The day after we were all stunned by Supernatural’s season 10 finale, “Brother’s Keeper”, I started to write the “Threads” review that you were probably expecting. That draft lists all the predictions we got right and all the theories that went wrong. It explores the repercussions of pursuing the cure and the mind-blowing shift in the central, classic theme of the show (that frankly I can’t wait to discuss!). We’ll get to all that in due time. We have five months to analyze and speculate.  I realized that those questions were not the questions we should be considering now, though. After we have all been so deeply affected by such tender words from Sam and heartbreaking looks from Dean, and such shocking consequences of their love, we need to explore what we saw, felt and thought during this hour of masterful television.

“Brother’s Keeper” posed so many philosophical questions, parallels, reversals and ethical dilemmas that I am completely overwhelmed both as a fan and as a writer. Every angle I begin to explore expands into new levels of meaning and interpretation, making a focused, single themed analysis both impossible and woefully inadequate. Jeremy Carver, you are a masterful writer.

The show was going for the emotional punch from the outset, starting with the unplugged version of “Carryon Wayward Son” that was performed in “Fan Fiction”.  We had been warned through endless interviews and teaser comments from the cast and producers that the finale was going to be “epic” and “intense” and that a beloved family member was going to be killed. I think we all prepared ourselves to see Sam, Dean, Castiel and/or Crowley die. Even knowing that their deaths couldn’t be permanent for the show to continue into season 11 didn’t soften the emotional tension we all felt going into the show. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, were the gut-wrenching choices that our beloved characters had to face.

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For instance, it was a powerfully redeeming moment when Dean chose to spare Sam’s life. Dean chose love of his family over the greater good, but what was his plan? What was he thinking?  Death was his last hope of being stopped. Had Dean decided that the needs of the one (Sam) outweighs the needs of the many? Do they? Can they?  Are there some things that are always wrong, like killing someone you love, no matter the good that may come from it? Are there some things that are always right, like trusting that love will be redeeming no matter the path or the length of the journey?

I have played the same scene over and over again until it has screw burn (those younger than me, look it up).  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which scene it is, but for the sake of understanding, Sam is kneeling on the floor, bloody. Dean is coldly standing over him, unaffected and determined. I only hear certain words, breaking through my emotional defenses, punctuated with cello and violin music:

Sam: You will never ever hear me say that you, the real you, is anything but good.

Dean: Close your eyes. Sammy, close your eyes.

Sam: Take these. 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 is was to love.

Dean: Forgive me.

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I am in awe of the love these boys feel for each other. I understand the psychological cause - the catastrophic things they’ve been through together and their interdependent bond that began with (loosely paraphrased) “Take your brother and don't look back Dean!” Do people really have the courage it takes to kneel, awaiting death, not in submission, but in understanding and unity with the person who would kill them? Is it possible to love someone so much that you can forgive them for “they know not what they do?” We have all heard stories of people who willingly sacrifice themselves for others, in war, in fires, on 9/11. They are called heroes. Dean summoned Death because he didn’t want to hurt any more people. Sam offered his life to meet Death’s terms and save the world from The Mark. So Sam and Dean are both heroes.

Except neither of them felt like heroes.

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They argued with each other over whether they were in fact the faces of evil. Dean believed that he was evil because he let Rudy die and that Sam was evil because he was willing to let the Darkness into the world rather than lose his brother. Sam, though, was the voice of redemption. He told Dean that he was “a good man crying to be heard, searching for some other way”. Which brother was right? Balancing all the good they have done versus all the evil they have unleashed during their lives, are they heroes? Are they justified in risking the world for the sake of love? If we all did that, would the world be a better place or would it disintegrate in chaos? Should our lives be ruled by love versus reason? Is the ideal being presented that love will lead to goodness and light in the end?

What of Sam? Dean mercilessly berated Sam, chastising him to “stop thinking about himself for one damn minute!” I know that was The Mark talking, but it was still very hard to listen to Dean's voice hurt Sam in that way. Whenever Dean is supernaturally pushed toward blame and hate, he reminds Sam of his mistakes, rebuking Sam for catastrophic events that he set in motion. Sam understood that it wasn’t really his brother talking. Would that mitigate the guilt that Sam feels, though? Sam had countless opportunities to turn away from the curse’s cure yet each time he chose to save Dean. Was that selfish, or heroic? Dean had to be stopped so didn’t “saving Dean” equate to “stopping the Mark”? It was repeatedly presented as a moral dilemma because of the prophecy of horrific consequences but what was the alternative? Before Death’s proposed banishment to eternity, was there any other way to stop another Father of Murder from being born?

The Mark’s danger was very real. It posed an imminent and substantial threat to the world. Sam argued that he could only battle the enemy in front of him, ala one thing at a time. He was obviously tormented by the ominous threats of “something bad” because he frantically reminded both Dean and Castiel that no one could tell him what those consequences would be: “Not you, not anyone can tell me what those consequences are, so I’m not going to let my brother destroy himself on a guess.” Was he being brave in taking action versus remaining paralyzed in fear, cowering in the face of possible, unnamed and unknown consequences?  Doesn’t society scorn people who sit idly by and let an evil take root and grow? Sam’s motivations were complex. When he pleaded with Castiel to continue pursuing the cure, Sam said “I owe [Dean] everything!” Was Sam pursuing a cure because of overwhelming love for Dean, or because of shame, guilt, fear of being alone, or an intense responsibility to protect the world? Was it all of the above? Does it matter? Do a person’s motivations have to be purely altruistic to be heroic?

History has proven that sometimes things must get horribly worse before they can get better. The Nazi’s were an imminent and real threat to liberty and life. They had to be stopped, yet the path to freedom was 60 million lives lost in a global war. That was judged as the terrible price that had to be paid to save the world. For the sake of billions of people, millions of people died. The United States used a nuclear weapon killing hundreds of thousands of people arguing that millions were saved by ending the war in the Pacific. In both cases the cost of the cure could be measured in gruesome, very real numbers while the potential threat could only be imagined, estimated, or predicted. Weren’t these cures a horrible “darkness” that was unleashed on the world for a time, before good people fought back the darkness and restored light?

I can’t wrap my head around the idea of this new “Darkness” that has been unleashed by “the cure”. How are the brothers supposed to battle something that encapsulated, or defined, the universe before time began? God and the archangels beat it back and began the history of humanity on Earth. This is the “monster” that the Winchesters now have to face? Once before they unknowingly unlocked an ancient evil yet they were repeatedly told that they were predestined to do so, that the apocalypse was inevitable. This newest evil was being held back by the life of just one person who bore a key on his arm.  Shouldn't it have been locked behind 66 seals or an army of angels? Are the boys really responsible for this cataclysm simply because they wanted to save each other’s lives?  Sam chose to cure his brother to stop the Mark. Dean chose to not kill his brother and live with the Mark. Neither chose to unleash “a horribly destructive amoral force that was beaten back by God and his archangels in a terrible war”. The people who actually cast the spell hadn’t heard Death’s story so they didn’t yet know the consequences. Can they be blamed for freeing the key from its holder?

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How far back should we go to trace blame? Is Dean to blame because he took on the Mark of Cain? After all he made the rash decision to accept a supernatural power from a demon. Cain had been quietly holding the key for centuries. That may have continued for the foreseeable future, yet he himself said his “relapse” was inevitable. Did Dean just bring the simmering pot to a boil sooner rather than later?

Is Crowley to blame, as Sam suggested? Crowley introduced Dean to Cain in the first place. Crowley also procured all the ingredients needed for the impossibly difficult spell. With Castiel’s wings broken, he wouldn’t have been able to get those ingredients. Crowley also knew of Rowena’s only love, so he enabled the entire spell to be cast.  His role in unleashing the Darkness was crucial.

Was Charlie to blame? She loved Dean and wanted to cure him too. She was thousands of miles away when she broke into museums and monastery crypts to recover the Book of the Damned that had been hidden from those who would use it. She also broke the code that would allow an evil witch to use the spells. Without Charlie, the book’s secrets would have remained sealed. Charlie herself called the book “old and scary” yet she unlocked its contents.

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Is Castiel to blame? He continued pursuing the spell despite repeatedly voicing concerns. Castiel desperately wanted to save Dean too, both as his friend and as a guardian of humanity. Castiel, of all people, should have known the catastrophic scale of some paths since he had personally witnessed the entirety of human existence. If a friend begs us to do something we suspect is wrong, is our greater responsibility to support our friend in their hour of need or to be the voice of reason when they are about to do something dangerous? 

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Is Rowena to blame? She was the one and only person who spoke the spell that released the Mark. She didn’t know about the Darkness either, but given that she coldly killed Oscar to secure her own power, would it have mattered had she known?

Is Sam to blame? He put together the brain trust that was able to crack the code. He motivated them, begged them or bribed them to find the cure.

Were they all to blame?

 …or were none of them to blame because no single person released the Mark knowing the magnitude of the price? Can a person only be held responsible for what they knowingly do, or are they responsible for the consequences of events they indirectly set in motion?

Sam and Dean chose family over all else. Sam wouldn’t stop looking for a cure because there was absolutely no other way to save, or stop, Dean. Yet Sam agreed to die when MarkedDean demanded it of him to save the world. In the end, though, Dean broke through the Mark’s influence and couldn’t kill his little brother.

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Would it have made a difference if he had? Would his banishment have been far enough away that the cure’s lightning bolt wouldn’t have found him? It’s hard to say. Neither Sam nor Dean decided to release the Darkness. They simply chose life… and family.  As Chuck once said,

So, what's it all add up to? It's hard to say. But me, I'd say this was a test... for Sam and Dean. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well... isn't that kinda the whole point?

Were any of you also troubled by the philosophical and ethical dilemmas that were faced by Team Free Will and their allies? In trying to sort through my emotional response to such a powerful drama, I find that I’m also struggling to understand my intellectual response.  Where did they go wrong…or did they?

That is why I love Supernatural.


I'm hoping to gather a number of different opinions on these issues, but remember our discussion rules please - no personal attacks, no "rewording" what other people have said. I can open up separate topics on our discussion page if necessary so people can thoughfully explore their ideas with people of like mind but let's try this way first.

Comments  

elle2
# elle2 2015-05-22 18:30
As always, Nightsky, so much to ponder in what you write. There is much to consider and in this there will be no wrong or right answers, although I'm sure the debate will seem as if there is. I loved it. It was a season of all the main four characters doing battle internally, and it all came to a head in Brother's Keeper. Crowley wanted revenge on Rowena and thus he hooked onto the one person she loved and brought him, the innocent sacrifice, to Rowena. It was her choice, however, to kill Oskar, and she did. Rowena showed her true self as all she wanted was powerful dark magic, and her freedom, and the cost meant little. Castiel allowed an innocent human being to be slaughtered, all to save a friend and to ease another friend's deep agony and bring him that which he most wanted: saving his brother from the MoC. Sam was willing to die to give Dean what he wanted, knowledge that the MoC would never harm anyone ever again. Sam knew that Dean himself would suffer forever though, not only because of the Mark, but also with the knowledge that he killed his brother. Dean faced his greatest battle and appeared to choose his side, live forever with the MoC, but kill his brother. In the end, both brothers came together through their love for the other. Sam was willing to die, but he wanted Dean, the real Dean, to hear him, and he knew that if he could find that one thing to reach Dean, the real Dean, then they would be able to fight together. Just as we've seen before, with John overcoming Azazel's power, and Sam overcoming Lucifer's power and Bobby overcoming the power of the demon possessing him, love always triumphs, and here, Dean's love for Sam and memories of his mom were what it took to have Dean chuck it all away and save Sam by killing Death -- which is another discussion all together (can Death truly die? and if so, does that mean Dean is now Death? Does the veil crumble and Kevin and Charlie and Bobby (oh, please, oh, please) and Ellen and Jo and you name it come back? Um, probably not, but a girl can hope.

Anyway, the brothers have faced the darkness within themselves and come out shining with their love for each other. Now they face the Darkness from before time began...and who knows what that brings. I'm looking forward to Season 11 because the brothers are united.
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 09:55
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the brothers have faced the darkness within themselves and come out shining with their love for each other.
I LOVE your silver lining view! It brightened my day!!
Daisymae
# Daisymae 2015-05-22 22:12
I too was troubled by the ethical issues of the brothers. It was the main point for me and I wondered if anyone else noticed. Questioning whether Sam and Dean could possible be bad for the world may be viewed as heresy by fans. But at the end of this episode, I did feel that the brothers caused the Darkness by their selfish need for each other and total disregard for consequences. This might be harsher than you have stated but I think it adds more texture to the whole Winchester saga. Is their love for each other almost a sickness and obsession that causes disaster for other people and now the world? I do not blame Sam, but both brothers are at fault. Can the good you do also cause such great harm that the good no longer matters? I think this should be a major factor next year since it is obviously an issue now. If anyone is annoyed by what I wrote please know I LOVE this show and have seen all episodes and will cry bitter tears when it goes. I can't imagine no more Sam and Dean and I think these dilemmas add layers to the show that can only improve it. Also, I'm not one who ever writes negatively about the show because I love it.
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 08:41
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Can the good you do also cause such great harm that the good no longer matters?
I hadn't placed that as a set up for a Season 11 theme, but the brothers spent so much time debating that issue in the climactic scene that it seems obvious now.
Jen
# Jen 2015-05-22 22:20
This was a heavy season, full of personnal issuses, decisions that define a person for who they are or may become. I suffer depression - it makes me indecisive, sad every emotional thing you can think of.
Whether this gives you a different insight into these more raw episodes (maybe) I can understand why Jared broke down - this episode this season would have drained him of all his strength.

It is just a TV show but it at its essence mimics life. I would do anything for my Sisters & Family. I believe I would have acted the same way as Sam & Dean. Their is no blame here no regrets, its done, move on to the next challenge together/united . I to as you all hope this brings the Boys back together, a clean slate. It sounds like another out of character season. But blended through that I hope to see more Bro moments, a stronger Sam, a tougher happier Dean if the writers do this I will except unbelievable story lines. The darkness before time it sounds WAY to big for our boys. But I'm sure this is where Metatron and the Deamon tablet will come in

Nightsky - this discussion was very different to what you normally write. You must have been heavy of heart when you wrote this. I know you call it "The Ethical Dilemma " which gave me alot to think about. But I always look to your articles for answers and veryfication of how I feel - this one gave me more questions. Over the next couple of months when you maybe able to look at the ep. more from a distance could you possibly write another article. maybe looking ahead into S11. THANKS WFB for your hard work this season will be poping in over the next LONG 5 mths to see whats new HUGS Nightsky Jen xxoo
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 09:02
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I can understand why Jared broke down - this episode this season would have drained him of all his strength.
I thought the exact same thing. Jared's acting in this episode was brilliant. It was so intense. Jared has said that tears only come in scenes if he personally feels them. With as much as him kneeling waiting for Dean to kill him broke MY heart, I can imagine what it did to Jared's psyche. Both boys have repeatedly said that the body does not know you are acting, so I could very easily accept, if not expect, that the past several episodes would have penetrated Jared's mind and heart.

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Nightsky - this discussion was very different to what you normally write. You must have been heavy of heart when you wrote this. I know you call it "The Ethical Dilemma " which gave me alot to think about. But I always look to your articles for answers and veryfication of how I feel - this one gave me more questions. Over the next couple of months when you maybe able to look at the ep. more from a distance could you possibly write another article. maybe looking ahead into S11
I actually started to write "Threads" per my normal routine the day after a new episode. I found that my emotions were overshadowing my analysis, though and I decided that the episode deserved to be felt before it was analyzed. It was obvious that Jared and Jensen put so much of themselves into their performances and many fans were deeply impacted by what they saw (including me), so I wanted to honor that reaction rather than ignore it. I was also ethically challenged by a lot of what they said. The answers within their lives and their universe weren't obvious. I love Supernatural partially because it makes me think as well as feel, so I wanted to explore and recognize that aspect of the show. I will definitely complete and post the Threads S10 wrap up article next week!

As far as Hiatus, I hope you and everyone comes back to check out the site every week, if not every day!! The site has to survive for 5 months without a new episode to review, so we need you all with us! We have a lot of great material planned. I expect we'll be doing WFB Crew Reviews of reruns, I want to catch up on Visual Reviews and FarAwayEyes wants to do Performance Reviews of the episodes we didn't analyze the first time around. We'll have games, photo reviews, character analyses, spec on S11, and so much more. Please stay with us all hiatus!
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-05-23 14:13
You could always do a review on the anime version to pass the time. But I gather very few who visit this site don't like anime, or even heard of the anime version.
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-05-23 11:33
I agree. After viewing the season finale for season 10, I see it as reason why Jared may be so exhausted. He gave his all to the character of Sam and Sam's complete desperation to save Dean and even his willingness to allow Dean to kill him. How incredible was his performance in the scene where Dean told him to close his eyes. Remember when Jensen said that the depression of Dean's darkness got to him to the point that he asked if their was light at the end of the tunnel? Well we know how much Jared gives, and his performance this season was excellent and ramped up desperation.... perhaps he gave much and wore himself out. A sincere wish for Jared to rest and take the time off to be himself in the love of his family and friends.
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-05-22 22:30
One of humanities unique qualities: blame. Not just cause and effect, but the determination of responsibility. The viewpoints of SPN family over this last decade is diverse and sometimes extreme. I've seen fans blame one over the other for the slightest action or word. I'm not one for blame. I believe in sometimes sh*t just happens, that a sequence of seemingly unrelated events, even if individually were committed with the best intentions, can have disastrous consequences.
These darn Winchester's have always been willing to sacrifice themselves for eachother and the greater good. Dean has once been willing to sacrifice his own brother (well, perhaps not so much willingly but out of desperation) to save humanity. But even in "starting" the apocalypse they were neither to blame for it. The sequence of events starting further back than their own lives, perhaps with the the directive to Abaddon to destroy the MOL so the "vessels" would never have the knowledge they needed to fight their destiny? Perhaps even further? The unique partnering of angels and demons to manipulate the situation with the expectation of a favorable result.
Yet, each made their own choices along the way, not just Sam and Dean, but Anna, Castiel, Uriel, Azazel, Lilith even John and Mary and Henry. Each action had a reaction that was neither opposite or equal. In the end, no one got the result they wanted.
Now, upon first watch of "Brother's Keeper" I was shocked and questioned why tptb would allow the brothers to choose themselves over the greater good. I thought that this apocalypse rested squarely on them, their choice, their responsibility.
But, upon further reflection and rewatch, I have changed my mind. Yes, Sam could have blurted out that he might be close to a cure, but the situation did not really allow for that. But because of that he really didn't have the information needed to worry about the consequences, not to mention he had no idea that the spell would work.
Dean, having discovered his humanity and his inability to kill his brother, could have allowed Death to do the deed. But he chose to keep the moc, save his brother and figure it out "like we always do".
Castiel could have stopped the spell, he didn't need to contact Crowley but in the end both Cas and Crowley and even Charlie played their part. Even Rudy gave Dean a reason for reflection which would lead him into the arms of Death.
I did get the impression that the little red witch knew more than she let on. Perhaps she was the only one who understood the consequences. Perhaps she now holds the power to control it? In that case, her choice to continue, to withhold that information knowing the consequences would lay much of the blame at her feet. I guess we'll find out (many long months from now).
Thanks for the great essay Nightsky!
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 09:33
You are welcome! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!
samandean10
# samandean10 2015-05-22 23:56
I agree with ThisOldBag that it's all too easy to assign blame for things. The brothers have faced innumerable moral and ethical quandaries, and have always tried to do right. And on balance, they've done far more good than bad. Dean is right that evil dogs their footsteps, but they are in no way at fault for that. They were destined to fill certain roles in the world, roles that would have inflicted untold damage, and they ultimately rejected that destiny and forged their own. Yes, Sam foolishly trusted Ruby and unintentionally released Lucifer. But he was manipulated and lied to by angels and demons alike, and truly believed he was doing good by killing Lilith. As Dean himself ultimately acknowledged, who would've thought killing Lillith was a bad thing?After Sam redeemed himself by falling into the Pit, he and Dean were tremendous forces for good. The appearance of the next two big bads ( Mother and the Leviathan) was entirely the fault of Cas and Crowley, yet the brothers committed themselves to defeating them and were able to do so at great personal cost. The mere fact that people close to the brothers frequently die is certainly not their fault. Most of them were hunters who freely joined in the fight against evil. The brothers themselves have risked their own lives over and over, and even given their lives, but the forces of destiny have always conspired to bring them back. Sam was willing to die to close the gates of hell, but Dean wasn't necessarily wrong to stop him. Who knows what the unforeseen consequences of that would have been? And as Dean correctly pointed out, they had enjoyed no small measure of success in fighting the demons. Why should Sam have to give his life for an uncertain outcome? The brothers have made regrettable decisions that resulted in bad outcomes, but the damage has mostly been to themselves. One exception was Kevin's death, which might well have been avoidable. Yet even that death was unintended and unforeseen by Dean. The most damaging decisions the brothers have made have been in the last two season: Dean's rash decision to take on the MOC and Sam's decision to use the BOTD. Dean's decision was foolhardy, but his only intention was to kill Abaddon. Had Dean not disturbed Cain, the MOC might well have remained quiet for many more years, but who knows how long until Cain's next relapse. Sam took the calculated risk of using the Book because the certainty of a MOC Dean ultimately committing horrible acts outweighed the unknown, uncertain consequences of using the Book. And I think the brothers made the right choices in this episode. Sam finally acknowledged that Dean must be stopped at any cost and Sam was willing to die to ensure that. At that point he had no idea the spell was about to be cast, and why would he? The last thing he'd heard was that the ingredients for the spell might be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to acquire. And presumably the spell was the last thing on his mind after hearing about the true meaning of the MOC and of Dean's deal to trade Sam's life. When Dean made his decision to spare Sam, he was unaware that the spell was being cast. He could not bring himself to kill Sam so he was settling for a return to the status quo, and the hope that he could find another way to thwart the MOC. Even if Dean had known of the spell, was he wrong to spare Sam? Would I be willing to murder a loved one in cold blood for the greater good? I don't know if I could do that. While the brothers have made some bad decisions that have had negative consequences, that is the nature of war, and a war is most certainly what they're engaged in. I love that they had an actual discussion about where to draw the moral lines, and I hope they continue to have those types of discussions. But I agree with Sam that sometimes all of your choices suck, and you try to pick the one that sucks the least. They are good, albeit flawed, men who have devoted their lives to fighting evil and saving people, and if the show ever tries to portray them as forces for evil, they will have undermined the entire premise of the show.
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 09:32
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The mere fact that people close to the brothers frequently die is certainly not their fault. Most of them were hunters who freely joined in the fight against evil. The brothers themselves have risked their own lives over and over, and even given their lives, but the forces of destiny have always conspired to bring them back.

I absolutely agree! I hate when this is thrown up at them to make them into "troubled souls"!
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Sam was willing to die to close the gates of hell, but Dean wasn't necessarily wrong to stop him. Who knows what the unforeseen consequences of that would have been?
Agreed! I would love to see this acknowledged and explored! If the gates of Hell were sealed, demons couldn't get out, but could evil souls still get in? Would "Hell" no longer be a deterrent to evil behavior? It's a "great lever" so would there be a counter balance? The same thing applied to Heaven. When it was shut down, souls got stuck in the veil. That entire premise is still unexplored and unexplained. The past few episodes emphasized that dark magic has a price - for balance. I think that's a concept that's been implied but could be focused on much more.
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I think the brothers made the right choices in this episode.
Thank you for your arguments supporting this view. I appreciate the food for thought.
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I love that they had an actual discussion about where to draw the moral lines, and I hope they continue to have those types of discussions
I would LOVE for them to have more discussion, as equals, rather than the blaming and back biting! (as long as the show continues to present these topics as complex and doesn't begin to preach ala S7).
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But I agree with Sam that sometimes all of your choices suck, and you try to pick the one that sucks the least.
Ironically, I watched a Dr. Who ep last night in which he said, "sometimes all your choices are bad but you still have to choose".
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-05-23 11:29
Well stated and I agree with all your points. I share your position.
Ginger
# Ginger 2015-05-23 00:50
Interesting that you gave no opinion, but you did outline the two sides of the ethical dilemmas quite well. Personally, I was totally unmoved by the episode in every respect and left the season thinking the Winchesters have certainly fell a long way. They no longer look like heroes to me. Basically, what I am saying is that, for me, Carver has completely deconstructed the two Winchester characters.

I took the moral of the MoC story to be that the good of the one is better than the good of the many without any hint that Carver is aware of the ‘free will’ he put into the Mark story.

Through the MoC story, Carver placed Dean in a situation where ‘he cannot control the Mark,’ and knowing the consequences of what not controlling it would be. That situation meant that Dean was NOT as strong as Cain and NOT ever bit as strong-willed as Cain; a complete contradiction of Dean’s character. (i.e., Dean got off of the rack because he did not know he would be breaking the first seal. Had he known, does anybody think that Dean Winchester would have willingly got off the rack?)

Morally speaking, what I got out of the whole season is that if one has to be a monster to save humanity, then humanity is not worth saving.

Dean had a choice the whole time as to whether to be a monster or whether to be human. Throughout the entire season, he chose to be human, and that completely short-circuited the Mark story — it was never an issue of whether or not to commit fratricide; it was an issue of whether to become a monster or stay human.

As for the fratricide, Death gave two options: kill Sam so he would not try to get Dean back and send Dean to another planet, or transfer the Mark to someone else. Dean refused transferring the Mark (although Crowley would have been a good one to transfer it to and much less far-fetched than the primordial root of all evil). Once Sam agreed that Dean needed to go to another planet so he wouldn’t turn into the ultimate monster, there was no need for fratricide and there was no need to kill off another good character. Death’s dying was meaningless, and I wonder now that since Death gave the angel reapers their lists of who to reap, does that mean nobody dies every again. All dying stopped when just a lowly angel/reaper was killed in Death Takes a Holiday.

So in the end, the Winchesters look like dicks who will screw the world to save the FAN FAVORITE ‘brother bond,” and that negates them as heroes. Screwing friends, family, civilians, and good characters (Death) is a far cry from ‘hunting evil, saving people, and the family business.’

Also, the finale gave no payoff for the season. I saw no character development for either of the Winchesters. I saw nothing of them addressing any issues, either personal or between them, or finding any understanding. The only resolution was that the Mark is gone and Dean is back to being fully human -- two humans left to face the root of all evil (probably a shabbily dressed writers' God or the little red head who wears pretty gowns) that they have unleashed on humanity. Again, a far cry from hunting evil and saving people.
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-23 09:51
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Interesting that you gave no opinion
I didn't give an opinion because I really haven't decided what I think about the questions that were raised. It's the Spock/Kirk dilemma. Spock decided for the needs of the many; Kirk decided for the needs of the one. Most of us can't affect global issues, but we can affect the lives of one individual every day. The question is not "is that enough?". The question is "is that the point?" If everyone did good for the person immediately in front of them all the time, wouldn't that tip the scales in favor of good? Can a human being kill the most important person in their life if it meant saving the world? Wouldn't the act of killing love bring about something bad? If evil begets evil, doesn't always acting out of love lead to good things? I was struck by the metaphysical questions raised as it applied to the epic scale the boys faced.
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Also, the finale gave no payoff for the season. I saw no character development for either of the Winchesters. I saw nothing of them addressing any issues, either personal or between them, or finding any understanding.
I would have LOVED to have foregone the first 20 min of the vampire case (the placement of which I still don't understand) and instead have used 20 more min on the boys trying to come to terms with their arguments, their choices and their relationship. I expect that was sacrificed for the idea "always keep them coming back for more". Seeing this conversation is my #1 hope for S11. Frustrating? Absolutely!! How far can the fans be pushed before they get tired of waiting? That is a delicate balance but I for one will keep coming back for more!
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-05-23 14:19
I agree with the vampire case. It felt tacked on to fill space..
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-05-24 23:47
Hi Nightsky, great job posing the query of the ethical dilemma. Considering bigger issues is one reason why I watch the show. But for now, and since you commented on the production itself, I was wondering what you thought of the following that I saw as the only flaw in this episode. Dean is at the end of his rope, faced down in a hotel room and actually finally decides to call Death to take him out; pretty desperate right? All season we do not know if Dean is talking OR is the MOC dictating his comments (wishing Sammy was dead instead of Charlie) and actions (slaughtering rooms filled with people and then playing miniature golf with the newly minted teenage warrior hunter Claire). It was ambiguous most of the time- for me anyway. Keeping that in mind, how is it possible that Dean has the inclination, energy, to prepare an authentic meal/ snack for Death. I mean that was ludicrous or am I missing something? Dean is under the control of the MOC, decides to die and then went food shopping, found a kitchen and set the whole place up as if having a dinner party? Thoughts?
E
# E 2015-05-25 06:48
It makes about as much sense as the rest of the MoC. So, MoC Dean wishes that his brother was up on that pyre rather than Charlie, but rational MoC Dean can decide quite rationally that Sam needs to die to help Dean deal with the Mark. And Sam needs to die because he "won't ever stop?" Really? That's it? Didn't Sam just agree to die? Isn't that him agreeing with what needs to be done to stop Dean? So no need for him to die, right? Its a circular argument and a dumb one. The MoC was whatever each writer needed it to be in that moment to suit the plot. There is zero consistency and for me a totally unsatisfying and LOOOOOONG (holy crap was it long, 35 episodes!!!) story arc that neither built up properly nor went anywhere. Dean was acting completely rational at the end, so why was everyone saying he needed to be "banished?" wasn't be back in control once more? And Dean won't share the Mark but he'll kill his brother to be free of it, but he'll kill his brother to be free of it? How does that work? The whole idea was a fail in execution.
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-05-25 10:00
The MOC storyline was inconsistent factually and logically. It is such a hot mess that when the writers released the MOC from Dean and us from the storyline it naturally turned into the massive darkness before God created Light. I guess we need Light now. Because Carver just created a hotter mess... Now we have unleashed all the darkness of the universe. And as pointed out -All the darkness was only held back by one lock and key: the mark? And if it was the lock and key to all darkness why was it called the Mark of Cain? AND since when is a branded symbol or a lock.... able to assert free will? Death said" The Mark that would serve as both lock and key, which he entrusted to his most valued lieutenant -- Lucifer. But the Mark began to assert its own will, revealed itself as a curse and began to corrupt." So something created by God in his Light to hold back the darkness turned itself into a curse? Lucifer was turned evil - corrupted by a curse and not because he simply rebelled by his own free will and reigned in hell. The only way I can watch and enjoy season 11 is to be happy the damn thing is no longer on Dean's arm and the darkness is just some random evil.
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-30 10:13
Sorry it took me so long to reply. I had to turn my attention to writing Threads. Ironically, though, I think I might answer your question in that article.
I had been confused as to when the Mark was talking and when Dean was talking for several weeks. The hateful things he was saying were very hard to listen to. It was almost impossible to believe that Dean would say such things to Sam but Dean has gotten so bitter in the past, there was enough doubt in my mind as to whether it was Real/Bitter Dean or MarkedDean talking. I even mentioned that in my TVFanatic Roundtable comments for the finale. I still don't know for sure, but I've decided it was MarkedDean. I lay out my reasons for believing that in the finale edition of Threads. It would have been nice if there had been a "tell" when MarkedDean took over, though - a tic, a twitch, hand shaking, or better yet, the Mark glowing. At a recent convention, a fan asked Jensen to clarify something about what Dean was thinking and he got a bit defensive (he said he was kidding). He said next time I try to be a better actor so it is more clear (close translation). At the risk of insulting him, it might be worthwhile to ask what he thought about some of the more egregious comments. I might also hope that RealDean apologizes for what he said, or when asked about it, RealDean says he doesn't have any memory of saying such awful things. That would clarify it completely.
I actually have no problem with Dean cooking. The Mark removed the restraint it's hosts usually exercised, and thus they fought more brutally, said terrible things that they would not usually say, etc. We never saw any indication that it removed innate talents. Dean was a good cook. I don't think he needed to be sane to fry up a good Mexican meal.
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2015-05-23 13:40
So glad you chose to tackle this, Nightsky; it is a difficult question with no right or wrong answers, only opinions.

Just as in the past, the brothers chose each other; even if the MoC had consumed 99.999% of Dean, Dean would still be incapable of killing Sam. Just wasn't going to happen. But... this time is different, isn't it? No external forces at work against the brothers; no demons bleeding in to a child's mouth, no hot demons manipulating Sam down a dark path, no angels leaving altered voice mails, no dick angels trying to coerce Dean in to saying yes to Michael. The decisions made by Sam and Dean, and Castiel and Crowley for that matter, were of their own free will. And unless more is added to the back story, given what we know so far, I don't think their decisions were moral or right.

That's not to say the brothers are immoral; they do have a strong sense of right and wrong. However, when it comes to each other, it's almost as if the brothers are amoral.

Sam kept saying no one could tell him the consequences to removing the MoC using the BoTD; he surely knew that the flipside wasn't going to be all rainbows and puppies. And even though the pretext for having to kill Sam was flimsy at best, Dean saw first hand what Cain turned in to, what he was turning in to, and what would happen if he continued on unchecked. But... that's the decision he made when he spared Sam's life and killed Death. If the cure didn't happen, what then?

These things really bothered me about this episode, and the last couple of seasons under Jeremy Carver. I'm not seeing any of the maturity that Carver alluded to in Season 8. If anything, their relationship is even more unhealthy and screwed up than ever. That being said, still haven't completely made up my mind on this episode yet.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-05-23 14:07
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Jeremy Carver, you are a masterful writer.
I was in the midst of yawning then I read this. My jaw slammed shut and my eyes widened. I was not expecting such words considering the overwhelming negativity in the Discussion threads.

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Once before they unknowingly unlocked an ancient evil yet they were repeatedly told that they were predestined to do so, that the apocalypse was inevitable.
Perhaps this is the true apocalypse ;)

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Were they all to blame?
Yes. Each played a part.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2015-05-23 14:37
I am not sure about right or wrong, moral or immoral but Death knew that Sam would never stop in trying to find a way to save Dean no matter where Death hurled him. And since the Winchesters always seem to come up with the solution to the most impossible situations it was clear Sam had to die in order to keep the Darkness locked away. Dean was ok with that but Sam wasn't. Not because Sam wouldn't sacrifice himself for the greater good (he had already done that before) but because he couldn't bear the thought of Dean living for all eternity being slowly twisted into an evil as horrendous as Lucifer. Sam was stuck with a decision with no good outcome so he went with the less crappy one. Save Dean. Deal with the consequences later. The spell was going to happen whether Sam died or not. Would it have worked if Dean had been in another galaxy? Hard to say. But we would have potentially had a live Mark free Dean (where's the Blade btw) and a dead Sam and still had the Darkness without the resourceful Winchesters to combat it. They did what they always do choose each other and hope that their luck doesn't run out. It was the best case scenario and one that was so unexpected. I love a good twist and that was a twist. And whose heart didn't break when Sam tried to give Dean a memory of love to carry with him through all the long lonely years of his life. Mine did.
And was it just me or did Death not look all that shocked at Dean's decision.
Thanks for the analysis Nightsky this is going to be a topic of conversation for the summer I'll bet.
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2015-05-23 16:51
I was thinking about this on my ride home from work, and from my perspective, so it makes sense to me, I've come up with this theory, or maybe I should say way of looking at it. Now granted, this is in regards to show and show's depiction of God, angels, Lucifer etc...it's not about the real God. just wanted to clarify..:D So here goes:

According to Death, God and the angels had a battle with Darkness, locked it away and God in turn entrusted Lucifer with the key to keep it locked up. If that's true, then why would a mark, created by God as a lock to keep the Darkness at bay, be bad? Why would God give Lucifer something harmful? Doesn't make sense to me, so to wrap my head around this, I was thinking this. Let's say that during the battle against the Darkness, Lucifer got infected. I mean it's a battle right and Michael and Lucifer were the strongest of God's angels, so let's say for argument's sake that before Darkness was locked away, some of it made it's way into Lucifer..could' ve been Michael just as easily, but it entered Lucifer, God's most trusted. That being the case, then it's easy to see how the mark, given by God to Lucifer, was able to take on a life of it's own. The Darkness encapsulated itself into the Mark..so the mark is now darkness..it's own entity.... Lucifer was eventually taken over by the Mark..succumbed to the darkness, thus defying God and becoming jealous of humans.

Lucifer was banished, angry at God for choosing humans over him and thus the mark(now Darkness) feeds off of these negative emotions becoming stronger, and Lucifer in essence becomes the Devil. Lucifer, who hates humans wants to punish them, so he disguises himself as the serpent, tricking Gadreel and thus corrupting humanity. Lucifer's hate grows with the mark and so he finds an even worse way to corrupt, thus creating the first murderer in Cain. Humans were already corruptible at this point, so Lucifer just used it to his advantage. Thing is, not all humans were easily corruptible, and the mark/darkness could sense that. It has to be a trait already in existence...a negative feeling to be fed upon. Cain might have felt a bit of sibling rivalry towards Abel and thus Lucifer/Mark took advantage of it. In the guise of what would seem to be saving Abel, in actuality Lucifer used his cunning and Cain's negative feelings he may have had deep down and convinced Cain what he was doing was good. Cain was given the moc once he killed Abel as he was deserving of it. The mark/darkness would be sated on this man...on Cain.

Now let's say that God realizes what has happened. He can't undo it, but perhaps there's a way to fight this evil. That leads us to the creation of the Winchesters and the Campbells, which most definitely leads us to the very important union of Mary Campbell and John Winchester because Sam and Dean Winchester had to be born. The corruption of heaven and the angels once God has presumably left the building, had them create a false prophesy that the reason the Boys had to be born was to fulfill their apocalyptic destiny...a destiny created by a dysfunctional family of angels who had given up on their loyalty and devotion to their father...and thus gave up on their own family. But I've always believed that God created the Winchesters and the Campbells and most importantly Sam and Dean to save his world and fight the evil that now exists.

Sam and Dean have never done anything evil. They didn't start the apocalypse, the angels did. It was Sam and Dean's love for each other and choosing family that saved the world from destruction. Neither Sam or Dean let out the leviathans...ag ain, that was an angel's doing. Though it wasn't done out of malice. basically what happened happened because the angels didn't act like a family...they didn't come together, they were broken and corrupt and battling for power. It was the love of two brothers that helped save the world again here.

Now we come to where we are now and the question of Sam and Dean doing more harm than good is raised once again...the way I see, I would have to say no. While the pickle Dean managed to get himself into was a result of guilt ...it was also the result of love. His love for his brother and his love for humanity, as Dean sees Sam as vital to the fighting this evil and that is the greater good. Now Cain told Dean that he was worthy of the moc and Dean believed it was because he saw himself a killer...but I don't believe that to be the case...I do think that Cain/Moc deemed Dean worthy because of his own belief in that, which is as negative as one could get...self hatred....and thus the moc would be strong on him. So the Mark sees Dean as the perfect parasite to feed off of. The negative force is strong with that one:D. Dean did manage to become an immediate threat to humanity, so as much as Sam was willing to go to the ends of the earth to save Dean out of love for his brother, there is a part of Sam that knows that he needs to keep people safe as well. Cas agreed with that notion as he declared to dean that he would be the one still around while he murdered the world. So curing Dean was for the greater good.

Here's the thing...ok, so Sam is now aware of what the consequences would be...but up until Death explained, all Sam knew was that Dean was running out of time and what he will become was definite, the consequences of saving him were unknown and probable...So we get to the part now where Sam is willing to die for his brother. It's pretty much Sam after all, throughout the history of show, Sam has always shown his love for his brother by abiding his wishes..Sam was always willing to "let go" if that's what Dean truly wanted....So we have Sam on his knees, tears streaming down his face, love and devotion filling his heart and the entire tristate area...ready to give up his life for Dean.....and in true typical Dean fashion, who has always shown his love to Sam by not letting go, by holding on as tight as he can, in a moment where Dean gained control of himself and overcame the mark, out of sheer love for his brother and his family, he instead reaps Death....Dean chose Sam. He chose family. He chose love.

That's what it's always been about....love.. .because in all the battles the boys have fought, it's been love that has always found a way to triumph. I don't doubt for a second that God keeps these boys around for that reason.. Cheryl is right....Sam seemed to have forgotten that Cas was working the spell, and if Sam died, all Dean would've had is a brother he loved more than life itself dead by his own hands, and he would most likely not been able to live with himself...so either he would've killed himself once the moc was gone or he would somehow ensure he died one way or the other. Just the way Sam tried to die back in s4. That being the case, there would be no one to fight the Darkness.

Now the Darkness was released by Cas/Crowley/Row ena....not by Sam himself. So the Darkness would be released with or without sam alive. God being God most likely could see how things would play out..which is why he created the winchester boys in the first place....that being said, my take is that since the darkness was accidentally released, then at least Sam and Dean are together and they could defeat it. It's my humble opinion that God knows that the one true thing that can beat darkness is love...and nobody's love is stronger than Sam and Dean Winchester's. That's what it's always been about. Not only has their love been able to triumph, but their love inspires others to join the fight...for example Cas... Cas may have screwed up, but Cas is most likely God's one child that has shown true devotion to his family, which is why it seems Cas is still alive, always brought back to fight again....Cas has become part of the Winchester family and it's this family that continues to fight for the greater good....and it does so through love and devotion to ea. other as well as to humanity. ;)

nightsky....that's what you get for asking such a heavy philosophical question.....:p :D
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2015-05-23 20:50
just a little addendum because my post wasn't long enough:D....

dean has been controlled by the moc completely since dark dynasty. now he might have gained a bit of control back just long enough to summon death, but I just don't buy that dean wasn't influenced by the moc from the moment he heard the truth about it's origin from death. all this time, all the mark wanted to do was survive. and it's biggest threat was sam Winchester. so here moc dean is learning about what death wants in order to send dean off to foreign worlds so he cannot hurt anyone....do you honestly believe that moc dean didn't have a plan b? that once sam was out of the picture, that moc dean wouldn't have killed death anyway to prevent him from sending him away?

think about it...once moc dean found out the solution to his problem was the death of his brother, the very thing that the mark called for, was prophesized about by cain himself....the one thing that would turn dean into a demon/knight of hell and make him all powerful.....wo uldn't moc dean be all for that plan...so moc dean lured his brother, which dean would never even contemplate doing, to ultimately sacrifice him...isn't that the way Lucifer conned cain? the death of sam ensures the rebirth of demon dean/knight of hell....and demon dean would've quietly surrendered to death? I highly doubt it. more than likely given what we know, demon dean, who would've been overcome with power, would've wanted to survive and kill more...and more and more...demon dean had the very weapon that could kill death, so death was basically a goner either way....can't help but wonder if that was his intention all along?

sam handing dean those photos? what do you suppose enabled dean to gain control? the fact that he was about to kill the very person his mother sacrificed her life for? or maybe he was thinking of his mom and how good and beautiful she was and how could he think that this woman can create a child that's evil? or maybe he thought what would his mom think of him right now, about to kill his brother, the only person who ever gave dean any sense of self worth, the only one who's ever stood by him and believed in him when no one else did...the one who's kneeling before him ready to die for him with nothing but love in his heart and devotion and faith in his goodness....wha tever it was he was thinking...love ended up triumphing over the moc's blood lust....a blood lust that would've turned dean to the very thing sam was trying to save him from becoming....

in all this malarkey about sending dean off to planet tattooine.....e verybody seemed to have forgotten that sating the mark that way sealed dean's doom...

and that would definitely be counterproducti ve to the greater good. death's so called solution was never a solution at all.

together though, the boys can fight whatever evil comes their way...win or lose they'll do it together...and they won't be alone in this fight...because it's their love for ea. other and humanity that inspires others to do their part in the fight against evil....instead of sitting idly by letting evil just win.

isn't that not unlike the boys campaign to always keep fighting....:)
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-05-23 21:26
Wow Sugarhi51, we could build a philosophy, morality, ethics and logic class around that thought provoking answer. Bravo! I agree. I also enjoyed the read. I am just too overworked and life circumstances overwhelmed to form my own response to Nightsky's query but I would concur with you. Yes, the Winchesters did choose love. In life, any action, chose, decision, must be made from love to be right.
Thanks Nightsky for posing all the right questions and giving us something to think/ feel about as we contemplate this episode. This is why I watch the show.
Fazzie
# Fazzie 2015-05-25 05:40
I get the pondering NightSky and I respect you for it.

But honestly all I could think was this - we lost Demon Dean to get this as a finale, with so much thrown at us that the only take away I could get is that Rowena and Crowley have the most healthy family relationship on the show and they are using murder as a way to score points against each other. Cas stands there and lets someone who is not involved in any of this be killed by someone they love to save Dean (bang up job for that one). Am I the only one that misses the bad ass angel instead of the idiot that Cas has devolved into.

Dean is back being a stupid ass on killing Death to save his baby brother who if he had thought about it would have realised even with an angel and demon helping him would have needed sodding eternity and the combined forces of the Klingon, Cardassin Empires and the Federation to work out where he was if Death had dumped him somewhere in outer space. Though Death saying space made no sense because he could have dumped Dean in purgatory and then killed him so making him a demon so the human only door would be out of the question for him. Granted that would leave the rogue reapers being able to jump in and out but they are off the table if Death actually put his own house in order! Not to mention the cure would have been gone if Death turned up and sodding reaped Rowena and took her stuff not like Cas and Crowley would have been able to stop him. Hell Crowley would have been happy Rowena was gone.

But to top it off Carver has effectively made Sam the bad guy because there was actually a point when Dean said the darkness 'doesn't sound good' and he could have pulled out the phone and called Cas to hold off on the cure until he got more info and it wouldn't have destroyed the pacing of the scene but he didn't. The argument about the ethics goes out the window when there is an opportunity, not to completely stop the cure but to at least pause it to find out about the possible consequences they have dropped anvils about isn't taken when it knowingly could have been.

But apart from that my problems with the finale,

Why not introduce Oscar sooner, even just as having him as the guy that serves Crowley coffee while he watches humanity and wonders about why mummy doesn't love him while knowingly chatting and observing the guy that his mummy did. We didn't need the reveal of who Oscar was wouldn't have been necessary to the last episode and it would give Crowley's internal conflict a bit more depth than having him talk to a hamster. But having Oscar turn up only one episode before smacks of having the idea last minute but not so last minute that someone in the writers room shouted - we've got to give them a bit of foreshadowing that this character might be important.

Why not have Rowena actually try and work out what the consequence is. She's sodding gone on about what real witchcraft can do and balance - show she actually gives two hoots about the witchcraft part.

Have Sam go on about how he will always think that Dean is a good man - we've had two seasons of having Carver rip Sam apart and have Dean doubt that and all we get is this for Sam trying to undo Dean's emotional toll about the purge (which we know he's still smarting at) and season 8? That it? Really that is it? Five minutes? Balance not.

But to top it off we had Cas go on in season 8 about how all life is worth something. But he stands back letting Oscar die when the guy doesn't get it, even though he knows that removing the mark will mean huge consequences and he's had one beat down from Dean? Way to go with baiting all the Destial fans Carver. You've just written a Sam who told Cas it is okay to put Dean above all creation and then Cas does it. Isn't that just one step away from Sam walking Dean down the aisle to a waiting Cas? If that is the case do the damn follow through on it!!

And why? So we could get a moppet to sing 'Carry on my Wayward son' in a blonde wig and have a load of fanfiction jokes. Now the episode itself wasn't that bad, I liked it but it screwed the pacing of the whole season and this is what we get a shit load of plot thrown at us at the last second most of which made no sense. They write Metatron going on about writing and this lot couldn't actually pull a Whedon and go for the integrity of the season rather than this episode?
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-05-30 10:37
I can't say that I disagree with a lot of what you said. I was also troubled that Castiel turned his head to not watch Oskar being drained of blood. It occurred to me that a celestial being that has seen all of creation and human history should be more forceful in his objections - if not stop the whole thing completely. I believe they were trying to show that he is more human now than angel, hence his comment 1 or 2 weeks ago to Rowena that "I am a lot like a human". I don't particularly care for WimpCastiel. I think the writers need to look at him very carefully and give him a real mission that dignifies his character.
The suggestion that they could have used Purgatory as a solution is worthwhile. I would have liked that to have been addressed.
The finale's answers did feel rushed to me - there's no doubt there.
I've chosen to look at and enjoy what I've given, though, rather than think about what could have been. I want to continue to love this show and getting bitter about it would ruin that, so I choose tolerance of the path not chosen, the solution not explored, the words not written, etc. Fretting about what could have been doesn't usually lead to anywhere good, so my philosophy is to let it go and deal with what is (since this is a philosophical essay I thought I would give a philosophical answer! ;) )