Thoughts on Swan Song
Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry (don’t you cry no more)
Delighted applause was heard in my small corner of the world when then highly anticipated Kansas montage cued up. So many great moments to reflect back on over this season, and every one of them would have a special significance now, in the episode set to bookend a saga that began five years ago, on September 13th, 2005. A saga that has touched many people in many different ways and now has united us before our televisions across the world for this must-see chapter 1,704 days later. So let’s get to it:
“On April 21, 1967 the hundred millionth GM vehicle rolled off the line at the plant in Janesville. A blue two door Caprice. There was a big ceremony, speeches, the lieutenant governor even showed up. Three days later another car rolled off that same line. No one gave two craps about her. But they should have; a young marine bought her on impulse. That is, after a little advice from a friend. And that’s where this story begins. And here is where it ends.”
Beginning with a beautiful tribute to a beloved character was fitting and ambient for a special episode such as this. The 1967 Chevy Impala is a character in the Supernatural family that, regardless of where you fall on the Supernatural fan spectrum, you love and can’t imagine the show without. Thus, this was the perfect beginning to the end. Now, as we do with the Winchesters, we know the full origins of this much loved car. It was first owned by a man who, not unlike the current owners, travelled the country helping people in his own way (ironically “getting’ people ready for judgement day”). The Impala through thick and thin has been home to these two boys as the narrator verbalized so eloquently. The reel of images of the young Winchester brothers imbuing the car with little pieces of themselves and their family conjured a soft smile and tears. How fitting that, after all this time, it’s ultimately the Impala who saves the day. Every moment of the last five years touched this bookend in one way or another, uniting through the Impala – the one who has witnessed it all, standing steadfast and stalwart each and every time.
“It’s not on me to let you do anything, if this is what you want, I’ll back your play. The truth is, watching out for you, it’s kind of been my job you know? More than that, it’s kind of who I am…I don’t know if we’ve got a snowballs chance, but I do know that if anybody can do it, it’s you.”
When an episode has you quivering with emotion before the first five minutes are up, you know it is going to be a good one. Words don’t really exist to fully encompass the awestruck state that has befallen me after Swan Song. Truly, this was the greatest forty minutes of Supernatural there has ever been. This was the ending I didn’t see coming, even with all the speculation floating out there, it still caught me [exuberantly] off-guard. From the get go, Lucifer calls Sam and Dean on their bluff, he enters Sam and comes out the winner (temporarily anyways), Dean opens the cage and Lucifer doesn’t leap – all within the first third of the episode. I’m in awe – what now? This was as far as the speculation had taken me – Sam’s plan would either succeed or not and then The End. Not so. That was just the start.
“You gotta promise me something, promise not to try to bring me back, go find Lisa, you pray to God she’s dumb enough to take you in, you have barbecues, you go to football games, you go live some normal, apple-pie life, Dean.”
The conversation between Sam and Dean in the car was one of the hardest to swallow and it paralleled the infamous moments in the Impala before Dean’s contract came due. The promise Sam elicited from Dean was sorrow-inducing. But the cycle had to end – the Winchester brothers had to stop saving (or trying to save) one another. Sam wished for Dean to move on and live the life both of them were never able to have but always wanted in one way or another – a normal, family life. Okay, Sammy. Dean heard you. And while Dean kept his promise to Sam in the end, you have to wonder just how long he’d be able to maintain that life knowing Sam was in the Pit with Lucifer – especially given his own firsthand experience in Hell.
“A wrestling match inside your noggin, I like the idea. Just you and me. One round. No tricks. You win, you jump in the hole. I win, well, then I win.”
Mark Pellegrino, as he has without fail over the past year, played a deliciously malicious Lucifer. The icing of the window with his breath and etching of a pitch fork in the frost was one of the great little moments of this episode. When Sam and Dean realized Lucifer knew exactly what their plan was, the we’re-screwed-beyond-screwed looks on their faces mirrored my own, I’ve no doubt. This was the perfect send off for Pellegrino, who brought the character of Lucifer into three dimensional being and made him the fallen angel we love to hate.
Pure, unbridled devastation painted itself across Dean’s face when Lucifer in Sam’s body disappeared, and I was right there with him. As always, Jensen communicates volumes without words and in Swan Song he did not disappoint. As he called out for Sammy while Lucifer mashed his face – “I’m here, Sammy” – I was even more wrecked than I thought possible. And then as he knelt on the grass in front of his beloved and ever-there car completely alone in the world and wanting to die, I melted into a lamenting puddle of emotion. Finally, as Dean wept on Lisa’s shoulder while she held him, I was undone. What an inconceivable spectrum this young actor has – that he hasn’t already been granted the official and more-than-deserved accolades is one of the great mysteries of life.
“There was never much hope to begin with. I don’t know what else to do.”
Equally powerful an actor, Jim Beaver was outstanding in this turn as Bobby Singer. The moment that stands out most was the expression on his face upon turning away from the televisions and reports of world desolation coast to coast. No words were needed to convey the unqualified, unadulterated hopelessness that this man felt. Every ounce of determined fight and strength was completely washed out of this man, leaving a terrified, despondent person in its wake. What uninhibited aptitude to communicate all this in a moment-long, wordless expression.
The drama and weighty emotion of the episode was nicely intercut with clips and stories of the Winchester’s days-off with the Impala. Rob Benedict’s soothing voice was reassuring as the narrator each time Kripke ripped my heart out and trampled on it (only to do it all over again!). Swan Song was ripe with gem moments, from the comic relief of Castiel and his awkward goodbye with Sam – “you want me to lie” “Just stop talking” to Chuck’s “mistress” mis-answer. For me though, what made this pitch perfect was the whole thing ending where it began, in Lawrence, Kansas. This entire drama began on a sad night when a young mother burned on the ceiling of her youngest son’s nursery and some twenty-six years, six months and twelve days later, that same son would end it. Delectably poetic and it really brought the series full circle.
“All those times you ran away, you weren’t running from them, you were running toward me. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing you know”¦I want you to be happy, Sam.”
The awards people should be tripping over themselves to honour Jared Padalecki after this outstanding body of work in only one episode. The duality of Sam and Lucifer was as remarkable and even more impressive that it was in The End. These were two completely different characters, from the physical appearance – Lucifer with his narrowed eyes and confidently held chin, hair smoothed back and voice like poisoned velvet was completely inhuman. Sam, a raw and struggling young man desperately trying to do the right thing with an alarmed and sad but determined gaze, was entirely human. The consistency with which Lucifer has been portrayed over this season is quite commendable, given the different actors who have been his voice. Jared is by far my favourite incarnation. The only thing better would have been to see Jared as Lucifer against Jensen as Michael – what an explosion that would have been.
Michael and Lucifer really are Sam and Dean at their core, except for the extremism with which they view the world, of course. Adam and Sam in the cemetery possessed by Michael and Lucifer easily echoed arguments we’ve heard Sam and Dean have over the course of the series, largely in the first season. Equally palpable was the love that still existed between these brothers, just as it was between Gabe and Lucifer. This really was the Wal-Mart apocalypse in that the heart of the battle was brought to a very ordinary, everyday human level. Of particularly poignancy was the protectiveness Lucifer still felt towards Michael, despite all that has occurred between them. Ultimately, you can mess with your siblings but the moment an outsider attempts it, not cool. Castiel realized this immediately, judging from the I’m so dead expression on his face milliseconds before he exploded on Bobby. And Bobby, he learned plain and simply Lucifer was done screwing around, time to kill people now and ask questions later.
My immense relief at the very much living state of Castiel and Bobby can never be fully expressed in written words. When Lucifer exploded Cas with the flick of his hand, my heart went with him. Or at least I thought I did but then as it dropped to my stomach when Bobby died, I don’t know how that’s possible. And of course when Sam and Adam tumbled into the open chasm”¦well, you know, you were there. Not only is Bobby alive and well, he’s hunting again. Despite the loss of Sam, it must feel good to get back to regular old hunts without apocalyptic omens or angelic agendas. The door remains open for Castiel to return next season as well, and I suspect he will. Honestly, the heaven/hell storyline hasn’t been completely wrapped up so I’d bet we’ll see him again. Dean positing whether Castiel was God echoed my own thoughts and I am glad that he wasn’t, because I enjoy the character so much exactly as he is. Castiel is now Super-Angel – this time, he was able to help Bobby – in an even bigger way. (And if God brought him back – please, please bring Gabriel back too, okay?).
“This is the stuff that’s important. The army man that Sam crammed in the ashtray, it’s still stuck there. The Lego’s that Dean shoved into the vents. To this day, the heat comes on; they can hear “˜em rattle. These are the things that make the car theirs, really theirs.”
In the end, Sam and Dean alone was what it needed to be. Dean didn’t fight against Sam (Lucifer) but reached out to him. And of course, it was the memories and love that gave Sam the strength to tamp down on Lucifer and regain control of his body. And in the end, Sam who opened the door and released the serpent shoved him right back into the box. Of course, he took Michael with him and I wonder the consequences this will have. This moment was exactly right. Sam was strong enough to do what he did because Dean believed in him and they loved each other through it all. Sam got to be the one to take care of his brother this time – “it’ll be okay, Dean.”
“Endings are hard”¦endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always going gonna bitch, there’s always gonna be holes”¦they’re a ragging pain in the ass.”
Chuck as God. How marvellously perfect. The character in this episode had a different voice from the opening moments, to be sure, but not so significantly that I suspected the Heavenly Father himself. That was a great treasure moment when he leaned back, smiled and winked away. Well played, Kripke. Chuck has been a well used character throughout the series, in my opinion, and that remains true here. This was the voice of Kripke speaking to the fans and what a perfect way to give a wink and a nod to the fans and leave them with a not goodbye but rather atill we meet again feeling. Kripke, I bow and worship at the temple of your incomparable genius.
“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 alright, 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? No doubt, endings are hard. But then again, nothing really ever ends, does it?”
The last two, maybe three seconds of this episode were the most crucial somehow. It was these few seconds that made the pain and heartbreak of the first forty minutes bearable in retrospect. Sam lives. Of course the question we’re left to agonize over now – is it Sam as we know/knew him? The flickering light could indicate any one of a myriad of things: that an angel or demon deposited Sam there, that Sam is an angel or demon, that Sam isn’t Sam at all, but Lucifer or any number of thoughts I’m sure haven’t occurred yet but will in the coming (torturous) wait during the summer months.
“No paradise, no hell, just more of the same.”
Not one second of this episode disappointed in any way. This was the perfect conclusion to a remarkable five year run and had it been the final chapter of the Winchester story that would have been okay. But it wasn’t and that is so much more than okay – it’s freakin’ fantastic! Knowing Kripke as we do after five unbelievable roller-coaster seasons, the red-bow ending wasn’t going to be neatly delivered to us on May 13, 2010. And true to form, once this viewer regained control of her mental faculties DAMN YOU KRIPKE was heard ringing out, followed quickly by a YOU BLOODY BRILLIANT MAN! Now, we are left to wait, wonder and speculate just where our beloved show could go next September.