Ahem. So thanks to our reduced Supernatural reviews this season, we should get caught up with Season 9 before we talk about our thoughts on the finale and the season as a whole. When we left off, Sam and Dean were beating themselves up over the death of Kevin while Castiel struggled not to become a leader for the angels again, despite everyone from Metatron on down attempting to convince him that hey, being an angel leader was what he was meant to do. Most importantly, Dean got the First Blade, which can only be wielded if one has the Mark of Cain. Thanks to a roadtrip with Crowley, Dean met the original Cain and got said Mark. Now he’s the only person on Earth who can use the First Blade. What can the First Blade do? It can kill Abaddon (and Crowley, and Metatron). One brief and ill-timed venture to Chicago later, the Winchesters manage to off Abaddon and are all set for their boss fight of the season: Metatron.
All three of the main actors hit the news circuit in the days leading up to the finale, each promising us that this finale would take the Winchesters somewhere they’d never been before. Since Season 9 has been a tired retread of all the Winchesters’ golden oldies, such a promise was nigh on unbelievable. It’s like a third-rate boyfriend promising you that not only would he remember your anniversary, he would do something so incredible you’d marry him right then and there. Is that something Supernatural‘s even capable of? I’m gonna say no, but let’s hold the verdict until after the jump.
Supernatural‘s numerous problems have already been laid out numerous times,and this finale was no different. In the episodes leading up to the finale, women were casually objectified and then, usually, killed; fans were made fun of; queerbaiting abounded. However, the plot and character arcs (or lack thereof) already had problems enough for a thousand words.
In our last episode, Gadreel, who alongside Crowley has been given the redemption arc this season, came to the Winchesters’ bunker to offer his services in bringing Metatron down. Sam and Cas are willing to trust him, even though he killed Kevin (using Sam’s body). Dean shakes Gadreel’s hand—and then slashes his chest open with the First Blade. Sam and Cas force him down into the basement and lock him there, rightly thinking that Dean’s gone batshit crazy and shouldn’t be in on the killing Metatron plan. Dean starts vomiting blood and summons Crowley, who tells him that while he’s the wielder of the First Blade, the state of his health has a direct correlation to the number of people he’s killed. When he hasn’t killed anyone, well, he’d better get used to the taste of his own blood.
Crowley gets Dean out of the bunker (how he did it remains unknown; I hope Dean didn’t do anything stupider than he’s already done) and the two of them resume their search for Metatron. They’re joined by Sam, who tells them that Metatron’s been performing miracles and making sure that bystanders get them on camera—so it’s pretty easy to follow his trail. Meanwhile, Cas and Gadreel sneak their way into Heaven’s secret door by using the Star Wars Wookie trap—the victorious Gadreel brings in Heaven’s most wanted in chains. Once they’re inside, though, the angels turn on them. They knew it was a trap all along (hey, have they seen Star Wars?) and the two of them are put in jail. Gadreel’s an eager little redemption bunny, though, and carves an Enochian rune for destruction on his chest, killing himself and blowing the doors of the cell wide open. Cas is able to get to Metatron’s office and search it for the angel tablet from which Metatron is getting his Godly powers.
Crowley has, at this point, disappeared, leaving Sam and Dean to face Metatron on their own. Or not. Dean knocks Sam out and leaves him by the side of the Impala, saying that killing Metatron is something he has to do armed only with his blade and his enormous amounts of manpain. He proceeds to the worn-down tenement building where Metatron is meditating, really playing up his Jesus act for the homeless people whom he healed earlier that day. The two of them fight, and although Dean has the Blade, Metatron manages to stab Dean through the heart with his angel blade. He escapes back to Heaven as Sam wakes up and hurries to Dean’s side. “I’m proud of us,” Dean chokes out, probably delirious due to blood loss. Proud of what? The people he’s killed? The douchebag he’s become?
Metatron gets back to Heaven just in time to see Cas smash the angel tablet all over the floor. He advances on Cas and tells him all of his dastardly plans, to which Cas gestures at the microphone that’s been broadcasting his words to all the angels on angel radio. And thus Metatron is captured. Bit anti-climactic. That’s because the real climax is in the last few minutes, when, undoing a whole season’s worth of character development, Sam goes to make a deal with Crowley to bring Dean back from death. Unbeknownst to him, though, Crowley is already at Dean’s bedside, where he tells Dean that the original Cain couldn’t die as long as he had the Mark. He wraps Dean’s lifeless hand around the Blade and tells him, “What you’re feeling right now? It’s not death. It’s life. A new kind of life.” Dean’s eyes open. They’re demon black.
So Dean’s gone full-on dark side! That’s not something we’ve seen before, if you don’t count the forty years Dean spent in Hell that no one ever mentions. And honestly, it was something that a lot of people predicted. The First Blade was clearly doing something to Dean’s mental state, and he got more and more dickish with each passing episode. It’s not a big jump to think that he might become a demon. It’s just too bad that in doing so, the writers reinforced the Winchester problem that this show has had all along. “They did the thing!” I shouted at Saika and Stinekey in the safety of the after-show chatroom. “They did the thing and they did it poorly!”
It’s not the first time that a Winchester (or honorary Winchester Castiel) has pursued greater power as the means to defeat a villain. It’s just that usually, that Winchester is Sam. Sam wanted to defeat Lilith, so he consorted with Ruby and drank demon blood and ended up unleashing Lucifer onto the Earth. Then Cas needed more power to defeat Raphael, so he worked with Crowley to inhale a bunch of Purgatory souls that ended up driving him crazy and unleashing Leviathans onto the Earth. In both cases, Sam and Cas pursued power willingly, sure of the rightness of their actions and sure they could control their newfound power. In both cases, they were proven wrong. In both cases, they apologized and sought atonement.
Not so for Dean Winchester. Throughout the seasons, Dean has consistently been characterized as the character who has to step into the action, because his compatriots are either too weak to fight or too weak to be trusted. Dean doesn’t tell Sam all the information sometimes, because he doesn’t trust Sam at that point or because he has so much manpain that he thinks he has to manage everything himself. As Lady Geek Girl so eloquently said, Dean is the noble older brother who always has to protect his tragically misguided younger brother from himself. Dean’s taking on the Mark of Cain this season could have been a great way to subvert this character arc and show that Dean, too, was a fallible character.
Yet this is not what the narrative did at all. Yes, Dean was thrilled to take the Mark of Cain because it meant he had a weapon with which to defeat Abaddon, but he was always shown as having his doubts about it. He started drinking himself to sleep, afraid of what he was becoming. In this, he’s meant to be the tragic character that accepts a powerful burden because he’s somehow the only one strong enough for it, and he’s not addicted but he’ll totally suffer through being chosen. Then, when he does become addicted to it, any concerns that Sam and Cas have are shouted down as Dean declares himself and his plans a dictatorship. When he turns into a demon at the end, it doesn’t even seem like a natural consequence of his mistakes—it comes off as more of a gotcha deus ex machina. Dean was in charge of Sam and Cas’s narratives—the writers wanted us to think Sam and Cas were wrong because Dean thought they were wrong. Turns out Dean’s in charge of his own narrative, too.
Even though we all know that what Dean’s doing is leading both himself and his relationship with Sam down the path of no return, the narrative never acknowledges it. Dean’s given many opportunities throughout the season to apologize to Sam for making him host an angel and for that angel killing Kevin, but he never does so. Even when he’s killed by Metatron, his last words are not an apology. It’s not that Sam should have accepted an apology—he definitely shouldn’t—it’s that Dean needs to acknowledge the truth of his mistakes. I mean, what was that hugely metaphorical Ghostfacers episode even for if not for this?!
Aside from all that, Season 9 as a whole suffered from a hugely ineffective pacing problem. Many of the plotlines (Abaddon, Bartholomew, Buddy Boyle, the dull and thankfully not picked up SPN spinoff) were tied up or simply drifted away into the ether before the finale, which left only Metatron for the last episode. As for the Gadreel and Crowley redemption arcs, while Crowley’s could have worked, Gadreel’s would have been a far easier sell if he hadn’t killed Kevin. As it stands, Sam and Cas just look silly for ever trusting him again. Abaddon doesn’t get a redemption arc, of course, because why redeem female villains?
And, of course, the Supernatural fanbase has been clamoring for a Dean/Castiel pairing (or a Sam/Dean pairing) since the beginning of the show, and if it had happened, it would go a long way towards alleviating Supernatural’s frankly gross queerbaiting problem. When Metatron was telling another angel about Cas this season, he even said, “He’s in love—” pause for approximately a million years “—with humanity.” Sure. Did Destiel become canon? No, it did not, and it most likely never will. Mark another season of useless queerbaiting in Supernatural’s favor.
What did you all think of the finale? Let me know in the comments.