Thursday 3 December 2020

Supernatural - my review of the ending

It’s been nearly two weeks and I need to get these thoughts on paper, but it’s been a hell of a time. I should start by saying the finale was nothing like what I’d hoped for. Essentially, like many others, I wanted a happy ending with Sam and Eileen and Dean and Cas. If you’re interested in discovery my ending, you can read it here.

At the end of episode eighteen, I was sad but hopeful. Castiel had sacrificed himself once more fulfilling his offer to the Empty which he’d made to save Jack. This is what the three lead characters in Supernatural have always done, except this time there was a difference. This time, Castiel told his truth to the man he loves. In a speech that brought tears to my eyes, and to Dean’s, Castiel told Dean Winchester what a good man he is and how much Castiel had gained from simply knowing him. However, this time he added a sentence that changed everything for me.

At the start of the scene, once again Dean blames himself for not being able to stop Chuck, for not being with Sam and Jack, for the fact that Death will kill Castiel. He stands behind the chair he’s been held in at one time to begin with then moves in front of it, moves closer to Castiel, for what may be their last moments alive. At this point, Dean expects to die. Back to Castiel’s words.

We all know Castiel’s deal with the Empty. I’ve wondered what could give Castiel a moment of pure happiness since, and now we see it is a moment he chooses to himself. It is the moment he tells Dean how he truly feels about him. Yes, Castiel gets to choose the moment. Anyway, those words.

“The one thing I want is something I know I can’t have.”

When Castiel said those words gazing at Dean, my heart had no idea whether to jump for joy or cringe away in fear. Castiel wants Dean. In hindsight, this declaration reminds me of a scene from In and Out, a guilty pleasure of mine, in which Billy tells his soldier friend, played by Matt Dillon, that he loves him and Matt Dillon’s character goes through the many ways he could love him – a friend, a brother, a cousin, a penpal, but we know Billy means another way. Castiel wants Dean in that other way. He then goes on to tell Dean about himself to bolster him to the last. Castiel’s last words are of the admiration and love he feels for Dean Winchester. This culminates in a romantic declaration of love. Dean doesn’t reciprocate (except in Spanish). Cas is taken, along with Death, by the Empty, leaving Dean so distraught, he doesn’t answer the phone with Sam calling. Just remember, we the audience are told he loves Sam above all others. He knows Sam is in peril and yet, he doesn’t answer the phone because his angel is gone and Cas has just said, I love you. There is no one else in the room. This is not a collective, I love you. This is a declaration of love, need, want for Dean, and only Dean.

So, at last, the writers had gone there. They had allowed Cas to say those words to the man he loves. A male presenting character, although I don’t strictly think of Cas in those terms, had expressed a romantic love for another male character. Knowing how Supernatural works, and that Cas could return, I hoped the writers might continue to be brave and do something absolutely genre breaking. I hoped Cas could be Dean’s happy ever after. Oh boy, did the next two episodes kill that little flicker of hope. But not only did they do that, there was worse.

And so on to episode nineteen. When we left Dean, he was mourning Castiel’s disappearance with his head in his hands, ignoring what could be a cry for help from his brother. The episode opens by showing us that everyone is gone except for Sam, Jack, and Dean. Dean leaves the bunker and comes to them. We do not know how long this takes him. Dean is asked about Cas and with tears in his eyes explains what Cas has done. And that’s it. At no point from now on does he say to anyone what Cas told him. We are back to Dean taking the blame. He apologises to Jack. Okay, I will admit Dean saying nothing is in character, and then wasn’t the time for an outpouring of emotion. After this, we have another occasion where Dean says he will kill Sam, or Sam can kill him, or they can kill each other, if Chuck will bring everyone, but specifically Cas, back. Dean places great emphasis on Cas. And again that little flicker of hope that Cas might return burns more brightly. But no, Chuck refuses. This is Chuck’s end of story with the addition of Jack. This is the end Becky read. This is the end with no Cas. But as there are around seventy-five minutes left to the end of the show, we, the audience, know there must be more.

Dean does what Dean does - he gets drunk. Is this the only way he can sleep? I imagine so. Dean has used alcohol in this way before. This could have been the moment when Dean tells Sam what Castiel said to him – but no. Instead, Jack senses a presence which turns out to be a dog, something for Dean to love. Strange how Sam has been the one with the dog before, but now Dean holds onto this dog (because he can’t hold onto Cas?) until Chuck exerts his power again and takes the dog away. Dean knows Chuck can go on doing this for the rest of their lives. They still have no free will. If he can’t write Sam and Dean, Chuck can write everything else. But there is more. Jack takes them to a church. We get the third Winchester brother in the form of Michael. So all the angels aren’t gone. I wondered about heaven and hell at this stage. But Michael too fails to open God’s death book, and we are left with Sam and Dean and another of those opportunities for Dean to talk to Sam about what happened.

Dean’s phone rings. It says Cas. I wasn’t expecting this now. We hear Castiel’s voice for the last time saying he’s hurt. Dean races up the stairs but is greeted with Lucifer of all characters. I hated this. The show taunts Dean but also us. This is the last time we hear Cas’s voice, but it isn’t him. It’s another lie. Lucifer provides a new Death to open the book. So maybe Chuck can be killed after all. But Lucifer and Michael, still the brother’s vying for God’s love, follow Chuck. Michael kills Lucifer and what we don’t realise is, that for Jack, this is a Highlander moment. He absorbs Lucifer’s powers. We are led back to what looks like the place where Jack was born to see the spell. We don’t yet know this is all a trap for Michael, and for Chuck, so Jack can absorb all their power and become ‘the New God’. After achieving his aim, Jack returns everyone to the world. We aren’t yet sure who everyone is yet. And Jack promises everyone will get their answers. So will Sam? Will Dean? Is Eileen back? Is Cas back? Wouldn’t they both have asked Jack that at this point. Even if he enigmatically said the answers they need would come in time. This for me is another why did they do this moment. I wanted Jack to have a life with his fathers, not to have to be God. Perhaps it’s the atheist in me, but God could have been left in the Empty with Amara. Jack could have had a life. But more sacrifice for him, and still in a sense, Chuck wins.

And finally, the brothers are free. We have the final montage. We have the final drive in Baby. And do you know, if the whole thing had finished with this, with this montage of everyone they had loved and met along the way, I’d have been okay with it, even with Castiel gone, because we know why, although I’d still be wondering about Eileen. I’d have wished Cas had got to hear Dean say I love you and, as Misha advised, the story of all our heroes could have been finished however we wanted them to be finished. But, of course, there was another forty minutes to go.

For a week, we waited. For a week, I hoped once more. My writer’s brain imagined every scenario. I wrote my own ending, just in case, an ending I developed later into the story linked above. But I never imagined we’d get anything like the car crash that was the finale we were presented with. It was terrible, and it was heart breaking. It provided the worst ending possible. It negated fifteen years of stories, fifteen years of character building, fifteen years of pain and sacrifice. I hated it on first watch and didn’t feel any better about it watching to write this essay. Here is why.

It's a few days after I wrote the first part of this. I’ve been putting it off, but I found myself thinking about it when I wake up in the morning, so I needed to get it down.

As soon as the finale started, I said, “There’s no Carry On.” I suppose nineteen finished with a montage of all the characters throughout the season, so we weren’t getting one here, especially as it turned out we weren’t getting these characters either. Instead, we got what had happened in the last two episodes, emphasising again who had been lost, but that now the boys were finally free.

The episode opens. Why does Dean have an alarm? I’ve never understood why people have alarms if they don’t have to get up at that time. And Miracle the dog is there giving Dean someone to cuddle. We see Dean’s need to do this and feel sad he’s missing Castiel. Then it’s ordinary life. Sam running, the gratuitous half naked shot supposedly to show fans what they will get more of in Jared’s new show, Dean cleaning his teeth taking us back to when Castiel was human. Sam tidy and Dean not. Did we ever see Dean’s bed left in such a mess before? But we need to see the differences between them now. Sam reading while Dean puts together a gun. And I think really? We’re going there again, as if Dean, who has shown several times that he reads, would never pick up a book. All this stereotyping feels forced after fifteen years, like taking a sledgehammer to a nut. And while this is happening, I keep thinking, where is Eileen? There’s been no mention of her existing or not existing. This woman, who Sam loved gets no acknowledgment—more later. Dean checking the computer finds something – so there are monsters still. But it turns out to be a pie festival.

Comedy Supernatural has featured often before. Dean wanting pie and not getting it happens a lot. This is another example of that. Dean gets a pie in the face. (At least it’s a lemon meringue. I don’t like meringue.) We are supposed to be amused yet again, and I think, for goodness sake, give Dean some pie, though it is Dabb’s pie – ha, ha. More comedy later. Now a mention of Cas and Jack by Sam, but not Eileen, echoed by Dean, who also says that if he and Sam don’t keep living, all of their sacrifice will have been in vain. More of this later, too.

And so we cut to a family. What? So we do have monsters. Father killed, Mum with tongue ripped out but alive so she can give our boys a description, and children snatched from under the bed – old school. But these men in masks simply look like men in masks – robbers, kidnappers, not monsters. However, Dean and Sam remember one case around thirty years before from their father’s book. We stop under a tree. I said there would be another comedy moment and here it is as Dean gives them a name – vampire mimes. Since when have vampires worn masks? Since when have they ripped out tongues and left people alive? Now the mimes might to make people silent, but a crossover monster? Is this just so Dean can do the joke and make us feel safe. After all, Jensen has said Dean likes killing vampires the most because they are straightforward to kill. And you’re telling me that only one family in a town fits the description? Yeah. Yeah. To me it’s just bloody lazy.

This brings me to a question. Why did Jack keep the monsters in the world? He could choose who to bring back. Why bring back vampires? Is it to do with balancing good and evil? Maybe there should have been some exceptions for those who haven’t killed people just like Garth and his family are ‘good’ werewolves. Surely, Jack had the power to examine anyone’s heart and soul. Or is this part of his hands-off scheme. So does this mean we have demons too. Do we have Hell as well as Heaven? The bad guys need somewhere to go too. The vampires were once humans, humans who didn’t necessarily chose to become vampires. Are they punished for what they’ve become, or spared because they had no choice? Who is in charge in Heaven and Hell now? What function will those places serve?

At this point, I have to say that I believe in neither, but then I don’t believe in vampires or werewolves either. However, they all exist in this world. Is Rowena still in charge of Hell? What has happened to the angels and Heaven? And there’s another question. What about the Empty. I’m going to diverge from the episode here.

We know the Empty hates noise. We know when they go there, angels tend to sleep. We know Cas didn’t stay quiet the first time. Is there any reason to suggest he might this time? I can’t see it. Cas gets bored easily. He never accepts what fate has thrown at him. He still has that cracked chassis. He still loves Dean and Jack and Sam. But we never find out. We discover what has become of Heaven but not Hell and especially not the Empty. For me, this is a huge plot hole. Did Covid restrictions foil filming? I don’t know. But we later find out that Cas is no longer in the Empty and is with Jack. We don’t, however, learn how.

And back to the vampires. Why go there in the dark? This always annoys me in films. Don’t vampires sleep in the day? The first thing we see is that Dean has Castiel’s coat in Baby’s trunk. How? Didn’t it go with him into the Empty? Did he leave one behind for Dean to keep? Dean gave the other one he kept back to Cas. Or are we, the audience, just supposed to think, “awe, Dean has Cas’s trench coat?”

We have fighting. We have Dean recognising a vampire from fifteen years ago. We have comedy Dean reminiscing, making a joke, distracting until Sam takes care of her. We get a sight of the nail. I wondered then. Nooooo, Dean is pushed back onto it. But they can get help. He’s not bleeding at the front when it was big enough to go through him. Perhaps it missed everything. Sam finds blood. Now he could have called for help and sod what anyone would think. But then I get it. Dean is going to die here, standing up with his boots on, hung on a nail with his brother. No long life for Dean. No experiencing new things. We are going to have his final moments with his brother dying, not heroically going out swinging, but like this. I know I should be sad, but my only bubbling feeling is anger. Not like this, I want to yell. Please, not like this. It wasn’t always supposed to end like this. It’s not good. Don’t make this Dean’s end. But they do. The scene between Dean and Sam should feel poignant, but I can’t get past my anger. I’ve never been a co-dependency fan and here it comes with bells on. Yes, Sam needs to hear Dean’s words. Dean needs to say them. Dean has always played this role. He’s the older brother and has always looked after Sam. He’s supposed to die first. I get this feeling so much. My younger brother died of cancer three years ago. I truly get the idea that the oldest should die first. It is the natural order of things. But not so soon. Dean deserved to live too. Dean wanted to live. Has he changed his mind now? Is he back to seeing himself as not worthy of happiness?

My other problem about this scene is that it’s all about Sam. Dean is side-lined here, as he is throughout the whole episode. Dean talks about Sam. He praises Sam. He begs Sam to say it’s okay for him to die. He tells Sam he loves him. And yes, I’m not a fan of the it’s only been you and me stuff, but you’d think Sam might thank Dean before he dies for all that he did. For how he looked after him, brought him up, protected him, and died for him more than once. But no, all Sam does is allow Dean to die. Arrgghh! I want to scream here. The only one who has told Dean how wonderful he is was Cas. He told Dean what a wonderful man he was. Cas did that. Cas said all the things I wanted Dean to hear, not Sam. But Sam should have said them too. Dean needed to hear them from Sam. He needed to die knowing Sam would try to live a great life for both of them. This also brings me to the question of whether Dean didn’t want to fight dying here. This isn’t a great message. It suggests he has nothing to live for. He doesn’t fight to live this time. He lets go. Is losing Cas the reason? Whatever, I don’t think it sends the best of messages to people with mental health issues and, even though Dean uses the words always keep fighting, he doesn’t. When the scene ended, I was shouting, “get him off the hook” and “let him lie down.” I had way more anger in me than sadness. Then there was the funeral. Sam is alone mourning his brother. Dean, who had so many friends, who was a legend among hunters, is burnt alone. Is this Sam’s decision? There’s Covid obviously, but there must have been something they could have done. Brothers in Arms is played. Yes, this does irritate me because it accompanies my favourite ever episode of any show, that of Two Cathedrals in The West Wing. I don’t want it here. Yes, they were brothers, but it was never just them, especially as the show went on. There should have been so many there to mourn him. It makes Sam appear selfish, just him there with the dog.

Now, we get what Sam does with his life. Still no explanation of what happened to Eileen, although we do find out Donna is alive. Just a few phone calls to others would have solved this mystery for us. No need even for them to appear on screen. I’m not surprised Sam leaves the bunker – too many memories, and he has never considered it home, unlike Dean. But – and this is a big but – Sam leaves all that knowledge behind. Sam and Dean were legacies of the Men of Letters. They never got to fulfil those roles. They became hunters instead. Was this legacy ever used again? Did Sam simply lock all those books and artefacts away? If monsters still existed, shouldn’t someone have had the chance to explore all that information? If there were other hunters… I could go on. Instead, we get this montage of Sam’s life with a woman we never see and is in none of the photographs. We get a son called Dean, with an anti-possession tattoo on his arm so we can see it, to replace brother Dean, and no other children. We get Sam moping in Baby. We get Sam in an awful wig. We get Sam dying with his son and no one else to mourn him. Is this what Sam did with all this extra life he got when Dean didn’t. The only positive image we get is of his relationship with his son, but even then, I worry that there is nothing else. What life has Dean junior had?

Sorry, I’ve got ahead of myself. Back to Dean, now in heaven. Of course he is. Here he meets Bobby outside what appears to be the roadhouse. Bobby tells us Jack has sorted heaven so there’s no longer just one memory to live in. Free will coming to the after life. I’m not sure what to make of this. What role to the angels play now? Are they needed? If you can do what you want in heaven, go where you want, isn’t that simply Earth? Is it a place where only good things can happen? Do you just get to do all the things you want to do if they are good things and harm no one? Do you simply wish for a beer and get one? Then why would they offer El Sol? This is a beer Dean hates, but of course, it’s the one his father, who treated him badly, who didn’t speak hardly after his mother died, who dragged him around from place to place chasing the demon, who left him alone to fend for himself and his brother doing who knows what to get by, who thought Dean deserved to end up in jail for doing the job he should have done, it’s the one he drinks. Jack has torn down all the walls. Everyone is happy. Everyone is together. Mary and John are nearby. I assume heaven is infinite or it would be a little crowded. I suppose at this point we’d have seen all the others if not for Covid. There are rumours this would have included Jimmy Novak. I’m so glad it didn’t. Imagine Dean seeing Jimmy and it not being Cas. Then Bobby says Cas helped. So Cas is out of the Empty and around somewhere. If this is the heaven you want, Dean could find him, and with ten minutes to go, I think we could still get a happy ending for Dean. The show could still be brave even if it’s in Heaven and not on Earth. Given how Dean has reacted every other time Cas has come back, you’d have thought he’d have reacted more. He might have asked a few questions, but all we get is a slight smile. Arrgghh again. This episode! Dean says it’s almost perfect and we’re back to Sam again. But he’ll be along Bobby reminds him. So in the meantime, what is Dean going to do? It appears he’d going for a long drive. Now, I like to think he finds Cas along the way while listening to Carry On at this point, and that somewhere Cas is waiting at home for him when he sees Sam again. It’s my only hope. And we’re back to the sad Sam montage while Dean drives. I must admit, I was hoping to see the soldier in Baby as Sam sat there. Sam dies. We get another version of Carry On. And so the brothers meet up again in Heaven. They are both young, unlike Bobby. They are wearing the same clothes from the first episode. Arrgghh!

So, after fifteen years of character development, here we are with the brothers back together again and me asking what was it all for? Why weren’t both brothers given a chance to be happy? They could have met up in Heaven after long lives together. They could have had love, families, fun, days sitting by the sea, watching sunsets. They could have been able to retire from the monster killing business. And most of all, both Dean and Sam could have written their own stories with the people they chose. Free will. Don’t make me laugh. That for me was the worst aspect of the finale. Both of them had expressed a desire to live, but in the end neither of them did.

I hated what the show did to Castiel (and to Misha) after twelve years for him not to be there at the end. But I also hated what they did to Dean and Sam. I know what Eric Kripke said, but the show had moved on from there. I write romance so perhaps I’m biased. But it would have been brave to show Dean and Cas together. It would have been wonderful to have Sam with Eileen. In the end, who would it have hurt to have given these brilliant characters, who a world of fans has come to love, a happy ever after? After all, family doesn’t end with blood.

And there’s a PS

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that the Heaven we saw in the finale was not Dean’s version of Heaven. In the end, he wasn’t even allowed that. Maybe this was Bobby’s Heaven. I don’t know. Anyway, although I’d rather there wasn’t a Heaven at all, and that instead Dean and Cas had lived a long life together, here are my thoughts on the subject of Dean’s Heaven.

Dean would get into Baby and realise, after a few miles, that this wasn’t his car after all. It wouldn’t rattle in the same way, and the green soldier Sam stuck there would be missing. Finally, after a few miles, he’d find himself at the coast. There would be a house, with a veranda running the full length of the front, with seats that gave a great view of the sea. The sky would be blue. There would be a light breeze. Further along the road, he’d see a roadhouse. This one would have Harvelle’s written over the door. He’d smile. At the side of the house, he’d notice another Impala. When he’d climbed out of the original car, it would disappear. He’d walk to the other Impala, run his hands along the metal, check inside, find the soldier, then open the boot and find Castiel’s trench coat. He’d pick it up and carry it to the house.

Inside the house, there would be comfortable furniture, and a fire that didn’t make it hotter. Photographs of his family and his found family would cover the walls along with his favourite paintings. To one side, there’d be a table big enough for many people to sit around and chat with a map on the top. There would be lamps everywhere. One wall would have books, because Dean does love to read. Here would be all those books he never got to finish because his father moved them on, or life got in the way. There would also be a jukebox. Dean would walk over to it, note the contents included his beloved Led Zepplin along with a little Taylor Swift, he’d smile, and put a track of on just loud enough to hear. Along a corridor, there’d be bedrooms. One would have a large bed with more photographs, and other bits and pieces on shelves including a small box. He’d open one side of the closet and laugh at the amount of flannel shirts and jeans.

Finally, Dean would arrive at the kitchen. There’d be everything he needed to cook. He loved to cook. A pie would sit on the window sill cooling. He’d open the huge fridge and take out a decent beer then carry it back to the veranda. He’d hear a voice.

“What do you think?”

There, sat in one of the chairs, would be Cas. He’d grin, but his heart would be full, and he’d wipe away a tear before Cas saw it. He’d sit in the chair next to him. The others would wait for him at the roadhouse, he’d wait to see them tomorrow. Tonight was all about him and Cas and the words he needed to say. They’d sit watching the sun go down, sipping beer, eating pie, and holding hands. At some point, when the sun was almost gone and the sky streaked with so many beautiful colours, the moment would arrive, and Dean would utter four simple words.

“I love you, Cas.”

Cas would turn and smile at him with those blue eyes shining. “I know.”

Recognising the film reference, Dean would take another sip of his beer, sigh, and they’d sit together until the sun had disappeared, knowing eventually all the people they had left behind would one day appear, and that they had more days and nights to come, and all the time in the world.







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