Thoughts on Supernatural 15.18 “Despair”
Tears. Big, gasping tears. Those are my thoughts on this episode. At the end of this episode, I have been left a sloppy mess of a viewer and I really expected nothing less going in. So grab a tissue and let’s relive the anguish.
Big, Bad Billie
Honestly, I had some mixed emotions when the reveal was made about Billie’s traitorous plot last week. I guess, I really wanted her to be an ally, in the end. On review, though, it really makes sense for her character to be this wicked. From the beginning as a reaper, Billie has been quite vocal in her ideas about resurrections and what the proper order should be. So, it makes sense she would think she could clean things up to her view of what it should look like. Unfortunately, her machinations cast her as a villain right alongside Chuck.
The opening confrontation with Billie was great in that it ticked a few boxes right out of the gate: we got to clean up Jack and get him back, have an open confrontation about the plan, learn something vague about the new ending and ultimately have a physical altercation that left Billie vulnerable and the boys with both Jack and the scythe. This seemed like, if not a good position (that makes it sound better than it was) certainly not as bad as they could have been.
And there was something full-circle about Dean swinging the scythe at another Death.
Lisa Berry offered some top-tier acting in these moments. She always plays straight against Dean’s caustic commentary, but there was extra menace this time and some extra delight in chasing him through the bunker, scythe scraping along the wall, as she delivered some character assassination during her hunt:
“It’s you, Dean. It’s always been you. Death-defying, rule-breaking. You are everything I lived to set right. To put down. To tame. You are human disorder incarnate.”
I also can’t help wonder what these words mean, ultimately, for Dean’s role in bringing down Chuck. We’ve seen time and again that the boys are most successful when they stick together and do their own thing, versus follow someone else’s plan. You know, break rules and defy death.
With Billie gone, I suppose we won’t know what is in that new ending until it shows up (wonder if she saw her own demise as it happened?). But, the nitty gritty aside, she triggered the Empty to take her place to some degree as a major cosmic being who may (or may not?) be an ally to the boys in the fight against Chuck.
It was a shame that Billie died, but if the series is ending and we need to say goodbye to characters, she had a great outro. Menacing and powerful, as Death should rightly be. There is also something poetic about Castiel, the one responsible for Billie’s promotion to Death-status, being the one to finally end her.
Brother to Brother
Light on the broments in this episode, I appreciated deeply the conversation between Sam and Dean around Dean’s behaviour in the last episode. It was so…extreme that it needed to be spoken to. And Dean initiated this, speaking to his obsession with Chuck that left him blind and single-minded, his anger (which he addresses again later) and wanting so badly to be done.
Sam is more optimistic here (slightly) and there is a look that he gives Dean at the end of this conversation that speaks to Dean’s despair and Sam’s growing awareness of it. It was a nice touch, especially given all that comes later. This conversation really showcases how far in maturity the boys have really come over the years. Once upon a time, this wouldn’t have been a calm, reasonable conversation with Dean admitting his faults and deeper reasons for his actions so readily.
I have to give a nod to the cinematography in this moment – it was one of my favourite moments of the episode. While there were no light moments of the episode, this was a quiet moment that we – and Sam and Dean – needed to regroup and it was not only a perfect moment between the brothers, it was beautiful shot. This moment also gave a visual callback, intentional or otherwise, to Sam and Dean in “Baby” when they have a conversation about the Darkness and Dean says:
“And no one’s gonna help us, certainly not God, so we’ll have to figure this thing out, like we always do.”
And figure it out, they will.
Jack Goes Boom
The Jack Bomb was a bit lackluster at first, but I wonder if it wasn’t meant to be. It happened very fast and there was so much build up to it, that when nothing happened (essentially), even Jack himself was at a loss. Is this it? What role do I play if not this?
“Jack. You never needed absolution from Sam, or Dean, or from me. We don’t care about you because you’re useful or you fit into some grand design. We care about you because you’re you.”
Castiel delivered a sweet speech to Jack that they love him not because of his abilities or his usefulness to them, but just because he’s Jack, period. Sam also recognized some depression and got Jack participating, making him feel useful.
Jack didn’t have a lot to say in this episode, but as always Alex’s affect spoke volumes. Quiet and contemplative with equal mix of melancholy and doubting. Jack has matured in so many ways from the wide-eyed, eager boy we met originally. This Jack is stung by trauma, reeling from the enormity of so much loss and the impact of death and war on his (short) life.
Reconstituted in the Empty, Jack is now, evidently, without his Nephilim powers, which means he is one less supernova on the board against Chuck. But is he really powerless? Billie did say he was still useful, after all. We also had that teaser moment of Jack sucking the life out of a plant: what does this mean for his role in the grand scheme? Any theories? Jack absorbed Adam’s rib, so can he create and destroy now? Will he be able to restore what Chuck has ruined? Recall, this similarly happened to Amara back when she’d injured Chuck in season 11.
Inspired by Thanos
(I know, I know – I’m probably the 10,000th person to make that reference, but… it’s right there!)
This episode just kept the hits coming, over and over.
Charlie’s girlfriend vanishes. Then, Eileen leaves three little dots on the screen when typing to Sam. Watching him and Dean during this conversation was overwhelming. Sam is managing to scrape some semblance of a relationship together in their crazy lives and now this happens.
The tears in his eyes say it all. Both Jared and Jensen were in top form here; Jared delivering a strong emotional response that was controlled but ever-present on his face from here onward. It was Sam trying to get through this without being totally overwhelmed by grief and panic.
Sam was a reluctant pseudo-leader in this episode, in some respects. AU Bobby said he was the “boss” and he had the horrifying role of watching the hunters who came at his call, the people he tried stoically and desperately to protect, disappear before his eyes. After he’d lost Eileen. In every moment you could feel Sam’s struggle to contain his pain, trying to be strong for the others despite being at a loss for how to protect everyone. Watching Sam bring the hunters into the silo and hesitantly read the spell, was akin the boy with his finger in the dyke to stop the flood: futile, desperate and quietly tragic.
The final moments in the silo, those were devastating. Donna. They got Donna. Sweet, happy, bubbly Donna. Absolutely devastating.
True Happiness Is
“…You fought for this whole world for love. That is who you are. You’re the most caring man on Earth. You are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know. You know, ever since we met, ever since I pulled you out of Hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you. I cared about Sam. I cared about Jack. I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean…I love you…Goodbye, Dean.”
In my heart, in the very depths of my soul, I just knew that Castiel would not make it through this season. I lived with the knowledge that when that time came, the time to take him from the Winchesters and from our lives, that it would be heartbreaking, it would be devastating and it would tear-jerking.
It was all of these things and more.
This was the performance for Misha. It really cannot be captured in written words. Misha was open, heart-bared and fully connected in this scene. I could feel everything Castiel felt, reaching through the screen and it simultaneously broke my heart and brought me joy for him, being able to find happiness. It was utterly genuine and wholly perfect.
The peak of this episode, for Dean and Cas, is reached in the storage room with Billie trying to get through the sigil and Dean drowning in desolation that he has separated from Sam and Jack and let his own rage lead them into a trap, again, to his mind. That he and Cas will die and there is nothing he can do. But, Cas realizes the Empty can be summoned when Cas realizes perfect happiness, because of the vow he made.
“I know. I know how you see yourself, Dean. You see yourself the same way our enemies see you. You’re destructive and you’re angry and you’re broken. You’re — You’re “Daddy’s Blunt Instrument.” And you think that hate and anger that’s — that’s what drives you. That’s who you are. It’s not. And everyone who knows you sees it. Everything you have ever done, the good and the bad you have done for love. You raised your little brother for love.”
There is so much in these few moments.
Castiel not only protects Dean here, but leaves him with a characterization of himself that is unlike anything anyone has ever said so explicitly, drawing stark contrast to the picture he knows Dean holds of himself. This reminder that love drives Dean ultimately, not anger, on the heels of Dean’s upset admission that his anger blinded him and he thinks he sentenced them to death with it, is not only absolution but affirmation. These words may become a pillar in the coming days.
It’s ironic that early in the episode Jack is talking about being unable to save anyone because he has no powers, and therefore is unable to fulfill his destiny. Jack explains to Cas that “There is nothing I can do to protect anyone.” Castiel responds to this (and the rest of Jack’s confession) with, “Me too.” At the end then we see Castiel achieve fulfillment in his sacrifice – he has saved his family from Billie and doing so, able to be satisfied in his sacrifice – he is ready to die, which again, is something that Jack proclaimed he was ready to do.
Dean, on the other hand, can’t even process what’s happening until it’s over. As beautiful and moving as Castiel’s words are, the look and the dawning of understanding on Dean’s face when it all ends is devastation and disbelief.
Both Misha and Jensen were phenomenal in these moments; Misha communicated the joyful, loving goodbye beautifully where Jensen completely captured Dean’s totally inability to sort out what was happening in the moments leading up to Castiel’s death.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the bloody handprint bringing this relationship full circle from season four. Touching, heartbreaking, perfect.
No punches pulled. This episode took everyone down and then some. With zero light moments. Even with an opportunity for a laugh, Donna being present and Jack driving for the second time – this episode had none. It was all about priming those emotional pumps and swinging hard.
There is something to be said though, that in this episode called “Despair”, filled with so much crushing defeat for our heroes, the only “win” (if you can call it that) came through a moment of true happiness. What does this mean for the end? This show has always had sacrifice and love; how does this play out in the grand scheme?
The end of this episode really sums up the spirit of it: it was sorrowful and disquieting. Sam and Jack emerge, all that’s left of the hunters, not able to reach Dean so they don’t know whether he’s been vaporized. We see that most of the world is gone, unbeknownst to them. And we see Dean, alone in the bunker unable to answer the call from Sam, overcome with grief.
Good television. Hard on the heart.
Can we kick an ass or two next week? Please?
Penultimate episode or not, I need a laugh or a win or…something.
Share your thoughts below!
(Screencaps courtesy of Raloria@LiveJournal )
Read more of Elle’s “Thoughts on Supernatural’! Her reviews and other articles are all linked on her Writer’s Page.