Open Couch – Swan Song
“Death Shall Have No Dominion”
A moment of some blinding reflection of sunlight, caught on the shiny metal of a 1967 Chevrolet Impala captures the eye of a young man entrapped and immobilized within his own body and reminds him of numerous memories of a dangerous and sometimes hopeless life so devastatingly rich in family love that he regains just enough power to conquer the greatest fiend and win the day.
The wayward sons of the Winchester clan have been on the road fighting evil for many years, and we were allowed to witness their exploits from the moment they began to be brothers again – after being apart – in search for their father, for each other, eventually for hope and redemption.
My heart made a leap, as The Road So Far appeared on the screen with the first beats of the Winchester theme song, Kansas’ Carry On, My Wayward Son. I have followed every episode of this season, but to see it cut together with the crucial moments brought to our attention in the opening montage – a wonderful tradition carried on in this season’s finale – I was already on the verge of tears. And the episode had not even begun.
It began, then, as a beautiful homage to one of my personal heroes of this show – the one and only, ever faithful, gorgeous, sexy Chevy that has accompanied the brothers for as long as we’ve known them, and longer. We learn of the army man little Sam “crammed into the ashtray’ and the legos young Dean “shoved into the vents’ that are still rattling today when the heat comes on. This show has always been about family. And their impala, the metallic symbol of and for two brothers’ pained, dysfunctional, loving family. It is, as we hear with delight, “the most important car…no, object in pretty much the whole universe.’
“You mind not watching this?’
Kripke comes full circle with this episode. And I can’t think of a more amazing and thundering way he could have done it.
Carver Edlund, respectively Chuck Shurley, our beloved Prophet Chuck (who will turnout to be more than meets the eye) is writing the latest volume of The Winchester Gospel and will serve as a narrator throughout this episode. A classic move of the creators. Wonderful. Chuck’s soothing, well-modulated voice will have a calming effect on me when the emotions rage too fiercely.
“The whole up-with-Satan-thing… I’m on board.’
This episode starts with such a powerful intro, and it keeps up the pace till the end. The scene in Bobby’s scrap yard is the one we’ve seen in the promos, so it was no surprise that Dean eventually decides to go with Sam’s plan, no matter how much that freaks him out. I guess there was no one among us who actually thought Dean would not do that, as he realizes that Sam was, indeed, right, that this was the only possible shot at Lucifer they still have, after so many of their friends have died in previous battles.
Sam: “You’re gonna let me say Yes?’
Dean: “No, that’s the thing: it’s not on me to let you do anything. You’re a grown… over-grown man… if this is what you want, I’ll back your play.’
Sam: “That’s the last thing I thought you’d ever say.’
Dean: “Might be. I’m not gonna lie to you, though. It goes against every fibre I got. The truth is, watching out for you… it’s kinda been my job, you know, but more than that. It’s kinda who I am. You’re not a kid anymore, Sam. And I can’t keep treatin’ you like one… Maybe I got to grow up a little, too… I don’t know if we got a snowball’s chance, but I do know that if anybody can do it, it’s you.’
Dean has come a long way here. He has realized, for several episodes now that he has to change. The times demand it. He realized, painfully probably, that his calling – being his brother’s keeper – is not the deal of the day anymore. So, he has to say good-bye to the most self-defining trait he’s known about himself. He has to let Sam go. Not yet into the dark pit he will fall in later, but into the dimension of what it means to be your own person. A grown up human being that can and has to stand on his own feet. And accept his own responsibility which Sam does by taking the (assumingly) last steps of his young life.
This scene is in all likelihood one of the moments Dean needs most of his courage for. Also, he gives Sam what his younger brother requires like air – the trust of his elder brother. This, I think, is one of the most important facets Sam needs to find redemption and conquer the devil.
They prepare meticulously for the great showdown – first of all killing some demons, bleeding them out like pigs in a slaughterhouse. They work quietly, each devoted to their tasks, and I guess it was Sam who did the cutting, as we get a close up of Sam wiping his knife and then loading gallons of demon blood into the Impala’s trunk, heading for Detroit, where it all will happen.
It was a messy job, none was left unharmed by what they did, and I don’t mean only the blood stains on Dean’s face or on Sam’s hands. They killed humans, again, possessed by demons. At this point, of course, “the luxury of a moral stand’ does not apply anymore. But the Winchesters have never ceased to be compassionate people, neither has Bobby. To be forced to do that must eat away at them, too, however, to be able to concentrate on their mission, they probably stuff it back into a corner of their cortex where it will torture them from in the occasional nightmare.
“You mind not watching this?’
It is a long drive to Detroit. The kind of long you experience when you head to do something you actually don’t want to do… With Castiel asleep in the back seat of the Impala, an unusual sight and testament to Cas’ being without any mojo since angels don’t sleep, the brothers have time and privacy to address one important matter – what will happen to Dean after Sam is gone? Sam, knowing his brother and from personal experience, needs the reassurance that Dean will not do anything stupid – like: crossroads stupid. Like making-a-deal stupid.
Sam: “Hey, ahm, on a subject of something I gotta talk to you about…this thing goes our way and I triple Lindy into that box, you know I’m not coming back… “
Dean: “Yeah. I’m aware.’
Sam: “So, you gotta promise me something.’
Dean: “Okay. Anything.’
Sam: “you gotta promise me not to try to bring me back.’
Dean: “What!? No, I didn’t sign up for that! Your hell is gonna make my tour look like Graceland! You want me to sit by and do nothing?’
Sam: “Once this cage is shut, you can’t go poking at it, Dean. Too risky.’
Dean: “As if I’m just gonna let you rot in there!’
Sam: “Yeah, you are!’
Dean: “You can’t ask me to do that.’
Dean clearly remembers the endless moments in hell he was tortured and probably pictures Sam going through the same ordeal, while Sam is hoping for Dean to find a more peaceful life, the kind he had hoped for with Jessica, a lifetime ago, when he was still convinced that he had a shot at a normal life, with a loving wife, kids, dogs, the kind of normal he’d always desired. Maybe that is the kind of prize Sam hopes for Dean to find – peace of soul with a woman he might feel at home with (and Sam in all likelihood needs peace of mind knowing, at least convincing himself, that Dean will live and maybe one day heal):
Dean: “So ,what am I supposed to do?”
Sam: “You go find Lisa, you pray she’s dumb enough to take you in and you have barbecues and go to football games, you go live some normal, apple pie life, Dean. Promise me.”