hell to make up for that"? Heck disappointing your brother doesn't even make the level of being a sin in any Christian or Jewish text I'm familiar with. It also bothers me that this ritual is so shortchanged. I know almost any ritual in the show is probably abridged, but just "confession"? Usually after that the priest usually assigns an act of penance after which completing you're supposed to be cleansed. Which would have been really entertaining to watch between Sam and an a real priest. Though given that two episodes prior we heard Sam say "I'm being purified" it seems like he doesn't need confessional, the ritual itself is cleansing him more than the confessional - but this is never addressed.
Then - then after everything else the show concludes with "angels falling" with the framing of the scene and music indicating this is supposed to be interpreted as some kind of tragedy, when the show has spent the previous 4 years establishing that angels are dicks so why do I care that they're falling? Am I supposed to be horrified or cheering? Visually it's pretty, but so are a lot of my computer wallpapers and I don't see any of them being put up on screen at the end of a finale.
Nothing happens at the end of this finale that I care about and compared to all of the other finales previously, I very much cared. The car wrecked, the shot fired, Dean torn apart, the cage opening, Sam falling, Castiel's treachery, the plan halted - all of these were concluding moments that evoked emotional reactions from me. Nothing in this finale evoked anything from me but an eye roll as logically it made little to no sense.
What's worse is that it didn't have to be that way, just shuffling events around would have made it work so much better. Have Naomi and the angels promise to revive Sam. Afterwards have Abaddon crash the ritual with Dean there and the brothers fight her off together (or even have Dean protecting Sam since he's weakened). During this delay, Metatron concludes his plot and the angels fall, THEN Dean tries to stop Sam because he thinks the angels won't be able to hold up their end of the deal. If you have a debate, shorten it between them: "We should close Hell anyway." "and leave me to clean up Heaven by myself? I can't do it without you, man." THEN you have Dean holding his brother while the angels fall around them.
Actually, that's still not perfect because there's never any indication that the trials are on a timer (another thing that makes the original fall apart). it would be better, even tighter to have the fall happen during Abaddon's attack (Dean asks for help/angel backup - then sees the sky) and have Sam dreadfully injured in said attack. Then after Dean drives Abaddon away, the episode closes with him crying out to the heavens for help while the heavens weep with falling angels. If you really want a debate, you can have the two discuss the "finish then get rezzed" plan right before Abaddon strikes (though this will be less melodrama and more casual hope) OR you can also have Sam injured right as the last needle of blood is filled and he begs Dean to finish it before slipping into unconsciousness and Dean decides against that (maybe his big brother instinct takes over).
Just anything to establish tension, logical plot order, and logical character actions.
Alice's Response: The problem is, “Sacrifice” was one of the best episodes of the Jeremy Carver era. Sure, it pales when compared to Kripke’s offerings, but I still loved it. I called it a masterpiece back then and I still stand by it, even though I truly believe the story would have been more interesting if they closed the gates of Hell, expelling all the demons on earth and then also have the angels fall from Heaven. Could you imagine that, all the chaos from having both demons and angels crowded among the humans on earth? All of them being forced to live together? Granted, this is me saying all this after being bitterly disappointed by season nine. The angels falling went nowhere! Sam could have easily been in a coma after closing the gates of Hell let alone not closing it. I would have bought that twist.
But, if you just take “Sacrifice” at face value, the scenes between Jared and Mark Sheppard were stunning! I still tear up over Dean’s speech, maybe because I’m a sap and having siblings myself understand about the whole not wanting to disappoint big brother thing. Plus Sam was so sick, so tired, he was ready to give it all up and Dean pulled him back from that. The brotherly scenes were emotionally powerful, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the bravado and boring team up in season 7’s finale.
Alice’s Best SPN Finale
Come on, is there any doubt? There are small handful of episodes that be called masterpieces in this series and none is greater than the conclusion to Eric Kripke’s initial five year arc, “Swan Song.” It was perfect in every way. For one, I had my stomach was in knots the entire hour. The situation was dire, intense, and of great personal investment to our heroes. It wasn’t just the end of the world that was at stake here, it was Sam’s fate as well. He was facing something worse than death, either possession by Lucifer or having to spend eternity in the cage with him if the plan succeeded. Either way, this was not going to end well. His intense fear, his deep agony over what he had to face was a knife to the heart for any viewer. His goodbyes to Bobby and Castiel had me bawling, and the adventure hadn’t even begun yet. By the time he said “yes” to Lucifer with Dean nearby, I was wreck.
Forget though what Sam and Dean were going through, the idea to bring Chuck in to offer the narrative to this story, complete with sentimental whimsy about our beloved third main cast member, the Impala, added a spectacular layer to this gripping hour of triumph and tragedy. The ultimate part that got me though was Dean on his knees, bloodied and battered, all alone in the field that claimed his father figure, his friend and his brother. Everyone that mattered to him. Out of this fight, he was the last one standing and it hurt like a mother to watch that visual. Then Castiel arrived and healed him and Bobby, and again I couldn’t hold it together. The loss of Sam was too hard and I felt as lost as Dean did. Yeah, the ending was a little “WTF???”, but hey, we already knew at that time there would be a season six. They had to create a cliffhanger somehow.
There was a lot of criticism to Dean’s role in this but I thought it was perfect. He refused to leave Sam alone, even if it meant him dying. By being by his brother’s side, the events that were foretold in “The End,” aka Dean turned his back on Sam and Lucifer wearing Sam started the end of the world, were erased. It was the love and devotion of two brothers that saved the earth from destruction. Family is all that matters. There is the whole show coming back to us full circle, just as it should be.
Oh "Swan Song" is so close I almost listed it as well as a "tie" but thought you would whip me for cheating. ;) In the end that closing shot of mystery!Sam was the tiebreaker for me giving the award to "All Hell..." since it was impossible to decide otherwise.
Regardless the episode remains a powerhouse of storytelling, packing punches because of a strong foundation built over the previous 4 years by solid world-building, character development, and disciplined storytelling (as I'll be detailing in my retrospective). And I still believe that if Sam & Dean were vessels for the archangels, that Baby was the vessel for God.
Perfection is often described as something to which nothing can be added or removed without lessening/worsening it. Swan Song is an episode with which I would add/remove nothing (save that last 3 seconds). An excellent choice madam.
Alice’s Worst SPN Finale
I’m sorry season eleven, but you really screwed the pooch on this one. All that conflict, all that destruction, all that build up and the way out was Dean convinced Chuck and Amara to talk it out? That was our season??? That was the writers waving a giant white flag and screaming “Uncle!” They totally gave up. I know the behind the scenes circumstances forced an about face, but you don’t do that to fans. It just isn’t right. You also don’t render your cast useless. Crowley and Rowena decided to get drunk in a bar, Castiel just stood there brooding and did nothing, Billie the Reaper made an awesome appearance just to grab some souls for no particularly useful reason at all, and Sam got to fetch water for God. It was about as epic as watching everyone get their nails done.
All the other finales were grandiose compared to season eleven’s, and I thought seasons seven, nine and ten were weak. All is forgiven. At least those finales were able to take all the events from the season (which honestly weren’t much) and bring it together to a rational conclusion. It’s not like a ton happened in season eleven with this Amara storyline. They glossed most of it over and forgot she even existed most of the time. Every week there was the token “Can’t find Amara, can’t find Castiel/Lucifer, let’s go hunt monsters!” There was very little that had to be brought together. Still, you don’t have people fretting over the end of the world for all season and then end it on a scream of “Do over!”
Sure, “Alpha and Omega” was probably one of the most optimistic finales we’ve gotten, but was it really? Sam, for all his sacrifices and efforts, now likely gets to go spend time in an underground prison held by a shadow organization that few know exist. Dean, as a reward for getting two very flawed beings to talk to one another, gets his mother back? Now he gets to go back to the bunker and find out that Sam has gone missing? That’s our cliffhanger after The Darkness was unleashed on the world just the season before? I have never, never, ever, been more ashamed to be a “Supernatural” fan than right now.
Got to give them credit for one thing though, it isn't going off in a trail of fairy dust!
What Nate Thinks:
I've heard SPN the crossroads propose that the episode before was the one that was supposed to be the finale with this one being a coda. Either way, even as a 2 part finale, this did have the feeling of a rush job. I mean earlier in the season we had Dean getting sick from being too close to an angel smiting (because it's a literal a bomb now ya know) and now we have Rowena sitting dead center of the strike and surviving? With NO effects? What about a few episodes earlier where Metatron learned that the autobiography was really a suicide note? When in the previous episode the plan to trap Amara seemed to be going pretty well without any risk to Chuck. It's funny you bring up “Swan Song” because everything in the season really looked set to bring about a similar ending with either Chuck trapped with Amara in her cage or him destroying both of them in a final act.
This turn of events wasn't just a violation of plotlines and narrative flow, it was a break with characters. Sure maybe a "hug it out" finale could work and I don't mind that in and of itself, but after everything she's done, the show might have had Amara at least clean up after herself. If bringing mama Winchester back to life is doable why not all the people she killed and sucked souls out of earlier in the season to prove her reform?
That 2 nigh-omnipotent beings had apparently never heard of Dr. Phil and needed Dean to play the role (just saying, Chuck & Amara on Jerry Springer would have been pretty entertaining) just felt even more insulting. The repeated theme and insistence of the DarknessTM was that God created, she destroyed. Why not end with Dean asking her to create something? To feel what Chuck feels when he makes something? Then her epiphany would at least grow out of seeds the show had planted earlier. One almost wants to make the joke of, "Oh the little old lady made you realize the error of your ways? Well maybe if you had listened to all those people before killing them you might have learned earlier!"
Who do you most agree with, Alice, Nate, or neither? Share your push or rant for a particular best or worst.