Still Believing – Supernatural’s Season 9 Finale
Season 9 has had me all over the map, as you’ve seen from my weekly episode reviews here – some things I’ve loved, some things I’ve hated – so I didn’t know what to expect of the season finale. I couldn’t help remembering some finale episodes in the past, especially the ones that left me gutted and unable to think about anything else for days (weeks?) afterwards. All Hell Breaks Loose….No Rest For The Wicked….Swan Song….I still can’t watch those episodes without reaching for the tissues. Last season’s finale was also powerful, both for Sam and Dean’s moment in the church and for the gorgeous shot of falling angels that closed out the season. Would Season 9 end with a bang like these, or would the strange pacing and sometimes disconnected storylines diminish its impact?
By the time yesterday rolled around, I ended up pretty excited – and more than a little nervous. Much of what amped up my anticipation was how excited Jared, Jensen and Misha seemed to be about the finale. At DCCon, when I asked Jensen if he was happy about where Dean’s storyline ended up this season, he said something so provocative (“Oh wow. They went there”) that I ended up eagerly awaiting the finale too. Then at the Upfronts, the boys said over and over that they were shocked by the ending, in a good way. So by 9 pm, I was so anxious I couldn’t even sit still to watch the damn show!
I had to reach for the tissues during “Carry On My Wayward Son” (which happens to me every year, to be honest). An hour later, I had cried and banged my fist and screamed NOOOOOO at the television more than once – clearly, for me, the finale was a good one. I know not everyone felt that way, and it wasn’t perfect, but for me, it worked.
Not all of it, of course. One of the annoying things about the episode (and the season) was the constant back and forth between the Winchesters’ story and the angel war story. I don’t know many fans who actually found the whole angel war story line anything but boring. Somebody take over Heaven and then stop talking about it! The problem for me was that the angel war didn’t mesh with the Winchesters’ story line sufficiently – it sometimes felt like I was watching two shows jammed together, with the pieces not really fitting. Instead of Cas being a bridge between them, he just got sucked into the angel war story and away from the Winchesters – the story I care about.
Also, too much Metatron. I hated Metatron like we were supposed to, but not in a love-to-hate sort of way, just hate. (Kripke once said to us in an interview that he always wanted to find out exactly how fans were hating a character – was it hate or was it love to hate? In this case, the former.) Intellectually I appreciated that he was an interesting character, with all his manipulations and hubris masking a deep insecurity, but he was more disturbing than scary (especially the scene in this episode where he goads his new followers into bludgeoning that angel – I actually cringed as they started pummeling him). Too much of the finale was devoted to Metatron’s monologues, when I just didn’t care that much. In fact, too much of the entire season was devoted to his monologues. How I wish we could have had half a season to explore Dean’s growing addiction to the Mark of Cain, hiding how much he craved it, coughing up blood when he didn’t have it, with Sam and Cas growing more and more concerned. The addiction was crammed into too few episodes, when it was the best part of the S9 story arc. We needed more time to build the suspense and concern, which would have made the finale episode so much more impactful. Too much time wasted on angel wars.
My daughter has been saying for a while now that Supernatural should “cut it out with the meta”. I haven’t agreed with her, but I think I’m coming around. It’s too much, too obvious, and too distracting. Especially during a finale episode that should keep me on the edge of my seat throughout, instead of yanking me out of the narrative to wonder if the fans have just been dissed for their People’s Choice Award loyalty. WTF? (I think the answer is no – that was Carver’s pointed comment to everyone NOT the fandom. How can this show be so popular and not garner the awards it so deserves? Where are its Emmy nominations?) But still, in the finale? Why? Give the meta a rest, folks. Even I don’t want this much of it.
But even with those complaints, this episode succeeded for me in the ways that mattered. Although most of the angel war story didn’t capture me, Gadreel as a character did – perhaps because Tahmoh is an incredible actor, or perhaps because his story was written with a lot of ambiguity, which kept it interesting. Gadreel and Castiel getting themselves into heaven with the Star Wars captive wookie trick was amusing, even if it didn’t work. And Gadreel’s last speech about protecting humanity, remembering their mission, was the first time I’d found anything about the angels story arc (as opposed to Castiel’s individual story arc) compelling in a long long time. I can’t ever forgive Gadreel for killing Kevin, but I believed his motivation in that scene – that he was sorry, that he did care. His sacrifice carried an emotional impact because Tahmoh sold that scene so well. And Castiel’s bitter “Do you believe him now?” was perfect.
What worked best in this episode were the emotional beats, and those are what’s most important to me. That’s why I watch this Show. I watch for the emotional connections – between the fans, between the characters, between me and the Show, between the actors. I fell in love in Season 2 with the complicated relationship between Sam and Dean because it’s unlike any real life relationship I’ve ever encountered and yet manages to be thoroughly realistic. It’s twisted and tangled and fucked up and yet powerful enough to save the world and bring me to tears again and again. I fell in love with the way Jared and Jensen played it, and felt it, and lived it – the way they became brothers in real life, as they’ve so often said, and the real emotion they invested as a result in Sam and Dean’s relationship. Last night’s episode reminded me of all that, all the reasons I’ve loved this Show for nine years – and then, in true Supernatural fashion, it gutted me just when I was most in love.
I may not have liked some of the places Jeremy Carver took the Show this past year, and I certainly didn’t like the way he paced it, but I do like his writing. The dialogue never threw me out of the story, Sam and Dean and Cas all sounded like themselves, and there was a sense of urgency to the episode that was (mostly) sustained throughout. The effects and the sets were gorgeous, especially that factory set that looked like it came straight out of the last episode of Dark Angel. SPN loves its graffiti. And a big shout out to Serge Ladouceur for the provocative use of lighting throughout the episode – especially the scene where Dean confronts Metatron. So much conveyed with those rich tones and changing colors about who Dean is and what’s about to befall him.
We didn’t get nearly enough Sam pov, but we finally got some. I loved Sam surprising Dean and Crowley by already being at the house of the woman Metatron healed. Smart!Sam is always a turn-on, and his biting comment to Dean about not needing a demon’s help to follow a clue was perfect. As was his snarky complaint about Dean’s “bromance” with Crowley, which Sam has clearly been resenting. Sam actually gets a few things off his chest, instead of just disappearing off camera to be angry.
Sam: Thought you might like to know that while you two have been playing odd couple, your real friends — like Cas and Gadreel — are out there right now risking their asses to help you win this fight.
(Okay, I sort of can’t believe that line made it into the episode – really, Mr. Carver? Gadreel is now Dean’s “real friend”? The guy who tricked Dean and killed Kevin??)
At least Dean seems to realize how ridiculous that is.
Dean: You mean the angel that took you for a joyride? The angel that slaughtered Kevin? That angel?
Sam: Who you let in the front door in the first place. You tricked me, Dean. Now I’m the one who wakes up in the middle of the night seeing my hands kill Kevin, not you.
I’ve needed to hear Sam say something like that for half the season! Finally he says something honest to his brother, instead of just lashing out and trying to hurt him. Finally he addresses the toll that the trauma of being possessed has taken on him, the PTSD symptoms that haven’t left him. We knew it was there, but Show wasn’t showing it to us – at all! It was only a few lines, but it was something. I wouldn’t expect Sam to go on and on in the middle of their big chance to take the fight to Metatron, but what he said rang true and hit hard. He stood up for himself, and he made sure that Dean heard him.
The conversation (non-conversation?) that Dean and Sam had before Dean went after Metatron also rang true – in fact, it felt like their non-conversations of the early seasons, when I was constantly yelling at my television screen for the brothers to GODDAMNIT TALK TO EACH OTHER! They don’t say much, but they understand each other. That telegraphic speech is one of the things that conveys just how close they really are, even though it also makes them crazy and causes ridiculous misinterpretations.
Sam asks Dean, “You good?” Again, the roles are reversed here. Usually it’s Dean asking Sam. This is the way they check in with each other, make sure the other is okay.
“Listen Sammy, about the last couple of months…”
Sam hears those words for the apology that they are, and at this point, that’s enough for him. He’s not excusing Dean or minimizing the impact of what Dean did, but he finally feels heard enough to move past it.
I also loved Sam’s protective outburst to Cas and Gadreel: This is not a bomb we’re talking about, it’s my brother!
One thing this season has done is sensitize me to every time Sam refers to Dean as his brother. I’ve always loved the way they both say it often, but now it carries extra meaning because Sam denied it for a while.
It’s been a long time coming – an entire season of the brothers not being on the same page – but it also felt insanely good to see Sam and Dean working together. To see Sam wanting to work together.
Sam: But if this is it, we’re gonna do it together.
Sure, Dean clocked him right after, but that felt like a protective gesture. Especially when Dean called Sam, all 6’4” of him, “little brother”. Pretty sure I got choked up just from that.
“Sorry little brother, not your fight.”
Then there’s the part of the episode that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t expect Dean to be so wrong about his ability to take on Metatron. I was taken in a bit, I guess, by how unassuming Metatron can make himself. And then, suddenly, he was beating Dean senseless.
I could go on and on about the scene that broke me. It wasn’t the ending, since I (like much of fandom) was about 95% spoiled for that. But Metatron stabbing Dean to death? That one I didn’t see coming. It shocked the hell out of me, and then it made me feel as if I were the one who’d just been stabbed in the gut.
I don’t know how to act, and I don’t understand how Jensen does it, but there was so much emotion in Dean’s eyes as he sat there knowing he was dying. I believed it all – from his wheezing gasp as the blade went in and then out, the way he sagged, weak from shock and blood loss.
The way he looked up at Sam, terrified and resigned at the same time, apologetic but still clearly convinced that his death was for the best – that he’s poison, that Sam is better off without him there, especially with the Mark on him. It broke my heart, all those feelings so clear on his face.
Dean Winchester, the righteous man, the one who loves so hard he never lets go, the one who keeps on trying even when the odds are stacked against him all the way up to Heaven – he sat there broken and dying and still not knowing his own value.
And Sam. The moment he realized, his anguished ‘NOOOOOO!’
The way he ran to Dean, gathered him up and held him.
Dean: Sammy….you need to get out of here before he comes back.
Oh Dean, still trying to protect your little brother.
Sam: Shut up…We’ll stop the bleeding, find a doctor, a spell…you’re gonna be okay.
The mirroring of Sam’s death in All Hell Breaks Loose only made the scene more powerful for me (I know some have complained that it’s lazy storytelling and a plot rehash, but I like the parallels this season has presented. It seems purposeful, and I like feeling that the Show remembers its own history). The music cue – the one that makes me cry with just the first few notes – started playing, just like it did in Swan Song and AHBL and…. Yeah, I was gone. With Sam being so hurt most of the season that he couldn’t show his love for his brother, I needed to see just how much he cared – and Jared brought all that emotion and more to the scene.
The way Sam tries to talk Dean out of being mortally wounded, frantically and futilely trying to hold Dean’s own hand over his wound to stop the bleeding. Sam knows – he knows that it’s futile, but he can’t make himself believe it, any more than Dean could when he held a dying Sam in his arms.
“It’s better this way – the Mark. It’s making me into something I don’t want to be,” Dean argues, but Sam is having none of it. Everything is narrowed down to ‘my brother is dying’ and that’s all Sam can hear, or think, or feel.
Sam’s determination is so clear, so absolute, as he pulls Dean up, the brothers holding hands as they stagger across the warehouse.
“What happened to you being okay with this?” Dean asks, breathing labored.
“I lied,” Sam admits.
And Dean, for a moment, is Dean again, snarking back “Ain’t that a bitch.”
But in Winchesterese, both Dean and I know what Sam meant. In that moment, Dean knows that his brother loves him. That Sam would walk into hell for him, the same way Dean would for Sam. In that moment, there’s so much healing from all the hurts of this past season.
When Dean, breathless and clearly failing, pulls Sam to a stop because he needs to tell him something, I completely lost it. The way he hauls himself up with such effort, in so much pain, to meet Sam’s eyes , raising a hand to cup his face and tell him brokenly, “I’m proud of us,” before he collapses against Sam, boneless.
It’s not “I love you,” because that’s not what the Winchesters say to each other. Instead, it’s everything Sam needs to hear. That his big brother is proud of him, always has been proud of him. And that there is an “us” – the best part of Dean, the part he’s able to be proud of, is the part of him that’s Sam’s brother. That Sam tries to smile for Dean absolutely broke me.
And then Dean slumps, boneless, and we watch Sam’s reaction. Denial at first, the desperate hope that Dean will be okay, as Sam holds his face.
“Wake up, buddy. Hey, hey! Dean. DEAN!”
And then the realization, the overwhelming, primal grief. Jared looked ruined at that moment, utterly and completely.
I couldn’t see the television screen for a while after that.
I think part of the reason it hit me so hard was because it immediately reminded me of what Jensen and Jared said about each other last week at the Upfronts. So much of the emotion the actors bring to Dean and Sam seems to be pulled from their own friendship, and those very real feelings.
Jensen about Jared: It’s been cool to… watch him become a man. I like to think I helped him along the way with advice and stuff, but I’m very proud of the man he’s become.
Jared about Jensen: There’s no one I would have rather spent the last nine years with… than this guy.
The actors talked about the love between their characters too in the flurry of interviews surrounding the Upfronts and the season finale.
Jared: I wanted to see Sam fight for his brother a little more…we see Sam in the finale be the brother that I would hope for him to be. … I think Dean will see that Sam loves his brother. Dean will certainly see that Sam is there for him and know Sam’s commitment.
Jensen on the finale: …with Jared’s tears all over my shoulder.
Now I know why.
The parallels with AHBL continue as Sam carries Dean back to the bunker and lays him on the bed , and I was sobbing just as ugly as Sam was by that time. The moment is tender and macabre and disturbing and heartbreaking and everything that I watch this Show for. Eric Clapton’s version of “Can’t Find My Way Home” only drove the sadness home more acutely.
And then Sam sitting alone, drinking….storming into the dungeon the way Dean screeched the Impala toward the crossroads, demanding that another demon appear.
“Damnit, Crowley, you got him into this mess, you will get him out, or so help me God!”
I’ve seen some question whether the Winchesters are still the heroes of their own story. I get it, I do – Sam and Dean were left out of big chunks of the story this season, and the Show suffered for it. They failed again and again – even in the finale, it was Cas who had some success, shattering the angel tablet and outwitting Metatron. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Sam and Dean Winchester are heroes. It’s not success that makes you a hero – it’s the trying. The guts that make you keep going when any sane person would have given up. The refusal to give in even when there’s no reason to hope, even when you’re confronted with failure after failure after failure. That’s what makes someone a hero. Both Dean and Sam have earned that designation. The word applies to Cas too – all three have gone down the wrong path repeatedly, all have made mistakes, all are flawed. But they all keep trying, against all odds.
Jared wasn’t the only one who got a chance to show his character’s grief over Dean’s death. Misha also powerfully conveyed Castiel’s shock and despair over the news that Dean was dead. That the loss galvanized Cas and made him even more determined to defeat Metatron made sense to me, and re-anchored that part of the story arc. Castiel’s reaction to the news was understated, in the middle of the ongoing crisis, but the angel’s pain and heartbreak was there in his eyes.
Season 10 holds a lot of potential. I’m hopeful that Show will tell more of Sam’s hero’s journey. This is that point where all seems lost and hopeless, but when the hero gets to show what they’re made of. I’m hoping against hope for a Season 10 told from Sam’s point of view, where he gets to show what he’s made of and move heaven and earth to save his brother. I’m hopeful that Castiel’s admission that he doesn’t want to be a leader of Heaven, just an angel, will let his story be wound back into the Winchester’s instead of necessitating an entire other story arc that doesn’t have much to do with Sam and Dean. I’m hopeful that Dean will struggle with being a demon and try to hang onto his humanity, and that love will save him the way Cain’s love for Colette made all the difference.
It’s true that I desperately wanted Sam to be the one to save Dean at the end of this season, but I’m actually pretty damn satisfied with how hard he tried to save his brother. I wish we’d seen even more of Sam’s desperation and grief instead of cutting away to the Metatron stuff in the middle of such an emotional scene. But even with what we were given, Jared portrayed Sam’s devastation perfectly, and his determination to do whatever it took to bring his brother back. I’m hopeful that Season 10 will be all about Sam’s determination to save Dean. Please, please, let that happen, Show.
(If this were fanfic, Sam would save Dean with his own purified blood, the way he was about to cure Crowley in ‘Sacrifice’. They’re blood brothers, after all.)
I wanted it to be Sam and Dean at the end, but the scene of Crowley watching over Dean’s dead body was fitting. Eerily reminiscent of Dean watching over Sam in AHBL and yet different, with a gut-wrenching twist. I get the feeling that Crowley is still more human than he’s letting on, and that he has some pretty deep feelings for Dean.
“See what I see, feel what I feel, howl at that moon,” he says as he puts the Blade back in Dean’s hand.
Crowley wants what we all want – empathy. He wants someone to understand him, someone to be a companion. Perhaps he wants a Knight of Hell who will do his bidding too, but it feels like more than that. I think Crowley (like so many of us) has fallen for Dean. No, not like that. But I think there’s more there than Crowley is letting on, and I’m eager to see it play out. I’m intrigued about the potential of demon!Dean. It’s a shocking idea to the writers and the actors and the producers, but it’s been a favorite flavor of fanfic and fanart for years. We just never thought we’d get it in canon!
The more I think about Dean’s tragic arc this season, the more it hurts. Dean Winchester, the righteous man, who has hated demons and wanted to kill monsters all his life. It’s been his reason for living, and his greatest fear. Not being killed, but becoming a demon. When he was facing going to Hell, that’s what he was most worried about. And now the foreshadowing of past seasons (“And this is what you’re gonna become!”) has come about. Oh, Dean.
The scene that stays with me, 24 hours later, isn’t the death scene that left me sobbing. It’s the quiet, tender scene that we only half saw. Sam carrying his battered, broken brother back to the bunker, back to their home. Laying him gently on the bed, wiping the blood from his face. There aren’t that many times when television or film portrays loss in a way that hits you almost too hard, in a way that makes your throat tighten painfully as you blink back tears. It doesn’t matter that I know there’s a Season 10 or that Dean won’t stay a demon forever. In that moment, Sam Winchester has lost his brother. And I’m crying with him.
Maybe the miracle is that this Show can still make me believe.
What are your thoughts on Season 10? And how damn many days do I have to wait for it?
I’ll leave you with a manip going around Tumblr – it’s not credited to us, but it’s actually our photo from Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls (we asked Jared to have a ‘fangasm’ over Jensen and this was the result…) so it seems fitting that we include it here.
If you need help getting through Hellatus, read more
about Supernatural in “Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls” and
“Fan Phenomena: Supernatural” by clicking the order links
at the top of the page