Love Conquers All in Supernatural’s Season 11 Finale
Sibling Love to be exact. This is Supernatural, after all.
Somehow I’m never really prepared for those first notes of Carry On to play in the season finale. It’s not that I don’t know it will happen, but I never remember right at that moment and then BOOM, I’m hit with a wave of love for this Show that is like an emotional hurricane. Add to that the recap of this truly epic Season 11, and I was already a bit wibbly going in. This turned out to be an unusual season finale, especially coming after some episodes that were real nail biters. ‘Alpha and Omega’ was comparatively quiet, slower paced than most finale episodes. There were some things that, at first viewing, didn’t work that well for me – and some things that I wished were in the episode but weren’t – so I waited until after I had time for a second viewing today before I wrote this. And I’m really glad I did, because I liked it much better the second time around. Maybe it’s because my adrenaline level wasn’t set to maximum with anticipation like it was on Wednesday night, so that it didn’t match the slower pace of the episode. After I calmed down and watched more thoughtfully, the quieter scenes and the more subtle emotional notes came through more clearly.
We picked up where we left off, which I was glad about. Sam helps Dean up, then poor Chuck, who unfortunately really is dying. (Only on Supernatural…)
Dean goes to Casifer, only to find out that it’s actually Cas, and they share a little reunion moment as Dean helps him up and lets Sam know “Cas is back.” Hence the misunderstanding of metaphors.
The boys pull their guns when someone comes in, and it turns out Rowena has survived too.
Rowena: So that really was a gun in your pocket…
So we all know where you were looking, Rowena. (I love this character and the actress who plays her, what can I say?)
Crowley’s alive too, but our little band of unlikely allies soon realizes that the end of the world is coming (as it often does on Supernatural) – this time because the sun is dying, and with it, everyone and everything.
It’s interesting, because while I loved Season 11, I never felt as much sense of threat from the Darkness as I think I should have. She smote people here and there, but it was never a world-ending kind of thing, as much as people kept saying that it would be. Finally, in the finale, we get that sort of threat. And yet, this episode didn’t have the sense of urgency that you would expect from such an apocalyptic event seemingly imminent. Maybe it’s because they’ve tried so much already and failed, so the Winchesters – and the viewers – are perhaps a little weary. In fact, Dean wants to give up and get drunk. (I will always love the Margiekugel beer, named after Jerry Wanek’s mom, if I’m not mistaken).
Dean and Cas take a beer run ride in the Impala, and it’s clear Dean doesn’t hold out much hope, because he decides to tell Cas the kind of things you tell people when you think you won’t have another chance. Cas, whose good intentions unfortunately often go very awry, says that he was stupid letting Lucifer possess him. I’m a bit surprised that Dean disagrees, but perhaps that’s water under the bridge and Dean just wants to clear the air between them. He tells Cas he appreciates that he stepped up, even if it didn’t work.
Side note: That whole arc ended up futile, which is a bit of a let down. I enjoyed Misha’s portrayal of Casifer a lot, and I loved seeing Mark Pellegrino again, but it really did end up accomplishing nothing and wreaking a whole lot of havoc.
Anyway, Dean tries to express his appreciation for Cas, telling him that he’s the best friend they’ve ever had.
Dean: You’re our brother, Cas.
That’s the highest compliment Dean Winchester has to give. To call someone family—brother – means a helluva lot in Dean’s book. I’m not sure the recent events of Season 11 organically led to that sort of disclosure, but then again, the end of the world will do that to you – make you take stock of who you care about and want to let them know. And I think Cas gets it, what it means when Dean says that to him.
Meanwhile, a British woman who we’re clearly supposed to like because she has a child she has to be away from peruses her Wall of Weird and oh, it’s full of Winchesters and Campbells. And it doesn’t look like my refrigerator at all (which is also plastered with Winchesters), because this lady is clearly Not. A. Fan. I don’t like her already.
Also meanwhile, Rowena and Chuck are bonding – swapping stories of their respective ‘children’. I confess I love hearing Rowena talk about Fergus, especially when every now and then she lets slip something fond. He was bright. He hated pants. Okay, that last part was probably meant to embarrass Crowley, but still. Rowena also insists on calling him Charles and clinging to his arm, which is kinda cute. Crowley tries to warn Chuck about his opportunistic mother, but Chuck is living in the moment, seeing as he doesn’t have much longer to live at all.
Then there’s Sam. Sam Winchester has NOT given up. That’s one of the things I love about Sam – Sam Fucking Winchester just does not give up. We saw that over and over again in ‘Red Meat’, one of my favorite episodes of the season. And once again, he’s the only one who is still refusing to give in to hopelessness. If they can’t cage Amara, well then they’ll have to kill her. That will restore the cosmic balance of light and dark, so Chuck reluctantly agrees. Rob Benedict did a fabulous job of portraying Chuck once again – you can see how much he’s hurting, and you can also see how much he still loves his sister and doesn’t want to see her killed. It sort of broke my heart a little.
Rowena, who always turns out to be helpful despite her selfish motivations, says she can build a bomb to destroy Amara with light – if they can find enough souls to trap. So Crowley heads to hell and Cas heads to heaven and the Winchesters head to the nearest haunted sanitorium to trap some ghost souls. That was one of my favorite bits of the episode, some old school Winchester ghostbusting. It was scary, the special effects were awesome, and the setting was hauntingly beautiful, the Winchesters in silhouette, light streaming through the old windows. We get Dean sliding across the floor (apparently actually Jensen) and Sam getting choked by a ghost, and his strangled “Dean, hurry!” and it’s just like old times. A reminder of who the brothers are, what they do. Saving people, hunting things. The family business. Really that’s what this episode is all about.
Sam and Dean walk out, shoulder to shoulder, job well done, and it made me choke up a little bit, just seeing that simple scene, the two of them together. I already had a very bad feeling about all this, so it seemed especially poignant.
We even got a little bit of humor, since Dean is skeptical about the whole soul catching crystal thing working.
Dean: Let’s give the magic word a shot – because we’re SIX!
And we get to hear him imitate Rowena’s Scottish accent! Funny story – a few months ago at a con, I was chatting with Jensen when Ruth Connell came over to say goodbye to him. He did a Scottish accent and she complimented him on it, and I felt lucky to have been standing there to hear it. (Ruth complimented him again in a tweet during the finale and it reminded me). There’s something about a guy with an accent (it’s an accent to me, at least…)
I also loved Sam’s perplexed and fondly amused look when Dean launched into it. Hehe.
The Winchesters’ ghost wrangling gets the attention of the reaper Billie, who makes the sort of spectacular entrance that Lisa Berry always seems to pull off so beautifully. Another unlikely ally, as she snags all the souls from the veil (kudos VFX magicians!). She also seems to flirt with Crowley. Hmmm. What’s that about, do you think?
So now Rowena has her soul bomb.
All this time, Amara has been wandering around a beautiful garden (constructed by the super talented SPN crew), chatting with an old woman who’s feeding the pigeons while Amara feels increasingly bad about her penchant for destruction. The woman is talking about family, and the parallels are not lost on Amara (or us).
You always love family, even when you hate them.
Hoo boy, is that ever a Supernatural theme. We’ve heard that said in a lot of different ways, and the Winchesters have lived it over and over. Now Amara is starting to realize the truth in it too.
Up until this point in the episode, I confess that I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t a great sense of urgency – it wasn’t the stressful nail biting episode that Red Meat was. I wasn’t overly emotional either – it wasn’t the emotional episode that All In The Family or Don’t Call Me Shurley were. That was a bit of a disappointment, since I tend to expect season finales to be roller coasters.
Then the episode took a turn. On first viewing, the emotional impact of what came next didn’t hit me as hard as it might have. This was an understated episode for a finale, with a relatively slow pace and emotional revelations that were quiet instead of dramatic. I was a bit annoyed at that on Wednesday night, which muted the emotional impact. On rewatch, the episode hit a lot harder. It took me a while to match the quietness and the slower pace so I didn’t miss the subtle emotional reactions that were very much there, just not broadcast loudly. On rewatch, Jared and Jensen’s brilliant acting blew me away. They did so much with so little. SO MUCH.
I also appreciated the directing more the second time around, especially as these last scenes play out. Things seem to almost happen in slow motion, like time itself has slowed down with the gravity of what’s happening.
Rowena has the bomb, so what now?
They need someone to get close to Amara – someone with a personal connection.
All heads turn to Dean. It’s clear that, despite what we all expected, it has to be him.
But he’s not going to be carrying the bomb; he IS the bomb.
The realization sinks in gradually, for me and for Sam and Dean. Onscreen, the familiar notes of the brothers’ theme starts playing as the Winchesters realize what this means. I can’t hear that music without getting choked up, and now it’s playing because one of the Winchesters is going to die and leave the other behind. And that? That is so not okay.
Dean looks up, fighting to stay calm, tears in his eyes. And he nods, big damn hero that he is.
Sam can’t say a word, but he doesn’t have to. Jared puts all the pain and horror and grief and protest into Sam’s eyes, into the devastated expression on his face. The writers don’t give him any lines, and only a few seconds of screen time, but he does so fucking much with it. My heart is aching for Sam already.
The brothers say goodbye to their mother, a heart to heart over her grave. (I had unfortunately been a little bit spoiled for Mary being a part of this, so that interfered with the impact – I should know better than to get on twitter when I’m watching with the west coast!) On second viewing, though, this scene made me tear up even more.
Sam: Dean, you don’t have to do this.
Dean: Course I do. I just have to get close. I can do that. I can do that.
You can hear Sam’s desperation; he knows that Dean in fact does have to do this, that there’s no other way, but he’s still in shock and denial, can’t wrap his head around it. He wants to cling to some illogical hope that there’s another way, even as he knows damn right well there isn’t.
And Dean. All season, Dean was terrified that he wasn’t enough. That he didn’t have it in him to kill Amara; that when the time came, he wouldn’t be able to step up. As afraid as he is to die, and as much as it kills him knowing what this will do to Sam, I think he’s proud that when push came to shove, he was able to do this. It’s who he is; who he needs to be.
Sam: If this works, if that bomb goes off…
Dean: I know.
Sam puts his hand on Mary’s grave as they leave, plants a kiss there.
And then there are goodbyes. The second time I watched, I was already crying, the slow pace working for me this time. Cas throws his arms around Dean and hugs him tight.
Cas: I could go with you…
Dean: No. I have to do this alone.
As always, Dean is thinking about Sam.
Dean: If this…when this works, Sam’s gonna be a mess. Look out for him.
Cas promises, while I sob some more. The brothers’ theme starts to play again, and Dean tries for smartass one more time, planning his own funeral.
Sam: (choked up) Done.
Dean gets serious then, as he looks around, his mother’s gravestone in the background.
Dean: My ashes…I like it here.
And then he gets out his keys.
And I get out a whole handful of tissues, because that just brought back all those other times that Dean was faced with dying. That’s how you know Dean Winchester is really gone – he gives away his Baby. Once again, it’s a quiet scene, just a small action, but it carries so much meaning. So much pain.
Dean walks toward Sam, and here’s where once again Jared is absolutely brilliant. Sam can’t even look at him. He’s standing stiffly, not saying anything, but he’s shaking his head. It’s subtle, I missed the importance of it the first time, but he’s saying nononononono as though if he protests it enough, it won’t happen. It’s like the personification of denial, and it rings so true, it feels so real – it gets me right in the heart, guts me. I can FEEL Sam’s grief, his agony, the way he’s just barely holding it together.
Dean can feel it too.
Dean: Come on, you know the drill. No chick flick moments.
Ohgod. The purposeful call back to Season 1, as they were just getting to be brothers again, split me open. I can’t do it either, I’m in denial just like Sam. I can’t see them separated, can’t see them lose each other. Not again!
Sam struggles, visibly. And then, because he’s a Big. Damn. Hero. Because he’s Sam Fucking Winchester, he pulls it together. He gives his brother what he needs – Sam standing up and looking strong.
Sam: You love chick flicks.
It breaks the barrier between them, lets them connect the way they need to in order to say goodbye.
Dean: Yeah I do. Come here.
He pulls Sam into a hug that I would usually call an epic brother hug, but in this case I’m so distraught that I just sort of cling to watching it the same way they’re clinging to each other. Sam buries his face in his big brother’s shoulder, and suddenly even though he’s 6’4” he’s so much the little brother again. It hits me, violently and horribly, that he won’t be okay – that he needs his big brother, now and always. Petals are falling around them and it’s strangely beautiful, and I remember that in real life Jared was picking them out of Jensen’s hair. But onscreen, it’s a moment of heartbreak.
Dean goes. The soul bomb inside him, he goes off to save the world.
On first watch, I was gobsmacked that Sam didn’t either try to stop him or insist on going with him. That’s what I wanted to happen, and that’s what I think Sam would desperately want to do. But on second viewing, I guess it had to be that way. Cas asked the question about coming along, and Dean categorically answered no, saying he had to do this alone. If it was to be the ruse of Dean offering to become one with Amara, clearly no one could be with him. And I think they both knew there was no other way – it was like in ‘Swan Song’, when Dean had to let Sam do what he needed to do in order to save the world.
And this time was just as devastating.
That was my favorite scene, and what happened after sort of paled in emotional impact. Dean confronts Amara in the garden and she’s wise to him, but Dean demonstrates the sort of smarts that he has that people don’t always recognize. He senses her ambivalence, and knows that Chuck still loves his sister and didn’t want to harm her.
He knows because these are siblings we’re talking about, and Dean knows a thing or two about that. He tells Amara how it is with him and Sam – that they’ve had more than their fair share of fights, but they always work it out. Because they’re family.
Dean: I need him. He needs me. When everything goes to crap, that’s all you’ve got.
The real beauty of this episode didn’t come clear to me until my second watching, when we got to this point. This is Supernatural he’s talking about. This is what the Show is about, has always been about, will always be about.
Dean: You simply need your brother. You don’t want to be alone.
Once again, that’s the Show I love talking.
Dean gets through to Amara (Emily Swallow did a fabulous job of conveying her sadness and hurt as she begins to realize how much she loves and misses her brother). She zaps Chuck up to the garden, and they air their differences and confess that they still love each other.
Amara: I hated you for needing something else, something that wasn’t me.
[Still the Show. Benny….Amelia…Stanford….Ruby… all the things that have come between the brothers.]
Amara: I wish that we could just be family again.
It’s another call back to lines in the early seasons, when I was just falling in love with these brothers and this show. When that was the driving force for Sam and Dean, and the reason this Show pulled me down the rabbit hole and has never let me go. It’s what Sam and Dean have said to each other, more than once, throughout the eleven seasons of the Show.
I almost missed it on first viewing, but this episode is all about Supernatural. Amara and Chuck, Sam and Dean, they’re the same. We’ve known that the Winchesters’ journey is reflected in God and the Darkness since the parallel was established early in the season, but it all comes full circle in the season finale.
Amara heals Chuck; Chuck heals Dean. And Show finds a way not to kill God, but to take him off the playing board once again and put the responsibility for ‘saving people, hunting things’ right back on the Winchesters.
Dean: What about us? What about Earth?
Chuck: It will be fine. It’s got you. And Sam.
Yep. That’s my Show all right.
Hand in hand, Chuck and Amara smoke out, and I couldn’t help seeing the tendrils of black and white smoke as entwined souls – much like soulmates, right? (Also great VFX once again).
Before Amara goes off for their family meeting, she thanks Dean and tells him she wants to give him what he most wants too.
The scene I disliked the most was the one occurring simultaneously in the bar where Sam, Cas, Chuck, Crowley and Rowena go, after Dean has headed out to bomb Amara. I can interpret it that Sam is in shock, I suppose, or in denial since they don’t know yet if the soul bomb will actually work, but everything seems too ‘normal’. Dean is facing his death, and Sam is getting Chuck a glass of water? It didn’t sit right; I wish we’d seen more of him being distraught, or just being shut down, or something. When the sun came out, he did seem to react for the first time.
Rowena: He bloody did it.
Cas: And Dean?
Sam looks devastated then, for the first time. Perhaps it was denial, right up to the very second he saw the sun begin to shine again. Then the reality hit him.
The last two scenes set up the cliffhanger for Season 12. The British lady that I don’t like confronts Sam in the bunker, zapping Cas out of there and demeaning the Winchesters before announcing that she’s taking him in. I get the feeling that Sam didn’t even care – the way he answered her question about Dean gave me chills, it was so frozen.
Toni: Where’s Dean?
Me: Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch.
I’m not sure Sam really cared that she shot him. His brother was gone, and I think part of Sam wanted to follow. But I cared – I screamed out loud in fact. Didn’t entirely see that one coming. And no, I don’t like this woman one bit. Not sure I’m a fan of the story line and where it’s going either – are we starting out S12 with the brothers separated again?? After I loved S11 for keeping them together?? Argh.
Being semi-spoiled messed with the impact the very last scene should have had, as Dean stumbles upon Mary Winchester (still in the white nightgown that she died in). I’m mad at myself for getting spoiled, because I would have loved to experience that moment. Damn you twitter!
Fade to black.
I’ve been upset and worried for the past few weeks about where the Show is going and how it will recover from so many major losses. Robbie Thompson, Jenny Klein, Nicole Baer. Three of my very favorite people on the Show. Two writers who really ‘get it’. Robbie has written many of my favorite episodes in the past few seasons, and losing him feels like a punch in the stomach. All those stories I thought I’d get from him, now I won’t. On top of the sadness, I wondered if there were enough people left who do ‘get it’. Would the new writers? The new showrunner?
I feel a little better after the second viewing of the finale. I see what you did there, Andrew Dabb. And I like it. The love of two siblings once again has saved the world. I love the symmetry, the quiet truth of it, the unexpected peacefulness of the resolution.
So now we wait. We’ve survived eleven Hellatus summers, I guess we can survive one more. We’ll do our part here – stay tuned for lots of interviews and con coverage, including JiBcon coming up!
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