What makes a season finale good; is it the questions it answers or the ones it poses, the characters that are killed or the characters that are saved, the hidden agendas revealed or the hints at those that remain hidden, is it the action or is it the tears, is it the realization of what is important or is it the revelation of what has been lost? For me the answer is all of the above which is why this episode was satisfying in so very many ways.
I've written before of the magnificent storytelling by Eric Kripke and this episode simply spotlights his efforts. From Carry on Wayward Son to "He's coming" I was enthralled. That Eric wrote and directed this episode amazes me. I have to imagine (not being a writer, director, producer or anything else related thus all I can do is imagine) that it must take tremendous courage to put your vision out where everyone can see it week after week. To write an episode and hand it off to a trusted director, confident he will craft it to its best possible outcome, is one level of courage; to write it and hand it off to your own self is another. Eric wrote a script that played to his strengths and it was excellent.
Eric's style of writing may lack some of the depth of emotion and inner conflict that Sera Gamble so effortlessly pens but that in no way diminishes the excellence of this episode. Lucifer Rising had emotions aplenty but it's the overall mytharc where Eric excels. Lest we forget, Eric wrote, in part or in full, Pilot, Home, Shadow, Devil's Trap, In My Time of Dying, All Hell Breaks Loose II, No Rest for the Wicked, Lazarus Rising, In the Beginning, Heaven and Hell and Lucifer Rising. When we want questions answered or motivations revealed when we want continuity from the past and weaving of threads for the future, it's Eric who delivers.
And he delivered.
I wrote a short article listing the things I hoped to see/hear in this episode, wow, from the list you can tell I was very, very satisfied:
First - Carry On Wayward Son, it's a tradition and I love the tradition, so I'm dearly hoping for the recap with the music.
Second - Cas pulling a fast one on the 'higher powers' and going rebel with Dean.
Third - Sam realizing Ruby's been playing him for two years and he kills her, or at the very least sends her to hell, oh, all right, if I can't have either of those two I'll just be really happy if he at long last realizes how badly she used him.
Fourth - that Bobby DOES NOT DIE! I don't scour the sites looking for spoilers and have no idea how so many in the fandom seem to think that Bobby's going to get killed but it's out there, so I'll hope that it does not happen.
Fifth - that Dean and Sam have some realization that while they both are very far apart right now it is simply a matter of their dual traumatic year and that they are still brothers, I need some tiny, minuscule, microscopic bit of hope to get me through the break.
Sixth - which BTW means I hope there isn't anything gonna happen that says that Dean and Sam are not brothers, I mean, really?????
Seventh - I would love the irony or maybe it's literary symmetry (thank you Chuck, as in I am the Prophet!) in having Dean, the righteous man sent to hell, breaking the first seal when he became a torturer after enduring three decades of torture and thus Sam breaking (almost maybe?) the final seal as a righteous man on earth nearly becoming a demon after enduring similar torture (you don't really think the demon blood and the feeling the evil inside of him and the mental/emotional/physical torture he's been going through of late is anything fun?)
Eighth - previews for the 5th season premier (what are my chances on that one?
Yeah, I was pretty happy.
For the record, I never thought I'd enjoy an episode in which the brothers spent all but the final moments apart but, similar to John's continuing presence permeating episode after episode, Sam was nearly always present with Dean and Dean nearly always present with Sam. The angels and the demons know all too well that when Sam and Dean are together they keep each other grounded; it's when they are separated that they can be manipulated.
Pride goeth before the fall:
Pride kept the brothers separated. It is possible to take pride in one's low opinion of oneself, Dean tends to run to this inner fortress when things get to be tough which is why his internal battle in Dream a Little Dream of Me is so fascinating; we know ourselves best, strengths and weaknesses and, when we are honest with ourselves we strip away the make-believe and do battle with the real. Dean has a certain perversity of pride in his willingness to place himself lower than those he loves, and the demons use it and so do the angels.
Azazel picked that scab with great relish in Devil's Trap as did Alastair in On the Head of a Pin, Uriel effortlessly provoked Dean to giving up Anna in Heaven and Hell and the CRD from Cross Road Blues planted the seed she would reap several months later in All Hell Breaks Loose II, Castiel, with Zachariah pulling the strings, similarly out dueled Dean in When the Levee Breaks and set Dean up for his temporary lock down in the â€˜green room.' That begs the question, are angels only capable of holding humans against their will if a deal has been made?
Azazel told Dean in AHBL II that demons cannot resurrect a human unless a deal is made; I wonder if angels have a similar restraint. The closest we've seen of Dean being held against his will was in OTHOAP but he did not demand to be returned, he only tried to leave. When Uriel blocked him, Dean demanded to speak with Castiel which was granted. Castiel successfully pled the angels' case and Dean chose to stay. It's obvious that angels are able to transport humans through space and time as well as speak in their dreams, alter their memories and even abduct them but each time that has happened there has never been a demand to leave, to be returned. The only time Dean demanded to be let go was after he had pledged his obedience to the angels, the result, the angels told him no. I think angels, along with not being omnipotent or omnipresent, also cannot hold a human against their will.
The angels were not subtle once they had Dean where they wanted him, attempting to buy him off with “wine, women and bacon cheeseburgers”, however, they missed the deeper man. Perhaps it's a good thing that angels are soulless, lifeless, heartless creatures; had they any of those things they would have realized that beer, burgers and bimbos - sorry, Ginger and Mary Ann, but I really wanted the continuity - would never guarantee Dean's calm acceptance of his placement in the "green room."
Despite Dean's inclination to low self-worth he is a keen hunter with a discerning mind and does not take things at face value. While he frequently has a fatalistic view as shown in Jus in Bello "Honestly, I think the world is going to end bloody" he couples that with a fighting spirit, a hunter's spirit, "but it doesn't mean we shouldn't fight; we do have choices. I choose to go down swinging." He shows that again with Sam in No Rest for the Wicked"If we go down, then we go down fighting." The angels may have tricked Dean into the green room, but like any caged tiger, they had a fight on their hands once they got him there.
We've no doubt about Sam's pride; it's been on display throughout the series and notably this season. That's not condemnation because we all need a certain level of pride. However, similar to Dean's bent towards low self-worth; Sam has a lack of confidence which bends him towards pride, the destructive side of pride. We've seen this subtly and not so subtly throughout this season starting with Lazarus Rising when Dean teases Sam that the “smarter brother” has returned. It's on full display in Metamorphosis when Sam challenges Dean for not having faith in him, remember this:
Sam: "You want to know why I've been lying to you, Dean, because of crap like this the way you talk to me, the way you look at me like I'm a freak or even worse, like I'm an idiot like I don't know the difference between right and wrong." (emphasis, mine)
To Sam, it's bad enough that he's a freak, or at least thinks he is, but what's worse is that Dean might think him an idiot, incapable of knowing right from wrong.
Dean picks at this sore point in a teasing fashion in Family Remains but it is in Sex and Violence that this point is hammered deep as Dean openly challenges Sam's choice to sleep with a potential siren, and then casts Sam aside as unfit to finish that particular hunt. Sam's trip into his inner mind during When the Levee Breaks shows the full extent to which Sam hides his self-confidence issues deep down, showing a mask of assurance and control to the world.
It's interesting to note that while the demons and angels pick at Dean's sense of self-worth openly, Sam picks at his sense of worth privately through his obsession about what Dean thinks about him. Dean doesn't worry about what Sam thinks about him, he knows Sam loves him. Dean gave up his secrets about hell reluctantly, not because he doubted Sam's love or feared Sam's rejection; the secrets were so painful Dean couldn't bear sharing them because to admit them would make them real. Dean never once showed that he feared Sam's lack of respect. Even what the siren tapped into in Sex and Violence wasn't fear that Sam didn't love him because of what he'd done; it was because Sam was changing and becoming someone Dean no longer recognized. Read their dialogue again and you'll see my point:
Dean: "Well, I don't know when it happened, maybe when I was in Hell, maybe when I was staring right at you, the Sam I knew, he's gone."
Sam: "That so?"
Dean: "It's not the demon blood, or the psychic crap. It's the little stuff, the lies, the secrets."
Sam: "Yeah, what secrets?"
Dean: "The phone calls to Ruby for one."
Sam: "So I need your say-so to make a phone call?"
Dean: "That's the point. You're hiding things from me. What else aren't you telling me?"
Sam: "None of your business."
Dean: "See what I mean? We used to be in this together. We used to have each other's backs."
Sam: "Okay, fine. You want to know why I didn't tell you about Ruby? And how we're hunting down Lilith? Because you're too weak to go after her Dean. You're holding me back. I'm a better hunter than you are, stronger, smarter. I can take out demons you're too scared to go near."
Now take a look at what Sam 'thinks' Dean is saying to him in When the Levee Breaks:
Dean: "I know why you really drink that blood, Sam, makes you feel strong, invincible, a big, bad wolf in a world of little pigs. It's more than that, isn't it; it's because your whole life you felt different, not different because you were some lonely kid or because of your weirdo family but because you're a monster. You were always a monster and you only feel right when you're sucking down more poison and more evil. Monster, Sam, you're a monster and I tried so hard to pretend that we were brothers that you weren't one of the filthy things we hunt. We're not even the same species. You're nothing to me."
We've known a long time that what Sam fears the most is Dean's disapproval. He hid the drinking of demon blood because he feared Dean's censure. Sam has feared that Dean would disown him since Season 1, Nightmare, and despite all evidence to the contrary, in Nightmare, Hunted, Born Under a Bad Sign and even Dean's declaration in When the Levee Breaks "I just want you to be okay. You would do the same for me, you know you would.", Sam still cannot have faith. Interesting that Sam has faith in the unseen, angels and God, but not in the seen, Dean.
Some points that made this entirely fulfilling to me as a season finale are as follows:
- Azazel took front and center stage again as the great manipulator behind the scenes and from so long ago. That brought a huge sense of continuity to the overall series and I love that for those out there doubting that Sam's storyline had been sidelined that Eric definitively silenced them - well, not likely because those that like to be miserable will continue - but for me it's a great accomplishment to bring back to the forefront what has always been the plan, Azazel put the plan in motion and Sam is the chosen one. Why, we do not know yet and thus the seeding of part of Season 5.
- You must stop Sam? Lilith? The Apocalypse? - oh, Lucifer- awesome. And just like Sam Wesson needs Dean Smith to kill a simple ghost, Sam and Dean will need to join together to stop Lucifer, I have no doubt.
- There were two times in this episode when my heart clenched, the first was when Dean called Sam and left that awesome message. The second was when Sam listened to the message that Zachariah had altered, the crushing of Sam's spirit reached through the screen and choked my heart - I was in agony.
- The wisdom of Bobby. Dean was so crushed at the beginning of the episode that he reverted to his fatalism - "I'm not even sure he's my brother anymore, if he ever was." We need refuge when all appears lost but sometimes our refuge serves us best when it doesn't allow us to hide but spurs us on to fight. Bobby is Dean's refuge and here he did what truly needed to be done, he spurred Dean on. Thanks to Jump the Shark where Dean finally realized that all things John Winchester are not to be admired Bobby's words struck the right tone. Dean followed it up as soon as he was next given the opportunity by calling Sam and admitting he wasn't Dad and, unlike the shame he experienced in On the Head of a Pin, this was a good thing.
- Sam hearing Dean through the 'noise'. Note during Dean's conversation with Castiel back in the 'green room' Dean makes an interesting comment when he's trying to get Cas to take him to Sam - “you know what, screw this noise, I'm out of here." Fast forward to when Sam is starting to kill Lilith and what do we hear, noise. There's the roar of Sam's heartbeat and the roar of wind but over the din Dean's voice comes through and Sam stops and turns to the sound - Dean. Ruby's frantic screams, right in his face, partially refocus his attention but it's not until Lilith laughs, a derisive laugh that is followed by her taunt to Sam that he turned himself into a freak, a monster, and then she laughs at him again. Oh, the demons know all too well how to push buttons and confuse the mind.
- The brothers killed Ruby together. When Dean busted through that door and drew the knife to kill Ruby, Sam instantly and in perfect concert with Dean's movements grabbed Ruby from behind and held her while Dean plunged the knife and then twisted it with great satisfaction. We haven't seen such perfection in their hunt since - okay, It's a Terrible Life but that only counts because it proves that past all the baggage the brothers DO know exactly who the other is and what needs to be done. Strip away the noise, the pride, the shame and they know what to do.
- When Sam apologized to Dean it was simple, honest and all that needed to be said. Dean's expression was a mixture of uncertainty and amazement that it just about broke my heart again, except for that pesky vortex opening. The simultaneous reflexive actions of both brothers to grasp the other's jacket and not let go is another example of the bond being rebuilt, that Dean wanted to leave and Sam stood firm shows that they are individuals and despite all of Sam's being brought low, he is still his own person. What really gave me hope though is that Sam grabbed Dean's jacket a second time, holding tight. Perhaps Sam remembered what Dean said a year earlier in No Rest For the Wicked: "If we go down, then we go down swinging." I think Sam added to that that they'll go down together.
Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Jared Padalecki each delivered, as is their norm. The inner conflict of their characters was clearly shown and all handled their action sequences beautifully but it's the nonverbals or the acting without anyone else in the scene that blew me away.
Jensen's portrayal of Dean leaving Sam a voice message is raw and real and I loved that Dean combined an admission of anger and the desire for inflicting a 'beat down' with the confession that he was not Dad - and by proxy not his 'soldier' and that nothing changed the fact that he and Sam were family and that he was wrong.
Jensen and Misha team up to deliver a completely silent, but in no way ho hum, moment when Castiel telepathically communicates with Dean. Castiel has always either spoken directly to Dean or through his subconscious, never once has he simply 'transferred' thoughts. The 'eye' acting between the two of them conveyed the urgency and danger and the immediate understanding of what was to be done. I've watched that scene several times and will no doubt watch it again.
Misha's performance as he draws the 'angel blasting' symbol on the wall and sends Zachariah to places unknown is intense. Add to that the shot from behind, sideways glance at Chuck (I am the Prophet Chuck!) who quickly, and wisely, removes his hand from Castiel's shoulder as the archangel descends had me bursting out with laughter - it was perfect!
Jared, Jared, Jared - how I love your acting with your eyes and the pain in your face - I think you hair hurts with Sam's pain and I feel it. I loved how he expressed Sam's continued conflict over what he was doing but this time he added irritation, Sam was irritated with Ruby for the first time ever. Add to that the wrenching image as Sam listened to 'Dean's voice mail' [Zach, for that I hope it hurt to get vortexed out of the 'green room'].
There is so much more I could write about but as is my norm I'll stop here having focused where I felt strongest. Due to 'issues' with my DVR I was unable to record the entire episode, losing the scene when Dean confronts Castiel about what he'd just learned form Zachariah - I have only the end of it when Dean tells Cas that they are through. Perhaps Alice will make that a clip and post it in her recap [unsubtle hint] but then again there is the fourth season DVD coming out soon - real soon.
Ask and you shall receive. Your missing scene...
As for Ruby, in my review of When the Levee Breaks I reviewed the road of Ruby so I'll not include her here other than to rejoice that she is dead. RUBY IS DEAD!!!!!! I am thinking about delving into her journey over the summer, either as a standalone article or in another article I'm planning - we'll see.
By the way, who loved that in the 'green room' there was a harp? LOL! How cool was it that when Zachariah sat down to 'confide' in Dean there was a mirror like is found in a carnival house of mirrors - very cool. How awesome is it that during Dean's and Zachariah's scene in which Zachariah reveals he wants the apocalypse the color is slowly bleached away. As the light of knowledge dawns, the color fades - cool.
So what now Season 5?
Before I get to that, a little trivia question - What do these four writers have in common in terms of their writing of an episode of Supernatural, Cathryn Humphris, Ben Edlund, Sera Gamble and Eric Kripke?
Things I hope to see in Season 5:
- Sam and Dean rebuilding their relationship, stronger, deeper, wiser, aware of how they balance each other,
- What happened to Anna,
- What happened to Zachariah, Kurt Fuller is excellent in this part; he has a gravitas that draws me in while all the time watching, and knowing, there's more than meets the eye,
- John, Mary, Samuel, Rufus, Chuck - I'd love to see these characters return in some fashion or another - oh, yes, and the Ghostfacers as well.
- Bobby in as many episodes as possible,
- As much classic rock as possible, can't somebody shell out a few more bucks???
- No episodes without the Impala, I mean really, twice this season is twice too many!
- How's about a good ole' urban legend about Valentine's Day, and oh, heck go for it, make a comedy of Friday the 13th â€“ it's self-referential and could be ghoulishly fun, November 13, 2009, is available.