This year has been a milestone year for our little show that could. Ten years. 200 episodes. And this, Season 10 Episode 23, breaks Smallville’s record to make Supernatural the longest running contiguous one hour primetime science fiction series (a LRCOHPSFS, if you will.) Fortunately for us fans? It ain’t stopping any time soon. This season finale left things wide open to leave that record in the dust. Before the misery of our Hellatus begins, lets talk about Sam in the fight for Dean’s life, Crowley helping out in Hell’s Kitchen, Rowena’s version of About a Boy, Castiel looking us right in the eyes, and Dean greeting Death like an old friend.
1. Family Can’t End in Blood
After traveling “The Road So Far”, which began with the haunting rendition of “Carry On, Wayward Son” from episode 200 and looked like an incredible VFX reel, we see one of our favorite couples: Sam and his laptop. (Recapper’s note: I always love that Sam’s inbox has emails from places like Mythology Weekly and Road Food, featuring the best diners anywhere in the USA.) Sam, apparently, can multitask like crazy, because he is downloading the codex files, looking at the old pics of Mary and her little ones that were rescued from the Styne family pyre (thank goodness) and filling bullets with something from a syringe. Cas makes it a threesome, and they talk about how Dean has vanished—he’s not answering his phone and the LoJack on the Impala has been disabled. Rowena needs to cast the spell and remove the Mark of Cain. Now.
Cas asks about the consequences, but Sam could not care less, especially since those consequences have never been concretely defined. “I’m not gonna let my brother destroy himself on a guess,” Sam argues, stating, unequivocally, his unwavering mission. “We save Dean.”
The question is: can Dean even be saved anymore? He wakes up in a crappy motel in God knows where—sweaty, badly hungover, in horrible shape. His phone alerts him to the fact that Sam has left twelve messages. And what does he think about that? He thinks he’ll have another beer, which he drinks, sloppily, not caring when it flows out of his incredibly beautiful mouth (it must be said.) He coaches himself through his literal drinking problem, repeating “I’m good. I’m good.” And of course, as we feared, he absolutely is not.
2. How Rudy
Despite his obvious (and again, literal) failed attempt to hold his liquor, Dean works a case that was pretty much handed to him by a sub-par hunter named Rudy. Turns out Dean is the rude(y) one when he says that the teenaged girl victim, Rose, is dressed like a whore and when he snarks about the town sheriff. He keeps trying to cover himself, but the sheriff sees through it. Tells him that he’s worked some pretty dark cases, and that must have left a mark. “Oh, you have no idea,” Dean says. You walked right into that one, Sheriff. When Rudy arrives he tries to claim the case, in which they will hunt what he delightfully calls a “gang of fang.” Dean? Only wants to ride solo. Since Rose’s best buddy is also missing, Dean will handle it himself, as a “real hunter” would. Rudy tells Dean off, finally saying “Regards to your brother.”
Dean visits Rose’s parents, and again, pulls no punches. Rose’s father, Joe, is pissed Dean suggested his daughter is a slut. “I’ll admit the thought crossed my mind,” Dean says calmly, redefining what it means to bad cop. “Then I came here and I smelled the deceit and the beatings and the shame that pervade this home. And you what? I don’t blame Rose anymore. No wonder she put on that skank outfit and went out there looking for validation. Right into the arms of the monster that killed her. Joe? Who did this?” Joe loses his crap and punches Dean who just repeats his question, eventually pulling his gun. When Joe doesn’t know, Dean finds out by pulling a gun on another man in Rose’s family—her brother, who tells Dean where to look. At first? I didn’t understand the import of the case, honestly, until I saw how Dean handled himself. For such a bruiser, Dean has always been polite as a Fed, kind to the hurting, and non-judgmental, especially about sex. That Dean? Long gone. The dark Mark has corrupted his very personality. He has been trying to fight it. It is clearly winning.
3. Witch’s Brew
Rowena’s having a tea party for one, and Sam’s got five reasons she shouldn’t. Reasons that are hollow tipped and filled with witch killing brew (A Charlie creation. Sob.) Rowena, as she always, delightfully does, shows she has precisely no effs to give by saying “How exciting for you. Your NRA will be besides themselves with pride.”
Sam demands she do the spell now and she calls “Samuel” on his bluff. Who’s going to prepare and perform the spell if she doesn’t? She offers tea and since she’s out of biscuits it will come with a side of negotiation. When Sam asks what she wants, she tartly replies, “We know what I wanted. Soiled the sheets on that one, didn’t we? Let’s talk about what I’ll take. My freedom—guaranteed—and the codex.” Sam is briefly torn, especially when Cas tells him it’s a mistake. But who are we kidding? Giving Rowena untold power is worth it, if that power helps her save Dean.
Ro translates the ingredient list for the spell. She needs “Something made by God but forbidden to man” (the original apple from the garden of Eden) “Something made by Man but forbidden by God” (a piece of the golden calf) and…uh oh. The third ingredient is impossible. They need, “loosely translated,” Ro’s heart. “That’s not impossible at all,” Cas says, stepping forward, and you can see how much he wishes to be rid of her. “Not my literal heart, Feathers,” Rowena says, and by CHUCK I love her, “Something I love. The spell calls for me to kill it.” A sacrifice in exchange for the magic. Problem is? Ro is willing to do it—happily, for her freedom—but there is nothing she loves. Cas asks about Crowley and…yeah. No. Cas does believe that she loves something. Everyone does. He Vulcan mind melds her and sees a young Polish boy in a field named Oscar. Oscar was the son in a family that helped Ro 300 years in the past when she was “going through some difficulties.” And clearly? He touched her deeply. In a non-creeper way. When Rudy calls Sam to tell him Dean is not playing well with others, Sam offers Cas a bag of Dean’s hair. Wait. What? How did he get that? Anyway he tells Cas, “Make the spell happen. Whatever it takes. Please.” And of course Cas will, no matter what. He’s always happy to bleed for the Winchesters. Speaking of which…
4. Who’s the Evilest of Them All?
Dean goes up to Vamp Crystal Lake and begins the slaughter. Crystal is there, of course, and Rudy is too, in the clutches of a fang banger with a knife to his throat. Dean insists to the vamp that he doesn’t have the guts while Rudy pleads with him to back off. The vamp aims his knife at Rudy’s chest, Dean jump scares him, and Rudy gets ganked. Crystal screams. Dean looks more annoyed than anything. Much like Claire before her, Crystal is too shocked by his casual vibe toward beheading to appreciate the rescue. Whatever. Dean has almost a few effs to give as Rowena does.
Later, washing his hands, Dean looks in the mirror and sees Cas’ face as he last left it. He keeps trying to “out, out damned spot” his hands in the dingy motel sink. He looks in mirror again and sees dead Rudy. He scrubs harder and harder, clearly upset, not recognizing himself. He looks exhausted. Broken. And he can’t take it. Dean punches his fist through the mirror and Hulk smashes the hotel room, very thoroughly, and I know I shouldn’t be distracted but you know your motel is crappy when it has an old tube-style TV. Sorry. The point is? Even Dean realizes he is losing to the MoC, and he needs to stop himself before he causes or allows the suffering and death of anyone else.
5. Recipe for Disaster
Cas goes to a crossroads to summon a demon the old fashioned way. When was the last time we saw that? Crowley, apparently, is wondering the same. “Who summons anymore?” he asks. “Couldn’t you call?” “You’re not in my contacts list,” Cas admits and that’s ADORABLE. I’m sure he’d have no trouble finding someone to program his phone, if you know what I’m sayin’. Cas wants Crowley’s help to cure Dean, but Crowley is still pissed Sam tried to kill him. Badass Cas comes back long enough to tell him that no is not an acceptable answer. He puts his hand out to threaten Crowley but Crowley suggests an alternative. “Blast me or beg.” And apparently Cas is also willing to bleed out his pride for the Winchesters because he does, stammering over it a bit, calling him, at Crowley’s demand, “King.” Crowley examines his ingredients list. The not-an-apple-it’s-a-quince and what’s left of the golden calf? Check. And he also knows just what will work for ingredient number three.
Sam goes to the crime scene and manages to keep it together though he is horrified at the carnage and, especially, Rudy’s death. Later, on the prowl for Dean, he spies Baby outside a motel room (her go to spot.) Sam approaches the room, gun drawn, calling for his brother. He breaks in and sees the destruction and is a bit bewildered. He looks around, spying something on the bed. It’s Baby’s keys. And a three word note. (Recapper’s note: if you follow @jensenackles on Twitter you’ll know: the note was, in fact, written by Jensen, right on the Impala’s hood. How’s that for technical accuracy? And there’s a prop I’d covet.)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This show has three main characters—Sam, Dean, and the Impala. It’s been called their home, it’s been called Dean’s Baby, it’s been smashed and broken and crushed to the point of irreparability. It’s a lot like them, actually. Just when you think she can take no more, that she truly is dead, she rises again, ready to fight another day. That’s why it was so crushing when Deanmon said she was “just a car”. That’s why Sam is so stunned by the note. If Dean is parting ways with the only “she” that he ever made a lifelong commitment to, then he thinks it’s time to die.
6. “Helloooooo, Death.”
Dean is also old-school summoning, and this one has an appreciation for Mexican food. “Don’t tell me that’s queso!” Death says, coming into view, causing me, an unabashed fangirl of Julian Richings, to cheer aloud. And in fact it is queso. Dean has made it, taquitos and tamales, all from scratch. “All with the bad fat,” he says with a little grin. “Consider it an offering.” Dean wants Death to collect him. He shows him the mark, says he knows that Death knows what it is. “I tried to fight it—I tried to beat it on my own—and I…I can’t,” Dean admits. “I got no moves left. Except you.” “Well, I never thought I’d see the day,” Death replies. “My goodness. Dean Winchester has tipped over his king.”
Death won’t kill him. Nothing can, anyway. Death says he could remove the mark but he won’t. Because before earth and God and…anything really…there was the darkness. “A horribly destructive, amoral force that was beaten back by God and his archangels in a terrible war. God locked the darkness away where it could do no harm, and he created a mark that would serve as both lock and key. Which he entrusted to his most valued lieutenant, Lucifer. The mark began to assert it’s own will, revealed itself as a curse, and began to corrupt. Lucifer became jealous of man, God banished Lucifer to hell, Lucifer passed the mark to Cain who passed the mark to you. The proverbial finger in the dyke.” Death says. “Well, that is just fan freakin’ tastic, isn’t it?” asks Dean. He could remove it, but only if Dean gives it to someone else to ensure that the lock remains unbroken and the darkness remains bound. Dean, quiet but firm, eyes shining, resigned, says “I’m not doing that. Not to anyone.” And Death offers to spare him the agony of hurting anyone else by, essentially, banishing him. (Recapper’s note: See? It wasn’t Lucifer’s fault. He’s just infected! And misunderstood! Poor Luci. Poor Samifer.)
Dean calls Sam, tells him he gave everything he had, but Sam saw the results. Saw Rudy. Saw what Dean has become. Sam refuses to give in—says it wasn’t him. “Sure as hell felt like me,” Dean says. Death eats Mexican food in the background as Dean accepts his fate and gives in to his fatigue. “Brother, I’m done,” he says, breaking all of our hearts. He tells Sam to come and say goodbye.
7. Who Do You Love?
Crowley seems to need a fix of the best coffee ever, because he returns to the diner he frequents, but instead of ordering a cuppa and a slice of pie, he comes in and slaughters everyone. As you do. (Recapper’s note: I am trying to refrain from making a Hell’s Diner joke because most of you likely haven’t watched 70’s sitcoms featuring sassy waitresses named Flo. I will also not tell you to kiss my grits. You’re welcome.) Crowley tells “Seth” the story of the Polish family that helped Rowena in her hour of need, all the while sugaring a dead guy’s coffee (not a euphemism.) “How do you know all this?” “Seth” asks. “A hamster told me,” Crowley replies and HA! That’s kind of hilarious. Apparently, Oscar was terminally ill as a child and Rowena thanked the family by saving the boy. She then cast another spell to take place when he was fully grown that would make him immortal. Hint hint, Mister Traveled the Whole World a Lot.
Crowley goes back to SpellCast Central, asking Cas if Mother showed you her “mustn’t touch it” again. Ew, Crowley! Gross. Crowley sets the first two ingredients on the table. “And the third?” Rowena asks. But instead of answering, Crowley decides to wax poetic.
Crowley always wondered what he had done to deserve a mother who showed no love, until he figured out she didn’t love anything, and that made him feel free. Then Rowena showed up and proved the truth of it: she wasn’t capable of loving him. “Goodness, Fergus, save it for the stage, why don’t you?” Rowena says, rolling her eyes. She maintains she has never loved anything. Ever. And Crowley snaps and summons Oscar, whom Rowena, painfully, recognizes right away. “You were saying?” Crowley asks, and revenge is his. It turns out? Rowena doth protest too much. She loves Oscar. She tells Crowley that bringing him into it all is a cruel, shameful, disgusting low. Crowley says it is only evil if she goes through with it. “Who’s the cruel one then?” he wonders.
Rowena and Oscar have a moment of reconnection. She remarks at how big he is, but hopes he’s not too big to give her a hug. Oscar says he hopes he hasn’t hurt her and she tells him not to think of it. She glares at Crowley over Oscar’s shoulder and says no one is hurting anybody. And I think maybe—just maybe—she won’t be able to do it. That she won’t be able to be so selfish. Of course, I’m wrong. “Goodbye, my sweet wee boy,” she says and plunges her fountain pen into his jugular, crying the whole time. She cries out in agony as she holds him over the bowl to collect his spurting blood while he gasps and chokes. Cas looks away in shock. And Crowley watches, totally satisfied.
8. “I’ve been looking up to you since I was four, Dean!”
Sam arrives at the restaurant, and, to his dismay, sees Death. He tells Dean he doesn’t need to die, and Dean tells him that the way out isn’t his death. “It’s yours,” he says, and I’m sorry…WHAT?!
Sam is lost. “What? He’s gonna send you into outer space?” he asks. “This is madness!” Death says it is far from it, in fact. Dean can’t be killed and the MoC can’t be destroyed without inciting far greater evil than the world has ever known. “What evil?” Sam asks. “The darkness,” says Dean. “What the hell is that?” Sam asks. “What does it sound like? Does it sound like a good thing?” Dean asks. Even in this dark moment they still have the slightly irritated, totally lovable banter of brothers and I love it and also I hate where this is going.
(Recapper’s note: What I love, though? Death sitting in a Dia de los Muertos chair. Yet another prop I covet.) “Even if I remove Dean from the playing field,” Death adds, “We’re still left with you. Loyal, dogged Sam, who I suspect will never rest until he sets his brother free. Will never rest until his brother is free of the Mark.” You got that right, Death. “You traded my life,” Sam says to Dean, quietly, and Dean can’t deny it. Dean is willing to live with the MoC forever, as long as he knows he and it will never hurt another living thing. Sam tries to argue it but Dean demands that he stop thinking only of himself. “It’s for the greater good,” says Death. “Once you consider that this makes all the sense in the world.” And how many times have we snubbed our noses at that little platitude, I think. Maybe we have finally run out of the road so far.
Dean reminds Sam of the church, and how he was ready to die for the greater good then. Sam reminds Dean that he pulled him back. “And I was wrong,” Dean says. “You were right, Sam. You knew this this world would be better without us in it.” Sam feels his words are being twisted. “Why? Because we track evil and kill it? The family business? Is that it?” Dean asks, undermining their legacy with one monologue. “Look at the tape. Evil tracks us and it nukes everything in our vicinity. Our family. Our friends. It’s time we put a proper name to what we really are. And we deal with it.” Sam can’t believe Dean is even thinking it. “That thing on your arm is evil. But not you. Not me.” Dean let Rudy die. He knows what he is. What was Sam when he drove a man to sell his soul? When he bullied Charlie into dying for no reason? But, Sam protests, Dean also summoned Death to keep him from causing harm. Summoned Sam to protect him. “That’s not evil, Dean. That’s not an evil man. That is a good man. Crying to be heard. Searching for some other way.” Dean says he is sorry, but there is no other way, and he looks at his little brother for a moment before Sam throws the first punch. “Good. Good,” Dean says. “Fight.” And the knock down drag out begins.
Sam holds his own, sometimes, but Dean prevails, tossing him around like he did Cas in the Bunker. Sam throws a punch and Dean grabs his fist right out of the air and knocks him down to the ground. He punches him again and again, vicious. “Okay,” Sam pants holding his hands up in defeat. “That’s enough. That’s enough.” He looks up at Dean broken and bloody.
“You’ll never, ever, hear me say that you, the real you, is anything but good,” Sam says, spitting a mouthful of blood on the floor. “But you’re right. Before you hurt anyone else, you have to be stopped. At any cost. I understand.” He smiles just a little, the adoration he feels for his big brother evident in his eyes. He huffs out a breath, and says, resolved, “Do it.” A tear rolls down his face.
“Please. Do me the honor,” Death says, handing him his scythe. Sam kneels before Dean, a look of love and trust in his eyes, and takes a deep breath, waiting. Because this is what Sam does. What he will always do, in the end. Sam does what Dean thinks is best. He may be taller and he may be a grown man, but Dean will always be the big brother. And as I watch him I remember way back in Season Three when he told Dean what he meant to him.
“Yeah, I’ve been following you around my entire life! I mean, I’ve been looking up to you since I was four, Dean. Studying you, trying to be just like my big brother. So yeah, I know you. Better than anyone else in the entire world. And this is exactly how you act when you’re terrified. And, I mean, I can’t blame you. It’s just… I wish you would drop the show and be my brother again. ‘Cause… just ’cause.”
Except maybe this is one show Dean can’t drop.
“Close your eyes,” Dean says. Sam looks up, a tear tracing its way down his cheek in a zig-zag and even though I know he’s not real my throat hurts and I just want to wipe it away. “Sammy, close your eyes,” Dean repeats, gentle but resolved. Death watches, ever neutral.
“Wait,” Sam says, reaching into his jacket. “Take these. And one day, when you find your way back, Let these be your guide. They can help you remember what it was to be good. What it was to love.” And he sets down the pictures of Dean with Mary’s arms wrapped tight around him, and a blissful Mary with her two boys. In any other hands, those lines might be overwrought. Padalecki sells them so well I am completely choked up.
Dean stares at the photos, and Ackles’ face ever so subtly conveys his confusion. His pain. His reluctance. His wish to be in Mary’s arms again, watching over the baby they both loved so much. It is devastating. “It’s for family you must proceed, Dean,” Death says. “To be what you are, to become what you’ve become, is a stain on their memory. Do it. Or I will.” Dean hesitates, the pictures anchoring him to himself like an army man once did for his brother. He looks at Sam, heartbroken, and Sam nods for him to continue. “Forgive me,” he says, and you can see on Sam’s face that he does. That he always, always will. Dean swings the scythe and Sam closes his eyes, but Dean swings it into Death instead! NOOOOOO! Death stares for a moment and the Winchesters stare too, and Death turns to dust and crumbles away to nothing, to the boys’ shock and my deep, deep disappointment. Charlie and Death in a few weeks? WHY YOU GOTTA DO ME LIKE THAT, SHOW?! After, Dean helps Sam up. “You okay?” he asks. “I’ll live,” Sam replies, and we see what he did there. “You?” he asks Dean. “Fantastic,” he replies, maybe a little bemused. “I think I just killed death.” And that’s definitely something to put on the resume.
9. The Spell is Cas
Rowena is hateful—furious. She throws Dean’s hair in with the other ingredients, chanting in rage as Crowley and Cas watch. As she finishes, there is a bright light that blasts all three of them to the floor. And then a weird purple lightning bolt blows like a laser through the ceiling.
After, Ro drops her chains and spellcasts Crowley and Cas into place, triumphant. “It’s impossible,” says Crowley. “You’re not powerful enough.” “To what?” she asks, disdainful. “Control the likes of a bored king and a wayward angel?” She then casts her go to attack dog spell that she cast on the hooker of long ago, and Cas begins to growl.
She tells Crowley he has never seen what a real witch can do with real magic, and she is terrifically pleased it is the last thing he will ever see. She sics her heavenly mutt on Crowley and walks out, and I know I should be mad but I just can’t quit her, and I am beyond thrilled that Ruth Connell, it appears, will be back in Season Eleven. Crowley, however? Not so much thrilled. “Castiel, don’t,” he whispers as Cas stalks toward him, bleeding from the eyes and foaming at the mouth a little as he draws the angel blade. “Do not,” Crowley says as Cas gets closer, and I bet he wishes he had Juliet by his side right about now. Crowley pleads a final “Don’t!” as Cas rushes him wildly. Cas swings the blade and…scene-us interruptus. We’ll have have four months to wonder how that turns out.
10. The Darkness Without
As the boys catch their breath in the restaurant, they hear an eerie sound. “Does that sound right to you?” Dean asks, and the spell Rowena cast (lightning) bolts into Dean’s arm, removing the MoC. Painfully. Before zipping out of sight.
Sam and Dean leave the restaurant, Sam telling Dean that it’s good that the mark is gone. “Nothing bad happened,” he says, holding out Dean’s keys. “You get your baby back.” Awwwww. Sam knows the way to Dean’s heart. “Yeah,” Dean says, sarcastic. “I’m sure everything is perfectly fine.” And of course it isn’t. It never is. As the boys watch, the purple lightning from the mark races across the sky and hits the earth, breaking holes in the ground. “What did Death call this?” asks Sam, dreading the answer. “The darkness,” says Dean, as thick streaks of demon smoke rocket out of the ground from everywhere. The streaks pool together in a field and then come at the boys like a tsunami. “Get in the car. Let’s go. Let’s go,” Dean shouts, and they get into Baby. Dean throws her into reverse and they almost make it out, except for the stupid pothole that traps her tire. Baby’s wheel spins in place and her engine whines. Dean opens the door to look, but Sam calls his name, watching the literal wave of evil coming toward them. It’s too late to run. Dean closes the door, and the boys try to hold on tight, staring at their doom. “Dean!” Sam shouts, just before Baby is lost to whatever the darkness holds.
Four months, huh? Four freakin’ months before we find out what happened? DAMN YOU, SHOW! At least our boys are in a position to team up and fight the Darkness together. If they ever make it out of the car alive, that is. Enjoy…I mean…survive the Hellatus summer. Thanks for sharing Season Ten with me. We’ll see you back here in the fall.