Saika: Okay, so much shit happened in this episode that I didn’t think I could go it alone, so I dragged Luce into co-writing this with me. How is this only our first copost?
Saika: Anyway, so, the season finale. Let’s be real, guys, this was all over the place. Hit the jump for spoilers.
So the recap goes something like this: Jody Mills, sheriff and Levi-destroyer extraordinaire, is on a date. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, because even boss sheriffs need love—but she’s portrayed as incredibly weepy and pathetic, and her date is Crowley, who plans to kill her as yet another part of the kill-people-till-the-Winchesters-stop-the-trials scheme. And Sam and Dean do finally agree to stop the trials and exchange tablets with Crowley, but it’s unclear if Jody made it. I really hope she did, because that would be a stupid and ignominious end for a kickass lady. All this happens even before the title card. This recap is gonna be a long one.
The boys meet up with Crowley to exchange the tablets, but pull a fast one on him, and, using a fancy demon-trap handcuff (what is it with demon traps on everything this season?) pull a Fifty Shades of Death Note dealio and cuff him to Dean. They haul him off to a church and set up for the demon-curing ritual, and just as they’re about to start, Castiel shows up. Naomi had kidnapped the Metatron while the two of them were in the middle of the second angel tablet trial, which was to take a Cupid’s bow. He asks Dean for help completing his heaven-sealing tasks, and Sam manages to convince Dean to go with Castiel instead of staying to provide backup for the cure.
Sam sets about curing Crowley, both of them looking more and more pathetic as the trial continues. At one point Crowley manages to break free enough to summon help, which arrives in the form of Abbadon. Abbadon doesn’t really like Crowley at all, as it turns out, so she just starts whaling on him instead, and Sam ends up saving Crowley by lighting her meatsuit on fire. The smoke-Abbadon escapes, it looks like, but… man. I loved that sassy redheaded meatsuit.
Crowley wibbles back and forth and I’m not really sure if he was actually close to being cured or just fucking with Sam the whole time. Sam does get to the very end of the ritual, which begs the question of whether Crowley is going to be half-human or still all-demon or something else going into next season. But let’s jump back to Dean and Cas before we get to the end of the episode.
Dean and Cas are off chasing the Cupid and have a sad heart-to-heart about the fact that closing heaven means Cas is also going to be stuck there forever. Then, shocker, they actually get the Cupid’s bow just by asking for it. But Naomi shows up and tries to explain that the Metatron is double-crossing Castiel and that the trials Cas is performing will force all the angels to fall rather than locking them all in heaven. The Metatron is angry at the angels because they’d run him out of heaven, and this is his revenge. Kevin, who has been trying to rapid-fire translate the angel tablet now in the Winchesters’ possession, confirms that it appears to say nothing about Nephilim or Cupids.
Furthermore, Naomi explains that the third hell-sealing trial is going to kill Sam. After dropping Dean back at the church, Castiel goes to Heaven to confront the Metatron and Naomi, but discovers that the Metatron has killed her (with, it seems, her own dental equipment). Cas ends up trussed back up in the dentist’s chair, and the Metatron steals what remains of his Grace. He wants all the angels to fall, and Castiel is supposed to lead the way.
Dean gets back to Sam just in time to talk him down from completing the last trial, in the only well-acted, in-character scene in this whole damn episode. Kevin, who’s hiding out in the hobbit hole, watches in fear as a console in the wall (which looks like an old-timey nuke detector but which I guess tracks celestial energy) lights up like a bonfire with sensors. In one of the only cool visuals of the episode, we see that the Metatron has apparently succeeded and all the angels are falling from heaven. Castiel stands up on Earth and brushes himself off, and we cut to credits.
So Sam, Dean, Cas, Crowley, Kevin, Abbadon, the Metatron, and arguably Jody made it out of this episode alive. Which is, all things considered, a pretty low death count for a Supernatural season finale.
Luce: Yeah, that was entirely unexpected. But to start us off, there’s a lot about this episode (and, to be honest, the rest of this season) that I didn’t fully understand.
Saika: The storyline has been more all over the place than Moffat’s Doctor Who, and that’s saying something.
Luce: There have been a number of “false memories” in the last few episodes—memories that Sam remembered incorrectly, such as the Winchesters’ going to the Grand Canyon (when it’s been mentioned in at least three episodes that they have never been to the Grand Canyon). In this episode Dean even mentions a girl in the sixth grade as a memory of Sam’s, to which Sam replies, “Wait, that was you.”
Normally I’d think these mentions were down to weird character quirks or shoddy writing (though, you know, probably the latter), but the location manager for Supernatural, Russ Hamilton, actually mentioned that these would be important. I’d been imagining some glorious pull-of-the-rug reveal, maybe utilizing whoever was mysteriously observing Sam in Season 8’s opening episode—remember how that was never addressed? Because I do—
Saika: I don’t. Wow, what watching Supernatural in real time instead of in marathons will do to you.
Luce: —but instead, we get nothing. If they were going to do something, this would be the time to do it from a storytelling perspective: “Everything you know is wrong! Have a good hiatus!” Why include this sort of misdirection if you weren’t going to do anything with it?
Saika: Then we have the issue of the angels falling. This was thrown in at the eleventh hour—seriously in like the last twenty minutes of a twenty-three episode season—and, although I was honestly expecting fallen Cas for Season 9, I was definitely not expecting the rest of the Host to join him on Earth.
Luce: Okay, I was really hoping that Cas would fall, and we’d heard that Misha Collins was going to become a series regular in Season 9, so I thought it would be a good way to have him stay—he could never hunt with the Winchesters before because he had too many powers and from a writer standpoint that would just be lazy. Hunting a demon? Hunting a vampire? Hunting a wendigo? Hunting anything? Cas’ll burn the heart out of that bad boy for you, no worries. But a human Cas can let the writers do things that they normally couldn’t. So my main problem was that Cas had no actual agency in his fall. He didn’t choose it, like Anna did. He didn’t, probably, even want it.
Saika: Yeah, in a lot of speculation about Cas’s fall (because it is always seen as more of a when than an if situation) he chooses Earth and Dean and Sam over Heaven, and it’s good and in character and relevant to the story because it’s a total Team Free Will-style fuck you to what’s expected of him. With the Metatron taking away that choice instead, it’s just unnecessarily victimizing, especially because I don’t think it would faze Cas much to be human at this point.
Luce: When Naomi explains the Metatron’s megalomaniacal plan, she says that that he would cast the angels out of heaven, like Lucifer was cast out. She doesn’t necessarily say that they would fall. The difference here seems to be that a cast-out angel is still an angel, but a fallen angel becomes human. Cas seems to be free to live out his life as a fallen angel, but in the last scene the angels are literally falling from the sky and—this is important—it looks like the angels’ wings are all burning. The wings have always been an external representation of angels’ grace and life essence in the show, so does that mean that the angels aren’t falling, but dying? Is Cas the only “fallen angel” to come out of this whole mess? And furthermore, Lucifer got to keep his grace when he was cast out—if these angels were cast out in the same way as was Lucifer, shouldn’t they be able to keep their grace?
Saika: I guess when you fall as Lucifer fell, you fall in flames? But seriously, Les Mis jokes aside, I’m pretty sure the way “falling” worked when it happened to Anna was 1) angel falls and is reborn as a human infant 2) grace falls elsewhere à la shooting stars. No actual burning angels falling from the sky. So is this sloppy continuity, or did the Metatron enact an angel genocide instead of an expulsion from heaven? Who knows? Either way, Supernatural writers, it’s written on the doorway to paradise that those who falter and those who fall must pay the price. (The price is nineteen years hard labor for fucking up the show I love.)
Luce: Wow, the angels aren’t the only ones on fire tonight. Too soon?
Saika: God, I can’t help myself, I’m sorry. Anyway, you know what pissed me off the most about this episode aside from the lackluster plot and shoddy-ass characterization? Everyone all together now: the ladies.
Supernatural continues to have plentiful opportunities to not horribly victimize women and instead gleefully does so at every opportunity. Jody Mills returns, but only for one scene and only to cry and possibly be killed to make the Winchesters sad, which is the literal definition of fridging. In one of the scenes with Kevin, it’s confirmed that Mrs. Tran was killed by Crowley offscreen, which is both fridging and a loss for diversity since we no longer have a single woman of color in the cast. Sam lights Abbadon’s meatsuit on fire because Supernatural just doesn’t have enough women on fire yet, amirite?
Naomi, who was by no means a fan favorite but was at least a pretty awesome villain, also dies offscreen (we just see her corpse) and at the hands of the Metatron, rather than at least getting a cathartic-for-viewers death at Cas’s hands or—just maybe—getting to survive. And to cap it all off, “Sacrifice” brought back the ever-popular gendered slur: the Metatron just has to refer to Naomi as a “bitch” rather than any other insult his vastly literary mind could concoct.
Saika: I just can’t bring myself to care about the Metatron at all. Like from the second I saw the casting spoilers I was apathetic, because SPN needs more white dudes with manpain like it needs more women on fire—see what I did there?—and the writers have not done a single thing that has made me care about him a whit. And if the end of this episode is to be believed, now he’s just stuck in heaven by himself twiddling his thumbs. I hope he dies of boredom.
Almost all the characterization this episode was lazy or bad, now that I mention it. Naomi—is she suddenly regretful, and if so, why? Metatron? Who gives a flying fuck? Crowley’s become a caricature of himself who speaks in nothing but innuendos and whines “I am your king!” instead of trying to smooth-talk Abbadon, and our poor baby Castiel is just all over the damn place. It’s a damn shame but it’d be more forgivable if we could tell where the plot is going and how these character portrayals can be justified in light of that—if they can be justified at all, that is.
Luce: Like you said to me during the episode, it’s highly plausible that the show is actually heading to the 2014 End!verse depicted in Season 5. The angels have all (presumably) gone, and Cas is fallen and stuck on Earth with the Winchesters. Lucifer is dead and the Croatoan virus seems to have been eliminated, but Lucifer’s line from “The End” keeps ringing in my head: “Whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up here.” What would you think if it turned out we were actually on the highway to 2014?
Saika: I think there are possibilities with this if done right, but there’s the crux of it: “If done right.” This last season (and these last few episodes especially) have been a nightmarish labyrinth of plot ideas that could have been so cool if the writers took the time to tease out the plot threads instead of just sloppily knotting them off. One example of this is—holy shit.
Saika: So I was going back through Lady Geek Girl’s reviews of earlier in this season and I fucking forgot Amelia even existed. Holy shit. But anyway, I was going to say that one example of this is the human-and-supernatural-creature romantic pairing thing that happened a million times this season. In “Bitten”, with Benny, in the Mayan one, the racist-as-fuck one, Gilda and Charlie, Prometheus and his wife… it seemed like they were going somewhere with these parallels, and then they just… didn’t go anywhere.
Luce: A lot of Dean/Cas shippers (and fair’s fair, we’re shippers, too) have been gleefully counting up the number of human/supernatural pairings this season as “evidence” that the writers of the show are aiming towards eventually making Dean/Cas a canon pairing. And while that may or may not happen, almost every one of the above pairings sacrificed something for the sake of family or for the greater good. The sheer number of parallels makes one expect that this theme would also be paralleled in the protagonists’ character arcs, but that didn’t happen in the finale with Sam. And to be quite honest, I don’t see why Sam wouldn’t have followed these parallels and sacrificed himself in this episode.
First off, Supernatural has a habit of killing off everyone on the show, even its leads, and the consequence of that is that the idea of death no longer carries any type of significant emotional connotation for the fans. When Dean told Sam he would die should he complete the trials and Sam’s first reaction was “So?!”, well, that was my reaction too. Death has never been the guaranteed end of the road for a Winchester, and if Sam had died and his soul had gone to Hell (or stuck around on Earth, as there’s nowhere else for human souls to go now considering that the pearly gates seem to be shut for good, and that had better be dealt with in the next season) we know that Dean would have gotten him back no matter what.
But more importantly, to me, Sam’s decision in this episode ignored every last piece of development from his character arc in general and his arc this season in particular. There’s a great Tumblr post which posits the idea that Sam’s entire character arc for Supernatural is “What exactly does it mean to become a hero?” and we can see that in the show—from the very start Sam’s been the character who wants to break free of the hunting world, and he’s always gone about it in a way which matches the archetype of the classic hero: he believes if he can just do one thing—
Saika: —right, whether it be finding his dad, avenging his mom and girlfriend, saving his brother from Hell, stopping the apocalypse, retrieving his soul, or stopping the Levis—
Luce: —then he can escape not just the hunting world, but his own fears and doubts as well. He can save the world and go home to the hero’s accolade of a wife, a white picket fence, and 2.4 kids. And this season in particular we saw Sam renewed with dedication to this character arc—he sees a light at the end of the tunnel for both himself and for Dean, he reattaches to the hunting world in a major, personal way (by finding out that he was supposed to be a Man of Letters, which seems tailor-made for Sam Winchester because they are a freaking coven of warrior-scholars), and he has another cause—closing the gates of hell. He spends the whole season pushing against Dean, telling Dean that he can be trusted and relied upon, showing Dean that he’s capable of doing the trials himself. And yet when push came to shove, he didn’t carry through—he wouldn’t make the sacrifice play, to steal Marvel’s words.
Saika: Aw, talk Avengers to me, Luce.
Luce: The brothers have always been the most important part of each others’ lives, but Sam’s not-sacrifice seems directly against everything Sam has done this season. At the start of this episode, he even told Dean to go with Cas, because he was so sure he could cure Crowley himself. This is a character who was so eager to be free of his codependency with his brother that he didn’t even look for Dean in Purgatory after the events of Season 7. What exactly does it mean to become a hero? What would it take, what would he have to do, what would he have to sacrifice in exchange for becoming a hero? Sam has always been headed towards this question. And in this episode he turned tail faster than a demon confronted with holy water.
Saika: Do you think Sam should have died instead? Because I have to say, that would have been really boring.
Luce: Yeah, it would have been thematically uninteresting had Sam died at the end of the season, since a brother has died or gone missing at the end of every season, so I agree with you there. But it’s also thematically uninteresting the way it stands, because now, aren’t we just back to more of the same? Sam and Dean, setting the world on fire for each other—it’s clear that Sam will never be free of his brother or of the hunting life. Now that Dean has said he loves and trusts Sam, again, is that enough for Sam to give up his entire character arc? And if a life outside hunting is not what Sam wanted, then why was the rest of the season written as if it was? That right there is a good summation of my problems with the whole season. There have been some great ideas, but they’ve all been poorly executed.
Saika: I’m just really underwhelmed with pretty much every direction the so-called Season Gr8 decided to go, and that in turn has made me less-than-excited for Season 9. If this is the quality level we can expect from next season’s episodes as well, Season 9 is cordially invited to take its bloody time getting here. We’ll be busy counting down to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. instead.