1 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Sam Winchester Jensen Ackles Jared Padalecki

There’s a hunter who knows that he’s losing his soul, and he thinks that his actions killed Kevin. On his arm there’s a mark, and it’s breaking Sam’s heart, as they search for the doorway to Heaven. These poorly parodied lyrics ask the questions that haunt us the most in Season Nine’s penultimate episode: what exactly is the Mark of Cain doing to Dean, what does that mean for Sam, Cas and everyone else, and, God forbid, is it too late to save him from himself? Let’s get right into it, people. This is a long one, and there is not a tension-filled moment to waste.

2 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Sam Dean Winchester Castiel Jared Padalecki Jensen Ackles Misha Collins

I scream, you scream…

The opening scene? With the death of the angel Esther before she could even finish her banana split? Icy cold and totally sweet. Especially since it took out the snotty soccer mom from hell. Agents “Spears and Aguilera” join Cas in the investigation, because it appears that some of his followers are going suicide bomber on team Metatron, even though Cas swears he didn’t tell them to. So if he didn’t, who did? Bet you can guess.

3 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Sam Winchester Jared Padalecki

“Nice reflexes. Better hair.”

At last! The PadaHair (or I guess, in this case, the WinchestHair) gets the glorious recognition it deserves. Dean wakes up an armed Sam just two hours into their first rest after killing Abaddon, and, instead of asking him “Is that a gun? Or are you just happy to see me?” he compliments his little brothers ‘do and demands to hit the road. Dean doesn’t need his four hours anymore, and that can’t be a good thing.

4 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Sam Winchester Jared Padalecki

A worse thing? Despite conceding to Sam’s pleas to leave the First Blade behind and save it for the boss fights, Dean lies and brings it anyway. He needs that knife like he used to need cheeseburgers and Baby. And I fear the only way to take it from him is to pry it out of his cold, dead, hell-bound hand.

5 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Metatron Curtis Armstrong

Metatron in the Trenches

Metatron is puzzled. Why does the “mentally deficient puppy” Castiel inspire more loyalty and affection than he does? Even after trying on Cas’ beloved coat and putting on his bowling shoes, angels refuse to align with him. Despite what Metatron perceives as “charm”, and the fact that he made God himself laugh (twice, no less!) many angels simply think he’s a “nerd, trying to be one of the cool kids.” Armstrong is a consummate actor, able to convey power and weakness in one facial expression, reminding us that this nerd will indeed have his revenge, even if some people don’t like his face. The face everyone does like? Gadreel’s. Even when it’s bitch face. Which it is. Pretty much all the time.



Turns out that it’s the loyal Gadreel who has been recruiting the kamikaze angels, not knowing he was sending them on a mission of doom. And one of those recruits? None other than…

7 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Tessa Lindsey McKeon

Don’t Spear the Reaper

Tessa. Remember her? The beautiful helper to glorious Death himself? She’s out of a job, and back from the dead, ready to fall on her sword for the cause. Turns out that all those souls, locked out of Heaven, have been screaming in her ear, and she just can’t take it anymore–she’s a double agent angel with a death wish.

8 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Winchester Jensen Ackles Tessa Lindsey McKeon

Tessa and Dean have always had great chemistry, and I believed Dean when he said he always liked her. I think, too, he was disappointed when instead of falling on the aforementioned sword she fell on his First Blade instead (so to speak). Lindsey McKeon always imbued Tessa with a defiant dignity I enjoyed, and I hate losing a character on this show with that many years of history. Tessa, you always told Dean never to lie to himself. You, and that advice, will be sorely missed.

9 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Sam Dean Winchester Castiel Hannah Jared Padalecki Jensen Ackles Misha Collins Erica Carroll

“They like to hear me say their names.”

Castiel’s Angels may not be the investigators that Sam and Dean are (and who is, really) but they are loyal, hardworking and they have a coda. Something they don’t have? Any sort of respect for the Winchesters. When Sam and Cas hit the road in Cas’ pimpmobile to see where the next angelic bomb might strike, Dean stays behind to get information, any way he can, including ways that don’t resonate (do you see what I did there?) with Cas’ army. Dean alienates everyone, including Hannah, Cas’ right hand woman, and an angelic healer, who calls herself Flagstaff, who finds Dean repulsive. “You play the hero but underneath the hype you’re a killer, with oceans of blood on your hands. I hate men like you,” she says. Dean, who has lost any semblance of self-control, jumps the table and pins her to the floor, holding a blade to her throat.

10 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Winchester Jensen Ackles

“Honey,” he snarls, “There ain’t no other men like me.” Sadly, I think he’s right. And that makes him a loner against a legion of mistrustful angels who think God, or Cas anyway, is ultimately on their side.

11 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Enochian Castiel Sam Winchester Misha Collins Jared Padalecki

Riddle Me This

Cas and Sam follow the angel Josiah, who’s next on the nuke list, to an abandoned building covered in Enochian that looks like it contains the doorway to Heaven. Sam can’t break in, prompting Cas to intercede. “I got this,” he says, attempting to break it down. He fails, adorably. “I don’t got this,” he admits, and reads the glyphs on the walls instead. Apparently, to gain entry, one needs to know why six is afraid of seven. “I assume it’s because seven is a prime number and prime numbers can be intimidating,” Cas says. Fortunately, Sam knows that seven ate nine, and the door opens. Cas says it is like the riddles in The Lord of the Rings. When Sam is surprised, Cas assures him, “I am very pop culture savvy now.” I admit, I miss Cas’ former consternation, and the fact that he never understood that reference, but the show is clearly having fun with this and I am too. Watching Sam and Cas nerd out together, especially when it involves Indiana Jones references, is a thrill to my geek lovin’ heart.

12 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Sam Winchester Jared Padalecki

Sam and Cas Go to the Prom

Sadly, their quest to find something precioussss has not led Sam and Cas to seven minutes in Heaven. It has, however, led them to world’s cheesiest prom, complete with Supernaturally chilling background music (seriously—can any of us hear “Cheek to Cheek” without thinking of Alastair singing it to Dean just before Dean gives in to his ugliest self?) There are balloons, and punch, and fried food…oh. Oh, God. That’s not Buffalo Wings.

13 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Castiel Josiah Misha Collins

It’s Josiah, who sadly reveals the truth of Metatron’s many treacheries. Cas offers to heal his holy-oiled skin, but Josiah prefers to die rather than follow him. Follow anyone. Especially, he says, a faker like Cas.

14 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Castiel Misha Collins

“He fell in love. With humanity.”

Finally? It all comes to a head between the nerd and the commander, and everyone does, as has been the theme of the season, “what they have to do.” Metatron offers Cas’ army amnesty to return to Heaven, a plan Hannah and her sisters (and brothers) find absurd, until Metatron reveals Cas is operating on stolen grace, and it’s fading fast. Cas, he says, lies about some things. Who’s to say he isn’t lying about it all? Hannah asks Cas to prove himself by punishing Tessa’s “killer”, and, though Sam fights it, and Dean scoffs, Cas seems to consider it. In the end? He can’t. Of course he can’t. Because he’d rather fight as the tiny trio of Team Free Will than ever cause a Winchester harm. “You know me,” he said once, “Always happy to bleed for the Winchesters.” That’s not something I’m eager to see.

15 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Winchester Jensen Ackles

“This is a dictatorship.”

Of course, because the Winchesters are nothing if not introspective and nosy, Sam wants to talk about Dean’s deceitful course of action. “Yeah, I lied. But you were being an infant,” Dean says. “Wow,” Sam replies, “Even for you, that apology sucks.” Turns out? Dean defines #sorrynotsorry. He tells Sam, in no uncertain terms, that since he is the only one who can kill Metatron, he’s the one who gets to call the shots. “Until I jam that blade into that douchebag’s heart,” he snarls, “We are not a team.” And Sam doesn’t have to like it, but that’s how it is. Dean has some lovely words for Cas, about how the three of them can fight a grace-full army, and about how he believes Metatron is lying about Cas’ intentions. He seems calm. Soothing. Sympathetic. At least until the bunker is invaded by Sam’s former bodysnatcher.

16 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Winchester Castiel Jensen Ackles Misha Collins

Gadreel Sees the Light

You think you’ve seen the aforementioned bitchface? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Gadreel, who constantly preaches about honor, witnesses Metatron manipulate and lie and treat his brethren like expendable loose ends. “While everyone else is playing checkers,” clever, empty Metatron tells him, “I’m playing Monopoly.” In the end, Metatron’s calculated cunning drives Gadreel to the people he thinks are the most honorable of them all: Team Free Will.

17 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Gadreel Tahmoh Penikett

Gadreel offers to tell them anything they need to know. Insists that he wants to help. Is apologetic about his past “mistakes”. In that moment, especially as portrayed by Tahmoh Penikett who imbues him with a strength of presence, we believe him. Forgive him. “Stow the baggage,” as Sam has said, of his murder of Kevin and his infiltration of our beloved younger Winchester, and his alliance with a false God. Even Dean extends the olive branch of his hand, and Gadreel grasps it gratefully, until Dean reaches out with the other and uses the First Blade to slash him open wide. Gadreel falls to the ground, light spilling from his chest, and we close on Dean, being held back by the two beings he used to trust most in the world, growling and snarling, no longer man, but animal.

18 Supernatural SPN S9 E22 Stairway to Heaven Dean Winchester Jensen Ackles

The CW recently held their upfronts, which included cast interviews about the season finale. It’s been called a game changer, we’ve been warned that we will cry, and we’ve been advised, Doctor Who style, to not even blink during the episode’s final minute. Somebody (and by “somebody” I mean Jared Padalecki) hold me! See you next time, as we are asked the kick-in-the feels question, “Do You Believe in Miracles?”


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