I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been contemplating three completely different approaches to my review of Supernatural’s 11th season pre-finale episode, “We Happy Few”. The obvious choice is to impartially analyze the dialog and plot because there were several important revelations in this episode. I’d like to do those justice, so I’ll get to those a bit later. My second choice is to share where I think this is all going, given the abrupt and unexpected turn taken in this episode. I think I’ll include a bit of that as well in my subsequent comments. First, though, I want to share my reaction to what we all saw.
In the interest in being completely candid, my viewing of the episode was far from optimal. Supernatural was pre-empted in my area, so I tried watching a secondary online source that had always been reliable. Unfortunately, it looped and skipped and showed scenes out of order for the first 30 minutes of the show. I finally got disgusted and turned it off. I learned of another source so I was able to watch the last half-hour seamlessly, but without the emotional build up that I presumed was offered earlier in the episode, the action looked comical and the drama seemed ludicrous. Supernatural is all about emotional investment, and I had none.
I woke up early today and immediately turned to The CW website to watch the episode in its entirety, in order. It didn’t help. Ironically, after watching an episode named “We Happy Few”, I’m still depressed.
Why? I do not want this show to kill God. I just do not want it to go there.
They didn’t have to bring Him into the story, but now that they have, He cannot be one of those characters who is introduced simply to be collatoral damage in Sam and Dean’s war. When God was introduced as a tangible, approachable character in “Don’t Call Me Shurley”, He was powerful, majestic, compassionate, wise and insightful. He was also funny but could be pushed to wrath. For all his personality traits, though, He was clearly a being that was feared and awed by everyone in His presence. Even the brothers’ conversation with God at the beginning of “All in the Family” conveyed the immensity of the being that was pleasantly tucked inside “Chuck”. Sam was without words and Dean was reduced to the deepest emotions that form the very core of who he is as a person. They were in the presence of GOD. THE God.
“We Happy Few” reduced God to a smaller being. The denigration began with Lucifer’s interactions with “dad”, specifically designed to bring God down to the human scale:
God: Son, be reasonable.
Lucifer: One cosmic Band-Aid on my knee, and, what, you think that we’re — we’re even now? Is it time for us to go play catch in the yard?
God: Listen, I know I’ve been gone for a while. I missed a few million birthdays.
Sam overtly told the audience how they were to see God:
W-We all know that you are God, um, but… maybe could you be a-a little less…Lordly?
Besides Lucifer’s injury claims that God was a bad dad, God’s sister joined in the character assassination:
Amara: The real reason you banished me, why I couldn’t be allowed to exist… you couldn’t stand it. No, we were equals. We weren’t great or powerful, because we stood only in relation to each other. You think you made the archangels to bring light? No. You made them to create lesser beings, to make you large, to make you Lord. It was ego! You wanted to be big!
God: That’s true.
I will confess that God’s answer to Amara reflected the humble, creating, glorious God He is assumed to be:
But it isn’t the whole truth. There’s a value, a glory in creation… that’s greater and truer than my pride or my ego. Call it grace, call it being! Whatever it is, it didn’t come from my hands. It was there… waiting to be born. It just is, as you and I just were.
This revival of His good side was strategically placed late in the battle, though, simply to push the audience to again believe in the greatness of the God who was about to be defeated.
Traumatized Children and their Families
God wasn’t the only supernatural being that was systematically diminished. “We Happy Few” turned Lucifer into a caricature of his former self, giving him the starring role in the “traumatized children” theme that has been featured all season.
Previously, Lucifer was the embodiment of evil that destroyed Sam and Dean’s lives. As recently as a few months ago (this season), Sam was paralyzed with fear at the thought of seeing Lucifer again. In “Just My Imagination” Sam decided to face the unspeakable nightmare of going back to the cage (where he was tortured for ages) because he felt there was no other way to right the wrong of freeing Amara. At first, God reminded us of this view of Lucifer:
But tell me… could I have kept humankind safe with you on the board?
Then in a revelation that answered another two year old myth arc question, Lucifer’s turn to evil was explained:
God: To create the world, I had to lock Amara away. And when the Mark corrupted you and I saw that you posed a threat to humankind, I did the same with you.
Lucifer: No, you betrayed me. You gave me the Mark to lock her away, and when it changed me, when it did what the Mark inevitably does… you threw me away.
God: No, Son. The Mark — You always cast a jaundiced glance at humans. The Mark didn’t change you. It just made you more of what you already were.
That was a highlight of the episode for me! At some point I theorized in Threads (and I know many of you did too) that Lucifer’s reign of terror was actually caused by the Mark. He was Demon Dean’s ancestor, super-charged with archangel powers!
In the buildup to the ultimate confrontation with The Darkness, though, Lucifer was nothing more than a child throwing a tantrum, acting out because of being betrayed by his dad. He who created it all, and he who is feared by all, just needed literally a 5 minute chat to make peace and be reconciled? It felt silly, plain and simple. At least it could have been a yelling match, with a few crumbling walls and billowing skies to reflect their pain. Instead, the intensity just wasn’t there. They were each lessened to sitting in confining office chairs in a hallway to express “I feel” statements about banishing a cherished son to millions of years of imprisonment after losing him to jealousy of a newly created world because of a failed attempt at being the cross-bearer for humanity. Somehow the venue did not do justice to those stakes.
I presume Lucifer’s and God’s personas were each intentionally deflated so they could be killed, although technically God isn’t yet dead. Instead, He would “dim and fade away into nothing” after being left in a crumbled, defeated heap on the floor. Sam’s and Dean’s choices and actions led to the defeat and near-death of God? How is that a good thing? A three-and-a-half year long chain of events of Sam defiantly releasing the Darkness to save Dean after he petulantly accepted the Mark of Cain to defeat Abaddon… led here?? Eliminating God’s power from the universe in barely a few moments is a plot leap I cannot take. I am not prepared to accept that HE could be dismissed so easily.
As a viewer, I want a story that is so powerful, I involuntarily suspend disbelief. I want the wracking emotional responses I have invested for 11 years justified by the enormity of the drama I witness. The key, though, is to have it all stay close enough to reality to be relatable, so that I can imagine that Sam and Dean actually live in my world, saving people on the backroads of nowhere. Except, my world has a God in it. Removing God will change the universe in which Sam and Dean live. It will take them out of my world and put them somewhere without me. It will make the show into pure fiction instead of “If I close my eyes I can believe you exist” fiction. Which leads me to where I think this show may be headed.
They’ll be peace when you are done.
For a very long time, I’ve held two theories as to how Sam and Dean’s journey would end. To the best of my recollection, I’ve only shared those theories once, in the comments to one of my reviews. One of those theories is that at the end of their very long road, Sam and Dean succeed in protecting the world from all supernatural forces. They close the gates of Heaven and Hell so that angels and demons can no longer interfere with or plague humankind, and are able to wipe out in one grand blow all the monsters spawned from Eve. In other words, Sam and Dean win. “They’ll be peace when you are done” win. Humans are victorious, and freed from all overt “supernatural” interference, doomsdays, and end-is-nigh threats, Sam and Dean’s world becomes my everyday world. Heaven, Hell and God are tangible in faith alone, and a person’s life is theirs to live. My diligence in watching their story unfold will be rewarded with the knowledge that they made my world safe to live in.
If the show kills God, though, I may need to extend that theory further than I ever thought it would go. Sam and Dean don’t close Heaven and Hell – they eliminate them, along with God, magic, angels, demons and monsters. In their mission to “save people”, the “thing” they hunt expands to mean eliminating ALL supernatural forces, not just the bad or legendary ones. Their world becomes completely independent of all outside influence. A person’s fate is not spun by an angel with silver thread but by actions and consequences. There are no higher powers, no faith, and no cosmic good vs evil. Would this show really go that far? Is that the grand plan for their story? The show has already supposedly killed Death, Eve, Cain, Zeus, Greek gods, pagan gods, the central gods of several religions and the Horsemen. It now seems they have killed Lucifer in addition to Raphael and Gabriel, while caging Michael, thus eliminating the archangels. Sam and Dean had already dispatched several archdemons and I’m sure numerous other powerful forces I’m forgetting to mention. Now the plot is teasing the possibility of killing or caging either God or his sister, or both.
God himself predicted that he would have to be killed if Amara is killed:
God: There’s a harmony, a balance in the universe. Light needs dark, dark needs light. If you blow one of them up, then, I mean…
Lucifer: It wouldn’t be a good thing.
God: It’d be really not a good thing. Like, end of reality, not good.
Then Dean stated his preference for this end by admitting his finalistic motivation:
Dean: But why trap her when you can kill her, you know? I-I mean, you got to admit, there’s a lot less room for error if you shoot to kill.
God: I explained why.
Dean: Right, but why keep her in play? So she can escape and we can go through this all over again?
If that happens, then I’ve been wrong all these years about the family business. I’d assumed that this show has been about a fight between good and evil. If God ends up dead or caged for all eternity, then it’s really been a fight between humanity and the supernatural, regardless of intention, with victory being not a world free of evil but a world free of the supernatural, including God. I dearly hope that is not the direction we are going.
“We Happy Few” positioned each character for just such an end, though. All of the supernatural beings were reduced in size and power.
Crowley, who has in the past been a formidable, or at least witty and cunning foe, was humiliated by mindless minions:
Demon: King Crowley’s bad dinner theater.
Crowley: If that’s the way you feel, why did you show?
Demon: We wanted to see the monkey dance… one last time.
Then knowing that the boys are trying to stop the end of the world, Crowley presumes Dean entered Hell as a social call?
Dean: It’s time to sober up. You smell like a Dumpster outside the Liquor Barn.
Crowley: What’s this? Concern for me? I appreciate your attempts at bro-mantic rekindling. But I think we both agree that ship has sailed.
I was excited that Crowley delivered an impressive blow as the red sword of death in Amara’s battle, but his character had already been completely undermined. The King of Hell was portrayed as a drunken fool.
Were all these powerful entities purposely reduced in stature to elevate the important of Sam and Dean to the story? After all, this is their story so obviously it has to be them, not God, nor the angel/demon/magic alliances, who save the world.
Was the purpose of this entire episode to reduce the supernatural so that the humans could prevail? Frankly, I’ve never thought Sam and Dean needed that. They are larger than life already.
Only one other episode in the history of this series made me this self-conscious of being drawn into this show. That was “S7,Time for a Wedding”. I was completely pulled out of the fantasy and asked to look at how silly being an obsessed fan could be. It made me embarrassed for the passion I’ve invested in this show. “We Happy Few” left me feeling the same way. Between the Dr. Phil intervention and the sudden climax of God’s defeat, many other aspects of “We Happy Few” felt unlike my beloved show. For example, let’s look at the almost-final confrontation.
God gave a pep talk before battle by standing on a platform several feet above his “troops”? As William Wallace Braveheart speeches go, it was pretty weak. Then witch, angel and demon attacks bring Amara to the point of saying,
Well… you’ve won again. Finish it. Kill me.
…but then she can resurrect herself because she is motivated by not being re-caged?
The four witches in the bayou are killed but Rowena is spared as a reward for luring Amara to her brother’s location?
Rowena: I went out on a limb for you — betrayed God, of all people.
Amara: You didn’t betray God. You betrayed me. I knew this was a trap the moment you called. I didn’t care. All I’ve ever wanted is a one-on-one with my brother. And you’ve just given it to me. The question is… how am I going to repay you?
The betrayal theme was woven throughout this episode. As an aside, I strongly believe the culmination of that theme will come in the finale.
Lucifer is killed but Castiel is left untouched?
Amara: Goodbye, nephew.
Wouldn’t Amara have just killed Castiel too with that hand wave? Was his life a gift to Dean?
Sam has a life-ending discussion with God about taking on the Mark of Cain but we don’t get to see or hear any part of that conversation? I’ve been holding out hope that we would still hear God talk to Sam about his visions and his faith, but in the absence of hearing a conversation that solely and specifically affected Sam, I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to that critical character point. Plus the conversations that Dean had were near nonsensical:
Dean: I tried to kill her. And it didn’t work.
God: Maybe it didn’t work because you didn’t want it to work. Maybe you didn’t want to kill her.
Sam: You want God to kill Amara because you don’t want Amara to be killed?
Dean: Yeah, maybe there’s a part of me that just can’t hurt her. But if she’s already dead…
Sam: Then she’s already dead.
Say what, now? So much was left unexplained. It certainly gives fans rooms to fill in the blanks – or maybe it sets up a jam-packed finale.
I’ll just add one piece of meta analysis. Sam has been Lucifer’s alter ego for quite a while now, so let’s allow that substitution once again, giving Dean the position of greater authority because he’s the older brother, i.e God, in the conversations about apologies:
Narrator: Talk to [Sam].
Dean: Won’t do any good.
Narrator: Why not?
Dean: Cause I can’t give him what he wants.
Narrator: And what’s that?
Dean: What everyone wants — my sister, my children, you humans [i.e. fans] — an apology. A big, wet “I’m sorry.”
Narrator: Well, so give it to him. It’s not like he’s asking for a weapon or for Hell or for Heaven. He’s asking for words.
Dean: I can’t say I’m sorry if I’m not. What he wants an apology for, I did it for humanity, for the world.
Narrator: But apologies aren’t always about being right. Sometimes they’re just about apologizing.
Dean: Yeah, a-and the great thing about apologies is you don’t have to mean them. You know, I-I lie and tell Sam I’m sorry all the time.
I am beginning to believe there is a secret list somewhere (made up by Robbie?) of all the open plot points and sore spots fans have griped about. Dean apologizing to Sam was a hot button for a large portion of seasons 9 and 10. Why is all this old business being wrapped up now? The answer scares me, so I’m going to choose to ignore the question. Similarly, I’m going to choose to believe that God will continue in the Supernatural world beyond S11 – even if he disappears from view again.
Did my viewing experience adversely affect my opinion of this episode? Probably. I read both passionately positive and negative reactions to it online so I can’t tell for sure. I’m curious to read the reactions of my analytical Threads readers! Still, the diminishment of the foes for the artifical elevation of the heroes was clearly present in “We Happy Few”, as well as predictions of a complete supernatural purge.
There’s one more episode left in this season to prove to me that Sam and Dean really do exist in my world and are the heroes I always knew them to be. I don’t need God to die to make that true.
Transcipt courtesy of: http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org