The season 9 finale gave us so much. It gave us answers. It gave us drama. It gave us brilliant acting, lighting and storytelling, so I can’t bring myself to say I was disappointed in the finale. I just can’t. Everyone worked so hard on it. Jensen emptied himself into that performance. I believe it might have been his best performance to date (and that is saying a lot). Jared broke our hearts – again. Misha, Mark, Curtis and Tahmoh masterfully conveyed their characters’ emotional complexity. The performances from all of them, plus the dramatic death and transformation scenes, made the finale absolutely addicting. I felt myself drawn to watching it repeatedly. Even knowing that I was not completely happy with it, I still needed to see it again and again. To me, that is the strongest possible testimony to the strength of the story and how it was told.
Yet I wanted one thing from the finale. I wanted the brothers to talk. I wanted Dean to apologize because that is what Sam needed to hear. I wanted Sam to express more of what he had been feeling so Dean could understand how his loving actions angered Sam. I did not want to have to read between the lines, assuming what the brothers meant. I did not want to have to understand that’s how guys talk to each other. I didn’t want Sam to interrupt Dean with “I know” before Dean had a chance to tell me what he had concluded about his choices. I wanted them to at least finish their sentences. Dean’s months of loneliness and anguish were concluded with only “about the last couple of months”. On the other hand, Sam actually completed two whole sentences about his nightmare of being the vessel that killed Kevin, and “If this is it, then we’re going to do it together” but most of the past several months’ estrangement was “resolved” with “I get it” and “I lied” and “I know”. In fact, Sam said “I know” repeatedly to his brother’s openings. I waited all season to hear the brothers talk and reconcile with an actual conversation that was at least as long as their fights, but instead I got a handful of single syllable words.
I wanted the conversation in the junk yard when Dean gave Sammy permission to take on Lucifer. I wanted the explanation in the Impala when Dean told Sam why he changed his mind about saying “Yes” to Michael. I wanted Sam’s revelation about not being pure as a child. I wanted the conversation in the church when Dean heard Sammy confess how unworthy he felt all his life.
Bless it, I wanted to witness the healing between the brothers because I have witnessed their pain for so long. That was my priority over all else.
How would I have found the few extra minutes the show needed for this dialogue? I would have cut back the 90 second interaction between Metatron and some random, homeless angel about why Metatron was “an abomination”. I didn’t need the recap of the angel storyline. I remembered it all, thank you very much. I just wanted the boys. Talking. Understanding. Forgiving. Dying. Feeling.
I don’t want to minimize Dean’s last words. “I’m proud of us” was a gift to Sammy, given literally seconds before Dean died. That dramatic moment, backed by the brother’s music that warms my heart, might be why I can’t stop watching the finale. That was extremely powerful stuff. It was a last utterance, though. Could I have more, please?
I’ve waited a week to share my thoughts because so many fans were elated with the finale. They deserved to savor the emotions of the moment, plus the show deserved their glowing reactions, at least. I also wanted those fans to enjoy feeling fulfilled by what they were given, without everyone raining on their parade. Fandom needs its good moments, because some controversy always comes around soon enough to muddy the waters (and we all know that happened).
Clearly, truncated emotions were my primary frustration with the finale, yet a few other things bothered me as well:
· The scene where the homeless people turned into a mob made me very uncomfortable. Draping the cover over the fallen angel showed a street justice that had been practiced. These people instantaneously grouped together to beat then kill the outspoken rebel in their midst. Surely the scene was intended to make viewers uncomfortable (to prove Metatron was evil) so my criticism is more a comment on how distasteful it was to watch versus a condemnation of it being included.
· I was also very uncomfortable with Metatron’s rant against God. I really squirm when they spew God hate. It pushes me to the very edge of my comfort zone. Then Metatron said “Next time, try to be powered by the Word of God.” It seemed hypocritical to be awed by the very entity he despised so completely, so I considered his outburst more closely. His monologue to Dean exposed how little Metatron, or by extension maybe most of the angels, understood God’s intentions or love of humanity. While Metatron’s tirade bothered me at first, maybe it was meant as a juxtaposition, highlighting that none of the angels, no matter how much power they accumulated, could come close to being the genuine God. So again, closer examination of this point may have revealed clever writing that I needed time to absorb (I actually explore this subject in more detail in my Threads review of the finale, coming soon).
· Lastly, I hated that Metatron made fun of the People’s Choice Awards: “Like winning a People’s Choice Award? Not quite the real deal now is it?” While that may be true, that makes four weeks in a row that the writers have ridiculed fans in one way or another. I thought the comment was insensitive and ungrateful for the massive effort fandom exerts to get the show whatever accolades we can influence. So now these awards mean nothing to Jared, Jensen or the show’s producers? Thanks for letting us know so we don’t waste thousands of hours next November. If, however, this was Jeremy’s political commentary that the show continues to be ignored by main stream critics and media, I sympathize completely with his frustration.
Am I being a little too sensitive? Maybe. That’s a fair observation. You may notice, though, that I have not listed canon departures or holes in plots as personal criticisms of the season or the episode. Examples include having to figure out that angels with keys (Gadreel) and demons who are summoned (Crowley) can enter the impenetrable bunker. Ironically, those things don’t upset me. I am quite content to allow that a future episode will address dangling details. I truly do not expect perfection. Having said that, I want to acknowledge so many things about the finale that I thought were perfect. There were big things:
· Every last one of the performances (although I wish they would have used one of the other takes that Jared said showed more of his emotional outpouring).
· Metatron’s murder of Dean. The slow motion, the lighting, the looks on faces – it was all written, directed and acted out brilliantly.
· Castiel curing Gadreel without hesitation, even though Cas knew it would be detrimental to do so. Absolutely. Perfect. Castiel.
· Gadreel’s sacrifice and redemption. Beautifully written and acted soliloquy about finally understanding yourself and a cause worthy of your life. A powerful, majestic, fitting end to this arc.
· Crowley’s monologue to Dean about becoming a demon and Crowley’s belief in miracles.
…and there were smaller things:
· Crowley to Dean: “You wanna get rid of it??” The inflection in Crowley’s words was a master’s class in acting.
· The angel tablet was powering the story. Very interesting possibilities here.
· That really cool Enochian design in a sandbox. Artistic symmetry.
· I also love it when the angels call each other brother or sister. Something about family.
· ….and the episode was filled with extraordinary lines, like Crowley having Dr. Phil on speed dial, describing death as “one would imagine the least best better” and chastising Dean for “spreading out like an overgrown teenager”. Then there was Sam calling Dean and Crowley “The Odd Couple” and Dean’s “shower sex – that’s complicated” remarks. The best, though, was learning that Metatron was the reason the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in “the last hundred friggen years!” As a life-long Chicago Cubs fan, I’m with Dean in blaming Metatron!
Even given all of these wonderfully positive elements of the episode, I contend that the finale’s greatest strength was its parallel to so many of the pivotal moments in the series’ history:
- Sam and Castiel locking Dean in the dungeon was a direct reflection of Sam being locked in Bobby’s panic room by his brother in “When the Levee Breaks”. Blood addiction, whether ingested or spilled, seems to lead to incarceration by your friends and relatives.
- Dean’s face getting beaten to a bloody pulp was reminiscent of “Swan Song”, when he had previously been beaten nearly to death by the most powerful angel in Heaven or on Earth.
- A Winchester yelling “Noooo!” from far away, because he can see but not stop someone stabbing his brother to death; sprinting to him only to be able to witness the last few seconds of life; telling him “It’s not even that bad”, “We’ll get you fixed up”; then holding the doomed brother while he dies in your arms. Dean held Sam when he died in “All Hell Breaks Loose-Part 1”; Sam played this heartbreaking role in “Do You Believe in Miracles”. The staging, dialog and events were direct echoes of each other.
This was absolutely superb writing. It honored everything the boys had been through thus far and it honored the fans who would certainly recognize all these crucible events.
It’s a week later, and blogs, review comments, emails and tweets confirm that many fans are still trying to process what they saw in the finale. It had a resounding impact. It masterfully established a few robust, deep storylines teeming with potential (Demon!Dean and Brother!Crowley). It recovered a few of season 9’s foibles and definitely created an audience that would anxiously await season 10. The fact that I can’t turn away from something that initially disappointed me is a testament to its complexity and power. A week later, I’m starting to forgive my disappointments and soften my criticisms. It wasn’t perfect, but it was spellbinding, and truly worthy of Supernatural’s legacy.
Long time Cubs fans have a mantra of hope about finally winning the world series of baseball. We tell each other “Wait till next year”. In that spirit, which I have subscribed to all my life, I ask “Could next season be when Sam and Dean talk again, please? I’d settle for the way they used to talk. Better yet, maybe maturity can give them more self-awareness and the ability to articulately express themselves. I want…no, I’m begging, for more than:
“Yeah, I’m good.”
That’s just too much like real brothers.
Has your opinion changed in the last week with repeated rewatches? Do you agree or disagree with my observations? I’d love to hear from you!