Like many of you, I typically have a very emotional reaction to Supernatural’s season finales. I’m left reeling from the dramatic cliff-hanger drama that is designed to break fans’ hearts, hurting for Sam, Dean, Castiel, or all three at once. Add to that the morning-after let down, when the excitement is over, the adrenaline is ebbing and a long, five month absence from Sam and Dean is looming ahead. That’s when the loss of Supernatural’s weekly high is brutally tangible. Addiction is a real thing folks. Very real.
My way of coping with the emotional free-fall is to share my usually gushing reactions to the finale in an open expression of gratitude and awe for this show. I believe the cast, the writers, the production staff and the crew deserve to understand the impact their artistic outpouring has on their audience. It’s my way of giving back to them the gift of emotional vulnerability that they invest in what are usually extremely demanding scenes of pain, sorrow or fear. “Dear Jared” was my love letter after season 8’s “Sacrifice”. Season 9’s finale, “Do You Believe in Miracles” inspired my letter “The Miracle of Supernatural”, which thanked everyone involved with Supernatural for the dedication and talent they pour into this show. Season 10’s finale, “Brother’s Keeper”, took such a toll on Jared that his emotional exhaustion caught up with him while he was at a convention immediately after the finale aired. When he reached out to his Supernatural family, I channeled my post-finale love fest into an open letter of support, “Dear Jared, Now and Forever”. (Before anyone claims a pattern of bias, I wrote to both Jensen and Jared after Season 9’s mid-season thriller “Road Trip”, and specifically to Jensen after season 10’s brilliant “The Executioner’s Song”.)
Season 11’s finale, “Alpha and Omega”, delivered a very different emotional punch than any of the prior years, however. It wasn’t heart-wrenching from beginning to end, as so many before it had been. Instead, the first half of the episode took the time to build an entirely new solution to the mythological threat that had been brewing all season.
The episode followed a monster-of-the-week formula: there was a supernatural being that needed to be defeated and all prior attacks had failed, so Sam led the players who were involved in this hunt in a brainstorming session to come up with a new approach. In essence, he facilitated virtual research, as each person in turn expounded on the being’s weaknesses and what new weapons they could deliver or create from their individual realms – Heaven, Hell, Magic and Universe. Everyone worked together to devise a plan, then the brothers hit the road on a hunt. Once the weapon was created, Dean was sent to deliver the killing blow.
This hunt would have warranted an extremely long entry in their hunters’ journals or MoL files if it had been narrated somewhere in the middle of the season. Instead, though, it was the season’s finale. Last week’s climactic battle between Amara and God left both God and the fandom in a beaten-up heap on the floor, so the expectation was that the action would pick up fast and furious from there.
Apprehension going into the episode was extremely high. The fandom was on edge expecting a horrific turn of events at any moment, and were braced for the sucker punch. The emotion I experienced and sensed in others was anxiety more than anything else. “Wait for it” was my predominant thought, and there were a lot of tensed muscles and shallow breaths expecting the worst. The episode’s hour was ticking away quickly, though, and nothing seemed to be happening, either good or bad.
After the new plan of attack was devised, dread joined the apprehension and anxiety when it looked and sounded like the show was going to kill God. For those of you who have kept up with my Threads reviews (or my Twitter feed), you know that is the ONE outcome that was totally unacceptable to me (for a long list of reasons). My thoughts switched over to “PLEASE don’t do that show. Please don’t make the Winchesters’ world a godless universe, basically changing the entire premise of the 11-year myth arc. PLEASE don’t make Sam’s faith and Dean’s determination to never lose lead to God’s death.”
As the plan to kill Amara (with God being collateral damage) unfolded, anxiety and dread had to make room for another reaction – confusion. “Wait, what is happening?”
The brothers are leaving together to vanquish ghosts by collecting their souls?
Billie (like everyone else) can defeat the warding and just wander into the bunker? Why does she want in on the battle? She’s emptying the veil?? A random, kind old lady feeding birds? Plus, there was humor. Scottish accents? Magic Words? Finales are usually dramatic epitomes totally devoid of humor. The confusion now equally matched all other emotions, but as with all Supernatural episodes, I granted the benefit of the doubt to the show. “OK” I thought, “let’s just go with the flow here and see where this leads”.
Then came the goodbyes. As usual, Jared and Jensen’s acting completed elevated these scenes. THERE’s the tug at the heart strings I was expecting! I’ll address the content of their goodbye in a moment, because first watch, as it was happening, I, at least, was still too anxious about what was going to happen next to be critically analytical. Sammy losing his big brother was ache upon ache. Dean having to walk to his death was heartbreak times 10.
The twist of the story finally revealed itself when Dean was able to reconcile Amara and her brother. All my anxiety, dread and confusion was replaced with relief and happiness. The ending to their story was … sweet. I was NOT expecting that. What a wonderful surprise! Neither Dean, nor Amara, nor God, nor Sam nor Castiel ended up in the Empty. No MoC do-over. For the first time in a LONG time, the cascading string of bad decisions and bad luck, being tricked and being used, was ending for the brothers. I exhaled and was truly happy and satisfied with the finale. It didn’t make sense in many ways, but I didn’t care. It was finally a happy ending. My heart filled to the brim when light and dark swirled together into the sky. Amara and God were both saved, and they each wanted to do something to repay Dean. God defused Dean’s bomb and Amara gave Dean a gift.
The reintroduction of Mary was touching and sweet. It was the ala mode on Dean’s slice of apple pie. Like so many other aspects of this season, it pulled a detail from the very beginning, the core, of the show. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but again, it was sweet so I went with it.
It’s now 2 minutes until the end of the show. Why, oh why, didn’t it end here??
All that sweet euphoria got trampled down in one final, cheap shot when we weren’t looking – the Men of Letters hate Sam and Dean. A society executive has come across the ocean to be judge, jury and executioner. The stuffy librarians not only don’t understand what’s been going on, they’ve egotistically decided that they know best so they interfere with extreme prejudice.
I HATED the last 2 minutes! Frustration, anger, resentment and raging annoyance replaced every emotion that had come before. Sam was on his own, crushed at the supposed death of his brother, and Cas got blown to OZ so that some lady could shoot at Sam in HIS bunker (to which, by the way, she has a key). Season 12 is going to start with a corporate hostile takeover? Our beloved heroes don’t get one minute of peace? They just saved GOD. Can’t they get at least one thank you for that? Where is this going? Sam gets whisked away to a British underground prison as Dean enters an empty home with the news that they can be a family again? Really, really ANNOYED. That is not a plotline that entices me; it’s a plotline that infuriates me!
Every single thing about the episode that I had overlooked in favor of really wanting to like the show came rushing back to annoy me. Suddenly, I remembered the editorial advice that Metatron gave God in “Don’t Call Me Shurley”:
Metatron: Details are what make a story great. This is lacking in some details. Like all of them.
Chuck: “In the beginning, there was me.” Boom — detail. And what a grabber. I mean, I’m hooked, and I was there.
Metatron: I’m hooked, too, and yet… details.
I’m hooked as well. I’m with Supernatural all the way, yet…details. The last few episodes of this season were uncharacteristically rushed and weak in details. I was absolutely willing to swallow the last minute, out-of-the blue solution to the Amara problem. Since God was only accepting Amara’s murder as a last resort, I could buy into Him waiting until now to mention that light could kill The Darkness. A Book of the Damned spell powered by souls from the veil is a little shaky but I’ll go with it because all the components of this solution had been introduced in prior episodes and I want to believe. Very big leaps of logic were being freely made but I’m the forgiving type.
Stories that require audience participation to complete them are not epic finales, though. This episode missed so many opportunities to be great because it ignored the tiny details:
=> When Sam checked on how God was feeling while they were all waiting in the bar, he and God both expected that God would be dead within minutes. It was the perfect time for God to thank Sam for his faith and sacrifices. An encouraging word about Sam’s life would have balanced the deep conversations Dean was able to have with God about their roles in the world. Both brothers fight. Both brother lose. Sam, and the audience, deserved to hear God tell Sam that he too was the firewall.
=> Castiel has been the truest angel in all the heavens. He has searched for and defended God’s plan for years. He, and the audience, deserved a forgiving reunion with his Father, even if it was just a short one. Instead they strategized together as if it was just another day at the office and we have to imagine Castiel’s first glance at His father’s face after centuries of absence.
=> When Dean said goodbye to Sam for supposedly the last time, Dean could have given the amulet back to Sammy. “Keep it for me” or some other heart-felt sentiment could have tied into that tear-jerker component of the show’s story. I would also have liked for Sam to have been able to express his feelings. The Darkness was released as a result of him wanting to save his brother, yet it all came back to him letting his brother die. Once again having another character shut him up before the words could flow was keenly noticed.
There were several other “audience fill in the blanks” moments but rather than dwelling on details, I instead remembered how Metatron revised his advice to God after reading God’s story through to the end:
I’ll tell you, there’s some great bones in there. I’m thinking what’s missing — maybe less about detail and more about balance.
In this case, this episode equally balanced the time it gave to both Sam and Dean, but it didn’t respect them equally. Let me explain what I mean:
=> When all seemed lost, Sam took over as the voice of reason and determination. He rallied the troops, chastised them for giving up, and pushed them to keep fighting. He organized, facilitated, encouraged and ultimately succeeded in uncovering their salvation. During this time, Dean was portrayed as a drunken quitter.
=> As the plan was being executed, Dean was on the front lines of the fight. He walked into the lion’s den willingly and bravely, but he still had the presence of mind to convince Amara that there was another way. He did not blindly sacrifice himself to the cause but rather made a final pitch to believe in family.
Dean was then rewarded with seeing God and Amara’s happy ending. Sam, who has held the faith, was denied this moment that would have redeemed his endless hours of despair.
It could be argued that Sam, who is thinker first and soldier second, was true to his character by being the hero in finding a solution. Dean, who is soldier first and thinker second, was the hero on the battlefield. The choice to leave them out of the other’s triumphant moment was …disappointing. Sam is also a damn good hunter; Dean is also a brilliant strategist. Dean told Sam he would have to be the one to confront Amara; that Sam would have to fight the final battle. Last week, Sam said,
“Dean, you told me you couldn’t beat Amara, that it would have to be me. Well, this is it — me.”
Sam had a vital role in that fight and Dean was virtually side-lined with very little to do. Their roles were reversed this time. It came down to Dean confronting Amara and Sam being side-lined. The difference is that in the first, failed attempt, the brothers were together. In the second, successful attempt, only Dean was there to see their victory.
While the finale rushed through a largely undeveloped solution and felt more like a stand-alone story than the end of a carefully woven, intricate story, in balance, it managed to close season 11 with the best of all possible outcomes. It didn’t elicit the same emotional response as most (any?) other year’s finales but it was blissfully happy for a few short minutes. Borrowing Chuck’s words from one of the most epic finales of them all, “They chose family. Isn’t that kinda the whole point?” That goes a long way in my book.
So if “Alpha and Omega” didn’t hit me with the same power as other finales, what lasting impression did it make? Personally, I’m experiencing two emotional aftermaths. I’ll remember the happy ending it gave us because I simply choose to remember that wonderful new beginning for God and his sister. I like the possibilities that raises for new worlds. It was sweet and extremely unusual for this show, so it will be the defining moment of this finale as far as I’m concerned.
That happiness has to coexist with worry, though. I’m tired of the brothers being separated, I’m frustrated with one having to be put down for the other to shine, and I’m fanatically annoyed at the storyline teased for season 12. Metatron expressed my concern best when he reminded God of one more writing adage:
If you say that Amara is off limits, fine. But you know every great hero is defined by his or her villain.
I’m worried about Sam and Dean losing all the pride and security they have found in their MoL heritage. I’m worried about a grating distraction in a MoL power struggle that takes them away from each other, from Castiel and from the hunt.
I’m worried that Castiel and Crowley will continue to drift and not find a true voice and a dignified purpose in the story.
Crowley continues to have the funniest lines in each episode and I truly appreciated the attempt to clearly define Castiel’s relationship to the brothers (awkward as it was) but both characters need purpose. I can’t even imagine how Mary fits into all this.
Andrew Dabb has a huge challenge ahead of him. The last few episode have not felt like classic Supernatural, which is odd given that was season 11’s hallmark strategy. Supernatural didn’t get this far without weathering some storms, though, so it deserves and gets my faith.
In the meta portion of my “Don’t Call Me Shurley” review, I theorized that Robbie Thompson used Metatron as the voice of the fandom having a conversation with Supernatural’s writing team. Maybe Robbie was desperately trying to impart advice for the new team going forward. He had seen the end of season 11 and the plans for season 12, so maybe he was speaking for all of us in begging for details, balance and a worthwhile villain.
I’ll be unhappy until I see the brothers hug again. Hopefully it will be an epic, chick-flick hug because Sam and Dean deserve it – and so do their fans. Until then, I’m going to focus on that happy ending. How about you?
Editor’s Note: I will write a Season 11 Threads wrap-up soon. I have to wait until my emotions subside and my intellect can present an analytical dissection of the script! There’s so much to dig into! For starters, Billie totally ignored Chuck and visa-versa. I’m completely convinced that Billie is, in fact, the new Death. More to come!