The Morning After
Jack: It’s time, isn’t it?
Dean: It’s time.
How many times have we heard that declaration (and tracked that foreshadowing thread) this season? It would be an interesting rewatch exercise to learn that answer. But this time, FINALLY, the Winchesters and the Supernatural family, who have been in a year-long holding pattern, endlessly circling the ultimate conclusion to this journey we’ve all been on together, have begun our approach to the show’s final destination. Even if it’s still unclear what that destination will be, and as much as we dread breaking the bond that has united us all to these characters for so long, it was a relief to “light the fuse” of the final confrontation, as Dean so blunted stated.
Supernatural’s “Unity” was an exciting, intense, perplexing, complex climax to so many storylines (and threads!). It took several rewatches to take in all the explanations and confessions that were being thrown at us rapid fire – and even that late night effort led to only the most superficial grasp of what happened. I think it was once again brilliant writing by Meredith Glynn, but it’s hard to separate my shock at what happened from my awe at its delivery. Let’s begin to untangle this mess of emotion and cosmic gaming.
The unusual name cards in this highly charged episode were perhaps our cue to how to sort through its complexity. I commented that I felt we were being given a scorecard to keep track of the action, and that still doesn’t seem too far from the truth. 34 minutes into the show, I tweeted “I’m feeling incredibly left behind here. Like I don’t understand what I’m hearing or seeing.” Dean even voiced my confusion when he was in the shop with Jack:
That's how I felt for most of the episode. I simply couldn’t believe what was happening, most notably with Dean.
Sam: Last time I checked, we don’t give up on family.
Dean: Jack’s not family. I know how you feel about the kid, okay. I care for him, too. I do. But he’s not like you. He’s not like Cas. He’s just not.
Jack’s not family?? What???
I guess I can go back a long way and connect a chain of events that might support Dean’s shocking confession, but I never, ever suspected that he felt that way. Dean tried to lock Jack in the Mal’ak box… but Dean was willing to sentence himself to that living hell so that didn’t necessarily signal that Dean didn’t accept Jack as one of their own. Jack killed Mary… but Jack didn’t have a soul then and has shown guilt and remorse for what he accidentally did. Dean has said he’s trying to get past that, and I believed him. We don’t grieve on a schedule. Feelings heal when they’re ready so I accepted that Dean just needed more time. But when given the chance to take back his words and say he really didn’t mean that Jack wasn’t family, Dean confirmed that he said exactly what he felt:
Dean: What I said to Sam, you didn’t need to hear that. Alright? Not now. Not with the weight that you’re carrying for us, for this world.
Not “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way” or “I’m so sorry. I’m just so crazed right now I don’t know what I’m feeling.” Instead, Dean calmly and rationally told his “son” effectively, no, I really don’t love you as a son. You’re on your own, kid. I admire what you’re doing, but I don’t feel enough love for you to care that you’ll die.
What happened to the Dean who was devastated when Jack died in “Byzantium” (14.08)?? Dean felt he had failed Jack by not being there for him. Jack was Dean’s son then. How about when Dean begged Lily to not make him feel the grief of losing a child the way she lost a child? He obviously felt Jack was his son then. Now he’s marching the kid down the hall to die so Dean can be free of Chuck, and says Jack isn’t family?? I guess we now know why we were repeatedly warned last week that Dean had changed.
Dean: Jack, I don’t know how to explain it, but what I found out about Chuck… it’s like… it’s like I wasn’t alive. Not really. You know, like, my whole life I’ve never been free. But like, really free. But now… now me and Sam, we got a shot a living a life. Without all this crap on our backs. And that’s … that’s because of you. So I wanted to say.. I need to say.. Thank you, Jack. Thank you.
Jack: You’re welcome.
Dean thanked Jack for being willing to die so Dean and Sam could live happily ever after. What??? If Dean had said “thank you for dying to save this world. Your death means billions will continue to exist”, he might not have sounded so selfish. But thank you so my real family and I won’t be burdened anymore? You’re not my real son; you’re collateral damage in our fight to be together without any more pain? That’s what so many monsters have accused Dean and Sam of doing to their friends, but it’s never been true before.
The answer lies in Dean’s own words. He feels suffocated. Living in a pre-determined story without free will means he’s already dead – or that he was never alive to begin with. “Unity” showed us Dean at his lowest point ever. Worse than the fear that the MoC was taking him over. Worse than feeling like he lost Sam or his mom. Dean felt he wasn’t Dean anymore, and truthfully, I didn’t think he was Dean either. I didn’t recognize that Dean. I would never have expected to hear those words from him. I would never have thought he could betray family to save himself.
Was this a brilliant insight into how lost Dean has become… or the worst retcon in the history of the show? I haven’t yet decided but I think it was a new level of desperation we’ve not seen before. I’ve only watched it three times and a shock like that takes a lot longer to understand. This wasn’t the Dean I know so I’m still trying to catch up to what the episode “revealed”: nothing and no one is more important than Dean getting his free will back, except maybe Sam.
Dean: There’s nothing else we can do, okay? We just gotta get out of the way.
Sam: No, we can’t get out of the way, Dean. Not this time.
Dean: I don’t care if Billie gets what she wants! I don’t, man! I’d trade it all… I’d trade ‘em all for Chuck in a heartbeat!
Sam: What about me? Would you trade me?
Then Dean turned on Sam, too. Dean pulled a gun, cocked the trigger, and pointed it at Sam, inches away from Sam’s heart.
What is even happening here???
The emotions in the next scene were either brilliant writing or brilliant acting – or both. Sam has compassion and understanding beyond measure.
Dean: Chuck has to die. He has to! Otherwise he’ll keep us tap dancing forever, and I can’t live like that, man! I won’t! (A call back to Dean’s tap dancing routine! We never figured that as a symbolic key to Dean’s psyche!)
Sam: I know you feel like that right now, okay. I know you do. But you gotta trust me. My entire life, you’ve protected me… from Dad, from Lucifer, from everything. I didn’t always like it, you know, but… it’s the one thing in the whole world that I could always count on. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known that was true. So please… put the gun away. Just put it away, and we’ll figure it out, Dean, we’ll find another way, you and me. We always do.
Those words alone don’t convey the emotion that Jared showed us. He took us to the place we needed to go. He explained through his tears what was happening. Jensen’s red, teary eyes in return showed the trust between the brothers that has been the bedrock of their lives, and the show. Sam instinctively knew what was happening with Dean (even when maybe we didn’t), and rather than trying to fight against it or convince Dean he was wrong, Sam embraced that pain as his own, giving Dean nothing but love and hope in return.
Besides Sam’s emotional insights, his wit exposed Billie’s plan. First, Sam remembered that the MoL bunker stored a key to Death’s library, then he was able to recite the Latin spell to open the door. He courageously walked into the lion’s lair alone, then he outsmarted the Empty entity, learned the truth and came back to the bunker with Chuck’s book. Smart!Sam not only comprehended what was happening and worked it to his advantage, but he saw beyond the cursory exposition of Billie’s plot to understand its implications. Thank goodness he explained it to everyone, because honestly, less than a full day after hearing that big plot twist, I’m not sure I fully understand it. Billie would get the order she serves as master of the universe…
Sam: everyone goes back to where they belong. That means everybody from apocalypse world, Bobby, Charlie, they get sent back to a place that doesn't exist anymore. And everyone we saved. Eileen, she... she just dies again. And that's just the beginning.
..but what of Sam, Dean and Cas? Doesn’t that mean that Sam, Dean and Castiel will die too? They’ve all died and been brought back to life through supernatural intervention. Empty!Meg acknowledged that Sam is being kept alive because Billie needs him (and Dean and Cas) to carry out her plan, but what about when it’s accomplished? She won’t need them anymore, right? She promised a long time ago that she would see them all dead and sent to a place where no one could resurrect them ever again. So won’t killing Chuck also mean the death of Team Free Will – Dean’s precious family?
So Sam was the only one who understood why Dean and Jack mustn’t kill Chuck, but it doesn’t matter because Chuck found them out and is killing Jack… again… before Dean’s trap and cosmic weapon can do the job.
Adam: It fuses your soul and your grace into a... metaphysical supernova. You'll collapse into a living black hole for divine energy. One nothing can escape... not the darkness, not God himself. But once it starts... you can't stop it. So, don't use 'til game time.
If it can’t be stopped, then is it going to go off, killing Jack? Or will Chuck kill Jack first, neutralizing the weapon? Presumably yes, since a dead soul means a key ingredient is gone but either way Jack is dead?
Jack broke my heart in this episode. He is so devastated by guilt and remorse, he feels he isn’t worth saving. He unemotionally “understands” Dean disavowing him. Then when Dean thanked him for turning himself into a suicide bomber, he graciously accepted the morbid gratitude of the man who just told him he doesn’t love him.
I submit that this was the lowest point we've seen in Jack’s life, too. Jack feels he is unworthy of love, and thinks the only valuable thing he can do with his life is give it up as atonement to redeem his sins. He is feeling what I would expect from someone who is suicidal, except that suicide wasn’t his idea – he was prompted to do it by an authority figure in his life, and is being helped along the way by one of his idols.
This boy has been a pawn (note that Sam found a chess piece in their storage room) since the day he was born. Can his life please have more meaning than this? He. Is. A. Winchester. He proudly proclaimed that heritage when he killed Michael. He has done more than enough to deserve this family. I don’t want to see him die, but as he is a supernatural being, maybe the best I can hope for is that he is happy in whatever he goes on to do when the earth is turned back over to humans. We were left with the cliffhanger of staring at his helpless face as he got caught between the two worlds that created him, wondering what will be his fate.
Goodbyes, Traps and the Title Thread
Oh, Amara. You also didn’t deserve what happened to you. Your brother convinced you that your desire for balance (a thread) would best be achieved by giving in to his will and being “united” with him. Is Amara still alive “somewhere in here” as Chuck stated? Maybe, but I don’t think we’ll see any more of her… until maybe the very end (see my theory below). Chuck undercut her resolve by revealing Dean’s betrayal, then reversed the trap that was supposed to be for him into a suicide scenario for Amara. What’s more, he didn’t defeat her in a galactic showdown. Rather, he talked her into surrendering and “caged” her again. Similarly, Sam talked down Empty!Meg and Dean. Talking is the weapon of choice it seems this season (that and Jack). More on that later.
Chuck and Resets
Amara: You've been ending worlds. And now you've come for this one? [very meta]
Chuck: Saved the best for last. [so meta!]
Amara: And then what?
Chuck: You know, I've been asking myself that question a lot lately... what happens after the end? And I have an idea... but I need your help.
Amara: No. Absolutely not.
Chuck: Come on! You know the rules. I can create, I can destroy, but I can't do a hard reset... reboot everything... without you.
Amara: Not happening.
Chuck: The Winchesters have gotten to you, huh? Figures... you and Dean have that whole weird... thing.
Amara: That wasn't you? Writing?
Chuck: Ugh! Not that part. Gross.
Chuck’s "reset" for a world without pain is appealing, but why is he doing it? If we just saw Dean’s and Jack's lowest points, maybe Chuck is also questioning his self-worth. It seems like he’s having a mid-life crisis – wondering what his existence has added up to and wishing he could correct all of his mistakes. Except, as god, he CAN erase all his regrets because he controls all of time and space. With a snap of his fingers, he can make irksome children (i.e. angels), or old girlfriends (in Becky’s case) “go away” (a dream capability of many people!). He can eradicate his “failures”, i.e. entire worlds, as “drafts” and begin a new rewrite of his life’s accomplishments. Dean was willing to let go of everything he previously loved, for his life to have meaning. Maybe Chuck is in a similar state of mind? Or is Amara right and Chuck is just as narcissistic as Empty!Meg said of Billie? The next piece of the puzzle to be solved.
Another important point about this conversation is that something happened that wasn’t in Chuck’s story. Amara and Dean’s “connection” was strictly their own doing. At the end of the episode, Chuck was also incensed when Sam and Dean didn’t go through with his “real ending.” That means that free will can break through the story’s plotline. Since the last chapter didn’t play out as Chuck planned, maybe anything is possible from this point forward.
Adam’s rib! That’s kind of brilliant, actually, and those two guest actors did a fabulous job selling the story. Adam said that using Jack to kill Chuck was his plan all along, and he and Billie have been waiting for the right nephilim to be born. Adam wants Chuck dead (as revenge of Chuck messing with Cain and Abel). Billie wants:
Empty!Meg: Everyone back to where they belong...realities, dimensions, graves. What should be dead dies, angels off Earth, demons back to Hell, and I go back to sleep. Or I'm supposed to. Except, again, trust issues.
They introduced into canon my vision of how the show is going to end! All the supernatural influences go back to their corners, and humanity lives on its own, knowing of their existence but making their own choices. But instead of this plan being Adam and Death’s vision, they have only been acting out Chuck’s script.
Chuck: This is my ending. My real ending.
Amara: You orchestrated this? What part of omniscient do you people not understand? So I can't read my "Death Book." So what? I control space and time. Just plant a few visions, goad Death a little... Mess with a few outcomes... And... bada-bing! I mean... They think they can kill me?
So Billie’s plan was really Adam’s plan but it was really Chuck’s plan? Talk about mind games!
Mind Games and Dream Worlds
Serafina: Relax, babe! He's gonna pass.
Dean: And you know that how?
Serafina: Saw it in my dreams. We were sipping mushroom tea in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Dean: So you were tripping balls and you saw Jack?
You might think I’m crazy but I’m still so suspicious of the continued emphasis on dream worlds. Add to that this new (that I remember) emphasis on mind-altering drugs. Last week, we were shown a girl sniffing a bong, which we thought was bizarrely random. Now this week, a hippie angel is high and sees Jack’s future in her dreams. Put that together with Dean saying that he feels like he hasn’t been alive (quoted above)… and I’m really beginning to worry that we’re headed for a St. Elsewhere dream finale (look it up) - or more likely that Chuck resets the world so Sam and Dean have peace, and their hunting life, including Castiel, become nothing more than a dream to them. UGH! Give me some other explanations for all these mind games and dreaming, please!
Talking and Compassion
As mentioned, “Unity” continued to use talking as an effective strategy for defeating adversaries. Talking’s counterpart, listening, was also mentioned six times, mostly as Sam desperately tried to get through to Dean. Jack overheard Dean talking to Sam, then Dean asked Jack to “listen” to what he needed to say as his goodbye “pep talk.”
If talking is going to continue to be the way that conflicts are resolved, I want to revisit my theory that Jack, Amara and Chuck sail off into the sunset together as Jack’s real family. Since Dean so ineloquently reminded Jack that he isn’t really a Winchester, maybe that separation was necessary to set up a reconciliation with Jack’s blood relatives. Amara stated her regret at not getting to know her sort-of-grandson (depending on the consubstantial nature of her relationship with Chuck):
Amara: I wish we'd gotten to know one another. That's my fault. Maybe when all of this is over, we can?
So is reconciliation and reunion in the cards for a happy ending? Is that what the “healing” thread is foreshadowing? That ending would remove the greatest supernatural beings of all from this universe. They could snap all monsters out of existence as a parting gift, and there would truly be peace when they are done. The alternative of Jack, Cas and Dean (reading between the lines of this episode) all ending up dead leaving Sam alone again is too horrible to imagine so I’m sticking with my “reset” option instead of Chuck’s reboot plan that we were tormented with in “Unity.”
Truth, Trust and Lies
Where to even start? Everyone has lied - Jack, Cas, Dean, Sam, Billie and Chuck. Only Amara, ironically called the Darkness, seems to have been honest. There have been betrayals within family – Dean on Sam, Dean on Jack, Dean on Amara, Chuck on Amara, Amara on Chuck, Death on the Empty, Chuck on the Empty – and that was just the past 2 or 3 episodes! Is the balance that we’ve tracked, Amara seeks, and Chuck promises, actually the reestablishment of truth? Time will tell. These threads were heavily all woven into this episode so I trust you saw them, too.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly awesome Rachel Miner was as Empty!Meg. It was SO good to see her as part of the final plot unveiling!
I think I figured it out! The grotesque obsession with cutting off fingers lately is about keeping Chuck from snapping his fingers to end the world, i.e. neutralizing his weapon? What do you think?
“Unity” was as complex as a season finale. Normally, I discuss finale's big revelations in one review, then separately the quotes and thread conclusions in a subsequent follow-up. This wasn’t a finale, though. There are still three more episodes left in the series, so we need to process all this more quickly than usual. The WFB will publish a new review every day for the next five days, so I’m confident the other WFB writers will shed light on the layers I haven’t explored.
Maybe by next week, I’ll also have decided whether I liked this episode or not. I loved the action and intensity, and finally getting some answers, but I’m not sure how I feel about those answers. How does one reconcile such negativity with such positivity in one episode?
Jack’s childlike innocence and awe of creation recognized that,
They're just rocks but their existence makes them divine. Because God is in everything.
…just before Adam, then Dean, both coldly, dispassionately, explained to Jack how he must/would die.
Dean was “brought to the edge of doubt. His rage winning out in the end”, versus Sam, who won’t give up on love and loyalty.
Amara wanted to defend the beauty of God’s creation but is then reduced to tears and smoke.
Sam: It feels wrong. I don’t know what I believe.
I’m with Sam. We still don’t know the whole story.
One thing is for certain: I can’t stop watching “Unity.” The revelations, emotions, betrayals, character developments and cliff hangers – all of them are mesmerizing, I just can’t tell if it’s in a good way or bad way. Actually, I don’t think we’ll know until we see how this all plays out. Hang on. Here we go.
I raised many questions, and the episodes raised even more, so please share your thoughts below!
Catch up on Nightsky's "Threads" reviews! Links can be found on her writer's page.
Transcript Quotes courtesy of ForeverDreaming.org (Honest to Chuck, that's their real name!) THANK YOU for getting the transcript up so fast!