There were many predictions about how this season was going to end, especially when Jensen Ackles gave the semi-spoilery cue to remember that he said it was an “eye-opener.” Our beloved show, however, has never been about destinations. It has always been about journeys. So even if you knew, or strongly suspected, anyway, how this season was going to heartbreakingly conclude, this doozy of an episode gave us much that was soul satisfying, revealing the love and dedication that all of the characters have to the mission and to each other, and setting up what is sure to be an incredible Season Ten.
“Don’t you cry no more.”
Is any one of us immune to the thrill I feel when I see the season finale opening montage? That Kansas acapella always gets my heart racing. This season long recap was an incredible reminder of the overall motivational arc: “I did what I had to do,” and the consequences and fallout of decisions made. When you see it all together like that, it really shows the path of the season, and how all of the pieces fit together. Showrunner Jeremy Carver has referred to Seasons Eight, Nine and Ten as a trilogy, which makes this season our “Empire Strikes Back.” I think it has performed as this admirably, and, as long as there are no Ewoks, I am decidedly excited to see what happens when the Jedi…I mean the Winchesters…return.
“I’ve been Winchestered.”
Dean locked up, needs to be bad to feel better. The mark wants him to kill, and if he doesn’t? It’s going to kill him. He summons Crowley, who tells him that Cain was a demon, and that Dean’s body was not meant to contain the mark’s power. He asks Dean the pivotal question: “Do you want to get rid of it?” Dean replies that he just wants to kill Metatron.
Later, Crowley and Dean talk it out in a diner, and Dean is so focused on the mission he won’t even eat his food. “You never get tired of the rat race?” Crowley asks. “Never get the urge to just bugger off and howl at the moon?” Dean doesn’t take that bait. Despite Crowley’s talents, Dean’s abandoning the bromance. He’s going to finish this, alone. And by “this” I mean Metatron.
“Try Messiah!” “Better.”
Metatron wants humanity, and he has harnessed the power of the angel tablet to get it. He will not settle for less (because that would be like winning a People’s Choice Award: “Not quite the real deal, now, is it?” Pretty funny, writers.) Metatron sets off to show his people that he is the new messiah, using the power of YouTube to spread the word according to Marv.
He finds a homeless encampment (the modern equivalent of a leper colony?) to influence, and they are, such that they beat and stab an angel who denies Metatron to death. People, as Dean will later observe, are already shedding blood in his name. And Metatron likes it.
“Do you believe him now?”
Gadreel, despite Dean’s best efforts, is alive, and he wants in on Team Free Will. Gadreel takes Cas to the door to Heaven, which is in a playground and is fairly fantastic looking.
Cas, adorably, decides to get past the literal guardian angels with a stellar plan: “Wookie.”
Unfortunately, pretending Cas is Gadreel’s prisoner backfires, leading to Gadreel’s worst fear realized. Hannah and the other angels throw him back into the prison he spent millennia in. “No, no, no NO! Not here!” Gadreel shouts, and we can see the desperation in his eyes as he sinks to the floor, defeated.
Cas and Gadreel try to reach Hannah, telling her that Metatron needs to be stopped, but she doesn’t believe them. Finally, Gadreel realizes: it was never about redeeming his name. It is about protecting those who would not and who cannot, protect themselves. The humans. He is focused. Willing to sacrifice. “When they say my name, perhaps I will not just be the one who let the serpent in. Perhaps I will be known as one of the many who gave Heaven a second chance.”
He drives a shard of heavenly stone through the power channeling carvings on his chest, taking the whole prison down and setting Cas free. I never thought this show could make me sad for the loss of someone who killed Kevin Tran, but between the expert writing and Tahmoh Penikett’s portrayal, it did just that. Bravo, Gadreel You will be missed.
“But if this is it, we’re gonna do it together.”
As they search for Metatron, Dean and Crowley find Sam one step ahead of them. Sam confronts Dean on his anger, on their discord, and says what he needs to say. “You tricked me, Dean. And now I’m the one who wakes up in the middle of the night, seeing my hands killing Kevin. Not you.” But Sam also knows Metatron has to go, and Dean’s their best shot to do it. Sam wants to be by his side. He acknowledges Dean’s new state. Helps him find the fight. Accepts his apology before he can even say it. Despite his fear, hands him the Blade. Asks him, in an attempt at levity, “So, before we find something else to fight about, tell me: are you ready to gut this bitch?” At last, our beloved brothers are reunited.
But as much as Dean has changed, one thing remains constant. Dean will protect Sam and keep him from harm. He knocks Sam out cold, telling him it’s not his fight, and leaves him on the ground, presumably safe, not having any clue how bad of an idea that is.
“Whatever it is…I’m blaming you.”
It had to come down to Dean and Metatron. There was no other way it could go. They have an excellent verbal parlay, where Metatron almost sells his point that people need something to believe in and that he should be it. Dean responds his truth. He blames Metatron for everything, (including Kevin’s death and Cas losing his grace) and he knows this is just a mission of ego. Metatron knows nothing of Gadreel’s sacrifice and thinks he’s got the edge. We know he doesn’t. Or does he? Metatron proceeds to horrifically beat Dean—more savagely than he has been since Season Five’s finale “Swan Song”—and he kicks the First Blade out of Dean’s reach. It is brutal and painful and heartbreaking to watch. But worse? Shocking? Is this.
Dean uses his Jedi powers to summon the First Blade to him, but he is a moment too late. Just as Sam runs in to assist, he sees Metatron gleefully run Dean through with an angel blade.
“No!” Sam shouts, but Dean’s eyes mirror ours as he realizes it. Not only is he going to lose. He’s going to die.
“I’m not a leader. I never was. I just wanna be an angel.”
In Heaven, thanks to Gadreel’s sacrifice, Cas finally finds and breaks the angel tablet. We watch it fall to the ground, intercut with a dying Dean doing the same. Metatron retreats to Heaven, where Cas tells him that his power is gone and Gadreel, his second in command, is dead. Metatron taunts Cas, telling him that he knows his real goal was not to save Heaven, but to save Dean. And then he causes one of the most subtly heartbreaking looks ever to happen on the show as he tells Cas, “Well guess what? He’s dead too.”
Metatron says he will still take over and lead the angels. Still be God. He tells Cas that his problem is that he never learned how to tell a good story. “But you did,” Cas replies, hateful, before turning to show Metatron that the mic he used to be the Casey Kasem of angel radio was never, in fact, dropped. Metatron’s treachery has been broadcast, and now it is he who will take Gadreel’s place in the slammer, leaving Cas, his stolen grace ebbing away, to wonder what the hell he is going to do now that his job as leader is done, and his focus as an angel is gone.
Even as he is dying, Dean’s mission is to protect Sam. He warns Sam to leave before Metatron comes back, his voice breaking in weakness and pain such that it made my throat hurt. Dean tells Sam it’s better this way, because the mark was making him something he didn’t want to be. Sam? Doesn’t care. He just wants to keep the brother he loves so deeply.
“What happened to you being okay with this?” Dean asks Sam. “I lied,” Sam admits (or maybe acknowledges). “Ain’t that a bitch?” Dean says, injecting the tiniest bit of humor into a devastating spectacle. Sam drags Dean to what he believes will be his rescue, not able to see that it’s already far too late.
“I’m proud of us.”
Finally, Dean can’t go on any more. “Sam hold up, hold up,” he says, wheezing. “I gotta say something.” “What?” Sam asks, terrified. “I’m proud of us,” Dean says, clapping his little brother’s face with affection. It is the most meaningful thing he can say. More than “I love you” could ever be. In four words, he gives Sam the fatherly approval he has always longed for, tells him how much their being together on this mission has meant to him, and, finally, forgives himself for some of the means that led to his end.
Dean falls into Sam’s arms, and Sam is frantic. “Wake up, buddy,” Sam pleads, calling his name, reduced to the little boy he has always been in Dean’s presence. Dean is heartbreakingly silent. Sam clutches him close, sobbing, completely breaking down, knowing he is gone. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have acted these brother’s deaths many times, but somehow still manage to make it seem so final—so devastating. What could be silly and repetitive still feels fresh and raw in their masterful hands, and still inspires despair in the deepest of ways.
After, Sam carries Dean’s corpse, which he has clearly cleaned and cared for, home. He lays him in his bunker bed, staring down at him, disbelieving. Sam’s face is haunted. Devastated. He has no idea what’s next. So, first, he does what Winchesters default to—he drinks heavily. And then he does what Winchesters do next—he prepares to bargain.
He begins the ritual to summon Crowley, telling him, “You got him into this mess. You WILL get him out. Or so help me, God…” A predictable moment that leads to a totally new result.
“Open your eyes, Dean.”
Crowley, it turns out, is already in the Bunker, wanting to have a heart to non-beating heart with Dean. He tells Dean’s body that he didn’t know this would happen, and that he never lied to him. There is, however, one story about Cain that Crowley did not tell. Cain was willing to die before becoming a killer, tried to kill himself with the Blade, in fact, but the mark would not let him go. So it changed Cain into something else. Crowley wasn’t sure it was true, until Dean Winchester, bizarrely, left a cheeseburger uneaten.
Crowley knows that the mark has done what it had to do to sustain the power and endurance it needs. Dean’s humanity is gone. Crowley commands Dean to see what he sees. Feel what he feels. “Let’s go,” he says, “Take a howl at that moon.” And Dean Winchester, or what used to be him, anyway, opens his pitch black eyes.
Season Fine has certainly lived up to its reputation. With the exception of one or two throwaways (and one clunker of a backdoor pilot that is, fortunately, back on the drawing board) every episode led solidly to this initially unexpected but thrilling conclusion. I can’t wait to see what happens next. What will Sam’s reaction be to the Deanmon? What will horrify Castiel more—the thought of Dean dead, or the thought of Dean as a servant of hell? And how is Dean ever going to eat salt on his French fries again? I guess we’ll find out in Season Ten. See you after Hellatus.