Thoughts on Supernatural 15.20: “Carry On”
How do you begin to sum up the end of an era like Supernatural? I sit here in my basement apartment, surrounded by years of Supernatural memorabilia, collectibles, autographs and photographs of nearly ever cast member and find myself at a loss to begin my last review for this incredible series. It feels like an impossible task for this reviewer to say goodbye and do Supernatural any justice along the way – but I’ll try my best.
Here we go.
As the finale opened, I blanched a little at not seeing a season recap and hearing the familiar tones of Kansas’ song. It was a familiar comfort I was looking for and felt a bit at a loss without – of course, the choice makes sense, because the song is used much more effectively later on.
The boys really do try to carry on, the world is back in balance before the cosmic interference. Presumably, there are no angels or demons – just regular monsters to hunt. We see Sam and Dean living day to day, working out, doing laundry, cleaning weapons, getting hugs from Miracle (yay!).
Dean seems to adapt a little easier than Sam, who struggles with the absence of Castiel and Jack. Now, I don’t believe this is because Dean doesn’t grieve for his friends or feel those losses. Rather, as he said to Sam – they honour their friends by continuing to live for them. They were soldiers in a war (a long one) and Sam and Dean lost comrades who died (or in Jack’s case, achieved a new status) for the cause they believed whole heartedly in.
“But if we don't keep living, then all that sacrifice is gonna be for nothing.”
This seems to make sense to Sam, who embraces the idea of living to immediately pie Dean in the face. I wonder if Jared got one in the face, once cut was call. This felt like a nod to the prank they pulled on Misha when he was director all those years ago – whether it was or it wasn’t, it really did make me smile.
In between eating pie and enjoying some down time, there is a hunt. This was such a creepy segment – the vampires in those disturbing masks. Congratulations to the show for making vampires even more disturbing. There are a few things to acknowledge about this job that worked well in the episode: an already-acknowledged creep factor; vampires, in my opinion make a good choice for villain because there can be any added elements necessary to move the plot along (such as scavengers, prostitutes or kidnappers) as we saw here and the callback to dad’s journal.
Sam and Dean catching one of the vampires was an exceptional scene, in my opinion. The simpatico energy between the boys was top notch. Dean negotiating with the bloody machete in his hand while Sam stands, much more quiet and threatening with a switchblade, relaxed and casual behind his brother. And Sam maintains this calm expression like he’s good with either option, as though it’s as simple as slicing cheese. Oh and the line about the spoon? Classic Winchester.
Big Bad Jenny. This was fine, a sort of nostalgic nod to way bad when. Honestly, and I hope I don’t have to turn in my Supernatural fan card for admitting this, I didn’t remember Jenny right away! What worked here was Dean’s snark. I laughed out loud at his line about high school before Sam beheaded her. Should have known that was too much lightheartedness for a series finale of Supernatural.
You and Me
Okay, so here is where it gets hard. The barn fight with the vampires, the rebar is broadcast hard and I expected a vampire to be impaled.
But that’s not what happened.
When Dean slammed into that rebar at barely the half-way mark, I lost it. How? Why? What? Dean? No. I just. No.
I don’t need to tell you, if you watched it, these moments between Sam and Dean were incredible. There really aren’t adequate words to sum up everything – even as I’m writing, I’m tearing up in reflection on the scene. The choice to flip the exchange from a prior episode was touching. Dean telling Sam how much he looked up to him and finally saying he needed Sam to tell him it was okay to go, which Sam does tearfully. These performances were next level.
“I've always looked up to you. Man, when we were kids, you were so damn smart. You never... You never took any of dad's crap. I never knew how you did that. And you're stronger than me. You always have been.”
And this is to say nothing of the physical elements of the goodbye. Jared and Jensen were all in and the cinematography was remarkable. The scene was intimate, poignant and devastating. It’s a similar death to Sam’s back in season two, when he was stabbed in the back and Dean pulls back a bloodied hand, holding Sam afterwards.
“And I don't know what I would've done... if I didn't have you. 'Cause I was so scared. I was scared, 'cause when it all came down to it, it was always you and me. It's always been you...and me.”
Dean’s quiet acceptance of what was happening to Sam’s anguish was tragic and beautiful at the same time. Dean, ever the big brother, used the time to deliver a message of love and pride about Sam. In a way, it reminded me of Castiel’s final moments before death, when he delivered an uplifting speech about Dean’s character.
By far, the most touching moment was Dean asking to go and Sam telling him it was okay.
I was done.
The tears from both boys as Dean closed his eyes and leaned on Sam.
And we still have half an episode to go.
In stark, sunny contrast to the barn Sam gives Dean a hunter’s funeral with Miracle at his side. Then he’s back at the bunker, sad and alone. Until one day, in Dean’s room he finds Dean’s other, other cell vibrating and answers, painfully, as “Agent Bon Jovi” to take a case in Austin, Texas.
We see one final pan of the bunker including the table where our family carved their initials before the bunker is turned dark – presumably forever? That seemed like the implication. And a sad, sad Sam heads out with the dog.
I don’t have any review of this really, just reflection. It was done so well to communicate Sam’s grief. Jared is a great silent actor – everything was on his face and in his body language. Even without a scene partner, you could feel the pain coming through the screen. Those lights going dark was like a tragic punctuation mark on Dean’s death.
While Sam is grieving on Earth, we see that after his death, Dean has made his way to Heaven.
This is not Heaven as we remember – Jack has bee renovating. Here, we have Bobby – our Bobby – waiting on the porch of Harvelle’s with a beer for Dean. So, I loved this version of Heaven. What a beautiful sentiment contrasted with the earlier idea, not your favourite memories but rather all your loved ones and you can see them, talk to them, be with them. As Bobby said, “it’s the Heaven you deserve.”
I also appreciate that they let us know Cas helped with the changes, so he’s out of the Empty and around somewhere. Now, I suspect that without the pandemic we probably would have seen more faces in Heaven: Castiel, Jack, Mary, maybe even John.
I saw comments that Misha should have filmed a quick appearance in Heaven, but I know that the restrictions for filming here, with the boarder closure would have made that tricky, to say the least. 14 days in complete quarantine for a one minute scene? I’m not saying he wouldn’t do it, I’m just saying they found a different way to make things work. I also remember Alex saying his final scene was in the Impala without words, but that didn’t happen here so I wonder if that too was cut for pandemic reasons. It’s unfortunate, but the finale was still incredible for what it was, given the circumstances.
So, back to Heaven. Dean is missing Sam but he’ll “be along” so Dean decides to go for a drive in Baby – who is beautiful in the sunshine and wearing her original KAZ 2Y5 licence plate. I thought this might be the end (I wasn’t watching the time) and I was still crying, half-talking to the dog and the TV – asking how they could leave Sam sad and alone like that? How could they do Dean like that? Grief is a funny thing.
Dean got in the Impala and our theme song started.
There Will Be Peace
The final montage of the show was incredibly satisfying, to this viewer at least. Sam was able to find a balance on Earth in a domesticated life – seeing that little guy with the “DEAN” stitched on him had me crying again. Watching Sam’s life as a father cut with Dean in Heaven, on the road, was truly lovely. They didn’t downplay that Sam obviously missed his brother – the segment of unveiling and sitting in the Impala captured this wordlessly.
When Sam finally reaches the end of his life, his adult son comes to his bedside and offers him the same words that he said to Dean all those years ago, that it’s okay to go.
This full circle element, that it was Dean II who is, if his tattoo is evidence, also carrying on the family business, releasing Sam (wearing Dean's watching no less) – is a beautiful touch.
Finally, after Sammy’s long, full life and Dean’s drive in Heaven, the brother’s are reunited on a bridge in a callback to the Pilot, wearing clothes like they wore all the way back in the Pilot. The reunion is simple and sweet. Dean pulls over and gets out to look over the view, after a moment he smiles and in a touching callback to our introduction to this relationship, says, “Heya, Sammy.” “Dean.”
We pan out to see Sam, the two finally hug.
Yup, there are the tears again.
Final, Final Thoughts
This was not the finale I expected, but it was a finale I loved. Sam and Dean each ended up at peace and did it the way they needed to. Dean went out fighting, on his own terms, knowing Sammy was safe and that the world at large wasn’t devastated by any disaster. He got to tell his brother everything he needed to say, including goodbye and “I love you.” Dean’s whole purpose since he was four years old was “protect Sam.” This mission was finally complete, the curse that had been dogging them their entire lives at Chuck’s machinations is over. So it’s okay for Dean to lay down his arms and be at peace. How could that ever be wrong?
For Sam, he was able to life the normal life he so desperately sought all those years ago, while striking a balance with the hunter life he’d built over the last fifteen years – and build a new legacy in his son. Someone to carry on the Family Business, to take care of the Impala and the Winchester legacy.
The episode did right by both brothers (except that wig, I don’t know what that was!) and they were at peace in the end, and together. I really could not ask for more after fifteen years of adventure, pain, sorrow and hunting.
(Not everyone found this to be their perfect ending, I know. Which I understand. I do encourage though, that you be respectful in expressing your thoughts. The cast and crew still put their heart and souls into this work, please be kind and mindful.)
I’ll leave this by paraphrasing the final goodbye of the cast and crew on the bridge.
Thank you to Supernatural for fifteen incredible years of blood, tears and laughter. It was a journey that will never be matched or forgotten. What a wonderful ride.
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(Screencaps courtesy of Raloria@LiveJournal )
Read more of Elle's "Thoughts on Supernatural'! Her reviews and other articles are all linked on her Writer's Page.