Swan Song Recap by Alice Jester
[Originally Published May 22, 2010]
I'm going to warn you all right now, this is a 100 percent lovefest. I think many people were unfairly critical of the episode and I'm determined to spell out in exhaustive detail why every single scene is sheer calcuated brilliance. Oh, but in doing that, you’re also in store for one crazy ass long recap. Seriously, it’s a novel. So make sure you’re stocked up on both coffee and Kleenexes. It’s time to kick off this intense emotional rollercoaster.
First off is the grand tradition we know and love of our season finales. I've even been guilty thus far of failing to mention this in light of the rest of the episode being so good, but you know a finale is good when the most understated part of the ep is the traditional "Carry On Wayward Son" montage. What can I say about this montage? It's great as usual and sums up season five pretty nicely. My favorite bit oddly enough is that great shot of Dean leaning against the Impala in "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid” although I’ll admit my emotions leapt when I saw Sam and Dean’s reaction to Ellen and Jo blowing up in the hardware store. That gets me every time too.
Now for the finale (gulp!). This intro wasn't all what I expected. It starts documentary style, showing old footage of a Chevy being built on the assembly line in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1967. I think one of my Ford cars was built in that town too. I'm instantly emotional, for this is pure gold for a car buff born and raised in Detroit. Chuck is doing the narration and I adore his sentimental style with his storytelling all through this episode as well as the narrator's charming score.
He brings up April 21, 1967, when the 100th million GM vehicle rolled off the assembly line in Janesville. It was a blue two door Caprice. I never understood the difference between a Caprice and an Impala. Thanks to wikipedia, I found out. They're the same car body wise but the Caprice had more luxury features. So that proves the Impala wasn't a glory car. Anyway, there was a big ceremony and speeches. "Even the Lt. Governor showed up." Too funny! Our Lt. Governor is too busy running for Senate now, which makes these Mickey Mouse ceremonies perfect for him. He'll show up at the opening of an auto parts store right now.
Back to the story. We see Chuck in his bathrobe at the computer typing away. He goes on. Three days after that another car rolled off that line, but "nobody gave “two craps about her. But they should of." I do! I care! “Because this 1967 Chevrolet Impala would turn out to be the most important car - no the most important object of pretty much the whole universe.” I love how these early Impala segments were shot in a way where it looks like old 35 mm film footage. Have I ever mentioned how much I love all the little details that go into this show? Oh, constantly?
The so called old footage shows the first owner of the Impala proudly getting into his new car at the dealer showroom. The Impala cost $3999, which was MSRP for an Impala at the time. His name was Sal Moriarity and he was “An alcoholic, two ex-wives and three blocked arteries." His primary purpose with the Impala was to drive around on weekends giving bibles to the poor, to get them ready for judgment day. You see, by the time the Winchesters got her she already had experience with the apocalypse. She was ideal for the job. I love how hanging from the rear view mirror is a tacky angel figurine that has “Sal”on it. Angels were watching over him. Ha! “Sam and Dean don’t know any of this, but if they did, I bet they’d smile.”
After Sal died, which would be sometime in 1973 if we follow "In The Beginning," the Impala ended up at Rainbow Motors in Lawrence. Actually, if you freeze Chuck’s monitor here, it does say “After Sal died, not unexpectedly, of a heart attack in ‘73” She was bought by a young marine, aka John Winchester, on an impulse buy. She cost now $2200. That turns out to be the best two grand ever spent. Chuck of course brings up how John was sold on the car after a little advice from a friend, aka Dean. Yep, another shout-out to "In The Beginning." Chuck goes on in his typing, “I guess that’s where this story begins.” Then he stops typing and says, "And here’s where it ends.” Aww, I’m already moved. How much more episode is left?
Next thing we see Sam resting on the hood of the old girl drinking a beer. That right there reinforces why this must be a ‘67 Impala. All that hard Detroit steel is needed to hold that giant. A modern day Impala would crumple like paper. A rather unhappy Dean comes over and grabs a beer from the cooler sitting next to the Impala and doesn't say a word, even when Sam says “Hey.” Sam knows something is up. I'm going to point out here that Jared and Jensen in every scene from this point forward far exceed anything they've done before. The chemistry is so intuitive anymore, but they still somehow know how to amp up an intense situation and sell it better than they ever have before.
Sam wants to know what’s going on. Dean reluctantly gets to the point. He's in. Sam needs more. “The whole up with Satan thing. I’m on board.” This has Sam’s interest and he sits up, ready to listen to what Dean has to say. “You’re gonna let me say yes,” Sam asks. “No, that’s the thing. It’s not on me to let you do anything. You’re a grown, overgrown man. If this is what you want I’ll back your plan.” Sam admits that’s the last thing he thought he’d hear Dean say. Careful Sam, that just might being one of the last things. Dean is approving your plan for self-sacrifice. I don’t see this being a precious moment you'll share with the grandkids.
It should also be noted that the director of this episode, Steve Boyum, much like Eric Kripke in last season’s finale, is pulling out all the old Kim Manners tricks. In this scene he maintains that familiar close up on the faces, cutting off the frame at the forehead. Naturally, which is why Kim Manners always did that trick to begin with, it brings out more of the emotion in their faces. Yep, Kripke and company are trying to kill us before the title card even shows.
Dean admits that it goes against every fiber he’s got. “Truth is, watching out for you, it’s kind of been my job you know. More than that, it’s kind of who I am. You’re not a kid anymore Sam and I can’t keep treating you like one.” It’s right about here that the sad piano score kicks in and my heart just starts to sink. “Maybe I gotta grow up too.” Then there’s that long pause where we see Sam’s face and his silence speaks volumes. He’s truly touched by all this. Dean goes on. “I don’t know if we got a snowballs chance, but I do know if anybody can do it, it’s you.”
Sam nods and says in a soft voice, “Thank you.” Yep, Dean’s getting to him. Dean just comes out and asks, is this what he wants? Sam, showing how much he’s really grown up in the last five years, says the most mature thing we’ve seen from him to date. “I let him out, I gotta put him back in.” Oh Sammy, no. That means a doomed eternity for you. “Okay, that’s it then,” Dean says. So yes, tears begin to flow before the title sequence. Especially with that wide shot with the tender score of the boys having their talk on the Impala. They seem so alone, so isolated in that sea of cars, yet all three are going to face this together. Yep, Kripke is going for the jugular.
Just think about it, how far have these boys come since their first series encounter at Sam’s apartment in Stanford? Everything since then has led up to this one defining moment. Now I’m getting all sentimental. The title card accentuates the blatantly obvious in this episode, and this entire story for the last five years. Blood is thicker than water.